THE 9/11 BLAME GAME
Last night and this morning I have been frantically sorting through yesterday's testimony before the September 11 Commission and awaiting the full release of today's transcript.
I'm planning more on this once I've had some time to digest the bulk of it (yesterday's transcript from the NYT is 70 some pages long). Until then, I wanted to share this excerpt from Madeline Albright's testimony, which lucidly captures the nature of the American conflict with Al Qaeda, and the path forward for a more secure world. Disappointingly, much of her vision is lost in the Bush administration's response:
We were not attacked on September 11th by a noun, terrorism. We were attacked by individuals affiliated with Al Qaida. They are the enemies who killed our fellow citizens and foreigners, and defeating them should be the focus of our policy. If we pursue goals that are unnecessarily broad, such as the elimination not only of threats but also of potential threats, we will stretch ourselves to the breaking point and become more vulnerable -- not less -- to those truly in a position to harm us. We also need to remember that Al Qaida is not a criminal gang that can simply be rounded up and put behind bars. It is the center of an ideological virus that has wholly perverted the minds of thousands and distorted the thinking of millions more. Until the right medicine is found, the virus will continue to spread, and that remedy begins with competence. Bin Laden and his cohorts have absolutely nothing to offer their followers except destruction, death and the illusion of glory. Puncturing this illusion is the key to winning the battle of ideas. The problem is not combating Al Qaida's inherent appeal, for it has none. The problem is changing the fact that major components of American foreign policy are either opposed or misunderstood by much of the world. According to the State Department's advisory group on public diplomacy, published recently, the bottom has indeed fallen out of support for the United States. This unpopularity has handed bin Laden a gift that he has eagerly exploited. He is viewed by many as a leader of all those who harbor anti-American sentiments, and this has given him a following that is wholly undeserved. If we are to succeed, we must be sure that bin Laden goes down in history not as a defender of the faith or champion of the dispossessed, but rather as what he is: a murderer, a traitor to Islam and a loser. The tarnishing of America's global prestige will require considerable time and effort to undue, and that's why we need long- range counterterrorism plans that advantage of the full array of our national security tools. This plan must include the comprehensive reform of our intelligence structures; a vastly expanded commitment to public diplomacy and outreach, especially within the Arab and Muslim worlds; a far bolder strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan; revised policies toward the key countries of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; expansion of the Nunn-Lugar program to secure weapons of mass destruction materials on a global basis; a new approach to handling and sharing of information concerning terrorist suspects; and a change in the tone of American national security policy to emphasize the value of diplomatic cooperation.