Daily Archives: March 21, 2004

Richard Clarke on 60 Minutes

It’s stuff like this that, twice a year or so, makes me wish I had a tv. Still, I’m getting an idea what’s in store from an article on CBS’ website. If I were you, I wouldn’t miss this one. Here’s my favorite bit:

After the president returned to the White House on Sept. 11, he and his top advisers, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He says he was surprised that the talk quickly turned to Iraq.”Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq,” Clarke said to Stahl. “And we all said … no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq.”

Uh-huh. Clarke thought Rummy was joking, probably because Rummy’s statement reminded him of the same joke it reminded me of. You know the one. One night you see a man down on his hands and knees under a streetlight. “Are you alright?” you ask. “Yes,” he says. “I lost a contact across the street and I’m looking for it.” Baffled, you want to know why, if he lost it on that side of the street, is he looking on this side? “The light’s better over here,” he says.

Only it wasn’t, of course, a joke. Or it was, but it was real, too. The neocon fantasy-mind in full flower. Rummy was scrambling. He recognized 9/11 for the Golden Oppurtunity to invade Iraq that it was; he just hadn’t figured out how to justify it yet, and his first attempt was, well, LAME. Subsequent attempts weren’t much better.

Unfortunately, most of the interview isn’t that…amusing.

“The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But 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.”I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’

“He came back at me and said, “Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection.’ And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.”

Clarke continued, “It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?’ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again.’

“I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don’t think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don’t think he sees memos that he doesn’t– wouldn’t like the answer.”

“Wrong answer. Do it again.” When they wouldn’t, Cheney put Doug Feith in charge of stovepiping Ahmad Chalabi’s fairy tales–which Junior did like because they had all the right answers–directly to him, by-passing those ignorant IC bums who kept insisting Ahmad was full of it.

Barbara Tuchman would have had a field day with this crew.

Corrective Addition

I meant to credit Digby at Hullabaloo for the link and to recommend that you read his post on this subject. He digs out Woodward’s fawning account of the same meeting, and the difference between Woodward’s Admin-sanctioned Official Version and Clarke’s recollections is striking. Woodward’s sycophancy has been legend since the tripe he published about Bill Casey; this pretty much finishes him as a serious journalist–if he ever was one.

Digby also makes the argument that the radcons are stuck in their antiquated, cold-war mindset, and that that may have been at the root of their unreal take on reality.

It’s not only the White House that refuses to see terrorism for what it is instead of what they’d like it to be, the right wing punditocrisy is similarly clinging to their outmoded cold warrior worldview. All this talk of appeasement in the Spanish elections fails to account for the fact that it doesn’t really matter how any single country reacts to these Islamic terrorist actions. You can’t appease them or not appease them because they are not operating from any real premise.Al Qaeda terrorists have a delusional view of world events that’s only rivaled by the neocons here in the US. And they share a similar misunderstanding of the forces that bring about change in the world.

Go read the whole thing.

Update: Phaedrus on Clarke on 60 Minutes.