Monday, September 1, 2003

Today, on the facing page, we are running the first of four excerpts from Richard Miniter’s book, “Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror” (Regnery, 317 pages, $27.95), which is being released today. Mr. Miniter spent two years interviewing spies, intelligence experts, soldiers and diplomats in the United States, Western Europe, the Middle East and East Africa to get to the bottom of how President Clinton left America vulnerable to terrorism. Some of his best sources were, believe it or not, top Clinton administration officials, who seem eager to defend their individual roles and point the blame for failure elsewhere. Backed by this wealth of first-personaccounts, the record will show that September 11 is the true legacy of the Clinton administration.

This history turns on its head thereckless mediacharge that the Bush administration has made the world less safe bydeploying troops around the world to vanquish America’s enemies. In the run-up to the second anniversary of the most deadly acts of terrorismin America’s history, it is important to remember that George W. Bush had been president for less than eightmonths when the terrorists struck New York and Washington — while Mr. Clinton had been in power for eight years. And yet, as Mr. Bush grapples with the difficult security situation he inherited and is being criticized relentlessly by the press, the Clinton record of responsibility has escaped close scrutiny. Some of that is about to change.

In “Losing Bin Laden,” Mr. Miniter, an investigative reporter, carefully dissects Clinton administration policies that not only failed to capture Osama bin Laden and prevent catastrophe, but allowed his al Qaeda organization to grow in strength. Al Qaeda’s very first attack on Americans was during Mr. Clinton’s presidential transition, in December 1992. His next attack, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, happened within the first full month of the Clinton presidency. That this tragedy was of little concern to Mr. Clinton is evident from the fact that he never visited the bomb site, even though, as Mr. Miniter reports, he was less than a 15-minute limousine ride away in New Jersey just four days later. What was so important in New Jersey? Mr. Clinton wanted to talk about a complex job retraining scheme he was pushing.

Even after al Qaeda had killed Americans on American soil, clear warnings that bin Laden was a growing threat to the United States were repeatedly ignored by Mr. Clinton and his cabinet. Offers to hand bin Laden over to the U.S. were rebuffed,and American officials squelched efforts by foreigngovernments to assassinatehim. Amongmany news-breaking revelations in Mr. Miniter’s book is that an offer by Sudan to share intelligence dossiers on hundreds of al Qaeda operativeswasrefused. Most of those terrorists arestillout theresomewhere.

From front cover to back, Mr. Miniter’s book is the story of how Bill Clinton’s conscious policy decisions to not stop bin Laden made his tragic work possible — and how the president’s weakness allowed bin Laden to surge to global prominence. Every failure to retaliate made bin Laden look invincible in the Arab world, allowing him to win more recruits and raise money. Nearly every year of the Clinton presidency, bin Laden’s attacks were more lethal than the year before. The trail of blood culminated in the stunning reality of a burning Pentagon and the haunting images of the Twin Towers collapsing with thousands inside. It is frightening to contemplate what additonal carnage will occur because the Clinton administration chose not to get bin Laden when it had the chance.

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