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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

Bush White House Ignored 9/11 Warnings

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The Deafness Before the Storm


Briefly noted, highly recommended:

Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for the New York Times, wrote a strong but restrained op-ed piece for the Times yesterday describing in more detail than is generally known how the George W. Bush administration ignored repeated CIA warnings of an imminent attack on the U.S. by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda—an attack expected to be of major proportions. The administration was focused on Saddam Hussein and did not want to hear about Osama bin Laden.

Eichenwald’s account matches the testimony of Richard A. Clarke, chairman of the White House’s Counter-terrorism Security Group (1992–2003), as well as key findings of the 9/11 Commission. As Clarke details in his book Against All Enemies, he tried from Bush’s first days in office till 9/11 itself to get a meeting with the president and vice president Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, but was repeatedly rebuffed.

Before we post a few excerpts below, let us note that despite receiving all these increasingly urgent presidential briefings before and throughout August 2001, George W. Bush remained on vacation until September 4. (Just imagine a Democratic president doing this—or not being impeached afterward.)

Let us also point out that Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is mainly staffed by former Bush administration “neocons.” Mr. Romney, who did not mention the war in Afghanistan even once in his nomination acceptance speech (transcript here), has said that Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe.” Russia, really? So, how seriously would Romney take similar warnings?

From “The Deafness before the Storm” by Kurt Eichenwald:

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. 

. . . 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. 

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

Read “The Deafness before the Storm” in full here.


Quick question: Would the U.S. be at war today in Afghanistan 11 years later—or ever—if the Supreme Court had not stopped the counting of votes in December 2000? Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and all the other places where the War on Terror(ism) is ongoing? (Richard A. Clarke served as counterterrorism security adviser in the White House from the 1980s to 2003, serving under president Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush.)


Kurt Eichenwald is also the author of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, just published. See his Sept. 12 interview with Democracy Now! here.


More about September 11 at Levees Not War: 

Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11? (9/11/10)

We’re Not Forgetting (9/11/11)

Anti-Islamic Furor Helps al Qaeda, Endangers America: On the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan (Aug. 23, 2010)


Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11?

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Thoughts on Two American Traumas

[ Cross-posted at Daily Kos. ]

Between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which do you think gets most attention, and why?

What if the national focus on 9/11 is exaggerated and the nation should focus instead on 8/29—Hurricane Katrina—as the catastrophe that signifies the greatest threat to America? The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has received high-profile attention, marked by the release of feature films (Spike Lee, Harry Shearer), hour-long special reports (Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper), and a presidential address at Xavier University, so we’re not complaining that Katrina has been ignored.

We were in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and saw men and women in dust- and debris-covered clothing walking the streets in a daze and crossing the 59th Street Bridge into Queens as from an apocalypse. We heard distraught eyewitnesses on pay phones talking about seeing the burning, falling bodies (“Look, Mommy, the birds are on fire”); we have heard first-person accounts from survivors who were just 20 feet away when their coworkers fleeing the burning towers were crushed beneath chunks of falling metal the size of garbage trucks. We’ve heard accounts from neighbors who were trapped on the E train near the World Trade Center while frantic escapees pounded on the doors to get in. The haunting stories, the anguish go on and on. Many others have experienced far worse than we can ever imagine. So, the following thoughts are by no means intended to diminish the trauma of September 11 or the necessity of dealing with al Qaeda and other extremist threats.

Anorexia of the Homeland: Making War While “Starving the Beast”

And yet we think maybe the challenges this nation faces are more accurately represented by the natural and bureaucratic/political disaster suffered on August 29, 2005, and in the following days, weeks, months, years. The United States is falling apart from a lack of funding of every kind of infrastructure—resulting from neglect, indifference, and a mean-spirited conservative agenda that seeks to roll back the progressive reforms of the 20th century. Our nation is in a downward spiral because of political unwillingness to protect the environment and our fellow citizens who are poor, jobless, homeless, in need of medical care and decent education. Our coasts and cities are vulnerable because of long-term environmental neglect and denial of the effects of industry—global warming, rising sea levels, intensified storms resulting from warming seas—and because corporate-captive politicians of both parties have put industrial and political interests ahead of what’s best for the planet, humanity, and other life forms. Even if 9/11 had never happened, all these conditions would still threaten our way of life.