Gen. Wayne Downing: Devoted, Dynamic, Smart

By ABC News Consultant Richard Clarke

Jul 18, 2007 2:54pm

Editor’s note. For more than 30 years, ABC News consultant Richard Clarke worked closely with Gen. Wayne Downing who died yesterday. A good friend died yesterday, Wayne A. Downing, or as we often called him, The Wad.  I first worked with him in 1973 on the Arab-Israeli War. He was an Army major then. He went on to be a four-star general and our lives continued to cross. We worked together on other wars, in Panama in ’89, in Iraq in ’90 to ’91. I remember Norm Schwartzkopf fuming to me about "Downing and his snake eaters," but when the SCUDs started falling on Tel Aviv, Schwartzkopf agreed to send them in behind the lines in Iraq to hunt down the launchers. After the attacks in Mogadishu in ’93, Wayne flew in to Somalia and was almost killed by a mortar. Shortly after he retired, after commanding Special Operations Command, Khobar was attacked by
terrorists, and I asked him to investigate what had gone wrong. His report was very frank about Air Force security lapses. That same year he declined to be the drug czar, but five years later he agreed to come out of retirement again to succeed me as terrorism czar. I have known a lot of officers, but none as devoted, dynamic, smart and charismatic as Wayne Downing.  He lit up the room, and when he spoke, you knew you were getting the truth and the voice of experience. I got a message today from the frontlines in Afghanistan, from a battalion commander whom Wayne had contacted recently. The e-mail reads: "Wayne wrote me on the 4th of July — "How are you, Mike?  How’s the First Rock?"  And then he, my command sergeant major and I began a two-week correspondence that included e-mails and updates every day. We got along great — at the NSC — and then when he came to visit us in Iraq, then Afghanistan the last time…he was planning to come out again. I know he valued your friendship tremendously…he told me in great detail chatting in his office. Our flags at each one of my forward operating bases are at half mast. Sometimes seeing those flags at half mast doesn’t hit you…this time it does, hard." It has hit us all hard, very hard.

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