Sunday Thoughts

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Political Politics

I've talked about this before, but it is an issue again, largely because of Bush ads, so I'll say it again: John Kerry would not have allowed the troops to not get their $87 billion. Assertions or implications to the contrary are made out of ignorance or attempts to decieve.

I am not going to vote for Kerry. I like him, basically, as a man, but I disagree with him. He does annoy me greatly in his campaigns, because he is so nasty and hypocritical (like most of the rest of them). But I get even more annoyed at constant charges that are clearly false.

And how about all the nonsense where people thought John McCain was going to run as Kerry's VP? McCain simply said the truth: Kerry is a friend of his, and if asked, McCain would entertain the possibility. I disagree with Jamie McCarthy on many things, and if he ran for office I might campaign for the other side; but if he asked me to serve with him, I would certainly consider it, because he's a friend and a good man. But McCain is the co-chair of Bush's campaign in Arizona, for crying out loud.

There was a resolution on the floor of the House recently (H. Res. 557) that said, essentially, the war on Iraq has made the U.S. a safer place. If you vote for it, then you agree with the war; if you vote against it, you're unpatriotic. Someone needed to just stand up at the mic, say, "This is a transparent attempt to trap people, and rather than play this game, I think I'll go do some real work," and then just leave, and encourage others to do the same.

Kennedy slammed Bush on Meet the Press this week for "bribing" Turkey (our ally); I only wish Russert would have asked Kennedy if it was wrong for Clinton to bribe North Korea (our enemy).

Kennedy was asked about which world leaders support Kerry, and he dodged by saying Cheney hasn't given names of the energy task force, and then said "the CIA knows [the names of all of those countries] ... all you have to do is look at what happened yesterday in the demonstrations all over the world." The CIA knows which world leaders told Kerry they support him? How would they know that? And demonstrations in a country mean the leaders support Kerry? So Bush supports Kerry? Too bad Russert didn't ask those questions.

Somebody Call 9/11

Richard Clarke's book comes out this week. From what I've read and heard, he is an angry man writing an angry book, and much of it is mountainous molehills. For example, he tries to use an exchange with President Bush to show that Bush was trying to mislead people into thinking Iraq was behind 9/11/2001: shortly after the attack, Bush tells Clarke to see if there is anything to show Iraq was behind it, Clarke says they don't have anything like that, Bush says look, Clarke says OK, we'll look again.

How is this supposed to prove anything? Bush wanted to know if there was a link, he wanted him to doublecheck. This is bad? How? Three days later, Bush refused to take military action against Iraq, despite Wolfowitz's urging, so clearly, Bush was not prepared to strike Iraq without evidence they were involved with 9/11. Bush just wanted information, and finding there was none, acted appropriately. Where's the problem? It's much ado about nothing.

Bush-haters tell us that this is evidence Bush wanted Clarke to manufacture a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. But there is no reason for us to believe this, except that Clarke says he felt it. That's not good enough, unless you are a Bush-hater; but if you are a Bush-hater, then you don't really need any evidence of any kind anyway: of course Bush wanted to manufacture links, because he is Bush! And if you don't see it, you're naive! Yawn.

It is possible Bush intended to order Clarke to fabricate a link. Of course. But Clarke's recalling of the event does not come close to showing it, and it is irresponsible -- at best -- to say it does. Clarke's feelings about what was inferred do not constitute proof of what was implied. This is a fundamental truth.

Clarke does make some reasonable charges. Clearly, Bush did not do enough against al Qaeda. Clearly, the administration was more concerned with states than individual terrorist groups, thinking that the source of the power of terrorists was the real problem, not the terrorists themselves.

The question is not whether Bush failed; of course he did, because we did not go after al Qaeda, and they attacked us. But in this political season, the question -- raised primarily by the Bush-haters -- is whether someone else would have done it differently. I don't know if Clarke thinks Clinton would have done better, but that's what many people are saying, and it's not supported by the evidence.

First, let's note that it is a lie to say al Qaeda was ignored, as many do. Clarke himself notes several meetings he was a part of that focused on al Qaeda. However, al Qaeda was not enough of a priority. But did Clinton make it enough of a priority? Would Gore have?

Following the attack of the USS Cole in October 2000, Clarke was at a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, CIA Director Tenet, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, and others, and only Clarke was in favor of going after bin Laden, according to a 2003 book by Richard Miniter, Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror, a book for which Clarke was a primary source.

According to many Bush-haters, Clinton's only reason for not attacking al Qaeda at the time was to not step on Bush's toes. Even if that were true, it doesn't mean much: if al Qaeda were really thought to be a threat to the U.S. homeland, there is no way Clinton, or any President, would hesitate to strike.

The point is that the Clinton administration did not go after al Qaeda following the USS Cole attack because they did not think al Qaeda was a clear and present danger to the security of the people of the United States. The arguments Miniter says were provided by the Clinton administration against attacking al Qaeda, treated al Qaeda like they were criminals that should be brought to justice, not people at war with the United States:

Reno thought retaliation might violate international law and was therefore against it. Tenet wanted to more definitive proof that bin Laden was behind the attack, although he personally thought he was. Albright was concerned about the reaction of world opinion to a retaliation against Muslims, and the impact it would have in the final days of the Clinton Middle East peace process. Cohen, according to Clarke, did not consider the Cole attack "sufficient provocation" for a military retaliation.

And then twice, Clinton rejected Clarke's attack plan.

This was not about whether or not al Qaeda did it, or whether they should act in the late days of the administration. SecDef Cohen thought what al Qaeda did didn't warrant military retaliation. And apparently, Clinton agreed, as he did not take military action.

Prophetically, Michael Sheehan, counterterrorism coordinator for the State Department, remarked to Clarke later: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Clarke has reason to be angry with both Clinton and Bush. We all do. Both of them failed to get al Qaeda, despite numerous warnings and opportunities. But the contrast of Bush to Clinton, as though Clinton recognized the threat and was prepared to do something about it, is false.

U.S. First

I am getting tired of Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- he often says stupid things, some of which I've mentioned in this journal before (he was the first I heard in the press to criticize Kerry for voting to leave the troops without funding) -- but he spoke to an idea I favor in his closing statements yesterday: Bush and Kerry should have a joint news conference affirming their common committment to the war on terror, to bringing down terrorists who want to bring us down.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on March 22, 2004 9:51 AM.

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