Monday, March 22, 2004

Another Body Blow from a Former Bush Insider

The White House knows that this former insider's information, from Richard A. Clarke who was counterterrorism coordinator for President Bill Clinton and President Bush, will be especially hard to refute. The Bush team has launched an all-out attack on Clarke who asserts that neither Bush nor Clinton did enough to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Bush team's assertion that Clarke's book is "politically motivated" is an especially inept response from them. An excerpt from this morning's N.Y. Times:

The Bush administration has undermined American national security by using the 9/11 attacks for political advantage and ignoring the threat of Al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq.

Mr. Clarke, who has spent more than 30 years as a civil servant in Republican and Democratic administrations, issues a highly critical assessment of the Bush White House in "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," which is being released on Monday.

Mr. Clarke resigned from government in March 2003.

In an interview Sunday evening, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, dismissed Mr. Clarke's charges as "politically motivated," "reckless" and "baseless."

In his book, Mr. Clarke accuses the administration not only of failing to take Al Qaeda seriously before the attacks, despite "repeated warnings," but also of mounting a lackluster, bureaucratic and politicized response to the attacks.

Having failed to act against Al Qaeda before 9/11, Mr. Clarke writes, Mr. Bush "harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks." Mr. Clarke also accused the administration of starting "an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."

Mr. Clarke alleges in his book that Mr. Bush and others in his small inner circle tried to intimidate him and other officials into finding a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda despite the intelligence community's repeated determinations that no significant connections existed. He also refers to Vice President Dick Cheney as a "right-wing ideologue," who rejected facts inconsistent with the administration's political outlook and goals.

In an interview with CNN this morning, Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, said she was "flabbergasted" at the charges in the book, saying Mr. Clarke had said he supported the president.

Mr. Clarke denied that his book was politically motivated, saying in an interview that he had spoken up because he was "outraged" by the "terrible job" that President Bush had done fighting terrorism.

¶Less than a day after the attacks, Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, said at a cabinet-level meeting that "there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq" instead because it had "better targets."

¶Paul D. Wolfowitz, Secretary Rumsfeld's deputy, repeatedly "belittled" the Al Qaeda threat and argued after the 9/11 attacks that Iraq was responsible for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and must have helped Al Qaeda carry out 9/11 because the attack was "too sophisticated and complicated" for a "terrorist group to have pulled off by itself."

¶As counterterrorism adviser, Mr. Clarke said he had only three meetings with Mr. Bush before the attacks in which he set the agenda, and was never given the "chance to talk with him about terrorism" until after the attacks.

Mr. Clarke's book also accuses the Clinton administration of having done too little to fight the threat of Al Qaeda. But he attributes this to the fact that Mr. Clinton had been "weakened by continuing political attack" stemming from his involvement with a White House intern and by other scandals.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link