I have an email pen-pal who is very conservative. When challenged (on almost anything political), he almost inevitably responds with a jab toward the "Rad-Libs" (Radical Liberals- a group which seems to include everyone from Jane Fonda to the Clintons to Lee Iacocca and perhaps even including Republican Pete Domenici). In general, the refrain from the right reads as follows: "Well, perhaps you Rad-Libs will realize how wrong you are when Al-Qaida has blown up Boston. You just don't seem to get it: everything you say is helping the terrorists."
There is news today that will fuel the fires of the debate. The AP is reporting that: "A new threat assessment from U.S. counter-terrorism analysts says that Al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001."
Conservatives will use this report to say: "See? We told you so."
But the real question is: "George W. Bush has had SIX YEARS to deal with this very real threat. During FIVE of those years HIS PARTY held control of both houses of Congress. What the Hell is he Doing? Why is Al-Qaida STRONGER THAN EVER?"
The answer is, of course, that this President is either Inept, or Corrupt, or, most probably, both.
George W. Bush and his administration had the support of the Congress, the People of the United States and most of the World to send our military into Afghanistan, and demolish Al-Qaida once and for all.
Instead, they chose to use their opportunity to invade Iraq and attempt to secure it's oil supply for the United States. At the time of the United States action against Iraq, there was no Al-Quada presence in Iraq. But now, according to the reports:
The Bush administration has repeatedly cited Al-Qaida as a key justification for continuing the fight in Iraq.
"The No. 1 enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida," White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday. "Al-Qaida continues to be the chief organizer of mayhem within Iraq."
In other words, we sent our troops to Iraq to fight an enemy that was not there when we arrived but who managed to get in AFTER we entered. Meanwhile, Bush has allowed Al-Qaida's forces to dribble across the boarder into Pakistan, where we have no political authority to pursue them.
The Clinton Card
Right-wing friends will, at this point, offer up their old Chestnut: Clinton Had Al-Qaida's Osama Bin Laden in his sights and failed to kill him.
Like a lot of propaganda, this is a distortion of the facts wrapped around a tiny nugget of truth. The Clinton White House did have Osama Bin Laden in their sights and did fail to act. MSNBC had the story here in 2004.
Yes, Clinton DID miss an opportunity, no doubt. It will be yet another imperfect spot on his imperfect record.*
However, just because Bill Clinton screwed up- this is no excuse to let George W. Bush off the hook.
As your mother used to say to you: "If Bill Clinton Jumped off the World Trade Center, would you do it too?"
The AP article also includes this speculation:
The findings could bolster the president's hand at a moment when support on Capitol Hill for the war is eroding and the administration is struggling to defend its decision for a military buildup in Iraq.
WHY? Why, every time this President Screws up, are the media and the right-wing noise machine able to drum up the argument that, because he has been so horribly wrong for so horribly long, that we need to give him MORE support?
But enough about Bush. This is what Democrats must do:
My right-wing friend is right about one thing: THERE IS A GRAVE ISLAMIC TERRORIST THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES.
This threat must be countered.
In the short term, we need to consolidate our military operations, and refocus the fight on AL-QAIDA...
In the long term, we must, WE MUST refocus our energy policy to find a way to cure ourselves of our oil addiction. As long as we are addicted, militant Islam will be our drug dealer.
That is a plain and simple fact.
And, of course, I'm not going to just sit here and let the "Clinton Chestnut" stand unchallenged. As the MSNBC article points out, when Clinton was hunting Osama Bin Laden in 1998, it was a very different ballgame:
A Democratic member of the 9/11 commission says there was a larger issue: The Clinton administration treated bin Laden as a law enforcement problem.
Bob Kerry, a former senator and current 9/11 commission member, said, “The most important thing the Clinton administration could have done would have been for the president, either himself or by going to Congress, asking for a congressional declaration to declare war on al-Qaida, a military-political organization that had declared war on us.”
In reality, getting bin Laden would have been extraordinarily difficult. He was a moving target deep inside Afghanistan. Most military operations would have been high-risk. What’s more, Clinton was weakened by scandal, and there was no political consensus for bold action, especially with an election weeks away.[emphasis added]
The American Public had not yet solidified their support for an all out war on Al-Qaida in 1998...at that point the largest terrorist attack in American History had not been perpetrated by Islamic Terrorists, but by home-grown right-wing nutballs in Oklahoma. Even the USS Cole attack (in October 2000) was two years in the future.
The situation for Clinton was muddy...and he bungled it.
The situation for Bush was crystal clear...and he screwed it up beyond belief, paying the price with thousands of American Lives.
It is not hard to know where the Lion's Share of the Blame belongs.