Laxity was the central cause of America’s sloppy security prior to 9/11. Yet lax liberals, the ones who typically view heightened security as an attack on civil liberties, are the loudest critics of Condoleezza Rice and the Bush administration.
Had the Bush administration adopted ramped-up, hardheaded security policies prior to 9/11, the Richard Ben-Venistes would have been the first to cry foul. Let’s say George Bush during the 233 days before 9/11 had armed pilots, instructed airline officials to profile Muslim males, and called for more domestic intelligence on radical Muslims wandering through the U.S. Would the Democrats have applauded his security vigilance? No, they would have denounced him as a fascist and bigot.
Could the Bush administration have prevented 9/11? Perhaps, but only if it had pursued the very policies the Democrats routinely dismiss as draconian. The critics of the Bush administration say they wanted better protection even as they were trying to knock the shield out of Bush’s hands.
Ben-Veniste and company yesterday demanded an explanation for the “structural” defects in the U.S. government, as if those security structures weakened in the course of 233 days of the Bush administration. They weakened over decades, due largely to liberal distaste for strong security. Decades of ACLU-style propaganda against the FBI and CIA had taken their toll. Did any of the liberals now so puzzled at the lack of communication between CIA and FBI ever call for beefing up those agencies before? Condoleezza Rice mentioned “cultural” reasons for inertia in the agencies. A less polite way of saying that is America’s liberal culture didn’t mind an ineffectual CIA and FBI.
The 9/11 commission, for all its talk about “causes,” is more interested in feckless fingerpointing than in critiquing the liberal culture that softened America up for an attack. Bob Kerrey, who throws “hell” into his questions as a pledge of his toughness (“What the hell does that say to Al Qaeda?” etc.), alternates between attacking the Bush administration for passivity and attacking it for aggression. Apropos of nothing (related to the commission’s actual task), he lectured Rice on the Iraqi operation, saying that “I think the military operations are dangerously off track. And it’s largely a U.S. Army — 125,000 out of 145,000 — largely a Christian army in a Muslim nation.” So Kerrey is back to saying that we are provoking the terrorists (though he wanted a Christian army in Muslim Afghanistan before 9/11). This is the PC mindset that paralyzed America’s security agencies before 9/11 and still paralyzes it, as seen in the continuing opposition to profiling at airports. Kerrey is displaying the very anxiety-ridden, skittish attitudes the 9/11 commission is supposed to undo.
THE ONLY PANELIST WHO seemed aware that political correctness had made America a sitting duck for Al Qaeda was John Lehman. While most of the other panelists attitudinized, he got down to brass tacks. “Were you told that there were numerous young Arab males in flight training, had taken flight training, were in flight training?” he asked Rice. She wasn’t.
The questions continued: “Were you told that the U.S. Marshal program had been changed to drop any U.S. marshals on domestic flights?” “Were you aware that INS had been lobbying for years to get the airlines to drop the transit without visa loophole that enabled terrorists and illegals to simply buy a ticket through the transit-without-visa-waiver and pay the airlines extra money and come in?”
“Were you aware that the INS had quietly, internally, halved its internal security enforcement budget?” “Were you aware that it was the U.S. government established policy not to question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, San Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from cooperating at all with federal immigration authorities?” “Were you aware that it was the policy and I believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning because that’s discriminatory?” “Were you aware of the extensive activities of the Saudi government in supporting over 300 radical teaching schools and mosques around the country, including right here in the United States?”
Rice wasn’t aware of most of these problems . But the Democrats won’t savage her for that, because they created them.