Friday, October 15, 2004

Matthew Yglesias notes that the Bush crew acts as if the only way to deal with terrorism is to deal with its state sponsors. One problem with that is that the major sponsors of the terrorist organizations that hit us are not limited to states. Much as we might carp about Saudi tolerance for support of terrorism, many checks apparently get written by private individuals out of their own funds, not out of Saudi government coffers.

So, a really effective plan for dealing with the actual terrorist threat has to confront non-state actors dealing through non-government channels. As an example of what I'm talking about, consider BCCI. This was an institution that presented itself as a perfectly respectable bank, based in the Middle East. But its founder's explicit goal was to "fight the evil influence of the West", and whose idea of doing that involved financing the nastiest thugs on the planet; the roster included everyone from the Medellin drug cartel to Abu Nidal.

As it happens, the bank was brought down by the crusade of a lone Senator, who wound up fighting the leadership of both parties. (BCCI was well-connected in Washington, to respected figures in both political parties, including such Democratic power brokers as Clark Clifford). So, this guy was doing unglamorous but important work to deal with the terrorist threat -- in the late 1980s. And in doing that, he probably did a lot more to stop terrorism against us than the attack on Iraq, which, we keep having to say, was never really active as a sponsor of terrorism against Western targets.

If you'd want to vote for a President with the clear-eyed vision to see terrorism as a deadly threat to all of us back in 1991, and to work hard to fight it back then, when all he could expect to get for it was grief, you're in luck. You can.


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