Looking deeper into Clarke’s ‘bombshell’
When I turned on my computer last week, I was greeted with a blizzard of e-mails from my political junkie friends asking if I had seen the “bombshell” on 60 Minutes the night before. As my hectic social calendar had kept me away from the television Sunday, I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about.
As I searched the Internet for the story, I could hear my hysterical wife in the bedroom. She was watching the Today Show, and couldn’t believe the coverage she was seeing. I tried to reassure her by pointing out that hardly anyone watches “Today,” and certainly no one takes the show seriously.
After a bit of searching, I was able to determine what all the excitement was about.
Apparently, CBS had replaced 60 Minutes with an info-commercial promoting former national security “Terrorism Czar” Richard Clarke’s new book “Against All Enemies,” and had done so without issuing a disclaimer noting that Viacom owns both CBS and Clarke’s book.
Apparently, a lot of folks thought the broadcast was a real news show. I wonder if viewers mistook Leslie Stahl for a real journalist?
I switched over to watching the morning television shows where the talking heads (should that be “empty heads”?) were so excited I thought perhaps Elvis had turned up. Given the attention the networks were giving Clarke’s book, a more appropriate analogy would be that Winston Churchill had risen from the dead to tell us Roosevelt gave the plans for Pearl Harbor to the Japanese. It was apparent that 60 Minutes had treated Clarke’s book as the greatest literary event since the publication of the sour grapes account by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, a book also owned by Viacom. When O’Neill pretty much repudiated his book, which he said he never read and was actually ghost written by a noted Bush hater, it quickly faded from the headlines.
Let’s look at what is known about Clarke.
Dick Clarke: Sorry but I can’t say his name without fuzzy memories of taking the Greyhound down to Philadelphia with my girlfriend Gloria to dance on American Bandstand back in ’59.
Dick Clark held a “near cabinet” level position as “Terrorism Czar” in the Clinton administration. Apparently, as Condoleezza Rice was quick to point out, Clarke was in charge of Clinton’s “terrorism office” when the World Trade Center was attacked for the first time, the American housing in Saudi Arabia was bombed, the frigate Cole was attacked in Yemen and two U.S. embassies in Africa were destroyed by terrorist.
It would appear that Richard Clarke was inept even by Clinton administration standards.
In addition to handing out consistently bad counsel, Clarke is credited with engineering the U.S. attacks on the milk/chemical factory in the Sudan, the same attacks which cynics point out coincided with the Clinton impeachment vote. Clarke is also remembered for his obsession with cyber terror (hackers breaking into our vital computer systems), which he mistakenly believed was about to break out all over, and in his opinion was more likely than suicide bombings or terrorist flying airplanes into buildings. According to Clarke, future wars would be fought by our hackers verses their hackers. The reality turned out a lot bloodier, with Americans killed in their workplaces and U.S. soldiers and Marines pursuing terrorist fighters in far away lands.
Clarke apparently hitched his star so closely to cyber terrorism that after 9/11, he was pushed into the background to run his new office of cyber-terrorism until his resignation a year ago.
Given the opportunity to crucify Clarke during a Monday morning interview, Vice President Dick Cheney simply said Clarke was “out of the loop,” and Cheney acted as if he hardly knew Clarke.
According to most media analysis, Clarke’s most damaging accusation is that after 9/11, President Bush fixated on Iraq and ignored Clarke’s advice to concentrate on Al-Qaida.
Clarke claims that in a meeting the day after 9/11, Bush ordered him to get the goods on Saddam. The administration has no record of this meeting but is not denying that it took place.
At the time, it was well known in security circles and by both the Clinton and Bush administration officials that Saddam was allowing terrorist training exercises in a Boeing 747 located just outside Baghdad. Wasn’t it reasonable for President Bush and others to suspect Iraq when four Boeing jets were commandeered by terrorist on 9/11?
Unfortunately for Clarke, the fact is that when the cabinet met a few days after 9/11, the decision was made to concentrate on Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al-Qaida, not Iraq and Saddam.
Another charge by Clarke: It has been pretty well established by some very careful and respected journalist that at one point, the government of Sudan offered to turn over to us Osama bin Laden, but fearing it had no legal case against Bin Laden, the Clinton administration was not interested. Attorney General Janet Reno apparently made the call.
Clarke calls this a “myth,” backing up former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who must be pretty embarrassed at missing Bin Laden. Someone here is flat out lying. In my opinion, it’s Richard Clarke and Madeline Albright.
Where is Clarke working now? Why, he’s over at Harvard’s Kennedy School with Rand Beers, John Kerry’s top national security adviser. Do you suppose big jobs are awaiting these guys in a future Kerrey administration? Sounds like a powerful motive to me.
Was the Bush administration negligent in any of this? Absolutely. They were negligent in not ordering Clarke to clean out his desk as soon as Bush took office. (But given the vandalism and outright theft committed to White House offices by outgoing Clinton staffers, perhaps it’s understandable).
If you take the time to look at the facts, it’s pretty easy to dismiss Richard Clark’s “Against All Enemies” as nothing but a shoddy political attack book, but Clarke’s book is not without value.
The fawning and sensationalism showered on “Against All Enemies” by virtually all the mainstream news media is another part of the mounting evidence of the press’ very clear anti-Bush bias. Conservative Sean Hannity’s book “Deliver Us From Evil” has sat on top of The New York Times Best Seller List for five weeks. Be it good or bad, how much attention has it received in the mainstream media? None, of course! The Times, which weekly gives glowing reviews to books by such literary giants as Al Franken and Michael Moore, apparently can’t find the space to review Hannity’s book.
Two recent run-away best sellers by conservative writer Ann Coulter also were judged not important enough for review by The Times.
By the time you read this I suppose the uproar over Richard Clarke’s book will have faded to the back pages. Here in Truckee, we have more important things to think about: like when will my favorite mountain bike trails be open, or what kind of wax will work in this grabby spring snow?
We can expect a lot more “bombshells” in the press before November’s election. Be skeptical.
Note: CBS did in fact issue a disclaimer with its Internet coverage of “Against All Enemies” and CBS Radio carried a disclaimer in its news coverage of the book. All are owned by Viacom.
Isn’t this the kind of corporate incest that usually upsets liberals so much?
Prentiss Davis is a Truckee resident.