Other segments from the episode on September 22, 2004
DATE September 22, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Richard Clarke discusses the recommendations and
findings of the 9-11 Commission
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.
Richard Clarke was the United States' counterterrorism coordinator under
President Clinton and President Bush, until he resigned in March of last year.
His book, "Against All Enemies," details his experience fighting terrorism and
argued that the Bush administration all but ignored his warnings about the
danger of al-Qaeda and, instead, became obsessed with removing Saddam Hussein
from power. Clarke appeared on FRESH AIR earlier this year when "Against All
Enemies" was published. The book's now out in paperback. We've invited him
back to discuss the findings and recommendations of the September 11th
Commission, which are being considered by Congress.
Clarke thinks the commission did many things right but that some issues still
need attention. In particular, was there a support network in the United
States assisting the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers? Clarke says there are many
Mr. RICHARD CLARKE ("Against All Odds"): Well for example, the two hijackers
that come into the United States months in advance and are later seen on the
videotape going through security at Dulles Airport, they live in Southern
California for a while. Then they move to northern Virginia. And now we
understand that they didn't speak English. So they're in the United States
for months. They get an apartment, they buy food, they move around, they pick
up and move across the country and they don't speak English. Somebody's
helping them. And, you know, I think there's every reason to believe that
there were facilitators supporting the couple of cells of hijackers. That's
the way al-Qaeda always operates. They have people who live in the country
where the attack's going to occur, and those people don't actually do the
attack. They provide the infrastructure, the logistics, the reconnaissance.
And then the muscle is brought in to do the attack.
Well, if that's the way they normally operate, they probably did that on 9/11.
And no one has found that network. Now if the FBI hasn't been able to find
these supporters, these facilitators, then they're still around. They may
have gone to ground. They may have broken off contact with al-Qaeda for a
while. But now, three years on, maybe not under suspicion, maybe not under
surveillance, they could resurface, and they could support another attack in
this country. I think it's very important we answer those kinds of questions,
questions like: Why did two of the hijackers the night before September 11th
leave Boston, drive to Maine and spend the night in Maine and then fly down
from Maine in the morning to Boston's airport to do the hijacking? You know,
there are lots of theories as to why they did that; none of them hold up.
There are still unanswered questions. And the commission left most of the
unanswered questions unanswered.
DAVIES: One of the things that we see in the 9/11 report is some confusion as
information does emerge about two of the hijackers, partly among FBI
investigators who are working on the attack on the USS Cole. There's other
CIA information that floats around. And there is a perceived inability to
share information because of legal restrictions between domestic law
enforcement and foreign intelligence. Clear this up for us. I mean, are
there legal barriers to the FBI sharing information with the CIA and others
who are fighting terrorism?
Mr. CLARKE: There were legal barriers that prevented certain kinds of
criminal information from being shared. If someone was going to present a
piece of information to a grand jury, that information was then protected and
could only be distributed with the permission of the judge. That's still a
rule. There was another rule that was a complication, which was if the FBI as
given a search warrant or an eavesdropping authorization by the intelligence
court, as part of an intelligence investigation, they couldn't share what they
found with their fellow FBI agents, who were doing criminal investigations.
Now that rule has since been changed by the Patriot Act, but it meant that
there was this Balkanized system where information could not flow from one
side of the FBI to the other or from the FBI to the CIA without very elaborate
and cumbersome and time-consuming procedures.
DAVIES: There's clearly a perceived need here for sensitive information to be
shared even among investigators from different agencies who are working on
issues that information about terrorism might arise in--in effect, to connect
the dots. And Richard Posner, in a piece in The New York Times, recently, in
reviewing the 9-11 Commission report, criticized the idea that, as he put it,
"The failure to prevent the attacks was due to a failure to correlate bits of
information possessed by different security agencies, especially the CIA and
the FBI." He says, `The best bits of information weren't obtained until the
month or so before the attack.' And he says, `It's unrealistic to suppose they
could have been integrated and understood in time to detect the plot.' In
effect, he's saying there's all this information going around there, and
it's--we weren't going to just pick those dots out and connect them in time.
Is he right?
Mr. CLARKE: No, I don't think so. There is some dots which are meaningless
unless you put them together with lots of other dots, and I understand what
he's saying. But there's some dots that come out screaming at you: `Do
something now about me.' And when we knew that there were al-Qaeda people
going to Malaysia, going to Kuala Lumpur and meeting there and plotting there,
we became very concerned because it looked like the kind of meeting where
al-Qaeda people, operational people get together and go over the details of
some impending attack. So if we had then learned that some of those people in
that meeting were in Southern California and entered the United States, that
would have been the kind of dot that didn't need a lot of connecting. That
would have screamed out at you: `Do something about me now.'
And I think--you know, it's 20/20 hindsight and all of that, but I really do
believe that if I were sitting in my old job in the White House and I had seen
a report that said that, I would have made the FBI--and, frankly, FBI
headquarters would have wanted to--go all out to find those two guys.
DAVIES: A central part of your book and the interviews you did when it first
came out was that you were unable to impress upon the Bush administration the
urgency of the al-Qaeda issue. Had you done that, do you think you would have
had the attention and focus of the FBI in a way that might have produced a
Mr. CLARKE: There's a real contrast, I think, between the way the Clinton
administration stopped attacks successfully in December, 1999 and the way the
Bush administration kind of left it to the agencies to do their own thing in
the summer of 2001. In both cases we received information from CIA and other
intelligence agencies that gave us a pretty clear impression that there was an
impending al-Qaeda attack directed against the United States. In both cases,
we didn't know where the attack would take place, we didn't know precisely
when, we didn't know who would do it. So that's very frustrating. You know
an attack is coming, but all of the essential questions that you have to
answer to do something to stop it turn out to be, `We don't know. We don't
So in December, 1999, faced with this situation, President Clinton said to his
national security adviser and said to me, `You guys get together with top
people from CIA, FBI, Justice wherever you need. Have them meet in the White
House Situation Room. Have them meet every day. And wring out of those
departments every piece of information that you can. Have them go out to the
people that they deal with, the other countries' intelligence agencies, and
cash some chips to get more information. Have George Tenet call the head of
every intelligence agency around the country personally and say, "I need help
on this." And have the FBI director do the same sort of thing inside the
United States.' So we did that, and we did that for day after day after day
in December, 1999.
The FBI director would go to these meetings. He'd be asked the question, `Who
is going to do it? When is it going to happen?' He would be embarrassed when
he didn't know the answer. He'd go back to headquarters, and he'd get
everybody together and say, `Look, we have to come up with some answers. Do
everything you can to find out the answers.'
Now that process in December of 1999 worked, and we were able to stop
terrorist attacks in the United States and on the United States overseas.
Contrast that with the summer of 2001, where you have the same kind of
information, lots of CIA reports that a big attack on the United States is
coming; that al-Qaeda is going to do it, but we don't know where and we don't
know when and we don't know how. And President Bush, we now know, received 44
morning intelligence reports from the CIA mentioning the al-Qaeda threat. And
not once did he say, `Let's begin a process to find out the answers. Let's
begin a process to stop that attack.' What we do know is on one of these
occasions, on one morning, he turned to his national security adviser and
said, `I don't want to go after individual terrorists. That's swatting at
flies. I'd rather go after the hive. Come up with a strategy.'
So the national security adviser came back and asked me to develop a strategy.
And I reminded her that we already had, and it had been sitting around for two
months waiting to be reviewed. She said, `OK, fine. We'll get to it. We'll
review it.' Now that was in the spring. Spring went by, summer went by.
They didn't get to it until after Labor Day. But the striking thing here is
that the president never came back 'cause every morning he was still getting
reports that there was something going to happen. He never came back and
said, you know, `Damn it, what are we doing to stop this attack? What do I
have to do to stop this attack?'
DAVIES: You know, there are a couple of places in the 9-11 Commission report
where they are discussing this issue of the lack of urgency that was attached
to these signs and warnings. And they seemed to place at least a little bit
of the blame at your doorstep. I mean, they describe a meeting of the
Counterterrorism Security Group at which various officials attended in
July. A representative from the Immigration Service asked for a summary of
some information they could distribute to their offices and didn't get it.
They seem to be wanting to suggest that may be you were among those who didn't
push as hard as they might have.
Mr. CLARKE: Well, look, I take responsibility. But I read that report very,
very carefully and closely, and I don't see where the commission is saying
that my office or I personally didn't do enough that summer. I mean, quite
the opposite; it talks about the efforts I made with my hair on fire to get
the agencies to act and to get the White House to act.
DAVIES: Former US counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke. We'll hear
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: We're back with Richard Clarke. He was the first national
coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism. His
book, "Against All Enemies," has just been released in paperback.
The commission noted that in December of 1998, George Tenet, then director of
the CIA, sent a `We are at war' directive indicating that he wanted no
resources or people spared in the effort to fight terrorism. The commission
concludes that had little overall effect. Do you agree, and if so, why did it
have no effect?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, because he didn't implement it. He said, `We are at war,
and all resources are available.' But then when people asked for specific
resources, they didn't get them. And, in fact, the CIA was asked by the White
House and the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council
to identify places in the CIA and in other intelligence agencies where money
could be moved and moved from those other activities to support
counterterrorism. And the answer came back, `There's not a penny in any other
program that we can move.' Now what we said back to the CIA was, `What you're
telling us is that everything is more important; that painting the corridor,
that repaving the parking lot, that the Foreign Broadcast Information
Service, which has subscriptions to foreign magazines--all of that is more
important because if you can't move a penny from anywhere else, that's what
you're saying.' And the bureaucracy in CIA totally resisted and turned it back
on the White House and said, `No, you have to go to Congress and get us more
money. We're not going to move a penny into the counterterrorism program.'
DAVIES: Now as head of the Counterterrorism Security Group at the time, how
do you deal with that kind of obstinance? I mean, you clearly could see what
it meant; that resources weren't going to be devoted to the need. What do you
do about that?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, the good thing about being in the White House is that
there is this other entity in the White House called the Office of Management
and Budget. And it has the authority to see everyone's books and to move
money around with the president's approval, even if the CIA director or the
Defense Department secretary doesn't like it. And so we did on several
occasions use that kind of authority, not just with CIA but with a lot of
federal departments to say, `You may not think this is your priority, that you
may not think that this is your job, but you should be doing more on
counterterrorism, and, therefore, we're going to start moving some of your
An example of that was building up in the Department of Health and Human
Services a counterterrorism capability for chemical and biological warfare, so
that we used money from HHS to buy vaccines, to buy medicines, to buy
equipment, which we then stashed around the country in secret locations, so
that in case there were a chemical attack or a biological attack by terrorists
in one of our cities, we could get specialized medical equipment to that city
quickly. Now that is not the kind of thing that the Department of Health and
Human Services thought was its job. It hadn't been doing that. But by using
the power of the White House and the power of the budget, President Clinton
allowed us to initiative that kind of a program.
DAVIES: You argue that the Clinton administration really did take the
al-Qaeda threat seriously, an attempt to coordinate and mobilize activities
which would fight the organization and get Osama bin Laden. Given that, why
was it not successful? Why were you not able to get bin Laden and cripple
al-Qaeda, do you think?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I think some of the people who were on the receiving end
of the orders didn't take them seriously. I think there are parts of the CIA
that didn't like being ordered to go out and kill bin Laden and didn't,
therefore, do it. There was a sort of passive-aggressive behavior within the
CIA. Now that came back to the CIA director, it came back to me as, `This is
a very difficult thing to do, and we're having a hard time doing it.' But in
point of fact, I think in retrospect, there were people in the agency who
didn't want to do it; didn't think that assassination or murder of people like
bin Laden was a good idea and didn't think that there was a really big threat.
They didn't share our perception that al-Qaeda was a big threat. Go back in
time, realize that before 9/11, in the entire eight years of the Clinton
presidency, fewer than 50 Americans had died at the hands of al-Qaeda over
Now if you're a CIA bureaucrat or an FBI bureaucrat and you're doing something
else that you think is important, and we come along and we say, `No, no,
al-Qaeda is important, and that should be our number one priority,' and you
then take a look at al-Qaeda and you say, `Well, there's this bin Laden guy in
robes who issues funny press statements, and occasionally there's an
attack, but all of their attacks over eight years have killed fewer than 50
people,' well, maybe that's just not important. I think that was the implicit
attitude of an awful lot of people in places--in the FBI and CIA bureaucracy
prior to 9/11.
DAVIES: There were also planned military strikes that were called off because
it seemed that the target might have been too close to a mosque, or there
might have been a visiting official who would have been in harm's way. Are
those considerations that would be regarded differently now?
Mr. CLARKE: I think they might be regarded differently now, but no one wants
to blow up a hospital filled with innocent people. I think what we were
trying to do at the time was probably misfocused. What the Clinton
administration was trying to do was find a needle in a haystack and capture or
kill that needle: bin Laden in Afghanistan. What we should have been doing
was saying, `There is a big haystack here. We should burn the haystack down.'
And by that I mean there are lots of terrorist training camps and terrorist
infrastructure in Afghanistan. Let's just get rid of it all. If we hit bin
Laden in the process, that's great. If he escapes, well, we'll continue to
hunt for him. And though there were people in the Clinton administration who
argued, `Don't just focus on one person, bin Laden. Blow up the entire
network of these camps, where the terrorists were being trained,' that
argument did not carry the day.
DAVIES: Did that mean invading Afghanistan, in your mind, or attacking the
camps from the air? What did it mean?
Mr. CLARKE: I think, certainly, it meant attacking the camps from the air,
and it probably meant putting boots on the ground. Whether or not that meant
invading and occupying the occupying the country was a different issue. Bill
Clinton actually said to the head of the US military, General Shelton, `I want
boots on the ground in Afghanistan, and I want to scare those terrorists out
of the terrorist camps.' And after due consideration, the military, generals
and admirals, came back and said in their professional military judgment, that
was not a good thing to do. It was too risky. And comparing the risk to
American soldiers with the threat posed by al-Qaeda, they recommended against
doing it. Well, Clinton at that point should have said, `Thank you very much
for your recommendation. Now go do it.'
DAVIES: Former US counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke. He'll be back
in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: Coming up, we continue our conversation with former counterterrorism
coordinator Richard Clarke. We'll talk about the passage of the US Patriot
Act and government challenges to civil liberties. Also, "Shorter, Faster,
Louder," the life of The Ramones." Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews a new
documentary film about the band.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.
Let's get back to our interview with Richard Clarke, the US counterterrorism
coordinator under Presidents Clinton and Bush. His book, "Against All
Enemies," is out in paperback. We've invited him back to discuss the findings
of the September 11th Commission.
There are a lot of civil liberties issues that are raised in the war against
terrorism, and the 9-11 Commission dealt with some. The Patriot Act has been
condemned by civil libertarians and defended by the administration and its
sponsors. What do you think the Patriot Act got right, and what needs to be
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I think that the Patriot Act was passed in a hurry after
9/11, and it's a bit of a hodgepodge. Many of the provisions have what's
called a sunset clause, which means they expire, because the Congress knew it
was doing it in a hurry, and it didn't want to get it wrong for all time. So
the Congress will have an opportunity to review many of the provisions of the
Patriot Act act and rewrite them, reauthorize them. The one that has bothered
me is this notion that FBI agents can go into libraries or bookstores and find
out who's reading what book. Now why that bothers me is no FBI agent has ever
done it. It is not something that would be terribly useful. And it does
irritate librarians and people who worry about civil liberties issues. And so
if it breaks down the national consensus in the war against terrorism and it
does no good in fighting the terrorists, then we ought to get rid of it.
