Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party Conference yesterday was the most memorable since Margaret Thatcher’s stunning performance the day after her hotel and cabinet had been bombed into a pile of rubble and dust by the IRA. How strange that one of the greatest evils of the modern world should have brought out the best in two prime ministers. But how fitting as well. Take a moment to read the full text of Blair’s speech. There are some marvelous passages: “Understand the causes of terror. Yes, we should try, but let there be no moral ambiguity about this: nothing could ever justify the events of September 11. The action we take will be proportionate, targeted; we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties. There is no compromise possible with such people, no meeting of minds, no point of understanding with such terror. Just a choice: defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must.” Thus a Labour prime minister sends a rhetorical cruise missile into the leftist editorial offices of the Guardian, the Observer, and the Independent. Then there’s his passionate defense of America: “America has its faults as a society, as we have ours. But I think of the Union of America born out of the defeat of slavery. I think of its constitution, with its inalienable rights granted to every citizen still a model for the world. I think of a black man, born in poverty, who became chief of their armed forces and is now secretary of state, Colin Powell, and I wonder frankly whether such a thing could have happened here. I think of all this and I reflect: yes, America has its faults, but it is a free country, it is our ally and some of the reaction to September 11 betrays a hatred of America that shames those that feel it.” Take that, Mr. Chomsky. Blair’s pro-Americanism isn’t like Thatcher’s. She revered America’s defense of freedom, its relatively small government, its defeat of tyranny abroad. Blair admires its liberalism and search for social justice. Both, of course, are right. And neither, strictly speaking, is or was a Tory in foreign policy. They’re Gladstonians – convinced of their morality, determined to defeat what they see as evil, and committed to semi-utopian visions of the possibility of world progress and the duty of the righteous to impose it. My own vision is closer to Thatcher’s than Blair’s, but grown-ups realize that these two strains in Anglo-American politics – conservative liberalism and liberal liberalism – are both necessary for a healthy politics in both countries. What neither Thatcher nor Blair really believed in was the dark pessimism of real Toryism or the true socialism of the British Labour past. As such they represent the two political wings of Britain’s Americanophilia. The United States – in Reagan and, now, Bush – was lucky to have each of them at exactly the right time.
Having barely noticed in its first few years that foreign policy actually exists, the leftist magazine, the American Prospect, runs a splendidly honest piece about the anti-war demonstrations I also witnessed this weekend. I like this sentence: “We shouldn’t expect much charity toward the president from protesters capable of airing slogans like “The Real Terrorist Works in the White House.” I consider George W. Bush a dim bulb, even an impostor — and certainly oppose many aspects of his foreign policy — but calling him a terrorist is a truly vile form of moral equivalency.” I know this shouldn’t be a hard call, but, hey, it’s progress.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “In a war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden will either be left alive, while thousands of impoverished, frightened people are bombed into oblivion around him, or he will be killed in a bombing attack for which he seems quite prepared. But what would happen to his cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he has done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love.” – Alice Walker, Village Voice. Just give that old Osama a big ol’ hug. But what exactly are the “good, nonviolent things” he has done?
THE FIRST FAKED ANTI-MUSLIM HATE CRIME: It had to happen, but this soon? Here’s the first report of the incident; and here’s the truth. I’ve no doubt that some Arab-Americans are being targeted for despicable abuse, although the evidence so far seems mercifully thin – which is an enormous credit to the people of this country and to the president who has admirably spoken out against discrimination. But equally, it doesn’t surprise me that this happened on a campus. The highest status imaginable among the left-marinated universities is ethnic victimization. No surprise that some poor souls are trying to exploit that warped value-system.
