MORE ON CLARKE….One of the unfortunate side effects of all the controversy over Dick Clarke’s charges against the Bush White House and its approach to terrorism is that the rest of his book probably won’t get any attention at all. That’s too bad, because the bulk of it is a pretty interesting (and nonpartisan) account of the growth of terrorism during the 90s and how we responded to it.
For example, one of the recurring problems he brings up is that of trying to snatch suspected terrorists out of foreign countries. The problem, as Clarke tells it, is that while the CIA often didn’t have the resources for proposed missions, the Pentagon just flatly didn’t want to do them. And to make sure they wouldn’t have to do them when they were asked, the plans they submitted looked more like plans for a full declaration of war than plans for a quick snatch.
But there’s more. Here’s an interesting anecdote about how the Pentagon played the game during the 90s. This happened in 1996 after the Clinton White House had asked the military to snatch an al-Qaeda terrorist in Khartoum:
To the complete frutration of Berger, Albright, and me, the CIA finally admitted it could do nothing to effect a snatch in Khartoum. DOD was only able to generate options, once again, that looked like going to war with Sudan.
Two years later [Colonel Mike] Sheehan was visiting the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Command (which includes Delta Force) at Fort Bragg. He struck up a conversation with two fellow Green Berets. They told each other stories about operations they had done and about “the ones that got away,” missions planned but not carried out. The two told Sheehan about the plan they had to snatch an al Qaeda leader in a Khartoum hotel. “Woulda been so sweet. Six guys. Two cars. In and out. Easy egress across the border and fly out, low risk.”
“Really?” Sheehan asked, pretending not to know about the proposed snatch. “What happened? Why didn’t you get to do it?”
“Fuckin’ White House,” the Green Beret said in disgust. “Clinton said no.”
“How do you know that?” Mike innocently inquired.
“Pentagon told us.”
The White House wanted to do it. The plan was feasible. The team itself was eager to go. But it didn’t happen.
But at least the military bureaucracy once again got to demonstrate their contempt for their commander in chief. It really shows a charming dedication to defending the interests of the United States, doesn’t it?