International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

April 1, 2004

April 1, 2004





**  Global media bill Clarke's 9/11 testimony as "potentially damaging" to the White House.

**  Conservative British, French papers find Clarke's story "suspect"; praise Bush's "courage."

**  Focused on Washington's "partisan catfight," editorials accuse both sides of politicizing 9/11.

**  Some read the decision to let NSA Rice testify as White House "capitulation" to pressure.




Clarke's 'bombshell' put Bush Administration in 'hot water'--  Papers overseas were quick to judge Richard Clarke's 9/11 testimony as "bound to have a negative effect" on Bush's re-election.  Many found the president vulnerable in the one area deemed "all but untouchable": his determination in fighting terrorism.  A few, however, agreed with South Africa's Nigerian-owned This Day that "it's hard to say at this early point how damaging the testimony will prove to his campaign."  Negative editorials treated the administration's "counterattack" as a "cover-up," claiming the White House may have "done itself damage by mounting an all-out attack" on Clarke.  Airing a typical critique, Hamburg's Financial Times Deutschland held the White House's "almost hysterical reaction" shows "how hard Clarke has hit the president."


Clarke's 'viciously targeted' remarks aim at Bush with 'unmistakable force'--  While many papers predicted the Bush campaign would "lose points" due to the Clarke revelations, conservative British and French editors challenged Clarke's credibility and motivation.  They complained Clarke was trying to pin 9/11 on Bush and was providing "convenient fodder for an ugly bout of election year point-scoring."  After deriding Clarke's "hilarious work of fiction," London's Daily Telegraph took aim at the "Clarke-Clinton legacy," labelling it "nothing to boast about" since it was during the 1990's that Islamists graduated from "Camp Usama" and "disbursed" around the world.  The Democrats "had better think twice before continuing with their harassment of the president," advised France's right-of-center Le Figaro: "Bush has not done anything that is eminently bad; and Clinton did not do anything that was eminently good." 


Finger-pointing by both sides turns independent commission into 'bitter feud'--  Some observers criticized the "politicization" of the debate over pre-9/11 intelligence, but as a Belgian daily noted, "how could [the commission] avoid it?"  These writers, along with Russia's army-run Krasnaya Zvezda, concluded that both Republicans and Democrats, "forever locked in a battle for the White House," were exploiting the issue of terrorism "to secure their time-serving interests."  Despite the commission's "noble intentions and praise for democracy," mused Germany's center-left Sueddeutche Zeitung, in Washington there is "now an election campaign committee in which both sides have unwrapped their torture tools."


Rice to testify due to 'pressure on the White House,' to avert 'bigger scandal'--  German, Irish, Italian and Argentine writers asserted the White House had "backtracked" and given National Security Advisor Rice the green light in an effort to "shake off the crisis."  It was "a complete reversal," observed Italy's influential La Stampa, due to public opinion and the first signs of a "dangerous decline in confidence regarding Bush's handling of the war on terrorism." 

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This report is based on 53 reports from 21 countries and territories, March 25-31.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Confrontation Over Condoleezza Damages Bush Campaign"


Foreign Editor Bronwen Maddox held in the conservative Times (4/1):  "There is no question that the row --and Clarke's book --have been damaging for Bush, although pollsters are divided about the impact.  It erupted in a fortnight that has otherwise been good for the White House.  Polls this week show that the lead that John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, enjoyed at the beginning of March has melted away under the blitz of television advertising by the Bush team.  It would be surprising if Rice's testimony were as damaging as this row has been.  More than the rest of the team, she is expert at giving a fluent defence of the Administration's position....  But there is still room for surprises; for all her fluent loyalty, she may find it hard to navigate hours of detailed questions without contributing controversial new details of the decision to go to war in Iraq."



"Bush Has Nothing To Fear From This Hilarious Work Of Fiction"


Mark Steyn commented in the conservative Daily Telegraph (Internet version, 3/29):  "Richard Clarke was supposed to be the expert who could make this argument with a straight face. And, indeed, his week started well. The media were very taken by this passage from his book, in which he alerts Mr Bush's incoming National Security Adviser to the terrorist threat....  I don't know how good Clarke was at counter-terrorism, but as a media performer he is a total dummy. He seemed to think that he could claim the lucrative star role of Lead Bush Basher without anybody noticing the huge paper trail of statements he has left contradicting the argument in his book.  The reality is that there is a Richard Clarke for everyone. If you are like me and reckon there was an Islamist angle to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, then Clarke's your guy: he supports the theory that Al-Qa'ida operatives in the Philippines 'taught Terry Nichols how to blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building.'...   Although his book sets out to praise Clinton and bury Bush, he can't quite pull it off. Except for his suggestion to send in a team of 'ninjas' to take out Usama, Clinton had virtually no interest in the subject....   As for Clarke's beef with Bush, that's simple. For eight years, he had pottered away on the terrorism brief undisturbed. The new President took it away from him and adopted the strategy outlined by Condoleezza Rice in that Detroit radio interview, months before the self-regarding Mr Clarke claims he brought her up to speed on who Bin Laden was: 'We really need a stronger policy of holding the states accountable that support him,' Dr Rice told WJR....  Just so. In the 1990s when Al-Qa'ida blew up American targets abroad, the FBI would fly in and work it as a 'crime scene' - like a liquor-store hold-up in Cleveland. It doesn't address the problem. Sure, there are millions of disaffected young Muslim men, but, if they get the urge to blow up infidels, they need training and organisation. Somehow all those British Taliban knew that if you wanted a quick course in jihad studies Afghanistan was the place to go. Bush got it right: go to where the terrorists are, overthrow their sponsoring regimes, destroy their camps, kill their leaders.    Instead, all the Islamists who went to Afghanistan in the 1990s graduated from Camp Usama and were dispersed throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, where they lurk to this day. That's the Clarke-Clinton legacy. And, if it were mine, I wouldn't be going around boasting about it."