HALBERSTAM ABSOLVES CLINTON: Interesting insight into the minds of some liberals who simply will not acknowledge that Bill Clinton bears a great deal of responsibility for the failures of U.S. foreign policy, security and intelligence in the 1990s. In Salon, David Halberstam blames himself (fair enough) and other journalists (I’m happy to beat my breast as well) but he won’t finger Clinton. This despite this anecdote from his new book: “The most telling story is about Clinton’s election in 1992 right before he was inaugurated. He comes to Washington to meet with the House Democratic chairmen. When he gets to Lee Hamilton of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Hamilton says, “Well, Mr. President, we have China. Whatever you do on China, you’re only going to please half the people. Then, there’s Saddam Hussein … ” Clinton interrupts him and says, “Lee, I’ve been traveling around our country for a year and no one cares about foreign policy other than about six journalists.” Hamilton is taken aback and replies, “That may be true, but the last presidents have been defined by foreign affairs.”” When pushed by Salon to acknowledge that a president might actually be required to lead the people, rather than follow them, Halberstam simply stammers: “In essence, Clinton reflected the national mood. Had there been one more term, had he not been pulled down by the Lewinsky thing, thereby losing two years of his second term, it might have been different.” Of course, in this, Halberstam reflects the view of the Clintonites that the president had no responsibility for the appalling trauma he put the country through in 1998 – just while Osama bin Laden’s plot was thickening. Some things never change.
Fascinating report in the left-wing British paper, the Observer, about the extent of the Clinton administration’s responsibility for hobbling our intelligence operations in the last ten years. Vast files of intelligence from Sudan, specifically about Osama bin Laden, were simply ignored or spurned by Clinton officials. According to the Observer, “One senior CIA source admitted last night: ‘This represents the worst single intelligence failure in this whole terrible business. It is the key to the whole thing right now. It is reasonable to say that had we had this data we may have had a better chance of preventing the attacks.’ He said the blame for the failure lay in the ‘irrational hatred’ the Clinton administration felt for the source of the proffered intelligence – Sudan, where bin Laden and his leading followers were based from 1992-96. He added that after a slow thaw in relations which began last year, it was only now that the Sudanese information was being properly examined for the first time.” Quick, Sandy. Better leak something to the New York Times to spin this one away.
RUSHDIE AND THE LEFT: I agree with almost everything Salman Rushdie says today in the Washington Post. It is a gorgeous piece in some ways – and a watershed. Why? Because of the following sentences: “It’s time to stop making enemies and start making friends [in the world]. To say this is in no way to join in the savaging of America by sections of the left that has been among the most unpleasant consequences of the terrorists’ attacks on the United States … Let’s be clear about why this bien-pensant anti-American onslaught is such appalling rubbish. Terrorism is the murder of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder. To excuse such an atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions.” Thank you, Salman. Thank you.
Edward Luttwak shrewdly dissects our new foreign policy in today’s Times. I think he’s right in arguing that this really is the new new world order. What has been truly remarkable in the last two weeks is the alacrity with which Russia and China have joined the coalition against Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism. Many will worry about our new allies – their violation of human rights, their unsavory actions in, say, Tibet and Chechnya. Those worries are real and important. But they must take second billing to international order of the most basic kind. This crisis has taught us that lesson. In fact, one of the encouraging things since the massacre has been the unity of major states. Before, each state dealt with terrorism in its own way after its own fashion. Because the United States was never fully involved in this battle, coordination was difficult and took a back seat to rivalry, or even playing one country’s terrorists off against another’s. But as we saw earlier this summer, as IRA terrorists emerged from the Colombian jungle after training sessions, these networks are linked. We are right to start with al Qaeda, but we would be terribly wrong if we ended there. We have a unique opportunity to put in place an architecture for world order unknown since the nineteenth century. And so far, the Bush administration seems to be doing an effective job in constructing it.
LETTERS: Intelligent, non-abusive criticism of my piece on Clinton; input from a former Israeli Special Forces guy; etc.
THE SUPREME COURT BARS CLINTON: Well, well. How could they? After enduring a full day of relentless, organized, abusive emails from the Clinton apparatchiks, all I can say is: at least some people understand the concept of accountability.
THE MILITARY AMENDS: It seems as if I and other media outlets jumped the gun in thinking that the military had suspended its ban on honest gay servicemembers for the duration of the war. A “stop-loss” order was indeed authorized by the president and secretary of defense, and it was assumed that this would apply to all discharges including gay ones. This was the case in the Gulf War. Perhaps aware that such a suspension would, in the current climate, completely undermine any credibility that the military has in insisting that gay soldiers are a threat to military competence, the Airforce’s top brass have decided to exempt gays from the stop-loss order. It’s the only exemption – and a patent attempt to ensure the viability of the policy if and when this war is over. None of the other services has yet spelled out the details of its own stop-loss procedures, so we’ll see if this is more widespread. This nuance means a lot to servicemembers who might have breathed a little easier in this war. But it will be interesting to see if any actual discharges occur during the war. We’ll see. My bet is that there will be very few. But one thing is clear. This country may be unified, but gay soldiers, sailors, marines and airforce fighters – those who are putting their lives at stake for us – are still very much second class citizens. Mark Bingham’s legacy has not yet reached the Pentagon.
