"I don't want any lies in there parading as the truth, that's all." With that, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, former President Bill Clinton (the man impeached by the House of Representatives for lying under oath), struck again.
Before the airing of ABC's docudrama "The Path to 9/11," former members of the Clinton administration and several Democratic senators complained about the docudrama's "fabrications" and "lies" in letters to Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, ABC's parent company.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged ABC to cancel its scheduled airing on September 10 and 11. She called a scene in which she alerted the Pakistanis to an impending strike against bin Laden "false and defamatory." Implicitly threatening to yank ABC's broadcast license, several Democratic senators wrote, "Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law. . . . " Where's the ACLU when you need them?
Okay, the Clintonistas criticize conversations or actions that never took place. And, true, an earlier version of the docudrama -- not aired -- stressed that the research came from the 9/11 Commission. In fact, the docudrama also used a couple of books about 9/11, as well as interviews.
The first attack on the World Trade Center occurred in 1993, Clinton's first year in office. For the next eight years, his administration squandered several opportunities to kill bin Laden. Besides, the docudrama comes down hard on the Bush administration for dawdling during its eight months before 9/11.
In one scene, for example, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice demotes counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, clearly showing the Bush administration's failure to give bin Laden top priority. But did anyone in the Bush administration send letters to ABC demanding revisions -- or else?
What about when Clinton himself, speaking to the Long Island Association in February 2002, admitted that he declined at least one chance to get bin Laden? "He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991," said Clinton, "then he went to Sudan. And we'd been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again. They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America." (Clinton later, in testifying before the 9/11 Commission, called his admission "inappropriate," according to Commissioner Bob Kerrey.)
Did the former president forget that prosecutors, two years after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, named Osama bin Laden as an unindicted co-conspirator? Or that our government suspected bin Laden of aiding, financing, training and arming terrorists for several years?
Over the rest of Clinton's term, al Qaeda remained busy. It attacked U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. It bombed the USS Cole in 2000. In 1998, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, a plan to capture bin Laden at his Tarnak Farms compound in Afghanistan was shot down at a high level, although, according to the commission (page 114), "Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. . . . Before it was canceled, [lead CIA officer in the field, Gary] Schroen described it as the 'best plan we are going to come up with to capture [bin Laden] while he is in Afghanistan and bring him to justice.' No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation."
Regarding the Clinton administration's efforts, the 9/11 Report (pages 350-351) reads: "Before 9/11, the United States tried to solve the al Qaeda problem with the same government institutions and capabilities it had used in the last stages of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath. These capabilities were insufficient, but little was done to expand or reform them. . . . At no point before 9/11 was the Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al Qaeda, although this was perhaps the most dangerous foreign enemy then threatening the United States. The Clinton administration effectively relied on the CIA to take the lead in preparing long-term offensive plans against an enemy sanctuary."
Also (page 358): "Responsibility for domestic intelligence gathering on terrorism was vested solely in the FBI, yet during almost all of the Clinton administration the relationship between the FBI Director and the President was nearly nonexistent. The FBI director would not communicate directly with the President. His key personnel shared very little information with the National Security Council and the rest of the national security community. As a consequence, one of the critical working relationships in the counterterrorism effort was broken."
Bottom line, the Clinton administration treated terrorism as a law enforcement matter. And neither he nor former members of his administration want Americans to understand or remember this. In his Saturday radio address after the first World Trade Center attack, Clinton barely mentioned the attack before beginning a much lengthier discussion about his economic program.
No amount of whining letters to ABC can change those facts.