This is a personal perspective on politics by the founder of The Jacksonian Party.
I have previously looked at the role the President of the United States plays within the Federal Government for the Nation. There are, in actuality, a few roles that are put into play by the Executive and I will give a quick summation of them:
1) By swearing an Oath to dutifully defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, this individual takes up the protection of the compact between We the People. As with all things in the Constitution the broad outline of Responsibility is given FIRST and then powers to execute them follow on. When looking at all parts of the Constitution this is the case, including the Preamble, which is the Citizens Agreement of the things We stand by as a People and Federal Government is only ONE means to get to those ends that are outlined. When something goes BEYOND the powers outlined, then it is up to Citizens to find other means to address the problem. So it is with the Citizens and so it is with the President. The President gets extra powers added to the normal suite that a Citizen has, but the President *still* has those rights and responsibilities as recourse when the powers of the Executive run out of easy options. For those things addressing the Nation, however, the extra powers and responsibilities to see that they are addressed are given to the President to affirm, execute and uphold those responsibilities.
2) The Executive is Commander in Chief of the Federal Armed Forces of the United States. In that the President executing those things of military nature is under the UCMJ, save where the other powers and responsibilities of the Presidency over-ride them. The President is given those things outside of military capability and may not be restricted by them.
3) The Executive is the Head of the Federal Government and responsible for all aspects of running it in accordance with law set by Congress. That said, those laws may *not* over-reach into other areas of Executive power where the President is given freer reign. The President does those extraordinary things when the need is so absolutely extreme that the entire ability of the Republic to remain are put at danger.
4) Head of State. The Executive is the Head of State and sole spokesman for the course of the Union amongst the other Nations of the World. The President may sign treaties, but to give them full force the Senate must confirm them. Treaties may *not* over-ride the Constitution only give some clarity in areas that are brought into doubt and those treaties only hold sway at the level of the Constitution so long as they do *not* break the foundations of freedom and responsibility set by that agreement amongst We the People. Thus foreign policy is established and can move into a more permanent area, but can fall out of favor by announcing a treaty is no longer valid. Beyond that the Executive is in control of all Embassies to Foreign Nations which are considered the Sovereign Extraterritorial Enclaves and wholly American soil for all laws.
5) The Executive has a *negative* power, which is the Pardon power, to check unjust application of Federal Law and prevent the Judicial from imposing its will via the bench or to right wrongs or otherwise do things that are necessary to ensure that Justice is served within the United States.
Why do I bring these things up?
They are common knowledge amongst the Citizenry, and yet we rarely voice them save in negation to hold a President accountable for things some individuals many not *like* but which are wholly within the powers granted by the People to the Executive. It is by far and away the nastiest job ever invented for one individual to hold and it is *not* simply CEO of the Nation. I have written a basic note to any individual who actually *wins* the election for the Presidency to remind them that there is even *more* to the job than they ever expected. By executing these powers of the Executive the President is the sole decider on the upholding and security of the Honor of the Nation. And there is a large section of the People that see this as paramount as embodied in a quote by Andrew Jackson:
Every good citizen makes his country's honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and its conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.This is not mere verbiage nor misplaced patriotism, but a foundational belief that government formed of, by and for the People is an Honorable undertaking and reflects the Honor of the Nation in that doing. As a Citizen, however, We the People agree to Defend the Nation, its Laws and do so in a peaceful manner and We expect the President to recognize this and ensure that the Honor given to the Nation by its Citizens is upheld in that Office and that it is vigorously executed so as to Protect the Nation.
Thus, when a President is asked to give account after the term of Office is over, the Citizenry expects that the President, now as Citizen, will give a true and valid account of their term in Office and explain themselves as best as they are able. After reading through the rough transcript of President Clinton being interviewed by Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday at Think Progress, I see a President who clearly does not understand his role as President or, even worse, wishes to run from that time in Office and hide behind his subordinates as means of defending his decisions.
When Chris Wallace asks why President Clinton did not do obvious 'dot connecting' after the USS Cole attack due to the previous al Qaeda attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, what is being asked is why the President did not step up to defend the Nation after it had received attacks on Sovereign Soil and upon its military by al Qaeda. There is much that President Clinton cannot be held accountable for, but the increasing attacks upon the United States was obvious during his time in Office:
1) The 1993 murders of CIA personnel waiting at a stop light to enter their main facility. In Langley, Virginia.
2) The 1993 WTC bombing that was a cross-organizational plot that may have involved Iraq to get these disparate groups to cohere. Iraq is indicated in many aspects of this plot, including as a safe haven for some of the plotters.
3) The stopped 1993 NYC Landmarks bombing plot, involving many of the same individuals and groups in the WTC bombing.
