Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 Commission turned into a political ping
pong match, with John Lehman, former secretary of the navy, insisting that Clarke
has a "real credibility problem."
I read Clarke's book while traveling the past couple of days, and found it
anything but a liberal tract. Clarke comes across as a principled conservative
with special expertise. He clearly feels that his expertise was respected by
Bill Clinton, who made him a cabinet official and took an intellectual interest
in the nature of terrorism. And he clearly feels that George W. Bush lacks that
intellectual curiosity, and surrounded himself with anti-Iraq hawks who simply
did not understand asymmetrical organizations and the threat they posed. As
a result, Bush and the people around him demoted Clarke from the cabinet and
paid no attention to his suggestion that the administration go to 'battle stations'
as a result of the increased chatter in summer of 2001.
That Clarke, while in office, tried to put a positive face on the Bush administration,
in which he was serving, does not detract from the credibility of his memoir,
Against all Enemies. Only the most naive observer could fail to be able
to distinguish between the discourse of a public servant and that of a private
citizen released from such duties, and now able to speak his mind. Washington
rhetoric is often so simple-minded that it is insulting to those of us west
of the Potomac, as if we are little children who will swallow any tall tale
Clarke's integrity in standing against the Neocons' and Rumsfeld's outrageous
politicization of intelligence and peddling of false charges that Saddam was
behind 9/11 or in cahoots with al-Qaeda more generally, is extremely admirable.
But, clearly, he was reduced to a second or third tier player, and could not
counteract the enormous influence of Feith, Hannah, Libby, and others, who worked
through Cheney to get up a phoney case against Iraq.
Clarke was rumored to have been personally targeted for assassination by al-Qaeda
before 9/11, and served honorably in the fight against that organization at
a time when most high US government officials had no idea what al-Qaeda was.
To have his "credibility" now challenged on partisan political grounds, when
his book is anything but partisan, is shameful.
John Lehman, by the way, is the one with credibility problems. He
tried to blame the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 at Aden on a failure
of the CIA and the State Department, and alleged that an anti-US and anti-Israel
state was behind it (read: Iraq). In fact, the USS Cole bombing was a purely
al-Qaeda affair in which Iraq was in no way involved. And, as Clarke explains,
it happened in part because the Navy decided to start refueling at Aden without
passing the plan by any of the civilian counter-terrorism officials, including
brother, Chris, served in Douglas Feith's Office of Special Programs, which
cherry-picked intelligence so as to manufacture huge Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction
Programs and extensive collaboration with al-Qaeda, both of them fantasies.
Lehmann and his brother Chris have been wrong all along the way in downplaying
al-Qaeda and foregrounding Saddam. That is why he has to now smear Clarke, who
has simply told it like it was.
If you read the preface to Clarke's book carefully, you'll see that he predicted
the smear campaign against him. Indeed, the word "enemies" in the title of his
book refers to the way the Bushies treat anyone who doesn't get with their program.
For more on the anti-Clarke campaign see the always sharp and canny commentary
of Josh Marshall at Talking Points