As the mainstream media and pundits lacking for anything new to report (like actual plans and policies of a potential Romney Administration), they have turned to the annual blood-letting. The usual “tools” used for the sacrifice are dulled, rusty blades for maximum damage and potential creation of festered scarring.
Eleven years ago, soon after the pomp and pomposity of inauguration of George W. Bush as “President”, who many consider one of the worst in history , at least, since Richard M. Nixon (since Bush included some Nixonian’s, like Rove, can we expect any better?), the drums of war were beginning to rumble as the new neo-conservative administration came to power. George Bush appointed top members of the Project for a New American Century, a “think tank” organized to promote the neo-conservative ideas and policies, to administrative positions. This, ultimately, included gaining control of the White House and Congress of the United States.
In 1998, the Project declared that Iraq was a threat to national security, was in the process of creating WMDs, and tried to get then President Clinton to act immediately to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In their letter to President Clinton, dated January 26, 1998:
January 26, 1998
The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.
The policy of “containment” of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months. As recent events have demonstrated, we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition to continue to uphold the sanctions or to punish Saddam when he blocks or evades UN inspections. Our ability to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not producing weapons of mass destruction, therefore, has substantially diminished. Even if full inspections were eventually to resume, which now seems highly unlikely, experience has shown that it is difficult if not impossible to monitor Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons production. The lengthy period during which the inspectors will have been unable to enter many Iraqi facilities has made it even less likely that they will be able to uncover all of Saddam’s secrets. As a result, in the not-too-distant future we will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether Iraq does or does not possess such weapons.
Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.
Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.
We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.
We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk.
Elliott Abrams Richard L. Armitage William J. Bennett
Jeffrey Bergner John Bolton Paula Dobriansky
Francis Fukuyama Robert Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad
William Kristol Richard Perle Peter W. Rodman
Donald Rumsfeld William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber
Paul Wolfowitz R. James Woolsey Robert B. Zoellick
If those reading this article feel a bit of familiarity with the signers, they should. Many of them held positions within the Bush Administration.
• Elliott Abrams, a former Reagan-era Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. During the Iran/Contra scandal, Abrams pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress but was later pardoned by the first Bush administration. He subsequently became president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is currently a member of Bush’s National Security Council.
• Gary Bauer, a Republican presidential candidate in 2000, who currently is president of an organization named American Values.
• William J. Bennett, who served during the Reagan and first Bush administrations as U.S. Secretary of Education and Drug Czar. Upon leaving government office, Bennett became a “distinguished fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation, co-founded Empower America, and established himself as a self-proclaimed expert on morality with his authorship of The Book of Virtues.
• Jeb Bush, the son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and brother of current President George W. Bush. At the time of PNAC’s founding, Jeb Bush was a candidate for the Florida governor’s seat, a position which he currently holds.
• Dick Cheney, the former White House Chief of Staff to Gerald R. Ford, six-term Congressman, and Secretary of Defense to the first President Bush, was serving as president of the oil-services giant Halliburton Company at the time of PNAC’s founding. He subsequently became U.S. vice president under George W. Bush.
• Eliot A. Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at John Hopkins University
• Paula Dobriansky, vice president and director of the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations. Currently Dobriansky serves in the Bush administration as Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs.
• Steve Forbes, publisher, billionaire, and Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. Forbes has also campaigned actively on behalf of the “flat tax,” which would reduce the federal tax burden for wealthy individuals like him.
• Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs; Director, Center of International Studies; Director, Research Program in International Security, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.
• Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man; Dean of the Faculty and Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. Appointed to the President’s Council on Bioethics by George W. Bush, January 2002.
• Frank Gaffney – conservative columnist; founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. Web-site: http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/
• Fred C. Ikle, “distinguished scholar” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
• Donald Kagan, professor of history and classics at Yale University and the author of books including While America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness, and the Threat to Peace Today; A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990; and The Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. Kagan is also a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and a Washington Post columnist, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Alexander Hamilton fellow in American diplomatic history at American University. Past experience includes: Deputy for Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (1985-1988); State Department’s Policy Planning Staff member (1984-1985); speechwriter to Secretary of State George P. Shultz (1984-1985); foreign policy advisor to Congressman Jack Kemp (1983); Special Assistant to the Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency (1983); Assistant Editor at the Public Interest (1981).
• Almay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who was the only Muslim among the group’s original signatories and the only signatory who was not a native-born U.S. citizen. Khalilzad has become the Bush administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban as well as is special envoy to the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein. Khalilzad has written about information warfare, and in 1996 (in pre-Taliban days), he served as a consultant to the oil company Unocal Corporation (UNOCAL) regarding a “risk analysis” for its proposed pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
• William Kristol, PNAC’s chairman, is also editor of the Weekly Standard, a Washington-based political magazine. His past involvements have included: lead of the Project for the Republican Future, chief of staff to Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, chief of staff to Secretary of Education William J. Bennett under the Reagan administration, taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
• I. Lewis Scooter Libby, who later became chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.
