The Corner

Clarke On Preemption

From an April 2, 2000 Washington Post profile of Richard Clarke:

“We should have a very low barrier in terms of acting when there is a threat

of weapons of mass destruction being used against American citizens,” says

Clarke, brushing aside suggestions that a preoccupation with bin Laden has

caused errors in judgment, such as the decision to retaliate for the attack

on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 by bombing a

pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, suspected of producing chemical

agents. “We should not have a barrier of evidence that can be used in a

court of law,” Clarke says.

He compares the current threat of global terrorism with the situation faced

by Western democracies in the period leading up to World War II, when

appeasement carried the day. Imagine what would have happened, he says, had

Winston Churchill come to power in Britain five years earlier and

“aggressively gone after” Nazi Germany. Hitler would have been stopped, but

in all likelihood, Clarke says, Churchill would have gone down in history

“as a hawk, as someone who exaggerated the threat, who saber-rattled and did

needless things.”

In other words, people would say about Churchill pretty much what Clarke is

saying about Bush right now… too bad Bush believed in a “low barrier”

about WMD and did not use “a barrier of evidence that can be used in a court

of law.”


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