See Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism
Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense
Robin Wright, The Washington Post, Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A01
The nasty point being made here?
Well, it seems the Post doesn't want to cut Condoleezza any slack here.
On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.
The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.
The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.
The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.
I'm not sure how the White House is going to punish the Post for pointing this out.
What I think is more telling is this editorial from the New York Times today - in part:
The Pentagon is foolishly racing to deliver on President Bush's grandiose 2000 campaign promise to have a still unproven, money-munching missile defense system deployed in time for the November election. It's supposed to provide protection against incoming ballistic missiles. But, so far, the rush into the old "Star Wars" dream amounts to an extravagant political shield.
The administration's obstinate intent is to fill the first silos in Alaska as early as this summer, even though the complex project -- a composite of 10 separate systems for high-tech defense -- is years from being fully tested or built. Plagued with cost overruns and technical failures, the overall missile defense program's main feat of rocketry has been its price tag: roughly $130 billion already spent, and $53 billion planned for the next five years.
Mr. Bush ought to pay attention to the powerful advice just offered by a group of 49 retired generals and admirals who say he should shelve his fantasy start-up plan. They urge that the money for that project be spent instead on bolstering antiterrorist defenses at American ports, borders and nuclear weapons depots. As things stand now, the administration is again looking for showy but questionable ways to reinforce Mr. Bush's identity as a wartime president, while ignoring sensible and effective low-tech strategies to reinforce homeland security.
There is no denying the theoretical virtue of a missile shield, considering the threat that North Korea or some other rogue nation may eventually present to the United States mainland. But the retired brass, who served in the highest precincts of the Pentagon, argue sensibly that the money for the project scheduled for early deployment, $3.7 billion of the $10.2 billion the president plans to spend next year for missile-shield projects, should be diverted to protecting parts of the American mainland that could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Could this Richard Clarke fellow actually be right about something here, whatever his motives, in spite of his abrasive personality, and in spite of the new rumors he may be a homosexual?
Perhaps there is a ragtag band of fanatics out to kill us - and they actually don't have any intercontinental ballistic or guided middles. Could be.
Well, on the other hand, perhaps we should let our leaders tell us what we really should fear. We should worry more about incoming missiles from North Korea or Venezuela or wherever? I guess. After all, who knows to whom our ally Pakistan sold the technology - and they did admit Iran and North Korea and Libya. And then the Pakistani president pardoned the general who sold the technology all over. Oh well.
So the word is Clarke is wrong. It's the incoming guided missiles with nuclear warheads. That's the big worry - and if you remember the State of the Union Address you should also worry about steroids being used in professional sports, and whether the two gay guys who live down the street might actually try to marry each other. Serious stuff.
And what is the Times talking about?
Try this: Bush's Latest Missile-Defense Folly: Why spend billions on a system that might never work?
Fred Kaplan, SLATE.COM - Posted Friday, March 12, 2004, at 2:48 PM PT
Forces are finally converging for a genuine debate on President Bush's missile-defense program. The Republican-controlled Congress is looking for ways to cut $9 billion from the military budget (which, at $420 billion, is getting unmanageable even for hawkish tastes). It's becoming painfully clear that rogues and terrorists are more likely to attack us with planes and trains than with nuclear missiles. And a recent series of technical studies--bolstered on Thursday by a high-profile Senate hearing--has dramatized just how difficult, if not impossible, this project is going to be.
Bush's budget for next year includes $10.7 billion for missile defense - over twice as much money as for any other single weapons system. This summer, he's planning to start deploying the first components of an MD system - six anti-missile missiles in Alaska, four in California, and as many as 20 more, in locations not yet chosen, the following year.
Yet, except by sheer luck, these interceptors will not be able to shoot down enemy missiles. Or, to put it more precisely, Bush is starting to deploy very expensive weapons without the slightest bit of evidence that they have any chance of working.
But Fred, the system could work... maybe. You've got to have faith. And this is, after all, a faith-based presidency.
In the past six years of flight tests, here is what the Pentagon's missile-defense agency has demonstrated: A missile can hit another missile in mid-air as long as a) the operators know exactly where the target missile has come from and where it's going; b) the target missile is flying at a slower-than-normal speed; c) it's transmitting a special beam that exaggerates its radar signature, thus making it easier to track; d) only one target missile has been launched; and e) the "attack" happens in daylight.
Beyond that, the program's managers know nothing - in part because they have never run a test that goes beyond this heavily scripted (it would not be too strong to call it "rigged") scenario.
And that bring us back to Condoleezza Rice and the speech she never gave on 11 September 2001 - explaining why we need to spend this enormous amount of money on something we cannot prove actually works, but might, if you think positive thoughts and have the right attitude. You cannot be narrow-minded and obsessed with the idea that there are all these dangerous terrorists out there. See the broader picture.
Okay, if one drops the sarcasm, there is a nuclear missile threat. How big a threat and how immediate? Hard to say.
But the solution to this threat doesn't work yet, and may never work. And we're deploying this system NOW - before the November election?
This, on the face of it, seems quite foolish, even if this does keep thousands of engineers and scientists here in Southern California employed. Things would be a lot more grim out here in la-la land without all this new money pouring into Boeing (Huntington Beach), Raytheon (Fullerton) and TRW (Manhattan Beach) - not to mention all the local sub-contractors.
So, the Post may be trying to make Rice look bad by mentioning this speech she never gave about this Son of Star Wars system that is costing so much and seems directed at a secondary, not primary problem. But I'd bet she'd give the same speech today, if asked, and she will certainly make the same assertion late next week when she testifies in public, under oath, to the 9-11 Commission. Clarke may have guessed right about 9-11 but was just lucky. That was an anomaly. She knows the real treat and where our efforts should go.
But, damn, it's a lot of money. And it doesn't really work.
Well, this crew, Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest, must know best. Or so I'm told. It just keeps getting harder to keep the faith.