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View Diary: FAA Daily Intelligence Reports Identified al-Qaeda Threat (238 comments)

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  •  Another Element to this story (none)
    There is another element to this story that is pretty well known, but is normally not added in at the juncture of asking what was Bush's mindset at the moment -- or early moments of 911.

    Last week Frontline did a 2 hour program that at the end includes this story element -- it is about the state of relations between the Saudi Government and the US in the summer of 2001.  The Crown Prince Abdullah had written a stinging letter to Bush about his policy vis a vis Israel and Palestine, for all intents saying that if Bush did not approach the conflict in a more even handed way, Saudi Arabia would consider its options.  (You can see some of the documentation at the Frontline Website.)  The Crown Prince's point was exceptionally clear -- The Saudi people were watching TV 24/7 and over and over again they were watching Palestinians being beat bloody and killed, and Bush's reaction was to say Sharon had to do what Sharon had to do.  You may remember at the beginning of the summer the Bush's allowed out the story about Bush Senior calling the Crown Prince and "vouching" for his son's heart being in the right place -- and after the letter, Bush started making some vague statements about some sort of "two state solution" but Bush also had made it clear to Bandar that he did not intent to invest any personal political capital in Israel-Palestine. Through Bandar Bush had extended an invitation in the spring of 2001 for the Crown Prince to visit DC, but Abdullah refused the invitation.  

    There are many things about Saudi pressure that summer we probably don't know, but we know enough to add it into any analysis of Bush's state of mind in this period.  And -- given that the national identity of at least some of the Hijackers was established within an hour of the first attack, one should assume I think that Bush's actions on 911 were very much predicated on this recent exchange of extremely harsh letters with the Saudi Crown Prince.  In fact he really had no way of "knowing" whether the attacks were semi-officially sanctioned by Saudi authority or were totally the work of renigades, and that would not be clear for months.  In fact some quite close to the Saudi Royal Family were involved to the extent of supporting and financing bin Laden.  (We still have not seen the Joint Intelligence Committee 911 report chapter on Saudi involvement -- remember the censored 29 pages???  Remember what Bob Graham has been saying???)

    On 911 Bush was brought up short on two accounts on decisions he had made.  First, he had bet he could be "unClinton" and ignore the Israel-Palestine matter, -- Let Sharon do his thing, blame it all on Arafat -- invest no domestic political capital in working on a peace process.  And Second, that decision resulted in a grave deterioration in Saudi-US relations.  He had been threatened by the Crown Prince with consequences.  What makes this much more irresponsible is that he also had ignored so much of the intelligence -- the stuff Clarke was pumping up the chain -- the many warnings from Tenet.  We know he got some of these warnings, but I have my doubts if it was much more detailed than the August 6 briefing we have seen, which while it is a warning, it also has all sorts of false comfort notes such as the count of active FBI investigations which we now know had little quality to them.  

    We have to add this intense background into any analysis.  

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