Clarke, Clinton's terrorism czar, put out an article a few days ago that set me off a bit:
The last of the presidential debates will focus on national security and will surely produce another round of sniping about what happened before, during and after the raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi,Libya. Voters, therefore, ought to think about this issue in context.
Karl Rove, the Republican evil genius of campaign slurs, is famous for advising candidates to attack an opponent’s strong suit. If Sen. John Kerry is a decorated war hero and your guy avoided going toVietnam, then attack Kerry’s service record. If Sen. Max Cleland lost limbs fighting forAmerica, question his patriotism.
The problem is that those two outrageous attacks worked, as have many others like them.
Clarke conveniently ignores how the left tried to pretend Pres Bush was AWOL from the USAF, and was a Vietnam draft dodger. Or how the left tried to blame Senator John McCain for a fire on the USS Forrestal that almost sank an American supercarrier, or how the left took McCain’s amazing service record and claimed he was a bad pilot because he was shot down. The list of decorated and honorable military service veterans who have been attacked politically is long, and apparently unbeknownst to Richard Clarke…the record is bi-partisan. It’s not just “evil genius” Karl Rove who does it.
Why is the attack on Bengahzi being talked about so much? It is not because the Republicans have a long record of caring about embassy security. House Republicans cut $128 million in fiscal year 2011 and an additional $331 million in fiscal year 2012 from what Secretary of State Clinton requested for embassy security.
Here Clarke tries to do exactly what he accuses Rove of doing: smear the opposition with distortions. House Republicans did cut funding for security, but they didn’t decide where security dollars and assets were allocated. There’s no reason that the US embassy in Paris or the President’s political advisor, Valerie Jarrett, should have had more protection that an ambassador in a mideast nation that’s in chaos. Republicans didn’t allocate those security assets-the President and Secretary of State DID. Still, it’s an effective distraction Mr. Clarke.
No, it’s because their polling and focus groups show that voters believe that President Obama has done a very good job fighting terrorists. Therefore, the Rove theory says, you attack Obama on terrorism.
This might be true. Focus groups might indicate that the American people think President Obama has done a good job of fighting terrorists. Of course, if it were also true that the President HAD done a good job of fighting terrorists…then Bengazi never would have happened, and more significantly the CIA stronghold 1.2 miles away wouldn’t have had “waves of attackers” hitting it at the same time as the ambassador was being killed. “Waves of attackers” don’t come from groups on the run. They come from forces that are strong enough and brazen enough to seek out a CIA stronghold, and attack it repeatedly. The CIA is not the Illinois Army National Guard. The people doing security at a CIA compound are the highest level of elite, and they were driven off by Al Queda. 37 people from that CIA station escaped. If President Obama HAD done a good job of fighting terrorists….how were dozens of the CIA’s most elite shooters routed?
Every President since Ronald Reagan has suffered American casualties to terrorism on his watch. Obama has suffered far fewer than his predecessors, largely because he has kept the terrorist groups off balance by relentlessly attacking them. He has largely eliminated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan as an effective fighting force. His use of drones and special forces has been aggressive and successful, including in Yemen and Somalia.
Good points Mr. Clarke. They are disputable, however. Had the President been as successful as you describe, then the drone strikes and Special Forces raids into Pakistan would be on the decline rather than continuing. And if Yemen or Somalia are so free from terrorists, why can’t the US send the detainees who are in Gitmo back to those countries? Yeah….because they’re not free from terrorist control. In fact, Yemen is being described by many as Al Queda’s new stronghold. Being aggressive and being successful are two different things.
Mitt Romney seems fixated on why Washington did not know with better clarity and sooner what went on during a terrorist attack. It is the kind of question that comes from someone who has no experience dealing with terrorism crisis management or, indeed, combat.
That kind of sounds like the exact same political attack method that Mr. Clarke said the evil genius Karl Rove would use. The fact is, it’s not Mitt Romney who is fixated on the Libya attacks, but tens of millions of American people. People who-as Mr. Clarke claimed earlier-had thought President Obama was doing a good job regarding terrorism. ‘How could this happen after he did so well for so long’ people wonder?
I dealt with scores of incidents and military operations over 30 years in the Pentagon, State Department and White House. I never saw a case where there was initial and accurate clarity about what happened.
What Mr. Clarke misses here is that there are some new things since his time in the intelligence field: video, the internet, and live feeds. Video from security cameras at the consulate were fed to Washington D.C. live. Video from the CIA compound attack was fed to Washington D.C. live. Video from at least one CIA drone flying over the attacks was sent to Washington D.C. and several other places live. The internet (constantly monitored by the National Security Agency, CIA, and others) immediately lit up via social networking that the attacks were happening. Attackers and witnesses who were actually on the scenes and sometimes even taking part in the attacks took cell phone pictures and uploaded them during the attacks. Multiple 24hr news networks around the globe carried live video of the attacks. These are things that Richard Clarke never encountered in his days in the intelligence community. Normally that could be dismissed as someone who was retired and out of touch w the latest technologies in the field from which he retired, but….Richard Clarke has written books on cyberwarfare and is supposed to be an expert in the field of terrorism+cyber war. Therefore, he’s certainly aware of how intel regarding the attacks were instantaneously send to administration leaders.
