Richard Clarke, a Reagan appointee and registered Republican who was the top official of counter-terrorism activities for the Bush Administration at the time of September 11, 2001, has revealed that he, CIA director George Tenet, and other intelligence officials warned George W. Bush that an attack by Osama Bin Laden's Al Quaida terrorist organization was likely imminent. According to Clarke, Bush failed to order counter-terrorist units to battle stations, the action that is the standard reaction to an imminent terrorist attack.
Clarke's new book, Against All Enemies, reveals that George W. Bush was soft on Al Quaida, and did not do what his counter-terrorism officials recommended to stop September 11 from happening.
Clarke explains that he has decided to reveal George W. Bush's terrible mistakes in combatting terrorism that he is outraged that Bush has the audacity to campaign on the basis of his reaction to September 11, 2001. He says, "I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop September 11." Further, Bush "failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks."
Clarke revealed that just days after George W. Bush came into office, he sent a memo labeled "urgent" to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, asking for a cabinet-level meeting to discuss the serious danger that Al Quaida posed to the United States. Bush Administration officials did not bother holding such a meeting until one week before September 11, 2001.
When Richard Clarke tried to get the Bush Administration to hold high level meetings about the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden, his requests were rejected, and Bush appointees such as Paul Wolfowitz insisted that Al Quaida was not a serious enough threat to merit their attention. These Bush Administration officials criticized President Clinton for focusing too much on the threat from Al Quaida. So, in what proved to be a fatal lapse in judgment, the Bush Administration relaxed the campaign to counter Bin Laden. This lapse would be repeated later, when Bush took resources from the hunt for Bin Laden in order to invade Iraq.
Clarke further comments that George W. Bush pressured him and other intelligence officials to create an official report linking Iraq and Al Quaida. When Clarke's report clearly stated that Iraq had no relationship with Al Quaida, he was told that his report had the "wrong answer" and that he should come back with a new report. Clarke says that all the intelligence Bush had told him that Iraq "did nothing to threaten us." Yet, Bush chose to ignore this intelligence.
Clarke served as a first hand witness to the plans of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to invade Iraq, even without any reason to believe that Iraq posed any significant threat to the United States. According to Clarke, "The crisis was manufactured, and Bush political adviser Karl Rove was telling Republicans to 'run on the war." Apparently, the day after September 11, 2001, when it was already clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, Donald Rumsfeld proposed bombing Iraq instead of Afghanistan simply because Iraq had more targets that would be easy to bomb. Rumsfeld, supported by Bush, continued to push for an invasion of Iraq in spite of information from the CIA, FBI and Richard Clarke himself that Iraq had done nothing to contribute to any attacks against America.
Richard Clarke's assessment of George W. Bush's record on national security? He says that George W. Bush "has made us less safe" and that "I think he's done a terrible job on the war on terrorism."
Principled stand under attack
For the record, Richard Clarke was never fired. He worked in counter terrorism for presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He chose to resign from the White House of George W. Bush in 2003, after doing his best for two years to buttress the Bush Administration's weak and misdirected strategies to counter terrorist threats. There are no sour grapes here, just a leader with experience who is finally willing to tell the truth about George W. Bush's weakness in the face of terrorism.
We thank you, Mr. Clarke, for coming clean and telling the American public the uncomfortable truths that we should have heard from the lips of George W. Bush himself. We must now judge the Bush Administration for their reaction to Clarke's revelations. Will Bush and Cheney finally decide to be honest and tell the American people the whole truth?
Clarke, who has more experience dealing directly with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney than most Americans could ever dream of, isn't holding his breath. Rather, he expects the Bush Administration to try to cover up the truths he has exposed. "I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things," Clarke says, "and I'm sure they'll launch their dogs on me."
We have seen too much of Bush's Republican attack squads to expect any better.
Clarke's revelations do not stand on their own, of course. Rather, they are part of a picture that is so damning and so complete that it forces Americans to make a difficult choice. Americans must now decide that they have had enough of being lied to by Bush, or that they just don't mind being lied to, and are willing to let the people in the White House do whatever they want.
Blind trust in the truthfulness of George W. Bush is simply no longer an option. Too many people from the Bush Administration have independently described the same story that Richard Clarke has provided. Perhaps Americans might disbelieve one of these witnesses on their own. An American might disbelieve Richard Clarke, or Paul O'Neill, or Wesley Clark, or Joseph Wilson, or one of the other former Bush Administration officials who have described exactly the same scenario of a Bush Administration determined to attack Iraq from the very start, refusing to heed the warnings of intelligence officials who provided evidence that undermined that course of action.
It's become clear that the Bush Administration knew very well that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism in general, and nothing to do with Al Quaida in particular. It's become clear that George W. Bush was desperate to attack Iraq even before he became president, and that the weapons of mass destruction lies were nothing more than a bad excuse for another, hidden agenda. It's become clear that George W. Bush and his top aides knowingly made inaccurate statements, and intentionally ignored the advice of the FBI, CIA and other intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.
The debate about Bush's lies is settled. Now, the only question that honest Americans need to ask themselves is this: Do I mind it when the President lies to me?
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