Prominent critics brings attacks on Bush to mountains
A recent conversation between former national security official Richard Clarke and Ambassador Joe Wilson, both retired and the authors of current bestsellers critical of the Bush Administration, turned toward the state of American democracy.The men, two of Bush’s most potent critics, crossed paths in Aspen this weekend as they spoke at the fifth annual State of the World Conference hosted by the Sopris Foundation. Clarke has worked under every administration – Republican and Democratic – since the early 1970s. After a number of years with the State Department and National Security Council, Clarke ended his career in March, 2003, as the top Bush administration adviser on counterterrorism. Much of Clarke’s speech before an overflow crowd Saturday focused on the domestic front. At one point he accused Bush of “dividing the country when we need unity.”He expressed alarm over the case of Jose Padilla, the American citizen who was jailed without charges or access to the U.S. court system after being declared an “enemy combatant” by the Defense Department. “If the Defense Department can take way Jose Padilla’s rights, they can take away your rights,” Clarke said. “I thought it was agreed more than 200 years ago that Americans are born with certain inalienable rights.”He also raised concern with the Justice Department’s insistence on reviewing library and book store records in its search for potential terror suspects. He then pointed out some of the different paths the Bush administration could have taken in the wake of Sept. 11 besides the one it chose. “We could have gone after al-Qaida and secured ourselves at home,” he said, noting that American railways and chemical plants remain essentially unsecured, and local emergency aid systems around the country, from police and firefighters to hospitals and EMTs, remain severely underfunded. Wilson, who addressed the conference on Sunday, spent much of his career in the foreign service. He was the acting ambassador to Iraq in 1990 when Saddam Hussein’s army invaded Kuwait.The Bush Administration sent Wilson in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had purchased uranium from the African nation of Niger. He found no such transaction occurred, but that did not stop President Bush from alleging that the sale was made in his 2003 State of the Union address. After Wilson began publicly criticizing the use of misinformation by the president, his wife, a CIA agent, was exposed by an unnamed administration source in a column written by Robert Novak. The alleged leak is now being investigated to see if any crimes were committed. Wilson said he, like many others, supported Congress’ decision to give the president authority to use force against Iraq, if necessary, because it resulted in action by the United Nations. But Wilson said inspections following the first Gulf War had successfully eliminated weapons of mass destruction from Iraq’s arsenal. “This government’s betrayal was not in the use of force resolution, but in the use of force when it was not necessary,” he said.At one point, he called the neo-conservatives – or neocons – who have significant influence on Bush administration policy as “theocons” who aren’t really Republicans. The group includes Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former defense advisor Richard Perle, among others. “These guys are radical reactionaries,” he said.”The minute we allow our allegiance to be transferred from the U.S. Constitution to the Book of Revelations, we are in deep trouble,” Wilson said, concluding his presentation.