It's hard to say which of the Clarke revelations is most damaging. <$NoAd$>But there are many contenders. Here's another -- the video of which just aired a few minutes ago on 60 Minutes ...
"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.' 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 did this.
"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."
Clarke continued, "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.'
"I have no idea, to this day, if the President saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."
Atrios quotes this passage from Richard Clarke's interview tonight on CBS at length. But it's worth excerpting again for reasons I note below ...
"We had a terrorist organization that was going after us! Al Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.
"There's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo-- wasn't acted on.
"I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years."
Clarke finally got his meeting about al Qaeda in April, three months after his urgent request. But it wasn't with the president or cabinet. It was with the second-in-command in each relevant department.
For the Pentagon, it was Paul Wolfowitz.
Clarke relates, "I began saying, 'We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.' Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, said, 'No, no, no. We don't have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'
"And I said, 'Paul, there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!' And I turned to the deputy director of the CIA and said, 'Isn't that right?' And he said, 'Yeah, that's right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States."
Clarke went on to add, "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever."
See Doonesbury today, Sunday 21st. Funny. "I was proud to have served in the Alabama Guard both days!"
A little of the old compare and contrast <$NoAd$>...
As you know, our campaign has praised your military service to our nation. Our campaign does not condone any effort to impugn your patriotism. Your letter claims that supporters of our campaign questioned your service and patriotism. In fact, that simply wasnât the case. Our campaign is not questioning your patriotism or military service, but your votes and statements on the issues now facing our country.
Open Letter to John Kerry
Bush-Cheney Campaign Chair
February 22nd, 2004
And now for "The Outrages of the Week." President Bush's reelection campaign is distributing a letter from retired Colonel William Campenni, who served with Mr. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard. After defending Bush's service, Campenni argues that Bush did more to defend the U.S. than John Kerry did in Vietnam, earning three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.Mark Shields
March 20th, 2004
While most of America was sleeping and Mr. Kerry was playing antiwar games with Hanoi Jane Fonda, we were answering 3 a.m. scrambles for who knows what inbound threat over the Canadian subarctic, the cold North Atlantic and the shark-filled Gulf of Mexico.Col. William Campenni (retired)
U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard
Letter to the Editor
February 11, 2004
"Richard A. Clarke said in a television interview airing Sunday that Bush 'ignored terrorism for months' before the 2001 attacks, then looked to attack Iraq rather than Afghanistan, the nation harboring the terrorist group al-Qaeda, which launched the attacks."
That's from Bloomberg.
It is fair to say that anyone who has seriously reported on this issue, or has read a lot of the good reporting on it, already knows this: namely, that the incoming Bush administration downgraded the attention given to terrorism and al Qaida specifically in the last years of the Clinton administration, and this after being warned by out-going members of the Clinton team that combatting al Qaida should be at the top of their agenda.
In short, they pushed al Qaida and a lot of resources aimed at fighting al Qaida to the backburner until the whole thing blew up in their faces on 9/11.
Their focus, as we've noted before, was on the centrality of states rather than shadowy transnational terrorist groups -- thus their preoccuption with issues like national missile defense.
In any case, as I say, we've basically known this.
But it's another thing to have the person who was there at the center of the action as NSC counter-terrorism czar -- both under Clinton and Bush -- saying on camera that the president ignored terrorism and al Qaida right up until the day of the attacks. Clarke was there. In fact, to the extent that Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest of the team were ignoring the issue, it would have been Clarke's urgent warnings they were ignoring -- since he was the head of counter-terrorism on the NSC staff.
White House Spokesman Sean McCormick told the New York Times: "The president and his team received briefings on the threat from al-Qaida prior to taking office, and fighting terrorism became a top priority when this administration came into office. We actively pursued the Clinton administration's policies on al-Qaida until we could get into place a more comprehensive policy."
But Clark says that's baloney. And he was the one who headed up Clinton's counter-terrorism policies and Bush's. So who are you going to believe?
Now do you understand why they're stonewalling the 9/11 commission?
And while we're discussing the commission, why do they even really need to stonewall it?
Consider this passage from a piece in today's Times ...
They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy; and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.
One official scheduled to testify, Richard A. Clarke, who was President Bill Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said in an interview that the warning about the Qaeda threat could not have been made more bluntly to the incoming Bush officials in intelligence briefings that he led.
At the time of the briefings, there was extensive evidence tying Al Qaeda to the bombing in Yemen two months earlier of an American warship, the Cole, in which 17 sailors were killed.
