Democrats & Liberals Archives

Lets All Grow Up A Little

Richard A Clarke is trying to tell the truth to those of us who will listen. I am in the process of trying to understand that truth because it has major implications for my grandchildren and yours. It is quite likely that by the time my beautiful four year old granddaughter is in her mid twenties I will be dead and gone. She will have most of her life ahead of her yet. By the time she is forty I will be ninety four if I live that long. I would like to live that long if I can remain healthy but the actuarial tables tell me that is unlikely.

Mortality is a strange recognition, made to our present knowledge only by human beings on this planet. It drives some of us to behave badly and others of us to behave better. If nothing else came out of the events of 9/11 it was a reminder to all of us that there are no guarantees in life about how and when it will end.

The reason that I am a firm believer that Dick Clarke is trying to tell the truth is that he is behaving like an adult. Unlike Dick Clark the eternal teenager, this man has seen the face of death and recognized it as just another thing to deal with in an uncertain world. He was staring into the face of death on 9/11 and understood better than any of the rest of us what had happened within seconds of the information about the attack reaching him.

Nothing about this man’s demeanor cries out liar, but all of our President’s men and women are crying out “liar, liar, pants on fire” at him. They are doing that in an effort to get us to believe that he is trying to stab our President in the back with the dull knife of revisionist history. They did that to Paul O Neil when his story was released for us to read. It appears to me what Mr. O Neil and Mr. Clarke are trying to tell this President and his inside clique that run our government is that they need to grow up and think about things a little. The main truth here is being lost in all the sound and fury about all the partisan issues that these books have raised in this White House. The main truth is that we failed on and before 9/11; Democrats and Republicans alike. Mr. Clarke is saying that if we do not change how we are dealing with our war on terror(ism) today we will fail again. Nor does he blame this President more than others in the past, but Clarke obviously feels that we really ought to know better today. Although Bush is in error in pressing the war on Iraq as an answer to terrorism that is only a small part of our mistaken direction in this war. It is largely because we are failing in the basic tenet of any war, “Know thy Enemy”.

Yes Clarke is understandably frustrated by the Bush Focus on Iraq because it diluted our efforts to destroy al Queda and stabilize Afghanistan. Now we are watching as Pakistan is destabilizing before our eyes in their effort to clean the militants in their tribal areas’ out. If you don’t believe that is a real danger then think about this fact; the military dictator in charge there, who has been our main ally in this war, has nearly been killed twice in the last twelve months. He is one of the best guarded men on our planet. This cleansing of radicals out of Pakistan is made far more difficult because we did not truly use every weapon at our disposal to demolish al Queda in Afghanistan. We were too distracted by Iraq to do that. Now al Queda is dispersed and more dangerous than before. If you doubt that ask the Spanish people who are still reeling from their attack. An attack followed by our President’s laying a wreath. He then immediately used every means at his disposal to call the Spanish people cowards because they elected a new leader in the face of that attack. Not one week passed between that attack by our enemy and our attack on our friends in Spain. I am deeply ashamed of our obsession with our own politics in the face of that tragedy that has so much in common with our own.

I am also deeply disturbed by our present tendency to close ranks behind the political party of our choice as an answer to this terrorism problem. It is not a time for blind followership folks; It is a time for reassessment. Our current President has not undergone that necessary reassessment; that is the main message that I am getting out of Mr. Clarke’s book. Yet when the opposing candidate, John Kerry talks honestly about his reassessment in light of 9/11 he is cast as an uncertain and indecisive man. If you think all of that crap serves the interests of this nation then you need to do a little reassessment yourself.

I think that two major things are happening with the release of these two books using insiders’ knowledge to take a look at the Bush White House. First and foremost we are getting a real chance to understand how ideological the thought processes of this President and his closest advisors really are. Secondarily we are looking once again into the political chasm that has split our nation along party lines and how the depths of that split are being magnified by this Administration’s magnificent obsession with always looking good. Have any of them even once had the good grace to apologize for 9/11before now? If Richard Clarke is the first person from this Administration to do that decent healing thing isn’t that remarkable? It is not in how the Bush men and women twist the press to make their image better that we will overcome terrorism. It is in the content of their actions and their ability to learn from their mistakes. The lack of any evidence that they ever admit a mistake much less learn from it is both remarkable and frightening to me. Their whole campaign revolves around how we should not change horses in the middle of this war. If your horse has thrown you and run off on its own it is smart to get another under you before you are overrun by your enemy. If your horse’s ass is staring you in the face and you obsess on what a perfect horses ass it is you will lose the war.

Those people who are living as if nothing happened on 9/11 do not include this President. The question is what did 9/11 teach him about our world? He clearly only began to recognize the threat posed by al Queda after that date, that is easily forgivable. He also only then understood that we were already at war with a largely unknown enemy. It is easy to forgive him that late recognition of reality; most of us are in the same boat there. Dick Clarke was not. It is harder to forgive him for obsessing about Iraq to the extent that he has but we are there anyway now. What is impossible to forgive him is his absolute hubris in the face of such a set of failures related to predicting outcomes. His staff is good at turning his failures into the image of apparent success temporarily, but Karl Rove is only an image maker. Karl Rove is not a Dick Clarke or a Paul O Neil; he is a great student of how to lie successfully. He could never advise this President to do the right thing, he can only advise him on how to appear to be right when he is wrong.

Paul O Neil is a man I must apologize to because I was unkind to him about his inside position in this White House and I have written about him negatively when he was Secretary of the Treasury and since then. I read the book written by Ron Suskind and still was not a fan of Mr. O Neil and castigated him for staying in this Administration as long as he did. I do now understand the sacrifice that he made when he broke with the men inside this Administration that had been his friends for years. I heard Mr Suskind speak the other night and I finally got a little bit of the truth through my hard head about who Paul O Neil really is. O Neil giving Mr. Suskind the truth about how this Administration treats anyone who has the temerity to challenge their ideologically driven vision for this nation was an act of great moral courage and he deserves my respect. I had miscast him because he was the CEO of a major company and a man who eventually accepted the Bush tax cuts. My prejudice against insiders shows in those pieces and I am genuinely ashamed that I wrote them without considering his personal integrity to be at least as good as my own. I humbly beg his pardon for those unjust and unkind words I have written about him.

As for Richard Clarke I am still reading his book but it represents a break with his history so profound that I am astonished that he has written it. I am also astonished that he would take on this vindictive crowd of harpies that circle around this President and groom his image so carefully. I do not know if I would have had the courage to do that but I know that I am grateful to him for his insights into 9/11 and counter terrorism activities inside our government. I think that all of those who labor inside our government every day doing their jobs so we can sleep safely and soundly at night must be proud to be on the same side of reality as this man. He is willing to see the truth in the face of his own failures. He understands that we are all mortal and human and that mistakes are inevitable. The only thing I see so far that he finds unforgivable is an inability to learn from experience and a need to look better than you are. Neither is part of the man I see on TV or the one who tells his story so eloquently in his book. Thank you Richard Clarke for telling us what you can about the things our government is doing in our name. I appreciate it and we all will in the future, except those few who will never chose to see their mistakes clearly enough to learn from them. God bless and keep you all safe and aware of who you are and what you believe in; the truth shall keep you free.

Posted by Henri Reynard at March 30, 2004 1:32 PM