Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

ANOTHER VIEW FROM RICHARD CLARKE....Since I was in the bookstore yesterday and I had a gift card in my pocket, I bought a copy of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies. I haven't gotten too far into it, though, so I don't know exactly what he says about the Clinton approach to al-Qaeda in late 2000 vs. the Bush approach in early 2001.

I continue to maintain that how those administrations handled al-Qaeda before 9/11 isn't all that interesting, since it was perfectly reasonable at that time to consider al-Qaeda merely one among many important foreign policy questions. Even so, though, I can certainly see why the White House was eager to authorize publication of the following background briefing that Clarke gave to reporters in August 2002:

[Clarke starts with a general briefing on seven points about the Clinton/Bush approach to al-Qaeda before 9/11.]

JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.

....QUESTION: Were all of those issues part of [the alleged Clinton administration anti-al-Qaeda plan that] the Clinton team decided not to pursue because it was too close to ...

CLARKE: There was never a plan, Andrea. What there was was these two things: One, a description of the existing strategy, which included a description of the threat. And two, those things which had been looked at over the course of two years, and which were still on the table.

....CLARKE: What happened at the end of December was that the Clinton administration NSC principals committee met and once again looked at the strategy, and once again looked at the issues that they had brought, decided in the past to add to the strategy. But they did not at that point make any recommendations.

QUESTIONS: Had those issues evolved at all from October of '98 'til December of 2000?

CLARKE: Had they evolved? Um, not appreciably.

....ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no one, there was no plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the spring months just after the administration came into office?

CLARKE: You got it. That's right.

....ANGLE: Now the five-fold increase for the money in covert operations against Al Qaeda did that actually go into effect when it was decided or was that a decision that happened in the next budget year or something?

CLARKE: Well, it was gonna go into effect in October, which was the next budget year, so it was a month away.

Like I said, I haven't gotten to the part of the book where Clarke talks about this. What's more, it's true that since he was part of the administration in August 2002 he was obligated to put the best possible spin on their actions when he talked to reporters.

Still, there's not much question that the tone of this briefing sure doesn't sound much like the tone of the book. More later.

Kevin Drum 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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