4) The 1995 murder of two US consular officials in Karachi, Pakistan. The $5 million reward for information for their capture remains *unclaimed* and the murders were and still are unaddressed.
5) There was a nasty confluence of events in 1995 that saw three different terrorist activities that would serve as a wake-up call for any who cared to think about it: Oplan Bojinka led by al Qaeda to take down airliners over the Pacific Ocean, the Aum Shinrikyo Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways, and the Oklahoma City bombing done by US Citizens. Here are the clear *dots* to see. al Qaeda looking to do a high level murderous attack, but failing due to complexity. Aum Shinrikyo carrying out a coordinated attack via an organization with good internal security and logistics. Disaffected individuals destroying a US Federal building in Oklahoma City. Put these *dots* together and the fact that al Qaeda had already targeted the US and you get: al Qaeda using a small and secure organizations to carry out a limited but distributed high visibility attack against US targets.
6) The 1996 Hezbollah attacks on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia aimed at killing US Military personnel there to advise and support Saudi Arabia and ensure that Iraq did not become a threat.
7) The 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania carried out by al Qaeda. In this al Qaeda used a coordinated attack with two, secure cells to attack US targets. They only became high visibility due to the attacks, but those were attacks upon the Sovereign Soil of the United States.
8) The foiled 1999 Millenium bombing plot which was stopped by sheer *luck* by a border inspection official.
9) The thwarted attack on the USN DDG USS The Sullivans in 2000 that was being done by al Qaeda.
10) The 2000 bombing of USN DDG USS Cole attack in Yemen carried out by al Qaeda.
That is the quick listing of major attacks that should have served as major warning signs to the President of the United States. The African Embassy bombings should have been conclusive warning that al Qaeda had a new set of operational guidelines that it had installed to replace the cumbersome attempts at mass, distributed attacks. I call that a Template of Terror for good reason: it provides an operational template to deploy as a generalized concept and then adjusted to local circumstances.
When the territory of the United States is attacked, when its military personnel are killed by terrorists and when the high cost, high value military assets in the form of naval vessels are attacked, the United States has every right to *respond* and the President must *act* to ensure the safety of the Nation. And how does President Clinton respond to this basic question of *why* he did not act after the USS Cole attack?
Here is his first response of many in this interview, I will add bold for highlighting:
WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on fox news Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President. There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called the Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole.Let us review that. President Clinton switches to an attack upon Fox News to one on ABC and claims that it mis-represented the 9/11 commission report. He then goes to Somalia and says that there was no al Qaeda connection there or that anyone even *knew* al Qaeda was a growing problem.
WALLACE: …may I just finish the question sir. And after the attack, the book says, Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20 20.
CLINTON: No let’s talk about…
WALLACE: …but the question is why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?
CLINTON: OK, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right wing conservative on the Path to 9/11 falsely claim that it was based on the 911 commission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people.
They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in black hawk down and I refused to do it and stayed 6 months and had an orderly transfer to the UN.
Ok, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black hawk down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Bin laden had anything to do with black hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al Qaeda was a growing concern in October of 1993.
WALLACE: …I understand…
CLINTON: No wait…no wait…Don’t tell me. You asked me why I didn’t do more to Bin Laden. There was not a living soul…all the people who criticized me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up so you get an answer.
Fact: The Battle for Mogadishu was on 9-10 OCT 1993.
Fact: On 24 JAN 1993 Mir Aimal Kansi had killed CIA personnel and then fled home to Pakistan after doing so.
Fact: On 26 FEB 1993 the NYC WTC bombing happened involving al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with possible Iraqi support and guidance.
Fact: On 24 JUN 1993 conspirators for the NYC Landmark bombing plot were arrested and contained many of the same individuals and organizations involved in the WTC bombing.
One might take a look at what was happening in the way of the US being targeted by terrorists and wonder what is to be accomplished in Somalia. In point of fact many people did just that as they were worried that it would be a *distraction* to protecting the Nation. And if the transfer of responsibility to the UN was so 'successful' then why did the US have to put forward Operation United Shield to withdraw from there in 1995? That wonderful and orderly transfer of responsibilities resulted in collapse of civil society and civil war breaking out in Somalia and the full withdrawal of US troops from there. And it still does NOT answer the question being put to the President about the lack of response to the USS Cole bombing. The question is about connecting the dots by the year 2000, not about Somalia in 1993.
One cannot use the failure of foreign policy and insight in 1993 to explain why repeated attacks and continued threats that pointed to al Qaeda involvement by the year 2000 were *not* addressed in the year 2000. Why did President Clinton not do *more* to connect the *dots*? While hindsight is 20/20, getting slapped around as a Nation by repeated terrorist attacks, one of which has the temerity to declare War on the US in 1996 does take some explaining to do.
