Wednesday, March 31, 2004

How the Snarling Bush-Supporting Finger-Pointers are Missing the Point...

From the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, an editorial excerpt:

Administration officials have attacked their former colleague, Richard Clarke, from every possible angle, but they have not dared to attack him as being soft on terrorism. Whatever his faults, the hardheaded Clarke saw more clearly than most the threat posed by terrorism, and within the highest circles of the Clinton and Bush administrations he lobbied persistently to the point of obsession for more aggressive action against al-Qaida.

Logically, then, you might think that Clarke would be a huge fan of George W. Bush. As the president's campaign commercials try to drive home, as his supporters stress at every opportunity, Bush has been a man of action, the decisive leader in the flight suit who actually did something against terrorism. If Clarke wanted aggressive action against terror, and Bush has taken aggressive action, shouldn't Clarke be one of the president's most ardent supporters?
As most of the world knows by now, the answer is no. Why?

Because Clarke understands that macho preening is an attitude, not a foreign policy. He also understands that if macho preening becomes a substitute for thoughtful policy, it will lead this country into real trouble, which is exactly where we find ourselves today.

But the real anger in his critique seems to stem from what happened within the Bush inner circles in the hours and days immediately after the attacks. In his book, the breaking point occurs when he walks into an important meeting early on Sept. 12, with smoke and steam still rising from New York and Washington and with al-Qaida already fingered as the responsible party. Clarke expected to be talking about ways to retaliate against al-Qaida, to hunt its leadership and members down to their lairs and destroy them, and to ensure that no further attacks took place.

Instead, the meeting was dominated by talk of Saddam Hussein and invasion.

"At first I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting al-Qaida," Clarke writes. "Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [Deputy Paul] Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq."

And that's exactly what happened.

President Bush would like to frame the debate over Iraq as a question of whether to be tough or soft. The real question is whether the policy has been right or wrong, smart or stupid. History's verdict on that point will not be kind.

More later this week on why Mr. Bush should be thanking Richard Clarke...

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link