March 26, 2004 - Let’s see, Richard Clarke is a disgruntled former employee who is a closet Democrat who is only trying to sell a book and besides, he was in charge of anti-terrorism for eight years before the Bush inauguration and for eight months of the current regime. So we should not pay attention to what he says in his book, on TV or in testimony he gives under oath. After all the events of 9/11 show that he wasn’t very good at his job.
Is that the White House line?
Excuse me – wasn’t Clarke the same anti-terrorist specialist that was hired by Ronnie Reagan, worked for George H. W. Bush, was retained by Bill Clinton and held over at the specific request of Condi Rice? It seems to me that the Bush Administration is hoisting itself on its own petard. It was, after all, Richard Clarke who was left in charge of the immediate US response to the attacks. If Clarke was not trustworthy and not very competent is it not an indictment of the Bush Administration that it chose him to coordinate things while every one else was running for undisclosed secure locations.
Yes, from the President’s point of view Richard Clarke was “unreliable”. He was unreliable because he did not sign on to the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz line that the real source of danger was from the direction of Baghdad and not Al Qaeda. From their point of view Richard Clarke’s problem was that he had spent 30 years thinking outside the box of national rivalries and definitive borders into which of the Administration was locked. His problem was that he had spent too long dealing with threats from transnational organizations that respect no borders, adhere to no nationality and operate outside of the constraints of international usage.
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Condi Rice and, indeed, the President himself, simply could not free themselves from the need to have a clearly defined enemy in a clearly defined location so that they could engage a clearly defined target. They simply could not deal with an enemy with no more shape and definition than that of a drifting fog on a spring morning. Clarke could, Clarke did, and that made him “unreliable”.
The chorus of character assassination that is emanating from the Administration as a defense demonstrates that the Administration does not yet understand the constraints of the box in which it has placed itself. It is not just politics that the Bush team fears, the specter of the American electorate blaming the Administration for fumbling the ball. It fears climbing out of the box, appreciating that terrorists can’t be defeated by battalions and brigades but can only be controlled and ultimately destroyed by patient and effective investigation and interdiction.
They fear taking responsibility. Richard Clarke does not.
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