Bushies disparage him for allegedly harboring a work – related grudge and
having an ulterior motive. They say counter – terrorism whistleblower Richard
Clarke was sore about being demoted from a cabinet – level to a staff –
level position, and that he is friends with a man working
on John Kerry's campaign.
Yet so far, these rather pedestrian smears have been backed up by nothing more
than adjectives. Thus the Pentagon
demeaned Clarke's allegation that George W. Bush has failed the war on terrorism
"absurd." And National Security Advisor Condy Rice,
who also comes in for much criticism in Clarke's new book, Against
All Enemies, called his charges "ridiculous." Her deputy and Office
of Special Plans intriguer Stephen
Hadley dismissed the Clarke charges as "just wrong" (but was contradicted
by 60 Minutes' own research, when he maintained a key meeting between
Clarke and President Bush hadn't taken place). And National Review blowhard
Buckley, among others, mocked Clarke's evidence for being "incoherent."
Yet the Bushies are having problems with contesting the evidence – mostly, because
they are afraid of what it may cause. Indeed, if the administration were so
confident that Clarke was just full of hot air, they wouldn't have responded
by going on an immediate
full – court press in the media. In a new low for government propaganda, the
White House put Rush Limbaugh's interview with Darth Cheney on the
White House's taxpayer – funded website. Condy cobbled something together
for the Washington Post and, though she still refuses to brief the American
people in public over the 9/11 investigation, was only too happy to brief Rupert Murdoch
and the Fox News gang by phone on Friday. Meanwhile, White
House PR chief Dan Bartlett used national public television to repudiate
Clarke, and W. himself
heroically rose to his own defense.
Yet whereas the administration is attacking Clarke with adjectives and slander,
he's coming after them with facts and quoted statements to show the following:
that the terror attacks of 9/11 could have been prevented; that the Bush Administration's
obsession with Iraq above all else was pervasive and present from Day 1; and
that the prosecution of the anti – terror war since 9/11 has been shoddily executed.
If Clarke is right, then criminal negligence is
the very least with which George W. Bush and the War Party can be charged. As
Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo reminds:
"…Ideological blindness is one thing: deliberate diversion is another.
It is the difference between incompetence and treason. But that difference,
in the context of the Clarke revelations,
seems to disappear in light of the numerous warnings received by U.S. government
officials in the months and days prior to 9/11: As the target date of the terrorists
drew nearer, the alarm bells – sounded by foreign intelligence agencies, including
the British, the French,
and the Israelis,
and some of our own people – were getting louder. But was anybody listening?
Was anybody in charge?"
Before the Apocalypse: Poor Planning Before 9/11
These are legitimate questions indeed, and Clarke –
a counter – terrorism veteran working under the Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush
administrations – is certainly someone who should be able to answer them. What
Clarke suggests is that the Bush Administration had its priorities in the wrong
place from the start, refusing to take an interest in the Clinton Administration's
focus on Al Qaeda and instead developing its malignant obsession with Iraq,
which like a tumor quickly grew until it had eaten up everything else around
interview yesterday with the Guardian's Julian Borger, Clarke detailed
his unsuccessful efforts to get the White House and National Security Advisor
Rice to take the Al Qaeda threat seriously from the beginning of their tenure:
"…between April and July  only four of the 30 or 35 deputy principal
meetings touched on al – Qaeda. But three of those were mainly about US – Pakistan
relations, or US – Afghan relations or South Asian policy, and al – Qaeda was just
one of the points. One of the meetings looked at the overall plan. It was the
April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that
meeting I said we had to talk about al – Qaeda. And because it was terrorism policy
writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I
said that's interesting because there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against
the United States. There hasn't been any for 8 years. And he said something
derisive about how I shouldn't believe the CIA and FBI, that they've been wrong.
And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I've been
doing this for 8 years and I don't know about any Iraqi – sponsored terrorism
against the US since 1993.
When I said let's start talking about Bin Laden, he said Bin Laden couldn't
possibly have attacked the World Trade Centre in '93. One little terrorist group
like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq."
'Revisionism,' or Realistic Objections?
Rice and others have disparaged Clarke's objections
as revisionism, nothing more than mere Monday – morning quarterbacking that arbitrarily
and unfairly holds the administration responsible for preventing an attack that
was beyond prediction. The Guardian's Borger put this question to Clarke,
and asked what specifically the Bush Administration could have done differently.
