As the end of the 20th century approached, a high school senior was asked, in a radio interview, what concerned him about the future? He answered, “There’s nothing left to believe in.”
After George Bush, visiting the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, was told by Andrew Card (Sept. 11, 2001) that a second airliner had hit the other World Trade Center tower and that we were under attack, he remained seated for up to 7 minutes, with a fixed stare on his face, the thought process working overtime. When I saw the photo later, I wondered, what was he thinking? That was not the behavior of a leader when told his nation was being attacked. Time was precious. Lives were being threatened. The event was still being played out.
When I watched the towers burning on that morning, I remembered an article in a local newspaper several years before the attack. It was on the back pages and the report described a plot by Muslim terrorists to destroy 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific as well as other targets.
One of the captured terrorists, Ramzi Yousef, was also being charged with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. I concluded at that time that another strike against the trade center towers, using airliners, was a good possibility.
I also thought the solution was simple. If the CIA and FBI did their jobs and kept Middle Eastern Muslim terrorists away from airliners, there would be no problem. The President, I discovered later, had different plans.
CNN covered the trial of the three terrorists with news reports about Operation Bojinka (1995-98), the plan to blow up 12 U.S. airliners , plus kill the Pope on his visit to Manila.This came from evidence found in a search of the suspects’ Manila apartment in January of 1995 and their subsequent interrogation. The three Muslims; Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Amin Shah were tried in a federal court in New York for the airliner plot.
They were convicted September 5, 1996 on “seven counts of conspiring and attempting to bomb the 12 planes in 1995. The bombings could have killed 4,000 people aboard the planes.”
George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and others in the administration had access to this public information long before taking office plus much more timely reports from the intelligence community. But they somehow had trouble connecting the dots. And Bush dismissed anything relating to the al-Qaeda threat after taking office in 2001. What he really wanted was to invade Iraq.
In 1999 Russ Baker interviewed Bush’s first biographer, Mickey Herskowitz. He said the presidential candidate talked about his goal if elected president:
“One of the keys to being seen as a great president is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it…If I have a chance to invade…If I had that much capital, I”m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
When he was elected president, Bush wasted no time in planning the attack on Iraq and launching his reign as a “great leader.”
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was fired by Bush for policy differences on taxes, later provided interviews and 19,000 documents for author David Suskind’s book, “The Price of Loyalty.”
According to Paul O’Neill, “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.” That was the number one topic “10 days after the inauguration-eight months before Sept. 11.”
O’Neill, a member of the National Security Council, said the meetings were “…all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President saying, Go find me a way to do this.”
One of the classified memos at a meeting included a ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq.’ Suskind said, “…they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.”
One topic of interest was allocating Iraq’s oil wealth. A Pentagon document from March 5, 2001 dealt with ‘Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,’ with maps for future exploration.
Richard Clarke, former top-terrorism adviser to George Bush, told Lesley Stahl on 60 minutes (March 19, 2004) that Bush ignored al-Qaeda before 9/11 and wanted to attack Iraq after al-Qaeda hit the United States. See 3 short videos.
He said that, “…White House officials were tepid in their response when he urged them months before Sept. 11, to meet to discuss what he saw as a severe threat from al-Qaeda.”
[Bush] ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know.”
When the president returned to the White House on Sept. 11, he, Clarke and other advisers met to discuss what actions to take. Clarke thought that would be strikes against bin Laden and al-Qaeda but the focus was on Iraq.
“Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq. 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 targets in Iraq. I said. Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.”
“I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we’ve looked at this issue for years. For years we’ve looked and there’s just no connection.”
“The President dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ “But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.”
“I said, Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.
“He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection.’ And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.”
“We sent it up to the president and it got bounced back by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer…Do it again.'”
“I don’t think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don’t think he sees memos that he doesn’t–wouldn’t like the answer.”
Clark received the same response from Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense. He told Wolfowitz, “We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.”
Wolfowitz responded, “No, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.”
Clarke: “Paul, there hasn’t been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!”…There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever.” (Read the complete transcript.)
This focus on Iraq is part of a plan put together by members of the Program for a New American Century (PNAC). Many of its members are also part of the Bush administration and have exerted a large influence on the president and his foreign policy blunders after 9/11. They include Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Richard Perle.
The PNAC (website no longer operational) promoted our right to “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values” (preemptive strikes against perceived threats, like Iraq, Iran, North Korea), and a duty to “…accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” ( through a larger military and permanent forward bases like those currently being built in the Middle East). See U.S Security Strategy and PNAC Rebuilding America’s Defenses.
Some undemocratic regimes (Iraq) will have to be overthrown, though. Get used to perpetual war if McCain gets elected. He’s promised America a bloody future.
Bush told Bob Woodward in ‘Plan of Attack,’ “I believe we have a duty to free people…I would hope we wouldn’t have to do it militarily, but we have a duty.” See this blog, archives, Sept. 3, 2007, George Bush: Democracy, Free Trade, and Freedom-by Force if Necessary.
And in a Sept. 2000 PNAC report, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, the thinking was that a larger, modern military and a U.S. dominated world, and space, would take a long time to realize: “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor.”
Bush prepared his 9/11 speech for the American people on his flight back to the Whitehouse while the World Trade Center lay smoking beneath the New York skyline.
In a later interview, he said, “But I didn’t want to add to the angst of the American people yet, I guess is a good way to describe that. I felt like I had a job as the commander in chief to first, not be warlike, but to be more-as good as I could to be firm, but to be as comforting as possible, in a very difficult moment for the country.”
Bush said he was trying to reassure the nation ‘that I was safe…not me, George W., but me the president; reassuring that our government was functioning, and that we’re going to take care of the American people…I also knew that I had plenty of time to make warlike declarations, which happened the next morning.”
Late that night at the Whitehouse, after the meetings had ended, Bush made an entry in his daily diary;
“The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”
“We cannot allow a terrorist thug to hold us hostage. My hope is that this will provide an opportunity for us to rally the world against terrorism.”
Sometimes you don’t have to do anything and your dreams will come true.