The 10,000-Pound Elephant in the Room

Michael Saba, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sat, 2004-03-27 03:00

WASHINGTON, 27 March 2004 — Richard Clarke is all over the news these days. The author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror” had his book released this week, the same week that he appeared as a key witness at the blue ribbon Sept. 11 Commission meeting which focused on what went wrong with America’s intelligence leading up to that fateful day.

Clarke, who retired from government service about a year ago, served 30 years under 7 US presidents, 5 of them Republican, as a national security expert.

Clarke has made all the major TV talk shows and appeared on all of the TV networks chastizing Bush and his administration for mistakes prior to Sept. 11 and criticizing President Bush and his key officials for their obsession to go to war with Iraq rather than focusing on Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.

Yet with all of this talk and criticism, something was missing. There was a 10,000-pound elephant in the room and, although everybody could see it, nobody wanted to mention it. That 10,000-pound elephant is Israel.

Clarke laid the blame and the Bush administration fought back. The Sept. 11Commission also got into the act when Clarke testified. Everyone was blaming everyone else but no one mentioned Israel as a possible participant in the equation. And Clarke, although he was taking on the neoconservatives, normally ardent supporters of Israel, seemed to be avoiding the mention of the Jewish state like the plague. Some courageous political pundits such as Pat Buchanan, have consistently pointed out the role of Israel and the pro-Israeli lobby in driving the United States toward war with Iraq. Then recollections of Clarke’s earlier career came to mind.

Clarke served in both the Bush 1 and Clinton administrations. From 1989 to 1992 during Bush 1, Clarke served as the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs overseeing sensitive US technology transfers. In a March 1992 report, State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk stated “alleged Israeli violations of US laws cited and supported by reliable intelligence information show a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorized back to about 1982.” According to other US officials at that time, those Israeli violations date back to the early 1970s. Many of those alleged violations during the Reagan era include Israel’s illegal transfers of American technology to China.

The Funk Report heavily criticized State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for ignoring scores of intelligence reports on apparent violations of retransfer restrictions and other restrictions and for not reporting them to senior officials and Congress, as required by law.

The report also recommended that the then Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Richard Clarke be disciplined for his lack of oversight on Israel. Clarke was reprimanded and eventually lost his job. However Clarke, a consummate bureaucratic survivor, reappeared shortly after that on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration.

When the Funk Report was issued and Clarke was removed from his State Department position, Funk allegedly received threatening phone calls at his home. Funk was summoned to closed-door hearings in the US House of Representatives and was allegedly accused by Representative Tom Lantos of California of harming Israel while others reportedly joined in a verbal assault of Funk’s positions on Israel.

At that same time the Jerusalem Post reported, “It appears the bureaucratic target (of the Funk Report) was Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Richard Clarke. US officials reportedly say Clarke is being removed from his position for negligence.” The Jerusalem Post goes on to quote a pro-Israeli activist as saying, “Clarke was a friend of Israel in an administration where they do not necessarily grow on trees. Somebody was out there to get him.”

Also defending Clarke at that time in the Jerusalem Post were neoconservative, pro-Israeli advocates Michael Ledeen and Stephen Bryen claiming that there was “lack of proof that Israel had violated any agreements.” Interestingly, both Ledeen and Bryen served in the Reagan administration at the same time as Clarke. Bryen was also reprimanded during that period for alleged improprieties regarding technology transfer to Israel. Bryen and Ledeen now serve on the US China Commission which oversees American technology transfers to China.

Clarke himself was quoted in a 1990 article in the Syracuse(NY) Post-Standard as saying, “The US benefits in a lot of ways from its strategic relationship with Israel” and went on to say that Israel could serve as a “war reserve stockpile” in expanding American military capabilities.

In Clarke’s book, he makes positive references to his friend, Richard Perle. The pro-Israeli Perle, known as the “Prince of Darkness” is widely credited as one of the architects of Bush’s attack Iraq policy.

And Clarke is quoted in the official biography of Steven Emerson as saying, “I think of Steve as the Paul Revere of terrorism...(Clarke) credits Emerson with repeatedly warning of Al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. He adds that he would attend Emerson’s speeches whenever possible because ‘we’d always learn things we weren’t hearing from the FBI or CIA, things which almost always proved to be true.” Emerson is one of the strongest pro-Likud, pro-Israeli advocates in the United States and is often cited for blaming the Arabs and Muslims for most of the acts of terrorism around the world.

Responding to Clarke’s interview on “60 Minutes” last Sunday night, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett referred to Clarke’s charges as a “red herring”, something designed to draw attention from the real issue.

That “red herring”, however, is quite different from the 10,000-pound elephant in the room. During an election year with friends of Israel, and especially close friends like Richard Clarke, permeating both political parties, nobody wants to mention that the elephant is in the room.

— Dr. Michael Saba is the author of “The Armageddon Network” and is an international relations consultant.

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