Does he know anything about the history of al Qaeda?
Donald Trump is running for the Republican presidential nomination, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. On national security the businessman often sounds closer to Bernie Sanders than he does to the GOP policy of active global leadership that has prevailed since the 1950s.
Mr. Trump’s latest walk on the wild left side is his attempt to rewrite the history of 9/11. In his campaign against Jeb Bush, the New Yorker is blaming George W. Bush because the hijackers struck during his Presidency. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Mr. Trump said Friday, adding a day later that, “Do I blame George Bush? I only say he was the President at the time, and you know, you could say the buck stops here.”
Recall that during the last debate Jeb Bush received the biggest applause line of his campaign when he defended his brother’s antiterror record by saying “he kept us safe.” Mr. Trump is now trying to blunt that rebuke by distorting the truth about the hijackers and the Osama bin Laden era.
Blaming George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks is like blaming President Obama for the recession that followed the 2008 financial panic. The rise of al Qaeda had been going on for years, and its first attack on U.S. soil was its bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Attacks on American targets overseas followed in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
Mr. Bush didn’t take office until 2001, after the 9/11 plot was underway and some of the hijackers were already in the U.S. Mr. Trump tries to blame immigration for the presence of the hijackers, but several arrived here legally on tourist or other visas.
The real U.S. failure was of intelligence and policy imagination during the Clinton years. Despite the growing evidence, U.S. officials refused to believe that Islamist terrorism posed much of a threat to Americans. Mr. Trump could bone up on this by reading the 9/11 Commission Report. Start with Chapter 4: “Responses to Al Qaeda’s Initial Assaults.”
Mr. Bush is responsible for his response to the 9/11 attacks, and on that score he did make us safer. He broke down barriers that the Clinton Administration had built between law enforcement (FBI) and intelligence (CIA). His spooks developed eavesdropping programs to uncover plots before they became attacks. His Administration captured and interrogated 9/11 plotters to collect information that kept al Qaeda on defense.Read the rest of WSJ op-ed HERE.
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