Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence

by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009

Listening to neoconservative mastermind Richard Perle at the Nixon Center yesterday, there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.

In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

“There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy,” Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. “It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy.”

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? “My name was on it because I signed up for the study group,” Perle explained. “I didn’t approve it. I didn’t read it.”

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a “moral” basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? “I don’t have the letters in front of me,” Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? “I don’t know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements,” Perle maintained. “My guess is he didn’t.”

The Prince of Darkness — so dubbed during his days opposing arms control in the Reagan Pentagon — was not about to let details get in the way of his argument that “50 million conspiracy theorists have it wrong,” as the subtitle of his article for National Interest put it. “I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world,” Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday’s lunch. “None of that is true, of course.”

Of course.

He had been a leading cheerleader for the Iraq war, predicting that the effort would take few troops and last only a few days, and that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction. Perle was chairman of Bush’s Defense Policy Board — and the president clearly took the advice of Perle and his fellow neocons. And Perle, in turn, said back then that Bush “knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Yesterday, however, Perle said Bush’s foreign policy had “no philosophical underpinnings and certainly nothing like the demonic influence of neoconservatives that is alleged.” He also took issue with the common view that neocons favored using American might to spread democratic values. “There’s no documentation!” he argued. “I can’t find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force.”

Those in the room were skeptical of Perle’s efforts to recast himself as a pragmatist.

Richard Burt, who clashed with Perle in the Reagan administration, took issue with “this argument that neoconservatism maybe actually doesn’t exist.” He reminded Perle of the longtime rift between foreign policy realists and neoconservative interventionists. “You’ve got to kind of acknowledge there is a neoconservative school of thought,” Burt challenged.

“I don’t accept the approach, not at all,” the Prince of Darkness replied.

Jacob Heilbrunn of National Interest asked Perle to square his newfound realism with the rather idealistic title of his book, “An End to Evil.”

“We had a publisher who chose the title,” Perle claimed, adding: “There’s hardly an ideology in that book.” (An excerpt: “There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory.”)

Regardless of the title, Heilbrunn pursued, how could so many people — including lapsed neoconservative Francis Fukuyama — all be so wrong about what neoconservatives represent?

“It’s not surprising that a lot of people get something wrong,” Perle reasoned.

At times, the Prince of Darkness turned on his questioners. Fielding a question from the Financial Times, he said that the newspaper “propagated this myth of neoconservative influence.” He informed Stefan Halper of Cambridge University that “you have contributed significantly to this mythology.”

“There are some 5,000 footnotes,” Halper replied. “Documents that you’ve signed.”

But documents did not deter denials. “I’ve never advocated attacking Iran,” he said, to a few chuckles. “Regime change does not imply military force, at least not when I use the term,” he said, to raised eyebrows. Accusations that neoconservatives manipulated intelligence on Iraq? “There’s no truth to it.” At one point, he argued that the word “neoconservative” has been used as an anti-Semitic slur, just moments after complaining that prominent figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — Christians both — had been grouped in with the neoconservatives.

“I don’t know that I persuaded anyone,” Perle speculated when the session ended.

No worries, said the moderator. “You certainly kept us all entertained.”

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News

by Bob Cesca, Huffington Post.com, May 2013

The Republican inquisition over the attacks against Americans in Benghazi has never really gone away, but it appears as though in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this week there are renewed psycho-histrionics over Benghazi.

Lindsey Graham and Fox News Channel in particular are each crapping their cages over new allegations from an alleged whistleblower, while they continue to deal in previously debunked falsehoods about the sequence of events during and following the attacks. Fox News is predictably helming the biggest raft of hooey on the situation — turning its attention to Hillary Clinton in an abundantly obvious early move to stymie her presidential run before it even begins.

So I thought I’d revisit some territory I covered back in October as a bit of a refresher — especially since it appears as if no one, including and especially the traditional press, intends to ask any of these obnoxious, opportunistic liars about why they’re so obsessed by this one attack yet they entirely ignored the dozen-plus consulate/embassy attacks that occurred when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were allegedly “keeping us safe.”

The Benghazi attacks (the consulate and the CIA compound) are absolutely not unprecedented even though they’re being treated that way by Republicans who are deliberately ignoring anything that happened prior to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.

January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.

June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al Qaeda attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.

October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.

February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.

May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al Qaeda terrorists storm the diplomatic compound, killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.

July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.

December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.

March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name “David Foy.” This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)

September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.

January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.

March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.

July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.

September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.

A few observations about this timeline. My initial list was quoted from an article on the Daily Kos which actually contained several errors and only 11 attacks (the above timeline contains all 13 attacks). Also, my list above doesn’t include the numerous and fatal attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq war — a war that was vocally supported by Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Fox News Channel.

Speaking of Graham, I ran a search on each attack along with the name “Lindsey Graham” in the hopes of discovering that Graham had perhaps commented about the attacks or raised some questions about why the administration didn’t prevent the attacks or respond accordingly to prevent additional embassy attacks. No results. Of course. Now, this could mean the search wasn’t exhaustive enough. But one thing’s for sure: neither Graham nor any of his cohorts launched a crusade against the Bush administration and the State Department in any of those cases — no one did, including the congressional Democrats, by the way.

This leads us to the ultimate point here. Not only have numerous sources previously debunked the Benghazi information being peddled by the Republicans and Fox News (for example, contrary to what the Republicans are saying, yes, reinforcements did in fact arrive before the attack on the CIA compound), but none of these people raised a single word of protest when, for example, American embassies in Yemen and Pakistan were attacked numerous times. Why didn’t the Bush administration do something to secure the compounds after the first attacks? Why didn’t he provide additional security?

Where was your inquest after the Karachi attacks, Mr. Graham? Where were you after the Sana’a attacks, Mr. Hannity? What about all of the embassy attacks in Iraq that I didn’t even list here, Mr. McCain? Do you realize how many people died in attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates when Bush was supposedly keeping us safe, Mr. Ailes? Just once I’d like to hear David Gregory or George Stephanopoulos or Wolf Blitzer ask a Republican member of Congress about the above timeline and why they said nothing at the time of each attack. Just once.

Nearly every accusation being issued about Benghazi could’ve been raised about the Bush-era attacks, and yet these self-proclaimed truth-seekers refused to, in their words, undermine the commander-in-chief while troops were in harm’s way (a line they repeated over and over again during those years).

So we’re only left to conclude the obvious. The investigations and accusations and conspiracy theories are entirely motivated by politics and a strategy to escalate this to an impeachment trial. In doing so, the Republicans have the opportunity not only to crush the president’s second term, but also to sabotage the potential for a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Even if they never arrive at that goal, they have in their possession a cudgel formed of horseshit — a means of flogging the current administration with the singularly effective Republican marketing/noise machine, including the conservative entertainment complex. Very seldom does this machine fail to revise history and distort the truth. Ultimately, they don’t even need a full-blown impeachment proceeding when they have a population of way too many truthers and automatons who take all of these lies at face value — not to mention dubiously sourced chunks of “truth” proffered by radio and cable news conspiracy theorists who, if nothing else, are masters at telling angry conservatives precisely what they want to hear: that the probably-Muslim president is weak on terrorism. And so they’ll keep repeating “Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate!” without any regard for history or reality. Like always.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/13-benghazis-that-occurre_b_3246847.html

Iraq War – Timeline Highlights – 1965 to 2009

Timeline Highlights  (note – this is intended to provide broad background information for citizen education; it is not a complete account of all events or may meet some academic standards)

most information is from Context of ‘September 25-26, 2001 at HistoryCommons.org 

1965: Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago and former RAND Analyst Gathers Young, Nascent Neoconservatives…many of whom are working and associating with the magazine publisher Irving Kristol… group includes Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Paul Wolfowitz. Wohlstetter, himself a protege of the Machiavellian academic Leo Strauss, is often considered the “intellectual godfather” of modern neoconservatism…Wohlstetter wielded a powerful influence on the US’s foreign policy during the heyday of the Cold War… He was such a powerful figure in his hundreds of briefings that he projected far more certainty than his facts actually supported. Though his facts and statistics were often completely wrong, he was so relentless and strident that his ideas gained more credence than they may have warranted. in 2007, “To join Team Wohlstetter, apparently, one had to embrace unquestioningly his worldviews, which eschewed old-fashioned intelligence as a basis for assessing the enemy’s intentions and military capabilities in favor of elaborate statistical models, probabilities, reasoning, systems analysis, and game theory…if you look down the road and see a war with, say, China, twenty years off, go to war now…It was a principle his acolytes would pursue for decades to come—with disastrous results.

Early 1970s: Neoconservatives Coalesce around Conservative Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop’ Jackson…neoconservatives, bound together by magazine publisher Irving Kristol react with horror to the ascendancy of the “McGovern liberals” in the Democratic Party, and turn to conservative senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) for leadership…Jackson assembles a staff of bright, young, ideologically homogeneous staffers who will later become some of the most influential and powerful neoconservatives of their generation, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz

1972 – 1976 Neoconservatives Work to Toughen US Policy towards Soviet Union and Influence US Foreign Policies

Early 1976 After George H. W. Bush becomes the head of the CIA he breaks with previous decisions and allow a coterie of neoconservative outsiders to pursue the allegations of Albert Wohlstetter that the CIA is seriously underestimating the threat the USSR poses to the US, allegations pushed by hardliners on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board….’Proves’ Soviets Far Ahead of US in Military, Nuclear CapabilitiesIdeology Trumps Facts – Neither Stoertz nor anyone else in the CIA appreciated how thoroughly Team B would let ideology and personalities override fact and real data

Late November, 1976: Team B Breaches Security to Successfully Whip up Fears of Soviet Threat

1977-1981: Nationalities Working Group Advocates Using Militant Islam Against Soviet Union

January 1981 – Ronald Reagan inaugurated as President of the United States

Early 1981: Richard Perle Assists Reagan’s Transition Team – places his associates in important national security positions and in the Department of Defense.”

Early 1981 and After: Reagan Categorically Opposed to Arms Control Agreements with Soviet Union; Advisers Reflect Oppositional Agenda

September 1981 through November 1983: Hardliners Block INF Arms Agreement

May 1982 and After: START Talks Supplant SALT Negotiations, Make No Progress

1984: Richard Perle Promotes Propaganda Campaign to Encourage Soviet Soldiers to Defect

October 11-12, 1986: Reagan, Gorbachev Almost Conclude Agreement to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons; Negotiations Founder on US Missile Defense Program

January 1988 – Inauguration of George H. W. Bush as president

1987-2004: Richard Perle Serves as Member of Defense Policy Board

Late March 1989 and After: Defense Secretary Cheney Advocates Enforced Regime Change in Soviet Union -When Dick Cheney becomes defense secretary he brings into the Pentagon a core group of young, ideological staffers with largely academic (not military) backgrounds. Many of these staffers are neoconservatives who once congregated around Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson; places them in the Pentagon’s policy directorate, under the supervision of Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, himself one of Jackson’s cadre. While most administrations leave the policy directorate to perform mundane tasks, Wolfowitz and his team have no interest in such. “They focused on geostrategic issues,” one of his Pentagon aides will recall. “They considered themselves conceptual.” Wolfowitz and his team are more than willing to reevaluate the most fundamental precepts of US foreign policy in their own terms, and in Cheney they have what reporters Franklin Foer and Spencer Ackerman call “a like-minded patron.” In 1991, Wolfowitz will describe his relationship to Cheney: “Intellectually, we’re very much on similar wavelengths.”

December 1991 – dissolution of the Soviet Union

1991-1997: Group of Foreign Policy Analysts Recommends Interventionist Policy

March 8, 1992: Raw US World Dominance Plan Is Leaked to the Media -The New York Times headline on March 8, 1992. The Defense Planning Guidance, “a blueprint for the department’s spending priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union,” is leaked to the New York Times. [New York Times, 3/8/1992;…Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) later says, “It is my opinion that [George W. Bush’s] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.”

July 1992: Think Tank Publishes Book Proposing Policy of Unilateral Interventionism in the Name of Humanitarianism

Autumn 1992: Influential Neoconservative Academic Advocates Breaking Up Middle Eastern Countries, Including Iraq

November 1993 – Inauguration of Bill Clinton as president

July 8, 1996: Neoconservative Think Tank Advocates Aggressive Israeli Foreign Policy -The paper, whose lead author is neoconservative Richard Perle, is meant to advise the new, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other authors include…neoconservative Douglas Feith, who will be the prime architect of the Iraq war…Rebuilding Zionism by Abandoning Past Policies – It advocates making a complete break with past policies by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism.…” Aggressive, Militant Israeli Policy towards Arab Neighbors – …document urges the Israelis to aggressively seek the downfall of their Arab neighbors—especially Syria and Iraq—by exploiting the inherent tensions within and among the Arab States. The first step is to be the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A war with Iraq will destabilize the entire Middle East, allowing governments in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and other countries to be replaced…‘Seeds of a New Vision’ – All these questions need not be answered right away, according to co-author Meyrav Wurmser. The document is “the beginning of thought,” she says, “… the seeds of a new vision.”

Similar to American Christian Right’s Vision – According to author Craig Unger, the ideology of “ACB” is, in essence, a secularized version of the theology of the American Christian Right. Christian Zionists insist that Jews were ordained by God to reclaim the Biblican land of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank; the paper asserts that claim as well. The paper echoes Christian fundamentalists by demanding “the unconditional acceptance of Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension.” Perle and his fellow neoconservatives want to push the boundaries even further: the Bible can be interpreted to countenance Jewish dominion over all or parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia. Thusly, the authors claim that Israel and the US, by waging war against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, would reshape the “strategic environment” in the Middle East and greatly expand Israel’s influence in the region.
Influence in Upcoming Bush Administration – Perle will later become chairman of President Bush’s influential Defense Policy Board and will be instrumental is moving Bush’s US policy toward war with Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, as will Feith and the Wurmsers.

Late Summer 1996: Neoconservatives Push for War with Iraq, Reshaping of Middle East to Favor Israel…At first, the offensive takes place in the pages of US newspapers and magazines. William Kristol and Robert Kagan write articles for the magazines Foreign Policy and the Weekly Standard; syndicated columnists Charles Krauthammer and A. M. Rosenthal use their columns to push the idea; Zalmay Khalilzad and Paul Wolfowitz pen op-eds for the Washington Post; “Clean Break” co-author David Wurmser writes op-eds for the Wall Street Journal and publishes a book, Tyranny’s Ally, in which he proposes that the US use its military to literally redraw the map of the Middle East (see Late Summer 1996). Neoconservatives are transforming Christian evangelicals’ argument that Americans are God’s “chosen people” into secular terms, and argue in their op-eds and articles that it is, in author Craig Unger’s words, the US’s “moral duty to project that greatness throughout the world—using American military power, if necessary.”

1997: Neoconservative Advocates Forcible, Bloody Retaking of Palestinian Land by Israel

November 12, 1997: Neoconservative Advocates Backing INC in Overthrowing Hussein

January 26, 1998: Neoconservative Think Tank Urges US to Attack Iraq -The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and George W. Bush’s special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Other signatories include William Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Peter Rodman, William Schneider, Vin Weber, and James Woolsey… Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn’t last long .. The PNAC neoconservatives do not seriously expect Clinton to attack Iraq in any meaningful sense, author Craig Unger will observe in 2007. Instead, they are positioning themselves for the future.

February 19, 1998: Neoconservative Group Calls on US to Help Overthrow Hussein

The Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), a bipartisan group made up largely of foreign policy specialists, sends an “Open Letter to the President” Largely Neoconservative in Makeup – Many of its co-signers will become the core of the Bush administration’s neoconservative-driven national security apparatus. These co-signers include Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Stephen Bryen, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Bernard Lewis, Peter Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, Gary Schmitt, Max Singer, Casper Weinberger, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser, and Dov Zakheim. The CPSG is closely affiliated with both the neoconservative Project for the New American Century and the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), both of which boast Perle as a powerful and influential member.

May 29, 1998: PNAC Calls on Republican Congressional Leaders to Assert US Interests in Persian Gulf

July 1998: Rumsfeld Commission Wildly Inflates Threat from Iran, North Korea

February 1999: David Wurmser Urges US to Support Insurgency in Iraq

2000: Michael Ledeen: Leaders May Have to ‘Enter into Evil’ under Certain Circumstances

In his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, neoconservative Michael Ledeen measures modern leaders against Machiavelli’s rules for leadership and concludes that “[e]ven after a half a millennium, Machiavelli’s advice to leaders is as contemporary as tomorrow… if new and more virtuous leaders do not emerge, it is only a matter of time before we are either dominated by our enemies or sink into a more profound crisis.” Such a situation, he explains, would put the US in the “same desperate crisis that drove Machiavelli to call for a new dictator to set things aright.” He adds, “In either case, we need Machiavellian wisdom and leadership… the ends may justify the means. In some situations, “[i]n order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil….the Christian god sanctions this view. Machiavelli, he notes approvingly, wrote: “I believe that the greatest good that one can do, and the most gratifying to God is that which one does for one’s country.” Ledeen thus adds: “Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situation in which a leader is justified in committing evil.”

September 2000: Neoconservative Think Tank PNAC Writes ‘Blueprint’ for ‘Global Pax Americana’

People involved in the 2000 PNAC report: Vice President Cheney, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, and author Eliot Cohen….The document, titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the George W. Bush team even before the 2000 presidential election…Plans to Overthrow Iraqi GovernmentThe report calls itself a “blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”…The report calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”
‘A New Pearl Harbor’ – However, PNAC complains that thes changes are likely to take a long time, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/2003]
Bush Will Claim a ‘Humble’ Foreign Policy Stance – One month later during a presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush will assert that he wants a “humble” foreign policy in the Middle East and says he is against toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq because it smacks of “nation building” . Around the same time, Cheney will similarly defend Bush’s position of maintaining President Clinton’s policy not to attack Iraq, asserting that the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/2002] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Only a few people who had read the papers put forth by the Project for a New American Century might have guessed a far more radical policy had been developed.” [Salon, 3/15/2004] A British member of Parliament will later say of the PNAC report, “This is a blueprint for US world domination—a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world.” [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/7/2002] Both PNAC and its strategy plan for Bush are almost virtually ignored by the media until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).

