- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

Most people reacted in horror to the attacks of September 11. But with his usual narcissism, former President Bill Clinton apparently wished the attacks had happened during his presidency, so he could have a moment of glory leading the war. "I feel I would be better trained for it, more prepared," he said. Many are now saying that his failure to act laid the foundation for September 11. Mr. Clinton is responding to his critics in the same way he did while he was in office: with spin. His spin team is spinning faster than an attack helicopter's rotors to convince historians to write a favorable account of Mr. Clinton's own campaign against terror.

Some in the media, especially The Washington Post, are buying the spinners' version of events. The Post's recent stories on the Clinton responses to terrorism say that Mr. Clinton gave greater priority to the issue than any prior president, and that both he and the American people thought terrorism on a "grand scale" was only a "hypothetical danger through Clinton's final day in office." Hypothetical? Surely not to those who lost loved ones in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 and the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. Let's be clear: At least from the time of the Khobar Towers attack, and probably before, Mr. Clinton knew Osama bin Laden was the murderer of Americans. What he didn't do is vastly more significant than what he did.

Michael Sheehan, Mr. Clinton's last assistant secretary of state for counter-terrorism, said that during the Clinton years, the collective judgment " … of the American people, not just the Clinton administration, [was] that the impact of terrorism was a level that was acceptable." Even if this were true, Mr. Clinton could have been a leader instead of a poll-reader and built a consensus for action. But he failed to lead, and enormous opportunities were passed up. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Mansoor Ijaz detailed how, from 1996 to 1998, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir offered to capture bin Laden and turn him over to us. Mr. Clinton did not even respond to these offers. Mr. Clinton's 1998 cruise missile attacks on terrorist camps timed to coincide with his grand jury testimony were notoriously ineffective. The many actions Mr. Clinton failed to take against terrorism from 1996 on add up to an error of historic magnitude.

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