BRAVE WORDS OF REASON: “I have no hesitation in describing this mentality, carefully and without heat, as soft on crime and soft on fascism. No political coalition is possible with such people and, I’m thankful to say, no political coalition with them is now necessary. It no longer matters what they think.” – Christopher Hitchens, on the left-liberals who have equivocated in their response to the September 11 Massacre.
HOME NEWS: This month marks the first full year of this site. This is no time for celebration, but I’d like to express my thanks to my readers, who not only have supported the site financially and emotionally, but have also provided many of my tips, links, and ideas over the past twelve months – from all sides of the political spectrum. Many of you I even count as new friends, especially those who often differ from me but keep coming back at me with good criticism and ideas. When I started, I really had no idea whether this would work. October 2000 saw us get 35,000 unique visits, 175,000 page-views and 1.3 million hits. In September 2001, we got over a quarter of a million unique visits, a million page-views and well over 6 million hits. Thanks to my soulmate and webmaster, Robert Cameron, and to his crew at Fantascope, especially Vince Allen and Jonathan Keller, for their design work and constant attention. The much-promised redesign is almost ready to go, but my sudden work load has postponed it for a few weeks. Fear not: it’s coming. Thanks again to you, the readers who make this whole thing work. Don’t forget to click on the Tipping Point to support our efforts, if you feel like it.
Robert Rubin, who, as Joe Klein showed, was a major obstacle to shutting down terrorist financial networks in the last decade, now steps up to the plate. No mention of his own past failures. Perhaps he hopes no-one will notice.
THE PACIFIST LEFT ORGANIZES: If the following excerpt from the September 27 newsletter of the left-liberal group ActForChange is any guide, the Taliban need to be very, very scared by the way some activists are gearing up to respond to the September 11 Massacre. One suggestion? Write the Taliban ambassador! “We have even located a way to contact the only accessible public representative of the Taliban!” the excited activists write. “It remains important to let decision-makers know that we are engaged in civic life and attentive to the responses being made on behalf of the American people … Please consider the following actions … Tell the Taliban What You Think. The Taliban has been roundly condemned in the international community for providing a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and other known terrorists in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. If you wish to send a message to Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, calling on the group to turn over bin Laden and ease the oppression of women and relief workers in Afghanistan, ActForChange will print out your e-mail and mail or fax it to him.” I’m sure you can arrange a flowery American greetings card as well.
IT’S NOT CLINTON’S FAULT – NOTHING EVER IS: One theme of the largely obscene torrent of pro-Clinton emails is a revealing one. Rather than question the obvious fact of the last administration’s ultimate responsibility for national security, they argue that the Republicans are at fault for distracting Clinton with what they now call a “jihad” against the president. This follows the usual pattern, fomented by Clinton himself, that he is never to be held responsible for anything ever (except all the good things that happened on his watch). Even after close to 7,000 innocent deaths, Clinton is still the victim. I have a brief response to this in three parts. The president need not have done things that resulted in a sexual harassment lawsuit against him in the first place. The president could easily have settled such a suit years before it metastasized into impeachment. The president could have told the truth as soon a the Lewinsky scandal hit and defused the entire situation. The responsibility for his distraction is ultimately his alone. That’s what responsibility means. That’s what accountability means. As president, he actually had a duty to defuse that situation in order to function effectively as commander-in-chief. But he chose his own political suicide instead. I opposed convicting the president; and thoroughly criticized the Starr Report. But that doesn’t mean the president should be excused for avoiding responsibility and accountability. And the fact that those ideas were so thoroughly trashed by Clinton himself is only further proof of the damage he did to the culture and the government.
Check out this astonishing memo from 1997, unearthed by the Washington Monthly. It’s from the Justice Department’s self-study of emergency responses to terrorism. The illustration almost gets the actual floor of the WTC right. No-one can say we weren’t warned. Except, maybe, Sandy Berger.