November 1, 2000: David Wurmser Urges US and Israel To ‘Strike Fatally’ Against Arab Radicalism

Late December 2000 and Early January 2001: Bush Transition Teams Install Neoconservatives in Key Offices – The Bush team moves into Washington. Neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad heads the Pentagon transition team, and he ensures that plenty of his friends and colleagues move into the civilian offices of the Defense Department. Four of the most influential advocates for the US overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein—Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and Abram Shulsky—are waiting to learn where they will serve in the department. But Vice President Cheney is still concerned with ensuring the placement of his own colleagues and cronies who will help him build what many will call the “imperial presidency…

January 22, 2001 and After: Neoconservatives Begin Push for Invasion of Iraq -An orchestrated push in the media begins to make the case for the need to invade Iraq…

March, 2001: Perle Says Hussein Has Weapons of Mass Destruction -Defense Policy Board chairman and prominent neoconservative Richard Perle tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Does Saddam [Hussein] now have weapons of mass destruction? Sure he does.…. And, unless you believe that we’ve uncovered everything, you have to assume there is more than we’re able to report.” Perle fails to offer any evidence of his claims to the senators, and fails to provide evidence from UN inspectors that shows virtually all of Iraq’s WMD stockpiles and programs have long since been destroyed.

Shortly After September 11, 2001: Perle Says Iraq ‘Has to Pay a Price for’ 9/11

September 15, 2001: President Bush Tells Neoconservative Adviser that US Will Attack Iraq after Afghanistan – During a morning meeting with advisers at Camp David, President Bush indicated that he wanted to focus on attacking Afghanistan first, and then look at the issue of attacking Iraq later …Bush told Perle at Camp David that once Afghanistan had been dealt with, it would be Iraq’s turn.”

September 19-20, 2001: Defense Policy Board Discusses Advisability of Attacking Iraq

September 20, 2001: Neoconservative Think Tank Demands Bush Invade Iraq ‘Even if Evidence Does Not Link Iraq Directly’ to 9/11 Attacks; Also Demand Attacks against Syria, Iran, Hezbollah

September 24, 2001: Neoconservative Columnists Advocate Overthrow of Hussein as Part of a ‘Larger War’ to Reestablish US ‘Dominance’ in Middle East

September 25-26, 2001: Neoconservative Commentator Kristol Advocates Regime Change in Iraq, Slams Powell – Neoconservative commentator and publisher William Kristol writes that the US must implement “regime change where possible” throughout the Middle East, and especially in Iraq. He excoriates Secretary of State Colin Powell for being against such an aggressive policy…

October 29, 2001: Neoconservative Scholar: ‘This Is Total War’ – Michael Ledeen, speaking at an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), states: “No stages. This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

November 14, 2001: Neoconservative Foreign Policy Adviser Perle Says Iraq War Should Alert Other Nations: ‘You’re Next’

November 18-19, 2001: Perle: US to ‘Absolutely’ Go After Iraq for 9/11

November 20, 2001: Neoconservative: US Must Realize It Is Involved in ‘World War IV’ – Neoconservative professor Eliot Cohen writes that the Afghan war is misnamed. It should be, he says, the latest salvo in “World War IV

November 29-30, 2001: Neoconservative Group Encourages Bush Administration to Invade Iraq as First Step to Dominating Middle East

December 7, 2001: Neoconservative Michael Ledeen Argues in Favor of Perpetual War against the Muslim Worldn – Michael Ledeen, an avid admirer of Machiavelli, argues in a piece published by National Review Online that the US must be “imperious, ruthless, and relentless” against the Muslim world until there has been “total surrender.” Any attempt on the part of the US to be “reasonable” or “evenhanded” will only empower Islamic militants, he asserts. He writes: “We will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.” The piece is republished in the Jewish World Review four days later.

February 2002: Neoconservative: Bush Must Attack Numerous Arab Nations to Fight, Win ‘World War IV’ against Terrorism – Norman Podhoretz, the editor of the neoconservative magazine Commentary, writes a call to arms called “How to Win World War IV.” For Podhoretz, the US has already won World War III—the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Now, he asserts, it is time to win the war against Islamist terrorism. The US must embrace this war against civilizations, and President Bush must accept that it is his mission “to fight World War IV—the war against militant Islam.”

April 2002: Neoconservatives Say War against Iraq Is about Redrawing ‘Geopolitical Map of the Middle East’

April 23, 2002: Neoconservative: US Should ‘Pick Up Some Small, Crappy Little Country and Throw It against the Wall’ – In a column for the National Review advocating the immediate overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, neoconservative Jonah Goldberg praises his fellow neoconservative Michael Ledeen and urges the US to implement what he calls the “Ledeen Doctrine,” which he paraphrases as: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small, crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

May 2002: Wilson Breaks Decade-Long Silence to Speak out against Iraq War – Former ambassador Joseph Wilson participates in the annual conference of the American Turkish Council. One of the keynote speakers is Richard Perle, the neoconservative head of the Defense Policy Board and the chief author of the 1996 position paper “A Clean Break,” which argued for the forcible redrawing of the political map of the Middle East. In 1996, Perle had called for the overthrow of the Iraqi government. At the conference, Perle makes the same call. Wilson will later recall being deeply troubled by Perle’s “fire and brimstone” speech. The next afternoon, when Wilson is scheduled to speak, he voices his concerns over Perle’s position. Although he had journeyed to Niger to learn the truth or falsity about the Iraq-Niger uranium claims he has not spoken publicly about Iraq in over a decade. He does so because he urgently feels that Perle’s views need to be countered. “No decision is more important than that to send a nation’s sons and daughters to a foreign land in order to kill and perhaps die for their country,” he will write. “As a democracy, we are all participants in that decision. Not to speak out would amount to complicity in whatever decision was taken.” … Wilson will later write: “As I discovered while debating the issue, the prowar advocates were little inclined to listen to the views of others. They had made up their minds long ago, and now it was a matter of ramming their agenda through the decision-making process.”

August 6, 2002: Prominent Neoconservative Wants to Turn Middle East into ‘Cauldron’ of Violence

August 16, 2002: Perle: Bush’s War Rhetoric Makes Invasion Necessary – Neoconservative Richard Perle, the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, says that the Bush administration has expended so much time and effort in making its case for war against Iraq that it has no other choice except to invade. He says, “The failure to take on Saddam [Hussein]… would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.” In 2006, author Frank Rich interprets Perle’s words, writing: “If Bush didn’t get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since—well, his father. If he didn’t do it soon, after all these months of swagger, he would destroy his credibility and hurt the country’s.”

September 4, 2002: Neoconservative Michael Ledeen Advocates Overthrow of Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi Arabian Governments – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen argues in a piece published by the Wall Street Journal that the US must not limit the next military strike to Iraq alone. Rather, according to Ledeen, the US “should instead be talking about using all our political, moral, and military genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate all the peoples of the Middle East from tyranny.” In addition to Iraq, he says, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia must also be overthrown. “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.”

