April 05, 2004

Recent examinations of the Bush administration’s pre-Sept. 11 actions also show that Bush’s vacation and his concentration on stem-cell ethics coincided with his administration losing focus on terrorism.

How much have you heard in the "US mainstream news
media" about the summer of 2001? Not much. Will it
rise to the challenge between now and the November
election? Unlikely. Will the 9/11 Commission tell the
truth without pulling its punches? Unlikely. It is up
to you...Here is the truth from Robert Parry, whose
www.consortiumnews.com site is one of the great
resources made available through the Internet-based
Information Rebellion...Share it with others...

Robert Parry, www.consortiumnews.com: Recent examinations of the Bush administration’s pre-Sept. 11 actions also show that Bush’s vacation and his concentration on stem-cell ethics coincided with his administration losing focus on terrorism. The New York Times reported that “the White House’s impulse to deal more forcefully with terrorist threats within the United States peaked July 5 and then leveled off until Sept. 11.” The administration also had other priorities. On Sept. 6, for example, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened a presidential veto of a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., to transfer money from strategic missile defense to counter-terrorism. [NYT, April 4, 2004]

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)



Never Having to Say 'Sorry'

By Robert Parry
April 5, 2004

One could argue there is stiff competition for the
award, but the winner may be her assertion that she
can think of nothing more that the Bush administration
could have done to prevent the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001.

Normal people simply don’t say such things. When
something goes wrong on their watch, most people think
of what they could have done better and the honest
ones admit that in hindsight they missed some
opportunities. With an event as momentous as a
coordinated enemy assault on three prominent U.S.
landmarks and the deaths of 3,000 people, it is hard
to imagine that the national security coordinator
can’t think of anything she, her boss or his
administration could have done better in the preceding
eight months.

But Condoleezza Rice seems to have adopted George W.
Bush’s lifetime attitude of never having to say

“I would like very much to know what more could have
been done given that it was an urgent problem,” Rice
told Ed Bradley of CBS News’s “60 Minutes” in a March
28 broadcast. “I don’t know, Ed, how, after coming
into office, inheriting policies that had been in
place for at least three of the eight years of the
Clinton administration, we could have done more than
to continue those polices while we developed more
robust policies.”

Well, like maybe, Rice could have urged her boss to
cut short his month-long August vacation. Perhaps,
after hearing CIA Director George Tenet’s repeated
warnings about an imminent al-Qaeda attack, possibly
on U.S. soil and possibly involving airplanes, Bush
could have demanded that all agencies redouble their
search for clues, which we now know did exist in the
bowels of federal agencies.

Stem-Cell Research
Instead, George W. Bush cleared brush at the ranch,
went fishing and devoted his attentions to
philosophical deliberations over stem-cell research.
After weeks of soul-searching, he gave a nationally
televised speech, delivering his judgment that
existing cells from fetuses could be used but not new
ones. Some in the U.S. national news media hailed
Bush’s decision as “Solomon-like” and proof that he
had greater gravitas than his critics would

The next month, Bush and his administration were
caught flat-footed by attacks that killed 3,000
people, leveled the two World Trade Center towers and
knocked down part of the Pentagon.

Recent examinations of the Bush administration’s
pre-Sept. 11 actions also show that Bush’s vacation
and his concentration on stem-cell ethics coincided
with his administration losing focus on terrorism. The
New York Times reported that “the White House’s
impulse to deal more forcefully with terrorist threats
within the United States peaked July 5 and then
leveled off until Sept. 11.” The administration also
had other priorities. On Sept. 6, for example, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened a presidential
veto of a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., to
transfer money from strategic missile defense to
counter-terrorism. [NYT, April 4, 2004]

While Rice says she can’t think of anything she might
have done differently, former counter-terrorism
coordinator Richard Clarke has offered a detailed set
of actions that should have been undertaken, including
“shaking the tree” by having high-level officials from
the FBI, CIA, Customs and other federal agencies go
back to their bureaucracies and demand any information
about the terrorist threat.

Indeed, after Sept. 11, 2001, FBI officials did come
forward with evidence they had about suspicious
training on aircraft and the fact that two known
al-Qaeda operatives had entered the United States
although the CIA was not alerted. Either of those bits
of evidence combined with other clues might have
enabled U.S. authorities to break up the Sept. 11
plot, much as smart police work headed off the
al-Qaeda bombings planned for the Millennium
celebration at the start of 2000.

In Against All Enemies, Clarke contrasts President
Bill Clinton’s urgency over the intelligence warnings
that preceded the Millennium events with the
lackadaisical approach of Bush and his national
security team. Clarke’s account of the success in
stopping the Millennium attacks makes for painful
reading with the thought that similar determination
might have thwarted the Sept. 11 attacks.

During an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" on
March 24, Clarke also compared the two cases. "In
December 1999, we received intelligence reports that
there were going to be major al-Qaeda attacks," Clarke
said. "President Clinton asked his national security
adviser Sandy Berger to hold daily meetings with the
attorney general, the FBI director, the CIA director
and stop the attacks.

