Wednesday, October 15, 2003
::: Maybe Clinton Wasn't Sooooo Bad :::
After reading William Rivers Pitt's article on TruthOut entitled The Sins of September 11,, I felt at least partially vindicated about my views of Clinton. Since Clinton's presidency was prior to that fateful day, and I was admittedly not paying attention to world events, I was afraid I "liked" Bill Clinton without really knowing the whole story.
Actually, that is completely true. I did not know squat about Clinton or any of the other politicians in Washington. I knew I enjoyed hearing him speak sometimes ... when I was not very busy doing what all Americans are doing every day. I won't say I listened with rapt attention, but he was vastly more bearable to hear than listening to Bush drone out the same tripe while chewing the inside of his cheek.
But somehow, he made me feel comfortable and I never felt afraid to live my life, never felt afraid to speak my mind, never felt afraid to write down feelings (as in this type blog or letter or email or diary or whatever), never felt afraid to fly, never felt afraid to travel to large population areas, never felt afraid because I was awakened in the night by the sound of a plane overhead.
I know now that confidence was naive to some degree, but I do resent the use of fear as a weapon to corral Americans into following (as sheep) the highly questionable plans put forth by the current administration, plans that have led us to preemptively attack another country, to pass laws that restrict and destroy the principles this country was found upon.
As to Bill Clinton, and the new interest and awareness of current events I am enjoying ... yes, Clinton did things I do not agree with such as NAFTA, but I sure did like his economy. When he spoke, he had a vision I do not hear from the other side.
There for a while after 9-11, I really questioned whether Clinton had been lax on terrorism. (Republicans had made such fun of him shooting cruise missiles at camels in the desert) Just for the record, I did not give a rats butt about Monica, although I did care about the spectacle made out of it by Republicans, the Ken Starr $$$ Train of Waste, etc. Also, I did not think he should have lied to Americans (who truly hate being lied to, more than most any other offense) about having sex with Monica, but I chalked that up to idiot politicians ... they always go into denial mode and make things ten times worse.
And ... since I am being lazy, and since I trust Pitt's research as impecable, here are some revelations I had either already discovered or had heard about, but that Pitt has handily put together for us from various sources, Blumenthal's book for one, or at least it "sparked" Pitt's explosive talent, and made him feel obligated to enlighten us:
The astounding level of blunt ignorance within the American populace about the events surrounding the attacks of September 11 cannot be easily quantified. In a nation with thousands of newspapers, thousands of radio stations, and a ceaseless data stream from CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS, some 70% of the population believed as late as a month ago that Saddam Hussein was centrally involved in and personally responsible for the attacks which destroyed the Towers and struck the Pentagon. Beyond that, what most people know about the single most important event in American history does not go much beyond "evildoers" who "hate our freedom."
That is, simply, incredible. It is also not an accident. This ignorance has a great deal to do with the stunning mediocrity of the television news media, that empty well where most Americans go to become informed. This ignorance also, and far more importantly, has a great deal to do with the Clinton-era actions of a large number of conservatives, many of whom are in positions of power today, many of whom are now making careers out of September 11.
The two great myths that have settled across the nation, beyond the Hussein-9/11 connection, are that Clinton did not do enough during his tenure to stop the spread of radical terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, and that the attacks themselves could not have been anticipated or stopped. Blumenthal's insider perspective on these matters bursts the myths entirely, and reveals a level of complicity regarding the attacks within the journalistic realm and the conservative political ranks that is infuriating and disturbing.
Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against terrorism that were unprecedented in American history. He poured billions and billions of dollars into counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum of the intelligence community. He poured billions more into the protection of critical infrastructure. He ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack. He order a reorganization of the intelligence community itself, ramming through reforms and new procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were held three times a week to assess looming conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave in the last three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered a major address to the United Nations on the matter of international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our generation."
Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he was thrown out of office by his own army. His replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks, terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed across the world, and bomb plots against American embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns, these victories were never revealed to the American people until very recently.
