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Richard Clarke, the nation’s former top counterterrorism official, tells Democracy Now! he believes President George W. Bush is guilty of war crimes for launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Clarke served as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism during Bush’s first year in office. He resigned in 2003 following the Iraq invasion and later made headlines by accusing Bush officials of ignoring pre-9/11 warnings about an imminent attack by al-Qaeda. “I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes,” Clarke says. “Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the Bush administration. It’s clear that things that the Bush administration did — in my mind, at least — were war crimes.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Bush should be brought up on war crimes and Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld for the attack on Iraq?
RICHARD CLARKE: I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes. Whether that would be productive or not, I think is a discussion we could all have. We have established procedures now with the International Criminal court and the Hague where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that. In the case of members of the Bush administration. It is clear that things that the Bush administration did, in my mind at least it is clear, that some of the things they did were war crimes.
AARON MATÉ: Now, Richard Clarke, you were obviously part of the Clinton administration and you took part in the discussions on the issue of who to target. So, on this issue, in 2002, you testified before Congress and it’s since been declassified, and you said “We didn’t want to create a broad precedent that would allow intelligent officials in the future to have hit lists and routinely engage in something that approximated assassination.” You went on to say, “There was concern in both the Justice Department and in some elements of the White House and some elements of the CIA that we not create an American hit list that would become an ongoing institution that would to just keep adding names to and have hit teams go out and assassinate people.” Can you talk about the deliberations that took place when you were there under President Clinton?
RICHARD CLARKE: So, we had established that bin Laden wanted to kill large numbers of Americans. And the only option that we had to target him, since we couldn’t fly in and pick him up and arrest him, although, we had tried that, was cruise missile attacks. And those cruise missile attacks created high risk of collateral damage and introduced a whole set of problems. And so, we looked at — if it was legal to use Cruise missiles, which would kill a lot of people, why wasn’t it legal to you something that was more precise that would just go after the very few people that we were concerned with? And that discussion went on for a while. We knew there was a barrier there that we weren’t sure we wanted to cross. Ultimately, the fact was that President Clinton did authorize CIA to attempt to arrest bin Laden and failing that, he authorized the use of lethal force. That was a time when we crossed the barrier and actually had a name on a hit list. We knew, however, the Israelis had been doing this for a long time, coming up with hit lists. We knew it was extremely counterproductive in their case. We wanted to avoid that. Fast-forward to the Bush administration and then the Obama administration, and you have, as I described in Chapter two of the novel, a kill committee. People who sit around in the White House passing folders back and forth of names and voting on who they’re going to kill. I just find that it went way too far. If any of us back in the Clinton administration would have imagined that in the same room, in the same chairs a few years later, people would be sitting around with a long lists and folders with pictures and names of people and voting on who would live and who would die, I think we might never have authorized the first use of lethal force against bin Laden.
Read the Full Transcript in Democracy Now!