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September 11, 2012

On September 11th, 2012, We Have Learned Nothing

Two items in the news today demonstrate just how far we haven't come since that brilliant September morning in 2001. To mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11, the NY Times is still gladly providing a microphone for the Blame Bush crowd and a platform for the "They ignored the warnings!" school of retroactive risk management (because it's so much easier to predict the future once it has already happened):

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.

And in startling juxtaposition to "Why didn't we act?" mantra, we have a president who can't even be bothered to listen to the presidential daily briefings Bush is blamed for not acting upon:

The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting. I asked National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor about the findings, and whether there were any instances where the president attended the intelligence meeting that were not on his public schedule. Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is “not particularly interesting or useful.” He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions.

...Yet Vietor also directed me to a Post story written this year in which Obama officials discuss the importance of the intelligence meeting and extol how brilliantly the president runs it. “Obama reads the PDB ahead of time and comes to the morning meeting with questions. Intelligence briefers are there to answer those questions, expand on a point or raise a new issue,” The Post reported. “One regular participant in the roughly 500 Oval Office sessions during Obama’s presidency said the meetings show a president consistently participating in an exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues.”

Between 43 and 38% of the time, that is.

Obama's brilliantly economical management of his PDBs reminds us of one William Jefferson Clinton, whose attention to national security briefings was similarly parsimonious:

Lopez: This amazes me every time I hear it: You write, “When a small plane accidentally crashed into the White House lawn in 1994, West Wing staffers joked that it was [Jim] Woolsey trying to see the president…” How could the CIA director have that bad a relationship with his president? And this, after the first WTC attack. Did no one in the West Wing get it?

Miniter: Never once in his two-year tenure did CIA director James Woolsey ever have a one-on-one meeting with Clinton. Even semiprivate meetings were rare. They only happened twice. Woolsey told me: “It wasn’t that I had a bad relationship with the president. It just didn’t exist.”

...Another Clinton intelligence failure involved a refusal to help the CIA hire more Arabic language translators. In 1993, Woolsey learned that the agency was able to translate only 10 percent of its Arabic intercepts and badly wanted more translators. But Sen. Dennis DeConcini refused to approve the funds unless Clinton phoned him and said it was a presidential priority. Despite entreaties, Clinton never phoned the Democratic senator and the CIA didn’t get those translators for years.

Lopez: In sum, how many times did Bill Clinton lose bin Laden?

If you read nothing else today, read this damning summary.

After 8 years of listening to the Reality Based Community lecture us about how those who are willing to give up their precious freedoms for a little temporary security, deserve neither. I often wonder what their reaction would have been, pre-9/11, had the Bush administration, armed with nothing more than superfluous warnings (because anyone familiar with the events of the 1990s already had ample evidence that Al Quaeda intended to keep attacking American interests) of some unspecified future attack, had clamped down on our civil liberties in the hopes of preventing an event that hadn't happened yet?

Despite the certain knowledge of a spectacular, multi-pronged attack that took 3000 American lives, the Left spent the years after 9/11 accusing the Bush administration of fear mongering and bad faith for doing what they now blame them for not doing before that attack had even occurred.

It is not surprising that many Americans do not support the war on terror. We have not had another catastrophic attack on American soil since 9/11, and with each passing day the memory of that horror fades. We are confronted, day in and day out, with a constant stream of negative news reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. The blogosphere manages to smuggle some good news through the Iron Curtain, but many Americans still aren't tuned into Radio Free Iraq. And above all, we are perilously ignorant of our own history: of the dear cost our forefathers paid to earn the relative peace and affluence we enjoy today.

And so we take them for granted. We assume this is the way it has always been, and the way it will always be. Like electricity, freedom and security should be there at our command, at the touch of a finger. Like petulant children, we whine when it comes time to pay the light bill.

No, terror is not the greatest of those things which threaten our way of life. It has the power to injure, but not to destroy. It is ignorance which imperils us, which blinds us to what we know is right, which tips the scales when we try to evaluate our options, which leads us to believe we can go on like this forever, enjoying the freedoms earned by forgotten generations, and somehow pass the torch to a new generation without lifting our eyes from our flickering TV sets.

Tell me a happy story, Daddy. Make the bad men disappear. I don't want to think any more.

*************

Update: Apparently it's not just Presidential Daily Briefings Obama has no time for:

... the president also appears to be placing other priorities ahead of the economy and unemployment: from April 2011 through July 24, 2012, the president hasn't received a single daily economic briefing.
Something is missing. If you look at Barack Obama's calendar for 26th of April, 2011 you will see on his schedule at 10 AM "The President receives the Economic Daily Briefing," after that nothing. According to the daily schedule released by the White House, Barack Obama hasn't received his "daily" economic briefing for the past 15 months (The White House, Accessed 7/23/12).

