Thursday, March 25, 2004

Revenge of the Chair Warmer!

It sure enough is a big honking surprise:
Are you sitting down? Another ex-government official who was fired or demoted by Bush has written a book that ... is critical of Bush! Eureka! The latest offering is Richard Clarke's new CBS-Viacom book, "Against All Enemies," which gets only a 35 on "rate a record" because the words don't make sense and you can't dance to it.

As long as we're investigating everything, how about investigating why some loser no one has ever heard of is getting so much press coverage for yet another "tell-all" book attacking the Bush administration?
Well it did have a snappy opening chapter where ole Dick tells us he was singlehandedly running the nation on 9/11. He's a regular Paul Bunyan, I guess. As for why he's getting so much press coverage, we know the answer to that one don't we, kids? I particularly liked the liplock that ole Lesley Stahl put on Dick on 60 Minutes.

Anyhow, as part of his book tour, Dick showed up before the 9/11 commission yesterday to spin a few of the yarns from his book for the crowd. The only problem is that if you're going to make up tall tales about real events, folks can check out your story.
A crucial (false) claim of Clinton defenders is that the Clinton team forged an anti-al Qaeda war plan that was then handed over to the Bush administration and ignored. In his August 2002 briefing, Clarke said, "I think the overall point is, there was no plan on al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration." His book seems to confirm that, but nowhere puts it so starkly.

In his 2002 briefing, Clarke said that the Bush administration decided in "mid-January" 2001 to continue with existing Clinton policy while deciding whether or not to pursue more aggressive ideas that had been rejected throughout the Clinton administration. Nowhere does this appear in his book.

He said in 2002 that the Bush administration had decided in principle in the spring of 2001 "to increase CIA resources . . . for covert action, five-fold, to go after al Qaeda." Nowhere is this mentioned in his book.

In 2002, Clarke emphasized that the Bush team "changed the strategy from one of rollback with al Qaeda over the course [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda." This is mentioned in his book, but - amazingly - as an afterthought.

Clarke in 2002 knocked down the idea that there was irrational animus toward the Clinton team on the part of the Bushies that blinded them to the necessity of strong counterterrorism. He offered himself, kept on as a holdover from the Clinton administration, as a refutation: "That doesn't sound like animus against the previous team to me." In his book, he suggests there was such an irrational animus.

Finally, in his 2002 briefing, Clarke made it clear that there was no "appreciable" change in U.S. terror policy from October 1998 until the Bush team began to reevaluate policy in the spring of 2001 and get more aggressive. His book implausibly argues the opposite, that Clinton was on the ball and Bush dropped it.

This is just the beginning of the contradictions and mistakes.
My favorite:
Clarke claims, for example, that in early 2001, when he told President Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about al-Qaida, her "facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before."
Sean Hannity has been playing a radio interview that Dr. Rice gave to David Newman on WJR in Detroit back in October 2000, in which she discusses al-Qaida in great detail. This was months before chair-warmer Clarke claims her "facial expression" indicated she had never heard of the terrorist organization.
As we know from Dr. Rice's radio interview describing the threat of al-Qaida back in October 2000, she certainly didn't need to be told about al-Qaida by a government time-server. No doubt Dr. Rice was staring at Clarke in astonishment as he imparted this great insight: Keep an eye on al-Qaida! We've done nothing, but you should do something about it. Tag – you're it. That look of perplexity Clarke saw was Condi thinking to herself: "Hmmm, did I demote this guy far enough?"
Which of course brings us around to the key question, "Did Dick ever do dick?" Apparently not:
For almost three decades Clarke mastered official Washington. What he didn't master was counterterrorism. His first brush with notoriety came in 1986 when, as one of the State Department's top intelligence officers, he hatched a bizarre scheme to incite a coup against Muammar Qaddafi in retaliation for the Libyan strongman's support of terrorism.

Clarke's plan called for American planes to produce a wave of sonic booms over Libyan airspace while empty rafts washed ashore--not to attack, but to create the effect of an attack, which would spur Qaddafi's enemies to move against him. The plan became public, was scrapped, and created a small scandal for the Reagan White House. Then, in 1992, Clarke's State Department career abruptly ended when the inspector general accused him of failing to stop illegal transfers of sensitive U.S. military technology to China. Clarke strongly denied the accusations but fled State and landed at the National Security Council.

Things didn't go much better there. In 1993 he oversaw Somalia policy during the American intervention, the greatest military debacle of the 1990s. Clarke was also in the middle of the botched effort to get Osama bin Laden in 1996, when the Clinton administration rejected--as The Washington Post recently revealed--a Sudanese offer to hand him over. Then, in 1998, he played a key role in the Clinton administration's misguided retaliation for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which targeted bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. Clarke reportedly steamrolled intelligence officials who doubted (correctly) the evidence linking the Sudanese factory to either bin Laden or chemical weapons.
He's a regular Rambo fer sure! At least among chair warmers:
But even as these decisions were backfiring, Clarke was demonstrating his real skill: political survival. He is the longest-serving member of the NSC. Universally described as a master of bureaucracy, he made himself indispensable to the NSC transition teams of both the Clintonites and the Bushies.

He thus became the only NSC staffer from the first Bush administration retained by Clinton, and one of the only Clinton staffers kept on by the younger Bush. "Dick Clarke is the ultimate survivor," says Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and counterterrorism official at the State Department. "He is a bureaucrat's bureaucrat. He knows how to write memos, move the paper. The guy's a master."
Too bad being a bureaucrat isn't a martial art.

But not to worry. Clarke says he wouldn't take a job in a Kerry administration. Aside from the question of why anyone would want him, he's already got his pension, his book profits and a nice little consulting business. I'm sure his pals can throw a little cash his way. We already know what he is, the only question is the price.