March 23, 2004


...Try reconciling this 2002 story with ANY version of the "Richard Clarke's Al Qaeda plan was no good/Clarke didn't have a plan/Clarke was out of the loop" back-biting going on this week.

Everyone seems to agree Clarke first presented his plan in January, 2001, but it was rejected as the "takes too long" Clinton plan. But he's also apparently the author of the plan (really the same plan it seems, contrary to the linked story) that was sitting on Rice's desk on Sept. 11, which she said after the attacks would have gone to Bush for approval, oh, some day real soon.

UPDATE: Marshall has more about this um, kinda major contradiction. The questions that need to be asked are this: what specifically changed between the January 2001 plan, generally conceded to be authored by Clarke, and the September plan, authored by the "NSC terrorism" people (at least nominally still headed by Clarke, and probably still actively led by him, Condi's claims notwithstanding)? Because the administration has long conceded they just took that September plan "off the shelf" and executed it, as far as Bin Laden and Afghanistan were concerned. So... what got added to this plan, which turned by default into the war plan, that Clarke's not responsible for? And if it wasn't Clarke, who added it?

Or, to put it in starker terms, Clarke's big military component in his January, 2001 plan was "arm the northern alliance;" an idea in a plan Bush now says he rejected because it wouldn't pay off quickly enough. He then did nothing for nine months while his staff allegedly made a better plan, which he didn't see before Sept. 12, when it was too late to save American lives. This better plan then became the Afghan war plan. Its big military component is, of course, "arm the northern alliance."

Unless Bush et al can point at one specific thing that they did that Clarke didn't recommend in January or otherwise come up with himself, the only conclusion you can draw is that the "September plan" was just Clarke's "January plan," maybe with a newer cover. That means Clarke (not Rumsfeld, or Hadley, or Bolton) was the principal architect of the highly successful early U.S. response to 9/11... and the Bush people are only responsible for all the stuff that came after Kabul and Kandahar fell. And so now, because he doesn't support their Iraq policy, they're crucifying him. (CLARIFICATION: I'm not saying that's what's happening; I'm saying that's the logical upshot if the "January plan" and "September plan" prove to be essentially one and the same.)

SECOND UPDATE: Kevin Drum muddies the waters even further, quoting Clarke saying in 2002 the January "plan" wasn't significantly different from a previous Clinton plan.

Posted by BruceR at 11:43 AM


Mil-blogger Phil Carter comes out and says it. The Iraq war was wrong, and the White House decision structure under Bush is hopelessly politicized, endangering Americans.

Carter is one of those middle-of-the-road reluctant doves like Drum and Marshall, so the conclusion itself isn't that much of a surprise. It's that as a reservist military officer he feels comfortable, in the wake of the Clarke allegations, in saying it so bluntly.

Posted by BruceR at 10:51 AM