Thursday, March 25, 2004

So What’s the Matter with Vengeance?

It is said to be virtuous to eschew political bickering in the 9/11 debate. To very slightly paraphrase Aaron Brown, the ventriloquist dummy of Sweet Reason, let us stop assigning blame and try to be constructive. And so forth. May I suggest that nothing in the current situation would be half as constructive as an accurate identification of who is to blame?

As quite a few people have noticed lately—it isn’t just me—the on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand bit automatically rewards those shrewd and ruthless enough to break the rules with maximum cynicism. It can make sense to remind everybody that there are failings on both sides, but if and only if the failings of both sides are equivalent in scale and character. In the case of the run up to 9/11, they pretty clearly are not. The Clinton administration sweated bullets over Bin Laden and his crew. The Bush administration simply ignored the threat, botched the response, and then changed the subject. Berger, Albright, and Cohen obviously failed to destroy Al-Qaeda and can and should be second-guessed for tactical and strategic mistakes; but they didn’t lie to the public, reflexively pass the buck, relentlessly vilify their critics, and stonewall investigations as Rice, Powell, and Rumsfeld did and continue to do. And despite 10,000 Xeroxed op ed pieces, it wasn't Clinton who wagged the dog: it was Bush. He’s the one who used a national tragedy for selfish political gain, and he and his gang deserve to pay the penalty for their failures and duplicities.

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