January 7, 2010

Bill O'Reilly devoted his leadoff Talking Points Memo segment and the following conversation with Dick "The Troll Who Lives Under the Bridge" Morris to the notion that, if another terrorist attack occurs on President Obama's watch, he's gonna be all washed up.

Nevermind that, of course, no one has yet died from a terrorist attack on Obama's watch. (O'Reilly's counting the Fort Hood shootings as a "terrorist attack," though of course there isn't much evidence that it actually was.)

Still, you have to wonder where O'Reilly and Morris and all these other right-wing blame-meisters were back in 2001 and 2002, in the wake of an actual terrorist event that actually killed 3,000 people.

Oh, that's right -- they were busy proclaiming that any blame-laying against Bush was beyond the realm of acceptable discourse. If you suggested back then that Bush had been asleep at the wheel on terrorism on 9/11, you were accused of being a traitor who hated America.

Oh, and let's just remember exactly what George W. Bush's record on terrorism was:

Afterward, of course, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the press: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." (As a matter of fact, just such a scenario had been foreseen by intelligence officials in 1998, as Rice later admitted.)

Then there was the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US," which concluded:

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ---- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

We also remember that New York Times report, summed up by Eric Alterman:

Tenet briefed Condi Rice about a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States on July 10, 2001. Rice ignored the briefing, just as she and Bush both ignored the August 6 "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" memo, when Bush told the CIA briefer who delivered the memo to him that he had "covered his ass" and then went fishing for the rest of the day. Rice not only ignored the briefing, but also misled the 9-11 Commission and then lied when confronted with the evidence by Bob Woodward.

Rice and the Bush administration also went to great measures to cover up their own incompetence, too.

Then there was the Hart-Rudman Commission report, which warned the White House in May 2001 that it needed to take serious steps to prevent a terrorist attack. The report was ignored.

So was Richard Clarke's memo of January 2001 warning of the terrorist threat.

All this is consistent with what Clarke and other insiders reported about the Bush White House's pre-9/11 approach to terrorism: They viewed it as a "Clinton thing," and thus dismissed it as a minor concern for largely ideological reasons.

That's borne out by the Bush White House's pre-9/11 actions on a pure policy level:

The Bush Administration actually reversed the Clinton Administration's strong emphasis on counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Attorney General John Ashcroft not only moved aggressively to reduce DoJ's anti-terrorist budget but also shift DoJ's mission in spirit to emphasize its role as a domestic police force and anti-drug force. These changes in mission were just as critical as the budget changes, with Ashcroft, in effect, guiding the day to day decisions made by field officers and agents. And all of this while the Administration was receiving repeated warnings about potential terrorist attacks.

Bush may have done everything right and the 9/11 terrorists might still have succeeded -- though taking some concrete steps (particularly heightening awareness and security at airports, given the specific nature of the warnings) would have increased our chances of catching them.

What was never excusable was that Bush and Co. were asleep at the wheel on 9/11 regarding their duty to "keep us safe" -- and no amount of historical revisionism by wistful dolphin ladies will erase that fact.

Nor is the fact that Bush's "war on terror" has certifiably made us less safe, and more likely to suffer future terrorist attacks, as that 2006 National Intelligence Estimate made clear:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

In other words, Bush botched the job of keeping us safe, both during his tenure and for the foreseeable future. But if we suffer another terrorist attack as a result of that botch, well, it'll be Obama's fault.

Neat trick.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.