March 25, 2004

by Joe Sobran

     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 I'M OK, YOU'RE OK? 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?


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