Bill Clinton's Failure on Terrorism; Effective Foreign Policy a Must

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bill Clinton's Failure on Terrorism; Effective Foreign Policy a Must


Byline: Caspar W. Weinberger, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Richard Miniter's new book, "Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror," tells the sad, infuriating history of the number of opportunities President Clinton had to capture and imprison or kill the terrorist Osama bin Laden. Instead, we are still hunting. Bin Laden is still at large and alive enough to sponsor and concoct the details of the worst attack on America in our history - the destruction of the World Trade Center and the bombing of the Pentagon. What other horrors he is planning we do not know, simply because he is still uncaptured.

That reality is the sickening part of this remarkably well-researched and -sourced new book. Mr. Miniter - part of the reporting team that broke the "The Road to Ground Zero" story in the Jan. 6, 2002 London Sunday Times - has told how many real, actual and missed opportunities the Clinton administration had to capture and defang bin Laden. Why in the world would any U.S. administration not accept any and all offers to help dispose of one of the most vicious and well-financed terrorist leaders?

For several reasons, as the author points out.

The Clinton foreign policy was to get re-elected. Therefore, anything that might be controversial had to be avoided. So, from the beginning to the end of the administration, the Clintons "demanded absolute proof before acting against terrorists." This high bar guaranteed inaction. At the beginning of his term, after the attack of Feb. 26, 1993, Mr. Clinton refused to admit that the World Trade Center had been bombed. Later, he referred to it only as "regrettable" and "treated the disaster. . . like a twister in Arkansas." Earlier, he had "urged the public not to 'overreact' to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing."

That attitude was typical of the Clintonites. The president did not want to hear about bad news - such as our terrible losses in October 1993, when Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu, Somalia, or the even more terrifying losses in New York. That would require a strong response which might upset some of the strange group of advisors and officials Mr. Clinton had collected. So it was with all the other missed opportunities to get bin Laden. CIA Director James Woolsey rarely had any meetings with Mr. Clinton. The president never supported Mr. Woolsey's urgent request for Arabic-language translators for the CIA in 1994. A separate feud between Mr. Woolsey and Sen. Dennis DeConcini, Arizona Democrat, was allowed to run its course without direction by the Clinton White House, which further set back the CIA director's appeal for Arabic translators. …

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