Truth Haunts Bush
Published on Sunday, March 27, 2004 by the Madison Capital Times
Truth Haunts Bush

Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has blown the whistle on the Bush administration's failed response to the threat of terrorism - not just before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but also since those devastating assaults.

Calmly, coolly and without hesitation, Clarke has confirmed the worst fears of Americans who believed that this administration was always more concerned about invading the oil-rich nation of Iraq than in hunting down Osama bin Laden and other figures who pose a genuine threat to this country.

That has the administration going, finally, to battle stations. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are at war, not with the terrorists, but with Clarke. But they are not doing any more damage to the former White House aide than they are to al-Qaida. When Clarke appeared before the Sept. 11 commission, Republican members of the body did everything they could to undermine the credibility of the former counterterrorism czar. But the critics ended up looking ridiculous, as the families of Sept. 11 victims who were in the hearing room loudly applauded Clarke's remarks.

The people who most want a full explanation of the intelligence, political and military failures that allowed the Sept. 11 attack to occur, like the people who most fear that more attacks could come, recognize that Clarke is their champion. He is challenging a wayward administration to return to reality. And he is making it clear that, until the administration changes course, the country will face ever-expanding threats.

What is shocking is not that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice are so determined to defend themselves. They have never understood what is really at stake, and they still do not. As such, they are perfectly prepared to attack Clarke. Unfortunately, the attacks are obviously being launched for political purposes - not out of any desire to do what is right for the country or the world.

The Bush administration is desperate to cling to power. Recognizing that the weak state of the economy is straining his appeal, Bush knows he must run for re-election on the issue of national security. With Clarke explaining that this president and his team lack the basic understandings and commitments that are required to keep Americans safe, he is doing Bush's re-election campaign a great deal of damage.

That is why Clarke came under such intense and sustained assault last week. As Clarke says, the Bush administration failed to protect the United States and its people before Sept. 11. Then, after those devastating attacks, the administration actually increased the threat to the American people by cooking up an unnecessary war with Iraq.

The misguided approach of this administration to the war on terrorism, which resulted from the politicization of the process by Bush and his aides, has begun to haunt the president and his aides. They are striking out at Clarke. But their assaults look desperate. That's because it is so very obvious that Clarke, a Republican who served four presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, has no ax to grind. Clarke fears for America's safety, and he is acting on those fears.

Were George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice so well motivated as Clarke, there would be real hope for progress to protect the United States. As it stands, the only hope is for a change in administrations. We have faith that, as more and more Americans get a chance to hear Clarke's testimony, the prospects for regime change at