The entire Washington bureaucracy of both administrations will ultimately be held responsible for the failure to recognize the terrorist threat and take steps to counter it. But it was during the eight years of Clinton's presidency that the threat grew and metastasized into the cancer that we live with today. No amount of spin will ever change that.
New York City
It is chilling to read that the Bush Administration was preoccupied with fantasyland projects like missile defense instead of focusing on the real danger of terrorist attacks. The Bush group has unfortunate priorities. Clearly it is not qualified for the job.
What about President Clinton's inadequate response to the first bombing of the World Trade Center, in 1993, and the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen? Why didn't the Clinton team act quickly to retaliate in both those instances? That's the question. Why is it that when we have a President in the Oval Office with integrity, you want to blame him? You should be looking at the Administration that had a "good" time and a cigar in the Oval Office.
CAROL (KERI) DEVINE
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of your report was the decision by the Clinton Administration to shelve its plan to attack al-Qaeda because it wouldn't have been "appropriate" to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden and hand a war to the incoming Bush Administration. Since when are decisions of national security based on political appropriateness? And when did Clinton begin considering the appropriateness of anything anyway?
CANNON C. ALSOBROOK
Future historians will reflect on the degree to which partisan politics and political correctness have weakened the West's resolve and crippled its ability to identify the enemy and defend itself.
Green Bay, Wis.
This report was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. To pretend that a real assault on Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan launched by the Clinton Administration before Sept. 11 would have been met with anything but howls of protest from the likes of Time and others in the media is amusing. Do you really want us to believe in a revamped image of Bill Clinton as a staunch antiterrorist crusader?
I worked closely with Richard Clarke, who served as the Clinton White House's point man on terrorism, during the first years of the Reagan Administration, and I have remained friends with him ever since. It will surprise no one who knows Dick that he was one of the few people in the entire government who properly assessed the terrorist threat and proposed actions that if anyone had listened would have saved innocent lives. The people who viewed him as the boy who cried wolf too often were clearly wrong and deserve to be fired. Dick, on the other hand, deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
DAVID N. SCHWARTZ
New York City
Iraq: Weighing the Threat
After reading your story "theater of War," about the various game plans discussed in the Bush Administration for U.S. attacks on Iraq [Nation, Aug. 12], I must say that I side with Secretary of State Colin Powell's camp. I think we should contain Saddam Hussein and use diplomacy to effect change, not resort to military force. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's hard-line camp carries aggressiveness too far. George W. Bush is willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans and others to do what his father had not achieved by the end of the Gulf War: the elimination of Saddam.
GAIL A. FORD
I was shocked that you used the term jihadist to describe Rumsfeld's more hawkish camp while using pragmatic for Powell's State Department team. This biased use of language implies that one group is filled with fanatics bent on war at all costs while the other is levelheaded and reasonable.
MICHAEL W. CAREW
A Different Saudi Arabia
I had hoped to learn something from your report on the Saudis [World, Aug. 5], but I found it long on opinion and short on fact. If Saudi fundamentalist clerics "agitate the masses," that is surely their democratic right. Doesn't George W. Bush do the same? The attempt to criticize the Saudis misfires completely; instead, one comes away with the belief that the U.S. is a state that values its allies only insofar as they provide military or commercial advantage.
COLIN V. SMITH
St. Helens, England