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'Clinton did not have the will to respond'

"'Clinton did not have the will to respond'" Continued...

Issue: "Sciavo: Saved by the bill," Nov. 1, 2003

As for the economic prosperity and Internet technology distracting Americans from the war on terror, I think I disagree with that notion. Remember in the 1980s-when Americans enjoyed hitherto unprecedented prosperity and technological innovation -Ronald Reagan waged a public war on terrorism. Mr. Reagan bombed terrorist training camps in Libya for retaliation for a Libyan bombing of a Berlin disco in 1986. That bombing claimed the lives of two Americans and Mr. Reagan responded with a bombing run involving dozens of fighters, bombers, and surveillance aircraft.

In the Clinton years, we also had prosperity and new technology but Mr. Clinton did not have the will to respond strongly to terrorist attacks, even though bin Laden terrorist attacks claimed 59 American lives.

WORLD: Can you describe how you first came upon Mansoor Ijaz and other back-door offers to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States? Why haven't we heard of these before?

RM: Former CIA director Jim Woolsey first told me about Mansoor Ijaz. I interviewed Mr. Ijaz more than a dozen times, checking and re-checking his account. He showed me copies of e-mails from the White House and confidential memoranda he had drawn up for top Clinton administration officials. Interviews with other top Clinton administration officials, including former National Security Advisor Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, and a number of veteran State Department officials rounded out my account of the offers to share Sudanese intelligence files and hand over Mr. bin Laden.

WORLD: As difficult as bringing down Osama bin Laden is proving under the overt war of President Bush, do you believe the back-door offers really had a chance to succeed in shutting down al-Qaeda terrorism? To be plain, could Bill Clinton have prevented 9/11?

RM: Yes, the Sudanese wanted to get rid of Mr. bin Laden for their own selfish reasons. Mr. bin Laden was backing Hassan al-Turabi, the rival of Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. By getting rid of Mr. bin Laden, the president of Sudan was weakening an internal enemy.

Sudan also wanted to get credit from the United States for doing something "good," in hope of getting trade sanctions weakened. Sudan wasn't doing this because they necessarily cared about the United States.

Keep in mind that two years earlier, Sudan had turned over the infamous terrorist, Carlos the Jackal, to the French. At the VIP lounge of the Khartoum airport, he was surprised by armed members of French intelligence and flown to Paris. He now sits in a French prison. Sudan wanted to repeat that process with Osama bin Laden-but Mr. Clinton wasn't interested.

Without Mr. bin Laden, al-Qaeda cannot function as a global entity. Only the force of his personality can hold its various factions together. If Mr. bin Laden was seized in 1996, al-Qaeda would have shattered into many dangerous pieces. Would that end terrorism? No. But it is might well have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

WORLD: Our readers will be troubled by your generous view toward the Islamic regime in Sudan. Is it possible the State Department and others didn't take the Sudanese offers of Mr. bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members seriously because Khartoum at that very time was starving and slaughtering Sudanese Christians and other minorities?

RM: I have traveled extensively in southern Sudan and saw the slaughter of innocents (including many of my fellow Christians) close-up. I was in the southern city of Yei while the government of Sudan bombed it. I do not have a generous view towards the unelected Islamic government of Sudan.

But while that government hosted Mr. bin Laden from April 1991 to May of 1996 and, for its own selfish reasons, wanted to rid themselves of Mr. bin Laden, I don't see why the Clinton administration couldn't have accepted this offer. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice did cite the suffering of Christians as one reason that she doubted the integrity of the Sudanese offers. But her analysis largely overlooked the view of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Tim Carney, who argued for calling Khartoum's bluff. Accept their offer of Mr. bin Laden and see if the National Islamic Front actually hands him over. If they do, we would have taken a major terrorist off the streets. If they do not, the civilized world will see that, once again, Sudan's critics are proven right.

Ultimately, the issue should not have been whether or not the Sudanese government was good or bad. Unfortunately, terrorists tend to associate with unsavory people and governments. The ultimate question should have been whether taking this offer seriously was in the national security interest of the United States.

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