Possible Explanations for Bush Behavior and 9/11

Column No. 11 Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - May 6, 2004

Despite the swirl of revelations over the past months, the public remains facing a large set of unanswered 9/11 questions, glaring inconsistencies, and seeming lies-at-the-time and very possibly lies now, combined with a drive by the Georgites to withhold as much information as possible (cover-up, anyone?).  Only extreme political pressure can force further key disclosures.

The subject of this writing is not a comprehensive review of that data.  As a follow-through to the “Condi Rice ‘Testimony’” column published on 4/22/04, I will present here just a few prime cases that have raised unanswered questions.  The subject of this column is to take a look at possible explanations for the Georgite response concerning events and non-events before, during, and after 9/11, in the hope that someday, sooner rather than later of course (and hopefully before the next election), the true story will be revealed.  Please note that I wrote this piece on April 19, 2004, so that any information revealed after that date does not play into it.

First, let’s see a few examples of what we do know about specific information the Georgites had and what they did with it -- and some of the resulting actions they did and did not take. They are presented here not necessarily in either chronological order or order of importance.  Most readers of The Political Junkies will be very familiar with this material, which Steve Gheen and others have reviewed in detail. But for the record, let’s go through it anyway.

There’s the famous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) that seems to contain some very strong warnings of what eventually happened, well beyond what Rice described as “historical” information (and speaking as a sometime historian, what’s wrong with that anyway, if it prompts understanding the present?) There’s Rice’s dancing to one tune in one place, on CNN not under oath, and quite another, when under oath, about just what was in the PDB, as well as about a lot of other material.

There’s the apparent fact that Ashcroft told Mr. Pickard, Acting Director of the FBI in the summer of 2001, not to bother him with talk about terrorism and counter-terrorism, while at the same time Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial flights.  There’s the famous quote from Richard Clarke about Bush, immediately post-9/11 asking him/telling him to find a connection between bin Laden and Saddam.  That now doesn’t look quite so possibly “made up,” as Rice and the rest of the White House media operation claimed, when placed in the context of what Bob Woodward, once a Georgite fair-haired boy, is telling us in his new book about how early, and secretly, Bush started planning the Iraq pre-emptive war.

There’s Bush, according to Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian (UK, April 15, 2004), “Hear no evil, read no evil, speak drivel,” not reading anything; whether it’s his PDBs or a 17 volume State Department report entitled “The Future of Iraq”, warning of nearly all the post-Iraq war pitfalls that have been encountered.  Bush just listened to what his advisors told him or worse yet, what the real decision-makers, if they are not he, had already decided to do but were kind enough to let him in on.

Just in case any reader doesn’t agree with my position that Bush really believes the religious doctrines he says he stands by and for, as quoted by Blumenthal, Bush says, “I also have this belief, strong belief that freedom is not this country’s gift to the world.  Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in the world.  And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom.”  I should note that I am writing this column at a time when Bush is going around the country plumping to make the Patriot Act permanent.  Apparently he believes that he can sell “freedom” abroad, by force, of course, while taking it away right here at home.  One must wonder what the Iraqis think about the example of what the “freedom” is that the Georgites are trying to sell to them/force down t heir throats at the barrel of a gun.

Then there’s all the background about the Georgites trying to prevent the formation of the 9/11 Commission in the first place, then under-funding it, then not cooperating with it at all until forced, then cooperating with it as little as possible, and so on.  That is combined with the peculiar non-reaction of our Air Defenses (NORAD) on 9/11 once it was known, and it was known very early on, that at least one plane had been high jacked that awful morning.  Plus, there’s the Great Commander continuing to read to school children after being informed of the first collision of plane with building, and then spending the rest of the day flying around the country on Air Force One. Then there is the mystery of assisting, on 9/12, all those Saudis, including members of bin Laden’s family, to fly out of the country during a time when nothing else was flying in U.S. airspace. The litany could go on.

And so, what possible explanations might be offered for this series of events, non-events, actions, and inactions?  I see at least six.  They fall neatly into two groups of three.  The first set assumes, at the worst, incompetence.  The second set assumes rather more than that.

1.  We, the White House and the agencies, did everything we could have, and anyway it was all Clinton’s fault.  One variation of this or another seems to be popular with Bush, Rice, and Ashcroft.

2.  Mistakes were made, but not by the White House of course (remember the famous Bush non-answer to that question at his April, 2004 news conference --- since they are so rare, one doesn’t have to give an exact date to date it), but rather by the agencies.  They should have been more on the ball.  But heck, everyone makes mistakes.  Nobody’s perfect (except us).

3.  Beyond agency mistakes, the Georgites were, and are, incompetent.  They should have been paying attention, but because of other priorities and bureaucratic bungling just didn’t.  It could have, and should have, been played much better.  The dots were big enough and close enough together so that if appropriate attention had been paid at the appropriate levels of government, the attack might well have been prevented. This is a good argument for Kerry.

