me make a few brief remarks about Clarke before I address what
it says. As everybody knows, he is now front and center in the
controversy surrounding 9-11 and the war in Iraq. Some people
have attacked his character, and his motives. Motives are almost
always unknowable, and it is therefore senseless to question
them except in the case of politicians whose actions are often
transparently dishonest and prompted by ulterior considerations.
I can't possibly know Clarke's motives, but I can judge him
by his public statements and his actions, and those are quite
enough. As for character, I don't doubt that he served our country
as best he could, but in this book he reveals himself to be
a man unworthy of respect. In recent weeks he has said a great
deal, and with one exception at the end of this review I will
not comment on his oral statements. Oral remarks are inherently
rife with problems because they are spontaneous and one can't
edit them. With a book, however, one can go back and reconsider
and rewrite many times over the course of weeks and months.
I therefore take this book to be incomparably more important
than anything else he has produced.
Against All Enemies. On nearly the last page, 289,
he reveals that "[t]his book is...from my memory."
This after he has quoted other people scores of times. Throughout
the book he says that Person X said such-and-such, and surrounds
the alleged statement with quotation marks. To use quotation
marks does not mean that the person in question said more-or-less
such-and-such, but that he said precisely those words. Anything
less than the precise, verbatim quotation of a statement means
that quotation marks cannot be used. Clarke breaks this sacred
rule constantly. In addition, virtually every person he quotes
talks like virtually every other person. How odd. In my eyes
this gross fault renders the entire book suspect.
are two more huge problems with alleged statements that he quotes,
and one immense problem in a scene that he refers to.
The scene is the Principals Meeting that occurred on September
4, 2001. After Clarke repeatedly asking for such a meeting,
a number of cabinet secretaries convened to talk about the al
Qaeda problem. Clarke writes that "...Rumsfeld, who looked
distracted throughout the session, took the Wolfowitz line that
there were other terrorist concerns, like Iraq, and whatever
we did on this al Qaeda business, we had to deal with other
sources of terrorism." [pp. 237-238] Appearing on the Jim
Lehrer Newshour recently, Rumsfeld said that he didn't attend
that meeting. Rumsfeld, like all senior officials, keeps records
of meetings and phone calls, and had Clarke or his publishers
bothered to contact the Pentagon they could have determined
that Rumsfeld wasn't in the meeting. But, as we have seen, Clarke
is going by memory.
the two dubious quotes. Clarke writes that "At a NATO summit
in London early in the [first Bush administration] Baker had
stunned me by coming to sit next to me in an auditorium, as
I listened to President Bush's press conference. As Bush batted
the reporter's questions, the Secretary of State provided me
with a personal color commentary whispered in my ear: "Damn,
he flubbed that answer... I told him how to handle that one...
Oh, no, he'll never know how to deal with that..." [p.
69] At the time, Clarke was a career senior staffer in the State
Department and obviously not an intimate of Baker. Regardless
of what you think of Baker, he is the ultimate political professional
and a man of tremendous self-control. Do you think he would
be so wildly reckless as to whisper such remarks in Clarke's
ear? Maybe, but I greatly doubt it.
writes of a meeting that occurred during the elder Bush's administration
in the days before the first Gulf War. Attending the meeting
were Brent Scowcroft as National Security Adviser, Dick Cheney
as Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs, Clarke, and others. The topic turned to WMD and the
implications for the war. It comes Powell's turn to speak, and
Clarke quotes him saying "I just think chemical weapons
are goofy." [p. 162] Powell always takes pains to appear
dignified, which is understandable considering he is a black
man who came of age when Jim Crow was alive and discriminating.
Do you really think that he would make such a statement in that
company just as a huge war was about to start? Maybe, but I
greatly doubt it.
Clarke begins his book with a lengthy account of his actions
on 9-11. Unfortunately, he has read too many bad novels and
he attempts to depict himself as a man of action, dashing hither
and thither, pulling it all together, the man to whom everybody
turns in the moment of crisis. As a result, his account is utterly
devoid of substantive analysis. He again provides us with plenty
of his dubious quotes. You will learn nothing from the chapter.
After this foray into pulp fiction, Clarke writes at length
about America's confrontation with al Qaeda as it developed
during the 90s. He provides few insights and little new information.
His analysis is flyweight. A rented hack could produce a better
account doing no more than clipping from the New York Times
and pasting where appropriate.
thinks that Clinton did a lot to stop al Qaeda and Bush did
nothing. Scattered through the book is a series of statements
that, when put together, reveal a very different picture. Clarke
details Saddam's attempt to assassinate ex-President Bush in
Kuwait in 1993. He says that Iraqi intelligence placed a bomb
in a Land Cruiser, a bomb large enough to kill "everything
up to four hundred yards away." By plain dumb luck the
bomb was discovered by a Kuwaiti cop, and Clinton had to decide
what to do about it. Clark writes that "[Secretary of State]
Christopher argued strongly on legal grounds that the [target]
list be limited to one facility, the Iraqi intelligence headquarters.
He also wanted it hit on Saturday night, to minimize casualties.
Christopher won." [pp. 80-81]
the World Trade Center was bombed, and the culprits turned out
to be a