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A Scapegoat Fights Back

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The Bush administration was asleep at the wheel when warned of imminent attacks from al Qaeda. But later seized upon those attacks and exploited them to invade not just Afghanistan where al Qaeda was, but Iraq where al Qaeda wasn't. That's the story that emerges with new revelations, a story that carries with it the weight of former CIA Director George Tenet. It is also a story about which I still have reservations and questions. Given what we know about the Bush administration, this could all be a smokescreen, a distraction from much, much worse. I have been made cynical and suspicious by Bush and events. Tenet tells an unfolding story of incompetence, negligence, and, quite possibly, murderous criminality at the very highest levels. That much of the story is easy to believe. Tenet also denies that the CIA tortures. That assertion threatens to undermine his credibility.

Nevertheless, a believable story has emerged: the story of a "President" who had been warned about 911 and did absolutely nothing. When the day came, he chose to read Goat stories in Florida.

As the former director of the CIA, Tenet is in a position to reveal an inside story that confirms much of what has already been learned. His new book, At the Center of the Storm, charges that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials "...pushed the country" to war in Iraq without ever conducting a "serious debate" about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States." He describes a heedless rush to war. Gore Vidal is vindicated by this book. Just one year after 911, Vidal wrote:
Only CIA director George Tenet seemed to take the various threats seriously. In December 1998, he wrote to his deputies that 'we are at war' with Osama bin Laden. So impressed was the FBI by his warnings that by September 20, 2001, 'the FBI still had only one analyst assigned full time to al-Qaeda'. From a briefing prepared for Bush at the beginning of July 2001: 'We believe that OBL [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.' And so it came to pass; yet Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor, says she never suspected that this meant anything more than the kidnapping of planes.

- Gore Vidal, The Enemy Within

Tenet's revelations are the most dramatic to date but they are not the first.
Even so, we have been getting some answers to the question: why weren't we warned in advance of 9/11? Apparently, we were, repeatedly; for the better part of a year, we were told there would be unfriendly visitors to our skies some time in September 2001, but the government neither informed nor protected us despite Mayday warnings from Presidents Putin and Mubarak, from Mossad and even from elements of our own FBI. A joint panel of congressional intelligence committees reported (19 September 2002, New York Times) that as early as 1996, Pakistani terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad confessed to federal agents that he was 'learning to fly in order to crash a plane into CIA HQ'.

- Gore Vidal, The Enemy Within

Tenet's allegations are consistent with those made by Bob Woodward in State of Denial, in which it was revealed that the Bush administration "... had communication intercepts and other TOP SECRET intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al Qaeda would soon attack the United States." And only this morning this headline among many having to do with revelations by George Tenet:
Rice ignored 9/11 warnings from George Tenet Washington, D.C. - Former CIA Director George Tenet says he warned then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice in the summer of 2001 that "multiple, spectacular attacks" from the al Qaeda terrorist network were imminent and urged a pre-emptive strike on the terrorist network.

In an interview aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Tenet said he told Rice that the United States needed "to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan," where al Qaeda was based before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

"Essentially, the briefing says there are going to be multiple, spectacular attacks against the United States. We believe these attacks are imminent. Mass casualties are likely," he said.

But he said Rice delegated his request to subordinates. And Tenet said he never brought the issue up with President Bush, whom he briefed nearly every day on the threats facing the United States, "because the United States government doesn't work that way."


- Rice ignored 9/11 warnings from George Tenet
This was the briefing about which Rice was exceedingly "testy" with the 911 Commission, the infamous August 6, 2002 PDB. Those Bush administration officials who denied warnings about 911 most surely had conspired with Bush to fabricate a WMD case against Saddam Hussein. It was a quick and dramatic turn around when only recently both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice had denied that Hussein had WMD: What changed? Perhaps a directive from either Bush or Dick Cheney would have been sufficient to rewrite the official narrative. By September 8, 2002, Rice had either changed her mind or her talking points.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a danger to the United States and to its allies, to our interests. It is also a danger that is gathering momentum, and it simply makes no sense to wait any longer to do something about the threat that is posed here. As the president has said, "The one option that we do not have is to do nothing."

- CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER, Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Pataki Talks About 9-11; Graham, Shelby Discuss War on Terrorism Aired September 8, 2002 - 12:00

Certainly, Afghanistan was no longer a cause celebre. The cynical view is that an attack pinned on Bin Laden would give the new Bush administration the pretext it needed to secure a planned pipeline through Afghanistan. The war on Iraq could only have been Bush's idea - perhaps his personal vendetta because Saddam had tried to kill his "daddy". It is difficult, if not absurd, to attribute to Bush reasoning having to do with global strategy or even the outright theft of oil. As Occam's Razor will have it, the simplest explanations are probably the best: simple idiocy on the one hand, crookedness on the other. The bottom line is equally simple. Bush was willing to sacrifice American lives in order to prosecute a personal vendetta.
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Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The (more...)

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