Probably the most dramatic moment during last night’s Fox News Republican debate: Rudy Giuliani criticizing outlier candidate Ron Paul for suggesting that the 1991 invasion of Iraq was a primary cause for the September 11 attacks. Here’s Fox’s record of the moment:
“That’s really an extraordinary statement,” Giuliani said, interrupting FOX News panelist Wendell Goler. “That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I have ever heard that before and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11. I would ask the congressman withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”
All the other candidates then clamored for a chance to echo Giuliani’s strong condemnation of Ron Paul. Here’s the only problem: what Paul said is a simple historical fact. It’s not even a contested fact. Every serious history of the events leading up to the September 11 attacks agrees that Saudi rich kid Osama Bin Laden formed Al Qaeda as a direct response to the arrival of USA troops in Saudi Arabia to reverse Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait in 1991. This isn’t something only lefties and Democrats say — it’s something every credible historian is in agreement on. It’s also one of the main points of Lawrence Wright’s bestselling book The Looming Tower, widely considered the most authoritative (and non-partisan) history of Al Qaeda.
So, if Giuliani is standing there with a straight face saying “I don’t think I have ever heard that before and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11″ we must conclude that he has not read Lawrence Wright’s book or any other history of Al Qaeda. And yet he believes he has the ability to lead our country’s absolutely critical battle against this enemy — from a position of ignorance about the history of this enemy, one can only assume.
Fighting an enemy from a position of ignorance about that enemy: I thought that was George Bush and Dick Cheney’s unique style, and I thought our country had at least learned the lesson that we need to understand our enemies better before we engage them in battle.
I guess not. The fact that John McCain and other candidates praised Giuliani’s dramatic criticism of truth-teller Ron Paul is pretty disturbing. My respect for a few of these candidates has just dropped a couple of notches. America cannot afford any more military leadership by politicians too haughty or proud to know the basic facts of their enemy’s history.