George W. Bush’s Decision Points

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Borders signing in Dallas, Texas
11.9.10

Matt Lauer’s exclusive interview with former president George W. Bush aired Monday night:

His memoir, Decision Points, available in book stores today (bought mine this morning).

Live interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, Wednesday morning.

*UPDATE*

81 Responses to “George W. Bush’s Decision Points”

  1. 77

    Cary

    Anyone else notice that Gaff is continuously changing the crux of his argument in an effort to make a some sort of point, or is it just me?

    Gaff, I have answered some of your questions to me, and you’ve ignored them and put words in my mouth. Why should I continue to do so? Sometimes I don’t offer an opinion on certain things, because I don’t know enough about it. I don’t like to play rhetorical comparison games, they are meaningless.

  2. 79

    GaffaUK

    @Missy

    All our forces drill, that NORAD had drills of that nature is no surprise, might be a surprise to those ignorant of how our forces constantly train for what is known and what may be forseen. To hyperventilate and attempt to make an issue of this and relate it to failure to prevent the attack is silly.

    Well certainly a surprise then for the ignorant National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice who
    claimed no-one “could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile”. lol

    If Gorelick’s wall was such an issue then why didn’t Bush’s administration simple remove it?

    Clinton should of taken out Bin Laden when he had the chance but every President has to deal with the issues he inherits. Blame Clinton all you want – and for the most part I would agree – but as we are discussing Bush’s “Decision Points’ what action did Bush and his administration take or fail to take….

    You mention Richard Clarke – let’s see how much the Bush Administration cared about national security in those key 9 months before 9/11…

    Early warnings about Al-Qaeda threat
    Clarke’s role as a counter-terrorism advisor in the months and years prior to 9/11 would lead to the central role he played in deconstructing what went wrong in the years that followed. Clarke and his communications with the Bush administration regarding bin Laden and associated terrorist plots targeting the United States were mentioned frequently in Condoleezza Rice’s public interview by the 9/11 investigatory commission on April 8, 2004. Of particular significance was a memo[7] from January 25, 2001 that Clarke had authored and sent to Rice. Along with making an urgent request for a meeting of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee to discuss the growing al-Qaeda threat in the greater Middle East, the memo also suggests strategies for combating al-Qaeda that might be adopted by the new Bush Administration.[8]

    In his memoir, “Against All Enemies”, Clarke wrote that when he first briefed Rice on Al-Qaeda, in a January 2001 meeting, “her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before.” He also stated that Rice made a decision that the position of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism should be downgraded. By demoting the office, the Administration sent a signal through the national security bureaucracy about the salience they assigned to terrorism. No longer would Clarke’s memos go to the President; instead they had to pass though a chain of command of National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, who bounced every one of them back.

    Within a week of the inauguration, I wrote to Rice and Hadley asking ‘urgently’ for a Principals, or Cabinet-level, meeting to review the imminent Al-Qaeda threat. Rice told me that the Principals Committee, which had been the first venue for terrorism policy discussions in the Clinton administration, would not address the issue until it had been ‘framed’ by the Deputies.[9]

    At the first Deputies Committee meeting on Terrorism held in April 2001, Clarke strongly suggested that the U.S. put pressure on both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda by arming the Northern Alliance and other groups in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, that they target bin Laden and his leadership by reinitiating flights of the MQ-1 Predators. To which Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz responded, “Well, I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden.” Clarke replied that he was talking about bin Laden and his network because it posed “an immediate and serious threat to the United States.” According to Clarke, Wolfowitz turned to him and said, “You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don’t exist.”[9]

    Clarke wrote in Against All Enemies that in the summer of 2001, the intelligence community was convinced of an imminent attack by al Qaeda, but could not get the attention of the highest levels of the Bush administration, most famously writing that Director of the Central Intelligence Agency George Tenet was running around with his “hair on fire”.[9]

    At a July 5, 2001 White House gathering of the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, Secret Service and INS, Clarke stated that “Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.” Donald Kerrick, a three-star general who was a deputy National Security Advisor in the late Clinton administration and stayed on into the Bush administration, wrote Hadley a classified two-page memo stating that the NSA needed to “pay attention to Al-Qaida and counterterrorism” and that the U.S. would be “struck again.” As a result of writing that memo, he was not invited to any more meetings.

    9/11 Commission

    March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings.[10] At the outset of his testimony Clarke offered an apology to the families of 9/11 victims and an acknowledgment that the government had failed: “I also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11…”, “To the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in this room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.”[10] Clarke was the only member of the Clinton or Bush Administrations who provided an apology to the family members of victims along with an acknowledgement of the government’s failure.

    Many of the events Clarke recounted during the hearings were also published in his memoir. Among his highly critical statements regarding the Bush Administration, Clarke charged that before and during the 9/11 crisis, many in the administration were distracted from efforts against Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization by a pre-occupation with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Clarke had written that on September 12, 2001, President Bush pulled him and a couple of aides aside and “testily” asked him to try to find evidence that Saddam was connected to the terrorist attacks. In response he wrote a report stating there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement and got it signed by all relevant agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA. The paper was quickly returned by a deputy with a note saying “Please update and resubmit”.[11] After initially denying that such a meeting between the President and Clarke took place, the White House later reversed its denial when others present backed Clarke’s version of the events.[12][13]

    Prior to the 9/11 Commission portions of the Clarke’s August 6 Daily Briefing Memo to President Bush were subsequently redacted by The White House for national security reasons. Despite the title of the memo, in response to aggressive questioning from Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the 9/11 Commission, Rice stated that the document “did not warn of attacks inside the United States.” Clarke then asked on several occasions for early principals meetings on these issues, and was frustrated that no early meeting was scheduled. No principals committee meetings on Al-Qaida were held until September 4, 2001.[14]

    In a late November truthout interview, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal said, “Clarke urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of Al-Qaeda.. the Bush administration is trying to withhold documents from the 9/11 bipartisan commission. I believe one of the things that they do not want to be known is what happened on August 6, 2001. It was on that day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. I believe he told (Clarke) that he didn’t want to be briefed on this again, even though Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Bush was blithe, indifferent, ultimately irresponsible... The public has a right to know what happened on August 6, what Bush did, what Condi Rice did, what all the rest of them did, and what Richard Clarke’s memos and statements were.”

    Clearly the Bush administration wasn’t concerned about Al Qaeda nor were they listening to those in the intelligence community – particularly their own National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke. At least Clinton tried to take out Bin Laden (and lamely missed his chance) – but how many attempts did Bush try to capture Bin Laden before 9/11? It appears Al Qaeda wasn’t even on his radar!

  3. 80

    anticsrocks

    @Gaffer: You said:

    Clearly the Bush administration wasn’t concerned about Al Qaeda nor were they listening to those in the intelligence community…

    And you are privy to the internal workings of any President of the United States’ inner circle of advisers, national security briefings (of which Bush had every morning by 6:30), Joint Chiefs of Staff meetings, etc… how?

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