Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Tag Archives: 9/11

Book Excerpt: A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair


This is essentially a memoir by Tony Blair, who’s most famous in America for helping Bush invade Iraq. He’s sorta the Brittish version of Bush. Sorta. This is about 9/11 from his perspective and how he viewed it. Worth a read. Additionally, it’s well written. I found it very easy to read, nothing surprising, but definetely an interesting light into his mind.

Book Excerpt: A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair

Book Excerpt: A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair

CHAPTER TWELVE
9/11: ‘SHOULDER TO SHOULDER’

It is amazing how quickly shock is absorbed and the natural rhythm of the human spirit reasserts itself. A cataclysm occurs. The senses reel. In that moment of supreme definition, we can capture in our imagination an event’s full significance. Over time, it is not that the memory of it fades, exactly; but its illuminating light dims, loses its force, and our attention moves on. We remember, but not as we felt at that moment. The emotional impact is replaced by a sentiment which, because it is more calm, seems more rational. But paradoxically it can be less rational, because the calm is not the product of a changed analysis, but of the effluxion of time.

So it was with 11 September 2001. On that day, in the course of less than two hours, almost 3,000 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack the world has ever known. Most died in the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center that dominated the skyline of New York. It was a workplace for as diverse a workforce as any in the world, from all nations, races and faiths, and was not only a symbol of American power but also the edifice that most eloquently represented the modern phenomenon of globalisation.

The explosion as the planes hit killed hundreds outright, but most died in the inferno that followed, and the carnage of the collapse of the buildings. As the flames and smoke engulfed them, many jumped in terror and panic, or just because they preferred that death to being on fire. Many who died were rescue workers whose heroism that day has rightly remained as an enduring testament to selfless sacrifice.

The Twin Towers were not the only target. American Airlines Flight 77, carrying sixty-four people from Washington to Los Angeles, was flown into the Pentagon. A total of 189 people died. United Airlines Flight 93, bound from Newark to San Francisco with forty-four on board, was hijacked, its target probably the White House. It came down in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Its passengers, realising the goal of the hijack, stormed the cabin. In perishing, they saved the lives of many others.

It was an event like no other. It was regarded as such. The British newspapers the next day were typical of those around the globe: “at war,” they proclaimed. The most common analogy was Pearl Harbor. The notion of a world, not just America, confronted by a deadly evil that had indeed declared war on us all was not then dismissed as the language of the periphery of public sentiment. It was the sentiment. Thousands killed by terror—what else should we call it?

Opinions were forthright and clear, and competed with each other in resolution, not only in the West but everywhere. In the Arab world, condemnation was nearly universal, only Saddam ensuring that Iraqi state television played a partisan song, “Down with America,” calling the attacks “the fruits of American crimes against humanity.” Yasser Arafat condemned the acts on behalf of the Palestinians, though unfortunately, most especially for the Palestinian cause, the TV showed pictures of some jubilant Palestinians celebrating.

The most common words that day were “war,” “evil,” “sympathy,” “solidarity,” “determination” and, of course, “change.” Above all, it was accepted that the world had changed. How could it be otherwise? The reason for such a description was also not hard to divine. The first attempt to attack the World Trade Center, in 1993, had been foiled, but the planning this time had obviously been meticulous. The enemy had been prepared to wait until it had accumulated the necessary means and opportunity.

However, more than that, a terror attack of this scale was not calculated to do limited damage. It was designed for maximum casualty. It was delivered by a suicide mission. It therefore had an intent, a purpose and a scope beyond anything we had encountered before. This was terror without limit; without mercy; without regard to human life, because it was motivated by a cause higher than any human cause. It was inspired by a belief in God; a perverted belief, a delusional and demonic belief, to be sure, but nonetheless so inspired.

It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict. Up to then, the activities of this type of extremism had been growing. It was increasingly associated with disputes that seemed unconnected, though gradually the connection was being made. Kashmir, Chechnya, Algeria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon; in each area, different causes were at play, with different origins, but the attacks, carried out as acts of terror, were growing, and the ideological link with an extreme element that professed belief in Islam was ever more frequently expressed. Until 11 September, the splashes of colour on different parts of the canvas did not appear to the eye as a single picture. After it, the clarity was plain, vivid and defining.

We look back now, almost a decade later when we are still at war, still struggling and managing the ghastly consequences which war imposes, and we can scarcely recall how we ever came to be in this position. But on that bright New York morning, not a cloud disturbing the bluest of blue skies, we knew exactly what was happening and why.

We knew that so far as we were concerned we had not provoked such an outrage. There had been acts of terror committed against us: Lockerbie, the USS Cole, the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. We had tried to retaliate, but at a relatively low level. They were individual tragedies, but they did not amount to a war. They were the price America paid for being America. The other conflicts we reckoned were none of our business; or at least they were the business of our diplomatic corps, but not of our people.