The larger problem with civil liberties, however, is not the Patriot Act. An
awful lot of people assume that some of the abuses the Justice Department has
engaged in are authorized by the Patriot Act, and they're not. I'll give you
an example. This fellow Jose Padilla, who was an American citizen, arrested
in the United States and charged with being an al-Qaeda agents, was denied all
of his rights: right to lawyer, right to know the charges against him, right
to a jury of his peers, everything. And he was denied all these rights
because the Justice Department and the Defense Department said he was an enemy
agent. And, therefore, they handed him off to the Defense Department, which
locked him away in a DoD jail. There's nothing in the Patriot Act that
authorizes that. There's nothing in any law that authorizes that. It's an
illegal act by the Justice Department and the Defense Department. Now
eventually I assume the Supreme Court is going to get around to saying that.
The first time this issue was brought to them, they kind of punted on a
technicality, and they're going to review it again next month.
But there are abuses like that that have been going on, and people rightly are
upset by that. And they assume, therefore, that the Patriot Act authorizes
these activities. It doesn't.
DAVIES: You know, a lot of people believe that in a situation in a climate of
war--and a lot of people would regard our current struggle against
international terrorism as a state of war--that a different standard might be
used, for example, for preventive detention than you would use in a normal
criminal matter. Do you see a need to define circumstances under which
someone can be detained without charge, for example, or searched without
normal standards of probable cause, a need to define that in law and establish
judicial restraints and some public review of this? I mean, is there a need
to review all of this material?
Mr. CLARKE: I don't think there is any need for us to start giving up our
civil liberties in this country in order to protect our civil liberties. It's
a nonsense to me to say that in order to defend the Constitution and our civil
liberties, we have to start giving some of them up. You know, the terrorists
want to establish various countries around the world like the Taliban had in
Afghanistan, where they systematically take away civil rights and human rights
and civil liberties. And it just seems odd to me that people think that in
order to stop that from happening, we have to voluntarily give up some of our
liberties. You know, Benjamin Franklin, the great thinker, philosopher--and
he faced similar issues in his time. And he said, `Those who would give up a
little liberty to get a little bit more security will end up with neither
liberty nor security.' And I think that should be our guiding principle here.
There's nothing I have ever seen in any of my work on counterterrorism that
makes me believe that in the United States we need to infringe on civil
liberties in order to protect our country.
DAVIES: There's also an issue of the United States' conduct abroad. For
example, can we assassinate people in other countries? Is that legal?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, you have to understand the concept of covert action that
has been pursued since, you know, 1940. The concept of covert action
essentially says the president of the United States may authorize things that
violate international law. That's why they're covert, because you're
violating international law. A lot of the things which we do to collect
intelligence information are illegal in the countries in which we do them and,
also, illegal in the international system of law. And so, yes, from time to
time the United States has to, for its own protection, do things which are
extralegal abroad. You want to keep that to a minimum, however. And,
therefore, when President Clinton decided that Osama bin Laden needed to be
removed from the scene, it was a very painful decision. No president in
modern history, that I'm aware of, had made that kind of explicit decision,
not only to remove Osama bin Laden but to remove his deputies, the entire
leadership, of al-Qaeda.
And we debated whether this meant that we were authorizing assassination,
whether it meant that we were creating a hit list. And what we determined,
with the help of the Justice Department and lawyers in other agencies, was
that if we defined al-Qaeda as a military organization that was engaged in
military activity against the United States, then trying to take out the
leadership of that organization was not illegal; it was not assassination as
defined in law. It was a military action and an action in self-defense. But
this can get out of hand, and I think it's gotten out of hand in Israel, where
they've had a hit list for many, many years. And I think it's proven to be
So I think, yes, legally you can do it under certain circumstances. The
question, however, is: Should you do it? And with the case of Osama bin
Laden, Bill Clinton decided that, yes, we should do it; there was sufficient
reason. But we didn't want to expand that authority too broadly and make it
an everyday occurrence.
DAVIES: Do you see any inconsistency in a position that says even in a war
against terrorism, we must respect civil liberties and the rights of Americans
as established in the Bill of Rights, but we hold ourselves capable of
violating the laws of other countries?