Somehow, however, the president has managed to work in 104 rounds of golf and hundreds of games of pickup basketball.

It's all about priorities, people:

fundraisers chart.jpg

After all, there are only so many hours in the day:

On Tuesday alone, Obama appeared at six separate fundraising events in quick succession.

At 11:46 a.m., he walked across the South Lawn of the White House, carrying an umbrella, and boarded his helicopter, Marine One, headed for the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills, where his motorcade would deliver him to the lavish home of a local real-estate developer to begin speaking at 1:23 p.m.: "Well, it is wonderful to be with all of you. Let me begin by thanking our hosts..." Each of the approximately 100 guests had given $10,000 to a combination of the president's campaign and the Democratic Party.

It was raining steadily. By 2:30, Obama had been deposited at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Baltimore's inner harbor, where he conversed privately with a group of 15 supporters who had each given $40,000. At 3:30, he was at a plain podium -- no bunting, no signs with slogans -- in front of four American flags in a drab hotel ballroom of 500 people who'd paid $250 apiece. "Well, it is good to be in Baltimore, home of what may end up being rivals with the White Sox, the Orioles..."

Before leaving Baltimore, the president would place a call to the governor of Colorado to check in on the wildfires raging there. Then to the airport, then to Philadelphia, where the president met with a group of high-school science graduates for 15 minutes before heading into his first of three fundraisers there, a private, high-dollar event, shortly after 6. Obama's Philadelphia events were at the Franklin Institute, an architecturally majestic science museum with a grand statue of Benjamin Franklin in the lobby rotunda, and before he took the stage for his 7:30 fundraiser, he wandered upstairs to check out the Dead Sea scrolls. "Well, it is good to be back in Philadelphia..."

Obama finished speaking at the final fundraiser of the day, held in a planetarium, at 8:43 p.m. and was delivered back to the White House at 10:16. The only event on his official schedule for the day, aside from the six fundraisers, was receiving the daily presidential briefing in the morning. He had netted about $3.6 million for the day.

You know, if he can keep up that rate, he could quite possibly pay off the federal deficit. Priorities.

Posted by Cassandra at September 11, 2012 08:38 AM

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Comments

As usual, great commentary M'lady.

"Tell me a happy story, Daddy. Make the bad men disappear. I don't want to think any more."

If only they did not want to vote or run for office.

Never forget...

Posted by: bthun1 at September 11, 2012 09:47 AM

Thanks for reading (and commenting) lo! these many years.

One of the never ending delights of having a blog is being able to go back years and years and see familiar names in the comments section :) For someone who has moved all her life, that's incredibly precious.

So thank you, dear friend.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 11, 2012 10:08 AM

"Despite the certain knowledge of a spectacular, multi-pronged attack that took 3000 American lives, the Left spent the years after 9/11 accusing the Bush administration of fear mongering and bad faith for doing what they now blame them for not doing before that attack had even occurred."

Says it all for me.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 11, 2012 10:10 AM

A lecture is always unwelcome but there is something considerable behind the desire to do so. I'm not about to make a case here, as pretty much anyone aware of the A to Z of the matters that led to the mass murder knows it already. I'll not say those who are willing to give up their precious freedoms for a little temporary security, deserve neither – but I would say, most often, get neither.

To dismiss generalities, to ignore probabilities, to bow to PC sensibilities, to put up with something so egregiously offensive as the TSA would not be too high a price to pay if first we did the sensible thing and found the attempt had failed. We have not done the sensible thing, and will not do so. We would rather make everyone a suspect than make the suspect feel suspect. For all this I feel no more secure - and every day less a citizen.

Posted by: George Pal at September 11, 2012 01:16 PM

To dismiss generalities, to ignore probabilities, to bow to PC sensibilities, to put up with something so egregiously offensive as the TSA would not be too high a price to pay if first we did the sensible thing and found the attempt had failed. We have not done the sensible thing, and will not do so.

This, and the point T99 made earlier, are what I take away from this. I remember talking with the Spousal Unit in 2002 after we had moved across country to a base so secure we couldn't even get the local paper delivered. He responded that the entire target of terrorism isn't buildings or structures: it's people. And since people are everywhere, you can't protect them entirely by just protecting structures or events.

That's a really important insight: we can't ever protect against all threats.

The question then becomes, what constitutes "good enough" protection? What frosts me about the criticism during the Bu$Hitler Era was that the critics simultaneously demanded to be kept safe ("HE DIDN'T HEED THE WARNINGS AND TAKE STEPS WE WOULD NEVER AGREE TO, HAD HE TAKEN THEM AT THE TIME!!!") and to be left alone.

And the truth is that the amount of vigilance required to keep us as safe as they wanted to be would have cost the earth, both in money and freedom. If they had been content with "safe enough" - or just reasonable precautions - that would have been different.

Instead we get a mindset that gives this President a pass for attending his Presidential Daily Briefings only 40% of the time....

...blames a President who almost never missed one for not acting on vague warnings of what anyone who was paying his attention bill already knew...

... and has forgotten that Clinton had numerous terrorist attacks on his watch, and yet couldn't be bothered with his briefs either.

I keep waiting for these folks to explain exactly what precautions - that they would have accepted at the time, knowing what they knew - would have effectively prevented 9/11?

*crickets*

Posted by: Cassandra at September 11, 2012 01:43 PM

I think this was well explained in the docu-drama "The Path to 9-11".

But wait, the DVD from that is not available because that was quashed by....who?

Frankly, I prefer to remember the heroes and regular people who either gave their all or who were lost to us forever.

It's always good to read Cassandra's article "At Night, I Dream of You" about Lydia Estelle Bravo, who died that day. And there must still be things on the internet that one can read and remember about Ronnie Bucca, Rick Rescorla, and many other brave men and women who gave their all that day that others might live.

The debate about who did or didn't do their job will still go on after we are all dead, as it has gone on about the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

Responsibility was on Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden (dead by the hand of President Gutsy Call), Dr. Al - Zawahiri (still alive) and other people; some dead, some alive, some still unknown. The struggle and asymetrical warfare will go on for Salafist Islam to attack the West and other targets of opportunity. There is no "all clear" to be sounded in the future.


11 years out, and the rest of our lives to go.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 11, 2012 02:54 PM

"I often wonder what their reaction would have been, pre-9/11, had the Bush administration, armed with nothing more than superfluous warnings (because anyone familiar with the events of the 1990s already had ample evidence that Al Quaeda intended to keep attacking American interests) of some unspecified future attack, had clamped down on our civil liberties in the hopes of preventing an event that hadn't happened yet?"

But you misunderstand. We should have immediatly apologized for our sins, asked forgiveness and given the violent thugs, I mean, poor exploited foreign laborers, what they wanted because then they would have left us alone. Established violent thugs, whoops sorry, did it again, poor exploited foreign laborers are trustworthy like that. And, of course, having been successful at it, they would never consider doing it again in the future.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 11, 2012 03:22 PM

I really wish the "strike" tags worked in comments. :-p

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 11, 2012 03:23 PM

I think this was well explained in the docu-drama "The Path to 9-11". But wait, the DVD from that is not available because that was quashed by....who?

Bingo, Don.

Sorry about the strike tags, Yu-Ain. I"m on an old version of MT and just don't have time to upgrade. I'd like to have them, too :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 11, 2012 03:38 PM

Cassie...whenever you get ready to write that spy screenplay, LEMME READ IT FIRST!

Out.of.the.park.

I had heard about the rush to hire Arab speakers about 15-16 years ago, but the reason they were not hire or did not want to work for the government was lack of funding.

Don, I betcha the security staff that was watching the op on bin Laden prolly had to cuff Obie a few times to get him to make the call to take him out.

Makes you wonder who is running things when he isn't around...yanno?

Posted by: Carolyn at September 11, 2012 04:16 PM

P.S.:

As to protection; I demand that instead of paying a whole intelligence comminuty of spies and whatnot, we have government-subsidized para-military training, and that each citizen is required to carry a gun.

It has worked for the Swiss.

Posted by: Carolyn at September 11, 2012 04:20 PM

I question the intelligence of people who pay to hear him speak.

I can't get away from the sounds that bite on the net and the radio.

I am cranky and need a nap.

Posted by: Carolyn at September 11, 2012 04:23 PM

I seem to remember that the editorial board of the New York Times had several litters of kittens over the things Bush did after 9/11. Now they seem to have wanted him to do them before 9/11.

Really? No wonder their stock has been in freefall, the place is staffed with fools.

I'm with others in saying that I choose to remember this day by remembering the people who acted well after the planes hit.

Posted by: Allen at September 11, 2012 05:30 PM

And the Israelis.

Posted by: La Femme Crickita at September 11, 2012 05:36 PM

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