Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Richard Clarke at UIUC

Richard Clarke (click for bio), former "Terrorism Czar" and author of Against All Enemies, spoke this evening at the U of I. He gave a fascinating talk on the status of the war on terror. I managed to get a seat in the second row (I had to jump over empty seats to bypass the jam in the aisle.) Here are some pictures that I took with my camera phone. I'll share from my notes. At the end of the talk, I asked a question, and then later got an autograph of my copy of his book.

  • He began by defining the war. Terrorism is an methodology; you can't fight a war against that.
  • We are at war with Jihadists who practice a "perverted version of Islam." Also people that support the ideas of Jihadists, both politically and financially.
  • We must "win this war as a war of ideas."
  • Polling shows that the United States government has essentially "zero credibility in key Islamic countries." Thus, the we cannot be the ones fighting the war of ideas.
  • Are we making progress in the war on terror?
  • Comparing the amount of terrorist activity worldwide in the 36 months before and the 36 months after 9/11, Jihadist attacks have doubled since 9/11.
  • In Iraq, there are 60 to 70 attacks against U.S. forces every day.
  • Bush stresses that we are fighting the war overseas so that we don't have to fight it here at home.
  • Bin Laden recently told Zarqawi to send terrorists from Iraq to the U.S.
  • Clarke asserts that, "Because we are fighting in Iraq, terrorists are coming here."
  • "How are we doing in the war on terror? Not very well."
  • 3/11 in Madrid (bombs in subway) left over 2,000 dead.
  • Carried out not by suicide bombers, but people who got on, left backpacks of explosives on the train, and got off.
  • ABC did the same thing in New York (with cameras instead of explosives). No one did anything to check the bags.
  • 60 Minutes placed a bomb-look-alike package at a chemical plant next to a quantity of chlorine that could kill 100,000 people if released into the atmosphere. No one stopped or questioned them.
  • "You can't stop everything...."
  • It would cost $9 billion to implement working homeland security.
  • We've spent $100-some billion in Iraq, which is exporting terrorists.
  • Clarke points out that we're training police and firemen in Iraq, yet Bush's recent budget proposal will reduce those numbers here at home.
  • "Frankly, I think we made a mistake after 9/11," in our emotional state, we allowed the PATRIOT Act to be passed, which is abusive.
  • PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to force librarians to hand over records.
  • See José Padilla, a U.S. citizen who is being held without having been charged, without access to a lawyer, and without a trial by a jury of his peers.
  • We should "advocate better homeland security...and at the same time advocate for the Constitution."
  • Referenced the Benjamin Franklin quote: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
  • His book is titled "Against All Enemies." The presidential oath, part of the constitution, states that the president-to-be shall defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

He took questions. I asked the second question: Do you feel like you're preaching to the choir? That the people who should be listening—like the policy makers who get things done—aren't listening?

Somewhat, yes, he said. There are some people who will never say anything bad about the Bush administration; these people watch FOX News (the crowed roared with approval). But we all know people who need persuading, so we need to wear them down.

Someone else asked if he thought it would matter if Bin Laden were captured now. Clarke said no. Bin Laden has become a symbolic leader. If he were gone, it wouldn't really change things. (See Che Guevara after he was arrested by the CIA.) We should have captured or killed him in the mid-90s when Clinton authorized it. Or in the months following 9/11.

Someone else asked about Bush's vision to spread democracy in the Middle East. Clarke reminded us that terrorism can still be bred in democracies (see Timothy McVeigh). He also reminded us that "the Iranian-backed party won the election" in Iraq. So there are doubts about just how democratic Iraq will be.

He was also asked if he would consider going back into public service or run for office. No, not at all, he said. He feels that he can make a greater impact from the outside than he could from the inside.

After that, there was a book signing. As he signed my copy, I told him, "I saw you on the Daily Show...I saw the smear campaign that the Bush administration had launched against you...I bought your book the next day." He smiled, gave me a wink, and said, "I wish that they had kept it up; it was great for book sales." We shook hands and I thanked him for coming.

This was a very cool experience. Clarke is a very interesting and intelligent man with a very unique point of view. I learned a lot and I hope that you learned some, too.

It's also fun to think about the people that I'm connected to through him; you know, like the degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Not only presidents, but Jon Stewart.


Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by TraviBlog.] Trackback.

Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by Sara.] "He began by defining the war. Terrorism is an methodology; you can't fight a war against that."
EXACTLY. I have argued this exact point with several people. it is so frusterating to hear the prez say "we are winning the war on terrorism". and even worse, the american people buy it.

Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by Renice.] Sorry we didn't make it to this -- so glad you took such good notes!