So those carrying out such acts were wicked; but they weren’t changing our world view. George Bush had won the presidency after the controversies of the most contested ballot in U.S. history, but the battle between him and Al Gore had focused mainly on domestic policy. At my first meeting with him — Camp David in February of the same year — his priorities were about education, welfare and cutting down on big government as he saw it.

So there was no build-up to 11 September, no escalation, no attempts to defuse that failed, no expectation or inevitability. There was just an attack — planned obviously during the previous presidency — of unbelievable ferocity and effect. No warning, no demands, no negotiation. Nothing except mass slaughter of the innocent. We were at war.We could not ignore it. But how should we deal with it? And who was this enemy? A person? A group? A movement? A state? I was in Brighton that day, to give the biennial address to the Trades Union Congress. Frankly, it was always a pretty ghastly affair for both of us. As I explain elsewhere, I was frustrated they wouldn’t modernise; they were frustrated with my telling them how to do their business. Not that they were ever slow in telling me how to do mine, mind you. And sure-fire election-losing advice it was too. They ignored my counsel; and I ignored theirs. For all that, we sort of rubbed along after a fashion, and in a manner of speaking, and up to a point.

The great thing about Brighton is that it is warm, closer than Blackpool to London, and retains the enormous charm of yesteryear. Blackpool can be a great town and has a unique quality, but it needs work done on it. Brighton was where Neil Kinnock, posing for photos on the pebble beach on the day he became Labour leader in 1983, lost his footing and fell in the sea. You can imagine the pleasure of the assembled press. It must have been replayed a thousand times and became a slightly defining misstep; unfairly so, of course; but such things are never fair. In public, you are always on show, so always be under control. The trick, actually, is to appear to be natural, while gripping your nature in a vice of care and caution. Don’t let the mask slip; don’t think this is the moment to begin a new adventure in communication; don’t betray excesses of emotion of any kind; do it all with the ease and character of someone talking to old friends while knowing they are, in fact, new acquaintances.

Over time, I began to think there was never a moment when I could be completely candid and exposed. You worried that even sitting in your living room or in the bath, someone would come to photograph, question and call upon you to justify yourself. I became unhealthily focused on how others saw me, until, again over time, I refocused on how I saw myself. I realised I was considered public property, but the ownership was mine. I learned not to let the opinion of others, even a prevailing one, define my view of myself and what I should or should not do.

The TUC took place in early to mid-September, and the party conference a couple of weeks later. Both always made September a little nerve-tingling. From the TUC you could get a sense of where the party were liable to be in terms of contentment and/or otherwise. Trouble at the first usually presaged trouble at the second. The 2001 TUC was no exception. Having just won our first ever consecutive full term, in a second landslide victory, you would have thought it an occasion for general rejoicing. “I think mostly they’ll want to congratulate you on the victory,” Alastair said to me, po-faced, as we boarded the train.

“Do you think so?” I said, perking up.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied.

Sure enough, the mood as I arrived at lunchtime was the usual mixture of sweet and sour, but with the sweet a decided minority. I went straight to the Grand Hotel. We had an hour and a half before I had to go to the new Conference Centre a hundred yards or so along the beachfront. I worked in the bedroom as the team gathered in the living room of the suite. Just after a quarter to two, around 8:45 Eastern Standard Time, Alastair was called out of the room by Godric Smith, his very capable deputy. Alastair came back in, turned on the television and said, “You’d better see this.” He knew I hated being interrupted just before a speech, so I realised I’d better look. The TV was showing pictures of the Trade Center like someone had punched a huge hole in it, fire and smoke belching forth. Just over fifteen minutes later, a second plane hit, this time graphically captured live on-screen. This was not an accident. It was an attack.

At that moment, I felt eerily calm despite being naturally horrified at the devastation, and aware this was not an ordinary event but a worldchanging one. At one level it was a shock, a seemingly senseless act of evil. At another level, it made sense of developments I had seen growing in the world these past years—isolated acts of terrorism, disputes marked by the same elements of extremism, and a growing strain of religious ideology that was always threatening to erupt, and now had.

Within a very short space of time, it was clear the casualties would be measured in thousands. I ordered my thoughts. It was the worst terrorist attack in human history. It was not America alone who was the target, but all of us who shared the same values. We had to stand together. We had to understand the scale of the challenge and rise to meet it. We could not give up until it was done. Unchecked and unchallenged, this could threaten our way of life to its fundamentals. There was no other course; no other option; no alternative path. It was war. It had to be fought and won. But it was a war unlike any other. This was not a battle for territory, not a battle between states; it was a battle for and about the ideas and values that would shape the twenty-first century. All this came to me in those forty minutes between the first attack and my standing up in front of the audience to tell them that I would not deliver my speech but instead return immediately to London. And it came with total clarity. Essentially, it stayed with that clarity and stays still, in the same way, as clear now as it was then.

