Bush shows true colours

By Michael Jankovic

ichard Clarke was a bureaucrat in the White House, heading counter-terrorism efforts under both the Clinton and current Bush administrations and had been a public servant since the Nixon regime. Richard Clarke is now one of the most influential men in American domestic politics.

Clarke’s meteoric rise to political stardom started Sun., Mar. 21 with his appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes. In an interview with Leslie Stahl he criticized President George W. Bush and his government’s treatment of terrorism before September 11 and blasted the war in Iraq.

It continued with his testimony before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a bipartisan committee investigating how government policy can be improved to prevent attacks similar to September 11. His testimony began with sincere apologies to the families of victims of the attack, and an admission of failure by him individually and the government as a whole.

The latest chapter of this developing story occurred Sun., Mar. 28 as Tim Russert devoted the entire hour to Clarke on NBC’s Meet the Press.

His allegations are few, but they are measured and powerful.

First, he asserts that terrorism had little priority in the Bush administration. So much so that the first meeting of top-level bureaucrats specifically on the topic of terrorism did not occur until Sept. 4, 2001, more than eight months after Bush assumed office. He said that if the "trees" of the bureaucracy had been shaken, the chance of detaining some of the September 11 terrorists would have been significantly elevated. This is especially relevant considering Bush is running for a second term as president based on his security record.

Second, and easily more damning, is his condemnation of the war in Iraq. Clarke, on Meet the Press, eloquently stated reasons why the war in Iraq is detrimental to the war on terrorism.

He first contends the war killed the second thoughts many moderate Muslims had about the war being waged against the United States by the more extremist Muslim elements.

He further argues that by going into Iraq, the United States has played into the hands of Osama bin Laden and those of his ilk. On Meet the Press he said the war in Iraq has created "a hundred bin Ladens." He used the recent attacks in Madrid to highlight this point.

His final point was that the war in Iraq diverted resources from the real war on terrorism still happening in Afghanistan, and the hunt for the leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. Especially important in this regard was the removal of Special Forces from Afghanistan.

The White House did not respond with counter arguments rebutting the issues Clarke brings up. Rather, they focus on Clarke himself, calling him everything from a disgruntled employee to a profiteer of a national tragedy.

In my mind, the credibility of Clarke increases every time a character attack is brought against him. In fact, you could probably measure the credibility of a White House critic in proportion to the square of how many appearances top-level administrators make on talk shows to rebuke him, or rebut his arguments. With every disparaging comment made against him, Clarke is able to respond coolly and expose the administration for the bullies they are.

Right now the White House is in crisis. Condoleeza Rice recently announced on 60 Minutes that she would not testify before the September 11 commission based on the "long-standing" principle that national security advisers do not testify in front of Congress. Then, only two days later, mounting pressure collapsed the principles of the administration and she will now testify.

If I was asked if John Kerry could win the presidency a couple weeks ago, I would have said not a chance. Though I would have certainly preferred a Kerry victory–along with the rest of the world outside the Bible belt–it seemed as if Bush’s re-election was an inevitability.

However, I now believe Clarke’s courage and eloquence may actually turn the tide against Bush and give Kerry the push he needs. Though, with more than seven months until the election, nothing is certain.

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