President Clinton puts forth that Richard Clarke had, indeed, seen the threat and puts forth that he *was* taken seriously. Apparently Mr. Clinton is on a book tour for Mr. Clarke as he asserts over and over again that his Administration fully backed Mr. Clarke and avidly sought to stop terrorists. Indeed, Mr. Clarke is mentioned a number of times by President Clinton to try and back this line of argument. When Mr. Wallace tries to bring up the 9/11 Commission Report, President Clinton wants to talk about Mr. Clarke's book, instead. Previously when Mr. Wallace was bringing up a topic from a book, Mr. Clinton brought up the 9/11 Commission Report. This is not a line of reasoning backed up by knowing that there is a solid foundation to what one is putting forth as an argument. This is 'cherry picking' what one likes and does not like across various pieces and putting them together. This is evasion of a topic of the first order.
President Clinton puts forth that he backed up Mr. Clarke and sent the CIA out to 'get bin Laden':
CLINTON: I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet who President Bush gave the medal of freedom to and said he did a good job.. The country never had a comprehensive anti terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this, after the Cole I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack search for Bin Laden. But we needed baseing rights in Uzbekistan which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document too. All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.Perhaps, if President Clinton believes the 9/11 Commission Report to be a 'political document' then he should STOP REFERRING TO IT. And if such a wonderful plan was drafted to go after the Taliban then, perhaps President Clinton, should be applauding MIGHTILY and continuously that his successor has done something that he could not do. In point of fact that successor had finally gotten fed up with Saddam Hussein, which President Clinton gave minor pin-pricks to in the way of reprisals and never held HIM accountable for his activities.
Even worse than that, however, is hiding behind the CIA and FBI refusing to certify that bin Laden was responsible for attacks. Mind you by the year 2000 al Qaeda's involvement with the 1993 WTC bombing, possibly the 1993 NYC Landmarks plot, the confluence of terrorism both planned and threatened in 1995, the 1998 African Embassy bombings, Millenium and USS The Sullivans bombing plots and the attack on the USS Cole might just have pointed to some minor amount of involvement by al Qaeda. If, from looking at the information, and then putting forth to his Cabinet the concept that al Qaeda was actively targeting US citizens, military and facilities and that it needed to be harshly dealt with, this thing could have been worked out between the 1998 Embassy bombings and they year 2000. Because the FBI and CIA do NOT hold veto over the President of the United States.
If the bureaucracy is doing CYA and yet the pattern that is emerging is evident to the President and he seeks advice from his cabinet that it may not be absolutely, positively, 100% certain, but in the 'such a high probability that it is unlikely to be anything ELSE' realm, there is then enough for the President to take ACTION. In point of fact Presidents have often acted with FAR LESS to go on because protecting the Nation is their very first DUTY. Rather to make a mistake and apologize for being a bit over-zealous than to not do so.... and have thousands of Americans killed.
President Clinton then continues on his tirade:
CLINTON: All I’m saying is you falsely accuse me of giving aid and comfort to Bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew al Qaeda existed then…If the Nation had such a good and systematic way of stopping terrorism, then why did it MISS the 9/11 cells that were working in the US when President Clinton was in office? And with all due respect al Qaeda, though small, was implicated in 1993 BEFORE Somalia. Unless you did not know that, Mr. Clinton.
WALLACE: Did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the US? Did no one know in 1998…
CLINTON: Absolutely they did
WALLACE: When they bombed the two embassies…
WALLACE: Or in 2000 when they hit the Cole.
CLINTON: What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that think Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…
CLINTON: I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin laden. I regret it but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending special forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise…We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. Until I left office. And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.
Now as to not criticizing the current Administration, lets take a look at your speech in Doha, Qatar on 31 JAN 2006: "It amuses me that in all this time since the end of the initial hostilities in Iraq, they have had trouble reconnecting electricity, but they have all sorts of options to do that. But there is no consumer market here, nobody makes that." But then he obviously didn't know the conditions of the electrical facilities IN Iraq prior to the invasion. They were running on *crude oil* not refined petroleum. It was a gentle dig, but one that was unwarranted nonetheless. But following up that non-criticizing with direct criticizing and saying how you would have done things so much better is *also* non-responsive as the entire safety of the United States was at stake BEFORE 9/11 and in your hands, Mr. President. al Qaeda grew under your term as President and moved from minor actor on the world stage to a Prime actor in the terrorist world. Further, that criticism as regards to Afghanistan is not only ill-made but is counterfactual to what your own military were telling you. The reason they did not view major operations in Afghanistan as something that was warranted as it is a *small forces* theater of operations. Mountain warfare is one where the small unit reigns supreme, even in this day of extreme high tech. If you put in large numbers of troops that are not *specialized* in mountain warfare and combat, they will die disproportionately to the casualties they inflict.
