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Ex-Bush aides time their tell-alls

Don Rogers

Look, fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and left-out terrorism expert Richard Clarke are trying to sell books. Oh yeah, and even some political scores while they are at it.

If you swallow what these disgruntled ex-Bush aides have to say, well, I hope you are at least out the cash it took to sucker you into buying their tell-alls. If you are looking for truth, you ought to know better even if it is the silly season and even – maybe especially – when war is reduced to just so much political fodder for these fellows.



Clarke makes a paragon of counter-terrorism virtue out of the Clinton administration? Sure. Might as well go ahead and make the case for that president’s fidelity while you’re at it. These guys were offered Osama Bin Laden in chains and said no thanks. These guys fired a couple of desultory missiles into Afghanistan and called it good after numerous terrorist attacks on Americans and American interests. Clarke could make a better case that he and Clinton encouraged Bin Laden to try bigger and “better,” that the Americans really were patsies.

The bigger question for the Bushies was why did they keep this guy around in the first place?



O’Neill, canned for his looney treasury policies that made the recovery from recession more difficult, tells everyone with a tape recorder or notebook that Bush was even nuttier than Saddam. Fixated even. But what real insight does an economic adviser have into foreign affairs? Why would Bush discuss Iraq in any depth with the treasury secretary, especially one who rather quickly had revealed himself as a loose cannon on economic matters, his supposed expertise?

Sure, Paul, W. skipped over the secretary of defense, national security adviser and secretary of state to tap your remarkable insights into Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Riiiiggght.

O’Neill and Clarke are providing great material for partisan mischief. But it’s all pretty much nonsense, juice for books that wouldn’t otherwise have a prayer in the marketplace. The sad part for them is that they have demeaned their service to the country and their credibility. For some cash and seeing their names in the papers. Let’s recognize these guys for who they are. Sellouts. Washington is full of them.



The timing was great for these opportunists to sound off, though. And there is something here to sound off about, after all. This is why they are getting so much attention. Credit their publishers for trotting them – and their books – out now. But this is more Barnum and Bailey than honest effort to set the American public straight. In short, it’s marketing. That would be the polite word.

A lot of us do have concerns about Bush and his administration’s approach to Iraq. They clearly oversold the weapons of mass destruction argument, no question in hindsight, although the French, Germans and Russians all believed the WMD existed, too. That wasn’t the reason they stayed out of the invasion of Iraq a year ago.

I believe that these Bushies bungled the coalition building that Bush the Elder mastered so well before the first Gulf War. A little more patience and I think they could have brought the European power states into the fold, and maybe even Russia. Instead they spurred ahead, rashly. Cowboys.

But I also believe the U.N. has more than proven itself to be fundamentally inept as world cop. How many more dozens of years did they plan to let Saddam ignore their rulings and sanctions unpunished?

Also, if Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda were tenuous at best, his encouragement and support for the Palestinian terrorists was well known, legendary even. The world was hardly made more dangerous for his removal. There is now one less state sponsoring terrorism, and that is a big deal.

The democratic world has its beachhead in the Middle East, and in time that can have a stabilizing effect in this remarkably backward and violent region. But it will take longer than six months, a year, even more than five years to achieve. Post-World War II Europe and Japan took far longer to rebuild into democratic, civilized countries. Imagine if today’s America, worried sick about what the Euros might think, were in charge of that reconstruction. Gen. Marshall would have been run almost before his plan began.

With patience, persistence and yes, luck, Iraq can become a democratic model for a part of the world that desperately needs that ray of hope. Never mind the perversion of the dominant religion of the Middle East, we’re talking basic human standards of living, education and chance for true peace here. These matter a lot more than oil, by the way, to the Western world.

So no, I’m not buying this revisionism that rather incredibly has the same folks blaming Bush for failing to go to war before 9/11 just as they blame him for rushing to conflict afterward. It’s rubbish, however titled the participants might be.

I do see, or hope I see, the rise and now fall of the neoconservatives’ pernicious influence on the Bush administration. Yes, I’m talking about the same folks who convene each summer in Beaver Creek for the vaunted World Forum – Richard Perlman, Paul Wolfowitz and gang – who are way overeager to swing Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick, and dispense altogether with that speaking part of the adage.

The tell-all books are largely opportunistic nonsense, but they do scratch at developments that more and more Americans find troubling. I think it’s the neocon strain having caused the administration to take leave of its better senses. Pray this fever breaks and W. heeds cooler counsel.

Oh, in the interest of disclosure, I am just enough of a sucker I bought Clarke’s book, too. This weekend it was already sold out over at Verbatim. There is plenty of interest.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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