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April 6, 2004
Washington Times: No Mention of AQ in Clinton Wrap-Up

The Washington Times has unearthed the final national security report from the Clinton administration to Congress, written in December 2000, and has discovered that it never mentions al-Qaeda and only mentions Osama bin Laden four times (via Drudge):

The final policy paper on national security that President Clinton submitted to Congress 45,000 words long makes no mention of al Qaeda and refers to Osama bin Laden by name just four times.

The scarce references to bin Laden and his terror network undercut claims by former White House terrorism analyst Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered al Qaeda an "urgent" threat, while President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "ignored" it.

The Clinton document, titled "A National Security Strategy for a Global Age," is dated December 2000 and is the final official assessment of national security policy and strategy by the Clinton team. The document is publicly available, though no U.S. media outlets have examined it in the context of Mr. Clarke's testimony and new book.

In fact, not only does this document belie the Clarkean notion of a "high priority" given to fighting al-Qaeda by any means necessary, it specifically boasts about the success of the Clinton administration's law-enforcement policy. The report lists the number of terrorists apprehended and brought back to the US "to answer for their crimes." The total number of terrorists it reports as arrested: twelve, including the several who were captured and/or arrested for the first World Trade Center bombing, the man who shot two CIA employees outside of its headquarters in Langley and an attacker from an incident that occurred in the 80s.

This, then, is the result of eight years of counterterrorism efforts by the Clinton administration as led by Richard Clarke: twelve arrests. Only twelve arrests, after WTC I, Khobar Towers, the two embassy bombings in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. That isn't even the number of terrorists who died staging 9/11. No wonder al-Qaeda felt free to escalate their attacks against the US.

Even more curious is the contention from the Washington Times that this document has been in the public domain during the entire time that Clarke was testifying that he had given a high priority to al-Qaeda, and yet none of the mainstream media -- especially the ones who had headline-gathering interviews celebrating Clarke and his new novel -- ever saw fit to research and report it. There is an adage which instructs (in paraphrase), "Never assign to conspiracy what can be explained by simple laziness," but this seems beyond a simple lack of effort when the scope of the publicity given to Clarke and the gravity of the issue is considered. This is the best American journalists can do?

Just a cursory reading of the document, available here, demonstrates the sheer ludicrousness of the notion of Clintonian prescience regarding al-Qaeda, as well as other hot-spot issues. Here's the report on Afghanistan in its entirety:

Afghanistan remains a serious threat to U.S. worldwide interests because of the Taliban's continued sheltering of international terrorists and its increasing export of illicit drugs. Afghanistan remains the primary safehaven for terrorists threatening the United States, including Usama bin Ladin. The United Nations and the United States have levied sanctions against the Taliban for harboring Usama bin Ladin and other terrorists, and will continue to pressure the Taliban until it complies with international requests to bring bin Ladin to justice. The United States remains concerned about those countries, including Pakistan, that support the Taliban and allow it to continue to harbor such radical elements. We are engaged in energetic diplomatic efforts, including through the United Nations and with Russia and other concerned countries, to address these concerns on an urgent basis.

Here's the report on North Korea; does it sound like they had been well on the way to full WMD disarmament, as Madeline Albright repeatedly stated over the past few years?

Beyond fully implementing the Agreed Framework, we seek to eliminate North Korea's indigenous and export missile program and their weapons of mass destruction through a step-by-step process. Based on U.S.-North Korean discussions, North Korea has undertaken to refrain from flight testing long-range missiles of any kind as we move toward more normal relations. Working closely with our ROK and Japanese allies, we will improve relations with North Korea on the basis of it moving forward on the missile and WMD agendas, and we will take necessary measures in the other direction if the North chooses to go down a different path.

In fact, the report contains a trove of information that rebuts the myriad accusations of former Clinton advisors that the Bush administration has acted like a bull in a carefully crafted china shop. Iraq policy is described as primarily that of "containment", speaking of an almost-forgotten UNSC resolution 1284 which was supposed to tighten controls on the oil-for-food program that we now know was rife with corruption. It also relies heavily on an UNSCOM-like inspection process that never took place. Libya is only mentioned for its willingness to cough up the Lockerbie suspects; not a word is mentioned about any initiative to voluntarily give up its WMD programs. In fact, the report states that the official policy on Libya was "to block its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction."

It took me ten minutes to review this document to reveal, in hindsight to be fair, how clueless the previous administration had been on terrorism and foreign policy in general. Too bad American journalists couldn't be bothered to spend the time.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 6, 2004 6:18 AM

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