By MARC McDONALD
The recent clash between George W. Bush and three rebel Republican senators over the interrogation of accused terrorism suspects brings to mind a question that I haven't seen the mainstream media talk about. That is: how is it that President Clinton was able to successfully counter terrorism without resorting to torture and other illegal and immoral activities that have tarnished the name of the United States?
Bush likes to say that Sept. 11, 2001 marked the dawn of a new era and that "everything changed" on that date. I say bullsh*t. Nothing changed. We already knew that Al-Qaeda was targeting America. We already knew Al-Qaeda was plotting to hijack airliners and crash them into buildings. We already knew that Al-Qaeda was interested in bringing down the World Trade Center towers (something they'd already attempted once).
Bush would have known all this, too, had he bothered to read his PDBs in August 2001, which specifically warned that Osama bin Laden was planning to strike inside the U.S.
Bush likes to ramble on about "the lessons of 9/11," like he's some sort of seasoned expert on preventing terrorism--even though 9/11 happened on his watch.
NeoCons have worked hard to try to portray the Clinton years as a "failure" in the War on Terror. But it's important to remember that the Clinton years were a hugely successful era for countering terror. What's more, Clinton was able to fight terrorism without resorting to torture. Nor did he need to use all the other shady, immoral methods that Bush has employed since 2001.
How successful was Clinton in fighting terror? Let us count the ways.
For a start, take a look at how Clinton responded to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The terrorists who were responsible were promptly captured, tried and imprisoned. Quite a contrast to the 2001 WTC attacks. Here we are, five years later, and Bin Laden still roams free.
Clinton thwarted at least 15 major terrorist plots on his watch, including a plan to simultaneously blow up 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific. He also prevented attacks aimed at the Israeli embassy in Washington, the UN headquarters, U.S. airports in Boston and Los Angeles, as well as a plot to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel.
Clinton successfully fought terror without resorting to torture. He did it without alienating the rest of the world, including America's closest allies. He did it without bankrupting the U.S. He did it without running Nazi-style secret CIA prisons. He did it without illegal wiretaps. He did it without shredding the U.S. Constitution. He did it without sullying the good name of the United States and making us the most hated nation on the planet.
By contrast, Bush has embraced torture, as well as a sickening collection of other immoral and illegal activities.
But has Bush's approach to tackling terrorism worked? The numbers tell the story.
Terrorist attacks worldwide are at an all-time high. Despite Bush's claims that "we're winning" the war on terror, the U.S. State Department reported in April that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased nearly fourfold in 2005 to 11,111, with strikes in Iraq accounting for 30 percent of the total. The attacks killed more than 14,600 noncombatants, including 56 Americans.