Tuesday, September 11, 2012


There's a lot of talk right now about Kurt Eichenwald's op-ed in The New York Times, in which he quotes classified documents that preceded the famous "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US" warning of August 6, 2011 and comes to a conclusion about the Bush administration's response to the Al Qaeda threat:
... the administration's reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be "imminent," although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

... the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have "dramatic consequences," including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but "will occur soon." ...
Why did the administration do nothing? It sure looks as if it's because a key faction in the administration had a theory and didn't want anyone confused by the facts:
An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.
And we know, of course, these folks didn't change their minds even after it was clear that Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. They still thought Saddam was the main threat. They just couldn't let that idea go.


Eichenwald's op-ed is based on his new book, 500 Days. The Daily Beast has some excerpts and revelations from the book. One in particular stands out:
Bush: God wants the U.S. to 'erase His people's enemies.'
After convincing Blair to support U.S. military action against Iraq, Bush turned to French President Jacques Chirac. "Jacques, you and I share a common faith. You're Roman Catholic, I'm Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord." Chirac said he didn't know where Bush was going with this. Then Bush said, "Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins." Chirac said he hung up called together his staff. "He said, 'Gog and Magog.' Do any of you know what he is talking about?" Nobody knew. "Find out."
Yes this seems utterly bonkers to me -- although I've grown accustomed to the fact that I live in a country where more people think like this than share my own atheism. (I'd also point out that Bush seemed to love talking about religion with pretty much anyone -- including, according to one report, Nouri al-Maliki.)

I don't quite agree with Greg Mitchell about this:
... here's an extract that really drives home for me the necessity of more media probing on how Mitt Romney's faith shapes his views (which was lacking as Bush ran for president).
Was it really Bush's faith that led to the Iraq debacle? I'm not sure. Yes, he may have thought cataclysmic biblical events were taking place. But, over the years, people who think like this have interpreted the story of Gog and Magog all sorts of ways. Some people have regarded it as a prophecy of war with Russia or China. If Bush believed it was a prophecy about contemporary forces in the Middle East, why Iraq and not Al Qaeda? (For that matter, why not Iran, which is what some folks think the story is about?)

The reason is that Bush's advisers -- most of them presumably not driven by apocalyptic readings of a Bible that had become a refuge after decades of heavy drinking -- were determined to focus on Iraq, for their own reasons. Cheney and the neocons, as noted above, had made Iraq the absolute center of their worldview. Rumsfeld saw Iraq as a better test than Afghanistan for his "light footprint" theory of modern war. Rove -- by some accounts an atheist -- saw Iraq as the perfect wedge issue as the 2002 and 2004 elections approached.

The problem isn't (or isn't just) that Bush was a religious nut. It's that he was nudged in this particular direction by people whose idees fixes weren't put aside when circumstances clearly demanded that.

What I fear about a Romney presidency isn't his religious worldview -- it's his secular articles of faith, and those of his most influential advisers. What ideas will these people refuse to abandon even when they've clearly been discredited?

On the domestic side, I think we know: government-bashing, deregulation, and tax cuts. In foreign policy, we can only surmise, based on Rom,=ney's Bushite/neocon team of foreign policy advisers. It's those secular "religious" beliefs I fear most.


Philo Vaihinger said...

I don't recall.

Was Bush's religious nuttery apparent to all before the election of 2000?

Or did it only come out in little leaks after the election, when it was too late for voters - OK, the handful of sane voters - to freak out?

Thing is, we are all so used to presidents basically lying to us about religion, pretending to be more devout and respectful of the standard Christian lunacies than they really are, that we might not be able to tell a real crackpot (Bush the Younger) from someone merely pretending to be a crackpot because his campaign manager told him to (Bush the Elder).

What was Al Gore saying about religion, God, and all that, back in the day?

Philo Vaihinger said...

Steve, are you taking it for granted that a religious person must actually have purely secular politics?

I'm not saying it can't or doesn't happen that a religious person has politics that are not related to his religion.

But that doesn't seem to be the norm on the political right.

John Hagee is notorious for his religion-based and utterly cracked foreign policy views, as is Pat Robertson.

Do we have any assurance that Mitt's Mormonism isn't equally cracked?

Victor said...

I also don't care about Mitt's Mormonism, or whether his magic underwear consists of boxers or briefs.

What I'm concerned about, beyond the tragedies they'll cause domestically, is how Neocons like Bolton will try to improve their epically inept reputations, by attacking Iran - even possibly with nuclear missiles.

Their crazy knows no bounds.

They are authoritarians who believe if you don't attack, then you'll be attacked.

Thank goodness morons like Bolton were lower level stooges when we spent nearly half a century saber-rattling with the USSR, otherwise, no one would have to worry about anything. Rodents and insects don't worry much - at least not that I know of.

Bigfish said...

I'm a life-long Methodist, & I have no idea who Gog & Magog are.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Not a big Bible reader, then.

Steve M. said...

We knew Bush was assiduously courting the religious right in 2000. We knew his favorite philosopher was, as he said in a debate, Jesus Christ. We knew he'd found God, and an evangelical one at that.

BH said...

Re Mr. Vaihinger's question about Gore on religion, etc, circa 2000 - I can't recall with any precision either, but it may be worth remembering that his then-spouse Tipper was already a vet of the culture wars, having mounted her censorship-of-music jihad (to the amusement and dismay of the late Frank Zappa and John Denver, among other strange bedfellows). So Al at least had some familial cred with the Morals Polizei, and I feel sure he was uttering at least the minimally-acceptable pieties in '00.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Steve, Bush the Elder also courted the religious right.

In a party that can't win without the religious right it's no proof of real belief for a politician to suck up.

BH, now that you mention it I recall Tipper taking the lead in the moral struggle against porn, or some such thing, with Big Al's support and encouragement.

What a crock.