"Those Who Predicted Islamist Terrorism Ran Against The Wind"


Barbara Amiel argued in the conservative Daily Telegraph (3/29):  “There’s a catfight in Washington at the Senate hearings on 9/11.…  But I can’t see how any American government or individual, of either party, could have prevented the development of international terrorism.   The question is not whether Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush actually knew about the murderous intentions of radical Islam, or whether they took what they knew seriously, but what the public mood would have let them do about it before 9/11....  Not wanting to believe uncomfortable things until it is too late is a universal tendency.  Which is perhaps why Clarke’s accusations are so happily greeted.  Not just in terms of partisanship but for their simplicity.  If 9/11 can be reduced to being Washington’s fault, the irrational hate and destruction becomes almost manageable.”


"Bush Under Fire"


The independent Financial Times took this view (3/25):  "The more damaging allegation this week has come from Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism chief under both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush.  He said senior officials were obsessed about Iraq in the days after the attacks on New York and Washington and determined--erroneously--to attack Iraq....  Mr. Clarke and others make the point that this represented a distraction from the real war on terror....  Now, with growing evidence that Iraq has become a recruiting ground for terrorists, the case that Iraq was the wrong war is stronger than ever.  Mr. Bush insists that dealing with Saddam Hussein was necessary to eliminate a tyrant with weapons of mass destruction and the means and motives to assist in the terrorists' war on the U.S.  But that assertion looks shakier by the day."


"Cashing In On Terror"


An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph (3/26):  "Few allegations could be more potentially damaging to the presidency of George W. Bush than the claim made this week by his former security adviser, Richard Clarke.... For all the width of its scope, Mr. Clarke's attack was aimed with unmistakable force at President Bush who, he implied, had been much more preoccupied with Iraq than with the Afghan-based operations of Osama bin Laden.  This, as it happens, is precisely the charge that the Democrats, in this presidential election year, would like to make credible.  Mr. Clarke denies that he has any party political prejudices or ambitions.  But his viciously targeted remarks make convenient fodder for turning an issue of global urgency into an ugly bout of election year point-scoring."


FRANCE:  "President Bush’s Bitter Campaign"


Alexandre Adler in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/31):  “The Democrats had better think twice before continuing with their harassment of the President, for two reasons: President Bush has not done anything that is eminently bad; and President Clinton did not do anything that was eminently good.… The CIA’s director, who was in place under Clinton, remained at his post under Bush. At the Agency the major objective was to maintain the old Saudi and Pakistani alliances, no matter what, in spite of signs that both these countries were turning against the U.S. … The FBI, which is not as sophisticated and therefore not as stupid, kept its domestic information to itself, was ineffective in international relations and mostly remained traumatized by its false leads on the Oklahoma bombing.… The Bush administration was ill-served by both agencies.… Clarke’s testimony is suspect because he lost some of his prerogatives to Tom Ridge.… It is unreasonable to imagine that President Bush favored in any way his Saudi friends. The opposite is probably closer to the truth… It is impossible to accuse President Bush of having favored the Saudis.… The operation led by the Democrats and their new ally, Richard Clarke, is all the more harmful because the Clinton administration, from the outset, showed its complete disregard for the terrorist threat.… Those who in Europe are urging the Americans to forget about terrorism and to concentrate on supposedly real problems, forget that America already addressed this erroneous solution with the previous administration. Since then, Saddam Hussein has successfully been removed, free elections will take place in Iraq, Gaddhafi has surprisingly given up on his WMD program, and Iran has accepted intrusive inspections… In Afghanistan the government is settling in. Under these circumstances, who can talk about a failure of President Bush’s strategy? The opposition had better concentrate on the excessive propaganda of the neo-cons...instead of trying to cast unjustified doubt on a courageous President, who, faced with a difficult situation, has done more than his best.”


"The Bush Administration Loses Points Over 9/11"


Philippe Gelie asserted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/25): “President Bush might have been criticized over Iraq, unemployment or the budget deficit. But there was one area where he seemed untouchable: his determination in reacting to 9/11 and his war against the terrorist enemy.  But since Wednesday the strongest asset of his election campaign is slowly turning into a handicap.… Richard Clarke’s revelations...and his mea culpa earned him not only applause but have given incredible weight to his side of the story.… His testimony is darkening the image of a U.S. President presented as the champion of the fight against Al-Qaeda.… The White House response is to drown the debate in a quarrel of experts.… Yet, every time George Bush will try to present himself to the American people as their insurance against attacks, the Democrats will bring out Clarke’s testimony.”


GERMANY:  "Bush's Turnabout"


U.S. correspondent Dietmar Ostermann filed the following editorial for left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/1): "George W. Bush's Security Advisor Rice now is to testify before the commission....  That is why the attempt failed to reject...Richard Clarke's accusations.  This stubborn refusal of the government looked as if it wants to hide or hush up something and to avoid uncomfortable questions....  Clarke's accusations...are damaging Bush's most important trump card: his image as an uncompromising fighter against terrorism and compassionate protector of the homeland....  But only time will tell to what extent the Clarke affair will be detrimental to election campaigner George W. Bush.  As long as the government does not have to concede serious shortcomings in the period before 9/11, the damage could be limited....  It would be the task for the opposition to make Iraq and the time following 9/11 an election campaign issue.  If Bush puts his achievements as commander in the center, a debate would be worthwhile whether the country and the world has really become safer with his unilateral war course.  Clarke has raised important questions, but the 9/11 Commission is the false place to discuss them.  As long as challenger John Kerry shies away from the debate, Bush may hope that the storm will not pass."


"A Question Of Credibility"


Hubert Wetzel commented in business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (3/30):  "The almost hysterical reaction of the White House shows how hard Clarke has hit the President.  Bush's team has never been shy about in discrediting rebels and critics, but the barrage against the renegade Clarke is unprecedented.… The White House panic is understandable.  The President must fear an old law of election campaigning: a strong false message will win over a weak true message.…  The truth is that Bush was in office for just eight months before 9/11, but his predecessor Bill Clinton watched al-Qaida for eight years, while it committed one attack after another and became a global threat.  Historians are interested in that, but not voters.… If voters get the impression that Clarke's claims are correct, Bush's credibility bonus will deteriorate.  Instead of being the president who protected the country, he would be one who endangered security."


