The key point at issue:
From Cheney's speech (full transcript here
): (emp add)
So we’re left to draw one of two conclusions – and here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event – coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. Whichever conclusion you arrive at, it will shape your entire view of the last seven years, and of the policies necessary to protect America for years to come.
Readers of this blog know where I stand. In terms of severity, it was
a one-time event ("one-off
" is a Britishism that I'm not fond of). I'm surprised that Cheney even mentioned it, because the notion of uniqueness of the attack is very rarely mentioned anywhere.
There are compelling reasons for that view. The weapons used, large jet planes, were not owned by al-Qaeda. They were stolen by exploiting a (now closed) vulnerability (cockpit cabin doors). There was nothing else in al-Qaeda's arsenal. al-Qaeda should have been targeted for capture or destruction, but the Cheney-approved hysteria was completely disproportionate to the threat. And Iraq was of no significance vis-a-vis al-Qaeda.
UPDATE: Joe Klein sees
the "one-off" category as a binary-choice rhetorical trick that he's not going to be swept up in:
... the notion that those who oppose his policies saw 9/11 as a "one-off"--Cheney proceeded to mischaracterize, oversimplify and distort the views of those who saw his policies as extreme and unconstitutional ...
Apparently, Klein saw (an sees) al-Qaeda as a reallybigthreat but didn't want to do torture or invade bystander countries.