Forgotten "milestone"?

While Clinton's finger-waggingpoking moment speaks for itself, I'm surprised that he'd think the public is so dumb as to forget the crucial role played by al Qaida operatives in Mogadishu.

Is Clinton counting on the so-called "short memory" of "the public"? If he is, maybe he ought to revise his thinking, as the public memory is not as monolithically short as it once was. I'l leave it to others to decide whether bloggers are lengthening the public memory life or merely acting as memory storage facilities, but Mickey Kaus is one member of the public who remembers Mogadishu:

My impression--from Mark Bowden's book, Black Hawk Down--is that al Qaeda operatives had taught Somali warlord Aideed's men how to bring down U.S. helicopters with RPGs. (See, e.g., here.) Did Clinton misspeak, or does he really not know of this Al Qaeda connection? Or does he have information that Bowden's claim really is "bull"?
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Well, assuming that Clinton says Bowden's claim is "bull," he'll have to do better than that, as the Bowden book is not the only source.

In Bin Laden -- The Man Who Declared War on America, Yossef Bodansky devotes an entire chapter ("Triumph over the Paper Tiger") to al Qaida's Somalian operations, including movement of "Afghan" fighters to Mogadishu, commanded by none other than Ayman al Zawahiri. Bin Laden considered the triumph over the Americans as a milestone in his evolution:

In several interviews and statements, Osama bin Laden has said that he considers his experience in Somalia a milestone in his evolution. Somalia was the first time he was involved in a major undertaking at the leadership level, exposed to the complexities of decision making and policy formulation. He established working relations with the intelligence services of Iran and Iraq that would prove useful in his rise to the top. Although he did not actually take part in the fighting in Mogadishu, his contribution to the Islamicist effort and ultimate victory was major and decisive. Bin Laden still defines the fighting in Mogadishu as one of his major triumphs against the United States.
Id, page 89. (Emphasis added.)

The Bodansky book is pre-9/11 (written in 1999), and it was intended as a wake-up call to the reality of bin Laden. I read it in 1999, and my reaction at the time was that had Clinton stood up to bin Laden in 1993, he might not have decided we were a "paper tiger." But that's of course Monday-morning quarterbacking; the important thing is to recognize and deal with the realities now.

However, the idea Clinton promotes -- that "the right" didn't want him to get bin Laden -- is simply not borne out by the facts as I remember them, and I don't think it's helpful to the country or to the war on terrorism.

UPDATE (09/26/06): Ilya Somin has more.

UPDATE (09/27/07): Greyhawk has a damning replay of Osama bin Laden's interview with John Miller:

John Miller, ABC: Describe the situation when your men took down the American forces in Somalia.

Osama bin Laden: After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier... America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order. After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them.

Via Glenn Reynolds.

Do they really think we can't look this stuff up?

posted by Eric on 09.25.06 at 11:11 AM


Clinton's makes the argument that there was NOT A PERSON ALIVE who thought Al Qaeda was behind Somalia.

First, I shiver when I hear him say that.

But it's such a colossal red herring, or maybe a straw herring. The point is not that AQ was behind Somalia, it's that they learned from Somalia that the US was a "paper tiger".

Socrates   ·  September 25, 2006 10:14 PM

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