Monday, March 22, 2004

Smoking Gun? Clarke on 60 Minutes UPDATED

The blogosphere is already aflame with analysis, spin and GOP response from Richard Clarke's appearance on 60 Minutes last night. Clarke was the 'Terrorist Czar' under Clinton and Bush(43.) He's been promoting his book, 'Against all Enemies' about the U.S. fight on terror and the Bush Administration's lack of preparation for acts of homeland terrorism, particularly 9/11. This analysis from Axis of Logic gives a good overview of where we stand at this point:

When it entered into office in January 2001, said Clarke, the entire focus of Bush's national security team was on working on old issues, such as Iraq, Star Wars, and "not on new issues, the new threats that developed over the preceding eight years". Clarke told CBS correspondent Leslie Stahl that Bush officials were "tepid" in their response, when, before September 11, he suggested to hold a meeting to discuss threats stemming from al-Qaeda. "Frankly," he added, "I find it outrageous that the president is running for reelection 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 9/11 ..." Clarke observed. However, he added: "There is a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame."

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, the focus of Bush's national security team, instead of remaining focused on attacking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, quickly turned on Iraq. Starting the first National Security Council (NSC) meeting, top Bush officials wanted to punish Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was saying, according to Clarke, that the US needed to bomb Iraq. Even when other participants of that meeting kept insisting that the focus should be on al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, Rumsfeld was saying there there were not any good targets in Afghanistan, and that there were many good targets in Iraq. Clarke said at first he that thought Rumsfeld's comment about the lack of good targets in Afghanistan was a joke. The administration wanted to believe, he told "60 Minutes", that there was a connection between September 11 and Iraq.

The most damning part of Clarke's accusation is a reported conversation that he had with the president, in which Bush said: "I want to find out whether Iraq did this." He goes on to clarify that Bush never asked him to make it up; however, he notes: "... the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this." When Clarke responded that US intelligence had investigated that issue and found no connection, Bush "came back at me and said, 'Iraq, Saddam', find out if there's a connection". Bush's tone, according to Clarke, was "very intimidating".

Emphasis added.

For the people who have followed the story this really isn't surprising. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil made similar charges in his book, 'The Price of Loyalty' and the Administration painted him the same way they're painting Clarke right now.

This has already turned into a he said/she said but if you look back to interviews and statements by The President, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld the Bush Administration has been less than truthful with the American people. If the national press do their job it will only be a matter of time before it catches up with them. But the way things have gone that's a pretty big if.

Update: Many more lies here. The Center for American Progress have done their homework. Bless 'em. Atrios showing the way, thanks.

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