In America, few people heard anything about this. Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media, which was far more concerned with stained dresses and baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist network, the actions were dismissed by partisans within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that everything the administration was doing was contrived fakery.
In Congress, Clinton was thwarted by the reactionary conservative majority in virtually every attempt he made to pass legislation that would attack al Qaeda and terrorism. His 1996 omnibus terror bill, which included many of the anti-terror measures we now take for granted after September 11, was withered almost to the point of uselessness by attacks from the right; Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of the threats Clinton spoke of.
Clinton wanted to attack the financial underpinnings of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its money-laundering operations. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, killed Clinton's bill on this matter and called it "totalitarian." In fact, he was compelled to kill the bill because his most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its criminal executives in Houston, were using those same terrorist financial networks to launder their own dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders.
Just before departing office, Clinton managed to make a deal with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to have some twenty nations close tax havens used by al Qaeda. His term ended before the deal was sealed, and the incoming Bush administration acted immediately to destroy the agreement. According to Time magazine, in an article entitled "Banking on Secrecy" published in October of 2001, Bush economic advisors Larry Lindsey and R. Glenn Hubbard were urged by think tanks like the Center for Freedom and Prosperity to opt out of the coalition Clinton had formed. The conservative Heritage Foundation lobbied Bush's Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, to do the same. In the end, the lobbyists got what they wanted, and the Bush administration pulled America out of the plan. The Time article stated, "Without the world's financial superpower, the biggest effort in years to rid the world's financial system of dirty money was short-circuited."
Much of his work was foiled by right-wing Congressional conservatives who, simply, refused to accept the fact that he was President. These men, paid to work for the public trust, spent eight years working diligently to paralyze any and all Clinton policies, including anti-terror initiatives that, if enacted, would have gone a long way towards thwarting the September 11 attacks. Beyond them lay the worthless television media, which ignored and spun the terrorist issue as it pursued salacious leaks from Ken Starr's office, leaving the American people drowning in a swamp of ignorance on a matter of deadly global importance.
The terrorist network planned to simultaneously attack the national airports in Washington DC and Los Angeles, the Amman Raddison Hotel in Jordan, a constellation of holy sites in Israel, and the USS The Sullivans at dock in Yemen. Each and every single one of these plots, which ranged from one side of the planet to the other, was foiled by the efforts of the Clinton administration. Speaking for the first time about these millennium plots, in a speech delivered to the Coast Guard Academy on May 17, 2000, Clinton said, "I want to tell you a story that, unfortunately, will not be the last example you will have to face."
Clinton proved that Osama bin Laden and his terror network can be foiled, can be thwarted, can be stopped. The multifaceted and complex nature of the international millennium plots rivals the plans laid before September 11, and involved counter-terrorism actions within several countries and across the entire American intelligence and military community. All resources were brought to bear, and the terrorists went down to defeat. The proof is in the pudding here. September 11, like the millennium plots, could have been avoided.
Couple this with other facts about the Bush administration we now have in hand. The administration was warned about a massive terror plot in the months before September by the security services of several countries, including Israel, Egypt, Germany and Russia. CIA Director George Tenet delivered a specific briefing on the matter to the administration on August 8, 2001. The massive compendium of data on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda compiled by Sandy Berger, and delivered to Condoleezza Rice upon his departure, went completely and admittedly unread until the attacks took place. The attacks themselves managed, for over an hour, to pierce the most formidable air defense system in the history of the Earth without a single fighter aircraft taking wing until the catastrophe was concluded.
It is not fashionable these days to pine for the return of William Jefferson Clinton. Given the facts above, and the realities we face about the administration of George W. Bush, and the realities we endure regarding the aftermath of September 11, the United States of America would be, and was, well served by its previous leader. That we do not know this, that September 11 happened at all, that it was such a wretched shock to the American people, that we were so woefully unprepared, can be laid at the feet of a failed news media establishment, and at the feet of a pack of power-mad conservative extremists who now have a great deal to atone for.
Hmmmm .... as usual Pitt says it all.