Sharply aimed at President George W. Bush and the strategies of his administration in the war on terror, this blistering attack comes not, as expected, from the liberal left -- rather it comes from White House insider Richard A. Clarke, former counterterrorism czar, national security counselor to three presidents (including Democrat Bill Clinton), and a trusted member of Bush's own advisory staff until May 2003. Sending seismic waves through political circles, Clarke paints an alarming picture of a newly minted administration of right-wing ideologues caught in an eight-year-time warp and utterly fixated on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. He describes how, prior to 9/11, the Bush White House turned a blind eye to repeated warnings about the threats posed by al Qaeda, choosing instead to focus on imagined Iraqi-sponsored terrorism. He recounts how, in the aftermath of the attacks, he was urged by the president to find a connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, even though such a link had been thoroughly investigated and discredited. And he chronicles a series of post-9/11 blunders, culminating in the abandonment of the hunt for bin Laden in order to pursue regime change in Iraq.
Although Clarke documents serious mistakes made by previous presidents -- notably Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton -- it is the younger Bush who gets the lion's share of blame for the breakdown of counterterrorism efforts. It is clear that Clarke believes the missteps of Bush's administration contributed, unwittingly, to the attacks of September 11th and that their continued Machiavellian manipulation has seriously endangered America's national security. Unlike so many left- and right-wing bestsellers written by and for converts, this book's incendiary power lies in the fact that its author's allegiance is not to a party -- although Clarke is a Republican -- but to the nation itself. It's a stance that makes this indictment all the more compelling.. Anne Markowski