Balkinization  

Monday, March 22, 2004

JB

Clarke: Bush Ignored Al Qaeda, Used Iraq As Political Tool

From the Washington Post:

Although expressing points of disagreement with all four presidents [Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush that he served under], Clarke reserves by far his strongest language for George W. Bush. The president, he said, "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." The rapid shift of focus to Saddam Hussein, Clarke writes, "launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."

Among the motives for the war, Clarke argues, were the politics of the 2002 midterm election. "The crisis was manufactured, and Bush political adviser Karl Rove was telling Republicans to 'run on the war,' " Clarke writes.


And there's this:
Like former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill, who spoke out in January, Clarke said some of Bush's leading advisers arrived in office determined to make war on Iraq. Nearly all of them, he said, believed Clinton had been "overly obsessed with al Qaeda."

I think what is particularly galling is the Administration's repeated assertions that only they know how to keep America safe and that those who disagree with them are appeasers or worse. For too long the Bush Administration has gotten a pass on their efforts to combat terrorism, and the President has been praised repeatedly for exercising strong and decisive leadership in the face of the 9/11 attacks. Clarke's book argues that there were, to the contrary, serious failures of leadership both before and after 9/11. I hope this opens a real debate about whether the Administration's foreign policy really has been effective and really has helped keep America safe.



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