Friday, July 01, 2011

The Meaning of the Word "They"

Jack Cashill has an interesting review piece out on Richard Miniter's new book "Mastermind", specifically about how it relates to the Clinton administration's handling (or mishandling) of KSM. In so doing he points out an exchange between historian Taylor Branch and Bill Clinton regarding TWA 800:
On August 2, 1996, Clinton told Branch that the FBI was “rechecking” its interviews with “some fifteen ground witnesses who saw a bright streak in the sky near the plane.” If corroborated, Branch adds, this “could suggest a missile rather than a bomb.” Clinton knew it was a missile. By this time, the FBI had interviewed at least 200 eyewitnesses who had seen a bright streak. Still, he gave away more than he might have intended in this interview. Clinton traced the likely attack to Iran. So obsessed was he on the upcoming election that he claimed terrorists had struck “to undermine [his] chances for reelection because he was pushing the middle-east peace process.”

They want war,” Branch quotes Clinton as saying. Those three words suggest the probable justification used to stop this investigation at the water’s edge as well.
Bolded to point out that according to Branch's reflection the president believed (on August 2, 1996 at least) that Iran was likely behind an attack on the US that killed hundreds because they didn't want him solving Middle East peace. Could make sense--they had a large investment in Hizballah and Hamas. And Cashill has long talked of a 'come to Jesus' meeting at the White House on August 22, 1996 after which the 800 story suddenly began morphing from a terrorist act to a spark in the fuel tank, no worries, just an accident.

It's not hard to believe that Clinton might have thought "they" were trying to goad us into war to stop peace by staging an attack to sway the public towards the election of war hero Bob Dole later in 1996.

Bit it seems a lot depends on the meaning of the word "they". Conventional wisdom about 9/11 is that bin Laden was trying to bait us into a long war, which sounds similar to what Clinton was saying about Iran. Several AQ members were holed up in Iran for years after the attacks, most likely including the interim leader al-Adel and at least one of bin Laden's grown sons. Since proxies are normally used to do the dirty work, KSM's 'planes' operation was certainly in line with Yousef's earlier attacks on aviation. Was it just the Iranians he thought were trying to goad us into war? Or was 9/11 not a shock to him?

In a world of WikiLeaks perhaps such a truth may someday come out, although since it hasn't yet maybe that's not a rock solid guarantee. And maybe for good reason--just imagine such a revelation coming now as Iran gets closer to nuclear weapons every day while we prepare to leave the battlefields both east and west of them.


LASunsett said...

I remember in the mid 90s when the stepped up security at airports was implemented, with no real explanation given except for vague rationales of new information about unspecified security threats. Nothing else. I have said for years that Clinton knew more than he ever let on.

I think he wanted to keep it quiet for a host of reasons, re-election being one. I don't fault him completely for 9/11 like some on the right do, but not making the public more aware and committing the blunders like not taking Osama when he was offered didn't help in the long run. Then again, he wasn't elected as a foreign policy president...and he did not disappoint in that area.

I know one thing for sure, though. I'd trade him for Obama in a heartbeat.

A.C. McCloud said...

Roger on that last sentence, although I might feel guilty in the morning.

Otherwise agree that Clinton didn't cause 9/11, but I give him more culpability probably than you do. He definitely suppressed the fact they were at war with us--and they meant business--because dealing with it required shifting focus off domestic programs and policies. He loathed the military, after all.