Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?
August 4, 2002 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented? From the Time Mag. article " Long before the tragic events of September 11th, the White House debated taking the fight to al-Qaeda. It didn't happen and soon it was too late. The saga of a lost chance.
posted by bas67 (22 comments total)
"Taking the fight to al-Qaeda. " implies that there was actually a location, which there wasn't, right? They're still not gone.
posted by hama7 at 10:07 PM on August 4, 2002

From listening to the news on NPR, one gets the impression that the White House spinmeisters went to Warp 9 damage control about six hours ago.

The result was a strategy paper that he had presented to Berger and the other national security "principals" on Dec. 20. But Berger and the principals decided to shelve the plan and let the next Administration take it up. With less than a month left in office, they did not think it appropriate to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden. "We would be handing (the Bush Administration) a war when they took office on Jan. 20," says a former senior Clinton aide. "That wasn't going to happen."

Unlike the hot potato called Somalia that George the 1st's crew handed off to the then incoming administration--not quite a war: just a quagmire.

In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we've done since 9/11."

And that's the point

Time's words, not mine.
posted by y2karl at 10:36 PM on August 4, 2002

Bush and Cheney also shelved the Hart-Rudman Commission report which was released in January 2001. Hart and Rudman had predicted that "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers" as far back as 1999.

From the TIME article: "A few days before, O'Neill had started a new job. He was burned out, and he knew it. Over the summer, he had come to realize that he had made too many enemies ever to succeed Mawn. O'Neill handed in his papers, left the FBI and began a new life as head of security at the World Trade Center."

John O'Neill's death is one of the most ironic tragedies I've ever heard of. O'Neill talked a few times with Jean-Charles Brisard last summer while Brisard was co-authoring a book on Bin Laden. Brisard claims that O'Neill had quit out of frustration and had told him that "the main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia."
posted by homunculus at 11:00 PM on August 4, 2002

that is juicy, homunculus--I have this vision I'm addressing
some lil' pillsbury dough boy golem or a mandrake root here--and this bolted out, inre the Saudi-Harken connection:

The first President Bush has lots of connections with the Saudis and has made visits there as a private businessman with the merchant banking firm the Carlyle Group. Did you find any trace of the Carlyle Group on the financial trail?

Brisard: No. Carlyle has connections to the bin Laden family. Also, [Saudi banker and alleged terrorist financer] Khaleed bin Mahfooz financed the Bush oil companies in Texas in the late '70s and we discovered that he is also the primary financial support of Osama bin Laden. For years he was the personal banker of King Fahd, but now Mahfooz is under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for allegedly financing terrorist groups. He was arrested in 1999, but he is still a shareholder of the Saudi Bank National Commercial. He had charities around the world and one of them, International Development Foundation in London, has just been banned by the charity commission in London because of our book. We also make lots of connections with BCCI [Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the foreign bank closed 10 years ago after a huge scandal connected it to fraud, secret weapons deals, money laundering and the financing of terrorist groups]. We say the system financing bin Laden was more or less the revival of the BCCI. Even the associates of the BCCI are now involved in those networks. And bin Mahfooz was the operational director of BCCI.
posted by y2karl at 11:19 PM on August 4, 2002


Though one can't help but see this information serving a polemic purpose, it's marveling to realize the ammount of fodder that the left has been given (oil money's conecction to corporate scandal, oil interest in Afghanistan etc, Cheney vs. the GAO etc...), and how little has really publically been done with it.

George W. Bush inexplicably remains a popular president and I don't think this story will greatly influence that.
posted by Pinwheel at 1:35 AM on August 5, 2002

This might partly explain why Bush is stonewalling on setting up an independent investigation of what went wrong. I'm honestly surprised that an article like this could get printed, in Time magazine no less, since it comes so close to laying blame on the Bush Administration.
posted by euphorb at 2:17 AM on August 5, 2002

I'm not American but I still find this kind of conjecture more than offensive. The argument shifts the blame away from these murderous death squads and onto the American Administration. If anyone is blame for the failures of America's foreign policy, and in particular it's respond to al-Qaeda, it's the American Press- Time Magazine included.

If America did launch the War on Terror before S.11 and American soldiers were killed, it's going to be Time magazine which has pictures of American soldiers being dragged through the streets on it's cover along with an editorial saying how unjust the war is.
posted by nixon at 3:54 AM on August 5, 2002

nixon: You have proof of this?
posted by i_cola at 4:44 AM on August 5, 2002

nixon --- if the current administration dropped the ball, then they fairly deserve to take the criticism. Their negligence could well have allowed those "muderous death squads" to succeed.
posted by nathan_teske at 5:35 AM on August 5, 2002

I don't know; history is full of "missed chances". That's because these "chances" are clear only in retrospect. One of the reasons my opinion of the Mainstream Media(tm) has plummeted in recent years is that they seem to have abandoned hard news in favor of muddy-headed "think pieces" or shrill editorializing.

Did the US have a major intelligence breakdown regarding 9/11? I think the jury is still out, but it's clear that there were many weaknesses in the system: a lack of communication among agencies, turf fights among the agency heads, and a continuing belief that "it can't happen here" all contributed to the disaster. But the article makes it sound like the Administration knew in detail what was going to happen and where, and that's just not true.

