Wednesday, September 29, 2004



On January 24th, 2001, Richard Clarke "wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo-- wasn't acted on." According to a Bush administration security official, Clarke "was the guy pushing hardest, saying again and again that something big was going to happen, including possibly here in the U.S." The official added that Clarke was likely sidelined because he had served in the previous (Clinton) administration. Clark also served under Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan.

In face-to-face meetings, CIA Director George Tenet warned President Bush repeatedly in the months before 9/11 that an attack was coming. According to Clarke, Tenet told the President that "A major al-Qaeda attack is going to happen against the United States somewhere in the world in the weeks and months ahead."

On August 6th, 2001, Bush was given a classified memo entitled, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." The memo stated that,

"FBI information since [1998] indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York" and also noted "a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May [2001] saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives."

It is a simple fact of history that Bush did nothing with this information. Didn’t call the CIA or FBI for further information or clarification. Didn’t call John Ashcroft with instructions for the Justice Department. Didn’t call Dick Cheney. Didn’t…do…anything. He either didn’t read the memo or took on faith Condoleeza Rice’s incomprehensible interpretation of the memo as "historical" and not urgent.

As the Sept. 11 Commission’s final report put it, "In the face of dire warnings in the summer of 2001, Bush failed to direct his government to work together to prevent attacks."

2. BUSH ON 911

On September 11th, George Bush was reading "My Pet Goat" with some Florida school children. Camera’s were rolling because this was a photo op. After the second hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center, Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked up to him and whispered in his ear "America is under attack." Bush sat there for another seven minutes doing nothing. Judge the expression on his face for yourself – to me it seemed like a pure and child-like fear.

More importantly, if you are at all on the fence about George W. Bush, I implore you to ask yourself this question and be completely honest with yourself: Would you have sat there, as President of the United States and done nothing for seven minutes? Wouldn’t you, naturally, have gotten up immediately and gotten more information immediately? Wouldn’t Franklin Roosevelt have excused himself from the reading circle? Wouldn’t Truman and Eisenhower have gotten up? Wouldn’t Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, wouldn’t Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton have gotten up? Wouldn’t John Kerry have gotten up from that chair? Be honest, fence-sitters. And then ask yourself what this says about the president’s mettle and character.

Bush did not immediately return to Washington or fly to New York. After a stop in Louisiana, the presidential jet flew to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where Bush stayed in Offutt's deep underground bunker until late afternoon. Top Bush political adviser Karl Rove told members of the press that Air Froce One had been threatened with attack. Bush returned to Washington at 7pm.

Days after the attacks, Dick Cheney had said word of the threat to Air Force One had been passed to him by Secret Service agents. But in interviews, two former senior Secret Service agents on duty that day denied that their agency played any role in receiving or passing on a threat to the presidential jet. Later, the President’s Press Secretary Dan Bartlett admitted there had been no threat and chalked it all up to "confusion." The Wall Street Journal reported that Bush had been told the skies were clear at 1pm.

In his address to the nation from the Oval Office on the night of Sept. 11, Mr. Bush said that "immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency-response plans." But in interviews, federal officials said that, in fact, lower-level government employees activated the Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan. The so-called "Con Plan" (developed by President Clinton) goes into affect automatically in an emergency, without any input from the president.


On September 12, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld pushed to bomb Iraq even though they knew that al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. "Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Richard Clarke said. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.'"

Also on September 12, 2001, President Bush personally pushed Clarke to find evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks. From the New York Times: "I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything," Mr. Clarke writes that Mr. Bush told him. "See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way." When Mr. Clarke protested that the culprit was Al Qaeda, not Iraq, Mr. Bush testily ordered him, he writes, to "look into Iraq, Saddam," and then left the room. Clarke’s testimony was confirmed by White House deputy Roger Cressey. Cressey served as chief of staff to the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board from November 2001 to September 2002. He began his career in Bush Sr.’s State Department. Creesey and Clarke were soon gone from the White House. In April 2003, Rand Beers, a key National Security Council member for every president since Reagan, also resigned, citing the Bush administration’s total ineptitude in fighting terrorism and their totally ill-conceived decision to start the Iraq War.

Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush "did know better," Clarke insists, "They did know better. They did know better. We told them, the CIA told them, the FBI told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their death in Iraq thinking that they were avenging September 11th, when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th."

Now, I can not stress this enough: Richard Clarke, Cressey and Beers were *lifetime staffers*, experts in counter-terrorism who had served Republican and Democrat presidents with distinction and without tension for over 20 years. All three of them left the Bush administration in complete frustration.

Later, in December 2002 the President fired Lawrence Lindsey after Lindsey offered a guess that the total cost of an Iraq War might be $100 billion to $200 billion. Lindsey's controversial estimate held up very well.

