2007 02 Bugle Review -- AGAINST ALL ENEMIES

Read for your Life!

by John Burgeson, www.burgy.50megs.com

"Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. ... In this war, we know, books are weapons." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when WWII was going badly for us, April 23, 1942.

AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard Clarke

I commented briefly on this book last September. It is written by a man who was in charge of counter terrorism defenses for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, a man who served seven presidents in a long career. Richard Clarke resigned from the Bush team in March, 2003, convinced that the Bush administration was both inept and misguided in its policies of combating terrorism. Whether or not one believes him, the book needs to be carefully considered. It is an easy read, although, if even some of Clarke's claims are true, it is a sobering one.

Among the claims made (and documented) in this book are these:

The al Qaeda network has gained strength since 9/11, and Bush policies have been a root cause.

We are less safe from terrorist attack today than we were on 9/11.

The Bush administration had almost a complete lack of interest in al Qaeda prior to 9/11. Clarke was denied (by Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld) the opportunity to present the al Qaeda case to the president. Instead, the White House staff focused almost entirely on Iraq from the day the 2000 election was decided. 9/11, Clarke insists, gave the Bush administration the rationale to attack Iraq, in spite of there being no credible intelligence that linked Iraq to al Qaeda.

This is a history of the times, written by one who was the nation's chief crisis manager on 9/11. He quotes from Wolfowitz (page 231): "You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things . . ." Rumsfeld (page 31): "There are no decent targets in Afghanistan; we should consider bombing Iraq." Bush (page 24) on the issue of not using pre-emptive force for retribution, but only to prevent future attacks: "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass." Our present vice President, in 1995, as the head of Halliburton, opposed U. S. sanctions ordered by Bill Clinton, because they fouled up a billion-dollar oil deal with Iran. Colin Powell page 162): "I think chemical weapons are goofy ... [they] will just slow us down a little." On 9/11 the vice President's wife (page 18) came into the Situation Room and, several times, interfered with communications by turning down the phone volume so she could hear CNN! The principals there tolerated her; Clarke does not say why. I might guess that her husband's power was that great that nobody wanted to cross her.

The first 34 pages of this engrossing book are a minute by minute description of how the government responded on the first day. It reads like a spy thriller -- except it really did happen. Clarke tells how, as the day came to a close, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were scheming how to take advantage of the tragedy to promote their Iraq agenda. By Wednesday afternoon Rumsfeld was talking openly about an Iraq invasion. On the evening of the 12th, Bush made a direct order (page 32), "... I want you to .. see if Saddam did this." Clarke and others tried to explain that no Iraq links had been found, although some had been found to Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Bush cut them short. "Look into Iraq." He walked away. Subsequently, there was considerable research done into the president's request, and a memo, informing him that no al Qaeda - Iraq link cooperation could be found, was sent up to the president. It apparently was intercepted by staff along the way and never reached him. Would it have made a difference? We will never know.

Clarke (page 62) contrasts the historic efforts of the first president Bush in coalition building for the first Gulf War with those of "go-it-alone" George W. Bush twelve years later. On another issue, Clarke notes that in 1995 congressional Republicans opposed expanding existing wiretap laws to terrorists and argued, with the NRA, that proposed bomb making restrictions infringed on the 2nd amendment. Six years later, things would be different, for the war had come to our shores.

Clarke describes George W. Bush as smart, but always looking for a simple solution, with no interest in complicated analysis. On the issues, he already knew the "received wisdom" answers. He also faults our president for using "cronyism" to fill key staff positions. Nothing we could have done, says Clarke, would have provided al Qaeda a better recruitment argument than the Iraq invasion. It is almost as if bin Laden were calling the shots. It was the wrong war, at the wrong time, ineptly planned. Like Brer Rabbit's ploy, we entered the tar pit. Clarke also has unkind things to say about the unfortunately named "Patriot Act." An American citizen, Jose Padilla, was arrested in Chicago. Rumsfeld denied him his constitutional rights without judicial review of any kind. As a result, American's trust in our constitution, which "guarantees" us certain civil liberties, has eroded. Mr. Padilla, whatever his guilt or innocence, certainly has been denied his.

We are no longer a "superpower," Clarke writes. Instead, we are a "superbully." When we next need international support, who will stand by us?

A War College Strategic Studies report concludes: "The Iraq was was a strategic error of the first magnitude." It gave bin Laden exactly what he had longed for, recruitment propaganda. 9/11 was an opportunity to unite. That opportunity has been squandered by a cowboy. Unthinking responses, a rejection of reasoned analysis and a seizure of "received wisdom." Clarke concludes (page 287): We will pay the price for a long time.

John W. Burgeson, Mancos, Colorado, For the Bugle, Feb 8, 2007

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