Realism vs. Humanitarianism in Afghanistan and Iraq
One element of this debate, it seems to me is not in actual doubt. That is the very early and correct Bush administration identification of al-Qaida as the source of the attack. Moreover, this assessment was based on intelligence to which any president would have had access.
The Bush White House team, including the National Security Staff, identified al-Qaida as the source of the September 11 attacks right from the morning of September 11. Just by the way, I identified al-Qaida as the source on Detroit’s Channel 7 that evening. It was obvious to anyone who had been following al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, al-Jihad al-Islami, and al-Qaida. Ramzi Yousef, who was the mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, drew up plans in the Philippines for flying a jet liner into the CIA headquarters when he was in Manila in the mid-1990s, which were captured by Philippine intelligence when he had a fire in his kitchen and had to leave abruptly. The MO was typical of al-Qaida thinking.
The money trail goes back to the UAE (via Mustafa al-Hasawi, an old Bin Laden associate from Sudan days) and thence to Pakistan. Atta and others went to Afghanistan for training. Al-Qaida informants report seeing some of the hijackers in al-Qaida camps. Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar met with the al-Qaida station chief in Malaysia before going on to San Diego. (There is even a videotape of this).
And, Bin Ladin has been caught on tape talking about the planning of the operation! Ahmed Ressam (now in federal penitentiary), Djemal Baghal of Algeria (now in prison in France) and Ra’id Hijazi (now in prison in Jordan) have given extensive information on al-Qaida activities that has been proven accurate, and they knew, as well, that September 11 was theirs.
Even just from open sources an airtight case can be constructed (and was constructed last September), and there is much that hasn’t been released to the public.
Al-Qaida had 40 training camps in Afghanistan that had graduated thousands of jihadis in bomb-making and other deadly skills, and sent them back to home countries or Europe to form operational cells. That structure had to be destroyed, obviously, and the Taliban government was in the way of doing so, and so made itself a target. I don’t see how any of this changes with a change of party in the White House.
Pentagon insiders say they have seen contingency plans for an invasion of Afghanistan from 2000 that track fairly well with what actually happened. That is, the military planners of the late Clinton administration were already considering support for the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. This is further evidence for the cross-administration nature of such planning and thinking in the military.