On September 11, 2001 Bush’s own State Department had a list of 43 countries where al Qaeda was operating. Iraq was not on that list. Iraq HAD NOTHING TO DO with September 11th. Every single investigation by government agencies and news organizations has confirmed this. Even Bush has been forced to admit it on several occassions. Anyone who tells you different is a liar or has been fooled by liars. A recent poll showing that 42% of Americans believe Iraq -- not Osama bin Laden – attacked us on September 11th, a sign of just how good the Bush political machine is at spreading a lie without having to use the president himself to do it.

4. 2002, "THE LOST YEAR"

James Fallows in the October 2004 isue of Atlantic Monthly has a very thorough and objective analysis of the devastating mistakes Bush has made in the War on Terrorism. Fallows came to this conclusion after long discussions with "a group of people at the working level of America's anti-terrorism efforts" who have "no partisan ax to grind with the Administration." Here is what he concluded:

[To govern is to choose, and the choices made in 2002 were fateful. The United States began that year with tremendous strategic advantages. World opinion was strongly sympathetic. Longtime allies were eager to help; longtime antagonists were silent. The federal budget was nearly in balance, making ambitious projects feasible. The U.S. military was superbly equipped, trained, and prepared. An immediate foe was evident—and vulnerable—in Afghanistan. For the longer-term effort against Islamic extremism the Administration could draw on a mature school of thought from academics, regional specialists, and its own intelligence agencies. All that was required was to think broadly about the threats to the country, and creatively about the responses.

The Bush Administration chose another path. Implicitly at the beginning of 2002, and as a matter of formal policy by the end, it placed all other considerations second to regime change in Iraq. It hampered the campaign in Afghanistan before fighting began and wound it down prematurely, along the way losing the chance to capture Osama bin Laden. Iraq dictated not just the vaunted "lightness" of the invasion but also the decision to designate allies for crucial tasks: the Northern Alliance for initial combat, and the Pakistanis for closing the border so that al-Qaeda leaders would not escape. In the end neither ally performed its duty the way the Administration had hoped. Delegating the real work to less motivated allies seems to have been the uncorrectable error. Meawhile, the Administration turned a blind eye to misdeeds in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and to WMD threats from North Korea and Iran far more serious than any posed by Saddam Hussein, all in the name of moving toward a showdown with Iraq. It overused and wore out its army in invading Iraq—without committing enough troops for a successful occupation. It saddled the United States with ongoing costs that dwarf its spending for domestic security. And by every available measure it only worsened the risk of future terrorism. In every sense 2002 was a lost year.

"Are we better off in basic security than before we invaded Iraq?" asks Jeffrey Record, a professor of strategy at the Air War College. "The answer is no. An unnecessary war has consumed American Army and other ground resources, to the point where we have nothing left in the cupboard for another contingency—for instance, should the North Koreans decide that with the Americans completely absorbed in Iraq, now is the time to do something."

"We're really in dire straits with resourcing," [an army officer] said. "There's not enough armor for Humvees. There's not enough fifty-caliber machine guns for the Hundred and First Airborne or the Tenth Mountain Division. A country that can't field heavy machine guns for its army—there's something wrong with the way we're doing business."

"Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If I can be blunt, the Administration is full of shit. In my view we are much, much worse off now than when we went into Iraq. That is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are incompetent, and I have had a very close perspective on what is happening. Certainly in the long run we have harmed ourselves. We are playing to the enemy's political advantage. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this will prove to be a strategic blunder."]

These are lifetime military officers talking.

5. 2004

Bush, who fought against the appointment of both the 9/11 Commission and The Department of Homeland Security before flip-flopping and supporting them now says (in the minute details of his latest budget projections) that he will cut the budget for the Department of Homeland Security by 3% next year. He has never funded the department at anything close to the level he originally promised.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London, reported that al-Qaeda was galvanized by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As of mid-2004 it had at least 18,000 operatives in sixty countries. "Al Qaeda has fully reconstituted [and] set its sights firmly on the USA and its closest Western allies in Europe."

Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command in al Qaeda, said in March 2004: "If you have 30 million dollars, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, a lot of dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available…They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states and they negotiated and we purchased some suitcase bombs."

In the ultra-conservative National Review, Andrew Stuttaford recently wrote, "Sorry to return to this depressing topic, but the two greatest threats to the US are almost certainly nuclear proliferation and the large amounts of nuclear material still held under worryingly insecure conditions in worryingly insecure countries. Seen in this light, the apparent failure of the administration to make enough use of [Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s] program on ex-Soviet missiles is disturbing."

Meanwhile, as one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials told The Washingtn Post recently, Iraq is "a disaster, and they’re digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper," "There’s no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."

American Deaths in Iraq

Since war began (3/19/03): 1053
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 914
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 593
Since Handover (6/29/04): 195
Total Wounded: 7290

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are still at large and have now had three years to reconstitute al Qaeda and ensure that the terrorist organization outlives them.

Everyone needs to do an honest accounting of themselves and of the state of the nation. Ask yourself: what will America and the world be like if we give George Bush another four years of rope to hang us with?


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