"It was very explicit," Mr. Clarke said of the warning given to the Bush administration officials. "Rice was briefed, and Hadley was briefed, and Zelikow sat in." Mr. Clarke served as Mr. Bush's counterterrorism chief in the early months of the administration, but after Sept. 11 was given a more limited portfolio as the president's cyberterrorism adviser.
Listen carefully to these passages from a new column in Newsweek by Eleanor Clift ...
Kerry knew this was coming. âBring it on,â he said so often it became his battle cry. Well, now theyâve brought it on, and what is Kerry doing? Heâs going on vacation in Idaho, leaving behind the festering story of his unholy bond with foreign leaders. âBefore long theyâll be calling him Jacques Kerry,â says a Republican strategist. âItâs only a matter of time.â
The harsh tone of the attacks this early in the campaign indicates that Bush is willing to drive up his own negatives in order to raise doubts about Kerry. The good news for Kerry is that he fights better when heâs behind, and the way things are going, heâll soon be behind.
First, the ballgame will be won or lost in second quarter and early in second quarter. Right now Bush money is gaining him yardage, depicting Kerry as flip-flopper and weak on defense. That's the plan. Simple. Effective. Steamrolling. Fools like Maureen Dowd today echo and enable it in mainstream media, just as she did in 2000. Second, Kerry loses if he can't raise money to buy time to fight back in April. All pundits who say money doesn't matter are wrong, and enable Bush more. Money talks and early money screams. Third, Kerry needs Clinton fundraising and Gore fundraising base badly. Will Clinton really help? Seen any sign of it? Seen him rap Bush lately? Seen Hillary?
Oops ... Compare these paragraphs from a late afternoon article in the Washington Post to the breathless and wildly over-the-top coverage yesterday on CNN (itals added)...
Several thousand Pakistani army troops have surrounded between 150 and 400 tribal fighters and foreign Islamic guerrillas, some of them associated with al Qaeda, as heavy fighting continued in a remote area near the border with Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.
The intensity of the resistance encountered in the rugged hills of South Waziristan has prompted speculation by some military commanders that the tribal fighters and their foreign allies may be protecting senior al Qaeda figures such as Ayman Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician who is Osama bin Laden's top deputy.
Senior Pakistan officials said that the foreign fighters include Chechens, Uzbeks and some Arabs, but they said they had no specific evidence that either bin Laden or Zawahiri was in the area.
"Most recent intelligence inputs do not support the perception that either Osama or Ayman are holed up in that vicinity," said a senior military intelligence officer in Peshawar, the capital of the province in northwestern Pakistan that includes the semi-autonomous tribal area of South Waziristan.
"The idea is to send the strongest message yet to the al Qaeda supporters, but who knows? We may hit the jackpot in the process," the official added.
People have been discussing for weeks <$NoAd$>what would be contained in the soon-to-be-released book by former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke (who served under Clinton and Bush).
CBS is rolling the book on 60 Minutes this Sunday night. And here's the press release they just put out ...
Former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke tells Lesley Stahl that on September 11, 2001 and the day after - when it was clear Al Qaeda had carried out the terrorist attacks - the Bush administration was considering bombing Iraq in retaliation. Clarke's exclusive interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday March 21 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. "They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12," says Clarke.
The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of 9/11. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the 9/11 attacks],'" he tells Stahl.
Clarke goes on to explain what he believes was the reason for the focus on Iraq. "I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection [between Iraq and Al Qaeda] but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there, saying, 'We've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection,'" says Clarke.
Clarke, who advised four presidents, reveals more about the current administration's reaction to terrorism in his new book, "Against All Enemies."
As I hope to discuss this weekend, <$Ad$>I think the Kerry campaign has made some missteps of late -- small and I trust recoverable, but missteps nonetheless. But this article is a little disappointing.
The piece is running today on ABC News and the premise is that Kerry said voting against the $87 billion Iraq supplemental would be "reckless" and "irresponsible" just a few weeks before doing just that.
As we've noted, there were two bills -- one which would fund the $87 billion by rescinding a portion of the president's tax cut, another which would fund it by going $87 billion in to debt. Kerry voted for the first, the latter passed.
The article focuses on an appearance Kerry made on Face The Nation a few weeks before the vote. Doyle McManus asked him whether if his bill failed he would then vote for the other bill. That's a good question. And here was Kerry's response.
I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to â to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible. What is responsible is for the administration to do this properly now.
In the interview, Kerry never clearly stated whether he would or would not vote for the $87 billion funding bill, a fact that may offer him some sort of exculpation. But one of the few press outlets to cover his remarks on the subject, the Washington Times, wrote the next day that "Mr. Kerry said he would still vote to authorize the $87 billion. Not doing so, he said, would be 'irresponsible.'"