COLUMN: Clinton appearance highlights Democrat’s war of words, fruitless terrorism strategy

By Tyler Friederich

The war of words between conservatives and liberals concerning the war on terrorism took an interesting turn when former President Bill Clinton sat down with FoxNews’ Chris Wallace for an interview. After Wallace questioned Clinton’s failed attempts to capture or kill bin Laden, Clinton became extremely upset and engaged in a defensive outburst against “right wingers.” Clinton denigrated FoxNews, and he furiously defended his administration’s vigor in dismantling al-Qaida.

While most of us have become accustomed to the politicization of terrorism, it appears as though the recent heated arguments are part of a greater strategy by the Democrats to highlight Bush’s “failed” anti-terrorism policies.

According to a CNN poll conducted in late September, terrorism was rated either “extremely important” or “very important” as a determining factor in voting this congressional election by 82 percent of respondents. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that terrorism will again be the hot button issue this November.

The Democrats really do not have much to lose in their strategy to discredit Bush and his tactics against terror. Their insistence that the war in Iraq has actually led to more terrorists and fanaticism may be supported by a recent National Intelligence Estimate report. Pushing for the report to be declassified, Democrats asserted that it is in the public’s best interest to know potentially damning evidence against the Bush administration’s policies. While rational Democrats know that these reports may contain extremely sensitive information, scolding Bush for not declassifying the document will be a sticking point in voters’ minds.

However, College Republicans’ President Justin Randall maintains that “an opposition campaign rarely works as people are very unlikely to respond to perpetual criticism of a person or party without a solution on the part of the criticizer.”

While I generally agree with his statement, the Democrats’ lack of a solution does not appear to be hurting them. Though Republicans still hold a 6 percent lead over Democrats in who will do a better job in confronting terrorism, that figure is down from 10 percent just a month ago.

It has become painfully obvious that both parties are using terrorism as a tool to disparage their opponents and save themselves from humiliation during the upcoming elections. Unfortunately, the quarrels over who failed this and who is responsible for that as it relates to terrorism and bin Laden obscure the real failures that have taken place on both sides of the political spectrum.

For example, Clinton’s assertion in the FoxNews interview that he “authorized the funding for the CIA to kill” bin Laden is misleading. There are multiple CIA officers who dispute that claim. The contention by former CIA station chief in Pakistan Gary Schroen that the White House did not require bin Laden to be killed but rather captured alive indicates either grave communication failures or a misguided plan that was doomed to failure from the start.

Another CIA officer and former field agent assigned to hunt bin Laden, Gary Bernsten, claimed that there were “tactical opportunities which were not taken” to kill bin Laden, which suggests that the powers that be were provided with ample openings to take action.

Of course, there may have been reasons why no action was taken. Either the intelligence wasn’t hard enough or innocent civilians would have been killed. But the war on terror will not be won without a backbone to take chances.

Colonel David Hunt, a designated terrorism expert and former Green Beret, outlines evidence in his book “They Just Don’t Get It” of the duplication of efforts and startling bureaucracy faced by the CIA, FBI and DIA concerning intelligence and terrorism – issues that have not been solved during under Bush’s watch. In one case, the Air Force, CIA, and the Army had a high level terrorist in their sights, but all three had to agree on how, when and who would carry out the attack. These are the problems that need to be corrected.

But even despite Bush’s shortcomings, the overall strategy by the Democrats will not solve many of the real issues we face in confronting terrorism. Until we hear anything about destroying the opium farms in Afghanistan or separating the intelligence agencies along domestic, foreign and military lines, the rhetoric is relegated to irrelevancy.