From Ashcroft's narrative the results are even better than we as ordinary citizens can now because
1. we don't realize how poorly organized, staffed, and prepared America's law enforcement, military, and intelligence communities were for just such a confluence of events, despite the warning shots like the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centers and the mounting record of terror against American targets in the middle East afterward.
2. we aren't aware of how many possible followups to September 11 have been averted by the heightened readiness since then.
While Ashcroft gives valuable insights into these topics, writing in 2006, he is limited in what he can say by his closeness to the events in both time and position. His first draft of history is therefore written in broader brush strokes than I would have liked, both to protect the intelligence aspects of the war on terror and, I suspect, protect and defend his own role in it. Which gets to my biggest hesitancy in recommending this book. From day 1 of his account, which starts with his lost reelection campaign for the U.S. Senate against his opponent tragically killed in a plane crash just weeks before the election, Ashcroft seems too defensive by half and sitting on a tripwire waiting to accuse everyone of being against him for his campaign decisions, his religious beliefs, his political stances, and maybe his choice of tie color and style on a given day.
Granted, as Ashcroft goes through his account of the bitter confirmation hearings battle, the attacks on his character for being pro-life while upholding the federal law defending abortion, and charges of both underacting and overreacting in the war on terrorism, he was certainly under intense scrutiny and faced often unfair criticism. But those were sensitive days and emotionally charged issues and periods of history; a man more confident and sure of his motives, beliefs, actions, and abilities might have been more forgiving and less defensive.
In the end though, judging Ashcroft by the outcome, he did his job better than we American citizens could have hoped, and better than anyone else might have. Near the end of Never again he makes the best statement anyone could make in defense of his actions in the war on terrorism, a statement that still rings true and resonates powerful today as American men and women in uniform remain in harm's way on battlefields across the globe:
Why should we send our young people into danger around the world in our fight against terrorism if we are going to coddle and succor terrorists in our own country? It would be a travesty if because of our lack of moral resolve and the will to won we turn our own country into a haven for terrorists that they no longer have in other lands.
Well said and well done, Mr. Ashcroft. Never again.
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