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Sondheim on Clarke

| 44 Comments | 3 TrackBacks

Josh Marshall has an extensive post up on the continuing war between the GOP and Dems over Clarke.

I'm not overly interested in the tactical elements of this war; what I'm interested in is seeing of there are grownups at some level of the U.S. Government - my government that can somehow stop this crap.

Here's the problem.

A Damn Bad Thing happened - a series of attacks against our people and places that culminated in an act of war on 9/11. In the decade or so leading up to this, we didn't do enough, which is, in part why it happened.

In the next decades, while we try and reduce the number of people willing to engage in these kind of acts - by bribing, converting, or killing them - we ought to not make the same mistakes. We'll make different mistakes, and we will be attacked, make no mistake about that. But it would be nice to have a reasonably objective and levelheaded look at what happened.

It'd be even better to have a government in place - and here I point at both sides of the aisle that was capable of taking such a reasonable and levelheaded look.

As long as I'm wishing, can I have a pony?

Marshall says:
What this is about isn't Condi Rice or Richard Clarke or even George W. Bush. It's about what happened -- finding out what happened. One side wants to find out; the other doesn't. This whole story turns on that simple fact. Why else try to destroy Clark unless what he has to say is profoundly damaging? Liars are usually easily discredited; it's the truth-tellers who need to be destroyed.
and adds:
I have no stake in Richard Clarke. I think he's a hero because I'm quite confident (on the basis of very strong evidence) that he's telling the truth and now facing the whirlwind that we all knew these folks would bring against him.
Daniel Drezner actually neatly lays out my issues with Clarke:
Did I stack the deck in the second set of bullet points? Absolutely. My point, however, is that Clarke stacked the deck in the first set of bullet points.

Why would he do this? Some will say it's because Clarke is a partisan hack, which isn't really credible -- he voted in the Republican primary in 2000, served under three Republican presidents, and already vowed not to advise Kerry. My hunch is that it's more simple and personal than that. Let's rework those bullet points one last time:

It is also the story of four presidents:

  • Ronald Reagan, during which I was just a State Department DAS and therefore had marginal influence;
  • George H.W. Bush, whose Secretary of State demoted me;
  • Bill Clinton, who was wise enough to listen to my sage advice and let me run the Principals meetings on counterterrorism;
  • George W. Bush, who had the gall to strip me of the hard-won autonomy and power I achieved under Clinton and force me to work through the regular chain of command
I'm sorry, but Marshall, and the rest of the anti-Administration chorus are just singing a different part than those in the Administration - it's still the same music...
BAKER
Wait a minute, magic beans
For a cow so old
That you had to tell
A lie to sell
It, which you told!
Were they worthless beans?
Were they oversold?
Oh, and tell us who
Persuaded you
To steal that gold.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (To Jack)
See, it's your fault.

JACK
No!

BAKER
So it's you fault...

JACK
No!

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Yes, it is!

JACK
It's not!

BAKER
It's true.

JACK
Wait a minute-
But I only stole the gold
To get my
Cow back from you!

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (To Baker)
So it's your fault!

JACK
Yes!
And personally, I'm tired of it. The Democrats (including Marshall) are furious at Bush for not walking into a trap. As noted before, the leaked Democratic intelligence committee memos made that clear:
1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard...

3) Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation at any time-- but we can only do so once. The best time to do so will probably be next year...

Summary

Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet, we have an important role to play in the revealing the misleading -- if not flagrantly dishonest methods and motives -- of the senior administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war. The approach outline above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration's dubious motives and methods.
Note that the conclusion precedes the investigation.

Bush isn't faultless in this; and his team is playing thug-style hockey right alongside the Democrats when they should be winning the war.

And I'm going to have to vote for one of them in November.

3 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 27, 2004 3:31 AM
DC from Kalblog
Excerpt: I'm done commenting directly on Clarke, but Armed Liberal has a good post on the general atmosphere in Washington. The problem there is pretty normal; both sides fear that if they are actually open and honest, the other side will...
Tracked: March 30, 2004 5:20 PM
Intelligence Failures and Reports from porphyrogenitus.net
Excerpt: The other "two wars" post Joe Katzman links to is one by Wrechard who asks if a war on the Left is necessary as part of the war on Islamo-Fascism. Wrechard and Laughingwolf describe somewhat different wars but the "war
Tracked: March 30, 2004 5:26 PM
Excerpt: The other "two wars" post Joe Katzman links to is one by Wrechard who asks if a war on the Left is necessary as part of the war on Islamo-Fascism. Wrechard and Laughingwolf describe somewhat different wars but the "war

44 Comments

Ain't that true. Grownups, stop blowing spitballs at each other, grow up, and get back to passing the Test of Life, which means stopping other people from blowing up scores of men, women and children.

Wow, your sensibilities are hurt because politics plays a role in this. I'm shocked.

I'm not sure what you're struggling with:

a) A party that knew what was going on, was getting the crap beat out of it with the known falsehoods and lies that went into the prosecution of the war, and was strategizing how to win.