November 2002-December 2002: Abrams Leads Secretive Neocon Planning Group for Iraq Occupation – Elliott Abrams, a well-known neoconservative and former Iran-Contra figure, leads one of a dozen Bush administration working groups charged with drafting post-invasion plans…the group is very secretive… It refuses “to brief not only top State Department officials but also aides of Gen. Tommy Franks, the commanding officer of the US Central Command [CENTCOM], about what it is doing.” Instead it stovepipes its work to its contacts in the White House. Sources in the State Department and CIA believe that one of the group’s apparent aims is reducing the influence of the State Department, CIA and the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq. These critics also question “why a convicted felon [Abrams], pardoned or not, is being allowed to help shape policy.”  Sources in the State Department and CIA believe that one of the group’s apparent aims is reducing the influence of the State Department, CIA and the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq…

November 12, 2002: Neoconservative Writer Recommends US Invade Iran First – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen recommends that the US invade Iraq—but only after invading Iran and overthrowing that nation’s government.

November 20, 2002: Perle: UN Won’t Find Iraqi Weapons Because They Are So Well Hidden; US Will Attack Even If No Weapons Found – Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, attends a meeting on global security with members of the British Parliament… Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister and Labour backbencher, tells the Mirror: “America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America’s real determination to bomb Iraq.”

January 9, 2003: US Rejects British Suggestions to Put Off Iraq War

February 2003: Prominent Neoconservatives Argue Iraq War Is Really about US World Dominance – Prominent neoconservatives William Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan publish the book The War Over Iraq advocating a US invasion of that country. In the book’s introduction, they assert: “We stand at the cusp of a new historical era.… This is a decisive moment.… The decision about what course to take in dealing with Iraq is particularly significant because it is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the world in the twenty-first century.”

February 13, 2003: Neoconservative Ledeen Says Iraq Invasion Could Be ‘War to Remake the World’

February 15 – worldwide anti-war protest

February 25, 2003: Neoconservative Foreign Policy Adviser Says UN Weapons Inspectors Being ‘Seriously Deceived’ by Iraqis

March 19, 2003: Neoconservative: ‘Iraq Is a Battle, Not a War’ – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen, in an op-ed entitled “One Battle in a Wider War,” echoes the thinking of other neoconservatives when he writes that other Middle Eastern countries, specifically Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, must also be invaded by the US. “Once upon a time, it might have been possible to deal with Iraq alone, without having to face the murderous forces of the other terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and [Riyadh], but that time has passed,” he writes. “Iraq is a battle, not a war. We have to win the war, and the only way to do that is to bring down the terror masters, and spread freedom throughout the region.”

March 19/20, 2003 – Invasion begins

May 1, 2003 Mission accomplished/continuesYouTube of speech, explanation that President did not actually say “Mission Accomplished” but that it was on a sign not approved by the White House. The President said “Mission continues.”

March 27, 2003: Accused of Profiteering, Perle Resigns from Pentagon Advisory Panel Chairmanship – Embroiled in controversy over multiple conflicts of interests, Richard Perle resigns his position as chairman of the Defense Advisory Panel (DAP). His resignation is the result of criticism of his mix of business activities as an investor, consultant, lobbyist, and political advocacy as an adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In the weeks prior to his resignation, the New Yorker revealed that Perle’s venture capital firm, Trireme Partners LP, solicited funds from Saudi financiers, despite Perle’s vociferous criticisms of the Saudi government

January 24, 2004: Perle Takes Part in Rally for Iran; Denies Knowledge of Connections to MEK

February 19, 2009: Perle Denies Any Neoconservative Influence in Bush Administration – In a speech at the Nixon Center, neoconservative guru Richard Perle attempts to drastically rewrite the history of the Bush administration and his role in the invasion of Iraq. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes that listening to Perle gave him “a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.” Milbank notes: “In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack…But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which: Perle is not a neoconservative. Neoconservatives do not exist. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.”

http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a09252601kristoltimes

Reflections on Iraq tragedy

The Neoconservatives

The Bush Doctrine – ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism by Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard, June 4, 2001, Vol. 6, No. 36

The Real New World Order – The American and the Islamic challenge by Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard  Vol. 7, No. 09,   November 12, 2001

Open Letter to the President A letter to George W. Bush about our nation’s defense budget. The Weekly Standard, January 23, 2003 

Chalmers Johnson on the fall of the republic By Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch.com, September 9, 2003

The Project for the New American Century By William Rivers Pitt, Information Clearing House 02/25/03

Neocons and the Iraq War: Their view then and now 10 years later By Eric Black, Minnpost.com, March 15, 2013 www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2013/03/neocons-and-iraq-war-their-view-then-and-now-10-years-later

Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009 

The war

Context of ‘September 25-26, 2001: Neoconservative Commentator Kristol Advocates Regime Change in Iraq, Slams Powell’ HistoryCommons.org

It’s About A Lot More Than A “Goddamned Piece of Paper” by Steve Watson,  Capitol Hill Blue, December 12 2005

Bush Never Said “Mission Accomplished”by Reginald Dale, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 19, 2013

Mission Accomplished - Speech on YouTube  

Cost/benefit of war

War Is a Force That Pays the 1 Percent: Occupying American Foreign Policy by: J.A. Myerson, Truthout | News Analysis, November 14, 2011

Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13 on

American Militarism: Costs and Consequences By Melvin Goodman, City Lights Books | Book Excerpt, Truth-out.org, 05 March 2013

Looking back

Democrats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War, 17 March 2013 06:59 By Stephen Zunes, Truthout | Op-Ed

Minnesota senators’ ‘No’ votes on Iraq War — and other 10th anniversary thoughts By Eric Black, MinnPost.com, March 19, 2013

10 Years After Iraq Invasion: Continued Myths, Hundreds of Thousands Killed by Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, March 18, 2013

10 years after Iraq War: What do we have to show for it? By Eric Black, MinnPost.com, March 14, 2013

Ten Years Later, Eyes Still Wide Shut on the Iraq War by Ray McGovern, Consortium News,  February 25, 2013

How the Bush Administration Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson, The Guardian, February 28, 2013

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dispatch , March 7, 2013

10 Years Later: Looking Back on the Iraq War So We Can Clearly Look Forward by Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post, 03/06/2013

Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by  The Observer,   September 1, 2012   – Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the international criminal court in The Hague and delivered a damning critique of the physical and moral devastation caused by the Iraq war.

 

Romney’s Neocon Foreign Policy: Written by Those Who Ignored al Qaeda Threat

Consortium News [1] / By Robert Parry [2] posted on Alternet.org, September 11, 2012 |  

This article originally appeared as a special report on the Web site of Consortium News. Sign up for e-mail alerts on Consoritum News content here [3]. (Mid-page, right-hand column.)

Eleven years after the fact, the key relevance of 9/11 to Campaign 2012 is that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has surrounded himself with neoconservative foreign policy advisers much as George W. Bush did in 2001, when the neocons let their ideological obsessions blind them to the threat from al-Qaeda.

In spring and summer 2001, the CIA and counterterrorism experts frantically rang warning bells, trying to get President Bush to order a full-court press aimed at stopping an attack that al-Qaeda was plotting. U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t sure exactly where al-Qaeda would strike but they were sure that something big was coming.

The neocons, however, had regarded the Clinton administration’s fear about al-Qaeda terrorism as a distraction, a relatively minor concern when compared to the neocon certainty that the far greater Middle East danger came from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

In the neocon world view, “regime change” in Iraq would be the great “game changer,” setting in motion the toppling of hostile governments in Syria and Iran – and ultimately enabling Israel to dictate surrender terms to its close-in adversaries, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

So, when many Clinton holdovers renewed their alarms in 2001, the warnings fell mostly on deaf ears inside the Bush administration. Indeed, some of Bush’s top neocons believed the CIA analysts were being tricked into getting the inexperienced young President to take his eye off the ball, that is, off Iraq.

In an op-ed [4] for the New York Times on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, journalist Kurt Eichenwald fills in some missing pieces to the pre-9/11 narrative, putting into context the infamous “Presidential Daily Brief” of Aug. 6, 2001, which was entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

Since the PDB was declassified in 2004, Bush’s defenders have argued that the President’s indifference to the warning was because the PDB was mostly a historical recounting of past al-Qaeda operations. But Eichenwald writes that the PDB was only one of a series of alarming reports that counterintelligence officers were putting before Bush and his national security team.

“While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed,” Eichenwald writes. “In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.”

‘Imminent’ Strike

For instance, Eichenwald reports that by May 1, 2001, the CIA had informed the White House that “a group presently in the United States” was plotting a terrorist attack. By June 22, a PDB called the expected al-Qaeda strike “imminent” although the precise timing was considered flexible.

So, when the Aug. 6 PDB arrived, it already had a troubling context, mounting evidence that al-Qaeda had placed a team of terrorists inside the United States with plans for a dramatic attack on American soil. Yet, Bush brushed aside the Aug. 6 warning while vacationing at his Texas ranch and literally went fishing. Why?

Eichenwald writes that Bush’s nonchalance could be traced to the success of neocon advisers in convincing the President that the warning was “just bluster.” The neocons have never been known to be humble in their assessment of their own intellectual prowess and that self-certainty apparently swayed Bush.

According to Eichenwald, “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.”

Eichenwald writes that a PDB of June 29 read, “The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden.” The brief listed 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,” Eichenwald reports.

The CIA continued to build on its case, including comments from operatives close to bin Laden that the impending attack would have “dramatic consequences” with heavy casualties. “Yet, the White House failed to take significant action,” Eichenwald writes.

“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. …

“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.”

More Witnesses

Over the past several years, other senior intelligence officials have commented on the mounting evidence of a planned attack and the failure of Bush to react.

“It all came together in the third week of June,” said Richard Clarke, who was the White House coordinator for counterterrorism. “The CIA’s view was that a major terrorist attack was coming in the next several weeks.”

In late June, CIA Director George Tenet was reported “nearly frantic” about the likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack. He was described as running around “with his hair on fire” because the warning system was “blinking red.”

Some information even began to reach Washington reporters, but apparently not enough or the right ones. New York Times reporter Judith Miller, in a 2006 interview with AlterNet [5], said a well-placed CIA official briefed her on an al-Qaeda intercept over the July Fourth holiday in 2001.

“The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up,” Miller said. “The incident that had gotten everyone’s attention was a conversation between two members of al-Qaeda. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the [destroyer USS] Cole [which was bombed on Oct. 12, 2000].

“And one al-Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.’”

Miller, who herself had close ties to the neocons, expressed regret that she had not been able to nail down enough details about the intercept to get the story into the newspaper. The Alternet interview was published in May 2006 after Miller resigned from the Times, in part, over her cozy ties with key neocons in Bush’s administration.

On July 5, 2001, at a meeting in the White House Situation Room, counterterrorism chief Clarke told officials from a dozen federal agencies that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.” But instead of sparking an intensified administration reaction to the danger, the flickering light of White House interest in the terror threat continued to sputter.

By July 10, senior CIA counterterrorism officials, including Cofer Black, had collected a body of intelligence that they presented to Director Tenet.

“The briefing [Black] gave me literally made my hair stand on end,” Tenet wrote in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm. “When he was through, I picked up the big white secure phone on the left side of my desk – the one with a direct line to [national security adviser] Condi Rice – and told her that I needed to see her immediately to provide an update on the al-Qa’ida threat.”

After reaching the White House, a CIA briefer, identified in Tenet’s book only as Rich B., started his presentation by saying: “There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months!”

Rich B. then displayed a chart showing “seven specific pieces of intelligence gathered over the past 24 hours, all of them predicting an imminent attack,” Tenet wrote. The briefer presented another chart with “the more chilling statements we had in our possession through intelligence.”

These comments included a mid-June statement by Osama bin Laden to trainees about an attack in the near future; talk about decisive acts and a “big event”; and fresh intelligence about predictions of “a stunning turn of events in the weeks ahead,” Tenet wrote.

Rich B. told Rice that the attack will be “spectacular” and designed to inflict heavy casualties against U.S. targets. “Attack preparations have been made,” Rich B. said about al-Qaeda’s plans. “Multiple and simultaneous attacks are possible, and they will occur with little or no warning.”

When Rice asked what needed to be done, the CIA’s Black responded, “This country needs to go on a war footingnow.” The CIA officials sought approval for broad covert-action authority that had been languishing since March, Tenet wrote.

