The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES” by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick from Chapter 12 “THE COLD WAR ENDS: Squandered Opportunities” on page 492 and I quote: “Clearly, neither Albright nor Clinton saw very far into the past. In late October 1998, Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which asserted, “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” Saddam immediately stopped inspections but backed down under the threat of war in mid-November and allowed the inspections to continue.
Albright’s hawkishness rankled the more sober-minded members of the administration. During one discussion, Albright asked, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Powell recalled, “I thought I would have an aneurysm. American GIs were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”
The 2000 election was the most scandalous in U.S. history. George W. Bush defeated John McCain in an ugly Republican primary that laid the groundwork for the tactics he would use in the general election. Bush shed his compassionate conservatism and attacked McCain furiously from the right. He reached out to the neo-Confederates, unreconstructed segregationists who fought to keep the rebel flag flying over the South Carolina state capitol. He spoke at Bob Jones University, whose claim to fame was its policy of banning interracial dating among students. But most notoriously, Karl Rove and the Bush brain trust planted the idea that McCain, “the fag candidate,” had fathered an illegitimate black daughter and his wife, Cindy, was a drug addict. McCain responded, “The political tactics of division and slander are not our values. . . those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country.” McCain was correct, but the tactic worked among a Republican Party base that was moving sharply to the right.
For his running mate, Bush selected Dick Cheney, who had fortuitously been put in charge of betting potential nominees. Republicans hoped that Cheney, a veteran of several administrations and six terms in Congress, would lend gravitas to a ticket headed by the lightly regarded, inexperienced former Texas governor. Cheney had made a fortune during his brief stint as CEO of Halliburton, retiring in 2000 with a $34 million severance package. In 1998, he merged Halliburton with Dresser Industries, forming the world’s biggest oil services firm. Halliburton was also a major defense contractor through its subsidiary Brown & Root. Bush and Cheney faced off against Vice President Al Gore and Senator Joe Lieberman. The race was complicated by the participation of reformer Ralph Nader and conservative Pat Buchanan.
As the elections approached, polls indicated a tight outcome. Bush advisors feared their candidate would win the popular vote but lose in the electoral college. They readied plans to orchestrate a popular uprising accusing Gore of using the antiquated electoral college to thwart the public will.
The election was very close indeed. Nationally, Gore won the popular vote by 544,000. Winning Florida would have also given him victory in the electoral college. The majority of Florida voters clearly intended to vote for Gore. But confusing “butterfly ballots” in West Palm Beach caused many elderly Jewish voters to inadvertently vote for Buchanan, who was sometimes accused of anti-Semitism and whom those voters, in particular, despised, and antiquated punch card machines in poor, heavily Democratic districts caused state officials to invalidate 180,000 ballots either for not clearly identifying a candidate or for voting more than once. But most troubling was that tens of thousands of pro-Gore African-Americans voters had been purged from the voting lists and denied the right to vote by Republican election officials, who had been directed to do so by the Bush Florida campaign cochair, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, on the pretext, often incorrect, that they were convicted felons. In the end, more than 10 percent of African Americans were disqualified compared to only 2 percent of Republican-leaning whites. Had the rates been equal, more than 50,000 more African Americans would have voted in Florida, giving Gore an overwhelming lead and ensuring his election. But because of the irregularities and the 97,000 votes that went to Nader, Bush clung to a minuscule lead of less than 1,000 votes out of 6 million cast. If certified, Bush would win the election by 271-266 electoral college votes.
The deck was stacked against Gore. Bush’s younger brother Jeb was governor. Harris, a fierce partisan, was in charge of certifying the results. Partial recounts cut Bush’s lead below 600 votes. Fearing that the full state recount Gore demanded would sink him, Bush deployed family consigliere James Baker, his father’s campaign manager and secretary of state, to use every available court challenge to block the recount. The Bush campaign also flew down a small army of members of Congress, congressional staffers, and lawyers to run the operation on the ground, many arriving in corporate jets leased to the campaign by Bush’s friend “Kenny Boy” Lay of Enron and Cheney’s friends at Halliburton.
The ground operation was overseen by House Republican Whip Tom DeLay. Some 750 Republican operatives swarmed into three predominantly Democratic counties that were considering recounts. At raucous rallies, they portrayed themselves as local citizens outraged that Gore was stealing the election, a theme echoed by Republican media allies. On November 22, the Republican field army, fortified by right-wing Cubans, physically disrupted the Miami-Dade canvassing board’s attempt to examine almost 11,000 disputed ballots in what the “Wall Street Journal” called a “door-kicking, window-banging protest.” The fifty-person mob, which included staffers of DeLay and Senator Trent Lott, was led by New York Congressman John Sweeney, who started them chanting “Shut it down!,” “Three blind mice,” and “Fraud, fraud, fraud.” Members of the canvassing board were physically assaulted, and Supervisor of elections David Leahy was punched. One thousand more Cuban Americans, they were told, were on the way. The Brooks Brothers riot, as it was dubbed because of the well-dressed insurgents, achieved its goal, forcing frightened board members to abandon their recount, which, the “Journal” reported, was expected to help Gore “chip away” at Bush’s lead.
