Not even the editorial staff of the Washington Post can find a smoking gun in the recently-declassified August 6 memo. Here’s the money graf from today’s lede editorial:
Reading the memo in its entirety, it’s hard to see it, as some of President Bush’s opponents contend, as a smoking gun that proves the administration was asleep at the switch before Sept. 11. To suggest that Mr. Bush, having received the memo, should have rushed back to the White House from Crawford, Tex., is unfair and unrealistic. Only with the benefit of hindsight does the document acquire that level of foreboding and urgency — and in any event the plans were so far underway at that stage that even a presidential red alert might have made no difference.
Now, we all wish things had gone differently the summer leading up to 9/11. Hell, I wish we’d gotten serious after the USS Cole attack. Or the Khobar Towers bombing. Or the African embassies attacks, or the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing, or the 1978-79 Iranian hostage crisis.
Hell, before Bush took on the al Qaeda and the Taliban in October, 2001, the last really decent response to a terrorist attack was Israel’s raid on Entebbe, back in 1976. And look how much the world loved them for it.
In some sad ways, it’s easier for Israel. They’re already a pariah state, and have been since 1967. The Jews have had a tough, well-earned (but completely undeserved) siege mentality since at least the 1930s, and the Israelis since 1947. They understand that they’re going to suffer horrible abuse and casualties, and they know they’ll be reviled for taking even the smallest actions in response to the most vile atrocities.
“9/11 changed everything,” they tell us. Hell, I’ve told you that. But it’s a mistaken bit of wisdom.
For some, 9/11 changed nothing. America is attacked because we’re evil. American response to those attacks is neo-imperialism. We still want the world to like us, really like us. And I’m not talking about the response to Iraq here, I’m talking about Afghanistan. Many of my former comrades over at the Libertarian Party declared that any attack on the Taliban was immoral, racist, and doomed to failure. And that’s fine for a minor third party with no chance of electoral success — but lots of national Democrats agreed with them.
We have yet to fully accept what 9/11 meant — and the mindset of the 9/11 Commission proves it. When Washington held hearings on our fatal mistakes at Pearl Harbor, they were in the spirit of, “Who do we have to crucify to make sure those dirty Japs don’t sucker-punch us again?” The spirit of today’s hearings is more about partisan politics than it is about making sure those Islamofascists can’t do something worse the next time.
So what’s it going to take before we really, truly, deeply get serious? Is it going to take another 9/11? Or a close-run war with high casualties, like Israel’s Yom Kippur War? A decade of suicide bombers on American soil?
Is it going to take a Holocaust?
This war has been cheap. We lost 3,000 on 9/11, and less than 1,000 in the two-plus years since. We lost some small number of thousands in the 20 years prior to 9/11, before we took things “seriously,” before “everything changed.” We haven’t paid any war taxes. We haven’t swelled the ranks of our armed forces. We have accepted no privations.
We haven’t done nothing, however. We killed and imprisoned most of those who aided and abetted the 9/11 masterminds. We’re trying, desperately, to plant the seeds of democracy in Iraq. We’ve liberated millions of people, and frozen more millions of terror dollars.
But we still aren’t serious, not Israel-serious.
We’ve done nothing to punish the Saudis, and little more to encourage reform there. We’ve squandered much of the Iranian people’s goodwill towards us, by ignoring their pleas for something so little as “mere” moral support in their struggle against the mullahs. Instead, we’ve gone shopping for imports and bitched about outsourcing.
Someday, however, we will be serious enough, and we will have the necessary mindset to do the things we need to do.
It’s the day before that happens that scares me.