"Congressional Fact-Finding"


Stefan Kornelius judged in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/25):  "In Washington, we can currently see how democratic control can really function once the political system works and is not being blocked by accusations of betrayal and ideological bickering.  The Congressional fact-finding committee delivered more details over the history of terror than was originally imaginable, and shows how dramatically 9/11 changed U.S. thinking.  The Bush and the Clinton administrations were aware of the dangers emanating from al-Qaida.  But both Bush and Clinton were unwilling or incapable of implementing a preventive, correct right policy against terrorism....  It is now easy to make a judgment:  Clinton, but Bush even more, failed, set false priorities and left an overwhelming global problem to bureaucracy.  This judgment will be more detrimental to Bush than to Clinton, because at the end of the commission's work and at the beginning of the final election campaign stage, it can be read in the newspapers.  Bush's image is vacillating and his contender Kerry seems to be less assailable than the alleged hesitator.  The more details come to the fore, the greater is the probability that Bush will have to make a sacrifice at the last moment.  Despite all noble intentions, and despite the praise for democracy:  in Washington, sits an election campaign committee in which both sides unwrap their torture tools....  So there will not be a real tough verdict at the end of the hearing, but this is something that can be left to the voters."


"Bush's Helplessness"


Dietmar Ostermann argued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/25):  "The hearing before Congress made especially clear the difficulty the United States has with the global phenomenon of a globally acting Jihad terrorism.  Under Bill Clinton, the U.S. superpower acted in a helpless and undecided way to this growing asymmetric threat...and under George W. Bush, the issue was only hesitantly addressed.  Instead of reacting with a comprehensive strategy the Bush administration confined its activities to a military terrorist hunt in Afghanistan--and turned again to its favorite enemy, Saddam Hussein.  But Madeleine Albright warned that al-Qaida is no criminal gang that can be captured....  And so far we have still not heard an answer from Washington how it can be kept under control."


"A Vote Of No Confidence"


Right-of-center Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten judged (3/26): "A bitter feud is going on over the right interpretation of the background of the 9/11 attacks.  President Bush himself said the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center came totally unexpected.  But according to all we know today, this hardly corresponds to the truth.  In 1996, the CIA knew about al-Qaida plans to let a refueled aircraft explode in a residential area; ex-president Clinton was fully aware of Osama bin Laden's dangerousness; and the U.S. intelligence service also closely watched the activities of Saudi terrorists.  Nevertheless, his superiors called FBI agent John O'Neill back when he was hot on Osama bin Laden's heels.  Failure? Sloppiness?  Cover-up?  Whatever the commission will reveal, for President Bush this is tantamount to a political vote of no-confidence."


"Adverse Affects For Both Republicans And Democrats"


Center-right Nordkurier of Neubrandenburg noted (3/26): "Bush's election campaign, which focuses on the aura of the Texan as a merciless fighter against evil, should now not have become easier.  Nevertheless, the Republicans will not be the only ones who will have to answer unpleasant questions.  The Democrats must also accept them, which could also have adverse effects on the campaign of their candidate John Kerry."


ITALY:  "Condoleezza Gives In: Under Oath She Will Testify In Public"


U.S. correspondent Paolo Mastrolilli opines in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/31): “A golden rule of American politics says ‘when you’re in a hole, stop digging.’ The White House decided to follow this rule yesterday and changed position on Condoleezza Rice’s testimony before the September 11 Investigating Committee.… It’s a complete reversal that was based on at least two factors: pressure by the public opinion, which many Republicans were contributing to, and the results of the latest survey showing that while Bush is ahead of Kerry there was a dangerous decline in confidence regarding his handling of the war on terrorism. According to Gallup, 53 per cent of Americans believes that the White House did not want Rice to testify in public because it had something to hide on September 11 and Bush could not allow these kinds of suspicions to continue around the central issue of his campaign for re-election.”


"Attack On Iraq: Rice Gives In"


Alberto Pasolini Zanelli commented in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (3/31): “All this controversy should have weakened, in one way or another, Bush’s position and should have strengthened that of his democratic rival. But the polls have demonstrated just the opposite. The electoral backwash is once again pushing Bush to the top.… According to the latest CNN Gallup poll.… Bush is ahead of Kerry 51 to 47.  What these figures show, however, is not so much that Bush is gaining ground but rather that Kerry is losing ground. There are a few possible reasons for this phenomenon -- one is inherent to the current debate while the other is not. The accusations haven’t or haven’t yet shaken the public, which prefers to stick with a general sense of things. Bush gives the impression he is fighting terrorism with great commitment (his favorite expression ‘determination’ is very popular) and people are less interested in whether or not he inverted the priorities. Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are considered terrorists, enemies of America...and six Americans out of ten don’t see why the President should be punished for behavior that aimed to reach a common objective.”


"Fort Bush Besieged - ‘Show Your Secret Cards’"


An editorial in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno observed (3/30): “The controversy over terrorism in America is becoming a tug of war over government transparency. The fact of the matter is that despite all efforts and the countless television appearances on the part of the Bush Administration's most authoritative officials, the White House can’t seem to shake off a crisis that is now heading into its second week. Clarke has cornered the government by putting forth accusations that it underestimated the danger of al-Qaeda in the first eight months of 2001 and to make its line of defense credible, the Bush Administration may be forced to declassify a numerous documents, thereby having to accept Clarke’s challenge. But the tradition of secrecy of George W. Bush’s staff and his ‘no’ to Rice’s public testimony will make it hard to launch a counteroffensive on an issue that has left a mark on the President’s electoral campaign.”