CPAC: Romney defends Bush


“I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly,” said Romney. “He pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9-11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is–a war, and he kept us safe.” Read more of this post

Obama ends both wars: “We’ve Won”


The Speech President Barack Obama should have given on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and US foreign Policy

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It’s an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point — where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Well, tonight, I’d like to declare in simple words, in unambiguous words, that in fact, act, deed, and daring, the war in Afghanistan is over. The government that existed when we declared war is now dead. Thus, the war against them is over, and we are victorious. We won. So to the US soldiers here and abroad I give thanks in simple and unambiguous words. We sent you over there to win us a war. And you have. Thank you. For every American citizen who sleeps safer for your sacrifice, I thank you. For every person who wishes to live in peace free of terrorism, I thank you. For upholding the ideals of our forefathers while defending the home of your children, I thank you. For honoring your oath to the Constitution, for fighting in heat and cold, storm and fire, for fighting in the deserts, on the roads, in the streets and from the air, I say thank you for a war won and an enemy defeated.

America’s fight was not without out difficulties, we have suffered many losses and we will honor their sacrifices. We can never forgot why our brave men and women went to war, why all gave some, and some gave their all.

We went there to defeat and kill Al Queda. Al Queda is dead, defeated, and no longer operating freely in Afghanistan. We won. They lost. Now, though the war in Afghanistan was well won, the war against Al Queda isn’t yet over. The men responsible for 9/11 are now in Pakistan, and to Pakistan the might of the United States now turns. Where ever our enemies go, we will chase them. Any country that embraces our enemies will be treated as such.

The war is Iraq was waged to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction. He is dead. His top commanders are dead. His government and political party are dead. Now, I use the word dead with a solemn certainty that I do not want to be missed. We went to war with Iraq not to hurt or punish the Iraqi people, but because Saddam Hussein and his Government actively assisted terrorists, because we believed they were attempting to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction and because we felt they were a threat to the region and the world. That Government is dead. Thusly, the war against them is over. We were and are victorious. The war is over, We Won.

So again, to every soldier in the US armed forces, I commend you. You have humbled and honored your nation with your duty, honor and courage. And your nation thanks you, honors your service, and thanks you for doing your duty. We sent you to war. You won.

Because both wars are over, I will have ordered our top Generals to begin bringing our troops home. These two governments are still young, and they are our allies, and as such we will assist them. Because we still have responsibilities over there, I have not ordered all our troops home. In each country we will leave a smaller presence than we have now, but still a strong force. We will leave several thousand Special Forces in each country, along with certain Air Force capabilities. It will be up to them to handle domestic violence, but they will not be alone. We will be standing beside them providing them air power and Special Force units when requested. Let me be clear, we will maintain enough troops over there to prevent the Iraqi government falling to insurgents. We will maintain enough troops to prevent Al Queda to returning to Afghanistan. They are our friends, and our commitment to their people has no timetable. Al Queda is our enemy, and in the war against them, again, there is no timetable.

So while I tonight declare an end to two wars tonight, I also declare a continuation of our War against Al Queda. This is a war that is not yet won. We have fought them in our country. We’ve fought them in Afghanistan. We’ve fought them in Iraq. Now we fight them in Pakistan. This time, Pakistan fights with us. So to the Pakistan government and people, I offer the thanks of a grateful nation. The War on Al Queda will continue as long as they exist.

We will not tire.

We will not cower.

We will not look away when the road is hard and the ground is difficult.

We will hunt you.

We will find you.

We are at war with you Al Queda, and we will fight you on that hard road, and we will fight you on difficult ground and we will kill you. And we will win this war.

America — we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

The start and finish are Barack’s actual words. Mine are the unquoted body of the speech.

The point is this, we won. Who exactly are we at war with? Are we at war with Afghanistan? No. The war is over, we won. We killed who we needed to. We can leave. We won. We can leave fighter jets and bombers and Apaches and Special forces and we can drop bombs from drones all day and night. But the job of creating nations is their job. There is no moral weakness in letting them do that. We can stand with them, but it is their job, not ours. This is not cut-and-run, this is winning.

Now, certain insurgents may of course claim we haven’t won. But I’m sure Southerners in bars and pubs refused to accept the North’s win in our own Civil War. If they release a video saying we haven’t won, then let our top General release a video challenging them to battle. We can pick a field on the outskirts of some city like they did in the old days. Then we offer anyone who wants a fight with us free pass to that field.

“If you think we haven’t won this war, here we are. Prove it. Remove us from this field.”

If we can openly control and command the field of battle without an opposing army lining up to face us, we’ve won. That’s how wars work. And we’ve won both wars. Let’s bring our people home and give them parades unlike anything the world has ever seen.

The Full Transcript of Obama’s Speech on Afghan and Pakistan


The Full Transcript of Obama’s Speech on Afghan and Pakistan

 

Eisenhower Hall Theatre
United States Military Academy at West Point
West Point, New York

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It’s an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point — where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them — an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 — the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy — and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden — we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. (Applause.) Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

But while we’ve achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it’s been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that’s why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.

