28 Jun 2004 11:00:03
lcs Mixmaster Remailer
Clarke: Iraq war an enormous mistake

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- The invasion of Iraq was an "enormous mistake"
that is costing untold lives, strengthening al Qaeda and breeding a new
generation of terrorists, former White House counterterrorism czar Richard
Clarke said Saturday.

"We did exactly what al Qaeda said we would do -- invade and occupy an
oil-rich Arab country that wasn't threatening us in any way," Clarke said
before giving the keynote address at the American Library Association's
annual convention in Orlando.

"The hatred that has been engendered by this invasion will last for
generations."

Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to the past three presidents, wrote the
book "Against All Enemies," which strongly criticizes the Bush
administration for making Iraq a top priority and for underestimating
warnings about al Qaeda before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Clarke said the United States will lose the war on terrorism if it loses
the battle of ideas against extremists in the Middle East.

"We won the Cold War by, yes, having good strong military forces but also
by competing in the battle of ideas against the Communists," Clarke later
told the librarians. "We have to do that with the jihadists."

The United States' ideological credibility has been undermined by
revelations of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib
prison and the release of documents that showed U.S. government attorneys
conducted a legal analysis of what constituted torture, Clarke said.

Clarke took issue with some elements of filmmaker Michael Moore's new
documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which depicts how the Bush administration
allowed Saudi nationals and members of Osama bin Laden's family to leave
the United States days after the September 11 attacks.

Clarke said he thought the Saudi government was "perfectly justified" in
wanting its citizens to leave the United States out of fears of
"vigilantism" by Americans.

The Saudis were not allowed to leave until the FBI cleared them of posing
any danger and having knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, Clarke
said.

Making the incident a big part of the movie was a mistake, said Clarke,
who added that he agrees with many things Moore stands for.