During a speech on Tuesday at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani indirectly blamed President Clinton for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He claimed that Clinton treated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing “as a criminal act instead of a terrorist attack,” which “emboldened other strikes” on U.S. targets. According to Giuliani, “The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond.”
Giuliani himself knows this attack on Clinton is false. Just last year, before he became a presidential candidate, he said:
The idea of trying to cast blame on Clinton [for the 9/11 attacks] is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don’t think he deserves it.
More troubling than Giuliani’s false attacks, however, is that his speech at Regent revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic history and practice of counterterrorism. Here’s some information that needs to be added to his national security reading list.
The United States “has long regarded [terrorist] acts as criminal,” according to the 9/11 Commission Staff Report. This practice continues even under Bush; last year, for example, Bush introduced a plan to “improve national legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure appropriate criminal and civil liability” for nuclear terrorists.
A June 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by Clinton for the first time emphasized concern about terrorism “as a national security issue,” not just a matter of law enforcement. Clinton’s directive declared that the United States saw “terrorism as a potential threat to national security as well as a criminal act and will apply all appropriate means to combat it.” For the last three years of his presidency, Clinton “raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave.”
Either Giuliani doesn’t understand counterterrorism or he’s not one to let honesty get in the way of a good political pandering opportunity.