Since then, we’ve made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we’ve stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda worldwide. In Pakistan, that nation’s army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and — although it was marred by fraud — that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and constitution.

Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There’s no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population. Our new commander in Afghanistan — General McChrystal — has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: The status quo is not sustainable.

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you fought in Afghanistan. Some of you will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that’s why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people — and our troops — no less.

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you — a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I’ve traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 — the fastest possible pace — so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They’ll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Because this is an international effort, I’ve asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. And now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility — what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We’ll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government — and, more importantly, to the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We’ll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas — such as agriculture — that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They’ve been confronted with occupation — by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand — America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect — to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We’re in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That’s why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

I recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the more prominent arguments that I’ve heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now — and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance — would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can’t leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort — one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I don’t have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I’m mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who — in discussing our national security — said, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance. We’ve failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I’ll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.

Now, let me be clear: None of this will be easy. The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict — not just how we wage wars. We’ll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold — whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere — they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

And we can’t count on military might alone. We have to invest in our homeland security, because we can’t capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. And that’s why I’ve made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them — because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them.

We’ll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I’ve spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity. (Applause.)

As a country, we’re not as young — and perhaps not as innocent — as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people — from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth. (Applause.)
This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue — nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It’s easy to forget that when this war began, we were united — bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. (Applause.) I believe with every fiber of my being that we — as Americans — can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment — they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.

America — we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

What he should have said….

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Reviews


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Brief Summary:

The Bush Administration were experts at message control, media manipulation and stagecraft. They used those skills to control public opinion so well that they came to believe their own lies, that they could create their own realities based on how they controlled the message. They sold the war in Iraq to Americans by controlling the message so well that the American people never really was given a choice of supporting the war. Their stagecraft though finally came to a crash as the actual-realties on the ground in Iraq and Katrina finally bore witness to their lies.

Would I recommend the book?

Yes. I liked it very much. This is an older book now, but I wanted to put the summary up because I thought it was underrated when it came out and the message it tells is one that has to be told. The Bush Administration wasn’t evil. They were just inept and governance, skilled at story telling, and focused on issues and goals the American people didn’t agree with or understand. The real villain in the book isn’t Bush, he’s the MacGuffin. The villain is the Media that so willingly let themselves be controlled and manipulated and turned into cheerleaders. The villain is the stagecraft that allowed ineptitude to prosper, let message become more important that substance, and let the American people become so horrible misinformed they allowed their government to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us, and then get stuck there.

The good?

The absolutely best part of the book isn’t actually part of the book per se, it’s in the back of the book, a parallel time-line comparing what was known privately and what was said publicly. Page 246 for example has on the left side of the paper the time when George Tenet privately telling Bush that the State and Energy Department and the CIA all had serious doubts about the aluminum tube story-line. On the Right side of the paper, publicly, at the same time, Bush gave a radio address using the Aluminum tube story to sell America on the necessity of war.

The public/private side by side comparison is damning in the least. Frightening too. There can be no doubt that the people making the decision for war knew what they were doing, the only people misled about Saddam’s WMDs were the American people.

The Ugly?

The Author uses a huge litany of examples through out the book to make his points. Now, the he uses these examples well, but sometimes the examples start taking on a life of their own. Perhaps it is just the nature of the beast, covering six years of mistakes from Bush is probably tough to do succinctly, but I often felt the chapters were just broken lists of mistakes lies and misleading statements. I suppose the point was to show the breadth of lies and deceit, but at the same time it made the narrative messy.

Conclusion

I give the Book an A. It covers a great deal of terrain and does an excellent job of showing just how disconnected the truth was to the message coming out of the White House. It chronicles in horrifying detail the path that took America from fantasizing about war to being stuck in an unnecessary one.

From the New York Times:

As a former theater critic, Frank Rich has the perfect credentials for writing an account of the Bush administration, which has done so much to blur the lines between politics and show business. Not that this is a unique phenomenon; think of Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and master of political fictions, or Ronald Reagan, who often appeared to be genuinely confused about the difference between real life and the movies. Show business has always been an essential part of ruling people, and so is the use of fiction, especially when going to war. What would Hitler have been without his vicious fantasies fed to a hungry public through grand spectacles, radio and film? Closer to home, in 1964, to justify American intervention in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson used news of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place. What is fascinating about the era of George W. Bush, however, is that the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation. 

Link

 

From the The Washington Post

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, no columnist has been more perceptive than Frank Rich of the New York Times. A longtime film and drama critic, Rich, for the past decade, has used his insights into performance and stagecraft to explain a political culture increasingly dominated by simulation and spectacle.

Link

 

From The Huffington Post

The Kirkus review for NYT columnist Frank Rich’s “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina” was released this afternoon, praising Rich for his “savaging sermon” on the “White House’s greatest hits, from the 2001 defense of gas-guzzling as essential to the American way of life to “Heckuva job, Brownie” to the ongoing morass of Iraq.” The Kirkus reviewer seems to be in agreement with Rich on the spinning of it’s own administration’s missteps: “In an effort to disguise that track record, the Republicans have exercised single-minded control of the grand narrative of the last five years, at least in part because they have exercised quasi-totalitarian control over the news media.”

