05/10/2011 02:04 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2011

9/11 and Bin Laden: Ralph Nader Was Right... Again

On The O'Reilly Factor, Jan. 14, 2002:

NADER: What I would have done after September 11 is invoked the doctrine of hot pursuit under international law, to go after and apprehend the backers of the attackers.[...]

O'REILLY: 'Hot pursuit.' Would you bomb? Would you bring in the military to do what they did to Afghanistan?

NADER: Well, here's where there are different views on military strategy. I would not burn down a haystack in order to look for a needle. And they still haven't found the needle, by the way.

O'REILLY: No, but they removed the Taliban with very few U.S. casualties.

NADER: Yes, but you see, there's tremendous suffering going on. And I know it's not like the suffering of our people, because we're always more sensitive to our people. But far more civilians are dying, refugees, disease, death, you know, freezing to death, starvation, kids. I mean, these are real human beings. [...]

O'REILLY: But you still haven't told me how you're going to get bin Laden, Omar and remove the Taliban. How would you have done that?

NADER: You'd have to use military force. You'd have to invoke international law. You'd have to go after...

O'REILLY: But you don't want bombing?

NADER: Oh, why bomb massive amounts of Afghanistan, which we're going to have to rebuild with taxpayer dollars and not get them?

O'REILLY: Because it brought the Taliban down. [...]

NADER: Well, it's a lot easier to get into Afghanistan than to get out. And what do we have now? Total war lordism, the thugs are back, banditry, brutality. The interim government doesn't even control Kabul. And so we're getting mired, more and more.

O'REILLY: That's a good point. But I still don't know how you would have driven the Taliban from power and have bin Laden on the run? If you're not going to use air power because you don't want civilian casualties, and you don't want massive U.S. casualties, what do you do? Send in 50,000 ground troops to do the job? You wouldn't have done that, would you?

NADER: No, I wouldn't. It wouldn't have required that.

O'REILLY: So all right, yes.

NADER: Spies, bribes and commandos, a very surgical effort.

In the end, that was exactly what got Bin Laden.

I remember when Ralph Nader announced his second run for president on Meet the Press in February of 2000 (he did run in 1996). I remember watching it and feeling energized, having actively protested NAFTA and the sanctions against Iraq under the Clinton administration.

I also remember thinking "Why the hell is Ralph talking about Palestine?" Not a single other candidate at the time was talking about the Israeli-Palestine situation because at the time, it wasn't a situation, not to us anyway. It was not in the news cycle, it was never brought up in any of the primary debates, and yet it was the first topic Nader brought up after announcing he was running, warning us that the conflict was of utmost importance. "What a waste!" I thought. "You just lost the American voters."

Seven months later, September 2000, the Second Intifada breaks out in Gaza, giving us the gut-wrenching scene of a father futilely shielding his son from Israeli bullets and setting the stage for an attack that would occur one year later on U.S. soil.

I remember reading around the time he was on The O'Reilly Factor:

"We have been for 30 years pushing the airlines to do what some foreign countries have been doing, which is toughening the cockpit doorways and latches," [Ralph Nader] said.
- Seattle Times, Jan. 22, 2002

And wondering, "What if those hijackers couldn't get into those cockpits?"

Now, one week after Osama bin Laden was cornered using a couple of dozen men and a few helicopters, the very idea that we treat the crime of 9/11 as a crime, pursued with the basic tools of police work, and not as an invitation to war is still pilloried by the Right.

Liberals and sorta liberals who gave the Afghanistan invasion a pass are now lining up to ask "For what?" What exactly did a war that killed tens of thousands of Afghani civilians (a number that jumped just last year) and 2446 U.S. soldiers, and reduced rubble to rubble while Bin Laden hid across the border in plain sight yield in the way of justice? Good question.

While Republicans insist that it was President Bush's policy of torture and War as hunting tool that led us to Bin Laden, the question to ask them is "If war works, why don't we treat domestic terrorism the same way?" Imagine if, say, after the Oklahoma City bombing, instead of using detective work, we declared war on the militia movement. Opened fire on compounds, began wholesale arrests of anyone in a militia, connected to militias or even sympathetic to militias, including the Klan and Neo-nazis, locked them up, tortured them, denied them legal counsel... How would that have aided the search for Timothy McVeigh? It's not hard to imagine the galvanizing as well as obfuscating effect such a thing would have.

And yet it's white male Republicans, according to a study published last year by George Mason University School of Law, that dominate the Sunday news shows.

Not to say that Nader is alone in his assessment of the Afghanistan effort. Democrats are now cheering the vindication of Senator John Kerry for saying in 2004 that the war on terror was "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world," even though he enabled the Bush Doctrine. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell did a thorough piece on the prescience of 2004 John Kerry. Even George Will credited Kerry five years ago on this.

Kerry had it right, but Nader had it first.

There's no shortage of prognosticators. Unfortunately, those with proven track-records, particularly one who's accused of ruining an election by running in it, are modern-day Cassandras whose warnings evaporate in the fog of modern newsmakers. And so the whole ear of our political conversation is, by a forged process of 2000, rankly abused. The right-wing publicity-whores and their one-upping utterances direct the dialogue to the extent that a sitting president has to prove he was born in the country he's been running for over two years.

"Political bigotry," as Nader calls it, is responsible for the current news circus. We do wrong by our national security when our attention is so much focused on the voices of the Right instead of the voices of the right.