During the mid to late 1990s, the radical Muslims tested America’s resolve by launching a series of attacks on American targets. These were massive attacks, unprecedented in the damage they inflicted. There was the Khobar Towers attack on American facilities in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa, the suicide assault on the American warship the U.S.S. Cole.
Yet in every case the Clinton administration reacted either by doing nothing, or with desultory counterattacks like a missile strike against largely unoccupied Afghan tents and the bombing of what was reported to be a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. Clearly these responses inflicted little harm to Al Qaeda and actually made America look ridiculous in the eyes of the Muslim world. Consequently, Bin Laden became convinced that his theory of American irresolution and weakness was substantially correct. By his own account he became emboldened to conceive of a grander and more devastating strike on American shores, the strike that occurred on 9/11.
Even so, this strike could have been prevented had the Clinton administration acted on intelligence leads and struck back at Bin Laden, when it had the chance. Former CIA agent Michael Scheuer estimates that during the second term of the Clinton administration America had approximately 10 opportunities to kill Bin Laden, and took none of them. Even Richard Clarke, Clinton’s terrorism adviser and a Clinton apologist, admits he is mystified why the American government did not go after and eliminate Bin Laden. After all Bin Laden had already declared war on America and made war on American targets abroad.
President Clinton has repeatedly said he made every effort to “get” Bin Laden. But between 1996 (the year Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan) until early 2000 Bin Laden was not exactly in deep hiding. He lived near Kandahar in a house provided by Mullah Omar. He preached in the local mosque. He gave interviews over a period of three years to Peter Arnett of CNN, John Miller of ABC News, a journalist for Time magazine, the British journalist Robert Fisk, the Pakistani editor Abdel Bari Atwan, the folks at Al Jazeera, and others. How come all these people could find Bin Laden but not the Clinton administration?
I’m not suggesting that Clinton did not want to protect America from Bin Laden. I am suggesting that this was not a top priority for his administration. Their top priority was to save Clinton from impeachment and to discredit special prosecutor Ken Starr. Clinton wanted to “get” Starr, and he did. But somehow Bin Laden slipped through the net.
The conclusion seems unavoidable. The Islamic radicals made the decision to attack America on 9/11 because they decided that America was cowardly and weak. They came to this conclusion largely as a result of the actions—and inaction—of the Clinton administration and its allies on the left. What could have been done to get rid of Bin Laden and avert 9/11 was not done. In this sense liberal foreign policy gave radical Muslims the confidence and the opportunity to strike, and they did.