Skip to comments.Bush feeling heat after Saudi attacks
Posted on 05/16/2003 5:34:30 AM PDT by Enemy Of The State
Bush feeling heat after Saudi attacksDISTRACTED?: The White House has rejected charges that it has been focusing too much on Iraq and hasn't really paid attention to the real threat posed by al-Qaeda
Friday, May 16, 2003,Page 6
|An woman cries as she passes by debris of a destroyed building in a residential compound in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
With President George W. Bush's critics alleging that serious counter-terrorism efforts had become "lost in the shuffle," analysts warned that by fostering the widespread perception that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were closely linked, the White House may have created unrealistic expectations that in destroying the Iraqi regime, it was also crushing the terrorist threat.
But the president's press spokesman, Ari Fleischer, dismissed as "nonsense" claims by two Democratic senators that the Bush administration was neglecting the hunt for the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 atrocities.
Fleischer said that the suspected mastermind of those attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, headed a long list of people linked to al-Qaeda who had been taken into custody in recent months.
Fleischer was responding to a coruscating attack from Senator Bob Graham, who had argued earlier that the Saudi bombings "could have been avoided if you had actually crushed the basic infrastructure of al-Qaeda."
"I think from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, which was in early October of 2001, until about February or March 2002, we were making good progress in dismantling the basic structure of al-Qaeda," Graham said. "Then we started to redirect our attention to Iraq, and al-Qaeda has regenerated,"
His remarks were echoed by a Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who invoked the deaths of Americans in past terror attacks to chastise Bush.
"In many ways, the actual business of combating the terrorist organization or organizations responsible for the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for the attack on the USS Cole, for the horror of September 11, and now, possibly, for [the] attack in Riyadh, seems to be lost in the shuffle," Feingold said.
"The absence of clarity and the absence of data are dangerous. It endangers the American people."
The hot-tempered debate is closely interwoven with the run-up to next year's presidential election: Graham, an outside candidate for the Democratic nomination, is running almost exclusively on his conviction that the administration has been dangerously distracted from the real fight against terrorism.
Bush, meanwhile, has been widely expected to benefit from continued discussion of Iraq and terrorism, since it prevents the Democrats from discussing the economy. As a result, he may even benefit from the Saudi attacks.
Alternatively, though, more attacks on Americans could solidify a perception that Bush is powerless to win his declared "war on terrorism," said Peter Bergen, an expert on al-Qaeda and author of the book Holy War Inc.
"Of course Iraq wasn't going to do much damage to al-Qaeda, because there isn't much evidence they're linked," he said.
"Setting up the expectation that this was going to further the cause is a mistake," he said.
Republicans have consistently sought to present the conflict in Iraq as one part of the larger war on terrorism, even to the extent that the White House has refused to declare an unequivocal end to the recent war.
Al-Qaeda's failure to mount a major terrorist attack during the Iraq war -- as it had threatened -- was proof that "progress has been made," Bergen said.
But "it's a fact of human nature that one tends to think of one thing at once. Clearly, the administration ... was preoccupied with Iraq, and Bin Laden and al-Qaeda fell off the radar screen. Now this comes along and shows they are far from down for the count."
That doesn't jive with British intelligence.
Clearly, the administration ... was preoccupied with Japan, and Hitler fell off the radar allowing a massive German outbreak in an area known as the Bulge.
This fight is going to take a while. Good stuff and bad stuff are going to happen. And the situation is going to remain fluid for quite some time. Critics will always have their mouths running about failures, real or imagined. I have yet to see any of them come up with a plan or strategy better than the one being used now. Perhaps mr Graham needs to go work a day as a terrorist so he can better understand how they function.,
It was a soft target. For someone who sits on the Senate Intel committee, I haven't heard a lot of ideas from him
We are battling TERROR, not al-Qaeda, and we need to stop falling into the trap that there has to have been coordination between the two. They are both inextricably linked to TERROR, and cannot be unlinked.
I can envision no scenario in which the war on TERROR can be won that would not involve the tumbling of that statue in Baghdad.
Again, we are battling TERROR, not al-Qaeda. Focusing on al-Qaeda alone would BE "taking our eye off the ball".
And if Bill Clinton had dealt with Osama and Saddam in a substantive way, we would not be having this discussion.
We're dealing with people who wear no uniforms, lurk among innocent people waiting to spring, and who have sympathizers amongst the people who are supposed to be providing us with intelligigence. This would have happened whether Iraq was going on or not.
He's defeated Osamas Taliban, and Chiraqs Iraq in less than 18 months with a minimus of US casualties. Hell, in Iraq 1/2 thee forces whent twice as far as 1991 and still won the war in less time than it took clinton to defeat david koresh in Texas.
Theory of Proximate Cause says I can.
If Reagan hadn't armed the mujhadeen in Afghan., the Soviet Union might still be around. Remember, at the time UBL was actually an "ally" of sorts. Why should Reagan or GHW Bush be held responsibile for Bin Laden's "change of heart"?
In any event, I have obviously picked a fight which I have no chance of winning. You may have the last shot.
And if the Evil Empire wasn't expanding into Afghanistan, we wouldn't have sent the arms.
And if Reagan and H.W. Bush hadn't supplied Saddam with arms we also might not be having this conversation.
And if Iran hadn't held our people hostage and become our sworn enemy, we wouldn't have sent the arms.
The blame keeps going back and back, and you can't set everything on Clinton's shoulders.
That's because Clinton doesn't have a reason for his dereliction of duty, except for his own self-absorption, and his disgust for America's strength and sovereignty.
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