I don't have much to add to what has already been said, or will be said, about the two big stories of the weekend: Richard Clarke's expose of Bush's ignoring terrorism prior to 9/11, and Israel's "homicide bombing" of Shaykh Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual guide of Hamas.
On Clarke, there's not much new there that we didn't already know - one suspects that Clarke may have been a background source for the journalists who have written effectively on this topic before, no? - but it is good to see such a prominent figure putting his name to the story. Clarke's account is damning, as any fair minded person would admit. The stories about the administration's determination to focus on Iraq right from the beginning are astonishing even for hardened cynics. But I wonder at this point whether anything on this topic can really affect voters anymore... people seem pretty hardened into their camps at this point, and those in the Bush camp will find a way to explain this away just as they explain everything away.
My main reservation about Clarke would be that he's been so monomaniacally focused on terrorism for so many years that he had his own tunnel vision and reputation; I can easily imagine the Bush people saying to themselves "Oh God, Dick Clarke wants to lecture us on al Qaeda again" and putting him off. Not that this excuses them - especially on their own monomanical focus on Iraq despite all evidence to the contrary. But I do admit to finding Clarke a bit over the top myself back in those days, for what it's worth. Still, I'm waiting for Amazon to deliver his book and I look forward to reading it.
On Yassin, what is there to say? Yet another step in the long, horrid descent into hell that is Palestine. Sharon finally followed through on his repeated threats and murdered Yassin; I'll bet that felt good for Sharon. And now what? Killing Yassin has long been Sharon's hole card, the main threat (along with killing Arafat) he could hold out as to how he might escalate. Now it's played. What's left, once this fails - as it will fail - to solve Israel's problems?
One other point. For all the horrors of Hamas suicide bombing, Yassin has always been a pragmatist within Hamas. He was the only figure within Hamas with the authority, the charisma, and the inclination to negotiate and enforce compromise agreements. When it was in Hamas's interests to do so - as in the mid 1990s - he negotiated ceasefires and was able to enforce them. With Yassin gone, any possibility of a negotiated deal has gone. No such deal might have been possible at this point, to be sure - things have gotten so bad that it's hard to imagine a possible deal (anyone remember that road map which Bush promised Iraq would help implement?). At any rate, there will no longer be any check from the top on the most nihilistic, violent, and extreme lower level figures within the movement. Saying that things could get ugly seems like an extreme understatement; they've been ugly for a long while. Sharon has pushed everyone one more step down the path to hell.