Failing Upwards
November 23, 2004, 1:00am

John Ashcroft lost the Senate election to a dead man. He then was made Attorney General of the United States…that to me is failing upwards. Condoleezza Rice, who has failed miserably the last four years with respect to national security, is yet another example.

Only in the Bush Administration can one’s consistent failures and misjudgments lead to ascension within the ranks. Chief White House expert on terrorism Richard Clarke sent Rice an urgent memo just days after she took office. In that memo, Clarke stressed the seriousness of an impending terrorist threat by mentioning that functioning al Qaeda cells were present in the United States. Rice chose to be inactive, rather than to investigate the threat. Maintaining that she “never thought that [al Qaeda] would try and use a hijacked airplane as a missile,” Rice validated the notion that she clearly did not take the intelligence briefing she received shortly before 9/11 entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” seriously. In fact, twelve times in the seven years prior to 9/11, the CIA reported that highjackers might use airplanes as weapons. The declassified intelligence briefing informed the President and his Advisor that “a group of bin Laden supporters are in the U.S. planning attacks,” yet the president stayed on vacation at his ranch for 23 more days, Dick Cheney, head of the terrorist task force, did nothing, and the National Security Advisor failed to convene cabinet level meetings to discuss the threat. In the months leading up to the attack, the terrorist “chatter” was getting louder and louder, but the White House turned a deaf ear.

In January 2001, despite Clarke’s further warnings that heads of the CIA, FBI, and State Defense Departments be immediately briefed on the al Qaeda threat, and although the national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions. Astonishingly, despite all these unheeded warnings, the first meeting on al Qaeda did not occur until September 4th, 2001, a mere 7 days before al Qaeda attacked the United States. To this day, the White House has refused to declassify Clarke’s memo for public investigation. Does anybody in this country have any reason to feel more secure with Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State?

Rice has shown that her blind loyalty to the president has prevented her from sound judgment. She was one of the primary dispensers of false information before the war in Iraq, having stated that Saddam was “actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.” Such a charge has been discredited by weapons inspector David Kay and most recently by Charles Duelfer, Deputy Chairman of the UN Special Commission to Iraq. She publicly supported the accusation by the White House that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes needed to build nuclear weapons, which was the administration’s strongest case for invading Iraq. All the while however, Rice fully knew that the government’s foremost nuclear experts at the Department of Energy disputed the White House’s position.

The National Security Adviser should be a thoughtful objective counselor to the president on security concerns and not be seen as a political operative, yet Rice actively campaigned for Bush during the election. With the terror level once again raised and Vice President Cheney utilizing fear tactics as he discussed the possibility of terrorists using nuclear weapons in U.S. cities, Rice was making political speeches rather than safeguarding the country. She has been deemed by many experts as “one of the weakest National Security Advisors in recent history.” Once again the American public is being sadly shortchanged by having leaders that lack foresight and sound judgment at the very time it is most needed.