In the case of TWA 800, the FBI thought for months that it had been shot down by a missile, only to learn much later that it was a maintenance problem that caused the fuel tank to explode. When the destroyer Cole was attacked in Yemen, it took the CIA director weeks to decide that the attackers were from Al Qaeda . The Iranian hand in the attack on the U.S. Air Force barracks at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, did not emerge for months.
Questions and doubts still remain regarding the TWA 800 explosion, and Mr. Clarke is right that the FBI thought it had been shot down. He’s flat out wrong about the U.S.S. Cole. The ship had been briefed in its last port of call that Osama Bin Laden had threatened to attack a warship using suicide boats. The briefing notes are on record, and the crew’s handwritten reports after the bombing specifically describe the CIA’s warning in great detail on multiple occasions.
The intelligence community knew immediately it was an Al Queda attack, and Richard Clarke himself told the press within a few days of the attack that he thought it was Al Queda. The CIA, Jordanian intelligence, US Naval intelligence, and others all warned of an Al Queda suicide boat attack on a warship between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. FBI Director Louis Freeh wrote in his book, MY FBI (pg282) that just 5 days after the attack he personally called his counterpart in Russia to confirm that it was Russian explosives that the terrorists used. Mr. Clarke is trying to continue the political meme from the left that the U.S.S. Cole attack was somehow a surprise and not an intelligence failure that happened on his watch. On page 223 of Clarke’s own book, “Against All Enemies” he demonstrates that he, the Clinton Administration’s ‘Terrorism Czar’ knew the Cole was an Al Queda attack immediately: “Meanwhile in Washington neither the CIA nor FBI would state the obvious: it was Al Queda.” No Mr. Clarke, it does not take months to do an investigation that happened on live TV around the world, and on multiple feeds to American leaders. Yes, there should be and is an investigation, but most of the facts are blatantly and immediately as obvious as the C
ole bombing was to you 12 years ago.
News media and members of Congress may want instant answers when something explodes, when Americans die, but national security professionals know that “first reports are always wrong.” That is why, when pressed by reporters to say what had happened, UN Ambassador Susan Rice qualified her response by saying that the investigation was ongoing. She then said what the intelligence community had reported to her at that time.
Ambassador Susan Rice is described by Richard Clarke-in his book, “Against All Enemies” as the person who in 1996 was given the choice of either taking Osama Bin Laden into custody, or letting him go, and she chose to let him go. Richard Miniter’s book, “Losing Bin Laden” identifies that moment in 1996 when Rice let Bin Laden escape the Sudan as the moment when Bin Laden effectively started his war against the United States. Peter Bergen-one of the world’s foremost experts on Bin Laden, a man who interviewed him, and wrote several books on him describes the woman, event, and time similarly in his book, “The Osama Bin Laden I know.” Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, George Tenet all recount the 1996 failure to arrest Bin Laden similarly in their books. So too did the 911 Commission came to the same conclusion. Now, she’s the Obama Administration’s highest ranking ambassador, and she somehow never saw the video feed or was even told of the video from the consulate? If she had, then she’d have known instantly that there was no protest about a movie in Bengazi. If she hadn’t, then she lied and so is Clarke when they say that the only intelligence they had was that it was a protest over a YouTube video that got out of hand….and we all know in Libya it’s just not a protest unless you bring your rocket launcher and heavy machine guns. No, Ambassador Rice knew what she was saying.
For this, Republicans are suggesting that the administration was using a political filter on how it was characterizing the attack. To be clear, what Rice and other administration officials said then was, to the best of our knowledge, what they were told then by nonpartisan security and intelligence professionals who were still collecting reports and putting the pieces together. That is not politics
This is a flat out lie. It IS politics. The Administration had TONS of intelligence before and after the attack (just as Clarke did before and after the U.S.S. Cole attack) that it was an Al Queda group. Seriously, can anyone believe that a CIA stronghold 1.2 miles away got attacked by “waves of attackers”, and the 37 people there were lucky to escape, and that even w live video, live news coverage, and social media pics posted during the attack by the attackers….the CIA and the entire intelligence community somehow had no idea that there wasn’t even a protest about a movie at the compound? And they didn’t know this for almost two weeks? If the intelligence community can take all that live feed raw intelligence and not make a conclusion for a week or two then there is a MAJOR problem w the intel that the United States is collecting. It means that intel analysis is actually worse than it was 12 yrs ago when the Cole was attacked and Mr. Clarke didn’t know, but knew that it was Al Queda immediately.
