It must be understood that the outcries over "The Path to 9/11," penned and
produced by Cyrus Nowrasteh a contributor to JWR's sister site Political Mavens
have much to do with this being the first time that Bill Clinton has found
himself on the wrong side of Hollywood's creative pen. "Wrong" in this case
meaning not the flattering or sycophantic treatment he's come to take for
granted from the entertainment community.
If history will find fault with "Path," it will be that it lets the Clinton
administration off easy, hardly scratching the surface of the aggressive
non-vigilance, the willful incompetence and outright contempt for matters of
national security that the frat party running the country for eight years
displayed. Between focusing almost exclusively on domestic pandering
priorities, and fixating on the Palestinian-Israeli brokering that brought
us to Intifadah 2 (plus making a last-ditch attempt at a legacy by bombing
Europe), only Jimmy Carter outdid that administration in castrating the
country's security and intelligence apparatuses, tying America's hands
behind her back and having a cavalier overall attitude toward matters of
Recall the time that President-elect Clinton came to Washington in 1992 to
meet with the House Democratic chairmen, and future 9/11 Commission co-chair
Lee Hamilton said, "Well, Mr. President, we have China. Whatever you do on
China, you're only going to please half the people. Then, there's Saddam
Hussein" Clinton cut him off and answered, "Lee, I've been traveling
around our country for a year and no one cares about foreign policy other
than about six journalists."
Among the Clintonites objecting to the mini-series are Madeleine Albright
and Sandy "Socks" Berger. Aside from Albright's fight to ally us with al
Qaeda in the Balkans (which the mini-series doesn't get into), here is a
reminder of how serious Albright was about national security: After it was
brought to her attention that lax security at the State Department left it
crawling with spies posing as journalists, Albright joked at a press
conference, "If anyone here is a spy, please raise your hand." Meanwhile,
about North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun, Albright had this to say:
"I must say the Foreign Minister was very nice....We had not spoken to each
other. He did tell me, however, that I looked younger this year."
And here is what a foreign policy press briefing sounded like during the
Clinton administration. White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, at Camp
David in 2000:
The president, the two leaders, and their delegationssomewhere
around 40 peoplehad dinner together in the Laurel Cabin. The president,
Prime Minister Barak, and Chairman Arafat sat at one table with about 15 or
so of their aides. Secretary of State Albright hosted another table.
National Security Adviser Berger hosted the third table, filling out the
room. They dined on tenderloin of beef with sun-dried tomatoes, fillet of
salmon with Thai curry sauce, roast baby Yukon potatoes, steamed green beans
with almonds, a mixed garden salad, fresh fruit, and assorted
That pretty much sums up foreign policy under Bill Clinton.
If the Clintonites' complaint is that "Path" portrays their administration
as incompetent, they should keep in mind that the truth is much worse and
be grateful that the film's implications stop where they do. The much uglier
reality is that the administration from Clinton to Albright to Berger
hadn't even any interest in being competent. As I outlined here in 2002, for eight years the words "national
security" weren't uttered, except in the context of AIDS. Clinton didn't
answer terrorism, but boy was he tough on that AIDS. (He has since extended
the classification "national security threat" to climate change, which he
and his former vice president tout as a greater threat than terrorism.)
One wonders what Bill Clinton even needed a security adviser for. To advise
him on which brand of condoms was safest? (Just kidding Clinton doesn't
use condoms, according to Gennifer Flowers.)
When blaming Bush is the order of the day, it's understandable how this
mini-series could be considered "controversial." A Cox and Forkum cartoon last week
said it best: a CAIR representative yells, "Stop associating 9/11 with
Islam!" A Democratic Donkey brays: "And don't blame Clinton!" And an
incensed peacenik concludes, "Bush did it!"
But three days before the fall of Baghdad, Uday Hussein had this to say to
Iraqi television: "This time I think the Americans are serious. Bush is not
Recall that Clinton's biggest public frustration surrounding 9/11 was that
he didn't have a bigger role playing grief counselor to the nation, and he
repeatedly stated how much better he'd be at dealing with the disaster.
(Though he didn't even bother visiting the World Trade Center after the
first attack in 1993.) In other words, the regret wasn't that the disaster
happened, but that he wasn't in charge when it did.
Despite outward appearances to the historically shallow, George Bush works
to prevent death. Bill Clinton, with his non-confrontational approach to
foreign policy from North Korea to Israel-Palestine to terrorism against
America to allying us with al Qaeda in Bosnia and Kosovo did everything
to enable it.
I understand what the Clintonites must be feeling right now a heretofore
alien sense of powerlessness and lack of control, as potential
disinformation is proliferated and planted in the public mind. Welcome to
the club, Clinton et al. Now you know how it feels to be Republican. How do
you like the shoe on the other foot?
The glaring difference, of course, is that unlike the way show business
turns truth on its ear in portraying conservatives, "The Path to 9/11"
conveys the essence of the truth. Individual facts that have been objected
to such as who said what, and where he was when he said it are
consolidated and altered out of dramatic necessity. As political cartoonist
Allen Forkum writes, "If it's essentially accurate in the required
summation and fictionalization of events, then the movie should stand
whether the particulars match history or not. 'Fake but accurate' is not an
acceptable standard for journalism, but it is absolutely necessary for art.
And this is a movie not a documentary."