Photo: President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, reading the August 6, 2001 president’s daily brief.
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article here in which I listed a series of 13 different Benghazi-style attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates during the George W. Bush administration. Some of the terrorist attacks, such as in Yemen and Pakistan, occurred twice at the same facility. Nearly all of the attacks inflicted casualties, including at least three Americans.
Every time Benghazi pops into the news, the article is flooded with new traffic and, naturally, all new trolls who try to knock holes in my argument — an argument that doesn’t attempt to diminish the tragedies listed, including the terrible fatalities in Benghazi, but which exposes what I believe to be selective and disproportionate outrage.
The latest batch of trolls has been trying to convince us that the new series of emails released last week prove a cover-up after-the-fact in which the administration cherry-picked the Attacks Grew Out Of The Protests story because it’s what made the administration look more competent. They say the White House was warned about the attacks and yet they didn’t provide military support or increased security, and so when the shit hit the fan, they grappled onto a CIA memo indicating the attacks were part of the protest instead of a premeditated effort. That’s what the apoplectic Benghaziphiles are telling us. This makes the formation of a House select committee to investigate Benghazi absolutely necessary, they say.
It couldn’t be more obvious that the true motive here is to either build a case for impeachment or to further damage Obama’s would-be successor, Hillary Clinton. Probably both. If the GOP’s Benghazi conspiracy theorists were legitimately making an honest effort to ascertain what went wrong, rather than to exploit the deaths of four Americans in order to operate a publicly-funded smear campaign, I might be inclined to support that effort. But that’s not what’s happening. This is a political witch hunt, pure and simple. And as with the conspicuous lack of outrage over the 13 embassy attacks during the Bush years, the GOP’s Benghazi-obsessed screechers never once showed similar investigative zeal in the years following another attack against America that’s been weirdly overlooked in the context of this discussion: September 11, 2001, eleven years earlier to the day.
Indeed, there are legitimate and numerous instances where the Bush administration failed to act in accordance with CIA warnings and subsequently attempted to cover up not only its inaction but also aspects of the aftermath — with zero outrage or obsessive hobby-horsing from Fox News or the congressional Republicans. Instead it was all met with the usual refrain: don’t try to undermine the commander-in-chief while troops are in harm’s way, you unpatriotic, terrorist-loving, America-hater.
Author and Vanity Fair editor Kurt Eichenwald reported back in 2012 that the infamous August 6, 2001 president’s daily brief (PDB) wasn’t the first time the administration had been warned of a large-scale attack being prepared by Osama Bin Laden and his co-conspirators, and yet there’s no indication President Bush took any significant or even cursory action to disrupt the plot. I hasten to note, however, this isn’t to suggest Bush was to blame for the attacks nor is it an endorsement the absurd theory that he deliberately allowed the attacks to occur. This is simply to illustrate a very dichotomous reaction from the GOP.
–From the beginning, Richard Clarke, a holdover Clinton administration counter-terrorism adviser, tried to repeatedly warn then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about an impending Bin Laden attack. Clarke warned of “an immediate and serious threat to the United States” at the hands of Bin Laden.
—May 1, 2001. Eichenwald reported that the president was briefed by the CIA that there were plans being assembled for an attack by “a group presently in the United States.”
—June 22, 2001. Bush received a PDB that warned of an “imminent” al-Qaeda attack during a “flexible timeline.” The neocons in the White House, meanwhile, believed that Bin Laden was a distraction from an actual plot by Saddam Hussein. The pretext for an invasion and regime change in Iraq had obviously been on the table for many months. In spite of its participation on Iraq, the CIA urged the White House to not ignore Bin Laden.
—June 29, 2001. Another PDB outlined in detail an impending attack by Bin Laden. Eichenwald noted that this brief emphasized “dramatic consequences” “including major casualties.”
—July 1, 2001. The White House is instructed in yet another PDB that the attack had been postponed, but “will occur soon.”
—July 9, 2001. The CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center staffers held a meeting in which one senior official recommended that everyone resign so as to not be blamed for the impending attack.
—July 11, 2001. The White House is informed that al-Qaeda-linked radical Ibn Al-Khattab told his supporters that “there would soon be very big news.” The CIA brief included more information about a possible attack.
—July 24, 2001. The White House is again warned of preparations for an attack in “a few months.” Eichenwald wrote that Bush wasn’t convinced and requested a “broader analysis on al-Qaeda.” This analysis became the infamous August 6 PDB.
—August 4, 2001. 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, whose flight school attendance was noticed by intelligence officials, is picked up and charged on immigration violations.
—August 6, 2001. While vacationing in Crawford, Bush receives the notorious PDB titled, “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.”
No action was ever taken by the administration to intervene. (Funny how these CIA warnings were ignored, but warnings about Iraq were embraced — almost as if there was, hmm, an agenda with regard to Iraq.)
–Following September 11, the Bush administration repeatedly stonewalled the formation of a commission to investigate the attacks and instead set about the process of tying 9/11 to Saddam Hussein while selling an invasion of Iraq to the American people.
–In a series of acts that are purely negligent and presented a clear hazard to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, the administration’s National Security Council, chaired by Bush himself, demanded that all Environmental Protection Agency warnings about air quality at Ground Zero be vetted through the NSC. Emails show the White House sculpted the EPA’s reports so that the public would believe the air was safe to breathe in spite of massive amounts of particulate matter, including asbestos, being inhaled. EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman issued a statement that included the line: “Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York…that their air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink.” And the current House GOP thinks one email that reflects the recommendations of the CIA regarding Benghazi, and another which advised Susan Rice to convey the administration’s strong leadership is somehow a “smoking gun?” That’s rich.
–Speaking of the administration’s failure to tell the truth about the Ground Zero air quality, the same Republicans who are demanding another investigation into the Benghazi attacks literally filibustered a bill that would’ve provided much-needed healthcare for 9/11 rescue workers. On December 10, 2010, Senate Republicans filibustered the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act — basically, healthcare for 9/11 heroes. Every Republican senator voted to filibuster this bill. In the House, where this Benghazi select committee will convene, every Republican member voted against it.
I’ve said it before: if roles had been reversed and there had been a Democratic president on 9/11, he or she wouldn’t have been merely investigated — impeachment would’ve absolutely begun while Ground Zero was still smoldering. How do we know this? Just look at the outrage and righteous indignation over an attack with four American casualties. Now add 2,973 more and a very long paper trail showing negligence preceding the deaths and rampant misinformation following them.