President Clinton actually took the RIGHT steps to start a conflict against the Taliban but did NOT lay any preparatory groundwork for such a conflict. Small unit contacts and support won the early parts of the actual conflict and turned the tide against the Taliban. Forcing them to leave the country was something the US could help to do, but even WE need the help of the specialized mountain forces of our allies. If you propose NOW to increase the size of the forces there seven-fold, then the Armed Forces need to entirely re-tool, re-equip and re-train those forces for mountain fighting. That could take YEARS to accomplish and may still NOT get the job done.
The best way to get rid of insurgents in mountainous regions is not by large force movement, but by dedicated and knowledgeable small forces. The Nazi regime had problems in Yugoslavia due to just this problem, and even the AlpenKorps helped only some. India and Pakistan have waged the 'war of artillery' in the highlands as that is about all they can get their forces trained and equipped to do. The last major military campaign that was mountain based and won by the invader was Alexander the Great and his was about the largest size for small unit tactics that could be managed.
Setting that aside, the 9/11 Commission Report on page 109 indicates that even the CIA's own counter-terrorism unit referred to bin Laden as a 'terrorist financier' all the way up to 1997. During 1996 they did set up a special task force to track bin Laden and al Qaeda, so it may have taken those folks a bit to realize that he actually *was* a serious threat and they found out he had plans to attack US interests in 1997, so hopefully that straightened out his 'financier' status.
Prior to that, in 1995, when bin Laden was ejected from Sudan the Sudanese asked if we would like to have him for questioning. And since there were NO outstanding warrants on him the US said, 'no'. That on p.110 of the report and a good year and some after the 1993 WTC bombing. However, the uncovering of Oplan Bojinka in January might have tipped *someone* off that there might be a need to talk with bin Laden, at least on a provisional basis if any US airlines had been targeted. Conspiracy to terrorism would be a good charge, at the very least.
From 1993 onwards the US had good INTEL on bin Laden's movements and adding the plans found in 1997 allowed for him to be more directly targeted in 1998. Conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against US facilities was the charge and coincided with bin Laden's decamping and move to Afghanistan where the US had NO foreign policy. Those plans went undone as the Indians and Pakistanis went nuclear and the civil war in Afghanistan wound down.
When the CIA put a plan together in 1998 to capture and return bin Laden, it was sketchy, but it depended heavily on local contacts and knowledge and depending on CIA operatives to know their territory and mission and 'get the job done'. The CIA had a LOT of trust in its HUMINT operatives, but Richard Clarke on p. 112 calls them 'embryonic' when talking with Sandy Berger. Apparently, for all of his counter-terrorism chops, Mr. Clarke was not used to the very freeform ways of HUMINT work and the high risk environment it exists in. Further, Mr. Clarke saw fit to add in micromanagement to the mission, so as to ONLY go after bin Laden and not the entire compound. So making any opportunistic attacks to disable a terrorist organization would be *stifled* by that.
The CIA tracked bin Laden to a hiding location and was as certain of their INTEL as anyone CAN be in this world, and the DoD reviewed the plan and 'saw no showstoppers' on p.113. Sandy Berger, however, still expressed doubt and put his view on the reliability of tribal chiefs above that of the actual operatives involved. The CIA wanted more clarification and wanted institutional CYA from the Administration because the original authorization that President Clinton had signed had been vague as to restrictions and accountability. The risks of *any* casualties to civilians finally led the Administration to scotch the plan on p.114. Most of the fingers point to Richard Clarke and Sandy Berger here, as ones trying to make sure things went *perfectly*.
That is just the beginning of mismanagement, missteps and other bureaucratic bungling going on during the Clinton Administration. Claiming to have taken 'action' when, in point of fact, it was being so micromanaged by non-experts and not presented for higher level authorization is a major problem. The President had authorized things to be done and should at LEAST be informed on them. Even a nascent plan can suddenly turn into 'action' if the President judges the risks against the rewards and gives the go-ahead and will hold himself accountable to that. Not doing so gets you 'rogue operatives' out of the White House basement or bureaucratic inertia that stifles doing ANYTHING over the safe way of doing NOTHING.
By pointing his finger to the bureaucracy and the 'dedication' of his subordinates, President Clinton is trying to make the Presidency appear as a 'group effort' when, instead, it is one individual elected to the highest office of the land to Lead the Nation. Leading is not done by committee. It takes someone to Lead and the President wanted it and was elected to DO SO.
I will close with another quote from President Andrew Jackson: