Thursday, April 15, 2004

"First Directive" Update

You ever have one of those dreams where you're trying to scream and nothing comes out? No one notices you? You can't seem to get anyone's attention?

Well, with few notable exceptions, I can't seem to get through to anyone that the entire GOP is pulling the wool over everyone's eyes, stitching into their version of 'the facts' that the first national security directive of the Bush administration was the elimination of al Qaeda. It's not true. It's not true. It's not true. Scroll down for more on that.

But this REALLY cracks me up. It's one thing to find a few GOP members of Congress shoveling partisan BS. It's another thing entirely, however, to find foreign State Department offices publishing GOP talking points--verbatim--on their websites as "news." Check it out:

The Original GOP 'Fact Sheet'
The US Consulate General in Istanbul
The US Embassy in Slovenia

Next thing you know, they'll be pre-marking the overseas absentee ballots in November.

posted by Scott | 4/15/2004 | |

Sunday, April 11, 2004

A Lie Is Born - Bush's First National Security Directive

Much like the birth of a baby, watching a new Bush administration lie being born is alternately disgusting and fascinating. The specific lie that I'm referring to is the idea that combating al Qaeda was the subject of the Bush administration's first national security policy directive. As my regular readers know, I've been harping on this since Condoleeza Rice's testimony to the 9/11 Commission on Thursday. The details are as follows:

• During her prepared statement to the commission, Rice refers to "the elimination of al-Qaida" as "the very first major national security policy directive of the Bush administration," insisting that it was "not Russia, not missile defense, not Iraq." This directive was handed down from the White House on September 4, 2001.

• In the middle of her testimony, Matt Drudge posted the following headline at his website: "CONDI BOMBSHELL: BUSH'S FIRST NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTIVE: ELIMINATE AL-QAEDA".

• As her testimony continued, under questioning from commission member Fred Fielding, Rice admitted that prior to September 4, 2001, the administration "did have a national security policy directive asking the CIA ... to review its intelligence activities, the way it gathered intelligence."

So did Rice lie?

Technically, she did not. She stated that the al Qaeda directive was "the very first major national security policy directive," not the absolute first.

However, it's clear that the wording of her statement was intentionally misleading. This was, after all, a prepared statement. A number of staffers--both policy and political--were involved in the preparation and wording of this statement. This was not something Rice came up with off the cuff. Her use of an adjective that, when removed, completely changes the meaning of the sentence is therefore even more inexcusable. Even her use of the word 'major' is questionable from a subjective viewpoint. Is not a directive asking the CIA to overhaul its intel gathering programs pretty damn major? To be sure, calling one directive more 'major' than another is a matter of opinion, but can that possibly be her true, honest, professional opinion?

So if the al Qaeda policy was not the administration's first national security directive, then what was?

Very cursory digging will tell you that the first national security directive of the Bush administration was issued on February 13, 2001. The aim of this directive of the Bush administration was to unravel President Clinton's interagency 'working groups'. One of these working groups, the Counterterrorism Strategy Group, was run by Richard Clarke.

In December of 2001, The Washington Post published the second of a two-part article describing some of the barriers to combating terrorism within the US government prior to 9/11. One of the few bright lights of the piece was the description of Clarke's team. Clarke "used his gavel in the Counterterrorism Strategy Group to hammer unusually rapid change through large government organizations. In the next five years, he would roll over a formidable array of bureaucratic foes, interjecting himself in programming and personnel decisions that the executive departments saw as sovereign."

It was this unprecedented interagency cooperation on terrorism-related policy that the Bush administration dismantled with their actual first national security policy directive. A key line of the directive, NSPD-1: Organization of the National Security Council System reads simply, "the existing system of Interagency Working Groups is abolished."

For Condoleeza Rice to claim that NSPD-1 was not the first 'major' national security policy directive of the Bush administration is ludicrous. Yet this is exactly what she implies in saying that the September 4 directive was "the very first major national security policy directive of the Bush administration." To say that the reorganization of the NSC and the abolition of the interagency working groups is not major, as the administration has effectively done through Rice's testimony, is to deny the accepted wisdom that increased interagency cooperation between the CIA and FBI could have possibly helped to prevent 9/11.

Rice's statement, therefore was either incredibly stupid or it was a lie. Considering Condoleeza Rice's biography--graduated college at 19, doctor of international relations by 26--I cannot accept the view that she is stupid.

Why, you might be wondering, does this bother me so much?

Since Thursday, many editorials have been written praising Rice's testimony. That's a matter of opinion. But a number of these editorials have praised Rice and the Bush administration for proving that, even before 9/11, they were in fact focusing their attention on al Qaeda. This 'proof' is Rice's statement, unchallenged by the 9/11 Commission, that "the very first major national security policy directive of the Bush administration [was] not Russia, not missile defense, not Iraq, but the elimination of al-Qaida." Here are some examples:

The Arizona Republic. "[Bush's] staff's first national security directive, Rice testified, was regarding the elimination of al-Qaida. It did not regard Iraq. Nor Russia. Nor missile defense.

