Joshua Micah Marshall writes more about the significance of the Clarke revelations (that Bush’s people wanted to bomb Iraq immediately after 9/11, and had to be talked out of it by the terrorism experts who pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks). There’s also some good stuff about Philip D. Zelikow, who was a member of the Bush transition team, and sat in on the anti-terrorism briefings at which the outgoing Clinton people begged the Bush team to pay more attention to al Qaeda. And, surprise, surprise, he’s now executive director of the 9/11 commission. Can you say “conflict of interest”? What do you think the chances are that Zelikow will probe deeply into the question of whether he made a horrible mistake in ignoring the warnings of the Clinton folk? Anyway: Richard A. Clarke said in a television interview…
This is the big one. This is the granddaddy of Bush’s accountability problems: The way he ignored the threat of al Qaeda in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Marshall writes:
It is fair to say that anyone who has seriously reported on this issue, or has read a lot of the good reporting on it, already knows this: namely, that the incoming Bush administration downgraded the attention given to terrorism and al Qaida specifically in the last years of the Clinton administration, and this after being warned by out-going members of the Clinton team that combatting al Qaida should be at the top of their agenda.
In short, they pushed al Qaida and a lot of resources aimed at fighting al Qaida to the backburner until the whole thing blew up in their faces on 9/11.
Their focus, as we’ve noted before, was on the centrality of states rather than shadowy transnational terrorist groups — thus their preoccuption with issues like national missile defense.
In any case, as I say, we’ve basically known this.
But it’s another thing to have the person who was there at the center of the action as NSC counter-terrorism czar — both under Clinton and Bush — saying on camera that the president ignored terrorism and al Qaida right up until the day of the attacks. Clarke was there. In fact, to the extent that Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest of the team were ignoring the issue, it would have been Clarke’s urgent warnings they were ignoring — since he was the head of counter-terrorism on the NSC staff.