“History is written through a rearview mirror, but it unfolds through a foggy windshield.”
– Sandy Berger, March 24, 2004
Not surprisingly, Richard Clarke gave the most charged testimony in front of the 9-11 panel on Wednesday. He opened with the statement: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you.” Clarke also charged that the Bush administration did not make terrorism enough of a priority before 9-11. The general theme of the hearings was once again that there is plenty of blame to go around and that the decade before the attacks on the WTC was marked by a series of missed opportunities.
Other interesting highlights from the day’s testimony included Sandy Berger’s indication that Clinton gave the CIA “every inch of authorization that it asked for” to carry out plans to target and kill bin Laden, and George Tenet’s theory that killing bin Laden may not have made a difference: “Decapitating one person — even bin Laden in this context — I do not believe we would have stopped this plot.”
While most of the testimony has maintained a general theme of unity between the Clinton and Bush administrations, it is fair to wonder how much of an impact (if any) the clear disdain Bush had for everything Clinton had on the transition from one Commander in Chief’s war on terror to another’s. It is also fair to wonder what impact the increasing level of contempt felt by Democrats and Republicans towards one another is hampering our current efforts to make the right choices and achieve the necessary efficiency in the war on terror.
If nothing else, these hearings should be a stark reminder that terrorism should be at the top of any poll measuring Americans’ main concerns.
Meanwhile, the beat goes on. U.S. officials have closed the consulate and embassy in Dubai due to a specific threat. A small bomb was found on a French rail line. A boy (and would be suicide bomber) was caught trying to enter Israel wearing a vest filled with explosives. And leaders from around the world joined Spain as it mourned its victims.
Here is a running transcript of the hearings.