Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke is testifying before the 9/11 commission right now. I’m listening to the audio feed via CNN and wondering how can we be expected to take him seriously until we know how he went from American Bandstand host to counter-terrorism guru.

On the one hand, he’s got a book out that claims the Bush administration ignored his warnings that al Qaeda was a threat. On the other hand, he’s also said things that directly contradict this. His motivation escapes me. I’m sure there were many behind-the-scenes machinations that we in the blogosphere are not privy to, but it’s not helping his credibility at the moment.

Considering that the terrorists were already trained, prepared, committed, and living in the U.S. on the day Bush was inaugurated, I don’t see what could have been done on his watch short of inventing a time machine. I agree with CIA Director George Tenet who said even if we had declared war on al Qaeda in January 2001 and destroyed bin Laden, the attack would likely have gone on anyway.

President Bush took office after the gun was fired, but before the bullet hit the victim. He’s not to blame. Neither is President Clinton, for that matter.

I believe 9/11 was simply inconceivable before 9/11. That’s why pilots were specifically trained to always cooperate with hijackers. I’m speaking from personal experience here. I am a pilot who was trained before September 11th, and I was taught that if my aircraft was comandeered, input the hijack code if possible, and above all don’t resist.

But after 9/11 it instantly became the exact opposite. “Die if you have to, but don’t let anyone take control of your airplane for any reason. EVER.” The priority went from “protect the passengers” to “screw the passengers–they’re expendable.” That’s a big shift and, in my mind, a primary indicator of a sea change that only a September 11th could have brought about.

The 9/11 commission’s timing is unfortunate. With the presidential election only eight months away, people on both sides are screaming ‘politics’. It’s worth noting that after Pearl Harbor, the commission investigating that attack waited until after the war was over — nearly four years — to release their findings.

There is something else about the 9/11 panel which bothers me: it’s turning into a blame game. “Let’s see who is responsible for this!”. Is it just politics? Maybe. But there’s no denying that America has lost touch with the simple truth that Bad Things Happen, and it’s not always someone else’s fault.

That’s why we want a $100 million check when a kid jumps off a bridge or a smoker gets cancer or someone trips on the sidewalk. This mentality is pervasive. People blame the police when a crime occurs despite the fact that the cops did not commit the crime.

This is a dangerous world and stuff happens. If you want to blame someone for 9/11, how about blaming the terrorists? Am I crazy to believe they might be responsible for what happened?

I’m suggesting something very radical here: that every person is responsible for their own actions. If you smoke and get cancer, you’re to blame — not Philip Morris. If terrorists blow up a building, then they are to blame. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but that’s how I see it.

  2 comments for “Richard Clarke

  1. March 24, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    I don’t think anyone should be blamed for what happened pre-9/11.

    However, I think Bush does bear much of the blame of the politicization of what’s been happening since. IMHO, if Bush had called for a 9/11 commission on 9/12, this commission would have been more productive rather than political. Instead he didn’t see the need, then he called it. He stonewalled the commision, he originally agreed only to meet for an hour and then only with the co-chairs. Condi won’t testify and it goes on.

    Bush has also tarred Kerry with the weak on terror tag. A ridiculous charge to make of anyone, but one that the Dems had to refute and they’ve done us by use of the commission. You can claim that Kerry will fight terror in a different way than Bush and that Bush’s way is superior to Kerry’s, but “weak on terror” is politicizing something that should be above politics.

  2. Ron
    March 25, 2004 at 2:27 am

    I’m not sure it’s aimed at blaming Senator Kerry for 9/11, but rather pointing out all the ways in which Kerry has been inconsistent.

    Or has the Bush campaign specifically marketed Kerry as “weak on terror”? If so, I missed it. (wouldn’t be the first time…)

    Perhaps part of the reason 9/11 has become embroiled so centrally in the campaign is the military questions that have surrounded both candidates. Kerry has leaned heavily on his military record and Bush likewise has leaned on his performance leading the military as commander-in-chief.

    The Democrats have taken shots at Bush for his ANG service — and Republicans have gone after Kerry on Vietnam protests and his Senate voting record.

    There’s a fine line between politicizing 9/11 and asking legitmate questions about a candidate’s record. I would be the first to admit I’m not even sure where the line is at times. This is new territory, isn’t it?

    The thing about political campaigns is that everyone understands they have a partisan spin to them. With a commission like the 9/11 panel, however, there might be a higher expectation of nonpartisanship.

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