BUSH AND TERRORISM….The whole Richard Clarke affair has been illuminating, and I think it’s fair for Democrats to beat up on George Bush for being inattentive to the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11. The evidence is pretty clear from multiple sources that the bombing of the USS Cole in late 2000 finally got the Clinton team revved up for serious military action against al-Qaeda but that the Bush team showed little interest in their plans. So little, in fact, that not only didn’t they do anything, but they actually did less than nothing. John Ashcroft declined to endorse FBI requests for additional counterterrorism spending and even recommended cuts in the counterterrorism budget submitted on (embarrassingly) September 10, 2001.

Like I said, I think this is fair game. Still, let’s be fair: very few people were screaming about global terrorism as a top priority in early 2001. The plain fact is that without a casus belli like 9/11 there just wasn’t enough public support to make possible substantial military operations against foreign terrorists. That applies as much to Clinton as it does to Bush.

So while paying too little attention to al-Qaeda before 9/11 may be a legitimate grievance against the Bush administration, I think Josh Marshall nails the real issue brought to light by Clarke’s testimony here and here: the Bush administration’s actions immediately after 9/11. Instead of looking at the evidence and formulating a plan to go after al-Qaeda, their first reaction was to figure out a way to use 9/11 as a way of going after Iraq, even though there was no connection between the two. To them, 9/11 was simply an excuse to haul out all their old Cold War theories, none of which really applied in a post-9/11 world, and try to force fit them into the new reality.

That’s what the Bushies really deserve to get beat up for.

And with that, I’m off to watch Clarke on 60 Minutes. It may say Washington Monthly up there at the top, but the Drum residence ? and the Drum TV set ? is still in California.

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