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'A thumping good read'

5 April 2004

It's not often that you can say a book may have changed the course of history, but we might yet be witnessing exactly that. Richard A Clarke's Against all Enemies has had a devastating effect on President Bush's credibility. Partly this is a question of timing - it just happened that the book has been published immediately after what the Spaniards are calling the Madrid massacre. This was a moment when the worst charge that could be levelled against the American government was that it had not taken sufficient anti-terrorist measures to counter the threat of Al Qaeda.

The author, who has the political authority which comes from serving four presidents, spoke out whilst giving evidence at the 9/11 hearings. Whilst dropping his bombshells he also gained a great deal of support from the relatives of those who died in 9/11 - and from the public at large - by being the only witness to apologise personally to victims' relatives for letting them down. Clarke's most serious charge was that just after 9/11 Bush and his colleagues were trying to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein, at a time when Clarke was convinced that the essential thing was to get after Al Qaeda.

The Times said 'Mr Clarke's book is a rare literary phenomenon, a thriller, contemporary history and kiss-and-tell all rolled into one, before being bound with dynamite and fired crashing through the offices of the Oval Office.' But the book has other things going for it too.

A week ago there were 550,000 copies in print and the book had shot to the top of the bestseller lists. It will continue to sell because Against all Enemies is not only sensational in its content and its political effect but also because it is, as the New York Times said 'a thumping good read'. Whatever the political outcome, the past two weeks has shown just how much a book can shape the news.