Texas -- I'd like to thank Richard Clarke for
doing the most obvious, decent and necessary thing
this country needed from its government after
9-11, and that is to apologize to the families
of those who died in those attacks and to admit:
"We failed you. ... I failed you." Thanks to former
Sen. Bob Kerrey for underlining it.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda is not necessarily a useful
exercise, but the 9-11 commission was given that
responsibility -- after the Bush administration
made every effort to stop it -- and appears to
be doing its best. That some members seem more
interested in protecting the Bush administration
than in finding out what actually happened is
perhaps just the nature of politics, but still
Clarke's bottom line, so succinctly stated in
response to former Navy Secretary John Lehman,
is that the reason he is so critical of President
George W. Bush is because he believes the war
on Iraq has greatly undermined the war against
terrorism. He believes this administration has
done "a terrible job" of fighting terrorism. He's
certainly critical of the Clinton administration
as well, but he seems to find the difference is
that the Clinton people took it seriously, while
the Bushies came in with an Iraq agenda and didn't
want to hear about anything else.
He paints a sad tale of both arrogance and ignorance:
repeated warnings by both Clarke and George Tenet
apparently made no impression on an administration
obsessed with Saddam Hussein.
This thesis is born out by the eerily prescient
and tragically ignored Hart-Rudman report on terrorism,
presented on Jan. 31, 2001. (And let me point
out that the media deserve much blame here, as
well: All the networks ignored it entirely save
for CNN, which did it justice. The New York Times
and Wall Street Journal never printed a line about
it, though The Washington Post and Los Angeles
Times both did thorough jobs.)
That commission concluded, "Americans will likely
die on American soil, possibly in large numbers."
They recommended a series of practical and effective
steps. Of the various institutions, Congress deserves
some credit for trying to pick up on the report,
which clearly would have moved us ahead by six
moths on terrorism planning. Donald Rumsfeld,
not one of my favorites, also deserves credit
for vigorously backing the report. Congress scheduled
hearing for May 7, 2001, but according to reports
at the time, the White House stifled the move
because it did not want Congress out in front
on the issue.
True, the report was initiated by President Clinton,
but the commission was bipartisan and included
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republicans.
On May 5, the White House announced that rather
than adopt Hart-Rudman, it was forming its own
committee on terrorism headed by Vice President
Cheney. That group never met.
The whole discouraging process of plans ready
to go and prepared but delayed by Bush people
whose priorities were elsewhere was repeated internally
with Richard Clarke's recommendations.
There is reason to question whether the current
9-11 commission is designed to get to the bottom
of these still lingering questions. In addition
to some patently partisan members, the commission's
executive director, the man in the most critical
role, is Philip D. Zelikow, a member of he Bush
transition team on national security and later
one of Condoleezza Rice's closest assistants.
Then we come to the White house campaign to discredit
Clarke. What a travesty. The man is a registered
Republican who worked for Ronald Reagan and Bush
the Elder, as well as Clinton and George W. As
to the supposedly "political" timing of the book,
the White House held up its publication by three
months before clearing it.
I need to counsel those innocent little Heathers
in the Washington press corps who think the White
House attack on Clarke is confused simply because
it is often contradictory -- "Democrat," "disgruntled
former employee," "out of the loop" and "we did
everything he wanted." Y'all, Karl Rove often
issues contradictory attacks -- just throws a
whole lot of stuff up in the air so people will
think, "There must be something to all this noise."
The Bush administration's record of sliming its
critics is getting to be a scandal in itself.
Joe Wilson's wife was outed as a CIA agent. Poor
former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (who was
the focus of a book that certainly confirms the
administration's obsession with Iraq) was dismissed
as a nutcase. And now it's Clarke's turn. I suppose
we should all be grateful no one is investigating
anyone else's sex life.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists,
visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Posted: April 2, 2004