I realize that Tommy Franks, who was there, is pretty effective rebuttal to the inane Dem talking points (from Kerry, Holbrooke, et al.) about how we supposedly had Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora but let him get away because we were diverted by Iraq — a total non-threat … except of course for a few missing tons of HMX that are a galactic danger to mankind and that the “incredible incompetent,” GWB, forgot to guard. But I really think contenting ourselves with the General Franks response misses a more important point.
In August 1998, the embassies were bombed, killing 257 people. This was a coordinated military attack on sovereign American installations. President Clinton, whom Kerry would emulate (as he reminded everyone in Philadelphia this week), lobbed a few ineffectual cruise missiles on a single day. Big rocks were turned into smaller rocks, but there was no meaningful effort — none, zilch, nada — to hunt down and kill Bin Laden even though everyone in the administration acknowledged that al Qaeda was planning more attacks on the United States.
In October 2000, the Cole was bombed, killing 17 American sailors — a direct attack on the American military. It turns out, though, that by Cole standards, the embassy retalliation was robust. President Clinton did absolutely nothing — not even cruise missiles — to respond. Again, there was no Bin Laden manhunt and no disruption of al Qaeda’s command structure at a time when everyone in the Clinton administration, and everyone on the Senate Intelligence Committee on which the Junior Senator from Massachusetts sat, knew that more attacks were being planned.
Against that background, the Tora Bora BS is not only infuriating but insulting to the intelligence. How dare these people suggest that BUSH hasn’t done enough to hunt down Bin Laden. This war didn’t start on 9/11. These people had YEARS to try to grab this guy — while everyone knew he was planning atrocities such as the one that occurred on 9/11 — and they never even tried. They were too weak to confront the Taliban. They were too weak (and too dug in to their non-proliferation pieties) to conduct a wilfull carrot-and-stick dialogue with Musharaff to convince him that we were going after Bin Laden and Pakistan could either go along with us or suffer the consequences. They didn’t have the nerve.
President Clinton makes the vapid complaint that greatness eluded him because there was no great historical challenge to meet during his two terms. He could not be more wrong. Had he taken the embassy bombings as the call-to-arms that they were, had he used his unparalleled political and rhetorical skills to rally Americans to this great cause, we, as patriotic Americans, would have rallied around him, he’d have been remembered as a personally flawed but otherwise superb president, and we’d right now be grousing over next Tuesday’s likely ushering in of the second Gore term — although not that depressed because 9/11 would never have happened.
President Bush has failed the minor detail of actually capturing Bin Laden, who must live every waking moment in fear of his life, after the major accomplishment of shredding al Qaeda’s capacity to project force. The last time the Democrats had the wheel, neither Bin Laden nor al Qaeda’s infrastructure was touched even though the Clinton administration knew exactly what they were trying to do. Did Senator Kerry ever convene a congressional hearing to probe why the Clinton administration was not using the Defense Department to hunt down and capture or kill Bin Laden? Did he ever demand answers for why the response to al Qaeda attacks in 1998 and 2000 was so pusillanimous? I must have missed those.
The Kerry campaign has some nerve complaining about the failure to capture Bin Laden.