Sunday, April 11, 2004
Condi Rice & the White House: Pre 9/11 Priorities
My patience with all things Condoleezza Rice has now been fully exhausted. I watched her testimony last week after attending a funeral, and so I was in a foul mood -- I certainly gave no quarter to any half truths, prevarications, or misleading statements.
Seeing Condi state what her -- and the White House's -- priorities and focus were prior to 9/11 was enlightening. That's the irony of being out of the loop for a week: After not reading any media for a while, skimming the headlines suddenly makes it easier to see the whole forest with no trees in the way.
The priorities and focus Dr. Rice swore to under oath are contradicted by her own speeches and quoted words. Lets go right to the videotape:
May 2001: INTEL: al Qaeda trying to attack in US using explosives
An intelligence report received in May 2001 indicating that al Qaeda was trying to send operatives to the United States through Canada to carry out an attack using explosives.
Presidential briefing was at center of Rice's testimony
July 30, 2001: White House Focus - Hussein & Iraq
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice signaled Sunday that the Bush administration was prepared to respond to what it views as provocative military action by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein:"Well, the president has made very clear that he considers Saddam Hussein to be a threat to his neighbors, a threat to security in the region, in fact a threat to international security more broadly," Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "And he has reserved the right to respond when that threat becomes one that he wishes no longer to tolerate." Rice did not rule out military action.Unfortunately, it appears that Hussein pushed everything else off the radar screen for the administration.
"I think it's always best not to speculate about the grounds or the circumstances under which one would do that," she said. "But I can be certain of this, and the world can be certain of this: Saddam Hussein is on the radar screen for the administration."-An allegation that al Qaeda had been considering ways to hijack American planes to win the release of operatives who had been arrested in 1998 and 1999.
-An allegation that bin Laden was set on striking the United States as early as 1997 and through early 2001.
-Intelligence suggesting that suspected al Qaeda operatives were traveling to and from the United States, were U.S. citizens, and may have had a support network in the country.
Combine that with the May 2001 warning. Now connect the dots.
August 6 2001 PDB
Transcript: Bin Laden determined to strike in US
August 7, 2001: White House Focus - Vacation in Crawford (Post August 6 PDB)
One day after receiving a special intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at his Texas ranch had carried an ominous title: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."Bush took questions the following day. "I'm working a lot of issues -- national security matters," he told them. But the one he discussed in detail was not terrorism. Iraqi gunners in the no-fly zone had once again tried to shoot down U.S. jets.Still waiting for that focus on Terrorism we heard so much about in Condi's testimony.
"Saddam Hussein is a menace," Bush told reporters after a round of golf. "He's still a menace, and we need to keep him in check, and will. He's been a menace forever, and . . . he needs to open his country up for inspection so we can see whether or not he's developing weapons of mass destruction."
Bush vacation puts spotlight on tiny Crawford
Zeroing In on One Classified Document
August 9, 2001: White House Focus - Fighting stem cells, not terror cells
On the night of Aug. 9, 2001, speaking from his vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush delivered his first prime-time address to the nation:"It was just three days after he had read the startling President's Daily Brief titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," which warned of airline hijackings planned by al-Qaida. It was one month after the administration's counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, informed senior law enforcement officials he had gathered inside the White House's Situation Room: "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon." And it was three months after intelligence analysts had begun tracking unprecedented "chatter" about a possible terrorist attack.Do you see a pattern starting to emerge here . . . ?
So now, Bush looked into the camera and spoke solemnly: "Good evening. I appreciate you giving me a few minutes of your time tonight so I can discuss with you a complex and difficult issue, an issue that is one of the most profound of our time."
That issue was stem cell research.
Fighting stem cells, not terror cells
September 11, 2001: White House Focus - Missile Shield
On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.
The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.
Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism
Rice's 9/11 speech was on missile defense
Hey, I know this is supposed to be a pre-9/11 analysis, but lets throw in a special bonus date, juts 2 days later:
Sept. 13, 2001 All US flights are grounded -- except for 140 Saudi citizens:
Ain't this simply inexplicably insane?"At least eight aircraft that began flying across the US, stopping in at least 12 American cities and carrying at least 140 passengers out of the country over the next week or so. The planes included a lavishly customized Boeing 727 airliner that was equipped with a master bedroom suite, huge flat-screen TVs, and a bathroom with gold-plated fixtures. Many of the passengers were high-ranking members of the royal House of Saud. About 24 of them were members of the bin Laden family, which owned the Saudi Binladin Group, a multibillion-dollar construction conglomerate.Hello? Is anybody home? How can anyone suggest with a straight face that their priorities and focus was on terrorism? Really, how damned clueless do you have to be before admitting you were asleep at the switch?
All this occurred at a time when intelligence analysts knew that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, that Saudi money was one of the major forces behind Al Qaeda, and that the prime suspect -- Osama bin Laden -- was Saudi as well."
All of which culminated in the September 11, 2001: Terrorist Attack
This is but a handful of headlines I selectively plucked off the web. It is neither complete nor objective, but it proves a point: Al Quada and Terrorism were not the leading priorities for this White House (or the Crawford Ranch) in the few months leading up to 9/11.
We do not know if the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped if the administration wasn't so obsessed with other issues. I believe most reasonable people would agree with a qualified "With a little luck, perhaps."
But we do know that by NOT paying attention to the details, by having other priorities, by being obsessed with Iraq, we did not stop the attacks.
Get that? "At best," we might have been able to thwart the attacks -- as we now know was accomplished on a variety of other occasions. What we got instead was the "At Worst" scenario: A very succesaful assault on the US by bin Laden and Al Quada, resulting in 3,000 deaths.
It has long been my position that this President has not been well served by his advisors. This is not a weasely way to give W. an "out," -- hey, he picked 'em -- but it is merely my factual and analytical observation. I have said for many months now that Bush recives poor advice, his advisors each have their own agenda, and have overly insulated the president in their bubble.
Any future administration which might have priorities other than security would do well to consider what WMDs might look like in the future:
"Trying to defend against self-replicating WMD"
The Security demands made on future occupants of the White House are only increasing in severity, and in an exponential manner. Any post 2004 President cannot afford to take their "eyes off the ball." The results might be total carnage.
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