Dennis Campbell
April 15, 2004
Blame for 911 goes back many years
By Dennis Campbell

Much of the folderol associated with the 911 Commission hearings involves assigning blame for the attack on the World Trade Center September 11, 2001.

The Democrats want to blame President George W. Bush, maintaining that what transpired in the eight months he had been in office was more significant than what transpired or did not in the eight years of the prior Clinton administration.

In fact, blame and there is blame to be assigned goes back many, many years, and must be laid first at the feet of a Democrat president.

Some say it is time to move beyond blame. Conservative icon Rush Limbaugh says it does not matter who is to blame what happened is past and we will not restore one life by pinning responsibility on a specific person or administration.

He is right, but we also must consider the words of philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

A Chinese proverb says that "Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide to the future," but as German philosopher George Hegel wrote, "...what experience and history teach is this that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

So what is it in our nation's past that perhaps is as much to blame as anything for the 911 attack, and what can we learn from it today?

Toward the end of President Jimmy Carter's presidency, radical Islamic Iranian students overran our embassy and seized dozens of hostages in November of 1979. Controlled by the consummately wicked Ayatollah Khomeni, they were protesting the U.S. harboring of the deposed Shah of Iran.

Carter's response was tepid. He began diplomatic negotiations, froze Iranian assets in the U.S. and stopped oil imports from Iran.

But what he did not understand is that one does not negotiate with terrorists and Islamicists. One deals with them from power alone.

During a debate I once had with an overheated liberal he demanded, "What should Carter have done? Bomb them?"

Well, yes. Bomb their kerosene factories and oil refineries and military installations after having given them reasonable notice, perhaps 48 hours.

But Carter's weak response simply convinced terrorists that America would not respond in force. His inaction reinforced their commitment to terror and violence against us.

At the time, there were those who counseled us to follow the lead of the Soviets, who would have hunted down those responsible and killed them. We failed to heed that counsel, however, and our inaction reaffirmed to terrorists that they could strike us with impunity.

The hostages finally were released upon the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. Apparently, the Iranians perceived that Reagan would be a tougher adversary than Carter.

In more recent years, Islamic terrorists have committed several attacks against U.S. interests during the Clinton administration, notably the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and the U.S.S. Cole in October of 2000 that killed 17 sailors and injured 39. Our response? Nothing, further convincing terrorists that they had nothing to fear from America.

Today, we have a president in George W. Bush who has taken a stance opposite that of Carter. He has taken the fight to the terrorists and is communicating with them in a language they understand: Attack us, and we will hunt you down and kill you.

Yet, the appeasers seem to have learned nothing from history. They still squeal for negotiation and international coalitions, more time for sanctions and United Nations weapons inspections.

They take the form of Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democrat candidate for president, who proposed economic sanctions rather than war against Saddam Hussein after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and voted to cut billions from the budget for counterterrorism and intelligence.

They are in the person of Jamie Gorelick, who, as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, authored guidelines and procedures that greatly hindered communication between the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

But we face an implacable enemy who has set his jaw and steeled his resolve. Negotiation, placation and appeasement will have no effect on him.

We must deal with him with resolve and firmness and with violence.

Those who counsel otherwise simply prove that Hegel was correct: They have not "learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." Our past experience, apparently, has been forgotten by them, and so they have no guide to the future.

We would do well to keep their kind out of power.

© Dennis Campbell


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