The operatives repeated their performance in heavily Democratic Broward County, outnumbering Democratic protesters outside the courthouse by ten to one. Among those observing the shutdown of the Miami-Dade canvassing board was “Wall Street Journal” editorial writer Paul Gigot, who commented, “If it’s possible to have a bourgeois riot, it happened here Wednesday. And it could end up saving the presidency for George W. Bush.”
Harris disallowed other recounts and certified Bush the winner by 537 votes. Though outspent in Florida by more than four to one, Gore continued to fight through the courts. On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a statewide recount of all ballots recorded as showing no vote or more than one vote in cases where names were both checked and written in. With his lead falling below 200 votes, Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the recount. Seven of the nine justices had been appointed by Republican presidents and five of the seven by administrations in which Bush’s father was either president or vice president. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented, charging, “Although we may never know with complete certainty of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” Others alleged that an outright coup had occurred.
Bush promised to govern as a “compassionate conservative.” but Cheney’s selection of right-wingers and neocons to fill key administration positions made clear that compassion and compromise would be in short supply. For defense secretary, the dour vice president-elect picked his mentor Donald Rumsfeld, whom Henry Kissinger had called “the most ruthless man I ever met.” Jim Baker reminded Bush, “you know what he did to your daddy,” referring to Rumsfeld’s effort to derail his father’s political career in the 1970s. But Bush took perverse pleasure in picking the man who had so openly defied his father. Rumsfeld, a man of prodigious arrogance, and Cheney, gloomy, dyspeptic, and pathologically secretive, would dominate foreign policy making, consistently riding roughshod over Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Cheney was on a mission to restore the power of the executive branch, which had steadily eroded, he believed, since the passage of the War Powers Act in 1973 and Watergate. Sharing Cheney’s contempt for public opinion, Bush surrounded himself with yes-men and true believers. He told Bob Woodward, “I don’t need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.” He held fewer press conferences than any other modern president, addressed only prescreened audiences, and set up special zones to isolate protesters far from his appearances.
From the start, serious debate over domestic policy concerns was conspicuous by its absence. One of the few who tried to instigate such discussions was John DiIulio, whom Bush had chosen to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. DiIlulio, a respected political scientist from the University of Pennsylvania who had previously taught at Harvard and Princeton, stuck out like a sore thumb in this administration. Not only were he and Treasury Secretary Norman Mineta the only Democrats in the administration, he was, according to journalist Ron Suskind, the administration’s “big brain.” Bush called him “one of the most influential social entrepreneurs in America.” He was also one of the few who took seriously the commitment to “compassionate conservatism,” speaking, for example, about he need to save “the least, the last and the lost.”
Surrounded by neoconservative ideologues and harassed constantly by the religious Right, DiIulio lasted barely eight months. In October 2002, he opened up in a letter to Suskind in which he expressed admiration for the president, who, he said, was “much, much smarter than some people. . . seem to suppose” but criticized the environment in the White House, where, from the president on down, there was virtually no discussion of substantive domestic policy concerns:
“There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues [and] only a couple people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis. . . . [The] lack of basic policy knowledge [is] somewhat breathtaking. . . . this gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis—staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and- white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative or policy proposals as far right as possible.”
Whereas the first President Bush and Clinton had made some efforts at diplomacy and coalition building, Bush 43 exhibited the kind of “chest-thumping unilateralism” that neocons had demanded for decades. He announced that he would not send the International Criminal Court treaty to the Senate for ratification, despite the fact that Clinton had signed it and virtually every other Western democracy had joined. Perhaps he and Cheney anticipated that membership in the world’s first war crimes tribunal might interfere with their future plans. Bush then rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which 150 nations had signed. He repudiated the Kyoto protocol on global warming; abrogated the ABM Treaty with Russia, which freed him to expand the costly and unproven missile defense program; disavowed the Middle East peace process; and suspended talks with North Korea on its long-range missile program. Cheney strategically positioned loyalists throughout the bureaucracy and worked closely with Rumsfeld to expand the role and influence of the Pentagon. Though lacking any popular mandate, Bush and Cheney proceeded to ride roughshod over the opposition, taking advantage of the fact that Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1920s.
This Bush administration, as Ralph Nader put it, was “marinated in oil,” with two oilmen at the helm and Chevron board member Condoleezza Rice, who had a double-hulled oil tanker named after her, as national security advisor. Cheney quickly put together an energy task force and began formulating a new national energy policy based on securing control of Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea oil. He later fiercely resisted efforts to force the disclosure of task force participants’ names and their discussions. A top NSC official instructed NSC staff to cooperate with the task force as it tried to “meld” together its review of “policies toward rogue states” like Iraq and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.” Cheney told an audience of oil industry executives in 1999, “There will be an average of two percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a three percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?. . . the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” The task force urged the administration to pressure Middle Eastern nations whose governments controlled their oil industries “to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.”
