Against All Enemies Summary & Study Guide

Richard A. Clarke
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On September 11th, 2001, Richard Clarke, chair of the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG), directed the United States' immediate response to the terrorist attacks from the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. Clarke published this narrative in 2004--to set the record straight on national security issues about which there was general confusion among his fellow citizens: In 2000, the new National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, had requested he stay on to develop a plan for spinning CSG tasks to other agencies. Clarke was scheduled to assume a new position--as chair of the new committee on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Cyber-Security--in October 2001. This book describes his 30 years of public service, primarily in national security and counter terrorism.

In the 1980s, he begins, the Cold War dominated U.S. foreign policy: The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and the Iranian Revolution--led by Ayatollah Khomeini and other Muslim clerics--had overthrown the military dictatorship of Reza Shah Pahlevi, taking the U.S. embassy staff in Tehran as hostages. That same year, Iraq, under its new dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran. In 1982, the hostages were released, partly due to the Iran-Contra program, which exchanged arms for hostages. In 1983, Reagan sent U.S. troops into Lebanon and, after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, withdrew them and invaded Grenada. Reagan later sent weapons to Afghanistan: within weeks of receiving the infrared-seeking and wire-guided antiaircraft missiles, the mujahedeen and their Arab supporters began shooting down Soviet aircraft (the head of Saudi Arabia's Secret Service, Prince Turki al-Faisal, had requested that Usama bin Laden organize a Saudi response to the Soviet's invasion).

In 1989, the Red Army admitted defeat, and bin Laden returned, triumphantly, to Saudi Arabia: The prince asked him to head its Afghan Services Bureau and organize a faith-based resistance to the communist government in South Yemen: Doing so was consistent with the Wahhabi denomination of Islam. Bin Laden placed his Afghan veterans in different countries. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait: A multinational coalition, led by the U.S. and bankrolled by the Saudi royal family, soon liberated Kuwait and pushed Saddam back.

In 1991, bin Laden publicly criticized his king's decision to allow U.S. troops on Saudi soil. Bin Laden was stripped of his citizenship and accepted an invitation from the government of Sudan to reside in Khartoum. These events were overshadowed by the collapse of the Cold War at the end of 1991. The CIA first became aware of bin Laden after he denounced the king: His name began appearing in raw intelligence reports as a "terrorist financier."

It was not until 1996, after bin Laden parted amicably with his Sudanese hosts--and was enthusiastically welcomed by Afghanistan's Taliban government--that Clarke learned of a group calling itself "al Qaeda," which bin Laden, alarmed by the first Gulf War, had formed in 1990. In 1992, one of its members, Ramzi Yousef, entered the U.S. without any papers. In 1993, Clarke learned that the Kuwaitis had averted an assassination attempt--orchestrated by Saddam Hussein--on President G.H.W. Bush: President Clinton bombed selected targets like the Iraqi Information Ministry, after which there were no more Iraqi terrorist attacks (except on Iraqis).

In 1993, the World Trade Center was truck bombed. Ramzi Yousef, a suspect, avoided capture by taking the first commercial flight to Baghdad. In 1995, Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in a Tokyo subway. In 1996, during the Atlanta Olympics, a private security guard discovered a bomb. In 1997, Egyptian Islamic Jihad attacked tourists in the resort town of Luxor. In 1998, al Qaeda declared war on countries like Egypt and the U.S.: Later that year, al Qaeda took credit for the nearly simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (the capitals of Kenya and Tanzania). In 1999, Clarke's CSG was on high alert--and, contemporaneously, an alert border guard in Washington State aborted a plan to bomb the Los Angeles airport.

That same year, al Qaeda tried to bomb a U.S. ship in a Yemenese port. In 2000, al Qaeda succeeded in ramming a boat full of explosives into the Cole, which, docked in a Yemenese port, was heavily damaged. That same year, the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia--who had been warning of terrorist attacks--was removed from his post by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Deputy, Paul Wolfewitz: In 2002, a nightclub in Bali was bombed and, after that, a hotel in Jakarta. In 2003, Clarke resigned from federal service--as have, he notes, most of his peers. He left after the U.S. invaded Iraq: Since bin Laden had predicted, over a decade earlier, that the U.S. would invade an oil-rich Muslim state, Clarke argues that this invasion has undermined, not strengthened, the security of the U.S.

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