Or b) a party that was ignoring the obvious, obsessed with a conspiracy theory regarding Iraq, used 9/11 as a political tool, and threw away lives, treasure, time and diplomatic capital pursuing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sometimes I think your standards are tuned to an alternate universe here. Turning some mountains into molehills and other molehills into mountains.

And ignoring the obvious.

Bizarre.

"I have no stake in Richard Clarke."
I think this has to be a strong contender for Blogosphere™ Most Transparent Falsehood of the Week®.

Why do I get the impression that the question whether Clarke is to be taken seriously is just a variation of the sixteen words about uranium, or the plastic turkey, or even whether the Spanish vote was appeasement?

Is there a test for distinguishing honest differences of opinion from mindless reflex action?

Great post. I could see you are struggling with the issues, rather than hurling adjectives around at just one side or just the other. I'm going to do a short post on it on my blog.

This article was very difficult to make any sense of, not knowing the issues. Is there some kind of prerequisite of readers here that they follow a certain news thread? Can you please include extra background links so that if someone, like me, is curious about the exact subject matter, they can find out more?

It's more than a little sad to see my fellow Democrats implying that Bush should have made preemptive war on Afghanistan.

- by bribing, converting, or killing them-

But then again, when I see murderous lunacy like this on the other side, it makes cynical jerks like Marshall seem all too attractive.

Abbreviated post, because I'm on my way to get soussed with some friends at an Irish pub inside the beltway, but I think that Clarke is making two arguments:

1. That the Bushies were lax on whacking the moles; and

2. That the invasion of Iraq stirred up a hornets nest.

He knows very little about the second contention, so rather than make the case he chooses to make the case about the first contention, since he knows a great deal more about that. It's a little like the guy who looks for his keys where the light is the brightest.

The notion that Bush could have possible done enough to whack all the moles is, on it's face, rather preposterous; but it's fed by a general "sheeple" proposition that the "gummint" ought to be more or less omnipotent, or at least omniscient, and that any deviation from that standard is due to criminal intent or extraordinary incompetence. It's an impossible standard to meet, and I think the majority of Americans understand that (although it's a stretch for the quasi-social-democrats).

You, myself, Sensing, and a host of others have been making the case for a VERY LONG TIME that getting our feet wet in the Arab Middle East, in order to germinate liberal democracy and civil societing is not only absolutely essential to the War [on Totalitarianism 3.x], but it's what the war is about. What the Copperheads, like Clarke, are manifesting is a certain timidity about the essential nature of the conflict. Period.

Clarke is correct.

Iraq stirred up a hornet's nest.

http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=0F845116-0EF2-4C11-90F1A12AF8FC4A45

The hornet's are none too happy about this and have gone back to their nests to think about it.

If only Bush hadn't gone to Iraq the hornets wouldn't be so humiliated.

The best part of Clarke though is that he is like Kerry - he says things that eveery one can believe. At one time or another.

A.L.

"In the decade or so leading up to this [9/11], we didn't do enough, which is, in part why it happened."

This is a very common argument in Pro-Bush Pro-Iraq war circles. The problem is, it is only partly true. If you substitute "In the decade or so" with "between January and September of 2001", I think you'd be right.

That's right, Vesicle, there was no Al Queda in December of 2000 - it sprung up in January of 2001 as a response to the Florida recount debacle, I'm sure.

If you substitute "In the decade or so" with "between January and September of 2001", I think you'd be right.

This is the level of capacity for self-deception that I label intellectually dishonest (see above). Why not "Between September 10 and September 11"?

It would be nice to have a more objective test to filter out and discard rapidly from further consideration (or waste of intellectual energy) this type of thinking. In any case, this one falls easily within the Potter Stewart obscenity rule about "knowing it when you see it".

One can blame both sides, and I am a partisan, and I don't blame the White house for firing back with all guns. I think they had no choice.

There are two related reasons I think Clarke has done a damn near criminal wrong (rhetoric there) to the United States in this war.

1) As Bill Kristol noted, there was in fact a tacit agreement on both sides not to go down this road in this manner. Clarke and CBS blew that out of the water, and as the road is downhill and slippery, once the ball rolled there was no stopping it.

2) Clarke COULD HAVE done the US a magnificent sevice. Given his history, if he had looked at BOTH Clinton and Bush's involvement, and been reasonably even-handed about his assessment, he could have been a great and insightful contribution to the overall question of "what happened".

Now, an opposite partisan might say, "Hey, he is telling truth, Bush blew it and Clinton didn't". But that is patently absurd, given that Al Queda has been in business and attacking us for ten years, 9/11 was in plotting five years, and someone is going to tell me that the last eight months are all that matters. Please. That just asinine.

EVEN if Clarke actually believes such foolishness, his choice was either to GO OUT OF HIS WAY to be even-handed, OR to deliberately ignite just the sort of firestorm we are seeing, in the middle of an election year, in the middle of a war.

Clarke is not stupid. He knew exactly the ramifcations of his actions, and did it anyway. And I call that reprehensible.

Forgot one point above...

I guess if Clarke DID do a real even-handed look at the last ten years, well, I presume there would be no choice but to look real hard at the person(s) running that effort all that time. Now who would that be again....?

