The Spectacle Blog

ABC’s Path to 9/11

By on 9.7.06 | 10:51AM

Howard Kurtz writes in today's Washington Post that former Clinton Administration officials have launched a preemptive attack against the ABC mini-series "Path to 9/11." Having watched the first three hours last night, I can see why. The film, a docudrama based on the 9/11 Commission Report and The Cell, is a strong indictment of the Clinton Administration. It portrays President Clinton as distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal and dramatizes several missed opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden. In one scene, then-National Security Adviser Sandy/>/> Berger refuses to order a raid to capture bin Laden when covert operatives have him surrounded with the Northern Alliance/>. In another scene, an angry Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defends Clinton/>/>'s decision to alert

Pakistan/>/> about the August 1998 cruise missile strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan/>/>. Albright and Berger dispute the accounts.

I've never been one to get my history from TV movies, and I'm not going to start now -- that would make me no better than liberals who get their history from Michael Moore. However, if any good can come of this, it could generate an honest debate on the national security failures of the 1990s. President Bush has taken most of the blame in the media for not acting on pre-9/11 intelligence, but the Clinton Administration has largely gotten a free pass. That is absurd considering that Clinton was president for eight years as terrorist attacks against the United States increased in frequency and boldness (his presidency is nearly book-ended by the first World Trade Center bombing and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole). 

The reason this is an important debate to have is not to attack Clinton (Republicans were not vocally pushing for more aggressive action during the 1990s, and President Bush didn't run in 2000 on a platform of getting tougher on terrorists). Americans, as a whole, underestimated the dangers of terrorism.

But as we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11 without a major attack on U.S./>/> soil, many voices are starting to say that we're exaggerating the terrorist threat. Democrats are itching to return to the way things were done in the 1990s. It's important to remember how much danger those policies put us in, and if this movie does any good, hopefully it will jump-start that debate.

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