Link

From Frank Rich (author)

When America was attacked on 9/11, its citizens almost unanimously rallied behind its new, untested president as he went to war. What they didn’t know at the time was that the Bush administration’s highest priority would not be to vanquish Al Qaeda but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could only be accomplished by a propaganda presidency in which reality was steadily replaced by a scenario of the White House’s own invention—and such was that scenario’s devious brilliance that it fashioned a second war against an enemy who did not attack America on 9/11, intimidated the Democrats into incoherence and impotence, and turned a presidential election into an irrelevant referendum on macho imagery, Vietnam and “moral values.”

Link

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 9-10)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Nine: When we act, we create our own reality

“If a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 154“The Bush Administration didn‘t just settle for demonizing, stiffling and spinning the press.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 166

“The more real journalism fumbled its job, the easier it was for such government info-ganda to fill the vaccumm.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 167

The first casualty of the Value-Voter Mandate was self-censorship ay the Networks. They dropped a showing of the “Band of Brothers” though it had been accepted in the previous years without problem. A cameraman who captured a Marine killing an unarmed Iraqi was chastised, and all talk of Abu Ghraib fell off the Networks.Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was caught unprepared for a question on armor supplies, though it had already been known that as many as 80% of Marine deaths could have been averted with the missing body armor. Soon thereafter the President gave his inaugural speech, without mentioning Iraq, and then held a ball for soldiers injured in the wars (without cameras) where they were told to “clap their hands” and “dance to the beat,” though many had lost their hands and legs.

A senior advisor to George Bush had claimed that they could create their own reality. So when US soldiers attacked Falluja, the Government created a “Mission Accomplished” by inflating the body count, downplaying the damage done to the city, and lying about the actions of the Iraqi soldiers who were supposedly “leading” the fight, but who had actually shown up after the fighting was done. When the identity of Deep Throat was revealed, he was attacked for “dishonoring” the President by Charles Colson, who had been convicted and served time in jail for his crimes, all without the Media pointing out his sordid past.

When seventeen people were killed in riots, the White House blamed Newsweek. Though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President of Afghanistan both disagreed, the preposterous charge allowed the White House to both attack the ‘filter’ and turn the Newsweek into the scapegoat for all the anger at America from Muslims. After the long back and forth with controlling the media, the Bush Administration decided to jump to the bottom line, hire their own reporters and create their own news broadcasts. But the post-9/11 slumber of journalism was coming to an end.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This was one of the better chapters so far, and highlights one of my personal grievances with our government, and that’s the failure of the media to pay attention and do their jobs. (just look at the recent posts, I ranted about this just last night). So through this chapter the Author goes through a long list of examples of how the media failed and how the Bush Administration failed. How the Bush Administration succeeded only in fooling Americans.He uses the many examples to demonstrate the many different ways that the Media was censored, scared, and controlled. The examples also go to show exactly how people were fooled, and how far the Administration was willing to go to fool people, that the Administration was vastly better at stagecraft than governance, better at writing speeches than running wars, and better at assigning blame than acknowledging their own mistakes and correcting them.

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Ten: Reporting for Duty

“But this scandal didn‘t begin, as Watergate had, simply with dirty tricks and spying on the political opposition. It began with the sending of American men and women to war in Iraq under false pretenses.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 181“The White House no longer had any more control over an expanding political insurgency at home than it did over the one in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 196

“Rove, tellingly, was officially put in charge of the New Orleans reconstruction.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 202

While Iraq slowly turned into a far-worse Afghanistan, Bush continued to repeat the same speeches with the same misinformation and instill fears of another 9/11, but the American people were moving away from him, with a majority thinking the war wasn’t worth it. Then Patrick Fitzgerald presented his case, revealing that Karl Rove had leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative as a political attack against a guy that had tried to warn the Administration that there were no WMDs in Iraq. The political stakes couldn’t be higher, this wasn’t a case about a simple leak of classified information, this was about the deliberate and intentional crime of sending American soldiers to war under false pretenses.Journalists, following the lead of a professional investigator began to work the story. The more the White House denied cherry-picking the intelligence, the more reports came out contradicting them. It was becoming apparent that not only was the evidence used by the Administration to sell the war wrong, it had intentionally exaggerated the evidence for a pre-intended goal.

Four years after responding to a memo outlining Osama’s plan to attack America by going fishing, Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside Bush’s Crawford ranch. Despite Rumsfelds claims that Iraqi soldiers were leading the fight, when Iraqi Militiamen showed up to Casey Sheehan, the soldiers ran away and Casey and several others were killed. The militiamen belonged to al-Sadr, who controlled one of the larger blocs in the Iraqi National Assembly. Bush loyalists attacker her, but there was no way to get around the fact her son was dead and Bush refused to speak to her. Only 34% of America approved of his handling of the war.