• Norman Podhoretz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of works such as Patriotism and its Enemies.
• J. Danforth Quayle, former vice president under President George Herbert Walker Bush and a presidential candidate himself in 1996.
• Peter W. Rodman, who served in the State Department and the National Security Council under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, became the current Bush administration’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs in 2001.
• Stephen P. Rosen, Beton Michael Kaneb Professor of National Security and Military Affairs at Harvard University.
• Henry S. Rowen was president of the RAND Corporation from 1967-1972. He served under former presidents Reagan and Bush as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (1981-83) and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (1989-91). He currently holds the title of “senior fellow” at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
• Donald H. Rumsfeld served former President Gerald R. Ford as chief of transition after Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, later becoming Ford’s chief of staff and secretary of defense from 1974-75. He subsequently served from 1990-93 as CEO of General Instrument Corporation and later as Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, a pharmaceutical company. In 1998 he served as chairman of the bi-partisan US Ballistic Missile Threat Commission. Under President George W. Bush, he once again assumed the post of Secretary of Defense.
• Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, is now a well-connected lobbyist who has represented such firms as AT&T, Lockheed Martin and Microsoft. Weber is also vice chairman of Empower America and a former fellow of the Progress and Freedom Foundation.
• George Weigel, a Roman Catholic religious and political commentator, is a “senior fellow” at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
• Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, formerly Dean and Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, became Undersecretary of Defense for President George W. Bush in 2001.
The initial group was joined by the following in later years:
- Peter Beinart
- Jeffrey Bergner
- Daniel Blumenthal
- Max Boot
- Ivo H. Daalder
- Michele Flournoy
- Buster C. Glosson
- Frederick Kagan
- Craig Kennedy
- Paul Kennedy
- Robert Killebrew
- Will Marshall
- Clifford D. May
- Barry R. McCaffrey
- Joshua Muravchik
- Steven J. Nider
- Michael O’Hanlon
- Mackubin Thomas Owens
- Ralph Peters
- Danielle Pletka
- Stephen P. Rosen
- Robert H. Scales
- Walter Slocombe
- James B. Steinberg
In a book released this week, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, written by Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for The New York Times, the author outlines the real story of the intelligence mess and arrogant refusal of the neo-conservatives holding the White House, to deal with the intelligence gleaned by the CIA that warned of al-Qaeda operatives within the USA are planning an attack.
In an article released yesterday, in the New York Times, the author discusses the warnings the Bush Administration received in the Spring of 2001. – earlier than the “declassified” brief from August, 2001 – warning of Al-Qaeda’s plans to attack. From that article:
The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.
But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.
In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.
“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.
And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have “dramatic consequences,” including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.” Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.
Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.
That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.
On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.
Like all ideologues, if the facts do not fit the dogma to which they adhere, it must not be important or real. That dogmatic view held by the neo-conservatives controlling the White House, allowed for the most horrific attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. The refusal to act, or even acknowledge the possibility of an attack by a mad man in a cave, put the entire nation at risk. That denial, ultimately, helped al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden succeed in their attack on the nation’s financial center – New York City’s World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan.
Hubris is a stupid thing, but the hubris of American Exceptionalism – the basis for the entire dogma of the American neo-conservatives – is a dangerous thing.
Was it so inconceivable to imagine that the World Trade Center, attacked in 1993, could and would be attacked again?
Was it so impossible to imagine, a man with the resources of the House of Saud, and the strength of hate and zealotry, could infiltrate the US, through its borders and set up a team to train and act out a plan against the US? Especially a man who was developing support throughout Saudi Arabia and throughout the Muslim world?
Was it inconceivable that the CIA might just have a little more understanding of the world and the threats therein than a group of old politicians, hell bent on war-mongering, attacking Iraq and playing Imperialist – Many of whom had not been in office or DC for nearly a decade?
Today we find many of those self-anointed exceptionalists in positions as advisors for Mitt Romney, from foreign policy (the Cheney-ites) to economy (Glenn Hubbard, Gregory Mankiw, Vin Weber, Jim Talent, Kevin Hassett) Romney has gone back to the poisoned well to create his team. It appears the Republicans didn’t learn after the Bush Administration. They may ignore GW and keep him hidden in his manse in Texas, trot him out on rare occasion to film video with his daddy, but they have more than embraced the arrogance and ignorance for which he stands.
We find a continued support for the idea that we, as Americans, are somehow better, bolder, smarter than any other human being on earth. That America has somehow been touched or chosen by “God” to be leader of the planet.
Exceptionalism is promoted in our media, by our politicians, in our schools, in nearly every aspect of our society.
And today, of all days, we see it rear its head in the specials and documentaries replayed every September 11.
Will we as a nation ever learn the lessons taught by The Greeks – The Law of Hubris?
Or more specifically, the lesson as spoken by Anthropologist/Ethnobotanist, Wade Davis:
“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”
The Cosmic Surfer can be found at The Cosmic Surfer: The Rantings of a Mad Woman