Monday, March 22, 2004

Dick Clarke's American Grandstand?

By now, unless you have living under a rock, you have heard about Reagan-appointed former Terrorism expert Richard Clarke's allegations that the Bush White House dropped the ball on terrorism and might have been able stop September 11th.

The allegations are heavy, serious matters and the timing of his book and the general election (as well as his testimony before the 9/11 commission tomorrow) don't help his credibility. And I might have some doubts about a guy who was a cabinet-level man in the Clinton White House and was demoted (essentially) by Bush and left months after Afghanistan and Iraq already had happened.

One could also quibble with him since he worked for Clinton and not enough happened under that watch either (more on this later), if he hadn't worked for Reagan, HW Bush, Clinton, and W Bush. Further, the part that makes me believe him the most, besides my bias against Bush, is that it is the same thing that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said, the same thing that people told ex-General Wesley Clark, the same thing that lots of "sources" in the White House have also confirmed: George W. Bush and his national security team (save Clarke) were primarily concerned with the imaginary threat of Iraqi terrorism and other long-gone threats of quaint state-sponsored terrorism (that is so 1980s/early 1990s). When people told them they should look at Al-Qaeda, they said "Why should we worry about that little guy?" (Paul Wolfowitz Dep. Sec. of Defense and architect of the Iraq War). The NeoCons obession with Iraq in 2001 (well since 1991) helped them to overlook possible warning signs.

This is not to say that the Bush's have all the blame on their doorstep. 9/11 is a concrete example of how Bill Clinton's personal failures (his inability to control his appetites) impacted his job performance. Clinton's team was so pre-occupied with defending itself against Republicans and had lost so much political good will in the Congress that they were unable or unwilling to take aggressive actions oversees. For example, look at Rwanda or Bosnia in the mid-1990s. After Khobar Towers and the Embassy bombings, the Clinton response was sending in missiles, not troops. Would other presidents in the late 1990s have done the same? Probably, but you never know.

The Clinton administration was all set to do something after the USS Cole bombing of December 2000, but Al Gore lost the recount battle, and they felt that they shouldn't start a military action and leave it in the lap of the next president Bush (as Bush's father had did to Clinton in 1993 with Somalia-- just look how good that turned out), so they just warned and wanted meetings.

This is why Bush and his national security team (Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle, Cheney, etc) have tried to stall and thwart the 9/11 commission at every turn. They don't want to look bad and they want to somehow still blame Bill Clinton for everything (including the economy). Clarke may have a degree of mixed motives (he is teaching a class at Harvard with a Kerry foreign policy advisor, who also left the Bush White House in disgust over their lack of action on terrorism), but he is right about one thing: BushCo was more concerned about Russia and China and Iraq than Al-Qaeda in 2001. And they really wanted to have a tie between Saddam and Al-Qaeda because, as Rumsfeld said, "there's no good targets" and there were plenty of targets in Iraq. [Saying this took a lot of guts on Clarke's part, because he knew the hounds would be unleashed. Maybe it should be a Kerry-Clarke ticket.]

So when there was no link, Bush folks insinuated a link, they tried to make one up, and they went ahead and went to war with Iraq after doing a half-assed job in Afghanistan. And the results speak for themselves. One year out of going to war with Iraq, there are still no weapons of mass destruction to be found. There is no tangible link to 9/11 or Al-Qaeda and there is no diminishing of terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism. The Iraq War was a recruiting bonanza for Hamas and Al-Qaeda. The country is experiencing daily attacks from terrorists and the county will fall apart when we pull out on June 30th for Bush's re-election plans.

Lying to go to war is a big enough crime. But trying to pretend you tried your best to prevent the worst intelligence failure ever when you didn't, and then diverting precious resources from finding the group that perpetrated 9/11 to go after a non-threat in Saddam's Iraq, that is a bigger crime. It is a spit in the face of the families of the victims of 9/11 and all those Americans who were killed by Al-Qaeda in 1998 and 2000.

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