Sunday, September 24, 2006
As every newshound in America knows, Bill Clinton flew off the handle at Chris Wallace, the Foxy demon spawn of liberal icon Mike Wallace, who was apparently impertinent in asking why Clinton didn't "connect the dots" and put al Qaeda out of business. (See round-ups at Dr. Sanity and Michelle Malkin, among the many righty bloggers with useful linkage.) Clinton's response, complete with "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" finger-pointing, included a claim that he had done more than any other president to capture bin Laden, and that we should all consult Richard Clarke if we doubt him.
Well, Byron York has done just that, pouring through Clarke's self-important screed Against All Enemies to show that Clinton may want to think twice about citing Clarke as a reference.
I, too, have suffered through Against All Enemies -- some sections more than once -- and have a few observations York might have made if he had written a rambling blog post rather than a tightly-argued column.
First, Clarke's insistent theme is that the national security establishment, particularly the CIA and the FBI but also the State Department and the uniformed military, resisted and stymied Clinton's various directives to go after Bin Laden. This is surely true to some great degree. In this regard, Clinton should (and may) have some sympathy for his successor. It will be interesting to see whether in retirement George W. Bush also takes refuge behind the excuse -- valid as it may be -- of bureaucratic obstruction.
Second, I wonder how much of the bureaucratic opposition to the Clinton's directives regarding bin Laden reflected a concern by operatives and their agents that the very heavily lawyered-up and legalistic Clintonites would turn on them at the first light of publicity. Supposedly, many of these same people worry that they will face prosecution if the Democrats get the White House back in 2008. Perhaps there is a basis for this concern rooted in their experience with the Clinton administration.
Third, there is another bit in Clarke's book that bears mentioning: Clinton and his "Principals" group resisted bombing Afghanistan because Iraq was a higher priority:
On these three occasions and during the presentations of the PolMil Plan, I tried to make the case to the Principals that we should strike at known al Qaeda camps whether or not bin Laden was in them. "I know that you don't want to blow up al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan trying to get bin Laden only to have the bastard sow up the next day at a press conference saying how feckless we are. So don't say we were trying to get bin Laden; say we were trying to destroy the camps. If we get him, so much the better."
The response I received from all the other members of the Principals usually went along the lines of: "So we spend millions of dollars' worth of cruise missles and bombs blowing up a buck fifty's worth of jungle gyms and mud huts again?" Sometimes I heard, "Look, we are bombing Iraq every week. We may have to bomb Serbia. European, Russian, Islamic press are already calling us the Mad Bomber. You want to bomb a third country?"....
It was ironic that people had once worried whether Bill Clinton would use force and now there was criticism that he was using it too much. In the Islamic world, there was criticism that Clinton was still bombing Iraq.... (AAE, p. 201 - 202, bold emphasis added)
The allegedly distracting qualities of Iraq have plagued more than one administration, it seems.
Fourth, Byron York mentions the decision not to bomb Afghanistan after the bombing of the Cole in 2000, a choice that outraged Richard Clarke. York quotes Clarke's account of a conversation with Michael Sheehan, a State Department terrorism expert:
"What's it gonna take, Dick?" Sheehan demanded. "Who the shit do they think attacked the Cole, fucking Martians? The Pentagon brass won't let Delta go get bin Laden. Hell, they won't even let the Air Force carpet bomb the place. Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?"
Er, yes. York's argument, true as it goes, is that a decisive presidential order would have done the job. That may have been one of the problems -- perhaps the Clinton White House needed a bit more hierarchy and a bit less discussion, just as the Bush White House might have benefitted from the reverse -- but there was something else at work. Clinton was seduced by the ultimate Palestinian peace deal that always beckons, just out of reach:
Time was running out on the Clinton administration. There was going to be one last major national security initiative and it was going to be a final try to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. It really looked like that long-sought goal was possible. The Israeli Prime Minister had agreed to major concessions. I would have liked to have tried both, Camp David and blowing up the al Qaeda camps. Nonetheless, I understood. If we could achieve a Middle East peace much of the popular support for al Qaeda and much of the hatred for America would evaporate overnight. (AAE, p. 224)
In October 2000, Clinton was no longer constrained by political considerations. The impeachment was behind him, and he had the operational freedom of a true lame duck. Nobody could accuse him of wagging the dog in October 2000. Bill Clinton affirmatively decided against retaliating for the Cole bombing because he thought it would get in the way of peace with the Palestinian Arabs. Now this may or may not have been a good choice when made -- history has revealed that it was disastrous for Israel, the Palestinians, and possibly almost 3000 Americans -- but it was a choice nonetheless. Like the decision to avoid a prolonged campaign against al Qaeda after the embassy bombings (because Iraq was a higher priority), Clinton made a choice. I don't blame him for the fact that history strongly suggests both decisions were grievously wrong -- I believe that "all hands went to midnight" on September 11, and that everybody was caught by surprise -- but that doesn't make it any less Clinton's decision.