"September 11, Rice’s Truth - ‘Bush Wanted Evidence On Saddam’"


Alberto Flores d’Arcais commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/30): “September 11 is an ‘historical’ date both for the U.S. and the entire world; but in George W. Bush’s personal history, that day represents the watershed thanks to which a president that was legitimate for only half his country succeeded in uniting friends and enemies, supporters and adversaries behind the flag of war and terrorism and consequently reaching record levels of popularity.… September 11 has become the battlefield on which the U.S. is staking its future and that will determine the future president.… The television challenge could move into Congress, with the White House in the dock as defendant, as has been the case on other occasions in the history of U.S. democracy....  There won’t be an impeachment this time but a good part of George W. Bush’s re-election will depend on the credibility factor.… It’s a known fact that the Americans don’t like lies - either big or small - especially when it’s the politicians doing the lying. And the White House has been telling too many of them.”


"Security, America Trusts Bush Less"


Roberto Rezzo opined in pro-democratic left party  L’Unità (3/28):  “George Bush’s credibility has fallen to bits after the testimony provided at the Special Commission investigating the 9/11 attacks....  The president is in trouble:  Rice ran to the scene and appeared live on 60 minutes...where she treated Clarke like a downright liar.  The aggressive presidential adviser, however, seems to be the first one who has something to hide, since she demands to be heard out by the investigating committee behind closed doors.”


"Condi, A Falling Star In Washington’s Sky"


Elite, center-left Il Riformista editorialized (3/27):  “For over three years she was the Bush Administration’s brightest star....  Her trajectory, however, may be particularly short.  In only a few days she has succeeded in angering the 9/11 investigating committee, has borne strong accusations and has slipped up [in relaying her story.]  And all of a sudden she has become the weak link in an administration that is obviously having image problems....  Therefore, put under pressure, Washington’s star has stopped shining--so much so that some are beginning to doubt her credibility....  This is a bad blow for an administration that made the war on terrorism its principal weapon for re-election.”


"The Two Presidents’ ‘Mea Culpa’"


Cesare De Carlo opined in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/ Il Giorno (3/25):  “For two days America has been emerged in self-criticism.  It did so in Congress with an Anglo-Saxon determination, making it a top priority for government officials to be accountable.  Especially when, as in this instance, one must establish why and how the world’s most powerful nation suffered the most devastating attack on its territory since Pearl Harbor....  Bin Laden should have been eliminated before and not after September 11, before he unleashed his suicide bombers.  In any case, the war against terrorism cannot only be fought with diplomacy or with international law enforcement efforts, as Clinton had established.  Nor can it be fought with large-scale military interventions (Bush).  It should be done above all with intelligence, information, infiltrators and satellites, and with Israeli-style ‘targeted’ operations (but this couldn’t be said in Congress)."


"White House Counterattack – FBI Issues Election Alert"


 Vanna Vannuccini held in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/26): “The White House has launched a counter-offensive against the former chief of anti-terrorism Richard Clarke, who yesterday accused the President of having done a ‘terrible job’ in the fight against terrorism by underestimating al-Qaida and invading Iraq.… Clarke, who put forth his argument with passion and precision, not only convinced the families of the victims of 9/11, but many Americans as well (an Internet survey showed that 44 per cent of Americans considers Clarke more credible, while 42 per cent believes the White House is more credible). Clark’s testimony has increased doubts about the President’s performance and ability to exercise good judgment.”


RUSSIA:  "Steel Magnolia Bent"


Nikolai Snezhkov filed from Washington for reformist Vremya Novostey (4/1): "Mrs. Rice's consent to testify will shield the U.S. President's administration from being accused of reluctance to clarify the situation for the public, but it can put an end to the career of the black Iron Lady, who, it was said, might become Secretary of State in the event of George Bush's

re-election....   Condoleezza Rice's decision to face the Commission after all has spared her an even bigger scandal.   A formal subpoena would have damaged her image badly.   As things are going, even her political opponents, the Democrats, have been content with her decision."


"The U.S. Could Have Done More"


Vadim Markushin held in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (3/29):  "Lately, the United States has had to be on the alert, constantly threatened with bombings or biological attacks.   It has been looking intensively for methods to prevent those.   By and large, experts say, America has improved the safety of its citizens since 9/11.   But globally, that country might have done substantially more, had it not spent its resources on massive military movements and propaganda.   Suffice it to take a closer look at the ongoing election campaign there to see that party and political tactics often go ahead of a national strategy.   The Republicans and Democrats,forever locked in a battle for the White House, are using the pressing and 'striking' issue of terrorism to secure their time-serving interests. Debate in Congress on Richard Clarke's book 'Against All Enemies' is a case in point."


"U.S.: 9/11 Inquiry"


Natalia Babasian remarked in reformist Izvestiya (3/25):  "What the Panel has heard will hardly add popularity to the White House occupants, including President Bush, who hopes to build his election campaign around a successful war on terrorism.  It turns out that, apart from successes, he has had setbacks that seem unforgivable to many."


"Republicans, Democrats Agree On 9/11"


Dmitriy Sidorov in Washington and Boris Volkhonskiy filed for business-oriented Kommersant (3/25):  "The inquiry has produced neither sensation nor scandal.   For all the mutual criticisms, the Democratic and Republican members of the former and current administrations, agree that it was impossible to strike al-Qaida and destroy terrorist Number One Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 terrorist acts."


 BELGIUM:  "Bush Lets Rice Testify,"


Foreign editor Paul De Bruyn remarked in conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (3/30):  "Under growing pressure the White House agreed on Tuesday that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will testify before the Committee that investigates the 9/11 attacks.  To date, Rice has refused that.  That gave members of Congress the impression that she had something to hide.  That also heightened the debate about the question whether the Bush administration did enough to prevent the attacks....  At this moment, this is mainly an affair for Washington insiders.  Polls show that people still have more confidence in Bush than in his Democratic rival John Kerry for the protection of the United States against terrorist threats.  However, some Bush advisers fear that his re-election will be jeopardized if doubts about his strategy emerge.  For Kerry, the affair is an unexpected bonus.  He didn't have to do anything - while Bush's camp is becoming more and more nervous.  On Monday Bush's reaction was that Rice should testify.  If she has time to appear on TV, she should also find time to appear before the Congress, he said."


