Thursday, August 18, 2005

Down the memory hole

In the wake of the recent release of State Department information that points to concerns about bin Laden's increased threat potential following his move to Afghanistan and the accompanied conservative criticism of the Clinton administration, it may do well to remember this much maligned event.
Clinton strikes terrorist bases
THE United States launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan yesterday against centres allegedly linked with the terrorist bombings of two American embassies.

More here,
With about 75 missiles timed to explode simultaneously in unsuspecting countries on two continents, the operation was the most formidable U.S. military assault ever against a private sponsor of terrorism.
... Clinton and his national security team linked both sites to Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire tied by U.S. intelligence to the twin bombings on Aug. 7 in Kenya and Tanzania. The bombings killed 12 Americans and nearly 300 Africans.
... The president made no apologies for ordering the strikes without permission from Afghanistan or the Sudan, saying, "Countries that persistently host terrorists have no right to be safe havens."
... Clinton presented several reasons for the decision to act swiftly and forcefully, rather than to punish bin Laden through the means of diplomacy and law. Repeatedly he said bin Laden presented an imminent threat, quoting his pledge this week to wage a war in which Americans were "all targets."
(Via Seeing the Forest)
The Clinton administration certainly made mistakes in its prosecution of bin Laden and his network. However, he did take their threat seriously and became a major focus of his administration's foreign policy. Despite that, some in the Republican opposition accused him of making foreign policy in order to distract from his own domestic problems, namely the Starr hearings, which went on for years, bogging down the entire administration.

Some Republicans saw Clinton's response to bin Laden and others as political theater. Clinton was involved in planning the attack even as he was meeting with his lawyers prepare his own legal defense.

Few outside the anti-terrorist task forces (including some in the intelligence world or some members of the FBI) believed that bin Laden Al Queda had the potential to launch the attacks it did. It was simply not on the radar.

Perhaps more could have been done had the President of the United States been allowed to do his job rather than fight a politically motivated legal attack.

- Murphy

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