By: Peter Sessum
This has been in news lately as names have been thrown around and the blame being passed like a political hot potato. I thought it might be fun to weigh in, not the political part because we try to stay out of politics on this site, but the blame game. When assigning blame should it be the president that was in charge, the one that could have stopped him or the one that started it all?
The president at the time
It makes sense, he was in charge at the time so the buck stops there. But did he really have the information handy to stop the attacks. I don’t believe the conspiracy theories that he knew and let it happen so we could invade Iraq. Mainly because someone that sinister would have had a better attack plan and could have drawn the 9/11-Iraq invasion connection better and would have had a better plan than “attack and take Bagdad and see what happens.”
Some people argue that he had some intelligence and could have done something. These are also the same people that claim the Intel used to invade Iraq was faulty so the intelligence services can’t give bad Intel when it supports one argument and great Intel when it supports another.
There is also another hole in the “Bush knew” theory. There really are no secrets in America anymore. China and Russia have our launch codes, the only successful secrets we have are the recipes for coke and the 11 herbs and spices and even those have been reverse engineered. In a time of Manning and Snowden there are too many people willing to blow the whistle. By now, someone credible would have brought out documents showing how Bush or Cheney orchestrated the whole thing. Give me a credible source and I am on board.
No doubt that Bush had all kinds of interesting intelligence briefings. I am sure there were reports of all kinds of threats. But he had only been president a few months and unless those attacks were planned, funded and put into action that year, someone else should have seen it coming. If he did know when it was going to happen I am sure he would have been in a better location than a school classroom. It would have been better for the cameras if he could have been on a military base or somewhere that would have been good security and a great backdrop for the news conference cameras.
The president that could have stopped it
Like it or not, al-Qaida is part of Clinton’s legacy. There is the World Trade Center bombing, millennium plots, embassy bombings, the bombing of the U.S.S Cole and poor Rules of Engagement (ROE) which helped Osama bin Laden get away a few times.
I also guess that everyone has forgotten that a month after he was sworn in as president al-Qaida set off a truck bomb in the World Trade Center. The truck exploded in one of the parking garages killing six and wounding over a 1,000 more. Maybe if he had handled the first terrorist attack of his presidency better there would not have been an al-Qaida around eight years later to hijack planes.
The millennium plots were a series of attacks that were supposed to happen around New Year’s Day 2000. A couple were failed attempts. There was a boat that sank in the same harbor that the Cole would be in a year later because it was overloaded with explosives. Alert border guards also caught a couple suspicious men trying to enter Washington State from Canada. They had explosives and plans for the Space Needle in Seattle. Their plan was to blow it up at midnight New Year’s Eve. The closed down the Needle but had the normal fireworks go off. I was a couple blocks away watching the fireworks and remember the story in the news. I might not have been so close if I knew it was part of a larger plan.
I don’t remember Clinton being blamed for the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in 1998. Sure bin Laden had made declarations to attack the west but the attacks were planned in secret. He did have a decent cruise missile response but it didn’t eliminate the terror group.
The fact that someone tried to blow up a ship in early 2000 should have been an indicator, but the Cole was in the same waters a year later. This is a serious lapse in judgement or ignoring the lessons of the investigation. It also carries over into the ROE issue. Petty Officer John Washak was reprimanded for pointing an M60 at a small boat approaching the fantail of the Cole less than 24 hours after the attack. To a rational person it might look like a repeat attack but the ROE was not changed to protect the boat from follow up bombing, something that I don’t think would fly today.
The issue of ROE extends to when bin Laden hid out in Afghanistan. Ahmed Shah Massoud was fighting the Taliban and was working with the U.S. because of the similar goals. Massoud was laughed at the ROE that the U.S. imposed on him. They wanted bin Laden captured alive and when approaching they could not fire unless fired upon and still had to take care not to kill the terror mastermind. Of course it was ridiculous but for the U.S. too give his group the intelligence on the enemy’s location he would have to play by our rules. Keep in mind, if SEAL Team Six had the same ROE they would not be alive today. Of course if Massoud had the same ROE as SEAL Team Six then the al-Qaida head might have been killed in the late ‘90s.
Killing the mastermind would only have prevented the attacks on Sept. 11 if he was killed before the plan was formed and funded. Any time after that and the plan would still have gone forward. So unless we can pinpoint the exact date of the funding and planning we might be able to pin the attacks on Clinton. Maybe we should blame the guy that pushed a madman over the edge.
The president that started it all
This could be placed on Bush Sr. After all he did something that made bin Laden really mad. He was the president that allowed girls to drive in the Holy Land. To some, an inexcusable crime. It of course started with Iraq invading the friendly nation of Kuwait. Naturally Saudi Arabia was worried that they might be next and called in the help of a coalition of nations. It kicked off Desert Shield and the barely 100 hour “war” of Desert Storm.
It could be said that the president should not have deployed females to the Middle East because it would insult the sensibilities of some of the locals. Since I am not an idiot, I am not going to get into the discussion of if not deploying females into areas that oppress females encourages those behaviors, how sexist it could be and the obvious issues of equality and military readiness but feel free to discuss with a broad range of people and let me know how it turns out.
No matter the reason if he didn’t think about it or decided to deploy females anyway, it was a point of contention for Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca and there were women doing things only men are allowed to do, like walk around without hair and face coverings, driving, holding jobs and generally not having babies which is just wrong to some people. It could have been the first sign of the apocalypse for him and we had to be stopped.
I wouldn’t point the finger at H.W. Bush because he didn’t anticipate one of what is no doubt on a long laundry list of things that pushed bin Laden over the edge into stepping up his terror game. A guy that crazy can’t be reasoned with. He considered the U.S in his home country and invasion of the Holy Land even through it was at the request of the government and what was most likely seen as a good move for the nation. The only thing that got Iraq out of Kuwait was a coalition forcing them out. That and a 40-day bombing campaign.
So Bush Sr. might have contributed to the madness of the 9/11 mastermind, Clinton didn’t do all he could to kill the man and didn’t prevent future attacks and Dubya was in charge on Sept. 11 and had the benefit of the knowledge of historical events. Everyone knew how dangerous al-Qaida was but couldn’t stop them due to the secretive nature of the terrorist organization. If the U.S. would have known what they were planning they might have been able to prevent Massoud’s assassination which would have most likely led to him being president of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and the region would look a whole lot different.
Pointing fingers is easy and would be great if there was only one indicator to place responsibility. Unfortunately, what everyone could have done would have had political ramifications. There is no way congress or the American people would have been on board with invading Sudan after an embassy bombing or an attack on a single ship in the Middle East. Maybe if the American people would have supported more than just airstrikes then Clinton would have taken greater action but he pulled troops out of Somalia and most likely didn’t want a similar situation like Mogadishu that hurt his predecessor.
Instead of trying to figure out who to blame for an attack 13 years ago for camera time, I want to know what a future president is going to do to prevent the next 9/11. Ayman al-Zawahiri is still out there and I am sure he and his friends are planning something.
Breakdown for the comic book geeks: Is Spiderman responsible for the death of Ben Parker? Peter Parker had a chance to stop the thief but didn’t. The thief, a man he didn’t know to be a killer, later shot his uncle in a robbery gone bad. If he would have known the future he would have for sure put in the effort to stop the thief, but lacking that information he took no action because it seemed appropriate for the given situation.