EXIT STRATEGY: FIRE THEM ALL
By Richard Reeves
NEW YORK -- Dr. Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) is giving good brains a bad name. Her testimony to the 9/11 commission on Thursday demonstrated that it is not enough to know everything. You have to understand something. She didn't get it and still doesn't.
We screwed up big time, and now she says that she and President Bush (news - web sites) just want to "move forward." But you can't do the latter if you do not understand the former, which is: what happened before Sept. 11, 2001. As smart and alone as she is in her job, she made a huge mistake in answering questions from commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, the combative little lawyer who was a majority (Democratic) counsel during the Watergate hearings 30 years ago.
Ben-Veniste questioned her about the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) of Aug. 6, 2001, and in her nervous answer she blurted out the classified title: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
Ben-Veniste knew that, but could not say it because he and other commissioners had been allowed to see parts of the memo on condition that they not reveal its title or contents. Rice, in effect, declassified that title on her own. Many reasonable people will interpret the lack of follow-up -- she lamely said follow-up was not part of her job -- as stupidity and incompetence.
But that is now the hallmark of this administration: stupidity and ignorant incompetence -- in gathering, interpreting and following up pre-9/11 intelligence, and in going to war in Iraq.
(The title of the PDB may not be a smoking gun, but it certainly qualifies as warning ignored, rather than, as Rice said, a vague historical document. The title, by the way, was published a year ago in The Washington Post, but no one noticed -- as no one noticed a front-page story in The New York Times revealing the secret bombing of Cambodia more than 30 years ago. An institutional flaw of the press is that it says things only once, and if the timing is wrong, no one notices.)
There are a lot of patriots in this administration who should be fired for their incompetence and unwillingness to recognize it, admit it, adjust to reality -- and then move on. That list includes National Security Adviser Rice; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, whose Iraq analyses now look laughable or deliberately deceptive; Dynamic Don Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, whose mind and mouth move too fast for his own good; Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has shown himself to have no significant policy input; and Vice President Richard Cheney, a huckster with contempt for the rights and consent of the governed, a man who feels he has no responsibility to facts.
Then there is the commander in chief, the war president. George W. Bush cannot be fired, but he can do the firing if he hopes to win re-election. I am not of a mind to back down to terrorists, but the president has to understand that what we are suffering in Iraq is not mindless terrorism; much of it is covert resistance to occupation, a tactic as old as Masada and as new as Gaza. How is it different from the over-celebrated French Resistance to Nazi occupation in the 1940s? Most of the Maquis were pretty ruthless patriots and outlaws, and communists to boot, fighting for territory now and power in the future.
The Nazis, of course, called and killed them as terrorists.
It is always possible, not unlikely, that Bush can be re-elected if the economy holds up and things are relatively quiet where we have invaded. But the best way for him to survive is to stop hiding behind his failed friends and servants, call what amounts to a summit of world leaders, admit that misjudgments were made by the United States, and make the case that it is in everyone's interest to stabilize Iraq and the Middle East while there is still some chance and much American money and power available. Part of such an effort will have to be a re-evaluation of our blind support of Ariel Sharon's policies in that part of the world, policies we have adopted with results as disastrous in occupied Iraq as they are in the occupied West Bank.
And if the world rejects our humility and pleas, then we should get out of Iraq and go back to tracking down Osama and his cells. Let the Iraqis kill each other if that is their destiny, without our help. We can't seem to stop that anyway.
It is not enough for the leader of the free world to apologize to the survivors of the victims of 9/11.
The president has to apologize to the American people, ask for a second chance and prove that he is worthy of our trust.
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Laden, Bush, Hussein, Sharon, and Blair. None but the feeble minded
inspiration from such a ghastly lineup of "leaders".
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