Who Would You Trust?

On February 12, 2003, just a month before US and British troops invaded Iraq, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations.
President Bush has not made final decisions about if and when to use military force to disarm Iraq, nor has he made any final decisions about exactly how the United States will proceed with respect to Iraq after a conflict, if one is required. Yet time is rapidly running out for the Iraqi regime to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction, as required by the United Nations Security Council. And if war comes, President Bush has made clear that it will be a war of liberation, not occupation. As the President said in his speech to the United Nations last September, "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it and the security of all nations requires it."
Tonight former Bush terrorism advisor Richard Clarke appeared on 60 Minutes in an interview with Lesley Stahl. Clarke was a Reagan-appointee, served under the first President Bush, was held over by President Clinton to be his terrorism czar, then held over again by Bush&Co.
Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Clarke then tells Stahl of being pressured by Mr. Bush.

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'
Hadley's job on tonight's segment was to defend the Bush administration against Clarke's accusations, that the White House ignored intelligence before 9-11 that Al-Qaeda was preparing a major attack, and then ignored intelligence that indicated there was no link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.
Iraq, as the president has said, is at the center of the war on terror. We have narrowed the ground available to al Qaeda and to the terrorists. Their sanctuary in Afghanistan is gone; their sanctuary in Iraq is gone. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are now allies on the war on terror. So Iraq has contributed in that way in narrowing the sanctuaries available to terrorists.
Many Americans who watched 60 Minutes will likely see this as a he said-she said situation, and that Clarke is trying to convert sour grapes into book sales. It was clear to me that he didn't have an axe to grind, and similarly damning evidence is piling up against the Bush administration on a daily basis. Given the comments made by both men, who would you trust?