The apology

The apology
: Something’s not resting well with Richard Clarke’s apology for September 11. He said before the commission and families of victims yesterday:

i also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television.

Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.

This assumes that government absolutely could have stopped the attack — and failed. Oh, I wish we could be guaranteed that government absolutely could stop these things but I’ve seen no proof or assurance of that.

He’s practically treating government the way a fundamentalist treats God: an omnipotent being who could and would intervene and fix this if he wanted to. So he’s turning government into a bad god — is that thus a devil? — who could have stopped these attacks but didn’t; it failed.

It may seem like he’s quite the mensch by including himself in this apology: “I failed.” But he’s throwing himself on his rhetorical sword so he can accuse the government — the administration — of failing and thus, by its sins of omission and negligence, of practically being complicit in the deaths. I find that offensive; As I said yesterday, it plays into the politicization of 9/11; it makes this about us vs. us instead of us vs. them.

When I first heard Clarke’s apology and the start of his testimony, I thought there might be something to listen to here. I haven’t said much about Clarke because I haven’t yet decided what I think of what he’s saying. But I have to say that as his apology sat on the stomach like a bad burrito and came up this morning like a burp, I came to think that his apology was disingenous, melodramatic, and ultimately divisive.


: David Schuler has more to say on the apology, including this: “There is so much room for the assignment of blame that the very act of attempting to assign blame is frivolous.”

: Rex Hammock is mad:

Okay, Mr. Clarke. The government that failed those families has now dedicated billions of dollars and hundreds of lives of its courageous military to stamp out those who threaten our shores. In all theaters of battle, young American soldiers and sailors have printed the the words, “We shall never forget” on weapons, vehicles and military aircraft in honor of those who died on 9/11.

Mr. Clarke, what similar level of resitution have you displayed for your failure other than an attempt to cash in on that tragedy with your book promotion? And now, on the graves of those victims, you grandstand an apology to promote its marketing efforts.

So therefore, Mr. Clarke, I suggest you do this: Announce today that ALL PROCEEDS of the book (not just a portion of the profits, but ALL PROCEEDS) will go to one of the funds that have been set up for the families of the victims…or another specific charity that will help give meaning to your disingenous apology.

: EVENING UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg responds to the apology:

But just reading those words in newspaper reports made me think that the words of the former head of counterterrorism will go down as one of those defining moments in American public life, like the Army-McCarthy hearings’ “Have you no decency, sir, at long last” or the Watergate hearings’ “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Because Clarke’s words exposed a deep emotional vacuum in the Bush administration’s handling of 9/11. Bush and his team won widespread acclaim for their bullhorn-toting, Bible-waving, smart-bomb-dropping reaction to the terror attacks. And each of those responses had its place, accomplished something in the long process of coming to terms with the death and destruction of that day. But the Bush approach, with its macho swagger punctuated by interludes of lower-lip-biting moments of silence for our collective loss, has never fully satisfied the national psyche.

Oh, fercrhissake, this is not about feelings! This is about life and death! This is about finding bad guys and killing them before they kill us. Enough with apologies and emotions and psyches. This is war. Let’s go win it.