Wednesday, March 24, 2004

But Seriously: Bob Kerrey got in the best, and possibly sharpest, criticism of both administrations. The question came up: Why didn't we act earlier, based on the number of attacks we suffered, starting in 1993, with the first WTC attack. He's just been told by Bill Cohen that the political consensus wasn't there to muster a military response beyond the famous cruise missile/camel's butt stuff:
KERREY: . . . I would disagree. I respectfully disagree. First of all, again, as I said, there are many instances where the president doesn't even come to Congress. Operation Just Cause in Panama. He didn't come to Congress and say, Gee, is it OK to do that? Grenada -- the president didn't come to Congress and said, Is that OK to do it? In Bosnia and Kosovo, the very examples that you cite, the president didn't have the support of Congress, and he went ahead and did.

I think he did the right thing. But the fact that it's unpopular, that it's difficult, that our allies are not necessarily with it shouldn't deter a president who believes that what we have is a serial killer on our hands who had begun killing us at least as early as 1993, who had issued a very specific declaration of war calling Islamic men to join an Islamic army on the 23rd of February, 1998, and then demonstrated that he had the capacity in a very sophisticated way on the 7th of August to carry out that threat.

We had a round in our chamber and we didn't use it. That's how I see it. And I don't know if it had prevented 9/11. But I absolutely do not believe that just because a commander in chief sits there and said, Gee, this thing is unpopular therefore I can't do it, I don't think that's a good argument. I know Secretary Rumsfeld is going to use it here in a few minutes and I'm going to be just as harsh with him. I don't buy it.

Rumsfeld, in fact, gave the best answer in his opening statement. One can only hope John Kerry was listening:
But imagine that we were back before September 11th and that a U.S. president had looked at the information then available, gone before the Congress and the world and said we need to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban and destroy the Al Qaida terrorist network based on what little was known was known before September 11th.

How many countries would have joined? Many? Any? Not likely.

We would have heard objections to preemption similar to those voiced before the coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. We would have been asked, "How could you attack Afghanistan when it was Al Qaida that attacked us, not the Taliban? How can you go to war when countries in the region don't support you? Won't launching such an invasion actually provoke terrorist attacks against the United States?"

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