Finally, even a casual reading of Clarke's book reveals that it was one of the more important sources for "The Path To 9/11," the ABC miniseries that so irritated the Clintonites. For that reason and many others, I wouldn't want more people reading Clarke's book if I were Clinton.
included a claim that he had done more than any other president to capture bin Laden
He's right of course. Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and even George Washington didn't care one iota about finding bin Laden.
Clinton had 8 years to do something about bin Laden, and yet he claims Bush did less than he did - when Bush had all of eight months before 9/11 (and all those attacks prior to 9/11 occurred on Clinton's watch). Nice duck-and-weave there, Bill...
The CIA did have experiences with Clinton that may have played out the way you suggested. About 10 years ago, Cong. Robert Toricelli of New Jersey leaked info to the New York Times that said that some Guatemalans who were CIA sources may have murdered a Guatemalan guerrilla who was the common law husband of an American leftwing activist, Jennifer Harbury. A couple of CIA officers reportedly were fired and others were reprimanded; it seems it became illegal for the CIA to recruit sources who broke laws.
There's enough blame to go around, but what does Bill's action or inaction have to do with the current administration? Clinton didn't catch OBL so therefore it's OK that "we" didn't? Funny math, that.
It took 3 months for the final report to be issued confirming that Al Qaeda was behind the attack on the USS COle. The report was issued in December 2000; it was on Bush's desk when he assumed office in January 2001.
Bush did nothing to retaliate against Al Qaeda for the attack on the COle. He did nothing about terrorism for the first 9 months of its term, even demoted Clarke (who had served under Reagan, Bush 1 and clinton)
He did nothing about Al Qaeda until it attacked us on 9/11.
If you're going to fault Clinton for not "handling" the attack on the Cole, shouldn't you do the same with Bush?
Why doesn't anyone ever ask Bush about that?
If memory serves, the Clinton Administration was then going after Bob Bauer for doing his job quite well, so there was even more incentive for everyone to drag their feet and keep their little turtle heads down.
The issue is Clinton and his accolytes spend time protecting his legacy even to the extent of lying and breaking the law.
You didn't see the Bush administration kicking and screaming about the 9/11 film even though it showed up some of the principals.
If you're going to fault Clinton for not "handling" the attack on the Cole, shouldn't you do the same with Bush?
So that makes it ok that Clinton did nothing?
Clinton didn't catch OBL so therefore it's OK that "we" didn't?
Nobody argues this.
The point, which you obviously can't grasp, is that you mindless leftists continue to attack Bush on this point when Clinton did nothing.
That is the issue.
even demoted Clarke
He did nothing about Al Qaeda until it attacked us on 9/11.
Another lie. To wit:
The government moved on several fronts to counter the threats. The CIA launched "disruption operations" in 20 countries. Tenet met or phoned 20 foreign intelligence officials. Units of the 5th Fleet were redeployed. Embassies went on alert. Cheney called Crown Prince Adbullah of Saudi Arabia to ask for help. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice asked the CIA to brief Attorney General John D. Ashcroft about an "imminent" terrorist attack whose location was unknown.
No one should be surprised. This sociopath blames the Army, the CIA, the vast right wing conspiracy, everyone gets some blame except Billy Bob!
What an admission, no one had even heard of Al Queada. Well gosh sakes, I guess all the other activity came from Mars. What a hillbilly, he should be ashamed, if he could feel shame.
No will to lead!
Thank god, there are many in this country who know what 'is' is.
asking why Clinton didn't "connect the dots" and put al Qaeda out of business
Abby Hoffman asked Clinton the same questions in this secret meeting I found the transcripts for.
