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Now he tells us

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It seems like every year, our nation’s 20/20 hindsight gets better and better. I’d put our vision looking back at 20/10 even. If only the future were more clear. Some are making the charge that they did see the future and the rest of us just didn’t happen to be listening. Richard Clarke is the latest to make such allegations.

Like Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke has come out saying that the Bush administration was pre-occupied with the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq just days into the presidency. Clarke charges that not enough was done to prevent 9/11, and that despite warnings that he made, no action was taken: “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe, we’ll never know.”

It would actually be a much more accurate assessment to say that terrorism had been ignored by our government for years, possibly decades, but I’m not counting. Clarke goes on to say that, “I think they had an idée fixe, a plan from Day One that they wanted to do something about Iraq.” Yes, why not show the regime in Iraq that starting with this presidency, Saddam is ok with us?

The fact is, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, not Iraq, 40 days after September 11th, 2001. It wasn’t until a year and a half after Afghanistan that our military forces invaded Iraq. Before September 11th, there had simply been no attempt to raise Iraq as an issue by the Bush administration. On March 4th 2001, Vice President Cheney told CNN that Iraq did not represent a serious threat at the time. Later that month, the Chicago Tribune reported that Bush would scale back enforcement of the no-fly zones in Iraq.

Richard Clarke, who served as “terrorism czar” under the Clinton administration, and who was passed over as Homeland Security Director in favor of Tom Ridge following 9/11, did air his concerns about al Qaeda in early 2001. According to the Bush administration, many of his ideas were implemented. However, none of his concerns related to an al Qaeda attack on American soil, and none of his suggestions would have helped prevent 9/11. Condoleeza Rice characterized Clarke’s discussion of al Qaeda as pedantic; “I wasn’t born yesterday when Clarke briefed me. This wasn’t an issue of who knew about al Qaeda, but what we were going to do about al Qaeda.” Richard Clarke did meet with the president a week before the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Clarke’s main focus for that cabinet meeting was “cyber terrorism.”

To anyone with a recollection of events before 9/11, it’s obvious that at that time, our government was not pursuing an agenda to remove Hussein from power. Even Paul O’Neill backtracked from initial reports, admitting that President Bush was simply continuing work that had been started by administrations past, both Democratic and Republican. Given Saddam Hussein’s brutal past, chemical warfare on his own people, secretly developing weapons of mass destruction (at least, according to everyone including the U.N. before 2003), taking constant potshots at coalition pilots in the No-Fly zone, support of terrorists, and at one time conspiring to kill an American president, it’s not surprising that removal of his regime would merit greater attention following 9/11 – regardless of his direct involvement in it. And by all accounts (bi-partisan ones at least), America is safer as a result of his removal.

James Golden is a political columnist for MBGZ.com

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About James Golden

  • http://www.gwbush.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Regime change in Iraq had been the US Government’s policy since Clinton’s 2nd term. Bush finally acted on it. The catalyst was 9-11. Without that catalyst, Saddam would likely still be in Baghdad, rather than in a prison cell.

    And this is a scandal…why?

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    "Regime change in Iraq had been the US Government’s policy since Clinton’s 2nd term."

    Let’s expand on that: Clinton himself turned it down when neoconservatives first proposed it to him.

    When he refused, the neocons got on Republican Trent Lott (Senate leader) and Republican Newt Gingrich (House leader). They, with the Republican majority in congress, pushed through the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.

    At that point Clinton did sign it, although “regime change” does not necessarily mean a unilateral invasion of a country, and the Act did not call for it.

    Hindsight tells us that he should have stuck to his (no) guns.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    Let us not forget that after leaving office, completing his second term, Clinton came out in favor of the Bush administrations actions in Iraq.

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/07/23/clinton.iraq.sotu/index.html

    “So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say, ‘You got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don’t cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.'”

    Clinton told King: “People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Yes, and inspectors were indeed in Iraq, helping contain Iraq, as Clinton had suggested until Bush kicked them out in order to invade Iraq.

    Hans Blix said then and repeated in his book and as recently as last week, that there was no evidence of WMDs even after investigating all the places that US intelligence told them those chimerical chemical and biological WMDs were definitely supposed to be. He felt that within two more months they would have been able to check out even the intelligence-admitted wild-assed-guesses of locations. Events have proven Blix right.

    There was no reason to invade Iraq, and using the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to do so is inexcusable.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    How do you manage to say that with a straight face?

    First off, all that we know is that based on an effort that is 85% of the way completed, inspectors have found no stockpiles of weapons. Inspectors have found weapons program related materials.

    Second, there was plenty of time for Saddam to hide his weapons, to move them out of Iraq, to destroy them. Whatever he did, he did not account for KNOWN stockpiles that existed in the early 90s. Let’s say that he did destroy his stockpiles as Kay suggested, if you point a toy gun at a cop, what happens? He never accounted for these weapons, he lied to appear stronger.

    Third, the inspection mechanism is quite broken – North Korea, the hidden nuclear programs in Iran, Syria, all point to the fact that UNMOVIC and the IEAE while well intentioned, are not getting the job done.

    Fourth – Remember 1991? Rememebr 1998? Our strife with Iraq didn’t happen for no reason. The UN, France, Germany, Russia, China, and all the other member nations acknowledged the existence of WMDs. The ONLY question is whether or not to continue with a decade old inspection program or show the world that UN resolutions should not be broken. I agree with Bush’s choice.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    I’d also like to point out that I disagree that Bush is using 9/11 as an excuse. 9/11 changed the world we live in – Saddam’s antics were tolerated pre-9/11. But 9/11 taught us that tolerating these things is ultimately very dangerous.

    9/11 was not an excuse to go to war, but it sure as hell was a motivational factor.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    “9/11 was not an excuse to go to war, but it sure as hell was a motivational factor.”

    And Afghanistan was the right place to go.

    But leaving Afghanistan so as not to “get bogged down in it like the Russians had been” (see Woodward’s “Bush At War”) was a bad idea. As was bombing Iraq because it had better targets than Afghanistan (see Dick Clarke’s book). As was using the 3,000 American deaths on 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq in pursuit of neocon policy rather than terrorists.

    My objection is not to the use of force per se; I do, however, object to the chickenshit, stupid and vile actions of the adminstration (above, respectively).

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    I wouldn’t call the admins actions any of those things. I think it’s far from cowardly to stand up to the international community and say enough is enough. I personally do not put much weight on Clarke’s POV, I know he has 30 years in the industry and all that. Fact is that he was more concerned about cyberterrorism than an attack on our shores before 9/11. I think sour grapes is a good name for what’s in his book.

    But back to the international community – here you have Saddam Hussein, who by all evidence was not involved in 911, but who is a green light to all terrorists in the middle east. The terrorists have to think, if Hussein can continue to exist, then this little al qaeda camp in the mountains surely wont be a target. It’s like the broken window theory, Hussein’s sheer existance in the middle east hurt America in the war on terror.

    The international community cannot deal with these threats. Look at the recent resolution that they passed regarding Israel’s action against Yassin. Reasonable people will agree that the attack isn’t a great thing from a israeli/palestinian relations point of view, but Yassin was the leader of Hamas, a terrorist group. How many attacks in the last 3 years can be attributed to this man. If he lived in the US, he’d be in jail, but in Palestinian territories, he is a “spiritual leader” (i would assume because he leads so many into death). The UN tried to sanction israel – thankfully the US vetoed, but lets be real here.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    “but lets be real here”

    Yes, let’s.

    Your “broken window” example doesn’t provide any support for abandoning Afghanistan, not does it refute the long-standing determination of the neocons to get rid of Saddam and their use of 9/11 as an excuse to do so.

    And frankly, Israel is a better example of your “green light to all terrorists in the middle east.”

    Much of the Arab world sees the unconditional, unquestioning support of Israel’s hard right by America as proof of American hate of Islam. Ditto for the invasion of Iraq (with this overlaid by a sense that it was a grab to maintain control of the oil).

    Actually, “red flag” would probably be a better label for both Israel and the invasion of Iraq.

    This adminstration has shown itself monumentally arrogant yet singularly inept in the international sphere.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    We’ve never “abandoned” afghanistan. And if you consider Israel’s defense of herself from terrorists something that the US should be ashamed of, then this discussion is lost.

    Israel, no doubt a shady past, but they are there now. If the terrorist bombings really stopped, if terror groups like Hamas and al Aqsa Martyr Brigades – groups that are not democratically elected but have attained noteriety because of their BOMBINGS – were dismantled, there would be no fence, no helicopter gunships, no incursions into gaza. Israel is a democracy, focused on liberties for it’s people, capitalism and trade. They don’t want to war with anyone. Could the same be said for Hamas? For Yassin? For Arafat even? Given history, I really dont think so.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    Can’t you see that these terrorist groups have hijacked the palestinians cause?

    Think about it, they recruit teens, generally between the ages of 17-20, but sometimes as young as 10 years old, convince them to strap bombs to themselves for the cause. (Saddam used to pay lots of money to their families – making this even more evil). The bombings only have the effect of increasing the cycle of violence, as well as the side effect of invalidating their cause. If the palestinians laid off the bombs, then the US would not be able to veto a UN resolution against Israel, would they?

    Like I said, in any normal circumstance, convincing a teen to commit suicide and murder would be a crime, and not considered anything like spiritual leadership. Yassin = Jim Jones.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    You’re imputing beliefs to me that I do not hold.

    But the US response is seen as one-sided under this administration, whereas it appeared to be more even-handed under the previous one, and for a while it seemed that some progress could have been made on the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

    Also note that many Israelis disagree with actions of the current hard-right Israeli government, and feel that Bush’s support encourages him down what they see as the wrong path.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    “We’ve never “abandoned” afghanistan”

    Right.

    And Karzai isn’t afraid to step outside Kabul, and war lords aren’t fighting each other over the lucrative drug trade, and people are singing and dancing in the streets.

    Sure enough.

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    This is certainly true, but you could argue that our goal in afghanistan was not to rebuild their nation, but to expell al qaeda and give afghanis a chance at freedom. Let’s not forget, the Afghani’s have a role here too, the war lords, the people, they also must stand for democracy if thats what they really want. We cannot cram it down their throats involuntarily.

    I think that a large part of the disagreements here with regards to Afganistan and Iraq ignore the role that the people of these countries can and should play. For example, it’s a common charge that Bush led us into war, but lets not forget that Saddam wasn’t really trying to give peace a chance either. We toppled the Taliban and at the time, they had no stronghold. The Afghani’s (warlords primarily), rather than looking at this opportunity as a chance to better the lives of all, got greedy and stuck to their warlord rule. (How much more powerful would the warlords be if they used their influence to get properly elected?) They also did not accept Karzai as their leader (because he was an installment of the great evil america right?). Horse to water, two to tango and all that.

    The fact is, 2/3rds of al qaeda have been killed or captured, and the rest are on the run. Im sure we will see the capture of OBL soon enough, so in that respect, we did not abandon our efforts in Afghanistan. Did we abandon our job of nation building? Possibly, but it didn’t seem like we had willing partners either.

    I would like to add that the view from the majority of middle easterners that the US is evil comes from a lifetime of oppression and propaganda from their own governments. It’s easier to control people when they are busy hating someone other than you. Anti americanism is indoctrinated, and sometimes taught in schools. So when people talk about why the middle east hates us, and bring up things like our support of Israel, I really don’t consider that a valid argument.

    It is incontestible that the MAJORITY of problems that the average middle easterner deals with are a direct result of their own governments flaws, not Israel, not the US. We may tacitly support some of these governments, but we would prefer if they change, and sometimes, that preference compels us to war.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    My position on both Iraq and Afghanistan, aside from which invasion was and which was not a good idea, is somewhat similar: “You broke it, you fix it.”

    The US can’t just leave Iraq now, andthe US should not have left Afghanistan

    We toppled the Taliban and at the time, they had no stronghold.

    Assuming “they” is Al Qaeda, I agree that invading Afghanistan was a good idea since the Taliban provided a home for AQ.

    But in doing so, the US “broke” the government and should have stayed to get a functioning one in place. Instead, they left a few thousand troops to protect Karzai and Kabul. What has happened since is that the country has essentially split into crime-ridden, dangerous warlord-controlled territories which now produce 75% of the world’s opium. (Even in Kabul, to get to see Karzai you go through three checkpoints, and he is seldom seen in public.)

    You ask: (How much more powerful would the warlords be if they used their influence to get properly elected?)

    I’d say that they can clearly see that they would be far less powerful. With full control of life and death in their fiefdoms, why on earth would they want to make themselves subject to some outside power?

    "the people, they also must stand for democracy if thats what they really want. We cannot cram it down their throats involuntarily."

    I think that needs to be told to Max Boot, the neocon who said: “Neoconservatives believe in usingAmerican might to promote American ideals abroad,” and the neocons in the administration who produced the invasion of Iraq.

    The fact is, 2/3rds of al qaeda have been killed or captured, and the rest are on the run. Im sure we will see the capture of OBL soon enough, so in that respect, we did not abandon our efforts in Afghanistan

    That’s a good thing but that stat isn’t all that important, nor is OBL except for PR purposes. AQ is not the only terrorist organization in the world, and for every terrorist that has been captured, even Rumsfeld is willing to admit that there’s a good chance more have been created.

    It is incontestible that the MAJORITY of problems that the average middle easterner deals with are a direct result of their own governments flaws, not Israel, not the US. We may tacitly support some of these governments, but we would prefer if they change, and sometimes, that preference compels us to war.

    “Compels us to war?” Sounds tough, but doesn’t sound too rational to me.

    Maybe I’m misreading it – do I understand you to be saying that If we don’t like them, it’s okay to take them out, using the full force of our military? That hardly sounds democratic to me, and not at all in keeping with my understanding of “American ideals.”

  • http://www.mbgz.com James Golden

    I think you are underestimating the level of effort involved with bringing order to a country with so many political, topographical, and climate related issues. Iraq already had an infrastructure, a community with which to rebuild, whereas Afghanistan before and after more closely resembled chaos.

    But I’d like to talk about this sentence:

    >>I’d say that they can clearly see that
    >>they would be far less powerful. With
    >>full control of life and death in
    >>their fiefdoms, why on earth would
    >>they want to make themselves subject
    >>to some outside power?”

    Why did Americans create a constitution based on freedoms rather than establish a monarchy? The framers of the constitution could clearly see that they’d ultimately be LESS powerful right? This is the whole point. The people of Afghanistan could have used the opportunity to make something better. On the other hand, the Iraqi’s are clearly trying to make things better for themselves.

    Neo-con this and that, I am not registered with any political party. On the other hand, I don’t think that in the age of terrorism, using our might to advance our ideologies isn’t a bad thing. You could say that al Qaeda equally complicit – did they not do exactly the same thing in Madrid, with their train bombing and follow up media blitz? To quote an article in NY Press entitled, Hans Blix, the Exit Interview, “A realist, he is sanguine about American’s superpower status. “If you are to have one world policeman bullying the others by its own judgment,” he says, “I could think of many others that would be less pleasant.”

    >>do I understand you to be saying that
    >>If we don’t like them, it’s okay to
    >>take them out”

    Obviously not. Is anyone suggesting that we start a war with France? I think that Iraq was an extraordinary situation. Hussein defied the U.N. for years and made a mockery of international law. What amazes me is this country’s sudden amnesia on the issue – all of a sudden WMD’s never existed and Hussein is portrayed as a grandfatherly coot against George Bush the warmonger. It’s a total joke. I remember 1991, 1998. I think R.J. Elliot had it right in the first post, “and this is a scandal, why?”

  • Eric Olsen

    James, great job – thanks and welcome! I think I was alseep when you published this.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    >>hp: do I understand you to be saying that If we don’t like them, it’s okay to take them out?
    jg: Obviously not. Is anyone suggesting that we start a war with France?

    Not yet.

    You did say: “We may tacitly support some of these governments, but we would prefer if they change, and sometimes, that preference compels us to war.”

    I don’t see any exclusions. It still seems irrational and un-American to me. “Prefer” to invade? Jesus.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Neo-con this and that

    Noeconservatives can’t be treated that dismissively – they’re far too reckless and dangerous.

    The neocons are the ones that used the terrrorist attack of 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

    There is now enough evidence from numerous sources to prove that: Bob Woodward, CBS and the Washington Post in 2002, Paul O’Neill earlier this year, and Richard Clarke this month.

    Note that even some Republicans are starting to make the distinction between being a Republican and just following the neocons blindly and unthinkingly.

    The entire bi-partisan 9/11 Commission, for example, is asking that Condi testify before them, in public and under oath, in spite of the administration’s attempts to prevent it.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    What amazes me is this country’s sudden amnesia on the issue – all of a sudden WMD’s never existed and Hussein is portrayed as a grandfatherly coot against George Bush the warmonger

    That’s simply a false characterization.

    The problem from the neocons’ perspective is that the country remembers too well.

    They remember that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.

    They remember that what Saddam had at one time was chemical weapons, some biological materials he bought from the United States, and no nuclear weapons, in spite of the neocons’ bringing up the image of the “mushroom cloud.”

    They remember that Saddam last used “WMD’s” in the 1980’s.

    They remember that by 1998 large quantities of his chemical and biological stocks had been destroyed by UN inspectors.

    They remember that the inspectors were in Iraq until they were told to leave by Bush the day before the invasion, and had found nothing even with all the “specific locations” they had been given by the US.

    And again: they remember that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 and was not an “immediate threat” as the neocons said again and again and …

    The neocons weren’t elected anyhow, so let’s just remove them and get this country back to what it was before they took over.

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