|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Saturday, March 27, 2004
Clarke Book Reignites Debate Over Iraq Invasion: More experts on the Iraq distraction: "Flynt Leverett, a former CIA analyst and Middle East specialist who left Bush's National Security Council staff a year ago, also agrees. "Clarke's critique of administration decision-making and how it did not balance the imperative of finishing the job against al Qaeda versus what they wanted to do in Iraq is absolutely on the money," Leverett said.
He said that Arabic-speaking Special Forces officers and CIA officers who were doing a good job tracking Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders were pulled out of Afghanistan in March 2002 to begin preparing for the war against Iraq. "We took the people out who could have caught them," he said. "But even if we get bin Laden or Zawahiri now, it is two years too late. Al Qaeda is a very different organization now. It has had time to adapt. The administration should have finished this job."
Jessica Stern, Harvard University lecturer and author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill," also agrees with Clarke. "It was a distraction on the war on terrorism and made it more difficult to prosecute because the al Qaeda movement used the war in Iraq to mobilize new recruits and energize the movement," she said. "And we apparently sent Special Forces from Afghanistan, where they should have been fighting al Qaeda, to Iraq."
Pat Lang, who was head Middle East and South Asia intelligence in the Defense Intelligence Agency for seven years, said: "When you commit as much time and attention and resources as we did to Iraq, which I do not believe is connected to the worldwide war against the jihadis, then you subtract what you could commit to the war on terrorism. You see that especially in the Special Forces commitment, as we have only so many of them." " 3:14:55 PM
'Wartime President' MIA: Spot on. "What would a "wartime president" have done this week, as a bipartisan commission's public hearings on the Sept. 11 tragedy were being engulfed by political bickering?
I like to think that this hypothetical leader would have found a way to rise above the fray and unite the country: He would have embraced the commission's work, forthrightly admitted his own mistakes, sent his national security adviser to testify publicly -- and insisted that the security of the United States was too important to be buried in election-year squabbles.
President Bush and his White House handlers did pretty much the opposite. They fanned the flames of partisan debate; .. they stonewalled; rather than testify before the cameras, Rice spent part of her Wednesday afternoon dishing dirt to reporters ..
Bush flunked the test, in other words." 3:10:46 PM
Daalder and Lindsay on Clarke and Bush:
The "broader, more troubling point that Mr. Clarke's accusations raise is that Mr. Bush does not understand the threat we confront. For Mr. Bush and his advisers it is not al-Qaeda that is the real danger so much as the states that supposedly support it. Thus, a Defence Department spokesman, responding to Mr. Clarke's claim that Mr. Wolfowitz did not take the al-Qaeda terrorist threat seriously, said Mr. Wolfowitz did see al-Qaeda "as a major threat to U.S. security, the more so because of the state support it received from the Taliban and because of its possible links to Iraq."
The assumption driving Mr. Bush's war on terrorism is that the United States can win by targeting rogue states and the tyrants who rule them. The war in Afghanistan was about ousting the Taliban and denying al-Qaeda a sanctuary; the Iraq war was about ousting Saddam. That view of the terrorist threat is deeply flawed, quite apart from the dubious claims about ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Al-Qaeda is a transnational network of terrorists, less like a state than like a non-governmental organization or multinational corporation with multiple independent franchises. It thrives on an Islamist ideology, and extends its presence to the far reaches of the globe -- not just in rogue and failed states, but within the West as well. Its terrorists can strike -- whether in Bali, Casablanca, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid or New York and Washington -- without the direct support of states. That is what makes it so frightening.
Mr. Clarke's charges have stung the Bush administration not just because of the stature of the accuser, but because at their core, they say that more than two years after the worst terrorist attack in history, the President and his advisers still don't get what happened. That is the true, and alarming, message of this week's debate." 11:14:27 AM