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'Apology' not accepted


Dear Richard Clarke, author presently on a promotional book tour, former Federal official responsible for counter-terrorism all during the eight years of Clinton's administration, coiner of the phrase "electronic Pearl Harbor," campaign contributor to only Democrats throughout the last ten years, and "best friend" of al-Qerry Campaign official Rand Beers,

Two days ago on national television you said to the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks:

I welcome these hearings because of the opportunity that they provide to the American people to better understand why the tragedy of 9/11 happened, and what we must do to prevent a reoccurrence.

I also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television.

Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.

After considering your words carefully, including factually supported observations regarding how, why and when they were made, I - speaking for myself - do not accept your apology.

It was offered on behalf of others. You have no right or authority to apologize to anyone with respect to our government's actions beyond the mistakes that you and those you were responsible for made. No one but our president may issue any apologies on behalf of his Administration. No one but our chief justice and associate justices may issue them for our Supreme Court. Most important, only our Congress may issue an apology - in the form of a duly passed resolution - on behalf of the entire government of the United States. It was presumptuous of you to include within your remarks those persons and things for which you were never entrusted with any proper authority to apologize. That made your remarks appear more an indictment against others than a sincere apology for what you alone did and were responsible for doing.

It was inappropriate in its timing. A year has passed since you resigned from our government, yet you have not attempted to offer any apology publicly at all like you are doing now. Only in the midst of promoting your book on the subject in hopes of increasing its sales, do you attempt to offer it. That made your remarks at the commission's hearing appear cynical and self-serving, as you should have surely known they would.

It was not directed solely at the persons you claimed you specifically harmed. The commission's hearing was not "finally a forum" for that apology. You could have written the various organizations representing the families directly. You could have visited their meetings and apologized there. You could have telephoned each and every family personally if you felt strongly enough about your mistakes. But you never did. That made your remarks at the hearing appear insincere with respect to these families. Beyond them, all Americans receive no benefit by a former subordinate advisor's apology. If there is any true basis for such apology, to have real meaning and effect it must come from those officers and members we have elected to representative us, including state officials who steadfastly refused to adequately enforce our Nation's immigration laws in the months before those families' loved ones and our homeland were attacked. Whenever we the people demand an apology from our government for anything, we will except it from those we put in the highest positions of responsibility for its actions.

It was followed by your blaming others for failures that directly contradict what you said just two years ago:

In addition, [Richard Clarke] said that in the spring of 2001 Bush committed to a "five-fold" increase in CIA resources dedicated to going after the al Qaeda leader.

"What we ended up with was a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda," Clarke told reporters in August 2002. "So the president recognizes very early on that you don't want to roll back al Qaeda over this long period of time, you want to eliminate al Qaeda on a much more accelerated timetable."

In a new book, Clarke accuses the Bush administration of neglecting the threat from bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network before the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the difference between the 2002 remarks and those in his recent book "goes directly to Mr. Clarke's credibility."

Clarke in his book and in interviews promoting it [e.g., 60 Minutes] has suggested there was little urgency in the early days of the Bush administration about al Qaeda. But in the August 2002 briefing [transcript] he credits the Bush administration with trying to resolve the policy disputes that were not settled in the Clinton days, and credited the Bush team with moving in the spring of 2001 to open a dialogue with Pakistan designed to get Islamabad "to break away from the Taliban."

Most of all, it was not accompanied by your agreement to accept any appropriate punishment. You will sell your book and make much money off all the publicity you have generated for it. That is not fitting punishment for the failures you have admitted to on your part. You will keep your government pay and pension despite having admittedly failed to earn it. That is no punishment either. Donate all the proceeds from your book's sales - as well as the pay you received while anti-terrorism czar - to the families you say you harmed. Absent such meaningful atonement, you do not appear to truly accept responsibility also for the consequences of your failues.

These reasons dissuade me from accepting your apology.

Searching the past for someone to blame for failing to prevent a horrible sneak attack may be fun and games for some. In everyone else's view, it is not going to help us much in our fight to win this war when our enemies are at this moment planning even more attacks against us.

The only thing I see our president letting us down on in this matter is holding you over from the Clinton administration. That has proven to be the sole mistake for which he should, if you persist in your apparently vengeful and partisan efforts to cast aspersions - to the glee of our enemies - on an administration that is trying its best to successfully prosecute a world war, apologize to all of us.

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