As Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower makes clear, the Sudanese government offered bin Laden to the United States in 1996, but the Clinton Administration would not take him. I asked Wright what happened.
"Sudan was an open country for terrorists," Wright responded. "You know, they had an Islamic revolution, and they opened their doors to anybody, any Muslim who wanted to come. And naturally, the ones who came were the ones that weren’t invited anywhere else."
Wright continued: "You had Carlos the Jackal there, and Abu Nidal, and all these different terrorist groups. And you had bin Laden, who had some money to give them. And it was in…during the Clinton administration, in 1996, that it was decided that bin Laden posed a threat by just being there. And so American authorities put pressure on the Sudanese to expel him. And the Sudanese first of all said well, do you want him? And you know, we didn’t have an indictment on bin Laden. There wasn’t very much that we could do with him. At the time, it may be that he hadn’t killed any Americans yet. So we said no."
And there you have the essence of the Clinton-era approach to terrorism: The law enforcement mindset.
Except with Janet Reno as Attorney General, there wasn't even much law enforcement.
Contrast that lethargy and legalism --don't forget "The Wall"-- with the John Ashcroft Department of Justice. The former Attorney General has a new book coming out, "Never Again," that details the DOJ's campaign against al Qaeda after 9/11. Attorney General Ashcroft was interviewed by Michelle Malkin on the right way to respond to terrorists --you can listen via registration here. Even more impressive is the brief speech Ashcroft delivered at the DOJ on the fifth anniversary of 9/11:
Good morning. It feels good to come back to the Justice Department, I can tell you that. Thank you for standing up to greet me, and thank you for sitting back down. So often a standing ovation is used as a cover for a mass exodus.
My heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were lost on 9/11. The best memorial that we could make, would be for us to somehow learn things in the process of accommodating and digesting this great tragedy so that we could appropriately commit ourselves to avoid its reoccurrence at any time. So permit me in my two minute interval here, to make five observations, one for each of the five years intervening today and September 11, 2001.
The first observation. Freedom and justice are more profoundly served when an assault is prevented rather than when an attack is avenged or prosecuted.
Observation number two. The father of our Nation, George Washington, steamed open the mail in the fight for freedom. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt monitored all communications across our borders, and Roosevelt interned over a 100,000 people, a third of them that were citizens of the United States of America. Neither Woodrow Wilson nor Roosevelt suffered domestic casualties.
And after enduring 9/11's deadly assault, this Department and President George W. Bush have held civil liberties and citizen rights at the highest level of respect in both policy and practice of any executive in history. You deserve great credit for that. You have done everything possible to secure liberty, and have done it with great restraint.
Observation number three. While babbling talking heads counterpose security and liberty as competing values, we must declare that security only exists to guard liberty. The proper test must always remain: will the net value of liberty be greater if a security measure is implemented, and if it won't be greater because of implementing the security measure, the security measure should be discarded. Security does not compete with liberty, it guarantees it and guards it.
Observation number four. Today we remember lives lost on September 11, 2001. America suffered the lost of 2,973 lives, the terrorists lost 19. Since fighting on their turf, we've lost fewer in combat than that number, and they have lost many more.
It is far better to fight them there, than it is to fight them here, and I say that with a great respect for the lives in jeopardy in the fight there. Janet and I are the parents of a Naval officer serving in the Gulf now.
Observation five. Abraham Lincoln in his speech at Gettysburg, put it this way: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." The world will little note nor long remember what I say here, but it can never forget what you did here.
Of all the opportunities that I have to think about the good things done by our government for its people, the effort may by the heroic individuals at the Justice Department to see to it that the liberty of Americans will be secure and safe, and to do so in a way that sacrificed their own well-being and many times the well-being of their family to make sure that the job was done and done well, is something that demands my gratitude as a citizen. I am grateful to you, and grateful for you, and as a citizen of this great Nation, I am delighted to know that those who guard liberty - with security - don't threaten it, but are willing to sacrifice for it.
Thank you and God bless you.
John Ashcroft doesn't give a tinker's hammer for the approval of the MSM. He speaks directly, and with genuine conviction. His confirmation was opposed by 42 of his former Senate colleagues in a breach of Senate courtesy that shames those who voted "no" to this day. The attempt to sink his nomination was part of the post-Florida 2000 obstruction that raged throughout the Democratic Party and which undermines the claim that President Bush had "eight months" in which to fully reverse the lassitude of the eight years of Clinton fecklessness.
While Democrats expended their energy in the attempt to stop John Ashcroft's confirmation as Attorney General, the killers of 9/11 laid their final plans and conducted their final meetings.
If you want to return to that era, vote for Democrats in November. But keep in mind that any vote for any Congressional Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability.