Monday 16 July 2007

Before 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld Was Preoccupied With Pearl Harbor and Other Military Surprises

Donald RumsfeldAs the following two new entries in the Complete 9/11 Timeline show, early in 2001, the new Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was regularly talking about the danger of surprise attacks, and was expressing particular interest in the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Rumsfeld "routinely handed out or recommended" Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision.

This is perhaps unsurprising, since Rumsfeld was one of the founders of the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century. In a September 2000 report called Rebuilding America's Defenses, this group had stated that, to preserve its "military preeminence in the coming decades," America would need to undergo a "military transformation." However, the report continued, this process of transformation would be "a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor." Twelve months later, what President Bush called the "Pearl Harbor of the 21st century" took place.

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January 11, 2001: Rumsfeld Warns of Surprise Attack Like Pearl Harbor
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense-designate Donald Rumsfeld warns of the danger of a surprise attack like Pearl Harbor happening again. He testifies, "We all know that history is filled with instances where people were surprised. There were plenty of signals, plenty of warnings, plenty of cautions. But they weren't taken aboard. They didn't register. They weren't sufficient to cause a person to act on those." He continues, "We know that the thing that tends to register on people is fear, and we know that that tends to happen after there's a Pearl Harbor, tends to happen after there's a crisis. And that's too late for us. We've got to be smarter than that. We've got to be wiser than that. We have to be more forward-looking." As ABC News later comments, "eight months to the day after his warning of a surprise attack, Rumsfeld's fears became reality with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks." [CNN, 1/11/2001; Scarborough, 2004, pp. 165-166; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 3/25/2004] Rumsfeld will again refer to the danger of military surprises four months later, during meetings with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (see May 23-24, 2001).

May 23-24, 2001: Rumsfeld Warns of Inevitability of Strategic Surprise; Refers to Pearl Harbor
During a meeting with the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that the inevitability of surprise is a guiding principle of the Bush administration's national security strategy. To emphasize his point about the need to prepare for the unexpected, he gives panel members copies of the foreword to Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. This foreword, written by Thomas Schelling, argues that in order to prepare for the next crisis, the US military needs to avoid thinking that the most familiar threat is also the most likely one. Rumsfeld says that, in line with this reasoning, a key element of the administration's strategy will be preparing for the unexpected. [US Department of Defense, 5/23/2001; Associated Press, 5/24/2001] The following day, he has a similar closed-door meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee. He hands out to senators a four-page paper dealing with the inevitability of strategic surprise, and summarizing various defense surprises and incorrect predictions made during the 20th century. The paper states that the Department of Defense should "give some thought to the flexibility of a capability-based strategy, as opposed to simply a threat-based strategy." What this means, according to the Washington Post, is that the "US military needs to move away from a Cold War structure designed to counter one large, clear threat--from the Soviet Union--and to develop capabilities to respond to everything from ballistic missiles to terrorist attacks." [NPR, 5/25/2001; Washington Post, 5/25/2001] Rumsfeld had previously warned of the danger of a surprise attack, like Pearl Harbor, during his confirmation hearing in January (see January 11, 2001). Journalist Bob Woodward will later report that one of the main themes Rumsfeld referred to in the eight months prior to 9/11 was surprise, and he had "routinely handed out or recommended" Wohlstetter's book on Pearl Harbor. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 22-23] Yet when, in July, he receives a CIA briefing about the imminent danger of an al-Qaeda attack on an American target, Rumsfeld reportedly responds with "vehement dismissal," and criticizes the CIA for its "gullibility" (see July 11-17, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 9]

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Who is Behind the "Suicide" Car Bombings in Iraq?

This remarkable yet little known CNN report from January 2007 raises questions about who is really responsible for the car bombings that have been taking place in Iraq. It suggests that some of the supposed "suicide" bombers may in fact be unwilling victims, who have their hands tied to their steering wheels and their cars detonated by remote control. The critical question is who is really carrying out these attacks? Is it "al Qaeda in Iraq"? Or could the real perpetrators be the British or American military?

Here's the transcript:

Unwilling Bomber

Aired January 18, 2007 - 10:00 ET

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Forty-two-year-old Kamal (ph) al-Khaqani was happily married with four children, trying like most here to avoid the violence. To just get through each day alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): We have nothing to do with politics or anything else.

DAMON: Then one day, like a thousand others, Kamal left to run errands and pick up breakfast for the family. "He got dressed at 7:00 and told me he would come back at 9:00," his mother says. "It was 10:00, 11:00," his wife says. "At 11:00, I started to feel nervous. They kept comforting me. At 2:00, I was pacing back and forth." At that point, Halud (ph) knew deep down that her husband of 12 years would not be coming back.

ADEL AL-KHAQANI, VICTIM'S BROTHER, (through translator): The next day someone came by and said a car similar to your brothers is in Alhadra (ph) neighborhood that it has been blown up.

DAMON: Kamal's final moment, pieced together by officers at the scene.

AL-KHAQANI: He told me, it looks like your poor brother was kidnapped.

DAMON: Kamal was released and set off in his own car. Police say he was probably told to drive toward their checkpoint. But they say he must have realized that his vehicle was rigged with explosives and that he was about to become an unwilling bomber.

It's a trend Iraqi and U.S. officials have been warning since July. They believe a number of suicide bombers are actually kidnapped civilians who's cars have been turned into bombs set off by remote control.

Some of the clues, hands tied to steering wheels. And families. Kamal's, who assist the driver was a victim, too, not an insurgent. And in Kamal's case, eyewitness evidence. He tried desperately to warn the people around him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said he was screaming the whole time, I am booby-trapped. I am booby-trapped.

AL-KHAQANI: He didn't finish his words before the car blew up. We showed him his pictures and he said, yes, that's him.

DAMON: The explosion wounded one policeman. Kamal's shouted warnings may well have saved lives.

"Kamal is gone," his mother cries. "When my sons sit around, Kamal is not there. His absence has tortured me." "It's difficult," his wife says. "How are we going to live? Only God's mercy can keep us going. It's tough. We are four."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time his little son starts to cry, I break down in tears.

DAMON: Eleven-year-old Zarat (ph) can't even speak. The youngest, one year old Sashad (ph), still runs around saying, daddy, too young to realize that daddy is never coming home.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.