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Jewish World Review Nov. 14, 2001 / 28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster -- WHEN the terrorist gang controlled by Bin Laden exploded a bomb in the World Trade Center in 1993 killing six and injuring 650 others, President Clinton did not even visit the site of the attack. In his radio address the next day, he expressed his grief and outrage and four days later visited New Jersey where he sent a message to New Yorkers saluting our courage. Other than those statements, he remained aloof and uninvolved.

The attack occurred in the second month of Clinton's presidency. Issues like gays in the military, the recession, and withdrawing our troops from Somalia loomed larger than the 1993 attack. Clinton deliberately remained removed from the attack perhaps in the hope that he would not be blamed so early in his presidency.

Where Bush insisted, from the outset, that the Trade Center attack that took place on his watch was a declaration of war by foreign terrorists against the United States, Clinton treated the attack as a criminal justice situation not unlike the subsequent bombing of the Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. But while in Oklahoma, he connected emotionally with the victims, he had nothing to do with them in 1993.

His failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack had dire consequences and led directly to the 2001 disaster. Two years after the 1993 attack, Sudan, sick of sheltering Bin Laden, offered to turn him over to the United States for prosecution. But, without the president breathing down their neck, investigators had not yet discovered that Bin Laden was behind the 1993 attack. Claiming that we lacked evidence to proceed, the US refused Sudan's offer and suggested they turn him over to the Saudis instead. In doing so, the US was disingenuous. We knew full well that the Saudi Arabian kingdom could not afford politically to prosecute their home-grown terrorist.

Clinton was removed, uninvolved, and distant where the war on terror was concerned. CIA director Woolsey now reveals that he never had a private personal meeting with Clinton during the first two years of his tenure as head of the CIA - exactly the key period in investigating the 1993 attack.

I had a good illustration of Clinton's remoteness from terrorist issues in 1996 when Dick Holbrooke called me, several months after the terrorist attack on US barracks in Ridyah, Saudi Arabia. Holbrooke, who told me that he had never had the opportunity to speak with Clinton directly during the months that he was negotiating the Dayton peace accords in Bosnia, asked that I get hold of the president to pass along a message. Holbrooke said that he had information that the terrorists were planning another attack in Ridyah and that our troops were highly vulnerable.

"They are stuck in the same buildings the terrorists attacked last time," Holbrook told me. "All that has changed is that there are more formidable concrete barriers against car bombs. But a bigger bomb would be just as lethal. They need to be dispersed and camped in the desert in tents with a secured perimeter," he warned.

I called the president and passed along Holbrooke's message. He had no idea that the troops were still in the barracks and said that he had ordered them dispersed to the desert six weeks before. "I've got a meeting with the Joint Chiefs in the morning," the president said "I'll raise hell with them."

Shockingly, he was so little involved in protecting our troops - already the object of a terrorist attack - that he had no idea that his order had not been executed until I happened to call.

Clinton was a one-thing-at-a-time president. Capable of intense focus on the issue du jour, he neglected all back burner concerns. And terror was always on the back burner.

Throughout the first part of his second term, Clinton was immobilized by impeachment. Battling desperately to save his presidency, he simply had neither the time nor the mental energy to immerse himself in a war against terror. Blame him for the perjury that caused impeachment. Blame the GOP for pursuing him. Blame whoever you want, but we were without a president from January, 1998 until April, 1999.

Thereafter, his administration was almost wholly devoted to electing Hillary to the Senate and, to a lesser extent, to making Gore president. Once again, terrorism was not the priority.

It never was. Now it is.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, The New Prince. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Dick Morris