Oh. Never mind.

On third thought, maybe Clarke would have done everyone in the US, including himself, a favor by just shutting up.

Tough subject. Thank you, Andrew X and others.

I wonder, Andrew X, were the Bush campaign ads with the 9/11 backdrop were OKed as part of that bipartisan "Let's not go there" agreement? How about all that politicking on the Homeland Security Department, that we saw in the 2002 elections? Do you think Terry McAuliffe signed off on the Abraham Lincoln flight-suit costume show? Bipartisanship is when we bend over. No thanks.

I also find it curious that the White House big guns are concentrating mostly on rather scurrilous remarks about Clarke's book campaign (if the WH objected to Zell Miller's book, I missed it); so far any fact asserted by Clarke that the WH has seen fit to dispute, they've later caved on. (Case in point: did Bush meet Clarke on 9/12.) [link]

Oddly enough, Andrew X, Clarke apologized for the inadequacies of his performance in office. He did look real hard at himself. (It must be said, there were also successes in those ten years.) The persons who insist they are always right are your side, including Clarke's bosses. When last seen, Condi Rice was saying it was all Al Qaeda's fault. Would you respect a burglar alarm company whose alarm didn't work, and which then squelched your demands for an investigation with "It was all the burglar's fault"?

Actually, what I don't respect is asinine arguments like this, which have no relation to the situation. The alarm worked fine - the response was lacking for years and years and years.

Bush and co. thought the proposed "whack a mole" strategy was dumb, and ineffective, and still do. Clarke, who had 8 years to do something and could not even muster a "whack a mole strategy," let alone anything more comprehensive and effective, disagrees. And I'm supposed to care.

Would you respect a burglar alarm company whose alarm didn't work, and which then squelched your demands for an investigation with "It was all the burglar's fault"?

If Clarke had spent half the effort ripping Bill Clinton's anti-terrorism strategy back in 1999 as he has just spent now, in 2004, we might have had a chance to avoid about 3,000 dead people. If there's an alarm that didn't go off here, it's Clarke.

And while I'm at it.... for people like Andrew who opposed the invasion of Iraq to pretend that they would have done anything but oppose forceful action in Afghanistan before Sept. 2001 is beyond preposterous. Let's get real - if Bush had walked into office, immediately ordered an invasion of Afghanistan, and mobilized within the first 9 months to take out al-Qaeda - or even started a program of assassinations against Al-Qaeda leaders - Andrew would be here in this forum condemning him for provoking 9/11.

Your infexible hatred for George Bush is getting boring, Andrew. I'll tell you what I fault George W. Biush for... his dumb policy of not firing people. Clarke should have been out on his ass and the locks changed before midnight on Sept. 11, 2001 - and Bush is now paying a heavy price for not doing the obvious thing.

Great post, Joe.

Question, how can some be so sure (we know they're not, but let's just pretend) that 9/11 occurred because of lack of action on the part of Clinton, but not Bush, when the counterterrorism chief for both is saying that this is not the case? That in fact, the opposite is true?

His credibility was a-ok as long as he was towing the administration's line, but as soon as he wasn't, he's not credible?

Are you guys idiots or what?

Even as recently as this week, Condi Rice was saying she kept Clarke because he was fine. But then of course, she's sprouting so many inconsistencies nowadays, I guess we're obligated to pick and choose what matches our pre-conceived worldview (in case you're in doubt about what this is: Bush is right, the rest of the world is wrong). Lame-O.

Marshall says: It's about what happened -- finding out what happened. One side wants to find out; the other doesn't. This whole story turns on that simple fact. Why else try to destroy Clark unless what he has to say is profoundly damaging? Liars are usually easily discredited; it's the truth-tellers who need to be destroyed.

Marshall accidently points to the very core of the issue of not just why 9/11 occurred and what happened (which should really be what did not happen to prevent it) and that is we are in the midst of a war of ideas, with partisan sides who want control of the decision making just as much as they want to address the war on terror (of which this investigation being just a tiny part). And as has most in this war, Marshall has defined his foxhole, dug in and is now shooting at the enemy. Has "no stake in Richard Clarke", my eye. He is overjoyed at the site of these reinforcements that have marched to support HIS side that wants to find out and which will help to attack the OTHER side which does not.

As anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see, there are several other reasons why people would want to destroy Clarke's proclamations. One could be that he is poisoning the investigation to such an egregious degree with his obvious distortions, finger pointing and breast beating that torture on a par with The Passion would not be sufficient for him, particularly if otherwise he might become the liar that isn't usually discredited. Oh yeah, and Clarke's approach is not the way to contribute to a factual discussion of what went wrong in preventing 9/11. On the other hand, if it is the Bush administration's reputation (Bush and all his major players) that is destroyed, as Marshall would love to see, what does that tell you about his, "...it's the truth-tellers who need to be destroyed."

Looking for someone who doesn't want to find out, Marshall? Look in the mirror.

Armed Liberal just wants a level headed look at what happened so we can make corrections. I would, too, but ponies aside, the real reality is that we have already identified the overall cause for 9/11 -- complacency and to some extent weariness. We were slogging into the sunset of cold war, and had only an interest in a little celebration and a long deserved rest. Just about anyone who said a war was brewing behind us was going to be dismissed.

