I read in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch (and other online news sites) that the government failed in protecting its citizens on 11 September 2001. Also, thanks to the most recent book by Richard Clarke, this slogan has spread like wild-fire. Everywhere someone is making the comment that the Bush administration purposefully ignored strong signs of an attack and allowed 3,000 Americans to lose their lives. Nothing makes a historian, such as myself, more angry than revisionist history and/or blatant ignorance of facts. The media and the conspiracy-theory community at-large would have us believe that both the Clinton and Bush administrations (especially the Bush administration) knew, but did nothing, about the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, both administrations (again, especially Bush’s), purposefully took measures that allowed continued terrorist threats and acts, including, but not limited to, the 9/11 disaster.
The idea that the two administrations (or regimes as some would like to call them) willfully and congnizantly pursued a policy they knew would fail against terrorism is a desperate cry from a man, or group, who knows that by spreading the blame to the government, perhaps he can be seen as a hero who has come to rescue us ignorant Americans from the clutches of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I am looking in your direction, Mr. Clarke. It should be noted that Mr. Clarke was an active participant in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, and if we are to believe that he knew of these discrepancies in the policies of the two Presidents, and did nothing, then perhaps Mr. Clarke is to blame for not having the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the safety of his fellow Americans. But back to the train of logic that Mr. Clarke has brought us to. Given these “facts” about the Bush and Clinton administrations, and the present actions being waged against them in the 9/11 hearings, one could (and should) posit that President Franklin Roosevelt purposefully pursued a failed policy of American security from 1933 to 1942, because after all, until late 1942, early-1943, the Germans and Japanese were winning the war. Or perhaps President Wilson purposefully pursued a failed security policy from 1914-1918; and then again, Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Roosevelt all pursued a failed security policy that failed to keep the Second World War from beginning, and failed to fully disrupt the tensions following the First World War, and failed to bring about the peace promised by the League of Nations. These leaders all failed to see every possible scenario that could have existed following the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918. Where are the trials? Where are the hearings? Where is the media circus? Where is the witch-hunt?
Yes, we as a nation make mistakes. Yes, our government makes mistakes. Yes, it was a mistake that we cut back our intelligence following the collapse of the USSR. Yet it was we Americans who urged it – with our unwarranted deep suspicion and paranoid conspiracy theories about our own intelligence being the real enemy. We are all to blame, and it’s time we move on and stop the internal bickering and concentrate on our war against this trans-national army of thugs. It is by these mistakes that we as a nation have learned to adapt to an ever-changing future in an ever-changing world. Our government is not all-seeing, nor does it have arms that reach into every crevice of life. Nor should it! Our doctrine of freedom precludes that. Until we as Americans face reality and understand that not every disaster in history is a conscious act of some conspiracy, we will never be safe, and we will never sleep with the comfort that our government and our neighbors have a vested interest in maintaining national security.
I do want to conclude with one thing. The media has jumped all over the Bush administration for failing to prevent 9/11. Have they forgotten that President Bush was in office less than a year when it happened, and was continuing the anti-terrorism policies begun by President Clinton (whom the media love). Furthermore, during the 8-year administration of President Clinton there were 5 terrorist attacks by Al-Qua’ida, yet the administration was unsuccessful in capturing or killing any high-ranking leaders of the terrorist organization.