To Declassify or Not to Declassify

Republican Congessmen are threatening to declassify Richard Clarke’s closed-door testimony from 2002 in a bid to show inconsistencies between his analysis of the events leading up to 9/11 then and the story he tells now. Of course, Washington insiders say, there are no such inconsistencies–it’s merely a Republican smear campaign to discredit Clarke in retaliation for telling the truth as he sees it.

As the debate over Clarke’s book rages, why aren’t Democrats focusing on the obvious retort? Namely, that declassifying classified information solely for partisan politicans is unpatriotic and potentially, since it would jeopardize national security, treasonous. Then, if Republicans say that the information isn’t really all that secret, Democrats could fault them for using classification to keep secrets from the American people. It would really be quite beautiful; too bad no one in Washington has any imagination.

Like everyone with a brain, I can’t help rubbing my hands with glee at the sight of Clarke’s revelations. The fact that he’s a loyal Republican, extremely hawkish and articulate helps sell his story (and his book). But I would caution progressives not to fall in love with the guy.

First of all, he’s still a hawk. In his book “Against All Enemies,” Clarke boasts that providing the Afghan mujahedeen with Stinger missiles was his (good) idea–even though the Soviet defeat it created led to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. And he continues to spread the all too widely accepted lie that, while Iraq was an illegitimate war based on lies about WMDs and imminent dangers therefrom, Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan was a logical and justifiable response to 9/11. Nothing, as I and others have written to the point of exhaustion elsewhere, could be further from the truth. Afghanistan, like Iraq, was a distraction from the real threat (in Pakistan). Like Iraq, it made things worse rather than better from the standpoint of eliminating terrorism–Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is greater now than before the war. And like Iraq, Afghanistan was motivated by access to energy resources. So Clarke isn’t exactly a wise man, but rather a disgruntled Republican operative with a book and a story to tell that, with luck, will contribute to Bush’s defeat this November.

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