yet another shoe drops

Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief of the national-security staff under Bush, was on 60 Minutes last night, promoting his new book about the Bush administration and its prosecution of the war on terrorism. Its nothing new, but I thought that you might find it of interest. Heres a clip from the 60 Minutes website:

“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. I said, ‘Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

“Initially, I thought when he said, ‘There aren’t enough targets in– in Afghanistan,’ I thought he was joking.

“I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we’ve looked at this issue for years. For years we’ve looked and there’s just no connection.”

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Clarke then tells Stahl of being pressured by Mr. Bush.

“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.”

Later in the piece, Clarke goes on to state that the Bush administration might very well have prevented 9/11, had they acted on the intelligence reports that were available to them. Heres a quote:

“There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza 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.

“I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they 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 new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.

As you might expect, the Bush people are out in force saying that this just is a case of sour grapes. I might be inclined to believe them, if not for the fact that Clarke is pretty much saying the same thing that former Treasury secretary Paul ONeil said in his insider account of events. You might be able to dismiss one of these accounts as sour grapes, but that explanation holds less water as the instances multiply.

Heres my political advice, in case anyone is listening… Kerry needs to run a series of ads in which ONeil, Clarke and others, if theyll come forward, state what was going on inside the Bush White House in the run-up to the war. Both of these men worked for previous Republican presidents. They have credibility. Their words, at least to me, would be 100% more effective than anything Kerry could say Just a 30 second TV spot with a close up on ONeil saying, Im a Republican. Here are my credentials. This is what I saw. This is why I will not be voting for Bush. Simple. Effective.

Here, in case youre interested, is the transcript from Clarkes 60 Minutes appearance.

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