Monday, 9 January 2012

Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan, The Eleventh Day

After reading this book, you may well wonder why President Bush was never impeached.

Under President Clinton, Al Qaeda was regarded as the Number One threat to US security, at home and abroad, and efforts were made to neutralise it. Clinton even travelled to Pakistan (regarded as off limits for his personal safety) in order to try to get Pakistan's co-operation.

In 2000, everything changed. The incoming Bush administration was briefed about the Al Qaeda threat. They did not want to know, in some cases ostentatiously so. Both the general analysis and specific warnings were ignored - by Bush, by Rice, by Rumsfeld, by Ashcroft. The Republican administration was interested in other things - tax cuts, the projected Europe-based Missile Shield, in the background, Iraq. In many ways, it wasn't interested in very much at all - Bush went on holiday for all of August 2011.

Though the CIA briefed at top level, lower down it functioned poorly. So did the FBI. So did the Federal Aviation Authority, responsible for keeping the skies safe. And the turf war between them meant that crucial information was never exchanged. Even with poor exchange of information, quite a few people (including people in foreign intelligence services) had good reason to suspect an imminent terrorist attack from within the United States - and some of them could even give you the date, within a day or two, 9/11 - and the method, planes. But they were ignored.

To all intents and purposes, America's leaders and America's security organisations allowed 9/11 to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers, Bush showed no qualities of leadership. The authors of this book carefully build up the case for saying that it was Cheney, not Bush, who was responsible for the Shoot Down order in respect of planes continuing to fly despite the FAA order grounding all aircraft. Rumsfeld is documented behaving idiotically. But Cheney had no authority to issue the order; Bush and Rumsfeld did.

Very quickly - within hours even - the Bush administration sought to turn 9 / 11 to the advantage of one of their pet projects, the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Richard Clarke (Bush's counter-terrorism co-ordinator) has documented this in his book Against All Enemies (2004).

At the same time, Buash & Co did not want to know about Saudi involvement in financing and supporting not only Al Qaeda in general but the 19 hijackers of 9/11 in particular. Summers and Swan go into detail to demonstrate this involvement, up to and including members of the Saudi Royal Family and government administration. The "Don't Want to Know" approach of the Bush administration began within hours of the attacks: Saudi royals and members of the Bin Laden family were allowed to leave the USA on special flights, with little or no questioning.

Much of the evidence for Saudi involvement has been redacted from material the US government has published, including the 9 / 11 Commission report. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9 /11 were Saudi; half of the American public - of whom the world should be more terrified than it is - ended up believing that some or most of the hijackers were Iraqi. None were.

Bob Graham, joint Chair of the Congressional Inquiry into 9 / 11, concluded "It was as if the President's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety" - and as a result, Graham concluded he should have been impeached (page 420)

Summers and Swan are caustically dismissive of the conspiracy theories around 9 / 11: the Bush administration did not set the hijackers to work, it did not bring down the Twin Toweres by controlled demolition, a plane did hit the Pentagon ... But the tale they have to tell is at least as scary as any of those conspiracy theories.

And this year, America may once again be stupid enough to elect another dumb Republican President.

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