President Harry S. Truman kept a plaque on his desk with a simple message: The buck stops here. Apparently, President Bush doesn’t believe that rule applies to him.
In the wake of revelations that the CIA warned President Bush a full month before 9/11 that Osama bin Laden’s operatives were planning a major operation involving the hijacking of passenger airliners, the President, White House aides, Republicans, even some Democrats and most of the press are tripping all over themselves to absolve Bush of any specific blame for the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
Surrounded by Air Force Academy cadets at a Rose Garden ceremony, the president earnestly declared that “had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.” National Security Advisor Condeleeza Rice echoed similar sentiments at a White House briefing. After acknowledging that the president had “general” information about Al Qaeda plans to hijack American airlines, she pleaded that he and his advisors had no idea that hijacked airplanes would be used as missiles to crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, her implication being that such an idea was so outlandish it was beyond comprehension.
Balderdash, Baloney, and B_______!
My response to these sentiments is balderdash, baloney, and, well, you know what the third B stands for. Indeed, these excuses are disingenuous, at best, and much more likely deceitful. The evidence at hand was more than sufficient to warrant a sustained high level of alert both at home and abroad. At the very least, they reveal a president asleep at the wheel and top advisors oblivious to red flags waving in front of their faces, including a clear warning from one of their own, CIA Director George Tenet.
The excuses being made to excuse the inexcusable seem to contradict one another. They range from not having enough information “to connect the dots,” (the new administration and media catchphrase) to having too much information, more than the intelligence community could possibly absorb. The latter is the rationale for ignoring reports from FBI agents in Phoenix and Minneapolis about Al Qaeda operatives attending flight schools.
The truth, we are now learning, is that none of these excuses hold water. Bush and his advisors had plenty of evidence and had been made keenly aware of an impending attack involving civilian airliners.
Could George Bush have acted to possibly prevent the attacks of 9/11? Yes. Should the American people hold him and his advisors to account for not preventing these attacks? Absolutely!
For starters, let’s take the president and Ms. Rice at their word; they had good reason to suspect that terrorists intended to hijack American airliners, but they had no idea the hijackers intended to kill people. The hijackers, they suspected, would use the airliners to negotiate the release of bin Laden allies who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993.
Does this mean that hijacking an airliner or airliners with hundreds of passengers did not justify taking immediate action? What did Ms. Rice and the president’s other advisors think that bin Laden’s hijackers would do with these planes and their passengers if their demands were not met? Meekly let them go? We’re talking about a man who had masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center (hint, hint), the bombings of two United States embassies in Africa, and the attack on the S.S. Cole. We’re talking about a man who has repeatedly urged his followers to kill as many Americans as possible. What were Bush, Rice, et.al. thinking?