THE HATE MAIL POURS IN: I’ve printed just one of the many, many hate emails I’ve received after my piece yesterday in the Sunday Times of London about the legacy of the Clinton administration in security and intelligence. Most make no points, and most seem not to have read the piece, but there is a general, loopy claim that is baldly untrue. I do not blame Bill Clinton for the September 11 massacre. Far from it. I say quite clearly early on: “We put the blame – rightly – on the terrorists who bear sole responsibility for the massacre.” Emphatic enough? I do not even blame our former president solely for the security failure. Among others directly or indirectly responsible, I cite former President George H.W. Bush, General Colin Powell, CIA director George Tenet, the FBI, “senators and congressmen and lobbyists and civil liberties advocates and journalists – all of whom failed to see the danger staring us in the face. Very few of us are free from blame.” I include myself in that list. Like many others, I didn’t see what was coming, and I’ve been asking myself why. Part of the reason is that we couldn’t actually visualize an attack of that gravity. For that oversight, I write, our leaders “deserve some sympathy. They were imperfect human beings in a world where September 11 was still an abstraction.” I also write: “Hindsight is easy of course. In the halcyon and feckless climate of the 1990s, it would have required real political leadership to dragoon various, stubborn government agencies into a difficult reorganization to counter terrorism. It would have been extremely hard to persuade a skeptical public and a prickly civil liberties lobby that vast new government powers were necessary to prevent catastrophe.” All of this is true, and is an important context. But it’s also true that the president of the United States is ultimately responsible for the security of the United States and its citizens. The buck stops there. It is not partisan or unfair to question the record of our last president, who presided over the weakening of our intelligence and security apparatus for eight years, while the threat of Islamo-fascism clearly grew and grew. This is not written out of “hatred.” It is written because accountability is an essential part of democracy. And our last president is accountable for the decay of our intelligence and security that preceded this nightmare. Clearly the Clinton alums see this, which is why they’re engaging in a furious spin operation (see “ASS-COVERING WATCH” below). Read the piece to see if you disagree. It’s called “The Fruits of Negligence,” and should be posted opposite by 9.30 am Monday.
LETTERS: A gay marine for the war; how peaceful is Islam really?; why Colin Powell is right; etc.
POSTCARD FROM ACADEMIA: A beleaguered student from the University of Wisconsin writes to share a letter written by a fellow student to the student newspaper, the Badger Herald. Yes, it’s just a student letter. No it’s not earth-shattering. But it seems to me it’s newsworthy that a student at a major university could even think these things. Here’s an excerpt: “Make no mistake about it, the attacks of a couple weeks ago were a great national and international tragedy. But tearing up the Middle East, murdering every brown-skinned person in sight, is not going solve anything. The U.S. government is, without a doubt, one of the most genocidal and murderous political entities of the 20th century. In the name of ruthless capitalism and neo-colonialism, our government has murdered over 500,000 Iraqi children, thousands of Palestinians, and many more throughout the world in places like Latin America and East Timor. Brian Marquardt wrote in his letter that, “Those [protesters] are using the rights defended by our military during wars.” What could be further from the truth? Not since World War II has the United States ever been involved in military activity defending our freedoms and liberties. Rather, they have defended a racist, imperialistic American hegemony which, believe it or not, is greatly resented by nearly every other country and their peoples around the world. So before you preach at us about the evil terrorists, why don’t you try getting your facts straight and face up to the reality that our leaders are war criminals just as much as people like Hitler, Stalin and other monsters of the 20th century.”
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “In war there is much to be said for magnanimity in victory. But not before victory.” – Margaret Thatcher, “The Downing Street Years” (1993).
THE TALIBAN’S METHODS: A former Taliban secret policeman debriefs London’s Sunday Telegraph. What he describes is beyond belief. “As we drove around at night with our guns, local people would come to us and say there’s someone watching a video in this house or some men playing cards in that house,” he said. “Basically any form of pleasure was outlawed,” Mr. Hassani said, “and if we found people doing any of these things we would beat them with staves soaked in water – like a knife cutting through meat – until the room ran with their blood or their spines snapped. Then we would leave them with no food or water in rooms filled with insects until they died. We always tried to do different things: we would put some of them standing on their heads to sleep, hang others upside down with their legs tied together. We would stretch the arms out of others and nail them to posts like crucifixions. Sometimes we would throw bread to them to make them crawl. Then I would write the report to our commanding officer so he could see how innovative we had been.” Ah, but compared to the sins of America’s genocidal leaders, these are piddling offenses.
