Last week they didn’t know who Richard Clarke was, if they’d even heard his name. This week they’re all attacking his character and motives with utter certitude.
“They” are the Bush defenders in the media, the ones who insist that their president has never told a lie, so that those who suggest otherwise must be part of a vast Clintonite conspiracy.
In his new book and in his testimony to the 9/11 commission, Clarke has said that the Clinton administration was more on the qui vive for terrorism than the Bush administration, which was chiefly interested in finding an excuse for making war on Iraq. That makes him a Clintonite, according to what we may as well call the Bush League.
Never mind that Clarke was a hawk who had also served as a counterterrorism specialist under previous Bushes. He is now the Enemy. His story doesn’t add up. He has political motives. He bears a grudge because he didn’t get a promotion. He’s trying to sell his book. Next we’ll hear he pinned Jane Doe down while Clinton raped her.
Me, I know just one thing about the guy: he’s merely adding details to a story we already knew. Did he make them all up? Why would he have to? He wanted to go after al-Qaeda; Bush wanted to go after Iraq.
Bush himself made that abundantly clear. He didn’t even put al-Qaeda on the Axis of Evil. He said incessantly that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” which would be found when U.S. forces gained access. Condoleezza Rice, who now says Clarke “needs to get his story straight,” liked to scare the children with tales of the “mushroom cloud” we faced if we didn’t stop Saddam Hussein pronto.
Oh yes, Saddam presumably had “links to terrorists.” But the only “link” between Saddam and Osama was that they were both evil Arabs. Remember 我没事，你没事? In the Arab world, if you believe the Bush League, self-help books must have titles like I’m Evil, You’re Evil to help people forge social bonds.
Clarke has apologized to the American people for his failure, and his willingness to admit fault certainly proves he lacks the stuff Bush loyalists are made of. The rest of them are still pretending the Iraq war was a boon to humankind, as well as a strategic victory for the United States. They want to blame “faulty intelligence” for a huge failure while refusing to admit it was a failure at all. And they say Clarke is the one who needs to get his story straight?
Even Bush seems to sense that his Yosemite Sam approach to national security now requires a bit of course correction. He is too stubborn to admit error, but he has quietly abandoned some of the lies that aren’t working anymore. That’s a start. He’s also trying to smooth relations with European governments that had more sense than he did, thereby displaying a Christian magnanimity that holds no grudges. He isn’t even asking the Pope to apologize.
But Clarke’s disclosures have the White House in panic. As usual, the Bush inner circle is doing a bit of character assassination on the guy who spilled the beans. It doesn’t matter. Too many people have spilled the same beans, and all the evidence points the same way. Why does the Bush League bother denying it?
Essentially, Clarke is only confirming what they themselves were saying all along: The key thing was to smash Iraq, and the problem of terrorism would be solved. War would produce peace. And democracy. And an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. You name it, attacking Iraq was going to achieve it. Opponents of the war were living in a dream world. You have to fight for freedom.
Well, it turns out it was the tough-talking “realists” — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz — who were having the fantasies. Even now, reality hasn’t awakened them. They believe in the warfare state as implicitly as Lyndon Johnson, that old realist, believed in the welfare state (and the warfare state).
Wildly attacking Richard Clarke is typical of the Bush League’s style. Once again they are stupidly firing all their bullets at the wrong enemy — one who started out on their side. To what purpose? To get everyone else as confused as they are?