Monday, April 05, 2004

Bob Graham Must Truly Hate America

Senator Bob Graham Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations:
BOB GRAHAM: Good morning and good afternoon and, Gerry, thank you very much for your kind introduction. I was saying I appreciate both your remembrance and your remarks.

I'm going to start at the outset this afternoon by saying that I will make some comments today that will not be well-received in the White House. I have observed the White House's reaction to comments that it does not well receive, and so in a matter of pre-emptive defense, I have a confession to make. When I was four years old, I was enrolled in the Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod Nursery School in Tallahassee, Florida. On a day in the spring of my enrollment in 1941, I kicked in a house made of blocks by some of the other students at Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod Nursery School. The director of the school told me, "Robert, we cannot have that behavior by the children at Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod. I am calling your mother and asking that she come and take you home, and that she not ever bring you back." Now, that's on the record, you can make whatever you wish of that confession.

Friends, this has been a painful week for our nation. The horrible tragedy of September 11 has been revisited, first in hearings by the [9/11] Commission and, second, by the revelations in the book ["Against All Enemies: Inside the White House's War on Terror--What Really Happened"] of the former White House counterterrorism director, Richard Clarke.

More painful than the memories which these events have resurrected, I believe is the growing realization that our leaders did not do everything that they could have done and should have done to protect Americans from a terrorist attack. The 9/11 Commission, for example, has reported that they endorse the recommendations of the Joint Congressional Inquiry [into the 9/11 terrorist attacks], which I co-chaired with my friend and colleague and fellow Floridian, Porter Goss. We found that failures of intelligence collection and analysis, compounded by a lack of information-sharing within the intelligence community and between the intelligence community and the law enforcement community, cost us the chance to detect and disrupt the plot of the 19 hijackers. In short, September 11 could have--indeed, should have--been prevented.

I share Richard Clarke's view that since September 11, President Bush and his key members of his administration have failed to keep their eye on the ball on the war on terrorism. Frankly, we had al Qaeda on the ropes in the spring of 2002. But rather than finishing the job and crushing the operational command structure of al Qaeda, we shifted our focus.

Let me share a personal story. [U.S.] Central Command, which has responsibility for our military actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, at MacDill Air Force Base. It has been my practice to periodically visit the Central Command, to receive a briefing as to what they are doing. I did that in February of 2002. After the formal briefing with PowerPoint [presentations] and all that goes with a military briefing, I was asked by one of the senior commanders of Central Command to go into his office. We did, the door was closed, and he turned to me, and he said, "Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq." This is February of 2002. "Senator, what we are engaged in now is a manhunt not a war, and we are not trained to conduct a manhunt."

To draw a historical analogy, I think that what the Bush administration did, beginning as early as February of 2002, was to make a decision that we would fight a pre-emptive war against Mussolini and let Hitler run free. I agree with Richard Clarke, who concludes in his book that Iraq was a complete and unnecessary tangent. I have described [it] as a distraction.

Now, I don't mean to suggest, and I do not believe Richard Clarke means to suggest, that Saddam Hussein is anything other than a bad, evil person who did bad and evil things to his own people and his neighbors and would hoped to have done it more broadly. But the question was not a singular question about Saddam Hussein. It was, rather, a comparative question. Of all the evils in that neighborhood of the Middle East and Central Asia, which evil deserved to have our primary military attention?

As we have learned since the war in Iraq, our intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed, and my good friend and former colleague, Senator [Charles S.] Robb [D-Va.], is going to be at the front seat of trying to determine why that was--if it was the case and, if so, why. [Robb co-chairs a bipartisan commission established in February by President Bush to examine U.S. intelligence-gathering.]

There has never been a shred of evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any ties to al Qaeda, despite the suggestions from the president and other key administration officials that they were, in some way, married. And at his campaign kickoff in my state of Florida on last Saturday, March 20, the president again gave the American people the clear impression that Saddam Hussein was, in some reason, linked to 9/11. In fact, Iraq and al Qaeda represented opposite ends of Islamic thought: Iraq, a secular government based in Baghdad with the traditional ambitions of a nation-state; al Qaeda, a shadowy, extremist movement that relied on the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

As Gerry said, I voted against the resolution to go to war in Iraq. Let me explain why I did it and what I think it says about the Bush administration. I did it because I thought the standard as to which of the many evils in the Middle East and Central Asia we should apply our military force against was a rather--[inaudible]--strategy and a simple one. Which of those evils had the greatest capability to kill Americans? Now, you can argue--maybe you would have--a different standard. That was my standard.

And then I thought that there were three factors that would help answer that question. Which of the evils in the region had the greatest capability to kill Americans, particularly, had the number of trained persons in the art and skills of terrorism to do so? There was no question as to who had the greatest capability, particularly in light of the fact that, as we now know, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction available for immediate use. It was al Qaeda.

Second, who had the greatest will to use that capability? In the National Intelligence Estimate that the consensus of our intelligence agencies produced in September of 2002 [and], after some effort, was finally willing to release publicly, they made the collective judgment of the American intelligence community that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the United States unless he was attacked. And so what did we do? We attacked him.

On the other hand, al Qaeda, without provocation, had just killed 3,000 Americans on September 11. But I think the most significant criterion is not just capability and will, but rather presence. Unless we were engaged in a war like we were in the Cold War, where the Soviet Union had massive missiles to deliver their weapons of mass destruction, it is difficult to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction unless you have some capacity inside the United States to do so.
Via The Poor Man
There's a good deal more so go finish reading. The Poor Man also shares my opinion [not favorable] of Air America thus far.


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