Most of the bigger folk in the family of civilization took a nap even while some of our remote cousins were being sacked and others on the periphery under siege. Occasionally, some of the more immediate family would be stung by a pebble slung by the gathering menace. Being the Goliath in the family that we are, we were not particularly bothered by the pebbles that hit us. Our response to these little stings were the half-awake grunts. Now a stone has struck and we woke up to see not one little pest but a still growing army gathered, most still slinging pebbles, many using stones, a some picking up rocks and a couple in the misty distance rolling boulders into range.

As expected, advice on where the breech is and which front is experiencing the greatest pressure is coming from many in our family as well as advice on which size stone we should throw and where. While trying to decide, we have others in the family suggesting negotiation, and still others warning there are some from the enemy camp hiding in our midst. And the black sheeps of the family are wheeling and dealing to profit on both sides.

I do not know if the projectiles we threw in Afghanistan were the right size or whether it was right to throw so them in Iraq before throwing a lot more in Afghanistan. I am not even sure how many more or the sizes to throw in either in the future. All of this is acting at a snail's pace while kibitzing at light speed and all the while the barrages from their side are still coming. I do know right now, every stone we throw is a good one and we shouldn't complain if it killed some of enemy, they are all furious at us anyway and working to do their worst. And I do not care if some of our stones miss their mark so long as enemy has to react to them. What I do want is three things to happen which will correct the mistakes that allowed 9/11 to happen -- the first is to shout "Surrender or die!" to the enemy, then turn to the family and yell, "Lead, follow or get out of the way!" and finally to run, not walk, as fast as we can to their catapults before they can load the boulders, being sure to exterminate all the enemy we find on our way. And let's be clear, the enemy attacking our cousins from our father's side and the enemy attacking our cousins from our mother's side are all the same enemy so let's make that clear to them that is what we think. Anything less than that is complacency and a FAILURE. Now do you want names and do you need specific instructions?

Lazarus, No one -

If you look at my post above, there is no implication that the Bush administration does not hold any responsibility at all for 9/11. I can prove the Bush administration dropped the ball.... the towers are gone.

I simply repeat that it is patently absurd to tell me that the fact that the Clinton people "held a lot more meetings on terrorism than Bush people" means that they are off the hook, which is basically what Clarke says in his book and on 60 Minutes. The fact that they "held meetings" as opposed to taking painful decisions and taking action (cruise missiles don't qualify) IS the problem. And I can prove the Clinton administration dropped the ball... Al Queda has been around for 10 years.... and the towers are gone.

My point is that eight years of "meetings" vs. eight months in office for Bush tells me that if you do not clearly say that there is plenty of blame to go around, then you are partisan axe-grinding. You will note the White House / GOP have assiduously avoided pointing fingers at 1992-2000. Well, guess that's no more. Clarke and Co wanted to pry this lid open, it's open. Now it's up for grabs, the whole smack. All of that would have been best handled quietly and judiciously... Clarke and allies blew that to pieces. So now we'll see.

As for that burglar, it's not the alarm company I would be mad at... it's the eight year in office police chief who sat on his ass watching that burglar fill a wharehouse with stolen goods, did nothing to stop him, left office for eight months, and then claimed that the fact that I got ripped off by him has absolutely nothing to do with him, only the new guy. (In fairness, Clinton is not saying anything, but Democrats are.)

9/11 was fate, much like Pearl Harbor. America needs a 2 × 4 across the skull to wake up to world realities on occasion. Many apparently need more than that.

Given 8 years vs. 8 months, saying "one side is clear on this, the other is at fault" is asinine, irresponsible, and insulting to all of our intelligence. Clarke has done just that, and it's reprehensible.

Damn it, here it takes forever to write my comment and the first specific name and instruction already needs to be issued. Even this lag in response time could be defined as a failure. Be that as it may:

Name: Abdul Aziz Rantissi

Instruction: Place his lopped off head on a pike and to save time in retracing these steps again the same goes for all those two tiers down from Rantissi. (95% vaporizing is an acceptable alternative but collection of 5% residue required for identification purposes.) First to achieve the goal to receive 10 unspecified kudos. Least active in the competition gets ten 'ah shit' certificates. (BTW, 9 ah shits mean trouble)

Constraints: None

Other Considerations: None

Estimated Time to Complete: 48 hours

Notes: Support requests to be directed to D. Rumsfeld

To: Sharon, Arafat, Mubarak
BC: Rumsfeld w/note to use his discretion if not achieved by ETC.
Powell w/note to announce desire for new PLO dialogue partner 2 days from now and send grats to Sharon with unspecifieds transmitted under separate cover.

To which I'll add: The notion that a new administration (of any variety) could walk into office, following an election that went to the Supreme Court, and within 8 months of taking office (Inaugural Address Jan. 20, 2001) launch meaningful action against al-Qaeda that would substantially injure it given the realities of transitions, required planning cycles, and the pace of institutional change in the real world absent a major threat or wake-up - sorry, that's ludicrous.

