cover image Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

Richard A. Clarke. Free Press, $27 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-6024-4

From the first thrilling chapter, which takes readers into the White House center of operations on September 11, through his final negative assessment of George W. Bush's post-9/11 war on terror, Clarke, the U.S.'s former terrorism czar, offers a complex and illuminating look into the successes and failures of the nation's security apparatus. He offers charged (and, one must note, for himself triumphant) insider scenes, such as when he scared the devil out of Clinton's Cabinet to motivate them to fight terrorism. The media has understandably focused on Clarke's charge that Bush neglected terrorism before the attacks on New York and Washington; but Clarke also offers a longer perspective on the issue, going back to the first Gulf War (when he was an assistant secretary of state) and makes some stunning revelations. One of the latter is that the U.S. came close to war with Iran over that country's role in the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. An important aspect of Clarke's book is that it is only one man's account--and an account moreover that casts its author as hero and others (FBI, CIA, the military) as screw-ups; as has been seen in recent congressional hearings, administration officials (notably, Condoleezza Rice) have challenged its veracity. But those inclined to believe Clarke will find that he makes a devastating case about the Bush administration's failure from the beginning (when Clarke's position was downgraded and he was taken off the top-level Principals Committee) to make terrorism as high a priority as Clinton's did. In the face of the Bush team's claim that they didn't know about a threat to the homeland, readers will be haunted by two small words: after mobilizing to confront the Millennium terror threat, Clarke reached what seemed to him the obvious conclusion regarding al-Qaeda:""They're here.""