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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, August 05, 2002

Clash of Titans

TIME magazine has an interesting piece on the Clinton plan to smash Al-quaeda. TIME's theme is that a potentially effective plan was delayed by the Bush transition. Josh Marshall describes the article thusly:

"The authors of this Time article go to great lengths to be fair to the Bush administration. But the upshot of the story is still pretty devastating."

On the other hand, "The Man" laughs out loud at the entire article ("TIME's Up!"). Can they both be right?

Read through the TIME piece yourself. The big push for a plan came after the Cole bombing on October 12, 2000, roughly three weeks before the election. The effort was lead by Dick Clarke, rock and roll legend and "a career bureaucrat who had served in the first Bush Administration and risen during the Clinton years to become the White House's point man on terrorism....

The result was a strategy paper that he had presented to Berger and the other national security "principals" on Dec. 20.

So, let's see, two month of effort. Has this plan had a full review by the Pentagon, the CIA or the FBI? Who cares, it sounds like we are good to go! TIME does not even attempt to explain these inconsistencies:

"On Nov. 7 (Election Day! - MM), Berger met with William Cohen, then Secretary of Defense, in the Pentagon. The time had come, said Berger, for the Pentagon to rethink its approach to operations against bin Laden.... [Berger] wanted "boots on the ground"-U.S. special-ops forces deployed inside Afghanistan on a search-and-destroy mission targeting bin Laden."

Compared with:

"In fact, despite strong suspicion that bin Laden was behind the attack in Yemen, the CIA and FBI had not officially concluded that he was, and would be unable to do so before Clinton left office. That made it politically impossible for Clinton to strike-especially given the upcoming election and his own lack of credibility on national security. "If we had done anything, say, two weeks before the election," says a former senior Clinton aide, "we'd be accused of helping Al Gore."

So, two weeks before the election would have been about two weeks after the Cole bombing but before Berger met with the Pentagon. It also would have preceded a determination by the FBI or the CIA that bin-Laden was involved. Are we supposed to take seriously the idea that the big obstacle was the political calendar?

Read the article, go with "The Man". Sorry, Josh.

UPDATE: The Oooold Crow covered this on Sunday. Look for "It's 3 months from the election: have you politicized the war yet?". Link to his archives? C'mon, this is BLOGGER!

UPDATE 2: More from "The Man", who has links to everywhere debunking this story, including the Ooold Crow, as noted above. Whoa - The Crow digs up this: Clinton nixed a "boots on the ground" plan in 1998? TIME reports, we deride!

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