"A Politicized Debate"


U.S. correspondent Nathalie Mattheiem in left-of-center Le Soir commented (3/26): "The families of the victims of the September 11 attacks want the truth. The independent commission has to find out precisely what happened and make recommendations to prevent similar attacks from taking place in the future.  The commission is not supposed to point the finger at anyone in particular, and it is not supposed to politicize the debate either. But how could it avoid it, as these attacks represent a turning point in the United States' recent history and are the central theme on which George Bush is building his reelection?... The commission will have to detail the gaps in the fight against terror that should be corrected. These proposals will contribute to a debate that is necessary, i.e. a debate between John Kerry and George Bush on the United States' international strategy and the on restrictions to individual freedoms resulting from the 'war on terror.'"


CZECH REPUBLIC: "Laughing Matter For Osama"


Petr Pesek comments in the center-right Lidove Noviny (3/24): "If Osama bin Laden is alive and watched TV yesterday [coverage of the hearings of the U.S. independent commission studying September 11] he could hardly fail to recall the good old times when he was facing at most expulsion or a badly aimed missile attack.…  Although Clinton is to blame for most of the wrongdoing in this case, the conclusion from the preliminary results of the investigation is that Bush continued in his predecessor's line until September 11.  However, if Clinton's people had stayed in power, Osama would be laughing until now.  And not only while remembering."


HUNGARY:  "To Deny The Tsar"


Janos Avar, the chief editor of weekend newspaper Vasarnapi Hirek judged (3/28): "The Bush- team's ardent smear-campaign is quite telling about how dangerous Richard Clarke might be.  The incredibly immense success of the ex-tsar's recently published book could also be quite worrying for the White House. (And of course the intensifying attacks against Clarke increase the sales of his book even more). But during the elections in November,  Bush's credibility and not Clarke's book will be a deciding factor.  Only the facts can deny the tsar."


"American Investigation"


Senior columnist Hanna Szalay assertedbusiness-political Vilaggazdasag (3/29): " The Clark-book will have a role in the election campaign. That role is not favorable for the Bush-team."


"9/11 Inquiry"


In the pro-government daily Azi, foreign policy analyst Luciana Pop stressed (3/26):  “The second day of public hearings of the inquiry commission regarding 9/11 brought back to center stage Richard Clarke, President Bushs former adviser on terrorism issues, who, with his comments, had created a big fuss at the beginning of the week in the U.S.  On Wednesday, Clarke again criticized the Bush administration, stating that, before the 9/11 attacks, the White House leader had not considered terrorism as an urgent threat.  Moreover, Clarke noted the decision to invade Iraq had undermined the fight against terrorism.”


IRELAND:   "Rice To Testify At 9/11 Inquiry"


Filing from New York, Conor O'Clery observed in center-left Irish Times (3/31):  “Capitulating to bipartisan pressure, the White House agreed yesterday to allow National Security Adviser Dr Condoleezza Rice to testify in public under oath.…The White House said the two (President and Vice President) would meet the full panel in private with no time limit, rather than with the chairman and vice chairman for one hour only as originally planned. The bipartisan commission agreed to a White House condition that it would seek no further sworn testimony from Dr Rice and that her appearance should not be taken as a precedent. The dramatic reversal of course came after lengthy telephone negotiations between the commission and White House counsel Mr Alberto Gonzales, and against a background of Republican and Democratic criticism of Dr Rice for appearing on television while snubbing the commission….Dr Rice denied Mr Clarke's charge that she and Mr Bush did not pursue anti-terrorism strategy urgently and that Iraq undermined the war on terrorism.”


"White House Tries To Defuse Row Over Rice Testimony"

Filing from New York for the center-left  Irish Times, Conor O'Clery emphasized (3/30):  “The White House is in negotiation with the independent 9/11 commission in an attempt to defuse a damaging row over its refusal to allow Dr Condoleezza Rice to testify in public. The bipartisan commission, which meets in closed session today, has asked unanimously that the national security adviser give evidence under oath. White House spokesman Mr Scott McClellan said yesterday that the administration was discussing a second private appearance by Ms Rice, following four hours of unpublished testimony earlier this year. However he said there was no change in the White House position that, as a matter of principle, aides to the president do not testify publicly on policy issues....  A growing number of Democrats and Republicans have said that Ms Rice should make an exception to counter the public perception that she had something to hide.”

"Clarke Testimony Strikes Terror Into Heart Of The White House"

Conor O'Clery stressed in the center-left Irish Times (3/26):  “Nothing could be more devastating for President Bush's re-election hopes than Richard Clarke's belief that Democrats were better at fighting terrorism....  His (Clarke) credibility has also largely survived, though publishing his book this week has generated some charges of profiteering and sour grapes. He has created an image of a zealot defender of America against terrorism, haunted by the prospect that he just might have been able to connect the dots if he had been better served by his masters and by the CIA and FBI. The former Bush aide has also made the case that the Clinton White House was more assiduous in tracking down terrorism than the Bush administration in the pre-9/11 days. The accusation of a counter-terrorism expert from within the depths of the administration that Mr Bush has undermined the fight against terror with the war on Iraq are damaging. But for a Republican president campaigning for re-election on his record against terrorism, nothing could be more devastating than the idea that the Democrats might actually have done a better job.”

TURKEY:  "The Talents of Bush and His Men"

Zafer Atay wrote in the economic-politic Dunya (4/1):  Former American NSC terrorism expert Richard Clarke does not accuse President Bush directly, but rather argues that Bush is under the influence of a very limited number of staff.  Clarke observes that circles close to Bush were already paranoid about Iraq as far back as 2000.  Clarke writes about the president calling him into his office just after 9/11 and giving orders to investigate everything to find a connection between these attacks and Saddam.  Clarke adds that he was unable to convince president Bush that Saddam had no connection to the attacks.  After 9/11, President Bush and his administration became obsessed by Saddam and Iraq.  Of course, Clarke is not the first person who reminded Bush that war should not have been declared against Saddam based on phony allegations.  The head of the UN inspection team, Hans Blix, told him that the inspectors did not believe there were WMDs in Iraq.   David Kay, who searched for 6 months in Iraq for WMDs at the instruction of President Bush, also wrote a report to the Pentagon last January saying that there were no WMDs.  According to Kay, the CIA and the other intelligence services were under excessive influence from exiled Iraqis… The democrats, of course, are not missing this golden opportunity.   They are using Clarke’s book and the other similar allegations to inform Americans that the number one action in Bush’s ‘war against terrorism’ is nothing more than one big lie.” 

