To the Editor:
I’m writing in response to Daniel Croft’s letter of Oct. 20. His letter contains a number of quotes from the 9/11 Commission’s Report that support his argument. Despite his disclaimer at the close of the letter, anyone with the disadvantage of not having read the report would think that the Bush administration has been willfully negligent with regard to the threat presented by al Qaeda, and that the Clinton administration had been thwarted only by the change in administration in bringing Osama bin Laden and the rest of his cronies to justice.
This perception is far from the truth.
While Crofts presents a good argument in support of his implied belief that George W. Bush is unable to protect the United States, he fails to present additional evidence from the report that would weaken his argument. For example, Ahmed Ressam was apprehended not because Bubba Clinton issued some magic executive order, but rather because a single experienced U.S. Customs agent was suspicious about AR (p. 178, 359). Additionally, Crofts does not bring up the bombings of our embassies in Africa (p. 115) or the U.S.S. Cole (p. 190), both of which happened during the Clinton administration and both of which we were unprepared for. Our response to these attacks was to launch a few cruise missiles and do nothing, respectively. An argument can be made that Clinton was (at the time of the embassy bombings) in the middle of the Republican-driven Lewinsky scandal and may have felt that too strong a response would be misconstrued. See pages 116 to 118 in the report for a fuller discussion of the embassy incidents.
Crofts insists that Bush’s claims must be weighed against the “record of what happened between January 2001 and Sept. 11, 2001.” To this I would add that Bush’s record from Sept. 11 to the present day should also be considered. It does no good to vote with only one eye open.
The notion that any single president, administration, or political party is able to protect the United States from a small, diffused and organized force bent on our destruction is ludicrous. With this reasoning, it matters little whether Bush or Kerry wins the upcoming election. What actually matters is the flip side of the coin: how to root out radical Islamist terrorism by winning the argument of ideas and values. Bush’s professed strategy of full-scale, preemptive military action is a short-term solution. Kerry’s proposed disengagement, lip-service, and fear of unilaterial action got us into this mess in the first place. What matters far more in the long run is how we choose to export democratic ideals. The report urges the United States to “Engage the Struggle of Ideas” (374-380) with the worldwide Muslim community. The commission notes that “if the U.S. does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us” (377).
I urge everyone to read the 428 pages of the report if they haven’t done so. The commission has done a fair job of summarizing the information surrounding the attacks in a fair and non-partisan fashion. Pages 339 to 360 present a more complete picture than Croft’s letter. You can find the report online at 9-11commission.gov/ or purchase a bound copy for $10 at your nearest bookstore.