Suskind wrote the celebrated New York Times magazine article which quoted "a senior adviser to Bush" as pointing out that the Bush administration does not belong to "what we [BushCo] call the reality-based community. So he is a very serious journalist. His book "is one in which more than a hundred sources, all throughout the government, FBI, CIA, even inside of the White House, cooperated. There are people inside of those buildings who believe that truth matters, and they want to embrace it." So one can be confident that the claims Suskind makes are well documented.
1. Bush was personally briefed by CIA analysts who flew to Crawford in August to 2001 to warn him of an impending attack: it was not just a memo. Bush's reply to the panicked analyst: "Alright, now, you've covered your ass." Thus, there can be no doubt that the CIA gave Bush a very clear warning, and that Bush understood it as such. But as we all know, he continued with his vacation and made absolutely no response until the plains actually hit.
2. George Tenet never told Bush that the case for WMDs in Iraq was a "slam dunk". Neither Tenet nor another official at that meeting remember him saying so. To quote pontificator: "the Bush administration constructed that canard out of whole cloth, and fed it to their tool Bob Woodward ... to publish to the world. It was an extremely useful lie, since it supported the White House's bigger thematic lie - that the Iraqi WMD debacle was the fault of poor intelligence gathering by the CIA, as opposed to the White House's unrelenting pressure and a single minded willingness to slant the evidence."
3. The CIA warned Bush that if he doesn't move troops into Tora Bora, bin Laden will evade capture. "The President ignored that advice. He seemed to defer to Don Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks. It was an enormous mistake. The President has skirted accountability on that. That can no longer occur."
4. "Bush personally ordered the torture of a suspected terrorist mastermind who turned out to be nothing more than a mentally ill Al-Qaeda flunky, just to save face." (I'm quoting Magorn here.)
Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
5. Al Jazeera in Kabul was deliberately targeted by the US. (I don't think that should surprise many people here, but now that's documented.) "There was great animosity toward Al Jazeera at that point. It was felt inside the administration they were the mouthpiece for bin Laden, and that was a lot of what bin Laden was doing at that juncture. And they wanted to send a message. They asked Al Jazeera to proscribe things it was doing. Al Jazeera said we're a media organization, we don't do that sort of thing. And the headquarters was bombed."
6. One of the nicknames inside the CIA for Cheney is "Edgar Bergen", who was a famous ventriloquist. "People inside of CIA and inside of other parts of the government saw early on that the way these two men worked, Cheney and Bush, is that Cheney essentially is the global thinker of the pair. He's created an architecture, a platform of sorts, in which George Bush can be George Bush and still be president. He, inside of this framework, embraces his instinct, his gut, acts as a man of action. But Cheney really is the designer of the architecture and also the global thinker of the pair. That is made very clear in the book through many, many incidents in which you're in the Oval Office, in the room." I think this analysis is compelling, because it explains how Cheney is able to really run things, while at the same time being able to make Shrub think that he is in charge.
7. What defines the Bush administration since 9/11: Cheney's one percent doctrine. In a meeting in November 2001, people in the White House situation room were mulling over how to respond to intelligence that Pakistani nuclear scientists had met with bin Laden to discuss the feasibility of nuclear weapons for al-Qaeada.
And the Vice President says two things. He says we need to think in a new way about these low probability, high-impact type events, a different way. And then, by the end of the briefing, he has that different way. He says, "If there's even a 1% chance that WMDs have been given to terrorists, we need to treat it as a certainty, not in our analysis or the preponderance of evidence," he demurs, "but in our response." At this moment the Vice President officially separates analysis from action, allows for an evidence-free model to move forward, and says suspicion may be all we have to use the awesome powers of the United States.This is how the US embarked on its policy of operating in an evidence-free mode, which Suskind wrote about in his New York Times piece. What is illuminating here is that this account paints Cheney not simply as evil (a poor explanatory device), but explains how he came to this position while actually being concerned about how to protect the nation. I might add by the way that this doctrine is very American, and not just right-wing or neocon: out of frustration with the difficulty of solving problems through the careful use of reason, the urge is given into to just act. It is like Marlon Brando punching the wall in Last Tango in Paris. And this account shows how the ultimate source of BushCo's blustering belligerence is weakness of character.
8. Bin Laden intervened in the 2004 election to help Bush: as many of us suspected at the time.
The CIA's consensus: "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection ... On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush's ratings track with bin Laden's ratings in the Arab world." When Bush speaks, bin Laden's popularity soars -- and vice versa. (Salon review by Gary Kamiya)
Bush, Cheney et al. thought they would escape accountability for their disastrous screw-ups, but we now have a reliable account of how things actually played out. And the first step in bringing them to account is to bring an accurate understanding of how things played out into the public consciousness.