Dismissive Aides

Despite the July 10 briefing, other senior Bush administration officials continued to pooh-pooh the seriousness of the al-Qaeda threat. Two leading neoconservatives at the Pentagon – Stephen Cambone and Paul Wolfowitz – suggested that the CIA might be falling for a disinformation campaign, Tenet recalled.

But the evidence of an impending attack kept pouring in. At one CIA meeting in late July, Tenet wrote that Rich B. told senior officials bluntly, “they’re coming here,” a declaration that was followed by stunned silence.

Through the sweltering heat of July 2001, Bush turned his attention to an issue dear to the hearts of his right-wing base, the use of human embryos in stem-cell research.

Medical scientists felt stem cells promised potential cures for debilitating and life-threatening injuries and illnesses, from spinal damage to Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, despite this promise, the Christian Right objected on moral grounds to the extraction of cells from embryos, even if those destined for destruction as waste at fertility clinics.

While the team of al-Qaeda terrorists made final preparations for their attack, the U.S. press corps also missed the drama playing out inside the U.S. intelligence agencies. The hot stories that steamy summer were shark attacks and the mystery of a missing Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy, who’d had an affair with Rep. Gary Condit, a California Democrat.

The news media pretended that its obsession with Levy’s disappearance was a heartfelt concern to help her parents find their missing daughter; the sexual gossip about Levy and Condit proved to be just a fortuitous byproduct. Yet, as cable news played the Chandra Levy case 24/7, a far more significant life-or-death drama was playing out inside the FBI and CIA.

Flight Schools

At the FBI’s Phoenix field office, FBI agent Kenneth Williams noted the curious fact that suspected followers of bin Laden were learning to fly airplanes at schools inside the United States.

Citing “an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” attending American flight schools, Williams sent a July 10, 2001, memo to FBI headquarters warning of the “possibility of a coordinated effort by Usama Bin Laden” to send student pilots to the United States. But the memo produced no follow-up.

CIA officials encountered similar foot-dragging at the White House. At least two officials in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center were so apoplectic about the blasé reactions from the Bush administration that they considered resigning and going public with their concerns. Instead, the CIA hierarchy made one more stab at startling Bush into action.

So, on Aug. 6, 2001, the CIA dispatched senior analysts to brief Bush who was starting a month-long vacation at his Crawford ranch. They carried a highly classified report with the blunt title “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” This PDB summarized the history of bin Laden’s interest in launching attacks inside the United States and ended with a carefully phrased warning about recent intelligence threat data:

“FBI information … 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. The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.”

Bush was not pleased by the CIA’s intrusion on his vacation nor with the report’s lack of specific targets and dates. He glared at the CIA briefer and snapped, “All right, you’ve covered your ass,” according to an account in author Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which relied heavily on senior CIA officials.

Putting the CIA’s warning in the back of his mind and ordering no special response, Bush returned to a vacation of fishing, clearing brush and working on a speech about stem-cell research.

Yet, inside the FBI as the month wore on, there were more warnings that went unheeded. FBI agents in Minneapolis arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August because of his suspicious behavior in trying to learn to fly commercial jetliners when he lacked even rudimentary skills.

FBI agent Harry Samit, who interrogated Moussaoui, sent 70 warnings to his superiors about suspicions that the al-Qaeda operative had been taking flight training in Minnesota because he was planning to hijack a plane for a terrorist operation.

But FBI officials in Washington showed “criminal negligence” in blocking requests for a search warrant on Moussaoui’s computer or taking other preventive action, Samit testified more than four years later at Moussaoui’s criminal trial.

No Urgency

A big part of the problem was the lack of urgency at the top. Counterterrorism coordinator Clarke said the 9/11 attacks might have been averted if Bush had shown some initiative in “shaking the trees” 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.

If they had, they might well have found the memos from the FBI agents in Arizona and Minnesota. Clarke contrasted 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.

“In December 1999, we received intelligence reports that there were going to be major al-Qaeda attacks,” Clarke said in an interview. “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.”

In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke offered other examples of pre-9/11 mistakes by the Bush administration, including a downgrading in importance of the counterterrorism office, a shifting of budget priorities, an obsession with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and an emphasis on conservative ideological issues, such as Reagan’s 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.

The chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission – New Jersey’s former Republican Governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, respectively – agreed that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented.

“The whole story might have been different,” Kean said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 4, 2004. Kean cited a string of law-enforcement blunders including the “lack of coordination within the FBI” and the FBI’s failure to understand the significance of Moussaoui’s arrest in August while training to fly passenger jets.

Yet, as the clock ticked down to 9/11, the Bush administration continued to have other priorities. On Aug. 9, Bush gave a nationally televised speech on stem cells, delivering his judgment permitting federal funding for research on 60 preexisting stem-cell lines, but barring government support for work on any other lines of stem cells that would be derived from human embryos.

Scientists complained that the existing lines were too tainted with mouse cells and too limited to be of much value. But the news media mostly hailed Bush’s split decision as “Solomon-like” and proof he had greater gravitas than his critics would acknowledge.

One Last Pitch

CIA Director Tenet said he made one last push to focus Bush on the impending terrorism crisis, but the encounter veered off into meaningless small talk.

“A few weeks after the August 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the President stayed current on events,” Tenet wrote in his memoir. “This was my first visit to the ranch. I remember the President graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and my trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna, none of which were native to Queens,” where Tenet had grown up.

Bush and his neocon advisers continued their hostility toward what they viewed as the old Clinton phobia about terrorism and this little-known group called al-Qaeda. On Sept. 6, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened a presidential veto of a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., seeking to transfer money from strategic missile defense to counterterrorism.

Also on Sept. 6, former Sen. Gary Hart tried to galvanize the Bush administration into showing some urgency about the terrorist threat. Hart met with Condoleezza Rice and urged the White House to move faster. Rice agreed to pass on Hart’s concerns to higher-ups. However, nothing was done before al-Qaeda struck on Sept. 11.

When the first plane crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center in New York at 8:46 a.m., President Bush was on a trip to Florida, visiting a second-grade classroom. After the second plane hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., White House chief of staff Andrew Card whispered into Bush’s ear that “America is under attack.”

Bush sat dumbstruck for seven minutes holding a book, The Pet Goat. He later said he didn’t react immediately because he didn’t want to alarm the children.