Mr. CLARKE: No, I think most countries--in fact, all countries that I
know--violate the laws of other countries to collect information. I think
that's normal. It's something that's gone on forever. And I think if we stop
doing it, we would put ourselves at great risk.
DAVIES: My guest is Richard Clarke. He was the nation's anti-terrorism
coordinator under President Clinton and current President George W. Bush. His
book, "Against All Enemies," has just been released in paperback. We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: We're back with Richard Clark. He was the first national coordinator
for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism. His book,
"Against All Enemies," is now out in paperback.
In commenting on the 9-11 Commission report, you have been quoted as saying
that, `Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.' What's the message in that
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I said this to the commission, and the commission, I'm glad
to say, put it in its report and its recommendations. Let's back up. What
I'm really saying here is if we're going to win this struggle, we have to
first understand who the enemy is and what the threat is. And President Bush
has shorthanded the enemy as the evil-doers, the terrorists. Terrorism is a
tactic, and it's done by certain groups. All people who do it are not going
after the United States. There are terrorist groups in the jungles of
Colombia. There are terrorist groups in Lebanon. There are terrorist groups
elsewhere in the world, and there always have been and likely there always
will be. And they don't usually pose a significant threat to the United
We are facing a significant threat from what I like to call the jihadist
network. It's a group of people who are using Islam, perverting Islam,
distorting Islam, but using Islam as a justification for overthrowing
governments in the Islamic world and instituting what they would like to see,
which looks a lot like what the Taliban was in Afghanistan, a kind of
theocracy that denies a lot of civil liberties and imposes, forces people to
live a life according to a rather narrow interpretation of Islam and a bizarre
interpretation of Islam.
They're the enemy, the jihadist network. Al-Qaeda is the umbrella group, but
there are probably 12 or 14 significant terrorist networks that have regional
affiliations, regional identities. And they all cooperate with each other.
Once we've identified that as the target, as the enemy, then we can devise
strategies to go after them that makes sense. Part of the problem is that
they are appealing to the broader Islamic world. Think about this, if you can
picture in your mind, three concentric circles. The largest circle is all
members of the Islamic world, 1.3 billion, 1.5 billion people. The second
circle are those people who now identify with al-Qaeda and say they support
bin Laden's philosophy. That circle used to be relatively small. It's now,
however, probably several hundred million people. They don't fight, but they
do support. And sometimes they give money, they give political support. And
then an inner circle, a very small circle, in the core of this, and that is
the group of terrorists who actually go out and fight and die. And this may
be 10,000, it may be 40,000.
The problem is that the second circle, the supporters who say they
ideologically identify with al-Qaeda--they are essential for al-Qaeda and the
terrorist network, the jihadist network, to succeed. We need to contract the
group of supporters, make that second circle smaller. That means we have to
fight, as the 9-11 Commission said, a battle of ideas to convince those
hundreds of millions of people in the Islamic world that al-Qaeda's wrong,
that it's distorting Islam and trying to hijack Islam. And we're not doing a
very good job of winning that battle of ideas, in part, of course, because of
what we're doing in Iraq.
DAVIES: Does that mean a foreign policy which provides aid and establishes
friendships? Does it mean getting our own messages out through Arab
television and radio?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, it means all of that and more. It means an activist
program to erode support for al-Qaeda. And right now, frankly, 99 percent of
what we're doing is law enforcement and intelligence and occasionally military
operations to go after al-Qaeda. And we're not giving equal emphasis to the
longer-term solution. If we're going to win this struggle, it's going to take
a while. But we have to not only worry about the immediate issues of
capturing individual terrorists. We also, at the same time, have to give
money and emphasis and policy attention, management attention to the kinds of
issues you raised: changing ideas in the Islamic world by giving aid programs
to get rid of the radical schools and create public schools that teach people,
so they can get jobs in a modern economy. It means a program of cultural
exchange and public outreach. It means a lot of things that, frankly, we're
not paying much attention to.
