April 1, 2004
MEDIA ASSESS FALL-OUT FROM CLARKE 'BOMBSHELL'
** 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
** Focused on Washington's
"partisan catfight," editorials accuse both sides of politicizing
** 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
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.
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
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
"Those Who Predicted Islamist Terrorism Ran Against The
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
"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."
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.”
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
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
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.
Cover-up? Whatever the commission
will reveal, for President Bush this is tantamount to a political vote of
"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
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
"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
"September 11, Rice’s Truth - ‘Bush Wanted Evidence On
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
"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
"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.”
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
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
"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
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
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."
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."
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.”
"Rice To Testify At 9/11 Inquiry"
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
"White House Tries To Defuse Row Over
New York for the center-left Irish
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.”
Testimony Strikes Terror Into Heart Of The White House"
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
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.”
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.”
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
shows...is 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."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
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
"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
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."
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."
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
"American Claim of Pakistan’s Participation In
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
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."
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
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."
"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
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."