"…Well let me ask you: Contrast December '99 with June and July and August
2001. In December '99 we get similar kinds of evidence that al – Qaeda was planning
a similar kind of attack. President Clinton asks the national security advisor
to hold daily meetings with attorney – general, the CIA, FBI. They go back to
their departments from the White House and shake the departments out to the
field offices to find out everything they can find. It becomes the number one
priority of those agencies. When the head of the FBI and CIA have to go to the
White House every day, things happen and by the way, we prevented the attack.
Contrast that with June, July, August 2001 when the president is being briefed
virtually every day in his morning intelligence briefing that something is about
to happen, and he never chairs a meeting and he never asks Condi Rice to chair
a meeting about what we're doing about stopping the attacks. She didn't hold
one meeting during all those three months.
Now, it turns out that buried in the FBI and CIA, there was information
about two of these al – Qaeda terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid
Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi]. We didn't know that. The leadership of the FBI
didn't know that, but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis to the
White House, he would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those
two guys were there. We would have put their pictures on the front page of every
newspaper and we probably would have caught them. Now would that have stopped
9/11? I don't know. It would have stopped those two guys, and knowing the FBI
the way they can take a thread and pull on it, they would probably have found
This is compelling logic. Clarke knows well the incredible slowness with which
Washington's bureaucracy moves, and with
which reforms are made. He's speaking from experience when he says that
the only way to make things happen is to "shake the trees" of regional law enforcement
offices and drag the net. As we know well now, there were FBI agents and others
crying out to be heard, whose terrorist warnings were ignored by an administration
too involved with seeking ways to invade Iraq.
For the Neocons, "The Absence of Evidence Is Not The Evidence
Indeed, although Clarke had petitioned Condoleezza
Rice to hold a cabinet – level meeting in January of 2001, recounts Raimondo,
"…it wasn't until April, however, that a high – level meeting was convened,
at which, according to Clarke, Wolfowitz cited as evidence to the contrary the
writings of conspiracy theorist
Laurie Mylroie, who has created an entire oeuvre around the idea
that Saddam Hussein was responsible not only for the 1993 WTC bombing, but also
the Oklahoma City terror incident – and, quite possibly global warming. 'We've
investigated that five ways to Friday, and nobody [in the government] believes
that,' replied Clarke. 'It was Al Qaeda. It wasn't Saddam.'"
Mylroie's so – far unsubstantiated Iraq – terrorism connection nevertheless continued
to receive the backing of former CIA chief and neocon leader James Woolsey,
who has forwarded a rather Zen – like paradox for supporting it: "…the absence
of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
The same policy, of bombing first and then hoping the evidence would manifest
itself eventually, has been applied unilaterally throughout the Bush Administration's
policy – making on Iraq.
In the end, Bush's policy has simply been the fruition of the motto of neocon
ideologue Michael Ledeen, as transmitted
by National Review's Jonah Goldberg:
"…the United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go
to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense… Every ten years
or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and
throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business."
Afghanistan: From the 'Botched' Hunt for Bin Laden to the
Office of Special Plans
Clarke also told the Guardian that, once
the terrorists did strike, the Bush team reacted slowly and insufficiently,
hampered by its Iraq obsession and an unwillingness to get men on the ground
within striking distance of bin Laden. Because of this reticence, Clarke charges,
the Evil One had more than enough time in which to make his escape:
"…when they finally did the ground invasion they kind of botched it, because
all they did initially was send special forces with the northern alliance. They
did not insert special forces to go in after Bin Laden. They let Bin Laden escape.
They only went in two months after."
In the interview Clarke builds on his critiques of the Pentagon's Office of Special
Plans and other "faith – based" intelligence initiatives, making the case
again that Iraqi war planning hampered the more important anti – terrorist work
"…the people in Rumsfeld's office and in Wolfowitz's operation cherry – picked
intelligence to select the intelligence to support their views. They never did
the due diligence on the intelligence that professional intelligence analysts
are trained to do. [The OSP] would go through the intelligence reports including
the ones that the CIA was throwing out. They stitched it together they would
send it out, send it over to Cheney. All the stuff that a professional would
have thrown out.
