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As Simple as ABC

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In Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke wrote: "Just before going to the meeting [in 1998 with Bill Clinton], I read a CIA report from a source in Afghanistan that bin Laden and his top staff were planning a meeting on August 20 to review the results of their attacks [on the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya] and plan the next wave. Terrorist coordinators from outside Afghanistan had been summoned back for the session. As we sat down in the Cabinet Room, I slipped the report to George Tenet, who was sitting next to me. On it, I penned, 'You thinking what I'm thinking?' He passed it back with a note on it, 'You better believe I am.'

"We had both come to the conclusion that this report meant we had the opportunity not merely to stage a retaliatory bombing, but also a chance to get bin Laden and his top deputies, if the President would agree to a strike now during the white-hot 'Monica' scandal press coverage....Although we had been going after al Qaeda for several years, now it would be the top priority to eliminate the organization. The President asked National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to coordinate all of the moving parts necessary for a military response, tentatively planned for August 20, six days later....'Listen, retaliating for these attacks is all well and good, but we gotta get rid of these guys once and for all,' Clinton said, looking seriously over his half glasses at Tenet...'You understand what I'm telling you?...'

"All of this was taking place against the backdrop of the continuing Monica scandal. Like most of his advisors, I was beyond mad that the president had not shown enough discretion or self-control, although from what I knew of Presidential history, marital infidelity had also been a problem for several of his illustrious predecessors. I was angrier, almost incredulous, that the bitterness of Clinton's enemies knew no bounds, that they intended to hurt not just Clinton but the country by turning the President personal problem into a global, public circus for their own political ends. Now I feared that the timing of the President's interrogation about the scandal, August 17, would get in the way of our hitting the al Qaeda meeting.

"It did not. Clinton made clear that we were to give him our best national security advice, without regard to his personal problems. 'Do you all recommend that we strike on the 20th? Fine. Do not give me political advice or personal advice about the timing. That's my problem. Let me worry about that.' If we thought this was the best time to hit the Afghan camps, he would order it and take the heat for the 'Wag the Dog' criticism that we all knew would happen, for the media and congressional reaction that would say he was using a military strike to divert attention from his deposition in the investigation....Ironically, Clinton was blamed for a 'Wag the Dog' strategy in 1998 dealing with the real threat from al Qaeda but no one labeled Bush's 2003 war on Iraq as a 'Wag the Dog' move even though the 'crisis' was manufactured and Bush political advisor Karl Rove was telling Republicans to 'run on the war.'"

Poor, naive Monica Lewinsky. The Starr Report disclosed her fantasy about being together with Clinton more often when he was out of office. She quoted him as saying, "I might be alone in three years." In that same section of the report, she quoted Clinton as saying, "Well, what are we going to do when I'm 75 and I have to pee 25 times a day?" And it must have been embarrassing for Clinton to hear the tape that Linda Tripp made, where Monica told her what she had said to him on the phone: "I love you, Butthead." Fortunately, he didn't respond, "I love you, Beavis."

Clarke wrote, "The American public's reaction to the U.S. retaliation...was about as adverse as we could have imagined. According to the media and many in Congress, Clinton had launched a military strike to divert attention from the Monica scandal....Our response to two deadly terrorist attacks was an attempt to wipe out al Qaeda leadership, yet it quickly became grist for the right-wing talk radio mill and part of the get Clinton campaign. That reaction made it more difficult to get approval for follow-up attacks on al Qaeda, such as my later attempts to persuade the principals to forget about finding bin Laden and just bomb the training camps."

Who could possibly have predicted that Monica Lewinsky--who had merely been performing oral sex on Bill Clinton while Yassir Arafat was waiting in the Rose Garden for their appointment--that years later she would be considered as ultimately responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the unrelated invasion of Iraq? Not me, babe.