Rudy Giuliani wants it both ways. On one hand, he wants us to remember 9/11 because it made him look really, really good. On the other hand, he wants us to forget about 9/11 because it makes his party look really, really bad. When he wants to scare us into voting for Republicans, he only needs to lean on the 9/11 panic button -- his eyes bulging with every incantation. But when he wants to talk about how reliably anti-terror the party is, he'll conveniently forget about 9/11. If you recall, Jeb Bush did the same during the primaries.
During a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio on Monday, Giuliani said:
"Under those 8 years, before Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the US," Giuliani told the crowd. "They all started when Clinton and Obama came into office."
Do we need to say it? Do we need to underscore how wrong this is? Do the Trump people honestly believe there wasn't a "successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the US" during the previous administration, which happened to have been a Republican one?
Obviously, 9/11 occurred during George W. Bush's presidency, despite an endless series of warnings from the intelligence community. But it wasn't the only "successful radical Islamic attack" during Bush's two terms, despite his claims of keeping us safe.
Bush’s “kept us safe” line is often joined with something about how there wasn’t another attack after 9/11 on Bush’s watch. Contrarily, there were literally thousands of attacks against the United States and our interests throughout the Bush administration.
To illustrate what I call the "No Attacks Mythology," let's rewind to the 2008 presidential campaign where we find the following revealing exchange between Lynn Cheney and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show circa October, 2007:
LYNN CHENEY: You know I think when the history books are written, we will look back on this period of time, and we will say on 9/11 we really thought within six months we would be attacked again. Even six weeks. It’s been more than six years and that is not an accident. I think this administration, my husband and the president deserve a lot of credit for that.
JON STEWART: Okay. Well. Alright. There were—I mean there was the anthrax thing. And there was—and you know the first time they bombed the World Trade Center, it was eight years until we got attacked again—
LYNN CHENEY: Well yes, but there were many attacks between 1993 and the World Trade Centers coming down in 2001! Remember the USS Cole, for example? There were worldwide bombing going on. The bombings at the embassies in Africa.
JON STEWART: Right.
LYNN CHENEY: So the terrorists weren’t—uh—weren’t reluctant to damage American interests and kill Americans. [pregnant pause] Friends?
JON STEWART: Friends. You know they have been doing that all these past six years. I mean you know the Spanish bombings, the English bombings, and then all the bombs in Iraq.
LYNN CHENEY: Yes, yes, but we’re talking about American interests.
JON STEWART: Aren’t we interested in—I had assumed they were our allies, but alright.
Based on my research, Jon Stewart was the only figure in the traditional media to challenge the “no attacks!” myth at the time. And, naturally, he was exactly right. There absolutely wasn’t a comfortable terrorism-free utopia following 9/11. Indeed, to suggest such a thing is an insult to the thousands of people who died in terrorist attacks after 9/11, including countless Americans.
Before we get into the Bush record on terrorism, let’s briefly address what Lynn Cheney said about the attacks during the Bill Clinton administration. She was factually correct. There were four Islamic terrorist attacks against America and its interests between 1993 and 2001. Four.
- The first World Trade Center bombing occurred on February 23, 1993, a little more than one month into the Bill Clinton administration. Casualties: six Americans killed and 1,040 wounded.
- Five and a half years later, on August 7, 1998, al-Qaeda car bombers hit the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Casualties: 212 killed, four thousand wounded in Kenya. Eleven killed and eighty-five wounded in Tanzania. Most are African civilians.
- On October 12, 2000, a suicide bomber attacked the USS Cole docked in Yemen. Casualties: seventeen Americans killed, thirty-nine wounded.
Comparatively, and without even counting the four attacks on 9/11, there were literally thousands of attacks against the United States and our interests during the Bush years when Jeb’s brother and Lynn Cheney’s husband were allegedly keeping us safe. What exactly constituted the thousands of attacks? Let’s review.
Right off the bat, in the weeks following 9/11, these two series of attacks occurred:
- Anthrax Attacks. Domestically speaking, as Jon Stewart pointed out, there were the anthrax attacks in which terrorists delivered the deadly toxin via the U.S. Postal Service.
- D.C. Snipers. There were also the “D.C. Snipers” — the “Beltway Snipers.” Two Islamic extremists named John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo killed sixteen people during the late summer and early autumn of 2002 in and around the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95. Muhammed and Malvo had engaged in similar attacks in several other states and their ultimate plan was to recruit more jihadists to carry out further sniper attacks across the country.
Now it’s easy to suggest that, compared with September 11, these attacks were small-time or insignificant. It’s easy to suggest that the D.C. Sniper shootings didn’t count as major-league terror strikes. The deadly truth is that by the time law enforcement finally captured Malvo and Muhammed, they had killed more Americans (sixteen) than had been killed in the first World Trade Center bombing of 1993 (six). Almost as many Americans were killed by the D.C. Snipers as were killed in the USS Cole attack (seventeen).
But Lynn Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and others continued to tell us there weren’t any attacks on American soil after September 11, 2001.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Attacks. It’s fair to say that especially during the Bush years, Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly important American “interests,” no? Regarding that, a non-profit think tank called the Memorial Institute for Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) has been maintaining an online Terrorism Knowledge Base since the middle 1990s. In it, they report that between September 11, 2001 and March 2008, there were 9,675 terrorist attacks in Iraq, accumulating 46,271 injuries and 26,161 deaths. In Afghanistan — that other American interest — there were 1,069
A far-right website called "Islam: The Religion of Peace" counted 10,606 Islamic terrorist attacks worldwide during the Bush administration. Ten of those terrorist attacks occurred on American soil after the D.C. Sniper shootings.
Continuing on, no list of terrorist attacks during the Bush years would be complete without running through the timeline of Benghazi-style attacks — none of which prompted a single witch-hunt style investigation.
- January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
- June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.
- October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.
- February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.
- May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.
- July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.
- December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.
- March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name “David Foy.” This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)
- September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
- January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
- March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
- July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
- September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.
For just a moment, let’s give Rudy and Trump the benefit of the doubt. Sure, there wasn’t a second attack similar to 9/11 on American soil. But there weren’t any 9/11-style attacks (airplanes hijacked and crashed into buildings) during all previous presidential administrations -- and especially the current one.
So, we can expect Trump surrogates to once again blitz cable news to correct this one. Like always.