The Denver Post. "... the president's first national security directive was a plan to dismantle al-Qaeda, not a plan for missile defense or regime change in Iraq."

Wall Street Journal. "One genuinely interesting news nugget came in Ms. Rice's opening statement. There she gave details of the Bush Administration's first major national security directive, completed September 4, 2001. It covered 'not Russia, not missile defense, not Iraq, but the elimination of al-Qaeda.' Obviously this didn't prevent the events of a week later. But it does suggest, contra Richard Clarke, that the Administration was attentive to the terrorist threat."

And it's not just editorials that have been forwarding this nonsense. Supposedly non-biased journalists covering Rice's testimony have not challenged the lie at all, reporting it instead as fact.

The Christian Science Monitor. "Ms. Rice catalogued the various early steps taken against terrorism, describing in some detail the Bush administration's first national security policy directive, which called for the elimination of the Al Qaeda threat."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Bush's first national security policy directive, a previously classified document dated Sept. 4, 2001, which called for eliminating the al-Qaida terrorist threat."

Charleston Daily Mail. This one is interesting in that it details Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller's criticism that "the president was slow to approve a counter-terrorism plan, issuing his first national security directive a week before the attacks on New York and Washington." A valid criticism of Rice's implied version of the truth, but in a backhanded defense of the Bush administration, it should be pointed out that they issued a number of national security directives prior to the one dealing with al Qaeda.

And perhaps the most insidious of all, proving (in my mind) that the plan all along was for Rice to say "major" and then have all of Bush's supporters drop it, is the fact that the GOP has made "Bush's first national security directive" an official talking point. "President Bush's First National Security Policy Directive Dealt with al-Qaida."

Rush Limbaugh. "(Dr. Rice) said the first national security directive that George Bush issued in his administration was to eliminate Al-Qaeda. Now, this is important because Dick Clarke had been running around saying this administration cared nothing about Al-Qaeda, that they were oriented toward Iraq even before 9/11 took place. Condi Rice sort of just knocked that one out of the park, so much so that nobody even questioned her on that in a direct way."

GOP Senator Orrin Hatch (UT). "She did not make excuses for September 11, but she was compelling in arguing that the Bush Administration was determined to enact a strategic response to the threat Al-Qaeda presented to us. She made it clear: The first national security policy of the Bush Administration was not Russia, not missile defense, not Iraq, but the elimination of Al-Qaeda."

GOP Congressman Gil Gutknecht (MN). "President Bush's First National Security Policy Directive Dealt with al-Qaida: 'We also moved to develop a new and comprehensive strategy to eliminate the al-Qaida terrorist network. President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance. He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was "tired of swatting flies." ' This new strategy was developed over the Spring and Summer of 2001, and was approved by the President's senior national security officials on September 4'. "

GOP Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (FL). "Dr. Rice's candid and forthcoming testimony... stressed that President Bush's first national security policy directive did in fact deal with al-Qaeda."

GOP Congressman Mike Pence (IN). "President Bush's very first national security policy directive was to develop a policy to eliminate al-Qaida. By following through on this directive and implementing other initiatives, President Bush is providing strong leadership for the nation during the war on terror."

GOP Congressman Joe Pitts (PA). "President Bush's first national security action dealt with al-Qaeda. During testimony before the September 11 Commission, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said that President Bush took the threat posed by al-Qaeda seriously."

And there are other GOP netsters also furthering the lie.

Joey Gibson's Blog. "Dr. Rice Emasculates Sham 9/11 Commission... She has now proven that the Bush administration was concerned with al-Queda since DAY FREAKIN' ONE by declassifying President Bush's very first national security directive."

The Mighty Righty. "Bush's First National Security Directive: ELIMINATE Al-QAEDA. Oh the liberals didn't want to hear this. This testimony might just bite them on the ass."

Mike Ripplinger's Blog. "Right in the opening statement of her testimony before the 9/11 Commission today, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice dropped a bombshell that will send all Bush-haters scurrying for cover from the bright light of the truth: President Bush's very first national security directive, issued one week before September 11, was 'Eliminate Al-Qaeda'! "

All of this, I believe, adds up to one the biggest lies the Bush administration has pushed on the American people. Bush's national security team, despite their best efforts to claim otherwise, clearly had their eyes off the ball in 2001. They were warned by the Clinton administration that al Qaeda was a threat and they chose to focus their attention elsewhere. That was a policy judgment and, in retrospect, a very bad one.

But now they're lying about it. This is exactly the type of thing that brought down Nixon and almost brought down Clinton. You'd think the Bush administration would learn that cover-ups like this are always a bad idea. Apparently they have not learned that lesson. It will be driven home by the voters come November.

posted by Scott | 4/11/2004 | |
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