Why Bush is innocent and the Democrats are guilty

President Bush was given only vague warnings before 9/11. But the Clinton White House knew of specific terrorism threats for years while Democrats continually sabotaged security efforts.

Published May 17, 2002 7:17PM (EDT)

It figures. The guilty ones are the first to point the finger. Now the same Democrats who for eight years slashed the military, crippled the CIA, blamed America for the enemies it made, opposed the projection of American power (missiles and smart bombs excepted) into terrorist regions like Afghanistan and Iraq, dismissed acts of war as individual misdeeds, rejected airport security on "racial profiling" grounds, defended a commander in chief who put his libido above the security of his citizens and still oppose essential defense measures like holding suspects and imposing immigration controls -- these same obstructers and appeasers are now in full war cry against President Bush and are hoping to pin him with responsibility for the Sept. 11 attack.

Not every Democrat is as kooky or anti-American as Rep. Cynthia McKinney who sits with her party's connivance on the House International Relations Committee and spent the week before 9/11 joining hands in South Africa with Iranians and other Islamo-fascists to condemn the United States, then came home to accuse Bush of plotting the September terror attacks so that his friends in the Carlyle Group could make war profits on defense contracts. But more mainstream Democrats -- the Leahys and the Boxers and other equally left-wing and determined antagonists of American power -- are far more significant players in the debacle of 9/11. And no one is more singularly responsible for America's vulnerability on that fateful day than the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and his White House staff.

It was President Clinton who knew of a plot to use airliners as bombs to blow up American buildings -- Clinton officials learned of this back in 1995. But they did nothing about it, and they kept this information from the Bush security team.

More on this later, but first the background:

  • The first World Trade Center bombing was on Feb. 26, 1993, one month into the Clinton administration. The terrorists -- Egyptians and Palestinians -- blew a hole six stories deep beneath the north tower intending to topple it onto the south tower and kill 250,000 people. It was -- in the words of the definitive account -- "the most ambitious terrorist attack ever attempted, anywhere, ever." Clinton did nothing. He did not even visit the site. Worse, he allowed the attack to be categorized as a criminal act by individuals, even though its mastermind -- as the administration soon discovered -- was an Iraqi intelligence agent named Ramzi Youssef.

  • The second al-Qaida attack took place 10 months later in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was an attack on American military forces who had been dispatched to that country to bring food to the starving Somalis. In the battle, which has been memorialized in "Black Hawk Down," 18 American soldiers were killed and the body of one was dragged through the streets in a gesture designed to formally humiliate the world's greatest superpower. Clinton's response? He turned tail and ran.

  • In 1995, Ramzi Youssef was captured in the Philippines with plans to use commercial airliners to blow up CIA headquarters among other targets. This al-Qaida plot was termed "Operation Bojinka," which means "the big bang." After the discovery of Operation Bojinka, Al Gore was appointed to head a task force to tighten airport security. Its key recommendations, which would have prevented 9/11, were rejected by the White House on the grounds that they might be construed as "racial profiling."

  • In 1996, the Khobar Towers -- a barracks housing U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia -- was blown up by Iranian and Palestinian terrorists acting on behalf of al-Qaida. Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed, but the Saudis refused to cooperate in tracking down the killers. The Clinton administration again did nothing.

  • In 1998, the year of Lewinsky, al-Qaida blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania -- under any circumstances an act of war. Two hundred and forty-five people were killed and 6,000 injured, mainly Africans. Clinton's response? The infamous strike on a medicine factory in the Sudan and a spray of missiles into an emptied terrorist camp in Khost.

  • In October 2000, al-Qaida attacked the USS Cole, an American warship, killing 17 servicemen. Another act of war. The Clinton response? Nothing.

  • Every year that these terrorist attacks were taking place, Democratic congressional leaders supported bills to cut U.S. intelligence funding and/or hamstring CIA operations, and/or prevent the tightening of immigration controls -- all of which would have strengthened American defenses against an al-Qaida attack.

  • Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat -- the principal ally of Saddam Hussein, the architect of suicide bombing, the creator of the first terrorist training camps and the apostle of terror as a redemptive social cause -- was a "partner in peace" and the most frequent guest at the Clinton White House among foreign heads of state.

    Despite the fact that Republicans had fought Democrats for eight years over the military and intelligence budgets and immigration and security issues, despite the alliances that left-wing Democrats had made with America's enemies in the U.N., despite the obstructionism of Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy in opposing domestic security measures and efforts by the Justice Department to bring al-Qaida to heel, Republicans refused to point a partisan finger on issues of war and peace. Now their self-restraint has come back to haunt them as the Democrats seek to shift the blame they have done so much to earn to the shoulders of their political opponents.

    The Democratic attack on George Bush is based on an intelligence analysis he received a month before 9/11 that indicated that al-Qaida terrorists were planning to hijack planes. The described threats in this analysis came under the category "general," meaning they did not specify time, place or method, and they were uncorroborated. The reports the president received in the months prior to 9/11 described targets that were mainly overseas -- in the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, Italy, Paris, Rome and Turkey. On the slim reed of the existence of a possible hijacking threat in the United States -- included with all these others -- the Democrats have built their treacherous case.

    Yet hijackings occur and have occurred for 40 years. On most occasions they are stopped. Nine of the 9/11 hijackers were hauled out of airport security lines as they were boarding the fatal flights that September. But because airport security had not been tightened -- and could not be tightened without a battle royal with Democrats over "racial profiling" -- the al-Qaida hijackers were allowed to continue and carry out their sinister plot. Shutting down the U.S. airline industry on the basis of a vague report that a hijacking was possible is something no administration has ever done in decades of hijacking incidents. Yet this is the logic behind the Democrats' present "investigation."

    If, on the other hand, Bush had known what the Clinton administration knew -- that al-Qaida had plans to use commercial airliners as bombs and fly them into buildings, specifically the CIA headquarters -- this would be a serious charge. But they did not know it, because the Clinton team never told them. (The fact that Bush didn't know about plans to hijack planes and run them into tall buildings was confirmed by Condoleezza Rice at her Thursday press conference.)

    Although the Clinton security team knew that Operation Bojinka included blowing up the CIA building in Langley, Va., it kept this information from the rest of the government. When Dale Watson, chief of the FBI's international terrorism operations section, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 1998, he withheld this vital information. He identified Operation Bojinka only as a plot to blow up U.S. air carriers, and assured the senators that the FBI had the situation under control.

    It is possible that Clinton himself never received the information about Operation Bojinka, since his lack of interest in national security matters throughout the course of his administration has been noted by many -- including his chief political advisor Dick Morris and his chief biographer Joe Klein. February 1998 -- the date of the FBI testimony -- was also the month after Monica Lewinsky became a national celebrity, so he was undoubtedly further distracted.

    On Sept. 10, 2001, a document landed on President Bush's desk that he had commissioned months before. It was a plan to dismantle and destroy al-Qaida and had taken months to prepare. It was necessary because the Clinton administration had drawn up no such plan in the eight years before.

    The charge now being led by the Democrats against the nation's commander in chief as he attempts to protect its citizens against the next certain terrorist attack is worse than unconscionable. It is one more Democratic stake driven into the heart of the nation's security. Limiting the damage and defending his authority -- in order to protect Americans from further harm -- is now the daunting task before the president and his team.

  • By David Horowitz

    David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

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