The Bush Administration was already in trouble when Katrina hit. The American people had come to realize the good news and warnings from the Administration were all either exaggerated, recycled, unsubstantiated or lies. When Katrina hit, Bush, again, flew away from Washington rather than towards it. It was 9/11 and Iraq déjà vu, the same obliviousness to danger, the same AWOL behavior, the same lack of preparation, the total disregard for the people on the ground and the incompetence is handling the disaster. The White House tried to use their well-practiced stagecraft to cover up their disastrous behavior, but the American people would have none of it.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

The final chapter is well written, finishes the circle of the book if you would. It looks at the crumbling stagecraft of the Bush Administration after the election and then through the prism of all that stagecraft, looks at the response to Katrina. Katrina really did end the Bush Administration, with this chapter showing that the problems with the response to Katrina were the same that had plagued the Administration from day one.Now, through the prism of Katrina you can find any number of problems and faults with anything and anyone, but at the same time, Katrina was a disaster of such epic proportions, you can’t look at the Bush Administration and ignore the federal response. And the federal response was to ignore it and call it a success, and that was the real disaster, a point the author really nails down in the final chapter.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 7-8)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Seven: Slam Dunk

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would categorize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” Paul O’Neill The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 113

“The White House’s prohibition on photo’s of flag-draped coffins from Iraq, it seemed, did not extend to the politically useful pictures of casualties from 9/11.” – Regarding such pictures in campaign commercials. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 119

“Such protests raised a question: If the country was so firmly in support of the war, as Bush loyalists claimed, by what logic would photographs of its selfless soldiers, either of their faces or of their flag-draped coffins, undermine public support?” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 127

Thirteen after leaving his job in the administration, Paul O’Neill, with Ron Suskind, wrote a book attacking the administration. According to O’Neill, the administration was focused on deposing Saddam from the very first National Security meeting and were just looking for a way. Shortly after Richard Clark, Bush’s counterterrorism czar released a book supporting O’Neill and providing more damning evidence towards an Administration that had dropped the ball. Most of the facts revealed by the two were already known, but they did what facts couldn’t, they put a human face to the facts. The Administration tried to write them off and sent agents to attack their message, but none worked.

Over the next several months bad news continued to pile up; dead Americans hanging from a bridge, Abu Ghraib, Pat Tillman’s brave death fighting insurgents. The Media began turning to the families of the dead for ratings. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Rush Limbaugh and others did their best to the defend the Administration, but pictures of American’s fake-raping Iraqi’s needed no commentary.

The election year was coming up, and the Administration fought back hard against the bad stories. They blamed Liberals and Democrats for the Jersey Girls wanting a 9/11 Commission, though the head of the group had voted for Bush. They accused cowardly journalists in Iraq of not leaving their hotels to see the good things occurring in Iraq, though 34 journalists had already died doing just that. They blamed the mounting deaths of Americans on thugs and terrorists. They twisted and lied about the death of Pat Tillman, they lied about the President’s actions on 9/11, they exaggerated Iraqi police forces, and they downplayed or ignored the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib. The American people were slowly turning against the war in Iraq.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This chapter was hard to summarize due to the breadth of information covered, and I hope I did it justice. Frank Rich goes through more than a dozen events highlighting both the bad news coming out of Iraq or former Bush insiders, and the Administration’s attempts to silence that news. Going through it it’s hard not to get a pessimistic view of the entire timeline.

The important point though, I think, is that even as all the bad news was coming out, the Administration was more concerned with fixing the message than fixing the mess. Highlighted by a poignant Karl Rove quote a year after the Mission Accomplished banner, he said he wished the banner hadn’t been there. But the banner wasn’t a problem it was just a symptom of a problem, it was a visible reminder of a disconnect between facts on the ground and the information spoon fed to the media. Karl Rove wasn’t wishing the Iraq war was done better, he was wishing it was sold better. And that was the problem with the Administration through out this whole period. Even as things kept getting worse and worse, rather than rushing to attack the problems, they rushed to attack the whistleblowers.

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Eight: Reporting for Duty

“As the Press would report, many of the Swift Boat vets’ charges were easily debunked.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 139

“Having brought up Vietnam in the backdrop of this incipient quagmire, Kerry then choked. It turned out he had almost nothing to say about the subject” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 148

“The Republican right, for its part, saw an opening to use the ‘values’ mandate as a means to shove its own values down people’s throats.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 151

The Republicans were looking for someone they could easily make out to be weak on defense and a 70’s radical, instead they got John Kerry, who could do play the role of soldier far better than George Bush. John Kerry had won multiple awards during the Vietnam war including the bronze star for valor in rescuing an overboard crewmate. Yet, for all his attempts, his campaigns skills at stagecraft were unprepared for the Swift Boats Vets for Truth, and for all the loaded weapons the White House had given him, his fumbling speeches and gaffes made him an easy target for ridicule.

