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March 23, 2004


Attack Dogs

Richard Clarke himself predicted that the White House would launch their "attack dogs" on him once he criticized their handling of terrorism. Here's Condoleezza implicitly blaming him for the al Qaeda attacks during the Clinton years:
"We, of course, had, of course, heard that, in 1998, when Dick Clarke was the counter-terrorism czar, Al Qaeda had bombed U.S. embassies. We, of course, heard that Al Qaeda was suspected of bombing the [USS] Cole in 2000 when Dick Clarke was counter-terrorism czar. And we learned that plots against the U.S. had been hatching since the '90s, when Dick Clarke was counter-terrorism czar." [source]
Dick Cheney actually went on Rush Limbaugh to attack Clarke along the same lines:
"[Clarke] was here throughout those eight years, going back to 1993, and the first attack on the World Trade Center; and '98, when the embassies were hit in East Africa; in 2000, when the USS Cole was hit. And the question that ought to be asked is, what were they [the Clinton administration] doing in those days when he was in charge of counterterrorism efforts?" [source]
Actually, that's not the question that should be asked. The questions that should be asked are (a) why didn't the Bush administration -- the administration actually in charge on 9/11 -- heed Clarke's warnings, (b) why was everyone so eager to attack Iraq either instead of or in addition to Afghanistan, and (c) why did the administration go after Iraq last year even though it was clear doing so would divert resources from finishing the job in Afghanistan? Another question might be, If the administration is so confident they can defend themselves on this issue, why are they doing so mostly in sympathetic forums like Fox News and Limbaugh? Maybe because it's a lot easier to bring up Clinton on Limbaugh than it is to defend your own decisions in an unbiased arena.

Furthermore, Rice and Cheney are off base to suggest Clarke wasn't doing enough about al Qaeda during the Clinton years. Even the National Review admits:

Richard Miniter reported in his book Losing bin Laden, and Robert Novak verified, that on Oct. 12, 2000, the day of the devastating terrorist attack on the USS Cole, Clarke was the only member of Clinton's inner circle urging an attack on al Qaeda. That day, Clinton's national-security team met and Clarke pushed for a bombing campaign aiming at Osama bin Laden's complex and the terrorist leader himself. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Attorney General Janet Reno all objected.

"At the cabinet-level meeting, only Dick Clarke wanted retaliation," Novak reported. "Indeed, he was viewed as a hothead, always demanding bombs away."

For a real taste of Clarke's prescience, look at the April 2, 2000, Washington Post profile of the then-terrorism czar. "He has used such incidents as the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York by Islamic radicals in 1993 and the sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995 to argue that the United States should be doing much more to defend itself from the threat of terrorism...Key to Clarke's thinking is the idea that a new breed of global terrorist — embodied by 'bin Laden — has developed the ruthlessness and resources to carry its war to American soil.'" [source]

Clarke's point is not that the Bush administration was wrong to be concerned about Iraq, but that its obsession with Iraq hindered its ability to successfully prosecute a real war on terrorism. Clarke, the CIA, and everyone else repeatedly asserted that Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda, and yet Bush publicly said things like "You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." [source] This kind of bait and switch led us into a war in Iraq, and yet the administration refuses to admit that Clarke's basic arguments are right: they didn't do enough about al Qaeda, and they let their obsession with Iraq blind their judgment.

categories: Politics, War and Security
posted by adm at 10:00 AM | #