In 8 years in office, yeah, you really are able to do something despite these issues. In 8 months? That's idiotic. If 9/11/01 had been 9/11/02, my opinion would change. But is just silly.

Clarke has a credibility problem with me because (a) he achieved nothing in over 8 years, and never had a strategy of his own; (b) he doesn't seem to acknowledge the obvious time constraint above for the new administration; and © his own statements are themselves deeply inconsistent, as more than a few people have documented.

To which I'll add: this whole debate is especially full of crap in light of the very real constraints that "mainstream consensus" created pre 9/11:

[1] Assassinations are not permitted
2 Unwillingness to undertake major military actions

So, you can't assassinate al-Qaeda, and proposing military action in Afghanistan to depose the Taliban would get one branded as a loony (even after 9/11, remember the chorus of inevitable doom? I do). The Arab states, Pakistan, et. al. certainly aren't about to cooperate (vid. Khobar Towers). And political correctness is still badly in the way in 2004 - imagine it pre-9/11.

And America was supposed to do what, exactly?

Here's the reality I see...

Major action before 9/11 was deeply unlikely. A smarter polity should have seen the writing on the wall and acted. Some people did understand, but in general this does not describe America before 9/11 and it's not clear that this describes Richard Clarke either.

Only sustained leadership over years could have changed this, and replaced it with a will to act on the scale required... and Bush did not have that opportunity before 9/11. Clinton did, but he regarded foreign policy as an inconvenience and anyway he lacked both the will and the leadership stature to carry this off in the absence of a 9/11 event (absent 9/11, Bush also lacked requirement #2). Even minor action was dawdled over and shelved, routinely... and by 2001, it was too late for minor actions.

So, essentially, y'all were fooked. As a polity you were weak-willed, and visionless ("end of history" anyone?), and asleep/dreaming (don't recall Bush running on an 'eliminate terrorism' platform in 2000, don't recall Gore mentioning it either), and the wake up call hurt.

Want someone to blame? If you're American, the mirror is over there.

Right now in 2004, however, I do blame Clarke - for all the reasons advanced by earlier posters. This is a man who should know better, and given an opportunity to make a real contribution he's totally screwing it up (again).

I also blame the Democrats for playing politics with this one the way they have. A.L. can say "a pox on both their houses," but I don't see it that evenly. National security is a legitimate election issue, and 9/11 was a transformational event. I expect BOTH parties to be running on those issues, and using the event itself as an anchor point. But the memo A.L. describes goes far beyond that, and so does this joke of a hearing process. This is blind partisanship at the expense of country in wartime, and founded of B.S. to boot.

If the Commission was raking Bush for his cosy relaitonship with the Saudis, and looking into the reasons key Saudi figures were allowed to leave the country unmolested after 9/11, while kicking Clinton for his lack of leadership, I'd be cheering from the sidelines.

This is way, way short of that. It's a travesty and an embarassment.

More logs for the fire, but first:

1. It is likely that Bush 43 and team did not move as quickly as they should have. They claim they were building a plan, I have no reason at this time to doubt this, but I suspect their prioritization.

2. I also believe, based somewhat on the letters below, that the Clinton team did not hand them a plan - certainly not in the post 9-11 sense.

3. Check out C-Span for Jamie Gorelick's tour on Washington Journal for a fairly sane appraisal of the 911 commision (so far) from someone slightly left of center (there are organic failures in the structure of government and Clarke is a symtom - not a cure)

The following blasts from Rep Christopher Shays show Clarke as a narrow minded, possibly malfeasant bureaucrat. They are three letters, one to Clarke, one to Condy Rice, and finally one to the 911 commission. The one to Dr Rice shows Shays to be well ahead of the curve in describing the need for something like a DOHS. It also shows that the Bush WH was served pretty concise notice in Jan 2001 of what they facing from the religious fascists for that matter too.

Shays Letters

Found via VodkaPundit

Jul 26, 2000 - "Witnesses persuasively expressed the view that the current US government organization to counter terrorism is flawed"

The bottom line for me is that our government is naturally slow, and frankly, I think we have purposely designed it to be that way. I am a Bush fan, but more because of how he has grown in the office, than because of a blind belief in him.

Joe Katzman;

Please, your shrill comments are making my ears ring.

Are you and A.L. on the same page, here? Isn't he calling for a more civil tone in our discussions about the war in Iraq? Perhaps you might want to start here on your own blog.

Gabriel:

"Intellectually dishonest"?

"It would be nice to have a more objective test to filter out and discard rapidly from further consideration (or waste of intellectual energy) this type of thinking."

Interesting that you should choose to express outrage rather than respond to my argument. Perhaps you could look into fascist history to get some ideas about the "more objective test" you seek to suppress the opinions you don't agree with or somehow find offensive.

I stand by my statement that it is a Pro-Bush Pro-Iraq war fantasy that the blame for 9/11 falls on Clinton for his alleged effete or ineffective response to global terrorism. 9/11 is not evidence for this, it is only evidence for Bush's incompetence. It happened on his watch. He didn't take Al Qaeda seriously. He was worried about stem cells and Saddam. He dropped the ball. And he's not even man enough to admit it (nor is anyone in his administration). If we want to get to the bottom of what went wrong we must start facing facts and admitting mistakes. Bush won't do that. Ipso facto we'll never get to the bottom of this as long as he's president and is spending all his efforts opposing every effort to do so.

