Try harder

The Bush Administration is trying hard to pretend that it knew what it was doing about terrorism before 9-11. But those damned documents simply will not cooperate

Surely they can do better:

Thursday the White House released some of the language of a presidential directive that had been awaiting Bush’s signature on Sept. 11, 2001, that instructed the Pentagon to plan action against al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan, “including leadership, command-control-communication, training and logistics facilities.” White House officials said the language showed that the Bush administration had a tougher, more comprehensive plan than the Clinton administration in dealing with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and the Taliban.

So the President was thinking about signing a directive to tell the Pentagon to plan an action? (Not immediate action, of course: a “three-to-five year” plan.)

Man, is that tough, or what?

C’mon, fellas! Surely you can come up with a better set of lies than that. You’re just not trying.

And apparently Condi Rice’s undelivered 9-11 speech criticized the Clinton Administration for spending too much on fighting terrorism and not enough on missile defense. No wonder the White House doesn’t want to release the full text.

Maybe terrorism was such a top priority that we needed to keep it a secret from our allies, lest they try to help us fight it:

After his first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels in June 2001, Bush outlined the five top defense issues discussed with the closest U.S. allies. Missile defense was at the top of the list, followed by developing a NATO relationship with Russia, working in common purpose with Europe, increased defense spending in NATO countries, and enlarging the alliance to include former East European countries. The only reference to extremists was in Macedonia, where Bush said regional forces were seeking to subvert a new democracy.

It’s not fair to criticize the Bush folks for not getting terrorism right before 9-11, unless you’re one of the few (not including me) who got it right. But their pretense that the infallible Son of the Sun-God got it right when he so obviously got it wrong is pretty damned offensive.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com