Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Bush 'knew' and when he 'knew' it

Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, the White House "knew" without a doubt that al Qaeda had carried them out, the former British envoy to the United States has testified.

Christopher Meyer, the former ambassador, told of a conversation with National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. "She said, well, there's no doubt it's -- this has been an al Qaeda operation."

The disclosure to Britain's Iraq war inquiry makes one wonder how the White House could have been so certain so rapidly. Perhaps the FBI had by then found the luggage left on a connecting flight that, at first sight, seemed to implicate al Qaeda, but that, on further reflection, looked planted. (See my article The worst of Hearst which can be reached via the links in the sidebar.)

It seems quite suspicious that the White House was dead certain that al Qaeda had pulled off the attacks so soon after they occurred. How were top officials already so sure that there was no chicanery going on? After all, it's a given that cloak-and-dagger units are proficient at throwing suspicion onto others.

And to compound things, Meyer added that the White House was already seeing a link between the attacks and Saddam Hussein. "But at the end of the conversation, it's: we are just looking to see whether there could possibly be any connection with Saddam Hussein. And that was the very first time -- on the day itself -- that I heard the name of the Iraqi leader mentioned in the context of -- of 9/11."

(Gleaned from a Judy Woodruff report on PBS's Newshour.)

A top aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair then confirmed that the White House was pushing to link the attacks to Hussein very soon after Sept. 11.

David Manning, Blair's foreign policy adviser in 2001, testified that, in a Sept. 14 conversation with Blair, President Bush "said that there might be evidence that there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda."

Manning added, "The prime minister's response to this was that the evidence would have to be very compelling to justify taking any action against Iraq."

(Gleaned from an Agence France Presse report.)

A "link" of sorts eventually surfaced when military anthrax was mailed to journalists and politicians. The White House seized on the anthrax attack to imply a link to Saddam, who was suspected of developing military grade anthrax. That pattern of inuendo was sustained even after it was learned that the anthrax was linked to the Pentagon.

We see that:

1. The White House was immediately interested in exploiting the attacks of 9/11 to further its agenda against Hussein, but that the British were not persuaded there was much to the suspicion. Others have also disclosed that the in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the White House decided to "get" Saddam. If the White House wasn't overly concerned with the truth at that point, does this not suggest that the White House was behaving as if it had advance knowledge?

2. Blair knew that the White House favored military action against Iraq based on unsubstantiated inferences. Yet, supposedly he accepted the White House's eventual theory that Iraq was sitting on a dangerous complex of WMD horror weapons. In other words, didn't Blair realize that the White House was determined to launch a war no matter what and that, perhaps, he should have been chary of being dragged along?

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