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Clarke Told Us So
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I watched the 60 Minutes interview with former terrorism advisor Richard Clarke on Sunday, and a couple of things bother me about the whole thing.

First, I'd find him a bit more credible if he weren't essentially in the middle of a book tour about the subject. The 60 Minutes website even includes this disclaimer:

His allegations are also made in a book, "Against All Enemies," by Free Press, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster. Both and Simon & Schuster are units of Viacom.

Nice. That alone doesn't discredit him, of course. But whistleblowers tend to carry a bit more weight if they're not in the process of profitting from all that whistleblowing.

That said, we're supposed to believe that Richard Clarke was the only one in the government really concerned about the threat of a strike on America by terrorists. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, so what exactly was Clarke proposing in his days with the Bush Administration?

Clarke was the president's chief adviser on terrorism, yet it wasn't until Sept. 11 that he ever got to brief Mr. Bush on the subject. Clarke says that prior to Sept. 11, the administration didn't take the threat seriously.

"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."

He pushed for a meeting...but what were his policy recommendations? What would they have been? He conveniently never mentions these in the interview (perhaps he does in the book...I'm not buying it).

It is obvious, now, that we should have done much more to disrupt Al Qaeda training and planning. In the early 90's, their base of operations was in Sudan. Was Clarke seriously suggesting an invasion of Sudan in the 90's? Or a concerted, sustained bombing campaign? How might have the world reacted to that?

When Al Qaeda moved its central leadership to Afghanistan in the late 90's, was Clarke proposing a full-scale invasion of that country? Or a concerted, sustained, bombing campaign to eliminate Al Qaeda leadership and destroy its numerous training facilities?

All indications are that planning for 9/11 began in 1996, and that by the time Bush was sworn in, in January 2001, the hijackers had already taken their flying lessons and made their final plans. Would striking Afghanistan have prevented 9/11? And should we have worked through the U.N. to get authorization for such action? Wouldn't it have been the nasty, ugly "P"-word without U.N. approval?

To actually prevent 9/11, the most useful steps would have been to institute draconian airline safety rules, spend the billions of dollars to upgrade airline security regulations (as we've done since 9/11), and round up every suspected terrorist in the U.S.

Again, was Clarke seriously proposing such measures? No. But he's on 60 Minutes and every other show that'll have him, playing the crusading Chicken Little...the man who warned everybody ahead of time, who knew what was going to happen, the only one who was taking the threat seriously.

Only he wasn't. His allegation that everyone ignored the threat of terrorism in the Bush Administration, that it never crossed their minds to take it seriously, is a bunch of bullshit.

From CNN:

It was in May 2001, for example, that Bush asked Vice President Dick Cheney to lead an administration task force to assess the country's counter-terrorism effort.

At that time Cheney told CNN in an interview: "Well, the concern here is that one of our biggest threats as a nation is no longer, sort of, the conventional military attack against the United States but, rather, that it might come from other quarters.

"It could be domestic terrorism, but it may also be a terrorist organization overseas or even another state using weapons of mass destruction against the U.S., a hand-carried nuclear weapon or biological or chemical agents," he said. "The threat to the continental United States and our infrastructure is changing and evolving. And we need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense."
(emphasis mine)

To suggest that the Bush Administration didn't give a crap about terrorism, completely ignored the possible threat, didn't even consider non-state terrorism or a domestic strike as a possibility...well, it's just wrong.

The fact is that nobody saw 9/11 coming, and that even if the Bush Administration or those within it, such as Richard Clarke, had had the incredible foresight and knowledge to predict with any specificity the type of attack that did occur...the American public simply would not have put up with the sort of measures necessary to safeguard against it, and the international community would have screamed their heads off if we'd bombed the shit out of either Sudan or Afghanistan without U.N. approval.

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