I would suggest that it is thee engaging in the "we" framing of the issue. I don't see robust defenses of the Bush administration here as much as a commentary on Clinton's attempt to move all blame off himself. As he has done that, it is worthy of comment.
Can we acknowledge that Wallace has a pro-Bush agenda? That'll take care of that little contextual piece.
Clinton was not "off the handle" or, as Fox's website described him, "crazed". He was angry. This seems to be o.k. when Bush does it and bad when Clinton does it? Don't ring the hypocrisy bell, folks, it tolls for thee.
Clinton offered an impassioned defense of his efforts as well as an admission of failure. He was absolutely correct in describing Clarke as a Presidential loyalist and absolutely right to explain that Clarke's bin Laden expertise was overlooked and unused by the Bush administration.
The effort to turn public attention away from George W. Bush's failures to capture bin Laden is growing. Let's focus on the guy who's actually in charge and who's been all over the place in his stance on bin Laden. From "Dead or Alive" to "I don't really spend that much time on it" to ad nauseum repetition of bin Laden's name in the recent PR push, George W. Bush looked at a PDB that read "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." and failed to connect the dots.
The big story is Bush's failure. The smokescreen is pointing at Clinton and saying, "It's Bill's fault!"
I'm with you. I was geeked since in so many who said that Clinton was violatile or "off the handle."in this interview. He wasn't. The guy was a little irritable, and maybe for good reasons. I still thought he made some decent points.
In hindsight, it is clear that Clinton handled the challenge of bin Laden extremely poorly.
He also ignored the growing pyschopathology of the Arab/Moslem street. Arafat and Saddam were
fighting their wars by inciting these people.
Bush has made a hell of a lot of mistakes too. Terrorism is a difficult problem and no one
has figured out the right way to handle it. I can forgive Clinton his mistakes. I am not sure
anyone, without the benefit of hindsight, would have done better.
What I cannot forgive are those who want to go back to the way Clinton handled terrorism.
I have lots of Democratic friends who look back at the '90s as a kind of golden era. Everything
looked rosy because we were ignoring a growing threat. Bush got stuck with the mess Clinton left.
Clinton does not personally deserve to be dragged through the mud, but people who romantize his administration
need to be reminded of how it failed.
Seeking failure? Stop living in the 90's and check out today's news:
"A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."
Now that's news.
" "A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."
Now that's news."
I'm not sure if it's news. It's more like agenda-mongering masquerading as reporting based on anonymous sources who may be mongering their own agendas. Then again, that's a lot of what passes for "news" these days.
I really don't understand why the lefties are trying to defend Clinton here. Well, scratch that, I actually do, but it's just that I was kinda hoping that they would think about it a little bit more instead of this knee-jerk reaction to tear down a strawman.
If Clinton really was trying to catch UBL, if Clinton had the forsight and the imagination to conceive of UBL as a great threat to the US, and consumate with this perception he did everything he possibly could to capture him, then it just goes to show how ill-suited legalistic means are to the war on Terror. The only defense Clinton has been able to muster for his failures is that the law prevented him from doing more. If true, this means that the GWOT cannot be relegated to a simple international law-enforcement strategy like so many in the Democratic Party believe it should, as Clinton has conclusively proven that such an approach won't work.
If, however, Clinton actually cared more about trying to fit Monica under his desk than he ever carried about some Saudi fanatic, then at least they could use the "law enforcement was never really tried" defense.
This is basically what is at stake here. It's not that Clinton is to blame for 9/11. It's that Clinton's revision of history makes it much more difficult to tell what was working, what wasn't, and what was never given a try. I honestly don't care if Clinton was asleep at the switch as almost everyone else was too. What I blame him for is his behavior now, placing his own conception of what his legacy should be above the fight against terror.
Screwy: Interestingly enough, there were more Japanese attacks against US interests after we declared war on Japan than before. Proof that FDR was a miserable failure. Of course, we've had a lot of miserable failures. Our first war was itself a failure, as after we declared independence we actually had MORE British soldiers on the continent. Oh folly, thy name is Jefferson!
So no, that is not actually "news," instead it is a completely predictable historical pattern - when you go to war, you have more people fighting against you than you did before you went to war. Fortunately there are ways to win wars that do not require obliterating the opposing force. There was only two wars where one side considered the measure of victory to be the number of remaining solders on the other side: Hannibal in the Second Punic War and the US in Vietnam. Such a myopic view of progess did not produce good results.
