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Unanswered Questions : Thinking for ourselves.
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 30 March 2004
Former White House Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke has managed to do something that defies modern political gravity. He has stayed in the news, hour after hour and day after day. He was hurled many days ago into the maelstrom of the 24-hour news cycle, which reports one moment on an incredibly important story, flings that story out beyond the Oort Cloud the next moment, and that story is never seen again. Clarke, somehow, has managed to maintain his position at the top of the news despite this process we mistakenly call 'journalism' for longer than any other ten major recent stories combined.
There are several reasons for this. First of all, Clarke's accusations are damning. According to him, the Bush administration ignored the threat of al Qaeda terrorism completely. After the attacks of September 11, the administration became obsessed with attacking Iraq, despite the fact that every intelligence organization in America was telling them Iraq had nothing to do with it. Clarke maintains that the war in Iraq is a dangerous distraction from the defense of the nation, a political war that has nothing to do with making America safer, and one that has cost us terribly in blood and treasure. Given the fact that Clarke was physically in the White House for all this, and that he has been in the anti-terrorism business since the days of Ronald Reagan, his accusations have long, sharp teeth.
There is also the fact that Clarke apologized for September 11. In the context of a White House that has battled the assembly of a September 11 investigation for two years, a White House that has slapped down every plea from the family members of those who died on September 11 to get this investigation rolling, a White House that tried at one point to put the investigation into the slippery hands of Henry Kissinger, a White House that has adamantly refused to hand over relevant data about September 11 to the commission they never wanted to see in the first place, a White House that won't allow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly before this commission despite her central role in the administration, a National Security Advisor that would dance the Macarena on the Capitol dome if it could get her out of giving that testimony because she knows she will get clobbered with her own words, and finally a White House that never got around to saying they were sorry to the families of the September 11 victims, in the context of all that, Richard Clarke's heartfelt apology to those families instantly became the stuff of political legend.
Another reason Clarke has stayed in the news is because he does not stand alone. Had he been the only person to come forth with savage criticism of George W. Bush and his administration, Karl Rove would have called out the dogs, and Clarke would have found himself selling Amway outside of McMurdo Sound before St. Patrick's Day. Fortunately for Mr. Clarke, and for the truth, he has joined a long and prestigious line of people who have come forward to bear witness against this White House:
* Tom Maertens, who was National Security Council director for nuclear non-proliferation for both the Clinton and Bush White House. Maertens' own words tell the tale: "Clarke was a colleague of mine for 15 months in the White House, under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Subsequently, I moved to the U.S. State Department as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism, and worked with him and his staff before and after 9/11. The Bush administration did ignore the threat of terrorism. It was focused on tax cuts, building a ballistic missile system, withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. Clarke's gutsy insider recounting of events related to 9/11 is an important public service. From my perspective, the Bush administration has practiced the most cynical, opportunistic form of politics I witnessed in my 28 years in government: hijacking legitimate American outrage and patriotism over 9/11 to conduct a pre-ordained war against Saddam Hussein."
* Roger Cressey, Clarke's former deputy. Cressey backs up one of the most damning charges that has been leveled against the administration by Clarke: They blew past al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, focusing instead on Iraq. Cressey is one of four eyewitnesses to an exchange between Clarke and Bush which took place in the White House Situation Room on September 12, 2001. Bush pressed Clarke three times on September 12 to find evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks. According to his book, 'Against All Enemies,' Clarke protested that al-Qaida, and not Iraq, was responsible. Bush angrily ordered him to "'look into Iraq, Saddam,'" and then left the room. According to Cressey, Condoleezza Rice was also a witness to this exchange. The word from administration officials is that Rice can't seem to remember it. This, among others, is a reason Rice is refusing to testify publicly before the September 11 commission.
* Donald Kerrick, a three-star General who served as deputy National Security Advisor under Clinton, and stayed for several months in the Bush White House. According to a report by Sidney Blumenthal from March 25, Kerrick wrote Stephen Hadley, his replacement in the White House, a two-page memo. "It was classified," Kerrick told Blumenthal. "I said they needed to pay attention to al-Qaida and counterterrorism. I said we were going to be struck again. We didn't know where or when. They never once asked me a question nor did I see them having a serious discussion about it. They didn't feel it was an imminent threat the way the Clinton administration did. Hadley did not respond to my memo. I know he had it. I agree with Dick that they saw those problems through an Iraqi prism. But the evidence wasn't there." Hadley has since become a White House front man in the attacks against Rickard Clarke.