You either want to know what happened, or you support Bush. What side are you on?

VT -

You are either with us, or you are ... huh?

SAO -

Hang on.
It's more than a little sad to see my fellow Democrats implying that Bush should have made preemptive war on Afghanistan.

- by bribing, converting, or killing them-

But then again, when I see murderous lunacy like this on the other side, it makes cynical jerks like Marshall seem all too attractive.
Hold the phone, to quote Shrek. Are you taking a serious position that we should not have invaded Afghanistan? We should have left OBL and his hireling government in place?

And if so, done exactly what in response to 9/11??

A.L.

Hey, V.T. - let me share a clue with you. When you say nonsense like this:
Perhaps you could look into fascist history to get some ideas about the "more objective test" you seek to suppress the opinions you don't agree with or somehow find offensive.
it devalues the other, possibly more-sensible things you might say. Disagreement - even disparagement - is not supression. This isn't kindergarden, and to participate in these - very serious - debates, you need to get past the idea that because someone argues wiht you they are somehow supressing you. You have no Constitutional right to have anyone agree with you. Get past that, please, and I think our discussions will go a lot better.

Substantive response to follow.

A.L.

"Substantive response to follow."

Donlt bother, he'll just dismiss it as shrill. Easier than arguing with it... and you've seen his standard of rationality:

"...9/11 is not evidence for this, it is only evidence for Bush's incompetence..."

Uh huh. Don't feed the troll.

I think anyone that watched the actual testimony would agree that the democrats are behaving the worst in this instance, at least. Holding up a copy of Clarke's book was unbearably sleazy in my estimation, and when Bob Kerry came out of the classified session and sneered at the adminstrations' plan and openly stated how wrong he felt it was...........
I held clearances and worked for a defense contractor during the 90's, and my co-workers and I were often frustrated with what we percieved as a cultural failure of the Clinton adminstration. Clinton was a liberal multinationalist, and he was mad for treaties, especially during and after the impeachment, when he was looking desperately for the big treaty score that would change his standing in the history books.
Condi simply cannot testify outside of "the tempest tent" and it makes me furious the way democrats imply that she is ducking public testimony by crying classified.
In my opinion there was a single point failure that caused us not to know about 911. You don't need a clearance to understand this, it is all open source.

data point 1. Post 911, the FBI and CIA advertised for arabic language speakers on public radio.

data point 2. George Tenant said in his testimony last month that given the five fold increase in covert operations spending (since Bush took office) we were nearly back to the level of 1990 humint collection.

Figure it out-- it wasn't about bad intel, or poorly connected intel, it was about no intel, or least no useful intel. That's what they're talking about in the classified session, and the democrats cynically believe that they can use this for political advantage.

Why does the media constantly present the Iraq situation as a failure? I see it as a huge success. Why hasn't anyone mentioned that a society closed and isolated for hundreds of years is actually making progess towards democracy? The Qu'run is their education, government, music, art, literature, justice, language and religion. Muslims learn to read and write through the Qu'run. I am astonished at the progress the coalition has made. Why don't we hear anything about this?

I'll tell you what I fault George W. Biush for... his dumb policy of not firing people.

But Joe, George Bush does fire people. He fires them for telling the truth.

Larry Lindsey estimated the Iraq War would cost between $100Bn and $200Bn at a time the Administration was saying maybe a quarter of that. Andrew Natsios, of USAID, said that the reconstruction, although not military, component would cost the American taxpayer $1.7Bn, that is not a typo. Natsios still has his job. Lindsey, however, was told he had decided to spend more time with his family.

Paul O'Neill made some mistakes telling it like it is on the deficit and the tax cut. He doesn't work for Bush any more either.

Gen. Shinseki, you'll recall, said we needed at least 200K troops in Iraq. As far as the conquest of Baghdad, that was high. As far as the occupation, it looks pretty sensible. He was forced out.

Gen. Zinni, he too didn't follow the Middle East party line. So much for his career.

Now, how about the clowns who bought every single lie of convicted con man Ahmad Chalabi (who incredibly still is on our payroll)? The unintelligence analysts who made mistakes you liked about WMD and nuclear programs? Still working. Why not? They didn't know their heads from their asses, but they were loyal to the Bush re-election program, and that's the only thing that matters.

Perhaps the reason Clarke, whom you recall worked not just for Clinton but for Bush41 and Reagan, couldn't be fired after 9/11 is that there simply wasn't anyone else with any expertise in non-state terrorism. But you're right, because Clarke was telling the truth that the most urgent threat to American security came from transnational terror groups and not from Iraq, and for a truth like that he, too, deserved to be fired.

I realize it's your blog, but your blinkered refusal to recognize that the gross incompetence of this Administration begins at the top is also pretty tiresome.

[Aside: if the Democrats had known how to read Republican memos, what do you think we would have found?]