Today's news? How so? The Left has always blamed America for Islamist hatred. I guess you'd say that if we had invaded and occupied Afghanistan alone we would have nothing to worry about from Islamofascists?
Why does everyone assume that Clark is not himself motivated by making himself look good? After his disingenuous apology for 9/11, does anyone have any doubt what this guy is about? Clinton was great on Al Qaeda in the 90s because Clark was right there in charge of it all being great with him!
Let us remember:
President Reagan is responsible for bin Laden's opportunity to showcase himself.
Reagan and Bush 41 try to establish muslim jihad against the
Reagan and Bush 41's CIA trained and supported bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Soviets leave Afghanistan.
bin Laden tells US to leave Saudi Arabia. Clinton ignores him.
Clinton goes after bin Laden unsuccessfully.
Bush 43's policies in the summer of 2001 lead to bin laden's attack on 9/11.
Bush 43 attacks Afghanistan.
Bush 43 leaves Saudi Arabia.
Bush 43 goes after bin Laden unsuccessfully.
9/11 Commission testimony
Why didn't Bush respond to the USS Cole bombing?
"CLARKE: I suggested, beginning in January of 2001, that ... there was an open issue which should be decided about whether or not the Bush administration should retaliate for the Cole attack [which occurred in October 2000].
Unfortunately, there was no interest, no acceptance of that proposition. And I was told on a couple of occasions, "Well, you know, that happened on the Clinton administration's watch."
I didn't think it made any difference. I thought the Bush administration, now that it had the CIA saying it was al Qaeda, should have responded.
RICE: I do not believe to this day that it would have been a good thing to respond to the Cole, given the kinds of options that we were going to have. ... We really thought that the Cole incident was passed, that you didn't want to respond tit-for-tat. ...
Just responding to another attack in an insufficient way we thought would actually probably embolden the terrorists -- they had been emboldened by everything else that had been done to them -- and that the best course was to look ahead to a more aggressive strategy against them.
RICE: President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance. He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al Qaeda one attack at a time. He told me he was tired of swatting flies."
Eight months into office and he was tired of swatting flies?
An interesting perspective on the Bush administration's "failure" to stop bin Laden before 9/11 might be (unless you're Screwy and you want to excuse Clinton for having 8 years to try the law enforcement method, which was about as successful as the rhythm method of contraception, might be the head of the CIA's bin Laden unit):
Mr. Clarke, of course, was at the center of Mr. Clinton's advisers, who resolutely refused to order the CIA to kill bin Laden. In spring 1998, I briefed Mr. Clarke and senior CIA, Department of Defense and FBI officers on a plan to kidnap bin Laden. Mr. Clarke's reaction was that "it was just a thinly disguised attempt to assassinate bin Laden." I replied that if he wanted bin Laden dead, we could do the job quickly. Mr. Clarke's response was that the president did not want bin Laden assassinated, and that we had no authority to do so.
Mr. Clarke's book is also a crucial complement to the September 11 panel's failure to condemn Mr. Clinton's failure to capture or kill bin Laden on any of the eight to 10 chances afforded by CIA reporting. Mr. Clarke never mentions that President Bush had no chances to kill bin Laden before September 11 and leaves readers with the false impression that he, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, did their best to end the bin Laden threat. That trio, in my view, abetted al Qaeda, and if the September 11 families were smart they would focus on the dereliction of Dick, Bill and Sandy and not the antics of convicted September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
But Screwy, who always tells us the Bush administration's cardinal sin was "not listening to the CIA/the experts/the military" will once again give Clinton a pass for ignoring the CIA for 8 years, to the point that when a deranged whack job crash landed a Cessna on the White House lawn in the early 90's, people joked that it must be the Director of the CIA, desperate for an audience with the President of the United States... Bill Clinton.
If only talking terrorism to death were some kind of solution. What might have been.
While you all lollygag in the past, debating whether Bill Clinton is actually the worst thing since tofurkey...
"WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- On the heels of the stunning revelation that America’s intelligence community has concluded that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, the Democratic Policy Committee will hold an oversight hearing on planning and conduct of the War in Iraq TODAY, September 25, at 1:30 PM. Among those scheduled to testify are Major General John R.S. Batiste, U.S. Army (Ret.); Major General Paul D. Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.); and Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (Ret.). The Committee is holding these hearings because the Republican-controlled standing committees in Congress have failed to do meaningful oversight of the planning and conduct of the war."
