Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Blame Bush

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Blame Bush

Article excerpt

It is fortunate for the reputation of Horatio Nelson that modern-day blame culture was not around in 1805. It is not hard to visualise the headlines: `Trafalgar Admiral Ignored Warning of Ships on Horizon'; `Families of Dead Sailors to Sue over Intelligence Failure by Naval Top Brass'. The role of the Spaniards at Trafalgar would have been quite forgotten as Guardian columnist and BBC panellist alike gradually squashed the Norfolk hero to a pulp.

That is the treatment to which George W. Bush has been subjected during the past week. The fact that Islamic extremists may have in some way been to blame for murdering several thousand people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September last year has been all but forgotten: the full responsibility for the attack has been transferred to the door of the American President, who is accused of turning a blind eye to security warnings put to him in the weeks before the attack.

Americans have a perfect right to question whether they are getting value for money from the millions they spend on the FBI and CIA. Yet to make a case that the suicidal maniacs of al-Qa'eda could have been prevented from executing their deed on the basis of the few vague warnings which were presented to President Bush is at best ignorant, and at worst a crude attempt by Democrats to score political points before this year's congressional elections.

Had a full timetable of al-Qa'eda's intentions been put before President Bush, it would indeed have been strange if he had not ordered arrests to be made and airports shut down. But that is not what happened. An FBI agent in Phoenix, Arizona is said to have speculated that terrorists might be planning to fly a plane into a building. On 6 August the President was briefed on the possible threat of a hijacking by al-Qa'eda. That is about it. From these snippets, critics appear to assert, the President should have read in his runes that 19 men wearing red headbands would seize four aircraft flying out of Boston and Washington at breakfast time on 11 September. It is rather as if citizens of London were expected to foretell the time and the street where they would be mugged on the strength of warnings that street crime has become rife.

It may have been possible to prevent the outrages of 11 September, but to have done so would have required actions which would have had the Democrats protesting even more loudly. To put it bluntly, every swarthy-looking male would have had to be banned from flying; every trainee pilot of Middle Eastern extraction deported. …

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