Former President Bill Clinton shook his left index finger at Chris Wallace during an interview on "Fox News Sunday," denying charges he and his administration did too little to catch Osama bin Laden and ward off the 9/11 terror attacks. Leaning forward and appearing angry, Clinton said, "At least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They (the Bush administration) had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed."
Clinton added that he authorized the CIA "to get groups together to try to kill (bin Laden)." He said he had drawn up plans to go into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and launch an attack against bin Laden after the Oct. 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni part of Aden. Clinton suggested the plan was thwarted because Uzbekistan would not grant basing rights and only did so after 9/11.
Clinton apparently is coming out about this now because of the recently aired ABC film "The Path to 9/11," which portrayed him and his top aides as indecisive at best, and incompetent at worst, when they failed to take advantage of an opportunity to kill bin Laden. A docudrama is not necessary to counter Clinton's claims. There is testimony from many sources that he and his administration blew chances to nail the al-Qaida mastermind.
One credible source is Michael Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran who used to head the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden unit. Scheuer, who is referred to as "Mike" in the 9/11 Commission Report, wrote a July 5 op-ed column in The Washington Times. In it, he referred to former "terrorism czar" Richard Clarke and Clarke's assertion in his book "Against All Enemies" that the CIA failed to put operatives in Afghanistan to kill bin Laden, relying instead on Afghan locals. Scheuer writes, "In spring 1998, I briefed Mr. Clarke and senior CIA, Department of Defense and FBI officers on a plan to kidnap bin Laden. Mr. Clarke's reaction was that Œit was just a thinly disguised attempt to assassinate bin Laden.' I replied that if he wanted bin Laden dead, we could do the job quickly. Mr. Clarke's response was that the president did not want bin Laden assassinated, and that we had no authority to do so."
The planning and plotting by the hijackers was done on Bill Clinton's watch and executed eight months into the Bush administration, which refused to heed warning signs that an attack was imminent. A wealth of information and evidence about the laxness of the Clinton administration can be found by Googling "Clinton failures to catch terrorists and bin Laden." Some postings are from what might be regarded as "right-wing" Web sites, but others are from such left-wing sources as The Los Angeles Times.
In a Dec. 5, 2001 op-ed for that newspaper, Mansoor Ijaz, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and chairman of an investment company in New York, wrote, "President Clinton and his national security team ignored several opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden and his terrorist associates. Š I know because I negotiated more than one of the opportunities."
Ijaz says that from 1996 to 1998 he opened unofficial channels between Sudan and the Clinton administration, including National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Sudan's president and national intelligence chief, "President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, who wanted terrorism sanctions against Sudan lifted, offered the arrest and extradition of bin Laden and detailed intelligence data about the global networks constructed by Egypt's Islamic Jihad, Iran's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.
"Among those in the networks were the two hijackers who piloted commercial airliners into the World Trade Center. The silence of the Clinton administration in responding to these offers was defeaning."
When considering whether to take Bill Clinton's outrage seriously, it is helpful to revisit his notorious finger wagging when he forcefully denied having had sex with Monica Lewinsky. The Web site YouTube.com has juxtaposed the latest finger wagging with the previous one. Viewers can judge for themselves whether Clinton's latest claim and blame should be believed anymore than his previous denial of extramarital sex with an intern.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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