Reflections on 9/11 Anniversary: ACCF Board of Advisors Member Joe Lieberman


Hon. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
former United States Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 2000

Joseph Lieberman, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, had run as Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate in 2000. On Sept. 11, he was the chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which would later be revamped as the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He led the effort in Congress to establish the Department of Homeland Security, as well as a separate National Counterterrorism Center, to oversee nearly two dozen law enforcement and security agencies with a role in domestic defense. He also co-sponsored the law establishing the 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan body that investigated the attack and law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ failure to prevent it. He was also a leading supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in early 2003. Lieberman, 79, is now a senior counsel at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman.

“People ask, ‘Do you think a Gore-Lieberman administration would have went into Iraq?’ I would say probably not. But you have to really appreciate the mood at the time. There was this general feeling that there were all sorts of signals before 9/11 … during the ‘90s … that we didn’t respond to. We should have seen it coming and acted to stop it. So there’s no question that’s part of the feeling that was in the Bush White House about Iraq. … Maybe it was a step too far as you look back in terms of all of the costs.”

“You have to look forward with a kind of clarity and imagination about the threats that might come. But you also have to be careful not to fight the last war after it’s over.”

“We learned a lot of lessons about what we didn’t know about the Arab world and the Muslim world. We got pretty good at overthrowing Arab Muslim dictators like Saddam Hussein, but what to do next? We weren’t very informed, as was evidenced by our postwar policy in Iraq, which was a failure. Hopefully we’ve learned from that.”

“There was a memorable [section] in the 9/11 Commission report. The 9/11 attacks were enabled because of a lack of ‘imagination.’ It meant that we couldn’t imagine that people would do what al Qaeda did to us. But the truth is if we had looked at what had happened during the ’90s we could have imagined and should have imagined.”

“You’ve got to be careful not to always fight the last war.”