March 23, 2004

Attack Politics


CNN reported yesterday: Bush administration rejects Clarke charges.

Top members of the Bush administration sharply rebuffed their former counterterrorism chief Monday, calling his assertions in a new book about the White House's handling of terrorism and Iraq "deeply irresponsible" and "flat-out wrong."

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Richard Clarke had engaged in a "retrospective rewriting of the history."

In his book "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," published Monday, Clarke accuses the Bush administration of ignoring repeated warnings about an al Qaeda threat in 2001 and looking for an excuse to attack Iraq at the expense of battling terrorism.

InstaPundit has a number of links regarding Richard Clarke and his accusations:

From Secular Blasphemy blog: Richard Clarke: Now who was obsessed with other threats?

The truth is that from a public perspective at least, Dick Clarke did not run around before 9/11 warning everybody about Bin Laden bringing about a new Pearl Harbour. He warned that computer viruses or hackers would bring about a "digital Pearl Harbour!"

From Spokane 4 Bush blog: Clarke's claims don't hold water

Q: As far as international crimes go, what's the one largest threat to U.S. citizens right now?

MR. CLARKE: I think the largest threat is obviously posed by international narcotics smuggling, which costs a number of lives and costs an enormous amount of money.

From Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard: On Richard Clarke

Clarke's testimonials are, in a word, bizarre. In his own world, Clarke was the hero who warned Bush administration officials about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda ad nauseam. The Bush administration, in Clarke's world, just didn't care. In Clarke's world, eight months of Bush administration counterterrorism policy is more important than eight years of Clinton administration counterterrorism policy.

And Little Green Footballs noted this CNN American Morning transcript in which National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice defends herself and the Bush Administration against Clarke's allegations. She also notes:

[W]hat's very interesting is that, of course, Dick Clarke was the counterterrorism czar in 1998 when the [African] embassies were bombed. He was the counterterrorism czar in 2000 when the Cole was bombed. He was the counterterrorism czar for a period of the '90s when al Qaeda was strengthening and when the plots that ended up in September 11 were being hatched. The fact is, we needed a new strategy, and that's what we asked Dick Clarke to give us.

UPDATE: The Washington Times today features an excellent op-ed by Mansoor Ijaz that says Richard Clarke blocked diplomatic efforts to get bin Laden during the Clinton Administration: Politicized intelligence....

Regarding Clarke's allegations this week:

Mr. Clarke's premise that Bush national security officials neither understood nor cared to know anything about al Qaeda is simply untrue. I know because on multiple occasions from June until late August 2001, I personally briefed Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security adviser to President Bush, and members of his South Asia, Near East and East Africa staff at the National Security Council on precisely what had gone wrong during the Clinton years to unearth the extent of the dangers posed by al Qaeda. Some of the briefings were in the presence of former members of the Clinton administration's national security team to ensure complete transparency.

Regarding Clarke's role as the counterterrorism czar under President Clinton:

Sudan's president, Omar Hasan El Bashir, made an unconditional offer of counterterrorism assistance to the vice chairman of the September 11 Commission, then Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, through my hands on April 19, 1997. Five months later on Sept. 28, 1997, after an exhaustive interagency review at the entrenched bureaucracy level of the U.S. government, Mrs. Albright announced the U.S. would send a high-level diplomatic team back to Khartoum to pressure its Islamic government to stop harboring Arab terrorists and to review Sudan data on terrorist groups operating from there.

As the re-engagement policy took shape, Susan E. Rice, incoming assistant secretary of state for East Africa, went to Mr. Clarke, made her anti-Sudan case and asked him to jointly approach Mr. Berger about the wisdom of Mrs. Albright's decision. Together, they recommended its reversal. The decision was overturned on Oct. 1, 1997.

Without Mr. Clarke's consent, Mr. Berger is unlikely to have gone along with such an early confrontation with the first woman to hold the highest post at Foggy Bottom.

U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by al Qaeda 10 months later. Files with detailed data on three of the embassy bombers were among the casualties of Mr. Clarke's decision to recommend missile attacks on an empty Khartoum pharmaceutical plant rather than get Sudan's data out almost a year earlier to begin unraveling al Qaeda's network.

UPDATE March 24: InstaPundit highlights a couple of blatantly contradictory quotes from Clarke here and has more information here.

UPDATE March 26: TIME magazine on Clarke: Richard Clarke, at War With Himself. (Via InstaPundit)

While Clarke claims that he is "an independent" not driven by partisan motives, it's hard not to read some passages in his book as anything but shrill broadsides. In his descriptions of Bush aides, he discerns their true ideological beliefs not in their words but in their body language: "As I briefed Rice on al-Qaeda, her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before." When the cabinet met to discuss al-Qaeda on Sept. 4, Rumsfeld "looked distracted throughout the session." As for the President, Clarke doesn't even try to read Bush's body language; he just makes the encounters up.

Posted by Forkum at March 23, 2004 12:13 AM