9/10 Democrats

Bill Kristol‘s column, “9/10 Democrats,” makes an interesting if overwrought point:

LAST THURSDAY, CNN’s Larry King asked John Kerry whether he would want former President Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf. Kerry said yes. “What American would not trade the economy we had in the 1990s, the fact that we were not at war and young Americans were not deployed?”

Kerry’s answer is revealing. We were, in fact, at war. The Clinton administration, with the exception of a few cruise missiles, had simply chosen not to fight back. Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the United States, had launched attacks on our embassies and on a warship of the U.S. Navy. Saddam Hussein had defied U.N. weapons inspections, repeatedly threatened America, and attempted to assassinate former President Bush.

We have indeed been at war since at least February of 1998, when the World Islamic Front declared its jihad. It’s a fair point to note that many people, including John Kerry, seem to miss that point even now. It’s probably not fair to blame the Clinton administration too much for not recognizing the magnitude of the problem, though, since all but a handful of terrorism experts missed the boat on that, too. While 9/11 didn’t actually change anything, it opened a lot of eyes.

Furthermore, where does Kerry object to young Americans’ being deployed? Afghanistan? But Kerry has criticized the Bush administration for an insufficient commitment of troops there. Iraq? But Kerry voted for the war and has said he would not cut and run. So Kerry was simply indulging in demagoguery. He’s not the only one. The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on pre-Iraq intelligence failures last Friday. Jay Rockefeller, the committee’s ranking Democrat, claimed that, because of the flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, “Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of America in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.”

Consider the extremism of Rockefeller’s statement. Our global standing has never been
lower? Our nation is more vulnerable than ever before? Then consider the facts. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies have deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrown Saddam Hussein’s Baathist despotism in Iraq. The Pakistani/Libyan international nuclear weapons bazaar has been shut down. Al Qaeda operatives not already killed or captured are on the run, with no safe base of operations remaining in the world. All this has made us more vulnerable? If that’s true, then it is the position of Senator Rockefeller that the American and allied soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq not only have accomplished nothing but have been counterproductive. This is a slander the Bush administration must answer–if not for its own sake, then for the honor of those who have sacrificed so much to make this country less vulnerable than it has been for years.

As for hatred of America, al Qaeda leaders were planning their attacks on New York and Washington back in those halcyon days of the Clinton era that John Kerry recalls with such nostalgia. Indeed, al Qaeda was left unmolested as it trained thousands of terrorists at camps in Afghanistan. And of course, lest we forget: On October 12, 2000, al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. On August 7, 1998, al Qaeda struck two U.S. embassies in East Africa killing 257–including 12 Americans–and injuring 5,000. During the 1990s, numerous other attacks were planned (the Millennium attack on the Los Angeles airport) or executed (the Khobar Towers attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). Those were the good old days when, by Jay Rockefeller’s reckoning, America was less hated and less vulnerable.

All true. Of course, Jacques Chirac liked us better back then.

What the Bush campaign must do is remind Americans that the Iraq war was no mistake–that the case for the war was and is compelling, and that it used to be bipartisan. Jay Rockefeller, of all people, made that case well in an October 2002 floor speech: “Saddam’s existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq’s enemies and his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East.” Rockefeller wasn’t done. “He could make those weapons available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against American citizens….Some argue it would be totally irrational for Saddam Hussein to initiate an attack against the mainland United States, and they believe he would not do it. But if Saddam Hussein thought he could attack America through terrorist proxies and cover the trail back to Baghdad, he might think it not so irrational.”

But Bush lied [ blah, blah, blah]. We’ll see how eloquently the Bush team makes that case. They’ve done a pretty weak job of it lately.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Afghanistan War, Africa, Intelligence, Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bryan says:

    the fact that we were not at war and young Americans were not deployed?

    Umm, didn’t we have troops in Kosovo? Not to mention the thousands of troops deployed throughout europe and south korea.

  2. L-Shuffle says:

    What do you expect Kristol to say? He’s another mouthpiece for the Elite Right. The Republican-led Congress would’ve never supported more aggressive action by the Clinton Administration. Would’ve never allowed it. The war in Iraq is a sham and no matter how many pundits Bush and Rove send out to say otherwise, it will always be a sham.

  3. vdibart says:

    “Then consider the facts… All this has made us more vulnerable?”

    These are the blinders that the pro-war crew wears. Yes, everyone admits (or could be convinced) that we have been successful in overthrowing 2 governments, intimidating a bunch of other ones, and scattering a bunch of terrorists all throughout Pakistan/Afghanistan.

    What they just don’t seem to realize/acknowledge/care about is that these actions have incensed a whole new generation of men willing to to whatever it takes to kill Americans. It’s in *this sense* that we’ve made ourselves less safe. We may have swatted at and hit one fly, but we just got the rest of them pissed off.

    Afterall, Kristol makes the point that it took most of Clinton’s term for terrorists to muster their forces for the various attacks they staged in the 90’s while the larger public remained unaware of them. Is he so naive to think that there isn’t another group currently doing the same on Bush’s watch?

  4. Attila Girl says:

    The difference is, now they don’t have a safe base of operations and unfettered communication. Before, they did.

  5. John Doe says:

    Democrats hope there will be no more attacks if we don’t make them mad at us.

    Bush too seems a spent force. He is unlikely to invade any more countries even after November. Moore was right about one thing, the Saudis are not our friends.

  6. Nepas says:

    attila, of course they have safe bases of operations. iraq did us no good on that front. the people who attacked us weren’t in iraq. they were and are in saudi arabia, and they have bases throughout the world. it maybe too simple to say it like this, but they hated us before and they hate us more now, and now there are more islamic terrorists and fewer supporters of western-style democracy and the fault lies with the neo-cons and the elites bush represents.

    don’t agree with doe’s assessment of the dems. we need a coalition bush can’t build to go after radical islam, not waste our troops and resources in a country that had nothing to do with 9-11. kerry gets four years to undo what bush has done. right now, we have no other choice. four more years of bush would be a catastrophe for us and the free world.

  7. Gagne84 says:

    Anyone who thinks we are safer now than before the Iraq invasion must be living in a cave. Prior to 9/11, a handful of radicals wanted to attack and kill us on our soil. After 9/11, we had the support and sympathy of the free world. Since the Iraq invasion, we’ve lost that support and sympathy and now millions of radicals want to come here and destroy us. Our men and women are dying everyday.

    Please stop your arrogance and pray we return to traditional American values.