But it is politics to rush out with a press release critical of the President’s handling of a crisis while the crisis is still going on, while American diplomats are still under fire. The Romney campaign did just that and got many details wrong in so doing.
This is another Catch 22 of Richard Clarke’s political commentary. On the one hand he’s claimed-to this point-that no one could have known what happened in Bengazi for at least a few weeks-perhaps months. On the other hand, here he’s saying that the Romney campaign somehow knew the crisis was still going on. How? How could they have known it was still going on? The only way to know would be to have seen it still happening on live TV, and if they saw it on live TV, then they had at the very least the same basic, bare bones intelligence that the Obama Administration had: that you don’t bring rocket launchers and heavy machine guns to a protest about a YouTube video. And what did the Romney campaign say in its press release? It said that the President was wrong to whine about a YouTube video that had nothing to do w the attack. So what-if the attack had nothing to do w a video, then Romney was right! Moreover, it seems incredibly hypocritical of someone like Richard Clarke to be critical of complaints regarding how a President handles a national security issue when he’s done infinite talk shows and press interviews to push his book that was critical of every national security issue the Bush Administration handled before it forced him to retire.
If there were not a presidential campaign going on, a campaign in which the incumbent has a stellar record of fighting terrorism, I doubt Romney would care about the details of what happened in Benghazi. In 20 years of running for office, he has never demonstrated any expertise or even real interest in the details of national security.
Finally, Richard Clarke is correct. Mitt Romney is not a national security, terrorism, or even diplomatic expert. He’s a businessman. His specialty is economics.
What happened in Benghazi will be reported in detail to the public by a team of highly respectable national security professionals with almost a century of combined service.
This may be the case, but Mr. Clarke still feels it’s his role to comment on Bengazi too, and somehow NOT at all the purview of a man who might be President in a few months.
The Accountability Review Board appointed by Clinton is led by Ambassador Tom Pickering, who served Republican and Democratic Presidents in a record eight ambassadorial jobs. He is aided by Adm. Mike Mullen, who was America’s top military commander. Anyone who really cares about what happened will await their report and will not interfere with their work by politicizing the issue.
But expect Romney to raise it again in the next debate, because what he really cares about is trying to put a dent in Obama’s outstanding performance on terrorism. When he does, ask yourself which man would you want calling the shots against Al Qaeda.
How in the world could a Presidential debate about foreign policy NOT include a discussion or mentioning of the most recent terrorist attack? Seriously, it would be a gross disservice to the American people to ignore it, but for some reason-like the U.S.S. Cole attack that happened on an election eve, Richard Clarke doesn’t want the security and intelligence failure discussed until after the election. Is that fair to the American people; to the people who need to make the most informed decisions possible? Is it reasonable when most of the cyber intel was collected immediately? Is the Administration-and Clarke-trying to delay the investigation…as evidenced by the fact that the FBI didn’t even go to the consulate for over a week, but multiple news agencies had no problem sending in reporters? No, Mr. Clarke. There are questions the American people need to know and want to know before the election.
This is a bigger issue for the electorate than some hotel break-in (see also Watergate). And let’s be realistic…there are plenty of simple questions that the press can ask of the White House to give the American people a more informed opinion of what happened.
- Did the President attend his daily intelligence briefing the day before and/or the day of the Libya attacks?
- Did the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) mention any threats in Libya?
- Did the President go to bed while the attacks were still taking place?
- Was Ambassador Stevens involved in arming Libyan or Syrian rebels?
- Was the preponderance of intelligence reporting saying that the Libyan attacks were protests that got out of hand in relation to a YouTube Video, or was that a minor portion of the intelligence reporting that the President, Sec of State, and UN Ambassador were getting?
- Why did it take almost 2 weeks for the live video feeds and pics and reports from people on the ground to correct the false report that the Libyan attacks were related?
- Was the President at all suspicious that an attack on a US ambassador by Islamic extremists on the anniversary of 911 might be related to the anniversary of the 911 attacks?
These are simple questions. They don’t need a full blown investigation. Why doesn’t the administration-more than a month later-answer them? Why is Richard Clarke, a man who hasn’t been part of the intelligence community for over a decade, making hypocritical claims about how long an investigation into a terrorist attack takes?
Clarke is a former counterterrorism adviser to Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He was deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence under President Ronald Reagan.
Scott has absolutely NO government experience. He was just a stay-at-home dad, writer, and blogger for 9 years. Since then he's opened a soup restaurant with no money, and lost an eye to cancer. His foreign policy and terrorism knowledge comes from reading, the web, and watching way too much TV. He's a regular person-not an elitist.