Aware perhaps that the next turn in this story will be a thorough examination of how American intelligence failed so badly to avoid the September 11 Massacre, the Clinton administration uses its favorite paper, the New York Times, for spin control. One major leak about past efforts to get bin Laden killed must have come from someone. Who? Sandy Berger? Does this leak in any way imperil intelligence today? Key ass-covering quotes from Berger and Albright follow. “It was something that we focused on on a daily basis, and pursued with vigor, and I think we accomplished quite a lot,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. “‘I think we took it as far as was possible to go at the time, and I think what we did has provided the basis for things the Bush administration is trying to do now.'” Yeah, right. And here’s Berger: “‘This was a top priority for us over the past several years, and not a day went by when we didn’t press as hard as we could,” said Samuel R. Berger, national security adviser in the Clinton administration. “But this is a tough, tough problem. I think we were pushing it as hard as we could. And I think the Bush administration is handling it in a smart way.'” The Times is forced to concede “mixed results” and it notably doesn’t finger Robert Rubin as the main obstacle for shutting down al Qaeda’s financial network. How could they when they spent major front-page space puffing Rubin earlier this week? No critic is quoted in the article. I’d say this piece is the first sign that the Clintonites are rattled. They know they bear the bulk of responsibility for this – although, of course, not alone. I’m not absolving any of us from some responsibility – including the two Bush administrations, and pundits who didn’t sound the alarm loudly enough. But all signs point to the Clinton administration as the major source of responsibility. No surprise that the Times would be out in front trying to exculpate them.
MUST READ: I was struck by the following sentences in a piece by Gustav Neibuhr in Saturday’s New York Times. A scholar was asked to comment on the extraordinarily pious notes found in the possession of the murderers of September 11. “Some of the letter invokes prayers and uses ‘very mainstream religious language,’ John L. Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim- Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said, referring to excerpts published on Friday. But, he said, ‘all of a sudden, after you’ve read through 90 percent of it, then you get to that set of lines that this is being wrapped around that militant action – You get your ID’s, you’re carrying your knives.'” Now what does that tell you? What it tells me is that perhaps the extremist version of Islam is not that different from the mainstream version of Islam in the eyes of the hijackers. Maybe the links between “good Islam” and “bad Islam” are actually closer than you might think. This is not politically correct; but it may be true. You don’t need a whole new religion to do what these fanatics did; you just need to believe in your creed with greater zeal and fanaticism. This is about religion – or rather about the evil things that fundamentalism can do in any faith. Here are the hijacker’s notes. See what you think.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “But who is Osama bin Laden really? Let me rephrase that. What is Osama bin Laden? He’s America’s family secret. He is the American president’s dark doppelgänger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America’s foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of “full-spectrum dominance”, its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think. Now that the family secret has been spilled, the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable.” – Arundhati Roy, The Guardian. I have seen no more eloquent statement of the fusion of anti-globalization and Islamo-fascism that is now resurgent. This is what the far left is becoming. And this is what so many in the mainstream left refuse to take on.
