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Monday, March 22, 2004

"I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism" -- Richard Clarke
The Richard Clarke 60 Minutes interview is getting very little coverage in the major newspapers (or at least their web sites). In anything close to a rational world, it would be more than enough to finish Bush off. Fortunately, the blog Sadly, No! has a transcript taken directly from the show. Here are some of the choicest lines:

CLARKE: What I said was, you know, invading Iraq or bombing Iraq after we're attacked by somebody else, it's akin to, what if Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor instead of going to war with Japan said, "Let's invade Mexico." It's very analagous.
CLARKE: Well there's a lot of blame to go around and I probably deserve some blame too. But on January 24th of 2001, I wrote a memo to Condileezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a cabinet level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack and that urgent memo wasn't acted on.

STAHL: Do you blame her for not understanding the significance of terrorism?

CLARKE: I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on the Cold War issues when they came back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back, they wanted to work on the same issues right away -- Iraq, Star Wars -- not the new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years
CLARKE: I began saying, 'We have to deal with bin Laden. We have to deal with al Qaeda.' Paul Wolfowitz the Deputy Sec'y of Defense said, 'No, no, no. We don't have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.' And I said, 'Paul, there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the Untied States in eight years,' and I turned to the Deputy Director of [the] CIA and said, 'Isn't that right?' and he said, 'Yeah, that's right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'
STAHL: Was there any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?

CLARKE: Were they cooperating? No.

STAHL: Was Iraq supporting al Qaeda?

CLARKE: No. There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda. Ever.

STAHL: You call certain people in the administration and they'll say that's still open ...

CLARKE: Yeah, well ...

STAHL ... that's an open issue.

CLARKE: Well they'll say that until Hell freezes over.
CLARKE: If you compare December 1999 [when the Clinton team apparently thwarted an al Qaeda attack on LAX] to June and July of 2001, in December '99, every day or every other day, the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, the Attorney General had to go to the White House and sit in a meeting and report on all the things that they personally had done to stop the al Qaeda attack, so they were going back every night to their departments and shaking the trees personally and finding out all the information. If that had happened in July of 2001, we might have found out in the White House, the Attorney General might have found out that there were al Qaeda operatives in the United States. FBI, at lower levels, knew -- never told me, never told the highest levels in the FBI.
CLARKE: ... When the President starts doing things that risk American lives, then loyalty to him has to be put aside, and the way he has --

STAHL: You think he risked American lives?

CLARKE: I think the way he has responded to al Qaeda, both before 9/11 by doing nothing and by what he's done after 9/11 has made us less safe. Absolutely.

STAHL: Don't you think he handled himself and hit all the right notes after 9/11, showed strength, got us through it, you don't give him credit for that?

CLARKE: He gave a really good speech right after 9/11.

STAHL: You don't give him credit for anything. Nothing.

CLARKE: I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.
CLARKE: The White House carefully manipulated public opinion, never quite lied, but gave the very strong impression that Iraq did it.

STAHL: But you're suggesting here that they knew better --

CLARKE: They did know better.

STAHL -- and it was deliberate.

CLARKE: They did know better. They did know better. We told them. The FBI told them. The CIA told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their deaths in Iraq thinking that they were avenging September 11 when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. I think for a Commander in Chief and a Vice President to allow that to happen is unconscionable.
CLARKE: He asked us after 9/11 to give him cards with pictures of the major al Qaeda leaders and tell us when they were arrested or killed so he could draw X's through their pictures, and you know, I write in the book, I have this image of George Bush sitting by a warm fireplace in the White House drawing X's through al Qaeda leaders and thinking that he's got most of them and therefore he's taken care of the problem, and while George Bush thinks he's crossing them out one by one there are all these new al Qaeda people who are being recruited who hate the United States in large measure because of what Bush has done.

STAHL (exp): {He says that the war in Iraq has not only inflamed anti-Americanism in the Arab world, it drained resources away from the fight in Afghanistan and the push to eliminate Osama bin Laden.}
STAHL: Don't you think that Iraq, the Middle East, and the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out power? That's just a widely --

CLARK: I think there --

STAHL: That's just a widely held view that

CLARKE: Leslie, I think the world would be better off if a number of leaders around the world were out of power. The question is, what price should the United States pay? The price we paid was very very high and we're still paying that price for doing it.

[Ed. comment: He's got that right! Bush and Blair are at the top of that list.]
CLARKE: Osama bin Laden had been saying for years, 'America wants to invade an Arab country and occupy it -- an oil rich Arab country. He'd been saying this. This was part of his propaganda. So what do we do after 9/11? We invade an oil rich, and occupy and oil rich Arab country which was doing nothing to threaten us. In other words, we stepped right into bin Laden's propaganda and the result of that is that al Qaeda and organizations like it, offshoots of it, second generation al Qaeda, have greatly strengthened.