"Every day they went back from the White House to the
FBI, to the Justice Department, to the CIA and they
shook the trees to find out if there was any
information. You know, when you know the United States
is going to be attacked, the top people in the United
States government ought to be working hands-on to
prevent it and working together.

"Now, contrast that with what happened in the summer
of 2001, when we even had more clear indications that
there was going to be an attack. Did the president ask
for daily meetings of his team to try to stop the
attack? Did Condi Rice hold meetings of her
counterparts to try to stop the attack? No."

The 9/11 commission is also reviewing these missed
opportunities. The chairman and vice chairman, New
Jersey's former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean and former
Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., said on NBC's "Meet the
Press" on April 4 that their panel will conclude that
the Sept. 11 attacks were preventable. "The whole
story might have been different," Kean said, citing a
string of law-enforcement blunders including the "lack
of coordination within the FBI" and the FBI's failure
to understand the significance of suspected hijacker
Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest in August while training
to fly passenger jets.

In his book, Clarke offers other examples of pre-Sept.
11 mistakes by the Bush administration, including a
downgrading in importance of the counter-terrorism
office, a shifting of budget priorities, an obsession
with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and an emphasis on
conservative ideological issues, such as Ronald
Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense program. A more
hierarchical White House structure also insulated Bush
from direct contact with mid-level national security
officials who had specialized on the al-Qaeda issue.

Bush Myth
Clearly, any honest post-mortem by Rice would include
a recognition that more could have been done and
should have been done. But instead of an admission
that mistakes were made, the Bush administration has
sought to airbrush the failures of executive
leadership from the minds of the American people.

The pre-Sept. 11 reality has been replaced by the
reassuring myth of Bush as the infallible leader who
instinctively makes the right calls. That was the
theme of The Right Man, a book by former Bush
speechwriter David Frum. In this view, Bush is sort of
an idiot savant who grasps the essence of complex
issues even though he may be ignorant of the details
and oblivious of the nuances.

Even Bush apparently has bought into this view,
calling himself a “gut player” who relies on his
“instincts.” According to author Bob Woodward, in Bush
at War, “it’s pretty clear that Bush’s role as
politician, president and commander in chief is driven
by a secular faith in his instincts – his natural and
spontaneous conclusions and judgments. His instincts
are almost his second religion.”

This Bush infallibility myth was widely disseminated
by both conservative and mainstream media outlets in
the months after Sept. 11, with prominent journalists,
such as NBC’s Tim Russert, even posing questions about
whether God had chosen Bush to lead the United States
during the crisis. [For details, see
Consortiumnews.com’s "Missed Opportunities of Sept.

A year ago, Bush’s overwhelming faith in his “gut”
judgments contributed to his determination to invade
Iraq, brushing aside opposition from the United
Nations, key allies and tens of millions of protesters
around the world. That decision has since left more
than 600 U.S. soldiers and uncounted thousands of
Iraqi civilians dead with no end of the bloodshed in

According to senior U.S. counter-terrorism officials,
such as the State Department’s Cofer Black, the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq also has sped up the spread
of Osama bin Laden’s anti-American ideology.

Bin Laden’s “virulent anti-American rhetoric … has
been picked up by a number of Islamic extremist
movements which exist around the globe,” Black, former
head of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center, said in
House testimony. “These jihadists view Iraq as a new
training ground to build their extremist credentials
and hone the skills of the terrorist.” [Washington
Post, April 4, 2004]

The views of Black and other counter-terrorism
officials bolster another argument made by Clarke –
that Bush’s Iraq adventure distracted the U.S.
military from its pursuit of bin Laden and al-Qaeda
while fueling the fury of a new generation of radical
young Arabs. But again, neither Bush nor Rice will
acknowledge their mistake in ignoring more pragmatic
advice on Iraq from seasoned experts, including Brent
Scowcroft, the elder George Bush’s national security
adviser. Instead, this new Bush Team went with George
W.’s “gut.”

Alerting the People
The chief significance of Clarke’s Against All Enemies
is less what the former counter-terrorism coordinator
discloses – since much of it was known to those who
have followed the issue – than the fact that it has
brought Bush’s pre-Sept. 11 inattention to the looming
crisis to the attention of the broader American

The ferocity of the administration’s attacks on Clarke
also demonstrates Team Bush’s awareness that its
carefully crafted myth of the Great Leader is in

Possibly the most virulent reactions to Clarke have
surrounded his apology to the families who lost loved
ones in the Sept. 11 attacks. “Your government failed
you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you,
and I failed you,” Clarke said at a hearing of the
9/11 commission.

Clarke’s apology underscored two key points: first,
that the Sept. 11 attacks were not an unavoidable act
of nature but a complex crime that could have been
stopped, and second, that no one in the Bush
administration had taken responsibility for the
catastrophe. Indeed, after possibly the worst
intelligence/law enforcement failure in U.S. history,
no government official was held accountable. Bush has
even made his handling of the disaster a centerpiece
of his election campaign.

