March 27, 2004

Call CNN!

I'm reading Clarke's Against All Enemies. Most everybody knows all the headline-grabbing info in it, but here's an anecdote that doesn't have any political impact but is pretty funny.

In 1993 the Kuwaitis managed to foil an assassination attempt against former President Bush, and the perpetrators admitting being Iraqi intelligence agents. As retaliation, a plan was drawn up to attack the Iraqi Intelligence HQ with cruise missiles from the Gulf. President Clinton was to make a brief announcement on national TV, telling Americans what had been done and warning Iraq about heavier consequences if any further terrorism took place.

Unfortunately, cruise missiles (at the time) had no cameras onboard, so when Clinton asked "how are we gonna know if the targets were hit," the only answer was we won't till the morning after the missile launch, when satellite photos can confirm. He felt that he'd really like to know for sure before telling the country what had been done, but nobody in CIA, DOD, NSA, or any other government agency could assure him the attack had been successful. So Clarke, Anthony Lake, and the CIA man were all glumly wondering how to get Clinton to go on the tube, when suddenly there he was, announcing the action.

The President and Al Gore almost immediately afterwards showed up in Lake's office, where Clinton was asked how he'd decided he could go on without some assurance that the attack had been successful. Clinton said he'd called CNN. The network didn't have any correspondents on duty in Baghdad that night, but a cameraman in their Jordan bureau called a relative who lived near the Iraqi Intelligence HQ, and the relative told him that it had indeed been blown up. Clinton decided that was good enough for him, so he went ahead with the announcement.

I'm imagining the faces of all those high-powered intelligence guys when they realized the President of the United States asked for and got confirmation of US military action from the press.

Posted by Linkmeister at March 27, 2004 09:35 PM

Interesting story, Steve!
Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
So, are you liking the book so far?

Posted by: toxiclabrat at March 29, 2004 12:48 AM

heh. liberal media, indeed.

Posted by: shelley at March 29, 2004 04:16 AM

I finished it yesterday. One of the more interesting things, apart from the content, is the clear English in which Clarke writes. No bureaucratese at all.

He's a pretty-much equal opportunity basher as far as the FBI, the CIA and the military goes. He gives Clinton points for being smart enough to recognize the problem and approve every suggested strike against terrorists, and he gives Bush, Rice, et. al. zip for deciding that it wasn't worth as much attention as he thought it should get.

Posted by: Linkmeister at March 29, 2004 02:54 PM

Now I definitely need to read this one. Great vignette.

Posted by: Scott at March 30, 2004 03:09 AM

CNN was a better place in those days.

It's pretty apparent that Clarke had a lot of respect for Clinton. That's a black mark against him, I suppose.

Posted by: Raye at March 30, 2004 10:06 PM