DAVIES: I have to note that in your book you make the point that some past
presidents made a big mistake in not having a--issuing a military response to
terrorist attacks; that it was important that, at least in cases where there
were state-supported terrorism, that there be a military response; that it
sent an important message. How do you reconcile the need to react military to
the jihadist movement to the need to win the battle of ideas?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I think there's a tension there, and, therefore, we have to
be conscious when we do use military force of the effect, not just the
immediate effect but the political effect, of using it. We have to make sure
that we take that into account to reduce the possibility that innocent
civilians will be killed. And that's why when we're doing things like bombing
Fallujah every day, encircling Najaf, going into Sadr City and Baghdad with
tanks, they have to be conscious that every day film of that is going out on
nightly news to every Islamic TV station around the world. And people from
Indonesia to Morocco are seeing film of Americans apparently attacking
civilians in Iraq.
It has now emerged that the commander of all US Marines in Iraq, a three-star
general, when he was ordered to attack Fallujah, said, `No, this isn't a good
idea. This is not the way to go about it. It'll be counterproductive,' and
that his immediate boss, a four-star general, agreed with him. But he was
ordered, quote, "by Washington," unquote, to attack Fallujah. So I think the
military are sensitive to the counterproductive nature of some of the things
that we've been doing, but they're ordered to do it nonetheless.
DAVIES: You know, I have to ask--you spent many, many years in Washington as
an insider and had to become very adept at bureaucratic infighting to get
things done. Over the past several months, since you published this
controversial book, you've become something of a media celebrity, and you've,
you know, pursued an agenda of change as a public figure. And I'm wondering
how you compare the experiences and if you've learned things that you wish
you'd known about fighting a public battle as opposed to an insider's battle.
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I think there are some things which you can only do on the
inside of any bureaucracy, whether it's a company or a government agency or a
national government. And there are some things which you can best do when
you're on the outside. Now I'm in the position to do public speaking, public
writing and try to stimulate debate--because, at the end of the day, what
causes the Congress to move and what causes the government to move is often
public debate. That's why I think we need a public debate in this country
about security and about counterterrorism, which is not a political debate.
It's not about `elect John Kerry' or `elect George Bush.' It's not about
Republican or Democrat. It's about what policies work and what policies
And I would like people, when they hear proposals and criticisms and debate,
rather than saying, `I'm a Democrat and, therefore, I have to disagree with
that,' or, `I'm a Republican, and I like George Bush and, therefore,
everything he's ever done is right'--don't think that way. Let's all consider
ourselves to be part of a national task force where we're all asked to take
some responsibility for analyzing our future, our security. Are we safer now
than we were four years ago? How can we make ourselves safer in the future?
And the answers are not to be found in the Democratic and Republican Party
platforms, and we shouldn't look at them as a sort of catechism that is Holy
Writ. We have to work together as a nation and rebuild a consensus that we
are, together, going to find ways to make our country more secure at home and
abroad, and we're going to do it while protecting our civil liberties.
DAVIES: Well, Richard Clarke, thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. CLARKE: Thank you.
DAVIES: Former US counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke. His book,
"Against All Enemies," has just been released in paperback.
Coming up, a new documentary about The Ramones. This is FRESH AIR.
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Review: Documentary profiling The Ramones called "End of the
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Last week Johnny Ramone, lead guitarist for The Ramones, died from prostate
cancer. Born John Cummings, he shaped the sound and look of the pioneering
punk rock band, which was known for its quick songs built around simple, loud
riffs. The band's lead singer, Joey Ramone, also died of cancer in April,
2001. And bassist Dee Dee Ramone died of a drug overdose in June, 2002. Only
the original drummer survives. The story of The Ramones is told in a new
documentary film called "End of the Century." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a
(Soundbite of song)
THE RAMONES: (Singing) Twenty-one-twenty-four hours to go. I want to be
sedated. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. I want to be sedated. Just give it
to me, or put me on a plane. Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane. I can't
get it through my fingers. I can't get it through my brain. Oh, no, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh.