It's a sad truth that we usually only hear of the failures of the intelligence community, and rarely (if ever) their successes.
posted by mrmanley at 5:38 AM on August 5, 2002

The Bush administration has decided just about every single thing based on its political merits. And until they destroyed the World Trade Center, there was almost 0 political merit in acting against Al Qaeda -- and huge cost, as the above observations regarding oil interests (in Saudi Arabia especially) point out.

That has something to do with nixon's point about the American media (which is at least partly true, right?), but it probably has more to do with the political mood. Bush was elected on a somewhat isolationist platform (though it was obviously riddled with inconsistencies, like preserving those oil interests), and to the extent that he had any political mandate at all it was to think about what goes on inside our borders. And Americans have grown used to electing politicians just to serve our immediate interests -- we haven't needed anyone who could think ahead and avert a forthcoming catastrophe, because none has come.

It would be one thing if the American people said, we need leaders who can and will use their own abilities to act in our interests. But we haven't, in a long time. We've elected politicians that say they care more about what we know we want than anything. Bush, in that sense, was just doing the job the voters thought he was the best candidate for: We didn't for him because we trusted him to anticipate a serious threat to America's security, we voted for him because he seemed like the friendliest face for the job of giving us what we said we wanted. And he got the message.

It sure sounds like Bush should have acted before Sept. 11. But it would have required the type of leadership we elected him because he didn't have.
posted by mattpfeff at 6:14 AM on August 5, 2002

The point of leaking the story is obvious. Bush comes out the hero. Critics who compare Bush's America to Orwell's 1984 now have to stomach the idea that Clinton would have raped our freedoms like Bush has done. There's so much propaganda propping up his actions it's sickening.
posted by fleener at 6:32 AM on August 5, 2002

I'm with Nixon.

Remember Somalia?
posted by swerdloff at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2002

"I still find this kind of conjecture more than offensive. "

Absolutely. Not only offensive but disgusting. Orwell's 1984? Fleener says our freedoms have been raped. I say if this is rape, then what does it take to awaken you to the fact that people want you, innocents, to die the most horrible deaths to glorify their horrid god.

Yes "their". Yes "horrid". Yes "God". Call the MetaTalk police!!

What will it take to elbow you out of your equivocating lethargy?

Oil? Hardly.
posted by hama7 at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2002

This kind of story leakage is very likely prelude to war with Iraq. The administration can hide behind the idea that the reasons are classified for intelligence reasons but that they don't want to miss another opportunity to stop "terrah". I'd love to lay the blame at the feet of the administration, but frankly pursuing something like this news would only harden public opinion in the most assanine way possible.
posted by shagoth at 7:08 AM on August 5, 2002

What the article doesn't point out is that the Clinton Administration left a lot of paperwork on the table for Bush's people to pick up. Every president does. It's impossible to completely wipe up the mess of the world and tie everything in a nice red bow for the next guy. It's a change of executive power. It's not a reset and restart.

The Al Quaeda paperwork that's being hindsighted today was on some intangible pile of paperwork in the West Wing along with some two hundred thousand other documents that the Clinton Administration either wrote, received, had passed down from the previous administration and never messed with, god knows what else. Imagine being one of Bush's aides and having to trudge through that quagmire. I'm amazed it even got looked at by a staffer before Nine Eleven.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:20 AM on August 5, 2002

"And until they destroyed the World Trade Center, there was almost 0 political merit in acting against Al Qaeda"

...I'll say it again...OBL was the target of no less then 4 assassnation attempts. He was ran out of Sudan for his commie-like "nation building". ((Pol Pot did the same 'good works' in Yugoslavia))
posted by clavdivs at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2002

It's worth contrasting this account with the WSJ's Sunday Terror pact forged by cruise missiles, which differs in its interpretation of several events. One could presume there's a partisan flavor to both the TIME (blame Bush) and WSJ (blame Clinton) versions.
posted by dhartung at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2002

What will it take to elbow you out of your equivocating lethargy?

Well, I'm not sure, but you getting into a nice shrieking lather about the situation isn't doing it for me. I'd be happy to take the issue to Metatalk if (1) you didn't seem to be begging for the attention and (2) you weren't deeply silly.

Don't be a schmoe. Being watchful and concerned over public policy especially in times of crisis is hardly "lethargy."
posted by Skot at 10:34 AM on August 5, 2002

Berger had left the room by the time Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice...

I think it's pretty clear where we should be looking to place the blame.
posted by pitchblende at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2002

The Al Quaeda paperwork that's being hindsighted today was on some intangible pile of paperwork in the West Wing...


With some bitterness, Berger remembered how little he and his colleagues had been helped by the first Bush Administration in 1992-93. Eager to avoid a repeat of that experience, he had set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley.

Berger attended only one of the briefings-the session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. "I'm coming to this briefing," he says he told Rice, "to underscore how important I think this subject is." Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." The terrorism briefing was delivered by Richard Clarke, a career bureaucrat who had served in the first Bush Administration and risen during the Clinton years to become the White House's point man on terrorism.

Who you calling an intangible pile of paperwork, buddy?

*ps. Slip over to the Dead thread and look around, hama7, then update your 7/20 link--(hey, thanks!)--had a Well, duh! insight re removing the bottom border... And there's yer friggin' nefarious MeFi mention. Korean based bloggers, Sheesh!
posted by y2karl at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2002

Is this a rhetorical question?
posted by {savg*pncl} at 8:19 PM on August 7, 2002

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