Anthony Lewis, who has opposed almost every conceivable measure to halt or impede terrorism for his entire professional life, is relieved that the Bush administration seems to be abandoning a fully-fledged effort to remove the bases for terrorism’s reach – in Baghdad, Damascus and Kandahar. He blathers on about a new “consensus” – which turns out to be his own vision of what we should do. He wants a multilateral coalition regardless of its ability to solve the real problem, he wants massive Keynesian reflation, he wants Clinton Treasury Secretary back in power, he wants John Ashcroft’s belated measures to stop terrorism watered down. None of this should be surprising. Then he lobs a couple of cruise missiles at me and Kristol. I’m not going to defend myself again here from the grotesque distortion of my obvious meaning in Lewis’s citation of two sentences from my piece for the Sunday Times (although I’ve written a brief letter to the Times). Anyone who reads it will see he’s deliberately distorting its meaning. But I will point out that the dubious loyalty of some on the fringe left does not amount to a “disgusting diatribe” but a mere statement of fact. A movement to oppose all and every Western response to terrorism is already afoot, and it is based on the notion, widely held in these quarters, that the United States is morally inferior to the hoodlums who killed thousands, or is so morally crippled that it has no right to a robust response. Similarly, Lewis’ attack on the alleged partisanship of those who have criticized Colin Powell’s war strategy is simply unfair. Powell is clearly attempting to neuter the fight against terrorism and restrict it as tightly as he restricted the Gulf War. What is partsian about opposing a repetition of an already failed policy? Many on both left and right sincerely hold this view; the editors in chief of both the Weekly Standard and the New Republic have signed on to such a statement. There is nothing partisan about it at all. All Lewis is trying to do, in his usual pompous fashion, is to write people out of a genuine debate on the meaning, context and conduct of this war. Apart from the New York Times op-ed page, where true dissent from liberal orthodoxy is forbidden, Lewis will mercifully fail to silence us.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “We’ve been treated to some astonishingly vile images over the last two weeks: office workers hurling themselves into a hundred-floor-high abyss. A gaping, smouldering hole in the financial center of our greatest city. George W. Bush passing himself off as a patriot, even as he disassembles the Constitution with the voracious glee of piranha skeletonizing a cow… [E]ven if it’s mainly the result of our pathetic desire to follow someone — anyone — in the aftermath of Sept. 11, there’s little opposition out in the cities and towns across our vast continent: Bush’s job-approval rating is hovering up there with puppies and sunny days. It may have seemed meaningless at the time, but now we know why 7,000 people sacrificed their lives — so that we’d all forget how Bush stole a presidential election.” –Ted Rall, cartoonist, September 27.
I’m surprised more people haven’t picked up on Joe Klein’s excellent piece in the New Yorker this week. Klein doesn’t quite draw the lines between the dots (I’ve just tried to do that in my upcoming piece for the Sunday Times in London), but the piece stands as a damning indictment of the Clinton administration’s anti-terrorism negligence nonetheless. The warnings about bin Laden were copious throughout the 1990s. The recommendations for tackling the Islamic fundamentalist threat were all made repeatedly and with increasing urgency. It’s not fair to say that nothing was done by the Clintonites; and I appreciate that hindsight is easy. But it’s equally clear that not enough was done. Sooner rather than later, historians will need to go back and piece together the pieces that were ignored, undone, or simply denied as the Clinton administration concentrated on more important matters like avoiding impeachment. Klein concludes that “there seems to be near-unanimous agreement among experts: in the ten years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost every aspect of American national-security policy-from military operations to intelligence gathering, from border control to political leadership-has been marked by … institutional lassitude and bureaucratic arrogance.” And who was responsible for eight of those ten years? Yes, many of us are to blame for not taking this more seriously. But only one man is ultimately supposed to take responsibility for this. There is no greater duty for a government than the maintenance of national security, and the physical protection of its own citizens from harm. When a senior Clinton official can tell Klein that Clinton “spent less concentrated attention on national defense than any other President in recent memory,” and when this presidency is followed by the most grievous breach of domestic security in American history, it is not unreasonable to demand some accounting. With each passing day, the Clinton legacy gets darker and darker.
THE BEGINNINGS OF A RECKONING II: Alongside Klein’s piece, check out a truly prescient and damning account of the failure of our counter-intelligence services to deal with the Islamo-fascist threat. Reuel Marc Gerecht deserves some sort of medal for prescience in this affair, penning superb pieces for the Atlantic and the Weekly Standard over the past few years. Here’s his most insightful essay from the July/August issue of the Atlantic, a piece that reflects the great work Mike Kelly has been doing with that magazine. In it, he emphasized the extreme need for trained spies to go underground in the Muslim world of Afghanistan and Pakistan if the West were ever to get adequate intelligence on bin Laden’s operation. But as late as 1999, not a single such “non-official-cover” spy had been trained or used for such a purpose. A former senior Near East Division operative tells Gerecht, “The CIA probably doesn’t have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ’s sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don’t do that kind of thing.” A younger case officer summed up the policy to Gerecht thus: “Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don’t happen.” Meanwhile, the man who presided over this catastrophe, George Tenet, is still sitting pretty. Wouldn’t anyone with a sense of responsibility after this intelligence debacle have resigned by now? I agree with the Washington Times on this one.