4.  The Georgites knew something might happen, but didn't know what.  They surely thought that if something did happen, it wouldn't be on the scale of WTC.

5.  The Georgites knew pretty well what bin Laden wanted to do but:

a.  Thought they had a deal with the Taliban to prevent him from doing it, but the Taliban either didn’t have the power to do so, or double-crossed the Georgites.

b.  Thought they had a deal with bin Laden either not to do anything or to do something small, and he double-crossed them.

6.  The Georgites were either directly or indirectly party to the bin Laden plan, and thus knew something would happen, possibly even as to day and time.

“Conspiracy theories,” you are thinking. That’s the disdainful epithet the Rightists always throw out when such speculation arises, in the hope that the discussion will turn to the propriety of developing conspiracy theories rather than the substance of the suppositions.  That’s what right-wingers always do: try to get away from dealing with substance.

But looking more closely, why not think “conspiracy?”  We’ve got a post World War II Republican President. Such folks have been at conspiracies for a long time. Think Eisenhower, through the Dulles boys; Iran, Guatemala, and the sabotaging of the 1954 Geneva Agreement that ended the French-Indochinese War.  Think Nixon and Watergate and Chile.  Think Reagan and Iran-Contra.  Think Bush I and the Kuwait War, which happened in part because just before he invaded, Saddam was told by the-US Ambassador April Glaspie “We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”  Think of the kind of private, “off the shelf” intelligence agency, as Bill Casey described the one he created for Reagan, some version of which operated in all of the above instances. No conspiracies?

In the summer of 2001, the Georgites were apparently in negotiations with the Taliban to permit the laying of a gas pipeline across Afghanistan, from the huge natural gas fields of Central Asia, through Pakistan and on into India.  The purpose was, in part, to provide cheap energy to run a huge energy plant being built by, guess who?  Enron!  Bob Scheer wrote about this before 9/11 in the LA Times, May 22, 2001: “Bush’s Faustian Deal With the Taliban.” See also “RA in LA, “The Coward in the White House,” on Buzzflash, 4/2/04.

During that summer, remember, the Georgites weren’t doing so well politically.  The economy was sagging and all George was doing it about was offering tax cuts to the rich.  The Enron bubble burst.  Cheney wouldn’t tell (and still won’t) what he had talked about with his oil cronies (energy prices? Enron? invading Iraq to gain a secure supply for many years to come, perhaps?)  Then there were the so-called neocons, led by Perle and Wolfowitz, taking over most of the major foreign-policy positions in the new Administration, and looking for some pretext upon which to justify an invasion of Iraq, a policy they had been advocating quite openly, at least in neocon publications, since the mid-1990s.  Majorly about oil and something called “establishing American hegemony.”

Further, interestingly enough, the document that became the Patriot Act was already secretly being written.  Why do I say secretly?  For two reasons.  First of all, the Patriot Act is about 340 pages of dense legal language.  Among other things, it overturns, conveniently enough by statute, not by Amendment, major portions of the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment which guarantees protection against unreasonable, non-judicial, search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process of law, and the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees jury trials in criminal cases.  The bill was introduced into Congress only some two weeks after 9/11.  Try writing a 340-page bill in two weeks.  Moreover, if you are already writing such a bill (that would be DOA in normal times) and you really wanted to get it passed, wouldn’t you hope for, or worse yet try to create, times so abnormal that you could rush the legislation through a panicked Congress?

Maybe I have read too many spy novels.  (Just think of what a left-wing Tom Clancy could do with some combination of 4, 5, and 6 above.)  There is a lot more to say about these suppositions and I hope to return to them in a future column.  Maybe more information will come out, either to support some combination of 1, 2, and 3, or 4, 5, and 6.  Richard Ben-Veniste of the 9/11 Commission has been saying on our own left-wing radio network Air America (and if you haven’t discovered it yet, rush to http://www.airamerica.com and find out how you can get to hear it; it’s on AM 1190 in NYC) that he wants the Commission’s final report to be so definitive that there will be no cottage industry in conspiracy theories as there has been on the Kennedy Assassination.  A nice wish.

Perhaps and just maybe there was no conspiracy.  Maybe it was just the Georgites moving really quickly to take advantage of public fear and panic, among other things, to rush through the Patriot Act, with a long-range view of being able to smash dissent at home without bothering with the judicial system.  Can anyone say “Reichstag Fire?”  (That is a subject to which I plan to return.)  But then there are the loose ends, like Ashcroft’s not flying commercial, and Ashcroft turning down a request to massively expand the FBI’s anti-terrorism budget, on 9/10/01, like the inaction of the air defense system, like flying the Saudis out of the country immediately. The pieces of the puzzle fit ever more clearly.

I am going to stop here.  This is one we will likely come back to, but I did want to get my speculations on the table.