Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, April 09, 2004

Once I was out of range of WFMU on my way to Riverhead Thursday, I listened to the begining of Condoleezza Rice's testimony. Then I was in court, but once I was out of range that evening I listened to the reports about it, and to the bits that were excerpted. One thing I thought I noticed was the strained quality of her voice. A lot of times when people are lying, or are otherwise uncomfortable with what they are saying their voices will go up a notch. Rice sounded like Neil Young at times, she was so stressed out.

Content wise, I thought the presentation was more of the same. It wasn't our fault, what would you have had us do, it was really the failed Clinton policy that set us up to fail. I am not inclined to buy these arguments, and I don't think she made them persuasively. Because none of us have any long term memory left, the reality of what Dick Clarke has been saying may be washing over us, but don't you remember thinking that we'd be at war with Iraq pretty much as soon as the Supreme Court had finished with its work on the election? This war has always been a foregone conclusion, and if we know oone thing about this Admistration, we know that cognitive dissonance is not a problem for them. When the facts conflict with what they believe, they disregard the facts, every time. It sounds like I'm saying this to be comical, but I'm not-- these ppeople live in a dream world-- and if you think for a moment that they give a tinker's dam about the world that we are living in, then you are sadly mistaken.

Over at Slate's Fraywatch someone named BeverlyMann makes some additional points: "[W]hat is clear to me now—after watching Rice's testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports—is that Rice isn't a national security adviser at all. That is, her job—unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger—was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.

"Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders—or, as she repeatedly put it, to be "tasked"—to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these "principles' meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.

"Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking." Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.

"Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration's own making.

"That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one—even to me. It's a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush's failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking" especially in light of George Tenet's warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.

"The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"—the presidential daily briefing—wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.

"Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious". But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.

"But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney—or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.

"[T]he political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He's jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn't obsessively secretive for nothing.

"Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn't succeed in her mission."

In other words, she was hung out to dry, just as Colin Powell was. Nice bunch of playmates.

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