The Secret Plan

“I am the only President who knew something about agriculture when I got there.” — Bill Clinton, Washington Post, April 26, 1995.

“I’m sure I spent more time in Texas than anybody else who had run for President recently.” — Bill Clinton in Longview, Texas, U.S. Newswire, September 27, 1996.

“John Kennedy had actually not been back to the White House since his father was killed, until I had became president — and first he was on an advisory committee that made a report to me, and he came back to the Oval Office where he saw the desk that he took the famous picture in — you know, coming through the gate, for the first time since he was a little boy.” — Bill Clinton press conference July 21, 1999. [1]

Part of Bill Clinton’s enduring charm was his ability to engage in self-aggrandizing behavior with impunity. For his supporters, it was all part of Clinton’s magnetism and charisma. You did not have to believe what he said in order to admire his sheer brilliant impudence. For his detractors, this ability was frustrating and infuriating.

With respect to the above outlandish claims:

  • George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Jimmy Carter were farmers and probably knew a little “something about agriculture.”
  • It is unlikely that Clinton spent more time in Texas than George Bush (41), Ross Perot or Phil Gramm, all of whom ran for president.
  • President Nixon had the young John Kennedy in the White House in 1971.

It is not clear if Clinton or only Clinton apologists are behind the recent Time magazine article. Nevertheless, we can often recognize “the lion by his paw.” The article revealed the existence of a secret Clinton Administration plan to go after Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Though the plan was not as ambitious as the attack against Bin Laden’s Afghan refuge that began shortly after September 11, 2001, it did purportedly contain many of the same elements: support for the Northern Alliance, going after terrorist assets and charity fronts, and covert military action.

The fact that such a plan existed is almost certainly true. The Pentagon sprouts plans like a untended lawn sprouts weeds. There is probably someone in the Pentagon who, as an academic exercise, is discerning the optimum means for conquering Canada. The fact that a plan existed to attack al-Qaeda is no indication that there was any realistic possibility that the plan would have been implemented.

According to Time, Clinton Administration officials now say, though they were prepared to act against al-Qaeda, they did not want to start a war with only a few weeks left in the Clinton Administration. However, if there was a real plan of high priority and near implementation, discussions should have not only taken place between advisors but, also between the outgoing and incoming presidents. It, therefore, seems improbable that the Time-discovered plan was under serious consideration.

Time readily admits that perhaps even the implementation of such a plan would not have prevented the September 11 attacks. However, it strongly and sinisterly suggests “another possibility:” that the al-Qaeda organization would have been so disrupted that the September 11 attacks would never have happened.

This latter possibility is very small, considering that the planning and the predicates for the attack had been in place well before September 11. Ironically, if the US had launched a pre-emptive strike and had not succeeded in preventing the September 11 attacks , it is likely that Time magazine would now be ominously speculating that the attacks against al-Qaeda initiated the retaliation of September 11. They would be speculating that perhaps the US brought the attacks upon itself.

Clinton is nothing, if not politically astute. An attack on al-Qaeda would have required an enormous investment of political capital. It would have also been extremely difficult to obtain international support or even acquiesce to toppling the Afghani government without the September 11 attacks. The attack on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon stiffened American resolve. This conspicuous resolve made it far easier to garner unlikely allies like Pakistan. Without the logistical advantage of staging troops out of Pakistan, the Afghan campaign would have been considerably more difficult.

In February 2002, Clinton tried to justify his inaction against al-Qaeda:

“Now, if you look back — in the hindsight of history, everybody’s got 20/20 vision — the real issue is should we have attacked the al-Qaeda network in 1999 or in 2000 in Afghanistan.”

“Here’s the problem. Before September 11 we would have had no support for it — no allied support and no basing rights. So we actually trained to do this. I actually trained people to do this. We trained people.” [Note the wise switch from first person singular to first person plural. — FMM.]

“But in order to do it, we would have had to take them in on attack helicopters 900 miles from the nearest boat — maybe illegally violating the airspace of people if they wouldn’t give us approval. And we would have had to do a refueling stop.” [2]

It is clear that no president, not George Bush nor Bill Clinton, anticipated an attack as large and as horribly successful as the one that happened. If Clinton could have remained in office, it is doubtful that the president that backed down when the Iraqis refused to allow unfettered access to weapons inspectors, launched cruise missiles against tents in the Afghan desert, and that refused to take custody of bin Laden would have launched a potentially unpopular attack.

When the history of the Clinton Administration is written, there may be minor criticism for a lack pre-emptive actions against a murky threat. However, this Time story provides conspicuous evidence of the former Administration’s vanity. This desperate effort to prop up the Clinton legacy provides yet another example of how spectacularly small and self-centered it was. For this we owe Time a debt of gratitude.

  1. For Clinton quotes, see

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