A mini-series, and an analyst, to avoid

If there’s a war on terrorism analyst I respect less than Michael Scheuer (former head of the bin Laden unit witin the CIA and the “anonymous” author of Imperial Hubris) it’s Richard Clarke (former counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council and author of Against All Enemies). In today’s Washington Times, Scheuer lights into Clarke. The attack is prompted by a forthcoming ABC mini-series (of all things) about the U.S. intelligence community in the period leading up to 9/11. Scheuer is disturbed by reports that the series portrays Clarke as a hero.

Scheuer argues, correctly I believe, that Clarke was anything but. He notes that Clarke was at the center of Mr. Clinton’s advisers who resolutely refused to order the CIA to kill or capture bin Laden, failing to act (according to Scheuer) on eight to 10 occasions when CIA reporting afforded the administration the opportunity to take down bin Laden. “If ABC’s fact-checkers are not diligent in verifying Mr. Clarke’s stories and claims,” Scheuer warns, “the mini-series will be the September 11 commission’s dream come true: the Bush administration will be blamed for September 11, the feckless moral cowardice of the Clinton administration will be disguised, and Mr. Clarke. . .will be beatified.”

But even when Scheuer has a good point to make, his sickening rhetoric betrays him. In this case, he concludes by asserting that “Bill [Clinton], Dick [Clarke], and Sandy [Berger] helped to push Americans out of the windows of the World Trade Center on that September morning. . .” Is it too much to ask that a purportedly serious analyst be able distinguish between weak policies and homicide (or for that matter that he refer to a former president and his advisers by their surnames)?

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