Congressman Dennis Kucinich spelled out the implications:
“Oil is a major factor in every aspect of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf. Ask yourself: What commodity accounts for 83 percent of total exports from the Persian Gulf? What is the U.S. protecting with our permanent deployment of about 25,000 military personnel, 6 fighter squadrons, 6 bomber squadrons, 13 air control and reconnaissance squadrons, one aircraft carrier battle group, and one amphibious ready group based at 11 military installations?, , , the disproportionate troop deployment in the Middle East aren’t there to protect the people, who constitute only 2 percent of the world population.”
Cheney and Bush spent their first eight months in office aggressively pursuing the PNAC agenda. They paid little if any heed to the terrorist threat. The attacks on September 11, 2001, could have and should have been prevented. NSC Counterterrorism Chief Richard Clarke tried to alert top administration officials, including Cheney, Rice, and Powell, to the Al-Quaeda threat from their very first days on the job. He warned that an attack was imminent. On January 25, he requested that Rice call an urgent cabinet-level “principals” meeting to discuss the threat. He finally got his meeting on September 4.
Warning signs abounded in the summer of 2001. Intercepted Al-Quaeda messages stated that “something spectacular” was about to occur. FBI agents reported suspicious behavior by individuals who wanted to know how to fly passenger airplanes but were not interested in learning how to land. Tenet received an August briefing paper titled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly” about the arrest in Minnesota of Zacarias Moussaoui after officials at the flight school he was attending reported his strange behavior. Clarke testified that CIA Director George Tenet was running around Washington with his “hair on fire,” trying to get Bush’s attention. In late June, Tenet told Clarke, “I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.” Intelligence agencies issued threat reports with headlines such as “Bin Laden Threats Are Real,” “Bin Laden Planning High Profile Attacks,” “Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations,” “Bin Laden Public Profile May Presage Attack,” and “Bin Laden’s Network’s Plans Advancing.” Alerts warned of a high probability of near-term “spectacular” attacks resulting in numerous casualties and causing turmoil in the world. According to writer Thomas Powers, in the nine months before September 11, intelligence personnel “had warned the administration as many as forty times of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, but that is not what the administration wanted to hear, and it did not hear it.”
The President’s Daily Brief that Bush received at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on August 6 was headlined “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” It discussed the threat of Al-Quaeda operatives hijacking planes. Bush was as uninterested as ever, telling his CIA briefer, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” Tenet later testified that “the system was blinking red.” Still, Bush had the temerity to tell a news conference in April 2004, “Had I any inkling whatsoever that the people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country.”
Rice was equally culpable and equally disingenuous. During summer 2001, Tenet and CIA counterterrorism chief J. Cofer Black pushed her to adopt a plan to thwart bin Laden’s pending attack, but Rice was preoccupied with ballistic missile defense. Frustrated, Black later remarked, “The other thing we didn’t do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.” Rice later commented, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted. . . that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.”
Bush and Rice’s lack of interest was shared by others in the administration. Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard told the 9/11 Commission that he had briefed Attorney General John Ashcroft twice that summer about the terrorist threat, but that, after the second briefing, Ashcroft told him he didn’t want to hear about it anymore. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also discounted the warnings. Rumsfeld went further, threatening, as late as September 9, to get the president to veto Senate Armed Services Committee plans to transfer $600 million from the missile defense budget to counterterrorism.
Nor at that time did many predict that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and their cronies would use this criminal assault on the United States as an excuse to launch wars against two Islamic nations—wars that would cause far more damage to the United States than Osama bin Laden ever could—or to begin shredding the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention.”
(THIS TALKS ABOUT WHAT TOOK PLACE AFTER THE 2000 ELECTION BETWEEN AL GORE AND GEORGE W BUSH, WHERE THE VOTE WAS SO CLOSE IN FLORIDA, WHERE JEB BUSH, THE NOMINEE’S BROTHER, WAS GOVERNOR, THERE WAS THE START OF A RECOUNT AND AS THE VOTE GOT CLOSER, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN SECRETARY OF STATE KATHERINE HARRIS, MADE SURE THAT GW BUSH WON, WITH HELP FROM SOME OF HIS REPUBLICAN FRIENDS AND THE U.S. SUPREME COURT. IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG AFTER BUSH-CHENEY WERE IN OFFICE TO GET ANOTHER COLD WAR GOING WITH THE RUSSIANS, WHO FAVORED A LOT OF THE ARAB GROUPS WHO BACKED IRAN AND IT’S A BIG ISSUE THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA IS TRYING TO SETTLE RIGHT TODAY AND IN THE NEXT TWO MONTHS TO CREATE A LASTING PEACE AND TRYING TO PREVENT THE ATOMIC BOMB GETTING INTO MORE TERRORISTS’ HANDS. OF COURSE, THE REPUBLICANS ARE OPPOSING A PEACE TREATY, ALONG WITH NETANYAHU OF ISRAEL. I HOPE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES WITH BOTH PARTIES, WHO MOSTLY CAN ONLY BE VIEWED BY PEOPLE WITH CABLE OR A DISH , MUST BE CORRECTED. ONE QUARTER OF THE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO AFFORD THIS AND WHY SHOULDN’T THEY HAVE THE OPORTUNITY TO VIEW THE DEBATES, WHICH COULD BE SOLVED IF PUBLIC TELEVISION WOULD BROADCAST THE DEBATES.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members