"In April, President Bush received the National Intelligence Estimate, which “represents a consensus view of the 16 separate spy services inside government.” NIEs are “the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces…and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence.”
Here’s what the NIE said, according to the New York Times:
[T]he American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks…The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.
On August 21, President Bush held a press conference and told the American people the exact opposite."
Damn That Bill Clinton! He made us less safe! He lied!
my goodness. Can you imagine this?
I wonder how much we paid the pin heads who wrote that NIE paper?
I suppose its too obvious to those high paid high brow types that fighting back makes one's enemies angry.
Here's what the "screwy" types are saying:
fighting back against radical islam will only create more radical islam therefore it is futile to resist radical islam.
as I noted in an exchange with another anti victory threat denier, it seems that we should simply learn to accept random death at the hands of radical islam since there is apparently nothing we can do in response that won't make them even more angry.
what utter nonsense.
TigerHawk, may I recommend that you consider removing the option of Anonymous comments as different comments appear as coming from the same person, making it hard to be clear to which one a response is addressed.
It's campaign season and the voice of the compulsive politician is heard in the land. I'm sure that he thinks he did the Democrats a favor by attacking Fox News, but stirring the ashes of his efforts to get bin Laden is probably not going to help them with their claims to being better able to handle terrorism.
The public has already been over this ground, and I don't think most of us really want to pin all the blame on either president.
If we have to assess blame, I'd say it belongs to overlawyering, indecision, bureaucratic rivalries, inadequate intel, political correctness and politics.
The very fact that so few in the government really saw Al Qaeda as more than a peripheral nuisance tells me that the system is messed up.
Americans themselves are astonishinngly complacent about the GWOT. Everybody said that 9/11 changed us forever, but moving against Iraq, occurred in the year before an election, and it turned out that Howard Dean discovered and began mining a sizeable pocket of discontent among the remnants of the anti-Vietnam-war groups who also had lots of money. So then every Democrat in the primaries, except Lieberman, did u-turns and began yelling that they'd been tricked into supporting the war.
That was the end of the sense of solidarity post 9/11. And we're now back to the customary bitter politics of namecalling, scandal baiting and sophistries.
If I had to blame a single cause for 9/11, I'd go back to Vietnam. Almost our entire media were critics of that war, and had their same old arguments ready to go. Clinton was able to go to war in Yugoslavia because we we're doing so through NATO, and because he mostly authorized bombings, less likely to run up American casualties. The CIA and FBI had been taught that being proactive was a bad thing. Those who rocked the boat, like John O'Neill, were likely to be silenced or pushed out. That attitude of indecision, inaction and helplessness is endemic in the federal government.
That's why the Democrats' first impulse was to create a new agency and hire a bunch of new unionized employees. Bush didn't want to do that, but he finally gave in, with the result that HSA is still struggling to get its act together.
Blaming Bill Clinton himself is a distraction from the real problems. The CIA and FBI still don't like each other or share information. They're like the peacetime military when Pearl Harbor was bombed, unequipped and unwilling to really take on the fight.
Forget Clinton, forget Bush. Neither had the kind of power we think they had. They were both limited by other factors that neither could really do much about.
TigerHawk, this one is beneath you. You run a challenging, provocative, thought-provoking blog that is on my must-read list. But snark does not become you. And even if it does become you, it is not part of your skill set: when it comes to the sneering put-down, in a world of Savage, Limbaugh and Coulter, you aren't even a contender. So get back to what you are good at, and leave this for the jackals.
"fighting back against radical islam will only create more radical islam therefore it is futile to resist radical islam."
What I'm saying is that waging an unnecessary war in Iraq, promoting torture, being the largest arms seller in the world, and weaseling around the Rule of Law is not effective in fighting terrorism.
This seems simple to me. Bush is doing a horrible job, and it's time we changed course. The caterwauling about "the left" not wanting to win is absurd.
"What I'm saying is that waging an unnecessary war in Iraq, promoting torture, being the largest arms seller in the world, and weaseling around the Rule of Law is not effective in fighting terrorism."
These ideas and the way they are phrased pretty much demonstrates that you don't know shit about fighting terrorism.
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