"Fine Tuning for President Bush"

Ergin Yildizoglu noted in the social democrat-intellectual Cumhuriyet (3/31): “The general observation from 9/11 investigation as well as Richard Clarke’s book leads us to believe that September 11 would had been prevented, had the Bush administration not been obsessed with Iraq.  This observation has also caused a significant change in American public opinion as support for Bush administration anti-terror policy has dropped to 57 from 70.  This means President Bush will not be effective and convincing if he still wants to use ‘the man who fights against terrorism’ image.  The election campaign for President Bush will certainly be a very difficult one for him.”



ISRAEL: "Intelligence's Limits"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/30): "The problem with the concept of 'intelligence failure' is that it presumes that intelligence normally succeeds.  If there is any lesson from the investigations both here and in the U.S., it is that policy makers must assume the structural fallibility of their intelligence agencies....  What 9/11 that if intelligence is to mean anything it must first have some grasp of the major currents sweeping the globe.  Is it surprising that Western intelligence services missed 9/11 when they did not anticipate the fall of the Soviet Union?....  We should keep in mind not what we think we know, but what we do know: that there is a network of groups and governments that believe in using terror to subjugate the West and make the world safe for tyranny.  We know they must be beaten, and that the key to beating them is to drive a handful of governments out of the terror business.  We also know that tyranny and terror are inextricably linked, so that a policy of supporting Western values of freedom and human rights is also necessary to achieve peace and security.  Intelligence can be a critical tool in winning this war, but it cannot tell us what the war is about or outline our broad strategy."




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "No Official Should Be Exempt From 9/11 Probe"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post said in an editorial (3/31):  "It would not seem that having Ms Rice testify under oath would set a legal precedent compelling future administrations to offer up key aides at the whim of the Congress.  For one thing, the bipartisan commission was set up through congressional legislation and Mr. Bush's signature, but it is not a legislative committee.  For another, there is a broad understanding that both the attacks and the inquiry into them are exceptional.  The commission was set up to look into matters that are intimately linked to Ms Rice's duties and her role in the White House.  As the official charged with co-ordinating the work of the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and other offices, Ms Rice is in a position to answer key questions about American preparedness for, and response to, the attacks.  These two areas, along with making recommendations on how to prevent future attacks, form the core of the commission's agenda.  Ms Rice's testimony is even more crucial now that former colleague Richard Clarke has alleged the administration's preoccupation with Iraq and other matters prevented the formulation of an effective response to al-Qaeda, before and after September 11.  The hearings have already filled in useful information gaps in co-ordination between U.S. intelligence agencies and the weakness of their reach in al-Qaeda strongholds such as Afghanistan.  Thousands of lives were lost on that day, not all of them American.  Regardless of the political games being played outside the hearing room, there are lessons to be learned, and Ms Rice's testimony is necessary if we are to have a full picture."


JAPAN:  "New Questions Over Bush Administration's War With Iraq"


The liberal Asahi observed (3/25):  "Was the U.S.-led use of force against Iraq justifiable?  Washington is being rocked by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's recent bombshell remarks in which he said that shortly after 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush urged him to find any clues linking 9/11 to Saddam Hussein.  Mr. Bush, National Security Advisor Rice and other senior White House aides, however, have reacted negatively to Clarke's remarks.  Former Treasury Secretary O'Neill had previously testified that after its inauguration, the Bush administration began considering toppling the Hussein regime.  In...Bob Woodword's book, Bush at War, he notes that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld proposed military strikes against Iraq immediately after 9/11.  It must be true that President Bush strongly desired to topple the government of Saddam Hussein, who was the archenemy of his father, former President Bush, in the Gulf war.  If Mr. Bush, overwhelmed by this desire, hurriedly started war without confirming the linkage between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein and Iraq's alleged WMD, the U.S.-declared justification of the Iraq war would be greatly tarnished."


PHILIPPINES:  "War At Any Cost"


Former press secretary Teodoro Benigno wrote in his column in the moderate Philippine Star (3/26):  "Now taking center stage is a formidable bipartisan commission investigating the September 11 attacks.…James Gorelick, former deputy attorney general in the.… Clinton administration…while testifying before the commission…said there had been an ‘extraordinary spike’ of intelligence warnings about al-Qaeda attacks that ‘it plateaued at a spike level for months.’… Richard Clarke, Bush’s former counter-terrorism chief, revealed in his new best-selling book that Bush and his deputies...‘largely ignored the Qaeda threats for months before the attacks…’  This is shocking!  Bush…is now being accused of not just lying, but failing to prevent 9/11 when he knew beforehand of the attack.  He wanted war at any cost!”


"Clarke Can’t Be Accused Of Being Pro-Democrat"


Leandro Coronel, in his column in the moderate Manila Times wrote (3/26):  “Bush is unrepentant, is fighting back.  His camp has mobilized demolition squads to counter Clarke’s bombshell.… But Clarke can’t be credibly accused of being...on the side of the Democrats....  Clarke has been security adviser to Presidents…Reagan…George W’s father...Clinton, and now the younger Bush.  That’s three Republicans to one Democract,  Clinton.”


