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Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror Paperback – Unabridged, September 21, 2004
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Few political memoirs have made such a dramatic entrance as that by Richard A. Clarke. During the week of the initial publication of Against All Enemies, Clarke was featured on 60 Minutes, testified before the 9/11 commission, and touched off a raging controversy over how the presidential administration handled the threat of terrorism and the post-9/11 geopolitical landscape. Clarke, a veteran Washington insider who had advised presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, dissects each man's approach to terrorism but levels the harshest criticism at the latter Bush and his advisors who, Clarke asserts, failed to take terrorism and Al-Qaeda seriously. Clarke details how, in light of mounting intelligence of the danger Al-Qaeda presented, his urgent requests to move terrorism up the list of priorities in the early days of the administration were met with apathy and procrastination and how, after the attacks took place, Bush and key figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney turned their attention almost immediately to Iraq, a nation not involved in the attacks. Against All Enemies takes the reader inside the Beltway beginning with the Reagan administration, who failed to retaliate against the 1982 Beirut bombings, fueling the perception around the world that the United States was vulnerable to such attacks. Terrorism becomes a growing but largely ignored threat under the first President Bush, whom Clarke cites for his failure to eliminate Saddam Hussein, thereby necessitating a continued American presence in Saudi Arabia that further inflamed anti-American sentiment. Clinton, according to Clarke, understood the gravity of the situation and became increasingly obsessed with stopping Al-Qaeda. He had developed workable plans but was hamstrung by political infighting and the sex scandal that led to his impeachment. But Bush and his advisers, Clarke says, didn't get it before 9/11 and they didn't get it after, taking a unilateral approach that seemed destined to lead to more attacks on Americans and American interests around the world. Clarke's inside accounts of what happens in the corridors of power are fascinating and the book, written in a compelling, highly readable style, at times almost seems like a fiction thriller. But the threat of terrorism and the consequences of Bush's approach to it feel very sobering and very real. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
From the first thrilling chapter, which takes readers into the White House center of operations on September 11, through his final negative assessment of George W. Bushs post-9/11 war on terror, Clarke, the U.S.s former terrorism czar, offers a complex and illuminating look into the successes and failures of the nations security apparatus. He offers charged (and, one must note, for himself triumphant) insider scenes, such as when he scared the devil out of Clintons Cabinet to motivate them to fight terrorism. The media has understandably focused on Clarkes charge that Bush neglected terrorism before the attacks on New York and Washington; but Clarke also offers a longer perspective on the issue, going back to the first Gulf War (when he was an assistant secretary of state) and makes some stunning revelations. One of the latter is that the U.S. came close to war with Iran over that countrys role in the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. An important aspect of Clarkes book is that it is only one mans accountand an account moreover that casts its author as hero and others (FBI, CIA, the military) as screw-ups; as has been seen in recent congressional hearings, administration officials (notably, Condoleezza Rice) have challenged its veracity. But those inclined to believe Clarke will find that he makes a devastating case about the Bush administrations failure from the beginning (when Clarkes position was downgraded and he was taken off the top-level Principals Committee) to make terrorism as high a priority as Clintons did. In the face of the Bush teams claim that they didnt know about a threat to the homeland, readers will be haunted by two small words: after mobilizing to confront the Millennium terror threat, Clarke reached what seemed to him the obvious conclusion regarding al-Qaeda: "Theyre here."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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That being said, although the narrative is full of action, suspense and seemingly gives you an inside look into how our government works at its highest levels, the more I read the more suspicious I became of the content's validity. Being what is essentially an autobiography, there seems to be little to no fact checking that went into sustaining Clarke's claims. After reading the book, I can certainly buy Clarke's self-described image as a tireless public servant who dedicated a good chunk of his life to serving our country above and beyond the call of duty. I can even buy him as a whistle blower who honestly was looking to make reforms in Washington. What I have a more difficult time believing is his uncanny knack for always being right and anyone who disagreed with him being either incompetent or part of some conspiracy.
Along with Clarke's book, I have read a huge number of news accounts, interviews and books by others who served with him (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, etc.) and I have to say that the picture Clarke paints of himself as some kind of cross between Ghandi and Nostradamus doesn't seem to be shared by many of those around him. Let's face it, if some "accident" had happened to prevent the events of 9/11 from happening, Richard Clarke would have been dismissed as an overly paranoid crank. Yes, 9/11 did happen, but how many other times did he predict events that never happened and never made it into his book? I get the impression from all I have read elsewhere that Clarke was simply not taken seriously because he came off as being too much of an alarmist, and potentially exaggerated the threats we faced. He might have been perceived as someone who was just looking for attention. Whether he was right or not, being such an alarmist is likely why he wasn't taken seriously by the Bush administration, much to our country's loss.
I am glad that I read Clarke's book, but am equally glad that I have read the works of others to balance out his rather one-sided point of view though. There are a lot more perceptions than truths in people's memories of past events. Honestly, I am still not sure who to believe, or what parts of the many stories I have read should be believed. It's always best to get a wide variety of perspectives though, and Clarke's book is definitely one that you should read if you want to gain an increased insight into 9/11 and how it happened.
As an individual in the security space, I've previously read Clarke's book on Cybersecurity. Clarke has an outdated and old school, Cold War mentality that doesn't easily translate into the cyber arena. I also disagree with Clarke on a philosophical/political front, however, I do have to say in terms of a more traditional national security sense I think Clarke if very admireable and I look up to the man with the highest regard.
The book did a fantastic job of highlighting weaknesses in the national security space following 9/11, and exemplified a stellar crisis management case study. However, in my humble opinion I feel as though Clarke gloats way too much and single handedly takes credit for such a vast effort. He obviously knows his stuff in this space, but I feel takes more credit than is probably due. Also there is obvious political motives in the book as well, and those while I may disagree, are entitled by the author to be expressed, but I feel the constant political undertone sometimes takes away from the effectiveness of expressing national security matters.
Overall a decent and interesting look if you can look past some of the shortcomings.