[1] You have a point re: Lindsey. Can't comment on Natsios without know what he had access to for info., but that's pretty self-evidently way off base and if he should have known better, that ought to carry consequences.

[2] Shinseki... we'll see. So far, it's taking less than 200K, and violence is dropping. I would like more reserves available, but that story isn't fully written yet. He may yet be proven right - or wrong.

[3] O'Neill was fired becuase he made the markets nervous, when his job was supposed to involve calming them. I liked the guy, actually, but Wall St. wanted his head and if you're in that job, they'll get it.

[4] Too bad "Underperformin' Norman" Mineta didn't have an outside constituency like that to push him off the plank long ago. Another poor retention decision by W.

[5] There were others besides Clarke with expertise re: trans-national terror, of course. Including some Democrats. And if the threat was so damn important, why had he presided over a do-nothing approach for so many years? Sorry, keeping him on was inexcusable. Bad move W.

[6] Given the consistent inconsistencies between Clarke's previous statements, his book, and his current stsements, "honesty" is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Clarke. A charitable term might be "confused".

Andrew J. Lazarus,

America and its allies have over 300,000 troops in Iraq. 50% above Shinski's reccomendation. The fact that 200,000 are Iraqi is even better.

Joe, I don't think it's fair to dismiss Clarke as doing nothing. Here's the Weekly Standard:
-----
When events finally impelled the Clinton administration to take a hard look at offensive operations, the push to pursue them came from the civilians of the National Security Council’s Counterterrorism and Security Group.

One of the hardest of the hard-liners was the group’s chief, Dick Clarke. For nearly a decade, this career civil servant began and ended his work day with the burgeoning terrorist threat to America. He knew in detail the danger the bin Ladens of the world posed, and it worried him greatly. Defensive measures were just not enough. “Clarke’s philosophy was to go get the terrorists,” one former senior Pentagon special operations official told me, “Go get them anywhere you can.”

Asked if that meant using SOF, he replied: “Oh yeah. In fact, many of the options were with special mission units.” But “Dick Clarke was attempting to take on a Pentagon hierarchy that wasn’t of the same philosophical mindset.”

Clarke was not alone. Mike Sheehan also pushed for assisting the Northern Alliance and striking al Qaeda with SOF. Such measures worried the senior brass, who proceeded to weaken those officials by treating them as pariahs. That meant portraying them as cowboys, who proposed reckless military operations that would get American soldiers killed.

Sheehan explained: Suppose one civilian starts beating the drum for special operations. The establishment “systematically starts to undermine you. They would say, ‘He’s a rogue, he’s uncooperative, he’s out of control, he’s stupid, he makes bad choices.’ It’s very damaging. . . .You get to the point where you don’t even raise issues like that. If someone did, like me or Clarke, we were labeled cowboys, way outside our area of competence.”

Several officials who served on the Joint Staff and in the Pentagon’s special operations office remembered the senior brass characterizing Clarke in such terms. “Anything Dick Clarke suggested, the Joint Staff was going to be negative about,” said one. Some generals had been vitriolic, calling Clarke “a madman, out of control, power hungry, wanted to be a hero, all that kind of stuff.” In fact, one of these former officials emphasized, “when we would carry back from the counterterrorism group one of those SOF counterterrorism proposals, our job was to figure out not how to execute it, but how we were going to say no.”
-----
That's the Shultz article from January, which you've probably already read.

I don't think we even have 200,000 Iraqis under arms, M. Simon, and their reliability is highly suspect.

In retrospect, I should have mentioned that Bush did fire the head of the INS (under its new name) after two dead 9/11 hijackers were notified their visas had been renewed.

Clarke's sworn testimony looks rock solid compared to the randomized inconsistent responses from the Administration. He was the most senior member of the Administration with any interest in non-state terrorism. We have many uncontested quotes that Rice and Wolfowitz couldn't conceive of Al Qaeda acting without rogue state (presumptively Iraqi) support.

Andrew - amusingly enough, you set out exactly the real distinction in policy that's at issue:
We have many uncontested quotes that Rice and Wolfowitz couldn't conceive of Al Qaeda acting without rogue state (presumptively Iraqi) support.
That's exactly the policy difference between the two camps; one sees AQ and others acting sui generis, and the other sees them as supported and to some extent guided by state actors.

That's my criticism of Clinton's terrorism policy in a nutshell.

And, Andrew, you've really fallen into the deep and of the pool if you're claiming here that Clarke is a 'disinterested expert'. What I've read of him and his current work is spinning so fast I'm dizzy.

But, based on the tone of your most recent comments, it sounds like you've already made up your mind, which is too bad; there's an interesting and meaningful debate to have here if we can all get past 'Tastes Good!!' and 'Less Filling!'.

A.L.

"I'll tell you what I fault George W. Biush for... his dumb policy of not firing people. Clarke should have been out on his ass and the locks changed before midnight on Sept. 11, 2001 - and Bush is now paying a heavy price for not doing the obvious thing."

Right on. This is the biggest problem that Bush has, IMO. Tenet should have been gone, Mineta should have been gone, Clarke should have been gone, immediately after 911, if not before.