To counter Clarke, White House allies have engaged in
a smear campaign that has tried to whip up Bush’s
followers, in part, by portraying Clarke's apology as
a ploy by a clever cynic who only feigned remorse.

“One has to admire it,” wrote neoconservative
columnist Charles Krauthammer. “The most cynical and
brilliantly delivered apology in recent memory.”

Ignoring Clarke’s public remarks about the actions not
taken that might have rolled up the Sept. 11
conspirators, Krauthammer insisted there was nothing
Bush could have done to prevent the attacks and thus
he had no reason to apologize to the families of the
victims. “They were all victims of al-Qaeda and
al-Qaeda alone,” Krauthammer wrote.

Changing course in the same column, however,
Krauthammer went on to suggest that if any American is
responsible, it is Richard Clarke, “who for 12 years
was the U.S. government official most responsible for
preventing a Sept. 11.” [Washington Post, April 2,

But the ugliness of the anti-Clarke attacks from
Krauthammer and other Bush defenders underscores
another point: Bush’s lifetime experience of avoiding
blame. This pattern can be traced back to his early
adulthood when he epitomized the phrase “failing up”
and rejected his father’s efforts to impose discipline
even for outrageous personal conduct.

In one famous incident, a 26-year-old George W. Bush
had taken his younger brother Marvin out drinking
during a holiday visit to his parent’s house in the
Washington area. After getting intoxicated, George
careened his car homeward through the residential

“Drunk and driving erratically, George W. barreled the
car into a neighbor’s garbage can, and the thing
affixed itself to the car wheel,” wrote his biographer
Bill Minutaglio in First Son. “He drove down the
street with the metal garbage can noisily banging and
slapping on the pavement right up until he made the
turn and finally started rolling up and onto the
driveway of his parents’ home in the pleasant,
family-oriented neighborhood they had just moved

When George H.W. Bush demanded to talk with his son,
George W. was neither contrite nor apologetic. Instead
he threatened his father. “I hear you’re looking for
me,” said George W. “You wanna go mano a mano right

After a life of never admitting mistakes, Bush still
sees no reason to say he’s sorry.

Beyond the failure the protect the nation from the
Sept. 11 attacks, neither Bush nor his top aides have
apologized for repeated false and misleading
statements about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction
and its government’s supposed ties to al-Qaeda. Rice
famously warned the American people about the
potential for “a mushroom cloud” and Bush repeatedly
left the impression in speeches that Saddam Hussein
was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

While a few of the administration's bogus claims have
been retracted, Bush and his advisers have never
expressed regret for misleading the American people.
To the shock of many families of American soldiers who
have died in Iraq, Bush went so far as to make the
failed search for WMD the topic of jokes at a
black-tie dinner with the Washington press corps in
March 2004.

Bush’s unapologetic behavior has continued in his
treatment of the 9/11 commission. Bush’s White House
counsel has repeatedly set restrictive conditions that
the commissioners must accept before Bush will deign
to speak with them. The latest list of conditions
includes no public testimony, no sworn testimony, no
one-on-one testimony (Vice President Dick Cheney must
be there, too), and no follow-up testimony for himself
or any other White House official.

But it’s also true that Bush and his national security
team are not the only ones who owe the American people
an apology. All of us who have participated in the
nation’s political life – especially those of us in
Washington – should shoulder a share of the blame.

Indeed, every pundit or politician who mocked
President Clinton’s 1998 attack on al-Qaeda sites as a
“wag the dog” ploy – and thereby made it harder to
follow up – should beg the forgiveness of the Sept. 11
families. If we lived in a world where accountability
mattered, every one of those smirking pundits and
opportunistic pols would be called on to resign or be
fired. None, of course, has.

Those editorialists and activists who thought not much
was at stake in Election 2000, that there was no
difference between a well-qualified public servant
like Al Gore and a n’er-do-well neophyte like George
W. Bush, also should acknowledge their misjudgment and
its consequences. Thousands of innocent people have
died – and thousands more will die.

Even those of us who have raised our voices about the
lies and the distortions must admit that we haven’t
done so loudly enough. As Clarke said in his apology
to the families, simply trying hard doesn’t cut it.
The bottom line is we didn’t challenge the lies and
the goofy sideshows nearly as aggressively as we
should have. As participants in a democracy, all
Americans must take responsibility for what the
government does and we all need to do more.

To start with, the American people should demand a
full and truthful account of the important events that
preceded the Sept. 11 attacks. There's also a
desperate need for an honest recounting of many
historical events from the last quarter century --
especially about U.S. policies in the Middle East --
that have been hidden from the public.

Another worthwhile step toward accountability would be
to wrest admissions from those who have played a part
in this ongoing tragedy – and most especially
Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush – that there were
plenty of missed opportunities and plenty of reasons
to say, “Sorry.”

Posted by richard at April 5, 2004 09:09 AM