* Paul O'Neill, former Treasury Secretary for George W. Bush. O'Neill was afforded a position on the National Security Council because of his job as Treasury Secretary, and sat in on the Iraq invasion planning sessions which were taking place months before the attacks of September 11. "It was all about finding a way to do it," says O'Neill. "That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this.'" O'Neill describes the process of decision-making between Bush and his people as being "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Ron Suskind captured O'Neill's views in a new book titled 'The Price of Loyalty.' "From the very first instance, it was about Iraq," says Suskind about his interviews with O'Neill and his review of 19,000 pages of documentary evidence provided by O'Neill. "It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed."
* Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador and career diplomat who received lavish praise from the first President Bush for his work in Iraq before the first Gulf War. Wilson was the man dispatched in February 2002 to Niger to see if charges that Iraq was seeking uranium from that nation to make nuclear bombs had any merit. He investigated, returned, and informed the CIA, the State Department, the office of the National Security Advisor and the office of Vice President Cheney that the charges were without merit. Eleven months later, George W. Bush used the Niger uranium claim in his State of the Union address to scare the cheese out of everyone, despite the fact that the claim had been irrefutably debunked. Wilson went public, exposing this central bit of evidence to support the Iraq invasion as the lie it was. A few days later, Wilson's wife came under attack from the White House, whose agents used press proxies to destroy her career in the CIA as a warning to Wilson and anyone else who might come forward. For the record, Wilson's wife was a deep-cover agent running a network which worked to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. The irony is palpable.
* Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department. Thielmann, like Ambassador Wilson, was involved in investigating whether the Niger uranium claims had any merit. Thielmann told Newsweek at the beginning of June 2003 that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research had concluded the documents used to support the Niger uranium claims were "garbage." In fact, they were crude forgeries. Thielmann was stunned to see Bush use the claims in his State of the Union address eleven months after the charge had been dispensed with as nonsense. "When I saw that, it really blew me away," Thielmann told Newsweek. He watched Bush use the claim and said, "Not that stupid piece of garbage. My thought was, how did that get into the speech?"
* Karen Kwiatkowski, a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and a career Pentagon officer. Kwiatkowski worked in the office of Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, and worked specifically with the Office of Special Plans. Kwiatkowski's own words tell her story: "From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president."
* Rand Beers, who served the Bush administration on the National Security Council at the White House as a special assistant to the President for combating terrorism. Mr. Beers served in government for more than 30 years working in international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, intelligence, and counter-terrorism. He worked for the National Security Council under presidents Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton. Because of his position, Beers saw everything. In a June 25 2003 interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline, Beers reported that the administration was failing dramatically to defend the United States against terrorism. According to Beers, al Qaeda presented a far greater threat to America than Hussein and Iraq, and that the Iraq war was a terrible and unnecessary distraction from what was truly needed to keep the nation safe.
Rogue journalist Hunter S. Thompson, in a Rolling Stone article from July 4 1973 titled 'Fear and Loathing in Washington: The Boys in the Bag,' described the looming sense of doomed finality which surrounded the Nixon White House after the existence of recorded Oval Office conversations became exposed. The Nixon White House had tried everything to that point to fend off the Watergate scandal: They denied everything, then tried to pay off the central figures, then fired a bunch of people, denied everything again, and finally released edited transcripts of the White House tapes in an effort to stem the tide that was about to flood them out of power.
"There are a hundred or more people wandering around Washington today," wrote Thompson, "who have heard the 'real stuff,' as they put it - and despite their professional caution when the obvious question arises, there is one reaction they all feel free to agree on: that nobody who felt shocked, depressed or angry after reading the edited White House transcripts should ever be allowed to hear the actual tapes, except under heavy sedation or locked in the trunk of a car. Only a terminal cynic, they say, can listen for any length of time to the real stuff without feeling a compulsion to do something like drive down to the White House and throw a bag of live rats over the fence."
Richard Clarke, Tom Maertens, Roger Cressey, Donald Kerrick, Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson, Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski and Rand Beers all heard and saw the real stuff happening in this Bush White House. Wilson has a book coming out in May, in which he will name the White House operatives who destroyed his wife's career. There will be more books, from more people, and the 24-hour news cycle will continue to ride this tiger.
These people are telling the world about the real stuff. The Bush/Cheney Re-Election Axis is terrified, and the Secret Service detail guarding the White House perimeter might want to cowboy up in preparation for a rain of rat bags coming over that fence.
William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'
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