As soon as 9/11 happened people like Rumsfeld saw it was [their] opportunity.
During that first week after September 11, the decision was made. It was confirmed
by [the] president. We should do Afghanistan first. But the resources necessary
to do a good job in Afghanistan were withheld. There was not enough to go in
fast, to go in enough to secure the country. Troops were held back. There were
11,000 troops in Afghanistan. There were fewer in [the] whole country than police
in the borough of Manhattan."
George W. Bush: The Malevolent Failure of Leadership
Although there are many other criticisms that
Clarke makes the final and most sensational of all is that regarding the demeanor
and ability of George W. Bush. When asked by the Guardian to delve into
the subject of Bushian psychology, Clarke candidly replied:
"…he doesn't like to read a lot – not terribly interested in analysis. He
is very interested in getting to the bottom line. Once he's done he puts a lot
of strength behind pushing it, but there's not a lot of analysis before the
It's gratifying to know that the commander – in – chief of the most powerful country
in the world is allergic to foresight and disinterested in reasoned analysis.
Of course many people have pointed out the vacant, deer – in – the – headlights look
and verbal miscues that characterized the first 9 months of Bush's reign. This
pre – 9/11 Dubya got off relatively easily, however; the American people hate
to be mean, and lapped up the image of Dubya as a lovable dimwit, as portrayed
on the fictional TV show "That's My Bush," by actor
However, after 9/11 Bush the village idiot was transformed into Bush the statesman
and military leader of steely determination, as portrayed on the fictional TV melodrama,
"D.C. 9/11": Time of Crisis" – by actor Timothy Bottoms.
Yet the real life Bush seems to be a very different animal. Clarke's testimony
reveals a belligerent, stubborn and unrelenting man, willfully disinterested
in finding the truth, bent on a course of action regardless of the existence
of evidence to support it.
This ignorance cannot be forgiven, whether passed over as charming idiocy or
lamented as an unfortunate deception of the president, because he was (according
to Clarke) quite sure of what he wanted – to the point of becoming aggressive
and even abusive:
"…the president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut
the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this' [9/11]. Now he
never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely
no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq
I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at
this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'
He came back at me and said, 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.'
And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer.
We wrote a report.
…It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA
experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and
said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent
it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or
Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'"
This high – level disinterest in dissenting voices is not a new story; what is
is the dictatorial behavior of the president. Clarke's depiction shows us a
side of the American leader more in keeping with some Central Asian strongman
than with the rational and responsible kind of leadership that the 'free world'
It was clear well before the 2000 elections that George W. Bush was not the
man for the job. Since he took office, the security and prosperity of the United
States – and the world – have progressively declined. Of course, he cannot be
blamed for everything that's gone wrong. Until now, his saving grace had been
the war on terror. Surely no one, not even the more experienced Al Gore, could
have made the country more secure and certainly no one could have prevented
the 9/11 abominations. If things have been messy and difficult since then, it's
not Bush's fault. It's just a wilder, more chaotic world than when he first
took office. So goes the conventional wisdom.
Yet these life rafts for the president's job performance have been effectively
blown out of the water by the Clarke revelations. If he is telling the truth
(and there is no reason to believe that he's not), then George W. Bush is not
only an inept statesman and unreflective leader – he and his closest advisors
represent a mortal danger to the well being of Americans and the entire rest
of the world.
If Clarke is right, then Bush must go – immediately. To where is not important
right now. But he has to get out of the way and let someone with responsibility,
analytical skills, statesmanship and an open mind take over. America and the
West are right now teetering on the edge of an abyss and without sound leadership
may easily be toppled.
There is now a sense that the revelations about the administration's massive
failing of its own people regarding 9/11 and massive fraud in launching an unnecessary
war on Iraq are approaching some sort of a critical mass. The War Party had
better hope that the next whistleblower, whoever that may be, is satisfied with
accusing them of willful ignorance and criminal negligence. For if the American
people learn that the truth was anything worse than what Clarke has revealed,
there will be hell to pay. If there is any justice at all on God's green earth,
the architects of this colossal disaster of endless war will be forced to take
something George W. Bush so often demands of others – responsibility.
Read all of Richard Clarke's revelations in his new book, Against
All Enemies: Inside the White House's War on Terror – What Really Happened.