The day after terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. military action, Good Morning America brought on consultant Richard Clarke to downplay the death as a "propaganda victory" that will "make us feel good," but won't "mean much" for U.S. security."
GMA co-anchor George Stephanopoulos on Monday interviewed Clarke, who worked for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. After Stephanopoulos prompted him to talk about how "personally gratifying" the terrorist's death must be, Clarke cautioned, "But, I think we have to put the emotion aside and think about what it actually means for American security. And it doesn't mean that much for American security. "
He continued, "And it doesn't mean that much for American security. It makes us feel good...There's a propaganda victory. But the organization, the network of organizations that he spawned is out there. And many of them are still quite healthy."
While Clarke may be right to caution against assuming that bin Laden's death means an end to terrorism, the comments have a familiar ring to it.
On December 14, 2003, the day Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces, then-World News anchor Peter Jennings minimized, "There’s not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power."
Other journalists sounded similar notes:
“Joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein gave way to resentment toward Washington Monday as Iraqis confronted afresh the bloodshed, shortages and soaring prices of life under U.S. occupation.”
– Lead sentence of Reuters correspondent Joseph Logan’s December 15, 2003 dispatch, “Saddam Arrest Cheer Fades Into Iraqi Ire at U.S.”
“The fact [is] that the administration really made very little attempt to take them [Uday and Qusay Hussein] alive. They wanted to spare themselves the headache of a trial, but they also surrendered a major opportunity to uncover the real reason we went to war – unless they don’t believe those weapons are there.”
– Eleanor Clift on the July 26, 2003 McLaughlin Group.
“In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a long-standing policy banning political assassination. It was the misfortune of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, that the Bush administration has not bothered to enforce the prohibition....The ban has been overlooked so often in recent years that some wonder why the administration doesn’t simply declare the measure null and void.”
– George Gedda, longtime foreign affairs reporter for the Associated Press, in a July 23, 2003 dispatch.
A transcript of the exchange, which aired at 8:26am EDT on May 2, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Want to bring if Richard Clarke now, our ABC News consultant. The head of counter terrorism under President George W. Bush and President Clinton back in 1998. And, Richard, that's where I want to begin. You were there in the National Security Council when Bill Clinton said Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one in 1998. I can only imagine how personally gratifying it must have been for you to get the word yesterday.
RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it is personally very personally gratifying George. But, I think we have to put the emotion aside and think about what it actually means for American security. And it doesn't mean that much for American security. It makes us feel good. There's a sense of closure, a sense of justice. There's a propaganda victory. But the organization, the network of organizations that he spawned is out there. And many of them are still quite healthy. And many of them are training people to attack western interests, including American interests.