March 23, 2004

Quote of the Day

"Howard Dean got into a lot of trouble a few months ago for saying that America was not safer after the capture of Saddam Hussein."

"Howard Dean was right."

Charlie Rose and Richard Clark speaking on Rose's PBS talk show in advance of Clark's testimony to the 9/11 Commission and the release of his new book "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror".

So, first, a bit of background.

Clark was the senior White House official for counterterrorism for the last four American Presidents. Clark claims that, not only did G.W. Bush & Co. ignore personal warnings from Bill Clinton & his entire national security team that Al Qaeda was the biggest threat to America, not only did Bush ignore Clark's repeated requests for a coordinated effort among top staff, not only did Bush ignore DAILY admonitions from CIA director George Tenet about the threat posed by Al Qaeda, but, even AFTER 9/11, after Tenet, the FBI, and Clark all said Al Qaeda was responsible and Iraq had nothing to do with it, Bush deliberately withheld resources from going after Bin Laden & the Taliban in anticipation of an invasion of Iraq that he ordered the Pentagon to start planning on September 16, 2001.

The Charlie Rose interview was particularly stunning to me for several reasons. Clark makes Bush sound almost like Ahab, and Saddam is his white whale. Clark also states that, even if we catch Bin Laden now, it will actually have a negligible effect on stopping future terrorist attacks because, if I may use my comic book analogies, in the 2 years since the invasion of Afganistan, Al Qaeda, which used to resemble Cobra Command, where Bin Laden personally approved every major attack, has now transformed into Hydra, with huge, unknown, independent cells that can continue to function in conjunction with local terrorists (see Spain) in the absence of a centralized command. He makes the point that, while roughly the same number of terrorist attacks have been thwarted consistently since 1996, the actual number of successful Al Qaeda attacks have actually INCREASED since 9/11 and the start of the so-called War on Terror.

And, to further demonstrate the incompetence of the Bush administration, Clark also responded to those who accuse him of releasing this book now, in the thick of the Presidential election season. Apparently, there's a law that says the White House has to actually approve any book written by a staffer regarding their tenure with the President. Clark says that he submitted the book to the White House for approval in NOVEMBER, and that they are largely responsible for the book's release at this time.

Which also says to me that they had to approve Paul O'Neill's book as well.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders what advantage they could gain by allowing such books to be published. But that would be just crazy, right?

If you can catch the rebroadcast or a transcript of Clark's interview on Charlie Rose, watch it. It's well worth it.

In the meantime, in my ongoing quest for self-gratification, you can buy both the Clark book and the O'Neill book right here. Either click on the link in the main title above, or use these spiffy little Amazon buttons below.

As a side note, Charlie's first guest tonight was Rashid Khalidi, the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, to talk about the Israeli assassination of the founder of Hamas. Now, to say that Sheik Ahmed Yassin was a moderate among the Hamas camp is kind of like saying our sun isn't very hot relative to other stars. However, the dude was at least open to the idea of a long ceasefire with Israel. Now, the only people left in charge in Palestine are the ones who want to destroy Israel and make Palestine into an Islamic theocracy. But, as Professor Khalidi pointed out, Israel has seemed to target the most moderate members of the Palestinian leadership first, and then work their way down the extremist scale throughout the entire rebellion of the last three years. Even when it started, where Hamas was clearly responsible for most of the suicide bombings, the IDF choose, instead, to go after Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, who had about as much control over Hamas as I do. Which leads Khalidi to speculate whether that was the entire point - eliminate the moderates so we can get on with this whole "clash of civilizations" thing, better known as the Ninth Crusade.

But, given the choice between some bad people who hate you who might be willing to sit in the same room with you while they hate you, and some killers who will do everything in their power to try to take your life rather than share the room with you, who in their right mind would actually prefer to deal with the killers?

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