After hours of reading testimony and listening to the political talk shows, I believe former counterterrorism "czar" Richard Clarke served our country dutifully and responsibly and perhaps even nobly - as well fighting terrorism for more than 20 years in the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II administrations. By all accounts, he was tenacious and at times even ferocious, it seems, in his single-minded dedication to rooting out terrorists and stopping them before they could strike Americans. For that service, Clarke is to be commended.
It is, however, completely inexplicable and totally indefensible in a time of war - and make no mistake, we are in a time of war - for anyone so intimately involved in the last four administrations to take steps to undermine a president, be he a Democrat or Republican. I am profoundly concerned. Clarke's accusations that the Bush administration did not take terrorism as a serious enough threat prior to 9-11 could undermine the president's ability to carry on the war on terrorism if sufficient doubt is cast in the mind of the American public.
Clarke complains that the invasion of Iraq, which he contends was not a significant state sponsor of terrorism or in any significant way a contributor to terrorism, has been a costly and unnecessary diversion. Clarke testified to the 9-11 Commission not only that he believes the Iraq war misdirected our efforts and attention away from the larger war on terrorism, but also that he believes the war in Iraq has fostered more terrorism and left America more vulnerable. Whether he is correct about that only history will tell, but everyone agrees that failure is not an option now. What is clear is that Clarke's conviction against the war in Iraq is clouding his judgment about the war on terrorism and this administration's conduct of that war, and worse, it is politicizing the 9-11 Commission's deliberations.
By casting doubt in the American public's mind about Bush's pre-9-11 actions and policies, Clarke is creating his own huge diversion. I find it unfathomable and inexcusable that someone as intimately involved in counterterrorism efforts as Clarke would fault the Bush administration where terrorism is concerned, given the inertia and ineptitude he experienced firsthand in the eight years of the Clinton administration.
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