NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 22:14:13 -0500
Reply-To: "pedro martori"
From: "pedro martori"
Subject: No regrets from Condi Rice
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 23:14:35 -0400
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Nation & World=20
By Gloria Borger=20
No regrets from Condi Rice=20
When Richard Clarke testified before the 9/11 commission, the hearing =
became a stage for his own private drama: his apology on behalf of the =
federal government, his hugs with the 9/11 families, his personal =
bureaucratic journey into darkness. Not so with National Security =
Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Just talk of "structural and legal =
impediments" and of the "bureaucratic impediments" that stood in the way =
of predicting 9/11. No apologies, no emotional unburdening. "We simply =
had to take some time," said Rice, "to get this [war against terrorism] =
Browse through an archive of columns by Gloria Borger.
An emotionally unsatisfying response, to say the least. But what are we =
looking for, anyway? To be able to say that the Bush administration =
should have known about the attacks--or, even worse, did know about the =
attacks--and did nothing to stop them? Or perhaps that Bill Clinton =
didn't go after Osama bin Laden hard enough because he was embroiled in =
the Monica Lewinsky mess? Or maybe we would just like to blame the =
government, a vast bureaucracy in which the little guys in the field =
offices couldn't communicate about the real threats out there with the =
top guns--who, in turn, didn't talk to each other anyway.
Too many clues. In a perfect world, here's what we would really want: We =
want the bad guy who didn't get bin Laden and who was casual about the =
terrorist threat. Maybe we want to believe that someone--somewhere in =
the bowels of government or in the lofty reaches of the West Wing--had =
the specific threat that predicted 9/11, could have prevented it, and so =
could prevent it again. The smoking gun, if you will. One small problem: =
"There are a million smoking guns," a former top Democratic national =
security official told me. "If al Qaeda had blown up a nuclear power =
plant, I could have gone back and found the data that would have said =
they were thinking about it. The terrorists were thinking about =
Alas, we were not. So, in the end, what can we reasonably hope to hear =
from the folks in charge? How about someone admitting that things might =
have been done differently? This doesn't require a presumptuous =
Clarke-like apology to 9/11 survivors on behalf of the U.S. government. =
Nor does it require a mea culpa asking for the mercy of the commission. =
Rather, it requires a simple admission--like the one honestly offered by =
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in his testimony. ". . . Even =
though you're on the right track, you can get run over if you're not =
going fast enough," he said, "and I think it is the case . . . in =
hindsight, [that] we weren't going fast enough." End of story.
We never even got close with Condi Rice. When asked about a =
still-to-be-declassified Aug. 6, 2001, "presidential daily briefing" =
memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States," =
which reported "patterns of suspicious activity [in] the United States =
consistent with preparations for hijacking," Rice said that it was =
checked out, that it was vague, and that steps were taken to warn of =
hijackings. She then went on to argue that "structural" problems kept =
the FBI and the CIA from communicating about real threats. Not one word =
about how, in hindsight, maybe we should have addressed those structural =
problems a tad faster.
Instead, Rice, in testimony full of extenuating circumstances, couldn't =
bring herself to get there: "You obviously don't want to use the `M' =
word [as in mistake] in here," former Sen. Bob Kerrey said. In fact, the =
closest Rice ever got to personal retrospective analysis was in an =
exchange with former Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer.
Roemer: "Doesn't that beg that there should have been more =
Rice: "By definition, we didn't have enough information, we didn't have =
enough protection, because the attack happened--by definition. And I =
think we've all asked ourselves, what more could have been done?. . . . =
If we had known that an attack was coming against the United States . . =
. against New York and Washington . . . we would have moved heaven and =
earth to stop it."
Who could possibly think otherwise? Indeed, Rice told the commission, =
the "extremely tragic fact is that sometimes until there is a =
catastrophic event that forces people to think differently . . . you =
don't get that kind of change [in the bureaucracy]." That's as much =
hindsight as we were allowed.
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