SINGAPORE: "An Essential Debate"


The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (3/31): "What, if anything, could the United States government have done to prevent the tragic events of Sept 11? Did the decision by US President George W. Bush to invade Iraq last year divert attention and resources from the war on terrorism? As they should, Americans are debating these questions in this election season. However, given the scope of the tragedy that occurred on Sept 11, one would have thought they would have done so in an objective manner. But that has not been the case. Especially since Mr. Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert who served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, published his book, Against All Enemies, last week, tempers have frayed and the debate has become bitter and acrimonious. This being an election year, it is not surprising that both parties are approaching any and every question politically, but the war on terrorism is too important an issue to become a political football. It is partly President Bush's fault for politicizing Sept 11. He has made his response to tragedy the central theme of his re-election campaign, going so far as to use footage from the ghastly day in his campaign advertising....  Mr. Clarke raised two important issues in his book, and both need to be weighed carefully by the American electorate. The first concerns what the US government did, or failed to do, prior to Sept 11.... The more serious of Mr. Clarke's charges is that the Bush administration was obsessed with Iraq from the beginning, and tried to link Baghdad to Sept 11. This charge goes to the heart of the matter, and should be debated in this year's presidential election. The administration must respond to Mr. Clarke's charge, one that was also made by former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill a few months ago. Its entire approach to Iraq was based on the claim that regime change in Baghdad would further the aims of the war on terrorism by transforming an entire region. If it did not, the electorate has every right to hold it accountable. If it did, how so? A reasoned debate on this question is desperately needed, for it is essential that whoever is the US president on Jan 20 next year has a clear mandate from the electorate to prosecute the war on terrorism effectively and aggressively."




INDIA:   "Why Osama Should Thank Bush"


An analysis in the nationalist Hindustan Times by editor-in-chief Vir Sanghvi judged (3/28): "Whatever our reservations about the current U.S. administration--and it is hard to find an educated Indian with a good word to say about President George W Bush--there is no doubt which side we are on in the international battle against terrorism...if the battle is between Al Qaeda/the forces of global jehad and the civilized world, then obviously we are on the side of the civilized world....  Over the last two weeks there have been enough developments for Osama bin Laden to think that he might be winning the war, after all. The most crucial of these developments has been the confirmation of what many of us had long suspected: President Bush has made a complete hash of the battle against the jehadis.... Even after 9/11, when it was clear that Clarke had been right and the White House wrong, Bush tried to use the World Trade Center attack to pursue his own agenda....  Bush's principal pre-occupation was finding an excuse to attack Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11....   But even as Saddam languishes in U.S. custody, it is hard to see how the Iraq operation has helped make the world a safer place ... the new Iraq has become the playing field of every Islamic extremist group in the world...the perception that the invasion of Iraq was an unjustified act of aggression has hardened anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world. Most Muslims are not jehadis, they are moderates. But regardless of which side they are on, they all hate America.... Far from making the world a safer place, the Iraq invasion has actually helped create an environment in which Islamic extremism can thrive. It has been George W Bush's gift to Al Qaeda. Last week, there was a brief flurry of excitement when the Pakistani army finally moved into Waziristan.... The excitement increased to fever-pitch after the Pakistanis told the world's press, off-the-record, that they had cornered Ayman al-Zawahiri."


 "War Against Terror"


An analysis in the centrist Times of India by pundit K. Subrahmanyam stressed (3/29):  "President Bush has come under attack from one of his former senior officials Richard Clarke...has asserted that the Bush administration did not pay sufficient attention to the threat to U.S. homeland from Al-Qaida and was obsessed with Iraq.... Such a charge from a former coordinator of counter-terrorism is bound to have a negative impact on George Bush's election campaign....  The statements of Powell and Rice, and the findings of National Commission Staff, make abundantly clear the extreme dependence of the U.S. on Pakistan for its military campaign against the Al-Qaida and the Taliban.... Evidently, the neo-conservatives of Bush administration have a twin track approach. The first is to deal with the Al-Qaida and the Taliban militarily using Pakistan. Secondly, to reconstitute the regimes of greater Middle East through their military action against Iraq and its impact on Saudi Arabia and other countries. They do not see this as an ideological struggle or as a clash of civilisations. For them, these are problems of terrorism and totalitarianism to be dealt with by military means as well as the introduction of good governance and democracy. It is perhaps this inadequacy in the understanding of the ideological under- pinnings of this war on terrorism that led neo-conservatives to shift their focus to Iraq after the end of the military campaign in Afghanistan. For Richard Clarke that was a diversion of attention away from the campaign against terrorism. In his testimony he mentions his inability to convince the Bush administration that the war against terrorism went far beyond just eliminating bin Laden. This debate in the U.S. is of crucial importance to India. It explains why New Delhi has been having difficulties in persuading Washington that the war against terrorism is ideological and global."


"Post Mortem And Pre-Emption"


An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times judged (3/26):  "As election-year politics crackles in the U.S., this is the last thing Bush would have wanted to hear: startling revelations by his former top aide that threaten his bid to occupy the White House for another four years.   Unfortunately for him, Richard A. Clarke's credentials as chief advisor on counter-terrorism to three successive presidents...only bulwark his claims that Bush didn't take the terrorist threat seriously enough. And according to Clarke, the president was so preoccupied with the idea of invading Iraq that he virtually let al-Qaeda operatives run around and plot the 9/11 attacks.... While it is intriguing that Clarke chose to make these allegations during an election campaign, a rattled Bush administration may find little to laugh about these dramatic hearings, as the focus and centerpiece of their re-election effort is the so-called war on terror.  The commission is due to present its final report by the end of July when the presidential campaign will be in full swing. If even some of these allegations are borne out, it will shatter Bush's image as a tireless fighter against terrorists, and leave him owing Americans an explanation and an apology."


PAKISTAN:  "Albright’s Word Of Advice"


The Islamabad-based rightist English-language Pakistan Observer remarked (3/25):  "Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has advised the Bush administration to recognize America’s limits.  Testifying before a commission examining 9/11 attacks, she said that the U.S. will stretch itself to the breaking point and will become more vulnerable if it opts to pursue unnecessarily broad goals such as ‘elimination of potential threats’....  We feel that the Albright’s word of advice has a relevance to the American public in view of the forthcoming presidential elections.  U.S. policies obviously need a total reorientation in order to bring them in tune with the objective international order to make the world a safe place to live in."