After staking his entire Presidential campaign on his past military service, and having most of that chipped away by the Swift Boat Vets, Kerry did himself in by having nothing to say on the Iraq war. While the President and his men set about scaring America into making a safe choice, Kerry hid from his anti-war past and offered no specific alternatives to the Iraq war.

Despite being a horrible candidate, and going against an entrenched Administration able and willing to manipulate the terror warnings for political gains, Kerry held George Bush to 51%. This somehow became a “mandate,” an election determined by so-called ‘value-voters.’ The Media knew a sexy story when they heard it, and they went with it. When voters were given a list of specific reasons for their vote, and a final unspecific “value issues” reason (abortion? Gay rights? Helping the poor?) the majority selected matters connected to national security, but since no single matter of national security was singled out as much as the broad umbrella of “values”, that was the story. And it’s a narrative that threatens to doom political discourse for years.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This chapter reads a little whiney. The author starts off making the case that Kerry was a good candidate, and any cursory look at the guy would show he’s a great politician. Fought in a war he volunteered for, volunteered to go to the front lines and was awarded multiple awards. Came home and began a political career by saying the Vietnam war was wrong, a point that most people would agree with today. He then spent many years in political office, requiring him to run and win many campaigns. Then he slams him for not responding and having enough to say on the war. Now, he might well be right to a point, but Monday-morning quarter backers can normally make a point or two too.

The parts that read a bit more informative are where he talks about John Ashcroft using his podium to scare Americans for political gain. Since then, he’s written a book admitting that he was under political pressure to do just that. Complaining about the fact that Kerry was a bad candidate and lost a campaign, whether true or not, really doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the book.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 3-4)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Summary

PART ONE Chapter Three: “I don’t think anyone could have predicted…”

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Told, Page 43

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 43

“Bush had never run a successful business…. The inexperience showed. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 51

George Bush had been sold to America as the first CEO President, and the American people had been Sold no one could have predicted the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Over the next several months the Bush Administration had to run the gauntlet of corporate corruption cases and congressional investigations concerning pre-9/11 intelligence.

In the first State of the Union since his speech to the joint session of Congress on the eve of war with Afghanistan the only part of the speech to be remembered by the next morning would eventually come to be called the Bush Doctrine, preemptive war against “regimes that sponsor terror” and branding Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the “axis of evil.” Forgotten in the speech was public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

The news of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was only the first of several embarrassing 9/11 revelations. CBS broke the news that the president, while on vacation, had been warned by the intelligence community bin Laden was trying to hijack planes. An FBI agent had also sent a Memo asking for muslim flight students to be investigated. Condoleeze Rice was sent in to argue that no one could have predicted that anyone hijack a plane, ignoring the memos to the contrary. The revelations of pre-9/11 failures kept coming. As more attention was paid to these stories, John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney began accelerating the pile up of terror alerts.

Two weeks before his inauguration Bush invited a bevy of CEOs to Texas to showcase his, and his soon-to-be administrations business acumens. Bush surrounded himself with former CEOs. Rather than channeling the successful corporate environments of companies like GM, they implored the cooked-book, smoke and mirror tactics of Enron and Tyco. The White House put together an economic forum of Bush-donators to help the staggering economy, when critics complained the White House added enthusiasts for his fiscal policies. The managerial policies of Bush’s inner circle continued to abound, with John Ashcroft boasting of a 13-month investigation leading to the arrest of 12 people for prostitution, a boast that did nothing to inspire confidence in his ability to arrest terrorists.

The mid-term elections were coming up, Karl Rove came up with a strategy for winning despite all the bad news coming in waves, summed up in the first three words: “Focus on the war.”

Summary

PART ONE Chapter Four: “Don’t introduce new products in August”

“Bush: ‘If we tried to do too many things, two things for example… the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.’ The follow-up question that was not to be found in Bush at War was simple enough: If it was a huge risk to split our focus between Saddam and AlQueda then, why wasn’t it now? ” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 67

“The unofficial motto of the 9/11 anniversary may have been ‘Never forget,’ but the war on Al Queda was already fading from memory as the world was invited to test-drive the new war in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 60

“To question Bush on anything more substantive was an invitation to have one‘s patriotism besmirched.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 62

“The Washington press corps was more than willing to buy fictions if instructed to do so by the puppeteer.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 69

The White House was so good at managing the media it began bragging about its skills. They took the accepted political Skillman ship of political visuals and turned it into an art. They understood that was next to the head is as important as the head itself. In that backdrop of masterful message control came the selling of the war in Iraq.

The initial, and subliminal, release of the new product occurred only two months after 9/11 when Bush said Iraq would be held accountable for harboring weapons of mass destruction. Not till the fall of 2002 though did the full weight of Bush Administration roll out the new war. Cheney, Rice, and Powell all played their roles carefully marrying Iraq to Al Queda.

