politics, history and the war on terror
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
American Grandstand – Dick Clarke and the 9/11 Commission 

Due to reader interest in the 9/11 Commission and specifically the testimony by former National Security Council Counterterrorism Chief Dick Clarke, the forth rail is forced to address this issue [thanks, Bill and Angel].

The 9/11 Commission’s descent into partisan mudslinging is disturbing at best. But this was inevitable as the hearings are being held during an election year.

The Weekly Standard briefly documents Dick Clarke’s journey from counterterrorism chief that supported the policies of the Bush Administration to vehement opponent of the Bush administration in The Good, Bad, and Ugly. Mr. Clarke contradicts himself in statements given in 2002 to Fox News and testimony to the 9/11 Commission:

CLARKE: Over the course of the summer [of 2001, the Bush team] changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance. And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline. . . .

ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.

By releasing his book at this time, Clarke destroys bipartisanship in the U.S. national security apparatus:

[The timing of the release of Clarke’s book] is a precedent-setting act of bad faith from a National Security Council staffer who reports on conversations with the president and his national security adviser.

Clarke has singlehandedly all but guaranteed a partisan purge of national security staff in future transitions.

The importance of bipartisanship in intelligence and national security matters cannot be overstated. Without it, the trust of the American public in intelligence and national security agencies is diminished and a President is limited from acting on intelligence. Mr. Clarke chose false partisan point scoring over the need to preserve the integrity of bipartisanship in the national security apparatus, all to the detriment of the safety of Americans.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer savages Dick Clarke in Anger, Not Altruism. As counterterrorism chief during the Clinton Administration, Mr. Clarke bears responsibility for the lack of action taken again al Qaeda during the 1990’s:

The 1990s were al-Qaeda's springtime: Blissfully unmolested in Afghanistan, it trained, indoctrinated, armed and, most fatally, planned. For the United States, this was a catastrophic lapse, and in a March 2002 interview on PBS's Frontline, Clarke admitted as such: "I believe that had we destroyed the terrorist camps in Afghanistan earlier, that the conveyor belt that was producing terrorists sending them out around the world would have been destroyed." Instead, "now we have to hunt [them] down country by country."

What should we have done during those lost years? Clarke answered: "Blow up the camps and take out their sanctuary. Eliminate their safe haven, eliminate their infrastructure.... That's... the one thing in retrospect I wish had happened."

This is the very policy the Bush Administration is following today.

Mr. Krauthammer also documents the response to the al Qaeda attacks on American interests, as has been reported here at the fourth rail :

Clinton had one justification after another for going on the offensive: American blood spilled in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the 1998 embassy bombings, the undeniable act of war in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Response: A Cruise missile attack on empty Afghan tents, plus a (mistaken!) attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory.

There is much blame to go around for the attacks on America on September 11, 2001. The purpose of the 9/11 Commission is not to assign blame, but to determine what can be done to prevent similar attacks in the future. Mr. Clarke has dumped blood into the shark tank, and the partisan feeding frenzy has begun. Mr. Clarke has done a disservice to the American public by voicing his reckless statements to the 9/11 Commission, and history will not judge him kindly.

Posted by bill roggio @ 11:55 AM