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August 17, 2005

World History According To Clinton


This quote will never see the light of day:

As a rule, he refuses to bluntly criticize George W. Bush, whose political skills he considers “extraordinary” and whose father he genuinely likes. When I ask whether he enjoys playing good cop around the world to George W.’s bad cop, he punts, saying, “It’s not true that people dislike W. all over the world. In Russia, they probably like him more than they like me.” When I mention that both McCurry and Sandy Berger, Clinton’s former national-security adviser, told me that Clinton, too, would have gone to war with Iraq, he doesn’t deny the possibility, though he doesn’t confirm it either, saying, “I’m still not exactly sure what the intelligence really said. But I can tell you this: I would have asked the Congress for authority to use force if Saddam did not allow the inspectors back in, or did not cooperate with them, or we found weapons of mass destruction. Because he never did anything he wasn’t forced to do, at least in my experience.”
Only at one point in our discussion does he allow something harsh about his successor. “I always thought,” he says, “that bin Laden was a bigger threat than the Bush administration did....”

“I also wish,” he continues, “I desperately wish, that I had been president when the FBI and CIA finally confirmed, officially, that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Then we could have launched an attack on Afghanistan early. I don’t know if it would have prevented 9/11, but it certainly would have complicated it.”

Oh really? According to the 9/11 Commission report, you knew bin Laden was planning an attack on the US long before you left office. Yet you hamstrung the CIA unit assigned to bin Laden:

By early 1997, the UBL Station knew that Bin Ladin was not just a financier but an organizer of terrorist activity. It knew that al Qaeda had a military committee planning operations against U.S. interests worldwide and was actively trying to obtain nuclear material. Although this information was disseminated in many reports, the unit’s sense of alarm about Bin Ladin was not widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities. Employees in the unit told us they felt their zeal attracted ridicule from their peers.

In 1997 CIA headquarters authorized U.S. officials to begin developing a network of agents to gather intelligence inside Afghanistan about Bin Ladin and his organization and prepare a plan to capture him. By 1998 DCI Tenet was giving considerable personal attention to the UBL threat.

Senior NSC staff members told us they believed the president’s intent was clear: he wanted Bin Ladin dead. On successive occasions, President Clinton issued authorities instructing the CIA to use its proxies to capture or assault Bin Ladin and his lieutenants in operations in which they might be killed. The instructions, except in one defined contingency, were to capture Bin Ladin if possible.
Senior legal advisers in the Clinton administration agreed that, under the law of armed conflict, killing a person who posed an imminent threat to the United States was an act of self-defense, not an assassination. As former National Security Adviser Berger explained, if we wanted to kill Bin Ladin with cruise missiles, why would we not want to kill him with covert action? Clarke’s recollection is the same.

But if the policymakers believed their intent was clear, every CIA official interviewed on this topic by the Commission, from DCI Tenet to the official who actually briefed the agents in the field, told us they heard a different message. What the United States would let the military do is quite different, Tenet said, from the rules that govern covert action by the CIA. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers uniformly said that they read the relevant authorities signed by President Clinton as instructing them to try to capture Bin Ladin, except in the defined contingency. They believed that the only acceptable context for killing Bin Ladin was a credible capture operation.

“We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him,” a former chief of the UBL Station said. Working-level CIA officers said they were frustrated by what they saw as the policy restraints of having to instruct their assets to mount a capture operation. When Northern Alliance leader Massoud was briefed on the carefully worded instructions for him, the briefer recalls that Massoud laughed and said, “You Americans are crazy. You guys never change.”

Regarding Saddam Hussein, according to former CIA director James Woolsey, your administration had evidence of Iraqi involvement in the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing as well as the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, yet you failed to take action.

CWCID: John Podhoretz, who comments:

Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill. Everybody knew it was Bin Laden. You knew it was Bin Laden at the time. Richard Clarke in his book says you specifically ruled out military action after the Cole in October 2000 because you wanted to try once again to get an Israel-Palestinian peace deal. Get real. Oh, wait, I'm talking about Bill Clinton here.

Exactly. VC: your one-stop shopping destination for flogging of dead equine flesh...

Posted by Cassandra at August 17, 2005 07:14 AM

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Tracked on August 18, 2005 01:18 AM


"VC: your one-stop shopping destination for flogging of dead equine flesh..."

Oh, that it really was dead.
(Ouch! Did I say that?!)

Posted by: camojack at August 17, 2005 08:03 AM

I hope you aren't beating a thoroughbred. That would piss me off.

Posted by: KJ at August 17, 2005 11:17 AM

May I offer a couple of interesting tidbits from the TigerHawk archives.

1. In one of the very few passages in his book that criticized the Bush administration, Richard Clarke described a meeting of the Clinton administration Principals in which they decided (against his advice) to bomb Afghanistan because they were too committed to containing Iraq. Not surprisingly, this particular bit got exactly no press coverage last year. If you believe Clarke, it is hard to believe Clinton, and vice versa.

2. On the matter of Oklahoma City, Clarke is also very interesting. He includes a tantalizing discussion summarizing all the circumstantial evidence pointing toward al Qaeda's involvement in that bombing. Most interestingly, he does not discount it or qualify. You get the strong impression that he still believes it. Link.

Sorry to dump the links, but I thought that they were particularly germane.

Posted by: TigerHawk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 05:03 PM

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