Sunday, May 31, 2009

Richard Clarke: The Trauma of 9/11 Is No Excuse

As with just about everything Clark writes (er, with the possible exception of his fiction...), this is worth a read.

Clarke's argument here is not entirely new--which is a strength, of course, not a weakness, in that it builds on things we already have good reason to believe. In this piece he emphasizes the Bush/Cheney team's (irrational) overreaction to 9/11. That is: having irresponsibly ignored the threat of terrorism before 9/11, they reacted to the event not in a rational way--not by seeking out and implementing the most effective policies. Rather, they siezed on the most extreme policies and implemented them without genuine regard for their effectiveness. In part, Clark contends, this seems to have been done for political reasons, in order to prevent a loss in the 2004 election. 9/11 did have an effect on people, Clarke argues, but that effect does not justify the wild leap to discussions of invading Iraq--discussions which began "while the Pentagon was still burning."

It's long been astonishing to me that, after having done approximately as badly as any administration could have done concerning 9/11, the Bush administration has managed to stave off any serious, broad-based public outrage. They managed to establish the parameters of the debate so that the central question was something like "Did they overreact a bit because, well, they just plain cared too much, or was their response a reasonable one?" instead of, as it should be: "Was their handling of the relevant issues merely horrifically bad, or did it rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?"

Anyway, read the piece. Clarke is always worth taking seriously.


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