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No facts, only motives, in Bush World

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  • ProudLiberal7@aol.com
    No facts, only motives, in Bush World Gene Lyons Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 If nothing else, Bill Clinton definitely put the right man in charge of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2004
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      No facts, only motives, in Bush World
      Gene Lyons

      Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004

      If nothing else, Bill Clinton definitely put the right man in charge of
      fighting al-Qa’ida. Evidently, the Bush administration once thought so,
      too. On the morning of 9/11, it was Richard Clarke who ran the White
      House Situation Room while almost everybody else ran for bomb shelters,
      and Air Force One flew hither and yon until conditions were safe enough
      for the president to return to Washington. During the most perilous day
      in recent American history, Clarke and several colleagues—who’d been
      war-gaming terrorist scenarios, drawing up disaster response protocols
      and warning a complacent White House that something terrible was about
      to happen—essentially became the U.S. government. They handled all
      communications, grounded civilian aircraft, closed the nation’s borders,
      shut down its ports and notified the nervous Russians that putting the
      U. S military on its highest state of alert in 30 years didn’t portend a
      nuclear attack. This is the guy Dick Cheney says was "out of the loop."
      He ought to know better than to trifle with Clarke. Intense and
      abrasive, he’s served four presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, and
      has a reputation as a fierce bureaucratic infighter.

      After resigning in frustration, Clarke clearly went to school on the
      Bush team, somewhat as he once studied Osama bin Laden. Understanding
      that George W. Bush’s main political asset was his carefully crafted
      image as a decisive leader in the "war on terror," Clarke watched the
      administration vilify one critic after another.

      Everybody who questioned invading Iraq, a secular, oil-rich Arab police
      state, instead of fighting al-Qa’ida, a stateless band of religious
      fanatics, got it in the back: former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki,
      Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, Ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie
      Plame, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. All had their reputations
      tarnished, their honesty assailed, even their patriotism questioned.
      There are no facts in Bush World, only motives.

      Knowing that his book, "Against All Enemies," would depict a White House
      that dismissed terrorism as a Clinton era obsession, reacted passively
      to warnings of an impending al-Qa’ida strike during the summer of 2001,
      then did precisely as bin Laden wished by attacking Iraq without
      finishing the job in Afghanistan, Clarke clearly anticipated the
      administration’s counterattack.

      Over the past two weeks, he’s singlehandedly made the Bush White House
      look like chumps, anticipating their every move and outmaneuvering the
      GOP smear machine. Accustomed to bullying adversaries into silence, the
      White House has made one tactical blunder after another. The result has
      been a political disaster.

      After Clarke’s book depicted Bush on Sept. 12, 2001, urging him to pin
      9/11 on Saddam Hussein (the FBI and CIA fingered the hijackers as
      al-Qa’ida operatives almost immediately), an aide to Condi Rice told "60
      Minutes" it never happened. Problem was, Clarke had witnesses.
      Evidently, the only party to the conversation who’d forgotten it was the
      president himself. The White House changed its story. Rice now alibis
      that Bush’s suspicions were justified.

      Next, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn, all but charged Clarke with perjury on
      the floor of the U.S. Senate. Frist asserted that earlier testimony he
      subsequently admitted not reading differed from what Clarke told the
      9/11 Commission last week. Fine, Clarke responded on "Meet the Press."
      "I would welcome it being declassified," he said, "but not just a little
      line here or there. Let’s declassify all six hours of my testimony."

      He challenged Rice to let her testimony before the 9/11 Commission be
      made public, too. Also his e-mails and memos to and from her office.
      Those would have the embarrassing effect of proving that the
      counter-terrorist policies the Bush White House adopted in September
      2001 were virtually identical to strategies he’d developed at
      then-President Clinton’s urging.

      Pressed by Tim Russert to justify portraying Clinton as far more
      responsive to the terrorist threat than Bush in his book, Clarke was
      characteristically blunt: "Well, he did something, and President Bush
      did nothing prior to Sept. 11."  "Against All Enemies" pulls no punches.
      Clark candidly assesses the Monica Lewinsky scandal’s debilitating
      impact upon Clinton’s ability to fight al-Qa’ida. "Like most of his
      advisors," he writes, "I was beyond mad that the President had not shown
      enough discretion or self control, although... I was angrier, almost
      incredulous, that the bitterness of Clinton’s enemies knew no bounds,
      that they intended to hurt not just Clinton but the country by turning
      the President’s personal problem into a global, public circus for their
      own political ends." Each time Clinton struck al-Qa’idaor warned against
      terrorism, Republicans accused him of trying to divert attention from
      his sexual sins. So, yeah, Clarke has an ax to grind. He clearly
      believes Republicans put party over country during the Clinton years,
      and that the Bush White House is doing it again. And so far, he’s
      getting the best of the argument.

      • Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
      of the National Magazine Award.


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