KEN TUCKER reporting:
When The Ramones' first album was released in 1976, I was lucky enough to be
living in New York and had seen the band live at least 15 times. Rock music
then was overrun with acts like Peter Frampton and Queen and Chicago. The
Ramones were a blast literally, a blast of yelled vocals, two or three cranked
up guitar chords and hammered drums. Songs were used like punctuation,
exclamation points that never lasted more than three minutes each. Every
performance was an adrenaline surge. You had to go see them in crowded,
sweaty, little clubs on the Lower East Side, and so for the band to actually
release an album on a major label, it felt like the world was both exploding
and beginning. The Ramones were the `big bang' of punk rock.
All of this is captured in the documentary "End of the Century: The Story of
The Ramones." The title is comped from the band's 1980 song, but since the
deaths of three of the four original band members began at the turn of the
century, the title takes on the weight of finality. But, really, the film,
directed by Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields, is thrilling, exhilarating and
moving. The notion underpinning everything is that four misfits from Queens
could seize upon the idea that rock 'n' roll had lost its way; that they would
take Ramone as their last name and dress alike in leather jackets, sneakers
and ripped jeans as though they weren't just a band but a family of rowdy
This is as idealistic and cornball in theory as The Ramones in action never
were, which, of course, results in precisely the kind of artistic paradox and
aesthetic tension that made The Ramones' music so great. The movie is a
collection of interviews with all the band members, plus central figures, like
Danny Fields, the band's first manager, a marvelous New York wit and
scene-maker who deserves his own documentary. They all catalog and analyze
the band's struggle to be accept, first, as more than a joke, then to become
the legit rock stars they'd initially despised and, finally, to settle into
being a touring band that was a guaranteed blast no matter what night you saw
them. Any clip of The Ramones from any period conveys the conceptual genius
of the group. Their shorter, faster, louder-than-anybody approach made their
songs brilliant bullets shot out at ecstatic audiences.
We've seen so many of those behind-the-music tales of woe that we've become
jaded about the misery that seems to lie below the surface of just about any
band's success. And, to be sure, The Ramones were truly unhappy people:
resentful of a radio industry that never played the short songs that were
ideal for airplay; more baffled than bitter that the British punks who revered
them, like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, got more press and record sales;
weary of making barely a living wage through constant touring. They fought,
they fired each other, they stole one another's girlfriends. Yet through it
all, even Johnny, the hard case who drove the band mercilessly, who chose when
the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 to use his
time at the ceremony to praise President Bush while never mentioning dead
Joey--he remained steadfast in his devotion to the very concept of The
Ramones, as he tells the filmmakers here.
(Soundbite of "End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones")
Mr. JOHNNY RAMONE (The Ramones): Yeah, no, I cared. I mean, I cared. But,
you know, I cared because I couldn't help but care. I cared, you know. You
know, I was wondering, `Why am I caring so much?' But I cared, you know. I
was questioning it to myself: `Why am I caring? I mean, I'm depressed for
the whole week here. I'm sad. Why am I feeling this way?' And I didn't
really get along, so that bothered me. So...
Unidentified Man: Did you ever think about why that was, why it bothered you?
Mr. RAMONE: Why, I'm not sure. I don't know if that's--I don't know. I
don't know why. I still wonder if it's a weakness inside. I don't know
what--I'm not sure why. He's a member of The Ramones; I love The Ramones.
He's a member of The Ramones. So, I mean, we're all in it together, you know.
Even if we didn't get along or whatever, if someone did something to him, I'd
be wanting to defend him. If I saw someone throw something at him, I'd want
to go get the person. I mean, I cared, you know, 'cause that--I took it as an
insult to The Ramones. So--and that way, you know, it's just--we're in it
TUCKER: I watched "End of the Century" with my 14-year-old daughter, who was
bouncing in her seat to the music and was transfixed by the spectacle of all
the hard work and harder emotions that went into the creation of such
ferocious, joyous music.
Filmed over the course of 10 years, "End of the Century" documents not just
the end, not just the beginning, but the endurance of guys who wanted to
change the world and did, even if they never fully believed it.
DAVIES: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.
DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
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