Even as the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was unraveling, the Administration continued to sell the evidence as fact. When a corner piece of the evidence proved to be a forgery, it took 5 days for any of the Washington Press Corps to ask a question. The Bush Administration kept saying no decision was made, war had been long planned. It was thought a failure to go to war after what the president said would lead to a collapse of confidence. Yet as more and more of the war evidence fell apart, the Washington Journalists continued to toe the line.

Bush’s supposed opponents, the Democrats, managed to turn a midterm election with a crumbling economy, one war on the backburner and on the eve of another into the election about nothing. Without journalists or Democrats to challenge the Bush Administration, they continued to repeat long-discredited claims for several years. Colin Powell put the final touches on the products in his speech before the UN General Assembly, and the Bush Administration hade their sale.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 1-2)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

 

 

PART ONE Chapter One: Home of the Heartland

“The vapid Pearl Harbor was an essential historical artifact anyway-not of its ostencivle subject but of the tranquil American summer of 2001.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 9

“Patience and humility were not words that came to mind when thinking of Bush.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 16

“Once in Office Bush turned the presidency into an ongoing festival of audiovisual cognitive dissonance.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 19

In the summer of 2001 America was had decided that Robert Blake was too B-list to qualify for a OJ Simpson-like coverage. Instead we focused on the possible affair of Gary Condit and the dissapearance of his intern. In the summer of 2001 we also enjoyed war through the sanitized PG-13 glasses of Pearl Harbor the movie. Raising the questions of Right or Wrong would have hurt the box office sales, so the movie scrupulously avoided any mention of why Japan attacked us or why anyone at all fought in the Asian theatre.

In preparation for the celebration the Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis was set as a stage for revelers. Navy Seals parachuted in to entertain the celebrities. By celebrating the patriotism of our forbearers we were able to practice “virtual patriotism” that made us look noble by association, a virtual patriotism that helped us forget Vietnam, a war cooked up by WWII vets and dodged by both of our boomer presidents.

Bush was on his way to being a forgettable president, a “colossal boob” were the words of David Letterman, the prevailing thought at the time. In the untroubled pre-9/11 world, George Bush as Cheerleader-in-chief was not necessarily miscast. In those months he used the common practice of photo ops, not to highlight his policy initiatives, but to disguise them. His earth-tone photo ops at national parks hid his D-Rating from the National Parks Conservation Association, his photo op with Philadelphia police hid his 17% cut in police pay, and his visits to the Boys and Girls Clubs occurred just before slashing their funding.Those were the last days before 9/11.

 

PART ONE Chapter Two: Dead or Alive

“Overnight, World War II fetishism was almost ludicrously obsolete.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 22

“Press adulation was not all the White House wanted; it also wanted control.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 30

“The Thrust of a war against terrorism going forward was becoming blurry, however, now that the Taliban had been routed.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 40

Despite there being at most two U.S. shark attacks a year since 1990, in 2001 the media found the Shark threat a good diversion from sex scandals. After 9/11 People magazine dropped their Shark cover to make way for the thousands killed by Al Queda. Anchors didn’t make any of the mistakes they made with the OJ and Monica mediathons that could have caused wide-spread panic. They reverted to pre-Druge, pre-cable news standards sans blather and rumor.

A decade of dreaming was coming to an end. There was a hope that terms like Survivor and Fear Factor would regain their true meanings. Hope that the fear of 9/11 would shock the don’t-worry-be-happy president into growing up and telling Americans that was wasn’t possible to cut taxes and increase spending all without dipping into Social Security cash. Perhaps he’d ask for a generation to sacrifice. Perhaps 9/11 was the day everything changed. Perhaps not.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush disappeared. A story, which would later turn out to be false, was spread that there was intelligence to suggest the White House was a target. So Bush fled from one military base to another with long hours in-between where no one knew where he was. He resurfaced three days after 9/11, where many agree, he finally found his voice in promising to track down those responsible and get them, dead or alive. On September 20th at a joint session of Congress he reiterated those words but this time with more substance setting a distinction between “Islamic extremism” and “Islam”. He asked for patience as his administration prepared a counter-strike and Americans of all type were willing both to go to war to get those responsible and to give him the time he needed.

The Right Wing was ready for war, with pundits calling for America to invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity, and others calling for us to invade Iraq, even if no direct link could be found. Christian evangelicals blamed gays, liberals and the UCLA for the attacks. The turn to religious extremism at home to combat religious extremism overseas went unnoticed by Fox News and the Bush Administration.

94% of Americans approved of the war in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration demanded obedience from the media, and it got it. Press access to U.S. troops was restricted for months and news was spoon fed to the media. The only sacrifice requested of the American people was to take vacations and keep spending. Putting flags on foreign cars burning foreign fuel was “literally the least you can do” in the words of Bill Maher. We leapt at that option.

After the fall of the Taliban we moved on to Iraq. Cheney asserted direct links between Al Queda, 9/11 and Iraq. The media that fell in line behind Afghanistan quickly fell in line behind the new war.