"American Claim of Pakistan’s Participation In "Crusade"


An editorial in the second largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt (3/26):   "President Bush had described the attack on Afghanistan and the war on so called terrorism as a crusade.  Later on American administration clarified that it was a slip of tongue the use of word "crusade" was not meant to recall crusades against Islam or Muslims.  However, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated before the 9/11 Commission that his country started a crusade against Afghanistan and acquired President General Musharraf’s consent for his participation in the crusade.  Powell’s statement is the proof that the crusade extremist Christian Bush and his cronies started against Muslims on the pretext of 9/11 attacks was a part of anti-Islam plan.  This was the beginning of a long crusading war that still goes on."


IRAN:  "More Problems For Bush"


The government-controlled Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 commented (3/25):  "The former White House anti-terrorism co-ordinator, Richard Clarke, has criticized aggressive policies of President George Bush.  This criticism has created more problems for Bush.  In fact Clarke's revelations would be considered as another blow on America's president on the threshold of the presidential election in that country.  Clarke explicitly told the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of 11 September that George Bush tried his best to link this issue to Iraq.  Bush's warmongering policies are even criticized by members of his own party in America.  Moreover, he is facing problems and disgrace at the international arena particularly in the wake of the recent bomb attacks in Madrid which led to the election defeat of Aznar, who was one of America's European allies in the attack on Iraq.  All this is happening a year after America's attack on Iraq and occupation of that country, during which Bush has not been able to justify the assault.  It is therefore not surprising that his warmongering policies are opposed by the public opinion in America and the rest of the world."


BANGLADESH:  "Bush Fires In Washington"


Independent English-language New Age editorialized (3/25):  "President Bush’s problems are piling up.  With Richard Clarke opening up a hornets’ nest through making the charge that al-Qaida was far from the thoughts of the administration before 11 September 2001, the president is under new pressure to explain his leadership to Americans....  The huge degree of worry which has now permeated the administration is reflected in the fact that on Monday officials went public with denials of the accusations as many as sixteen times.  That has not healed the wounds.  In broad perspective, the administration is clearly in hot water.  The eagerness with which its officials, including Rumsfeld, have gone around trying to peddle the notion that the terrorism factor was improperly handled by the Clinton administration and was in fact left to the Bush White House to deal with does not help.  There are reasons to think that the commission has, so far, been unimpressed by the case made by the administration.  Seeing that its sessions will go on into the summer, it is inevitable that the fallout from the hearings will have a direct bearing on the presidential election.  In what could end up being a closely contested election, every scrap of Republican unease promises to help the presidential ambitions of John Kerry."




SOUTH AFRICA:  "Failing Americans"


Johannesburg's Nigerian-owned This Day (3/26):  "When George W Bush set up a commission of inquiry into the U.S. intelligence services failure to prevent the attacks on September 11 2001, it looked as though he had managed to sideline embarrassing questions about his war on terrorism until after the election in November. But two days into the hearings by the bipartisan congressional panel, some potentially damaging testimony has already come out. Bush bases much of his re-election campaign on a reputation for being tough on terrorism. But that is not what we heard from his former head of counter-terrorism, Richard Clarke, who had served every president since Ronald Reagan but resigned a disillusioned man after the September 11th catastrophe....  The White House has been furiously trying to discredit Clarke, accusing him of being a disgruntled former employee because he had not been promoted.   Rice declined to appear in public before the panel and instead appeared on U.S. national television to accuse Clarke of giving conflicting accounts. The Bush camp are on the defensive but it's hard to say at this early point how damaging the testimony will prove to his campaign. It could just turn the tide of public opinion.   In a hushed senate hearing room, Clarke struck a tone of humility rarely heard from the Bush administration since that fateful day in 2001. 'Your government failed you,' he told the audience, which included relatives of the victims. 'Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.' As more facts come out and the election gets nearer, Bush may have to hope he will be forgiven too."




ARGENTINA:  "Bush Authorized Condoleezza Rice To Testify"


Ana Baron, Washington-based correspondent for leading Clarin wrote (3/31): "Yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush finally backtracked and green lighted that Condoleezza Rica testifies under oath at the Congressional September 11 Investigating Committee.... Bush also yielded regarding another important point -when saying that he himself and his VP Dick Cheney are willing to be jointly interrogated by the 10 members of the committee, although on a private session.... All observers agreed that the White House's change is due to the fact that the scandal is increasing so rapidly that Bush's reelection is jeopardized. While, according to some opinion surveys, Bush will be reelected, Kerry is too close to him in vote intention. This means that any wrong step taken by Bush could be fatal."


"9/11 Investigation Panel Rocks the White House"


Daily-of-record La Nacion stated (3/29): "Amid tough criticism against the USG for its performance following 9/11 events, pressures multiplied yesterday for NSC advisor Condoleeza Rice to declare at the committee investigating the attacks.  The controversy is giving signals that it's affecting the popularity of President Bush precisely on what, so far, in the eyes of his fellow citizens, was his strong side: the fight against terrorism and national security.  According to a Newsweek survey, the percentage of voters that support the president's performance against terrorism dropped from 65 to 57% last week.  Last Wednesday, after listening to the testimony of former White House advisor on anti-terrorist issues Richard Clarke, who accused Bush of not granting enough importance to the threat represented by Al Qaida, the investigating commission wants Ms. Rice to declare, in order to answer these accusations.... The White House doesn't want Rice to testify under oath and says that, in future, if government advisors know they will be forced to testify, this may affect their job -- how they advise the President.... Democrat candidate Kerry also challenged Rice to testify publicly before the panel, and accused the White House of interfering with this panel, and trying to discredit Clarke."


"Panel Still Wants Rice"


Liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald stated (3/29): "White House allies and Republicans investigating the Sept. 11 attacks pressed yesterday to hear open testimony from NSC advisor Condoleeza Rice, with one commissioner calling her refusal a 'political blunder of the first order.'  President Bush gave no ground. But he sent Rice back for another lengthy news interview to rebut fresh criticism on the way his administration has handled the threat of terrorism against the U.S."



Commentary from ...
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere

This site is produced and maintained by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Back To Top

blue rule
IIP Home  |  Issue Focus Home