- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2004

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines magician as “one who performs tricks of illusion and sleight of hand” and “one skilled in magic,” a “sorcerer.”

That’s an apt description for the parade of Democrats, leftists and peaceniks attacking President Bush on his efforts managing the war on terrorism. Millions of Americans have bought into the illusions created by Mr. Bush’s critics in their attempt to unseat him in the fall election. Let’s look at it.

During the September 11 Commission hearings, former Secretary of State and magician extraordinaire Madeleine Albright told the panel the Clinton administration did all it could think of to defeat al Qaeda and fight terrorism. OK. You tell me what it did about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. How about the 1996 bombing of a U.S. Air Force housing complex at the King Abdul Aziz Air Force Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia? What about the bombing of the USS Cole and the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Africa?

Not only did the Clinton administration do nothing decisive about these attacks that cost hundreds of U.S. casualties; it even refused Sudanese President Bashir’s offer to arrest and hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States.

That’s the magician’s gift; he creates the illusion actual events really didn’t happen and events that didn’t occur happened. Being mesmerized by an illusion is the only way one can accept Mrs. Albright’s claim the Clinton administration did everything it could think of to fight terrorism and defeat al Qaeda.

Then, there’s magician Richard Clarke, former White House terrorism adviser, whose book “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror” was released just in time for the September 11 Commission hearings. During the hearings, Mr. Clarke testified that the Clinton administration had “no higher priority” than destroying terrorism and that, for Mr. Bush, it was “an important issue but not an urgent one.”

And to CBS correspondent Leslie Stahl, Mr. Clarke said, “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it.”

Only sorcery can get you to buy into Mr. Clarke’s statements. In 2002, Mr. Clarke told Fox News correspondent Jim Angle the Bush administration decided to increase CIA resources fivefold to go after al Qaeda and planned for rapid elimination of al Qaeda instead of simply a rollback. Was Mr. Clarke lying then or is he lying now about Mr. Bush’s war on terrorism?

Another part of the Democrats’ magic work is to convince the American people President Bush placed a higher priority on the ouster of Saddam Hussein than going after al Qaeda. That’s believable if you can be made to believe our armed forces attacked Iraq before they attacked Afghanistan.

But suppose Mr. Bush had “done something” like taking military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to September 11, 2001? I’m betting there would have been the same howls of protest from the United Nations, France and Germany and the Democrats that there were prior to the Iraq invasion.

Fighting terrorism as well as rogue dictators requires a policy of pre-emption. During the 1930s, there should have been a pre-emptive strike on Nazi Germany. If Britain and France had the guts to do that, 60 million lives lost in World War II might have been spared. After World War II, when we held a monopoly on nuclear weapons, we should have told the Soviet Union that if it started making nuclear weapons we’d bomb its facilities. We would have avoided Soviet adventurism and trillions of dollars fighting a Cold War. Today, we should give axis-of-evil member North Korea notice to destroy its nuclear weapons or we’ll do it for them.

You might ask, “Williams, are you a warmonger?” No, I’m not, but here’s the way I look at it. If you hate my guts and have designs to hurt me, and I see you building a cannon aimed at my house, I am not going to wait for you to finish construction.

Walter Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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