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Joe Conason: George W. Bush Ignored Repeated Warnings of Terrorist Attack

9/11 Commission files prove Republicans' claims that 'he kept us safe' is a lie

By Joe Conason |

During the festival of falsehood held by Republicans in Tampa, Fla., last month, perhaps the very biggest lie emanated from the mouth of Jeb Bush, the Florida politician, entrepreneur and potential heir to the GOP presidential dynasty.

“My brother, well,” began Jeb, referring to former President George W. Bush, “I love my brother” — and then went on to add, more arguably: “He is a man of integrity, courage and honor. And during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.”

That those words — “he kept us safe” — could be uttered in public about that leader is a testament to our national affliction of historical amnesia. The harsher truth, long known but now reiterated in a startling report on The New York Times’ op-ed page, is that the Bush administration’s “negligence” left us undefended against the disaster whose anniversary we marked again last week.

New documents uncovered by investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald show that despite repeated, urgent warnings from intelligence officials about an impending al-Qaeda attack, Bush did nothing because his neoconservative advisers told him that the threats were merely a “ruse” and a distraction.

Recalling the evidence compiled by the 9/11 Commission — which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and numerous other officials sought to stymie and mislead — it has been clear for years that they ignored many warnings about al-Qaeda.

Specifically, as Eichenwald points out in his op-ed report, CIA officials sought to warn Bush with a glaring headline in the famous Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” That memorandum represented the culmination of many months of attempts to awaken a somnolent White House to the impending threat of a terrorist attack.

None of that is news, although Republicans like Jeb Bush continue to behave as if the facts uncovered by the 9/11 Commission had never emerged.

But according to Eichenwald, he has seen still-classified documents that place the Aug. 6 PDB in a new context — namely, the briefing papers preceding that date, which remain locked away:

“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. 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.”

On May 1, 2001, the CIA relayed a report to the White House about “a group presently in the United States” that was planning a terrorist attack. On June 22, the agency told Bush that the al-Qaeda strikes might be “imminent.”

A week later, the CIA answered neoconservative officials in the Bush administration who claimed that Osama bin Laden’s threats were a ruse to distract the United States from the real threat posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “The United States is not the target of a disinformation campaign” by bin Laden, wrote agency officials, citing evidence compiled by its analysts that the al-Qaeda threats were real.

The warnings continued and multiplied into July 2001, with counter-terrorism officials becoming increasingly alarmed — or as Eichenwald puts it, “apoplectic.” Still, Bush, Cheney, Rice and their coterie failed to act.

Familiar with Eichenwald’s career, I’m confident that he is reporting what he has seen with complete accuracy and due caution. A two-time winner of the George Polk Award and a Pulitzer finalist, he concludes carefully that we will never know whether a more alert administration could have mobilized to prevent 9/11. What we know for certain — that they didn’t bother — is an eternal indictment.

But Eichenwald’s report has relevance that is more than historical. Advising Mitt Romney, foreign policy neophyte, are the same neoconservatives whose arrogance and incompetence steered Bush away from al-Qaeda and toward the quagmire in Iraq. Returning them to power would be exceptionally dangerous to the security of the United States and the world.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him. Follow him on Twitter: @JConason.




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» on 09.17.12 @ 02:02 AM

Condi Rice said it all when she told us that W didnt wish to be percieved as “swatting at flies” . The decision to invade Iraq was made clear at the first cabinet meeting of the first term, a full nine months before 9/11. Our course had been set by the PNAC extremists surrounding Bush. Snakes lying in the weeds waiting for their “Pearl Harbor moment” as described in their mission statement. 
  And who can forget the intimidation tactics used by the right wing , questioning the patriotism of those voicing dissent to W’s catastrophic imperial crusade.  Lets also never forget W’s own words telling us that God told him to invade Iraq. That mentality persists to this day as evidenced by opinion pieces posted here on Noozhawk by the Thorn’s and their misguided flock.
Now we get Romney and the threat of more foreign affairs ineptitude. No thanks.

» on 09.17.12 @ 12:44 PM

Yep and 911 was an inside job and conservatives are all mean, racist, homophobe bigots and why can’t we all just get a long, give peace a chance, they only hate us because we are mean greedy capitalists, blah, blah, more left wing drivel, blah, blah, blah.

Heard it all before, so what, who cares except those who truly believe there is some vast right wing conspiracy. What Joe and his antagonists keep forgetting is that hindsight is 20/20 and the same focus if applied to the left reveals the same tortured results. If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones.

» on 09.17.12 @ 04:47 PM

my sentiments as well about 20/20 hindsight.  Clearly Iraq was a failure, but why?  Not an easy answer unless you are a Leftie.  Then it is always warmongers on the right.    Let’s see, WWI was Wilson’s War WW2 was FDR’s; Korea, Truman’s,  and V Nam Johnson’s.  Yes the vast Right Wing conspiracy at work. 

Dereliction of duty of Bush and Cheney, not responding to warning signs of 9/11?  So with all that has happened since then,  a decade past,  Obama gets a pass on Libya and the death of an ambassador?  It is painful to experience the Foreign Policy ineptitude of the Obama administration.  I don’t think Clausewitz is always the answer, but better than Obama’s we can all get along if you listen to my love speeches;  Nobel Peace Prize winner,  master of the drone, and former druggie turned International Leader is not my cup of tea.

» on 09.17.12 @ 09:57 PM

Professor IKE says “Heard it all before, so what, who cares”.
Well , he and Earl Meyers may not care , but the rest of us do and will never forgive or forget that it could have been prevented.

» on 09.18.12 @ 12:58 AM

I don’t care for those of you using one of the worst events in our country’s history being used for politics. As I said buster the culpability transcends party lines, but if you really think it could have been prevented then you are drowning in Kool-Aid.

The fact that this idiot Conason dredges this stupid partisan crap up on the anniversary of this horrible event is despicable, you falling for it is rubbish.

» on 09.18.12 @ 07:22 AM

You’re kidding , right? “I don’t care for those of you using one of the worst events in our country’s history being used for politics”. What the hell do you think your chosen ones did for 7 years after 9/11?
For seven excruciating years you neocons blindly supported the Bush administration and constantly equated dissent with treason ,politicized it to the max, preventing Americans from asking important questions to hold our politicians accountable, compounding it with an ineffectual and ethically challenged 9/11 Commission investigation.
  Now we should all just move along , forget that 3000 innocents died due to administration negligence or worse. Truly a cowardly response.

» on 09.18.12 @ 07:42 PM

Yes, I think I got suckered into this debate.  I used to have a friend who said there are two types of bugs:  day bugs and night bugs.

I think there are two types of people:  Sept. 10 types and Sept. 11 types.  No in between.

» on 09.21.12 @ 12:04 PM

Good point Earl. History is a good teacher if you are willing to listen. Willie I have been trying to get through to you that this is not a partisan issue. You keep wanting to make it one, just like with our current economic mess. Both sides are knee deep in the lies half truths and deceptions as we are now finding out with Obama’s dismal reaction to his own 911.

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