Tuesday, March 23, 2004 FRAMINGHAM — As violence engulfs the Middle East, a controversial new book accusing President Bush of flubbing and then politicizing the war on terrorism has been selling briskly at local bookstores.
Entering Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Rafi Manoukian headed directly for a prominently placed display of Richard A. Clarke’s “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror,” which went on sale yesterday.
“I think there’s a lot of truth in what (Clarke) has written,” said the Watertown pharmacist at the Shoppers World bookstore. “I have many questions myself. I want to see what (Clarke) has to say.”
Clarke’s book charges the Bush administration with ignoring imminent threats posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network before the Sept. 11 attacks and then trying to capitalize politically on public outrage.
Manoukian shares Clarke’s claim Bush invaded Iraq because it was an easy target militarily and not because of proven links to terrorism.
“I think the (Bush) government had more personal issues against Iraq,” he said. He had planned to buy Clarke’s book regardless of the author’s Sunday appearance on “60 Minutes.”
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Manoukian believes Bush was poorly served by U.S. intelligence and his own advisers on the war on terrorism. But he suspects the president has “taken advantage” of public anger against international terrorism “because it’s an election year.”
Barnes & Noble Manager Barbara Marshall said at least 10 copies of Clarke’s book had been sold by noon. The book was displayed in front of the main entrance on a table featuring new titles “out of the box,” she said.
A counter-terrorism expert under presidents Clinton and Bush, Clarke repeated his claims Sunday night on the CBS News program, “60 Minutes.” He said Bush administration officials pressured him to find a link between al Qaeda and Iraq despite prevailing evidence to the contrary. After serving 30 years in Democrat and Republican administrations, Clarke resigned from the government in March 2003.
In published reports, Bush Communications Director Dan Bartlett rejected Clarke’s allegations as inaccurate and politically motivated.
In a column published yesterday, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said the Bush administration has devoted extensive funds and manpower to fighting al Qaeda and terrorist organizations around the world.
Picking up a copy at Borders Bookshop on Rte. 9, Vietnam veteran Carl Svenson said Clarke’s accusations reflect many of his darkest suspicions about Bush’s objectives for invading Iraq.
“I’m thinking about the weapons of mass destruction Iraq didn’t have. And the chemical weapons Iraq didn’t have,” said the Framingham resident.
In the Rte. 9 store, Clarke’s book occupied one side of a centrally positioned display in front of the main door.
Nearby tables offered other books about terrorism and Middle Eastern politics including, “Disarming Iraq,” by Hans Blix, “House of Bush, House of Saud,” by Craig Unger and “In The Company of Soldiers” by Rick Atkins.
But customers spent just as much time browsing less somber titles including, “Sopranos Family Cook Book,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Suzanne Somers: The Sexy Years.”
The manager of Borders’ Framingham shop said he had not tracked sales of Clarke’s book because he had been working on other matters.
A 56-year-old Air Force veteran, Svenson shares Clarke’s skepticism about Bush’s motives, which he sees in psychological terms.
“He went into Iraq to finish what his father (former President George H.W. Bush) didn’t finish. It’s just politics,” he said.
William Taylor, who leads a Framingham-based nonprofit, said he bought Clarke’s book to stay informed about a vitally important national issue.
He said he generally accepted one of Clarke’s claims Bush “was preoccupied with Saddam Hussein and didn’t pay enough attention to al Qaeda.”
“I want to learn more about that,” said Taylor, executive director of Advocates Inc. “This book is by a man with some credibility. (Clarke) is not an ideologue.”
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