Though Bush’s neocon advisers had been disastrously wrong about anticipating al-Qaeda’s terrorist strike, they quickly turned the catastrophe to their advantage by convincing Bush that he should go beyond simply striking back at al-Qaeda; that he should seize the opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein as well.

The Bush administration was soon on course to launch not only an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, but Iraq as well. The neocons also revived their dreams about using Iraq as a launching pad for additional “regime change” in Syria and Iran. In the short term, the 9/11 disaster worked out so well for the neocons that some cynics began to suspect that the neocons had secretly wished for the attack all along.

As the years wore on, neocon hubris contributed heavily to the bloody mess in Iraq as nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The war in Afghanistan became a blood-soaked quagmire, too. The price tags for the wars were soon exceeding $1 trillion.

Bush’s military overreach set the stage for the 2008 election of Barack Obama who famously opposed the Iraq invasion as a young aspiring politician in Chicago. Yet, despite the calamities in their wake, the neocons never went far from the center of Washington influence and power. They retreated to high-paying jobs at think tanks, wrote books and sought out a new Republican presidential hopeful.

The Romney Retreads

The smart neocon bet was soon placed on Mitt Romney, who like Bush was a relative neophyte on foreign policy. The smooth-talking neocons quickly earned a place of trust in the Romney camp. The former Massachusetts government largely delegated to the neocons the job of writing his foreign policy white paper, “An American Century [6].”

Romney allowed the title to be an obvious homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the Iraq War and other “regime change” strategies of President Bush. Romney recruited Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a protégé of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, to write the foreword.

Romney’s white paper chastised Barack Obama for committing himself to pulling out the 30,000 “surge troops” from Afghanistan by mid-2012 and conducting a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 70,000 by the end of 2014. Romney’s white paper argued that Obama should have followed the advice of field commanders like then-Gen. David Petraeus and made withdrawals either more slowly or contingent on American military success. The white paper also opposed a full withdrawal from Iraq.

The white paper made clear that if Romney wins the White House, he is determined to reconstruct much of Bush’s foreign policy, complete with a renewed insistence on U.S. military dominance of the world and a full restoration of neocon influence.

Romney’s “An American Century” also brought back a favorite tactic of the Bush years, the baiting of Americans who dare criticize the nation’s hubristic foreign policy of the last decade. Echoing a favorite Republican talking point, Romney scolded Obama for supposedly “apologizing” for America.

The white paper stated: “In his first year in office alone, President Obama issued apologies for America in speeches delivered in France, England, Turkey, and Egypt not to mention on multiple similar occasions here at home.

“Among the ‘sins’ for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.

“The sum total of President Obama’s rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America’s past cannot lead us into the future.”

In other words, Romney’s neocons were reaffirming their long-held pattern of demonizing anyone who tries to discuss U.S. foreign policy honestly. After all, the neocons of the Bush years were guilty of pretty much every “sin” that is cited above. Apparently, it’s disqualifying to tell the truth if it makes the neocons look bad.

Romney also attacked Obama for even modestly trimming the U.S. military budget, which is now is roughly equal to what is spent by all other nations on the planet combined. According to “An American Century,” Romney “will put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year. He will also modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure.

“And he will fully commit to a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies.” The white paper did make one concession to reality by conceding that “this will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it.” The white paper added:

“Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending — meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development — at afloor of 4 percent of GDP,” or about $565 billion.

Protecting Israel

Typical of a neocon-written white paper, there also was the obligatory declaration that the United States must do whatever is necessary to protect Israel’s interests. It stated: “Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. The tumult in the Middle East has heightened Israel’s security problems.

“Indeed, this is an especially dangerous moment for the Jewish state. It has deteriorating relationships with Turkey and Egypt. It faces longstanding dangers from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a violent and highly unstable Syria, and a nuclear-aspiring Iran whose leadership is openly calling for Israel’s annihilation.

“To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain it strategic military edge. … The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.

“With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Romney’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s. …  President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region [which has] led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer.

“The record proves otherwise. The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an Israel that knows it will be secure. … The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”

Romney also suggested an expansion of legal authority for U.S. officials conducting the “war on terror.” His white paper said: “As president, Mitt Romney will empower all relevant military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies with the appropriate legal authority and policy guidance to dismantle terrorist groups and prevent terrorist attacks on our homeland and on targets abroad.”

Those broader legal authorities would take aim at what Romney calls “an emerging threat to the homeland [from] the radicalization of U.S. citizens and residents leading to ‘homegrown’ Islamist terrorism. … Mitt Romney will make countering this mounting danger a top priority. …

“Our counterterrorism professionals will need to continue to develop ‘fusion centers’ and other innovative systems to collect and systematically analyze information about domestic activities. They will need the capacity, consistent with U.S. law, to collect and unflinchingly analyze communications between terrorist networks abroad and people within our borders.”

It’s always hard to know what neocons mean when they say “consistent with U.S. law,” since they devised the Bush administration’s doctrine of unlimited presidential powers, but the word “unflinchingly” suggests they envision a robust domestic spying program.

With most political observers predicting a close election in November, the neocons hope that they can ride back into power in Washington behind a President Romney and then resume their role as his foreign policy foremen, advising the inexperienced Romney much as they did the novice Bush.

In making a choice for President, therefore, the American voters must realize that they are electing not just the people on the ballot but a cast of advisers who come along with the winners. Mitt Romney has made clear that he will staff much of his foreign policy team with neocon retreads from the Bush-43 administration.

Though these neocons always talk tough, the overwhelming evidence now indicates that when the United States was actually under the imminent threat of a domestic attack, the arrogant neocons blocked a meaningful response. Then, after the devastation, they compounded the mistake by diverting the U.S. military into a war on Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

One of the questions that American voters might want to consider before Nov. 6 is whether a Romney presidency, staffed with belligerent neocons, would make the United States safer or put its citizens more at risk. 

See more stories tagged with:

9/11 [7],
romney [8],
bush [10],

 

 

Links:
[1] http://www.consortiumnews.com
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/robert-parry
[3] http://consortiumnews.com/archives/
[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/opinion/the-bush-white-house-was-deaf-to-9-11-warnings.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
[5] http://www.alternet.org/story/36388/
[6] http://mittromney.com/sites/default/files/shared/AnAmericanCentury-WhitePaper.pdf
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/911
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/romney-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bin-laden
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bush-1
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/saddam-hussein
[12] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B