Democrat Clark blames President Bush for Sept. 11 intelligence failures
NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
©2003 Associated Press
(10-28) 12:00 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --
Democrat Wesley Clark on Tuesday blamed President Bush for the intelligence failures that contributed to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"There is no way this administration can walk away from its responsibility for 9-11," Clark told a conference, titled "New American Strategies for Security and Peace," "You can't blame something like this on lower level intelligence officers, however badly they communicated memos with each other. ... The buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush's desk."
Clark, a retired Army general who led NATO forces in Europe, delivered his sharpest critique yet of Bush's foreign policy. As the newest entry in the Democratic presidential race, he echoed many of his rivals arguments for removing Bush from office.
Clark argued that Bush has manipulated facts, stifled dissent, retaliated against detractors, shown disdain for allies and started a war without just cause. He said Bush put Americans at risk by pursuing war in Iraq instead of hunting for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, pulling a "bait-and-switch" by going after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein instead of al Qaida terrorists.
He called Bush's labeling of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an axis of evil in his January 2002 State of the Union address -- "the single worst formulation in the last half century of American foreign policy."
But his criticism of Bush's handling of intelligence related to the terrorist attacks is some of the harshest since former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., exited the Democratic presidential race.
In May 2002, the administration fended off questions after it was revealed that Bush was given a warning a month before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden's terrorist network might hijack American airplanes. Administration officials said the information was among several possible terrorist attacks being plotted against the United States.
"Strong rhetoric in the aftermath is no substitute for wise leadership," Clark said to applause from the largely Democratic audience.
If elected, Clark said he would repair relations with other nations and use force as a last resort. He said he would be willing to launch a pre-emeptive strike against threats to the United States, and promised to seek a legal definition of terrorism from the United Nations to bring offenders to justice under international law.
©2003 Associated Press