And Clarke pretends that apologizing to the American people on behalf of himself (and the administration, which he had no right to do--that was simply grandstanding) is accountability. That's Clinton-think, in which all that need be done is to apologize, or take responsibility, and then go forth and sin some more (e.g., Janet Reno after Waco).

If Clarke had been canned after 911, if Bush loses the election, that will be accountability--apologies are just a meaningless obeisance to out current goo goo victim culture (in which mass murderers must also be immediately forgiven, even by people who they haven't directly harmed, even when there's no contrition). It's all a form of cheap grace.

Finally, AL, with respect to Clarke's "non-partisanship." As Mickey Kaus points out, like many with Dem leanings, Clarke clearly registered as a Republican in Virginia for the primary (pun intended) purpose of voting for McCain, so he voted against Bush twice in the same year.

A.L.

I apologize if my comment on fascism offended you, Gabriel, or others. You're right, it was inappropriate.

You then say:

"Disagreement - even disparagement - is not supression.

To which I wholeheartedly agree. But this was his response to my original post (which I considered to be a valid but certainly provocative criticism):

"It would be nice to have a more objective test to filter out and discard rapidly from further consideration ... this type of thinking."

Now perhaps I'm wrong here, but this sounds an awful lot like Mr. Gonzalez is calling for censoring or even supressing "this type of thinking"? My mistake, which I admit, was in reducing this opinion to shorthand by invoking the charged term "fascism". But still, it would be nice if Mr. Gonzalez had something substantive to say himself regarding this.

In fact, you failed to include the first line of my post which sums this up nicely:

"Interesting that you should choose to express outrage rather than respond to my argument. "

If you boys are trying to run a site where folks can come for a civil discourse on issues we disagree (and this is why I come here, BTW, not to troll) then perhaps the other guys who run the blog with you could at least try to keep it civil themselves or keep to the topic of discussion. I sense that some here become impatient or frustrated that they cannot get others to agree with their view. I am guilty of this myself, but I don't run the blog, either.

No, I don't have a right to have anyone agree with me, nor do I have any right to have my posts responded to at all or even in a civil manner. I've been posting to blogs long enough to know that responses come in all shapes and sizes.

But you are making a big deal about having a "civil discourse" on this site. For the most part I think I am being civil, but I'm also cognizant of the fact that tone can become distorted over the internet. I'm sorry you find my posts occassionally provocative, but no one has a constitutional right not to be provoked, either.

And VT, I do owe you a substantive response; I'm scrambling in the real world today but will sit down and get something up today or tonight.

A.L.

And Clarke pretends that apologizing to the American people on behalf of himself (and the administration, which he had no right to do--that was simply grandstanding) is accountability. That's Clinton-think, in which all that need be done is to apologize, or take responsibility, and then go forth and sin some more (e.g., Janet Reno after Waco).

Hmm. Waco came just a three months after Clinton was inaugurated. I thought the rule was anything bad that happened before October was the responsibility of the outgoing Administration.

More seriously: Condi Rice reiterated yesterday that if she had it to do over again, she wouldn't do anything different. That's from the Administration whose Attorney General had quietly stopped taking commercial flights. Leave Clarke out of this for a moment: can you give an example of anyone in the Republican circles of the Administration taking responsibility for ANYTHING that's gone wrong over the last three years?

The deficit, which even after 9/11 Bush said would be small and short-lived?

The unemployment rate? Cheney says that if the Democrats had their tax plan, we wouldn't have had the job growth of this Administration. How true. We have lost 2 million jobs and Bush/Cheney will be the first Administration since Hoover to finish minus, refuting all the optimistic projections they have issued quarterly.

The unexpected expense and duration of the American occupation in Iraq? We haven't even cut convicted swindler Ahmad Chalabi, who suckered us completely, off the US payroll.

The failure of our intelligence services to evaluate Iraqi WMD? (Bush: "What's the difference.")

It's not just that you are defending these idiots against Democrats who you feel would do worse (after all, surrender to Osama would be Job 1). It's that you sincerely agree with this Administration that it's infallible. And that, going back, is why Clarke must be silenced. He says the Emperor has no clothes. If the Emperor had clothes, Clarke would merely look stupid. But lo and behold, everyone is noticing that, indeed, he doesn't.

A.L. I have a pony you can borrow, anytime :-)

Hmm. Waco came just a three months after Clinton was inaugurated. I thought the rule was anything bad that happened before October was the responsibility of the outgoing Administration.

No, that's not the rule, sorry. You're comparing a lack of knowledge about a potential terrorist event to an act of commission by a sitting Attorney General. Or are you saying that Janet Reno did not, in fact, make the decision to send in the ATF and FBI with tanks?

Quote from Hal.. poster # 1

"Or b) a party that was ignoring the obvious, obsessed with a conspiracy theory regarding Iraq, used 9/11 as a political tool, and threw away lives, treasure, time and diplomatic capital pursuing the wrong thing at the wrong time."

Um Bill?

You sound like a times article.
Do you have a real opinion or is it just a fetish with scissors? Baaaaaa.

I don't think he'll pick up on that one.. but worth a shot.

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