Washington Post's '10 Days In September'|
- Is It Journalism Or Propaganda?
Robert Reynolds firstname.lastname@example.org
Soon after the events of September 11, there were calls for a complete investigation. Senators Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) suggested an independent investigation, like the one Franklin Roosevelt ordered after the Pearl Harbor attack. Others suggested investigations by various House and Senate Committees. Some, such as Peter Goss (R-FL), chair of the House Intelligence Oversight Committee and a former CIA operative, felt there was no need for any investigation of the CIA or the other intellegence agencies.
There were also announcements of major investigations into trading irregularities in insurance and airlines stocks and whether they indicated foreknowledge of the attacks. It was noted that the CIA tracks trading for clues to coming threats and therefore should have substantial information readily available. Whatever the results of these investigations, they have not been made public, something that is not surprising in an administration noted for secrecy. There has been little indication that any of the major media are pursuing this line of investigation.
On January 29 of this year at a meeting at the White House, Bush asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to limit the probes into the events of 9-11, giving as his reason the need of the administration to concentrate on the war against terrorism. Now it appears that the only investigation will be by a joint Senate -House Committee made up of members from the Intelligence oversight committees and headed up by Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL).
Senator Richard Shelby (R AL), the ranking minority member, has questioned the appointment of Gen. Britt Snider to head up the investigative staff. Gen. Snider retired from the CIA a year ago as Inspector General, and is a close friend of CIA Director Tenet. The use of active and former CIA officials in Congressional investigations is not unusual, but there has always been the question as to whom they serve when in that capacity - hence Shelby's reservations. It appears the emphasis will be on the failure of intelligence with limited or no investigation of other areas of concern.
But there is more to be investigated then the question of intelligence failures. What happened on September 11? What were the failures in the government? What occurred prior to that date in our relations with the Taliban and in our pursuit of Osama bin Laden? Is there truth to the allegations of an offer to the Taliban of "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs," allegedly made in August of 2001? Bits and pieces are coming out and individual reporters and web investigators are putting together meaningful reports. Unfortunately these are not readily available to the public, a public that depends on the major media for information. There is no indication that the Senate/House investigation will probe into these areas, or if they do, since it is the intelligence committee, that they will release the most sensitive and important information to the public.
The one extensive investigative report by a major media outlet so far is the Washington Post's "10 Days in September" series, written by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz and published in eight parts between January 27 and February 3, starting here:
This would seem intended to be the definitive analysis of the events of September 11. The authorship of Woodward (of Watergate fame) gives the report a certain additional "credibility". Based on their claims of free access to interview Bush, Cheney and other members of the administration, and of access to the minutes of NSC meetings and the notes of those who attended meetings one would expect a thorough and accurate reporting of events.
However, they did make one reservation in the introduction to the series:
This contemporaneous account is inevitably incomplete. The president [sic], the White House staff and senior Cabinet officers responded in detail to questions and requests. But some matters they refused to discuss, citing national security and a desire to protect the confidentiality of some internal deliberations.Even with that limitation, one would expect just knowing the areas that the administration refused to discuss would provide a valuable insight in to the events and the concerns of the administration. It would not prevent the reporters from using other sources to flesh out their report. But whatever the refusals were, they are not indicated in the series.
In addition to Woodward and Balz, two other reporters were assigned to assist them. Surprisingly, Washington Post White House reporter Dana Milbank was not one of them. In the March 11 issue of American Prospect, Norman Confessore notes in "Beat the Press: Does the White House have a blacklist?" that "By general consensus, Milbank... is the administrations least favorite journalist.... Over the past year or so, Milbank.... has broken a number of stories that made life difficult for Bush".
So there is a question about why the Post selected the reporters they did and whether this affected the objectivity of the report. But it is all we have, so let's see what they gave us, and whether it was good, straight reporting, or "propaganda".
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from "10 Days in September". The time lines used are those in the Post and are accepted as valid for the purpose of this discussion.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are FAA regulations for the handling of aircraft deviating from their flight plans, for loss of communications, and for other unusual events. Air Traffic Controllers routinely have to deal with such problems. Interceptions are made and there are specific procedures outlined for the intercepting pilots. Military planes already flying routine missions may be diverted to investigate a problem, so scrambling fighters from a base is not the only solution available. In addition, there is co-ordination with NORAD (North American Air Defense) and with NMCC (National Military Command Center) based in the Pentagon. They can track both the problem aircraft and the intercepting aircraft. The FAA also has a high level official assigned to NORAD Headquarters to co-ordinate problems with the military.
(For a comprehensive discussion of this see the 9-11 studies done by http://www.emperors-clothes.com).
WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?
GEORGE W. BUSH
6:30 a.m. The President [sic] in Florida: Disbelief and Determination The problem here is that according to an official White House Press release on December 4, 2001, Bush told an entirely different story at a town meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Bush's motorcade left for the school at 8:30 a.m. As it was arriving, pagers and cell phones alerted White House Aides that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Bush remembers senior adviser Karl Rove bringing him the news, saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small twin-engine plane."..."This is pilot error" the president [sic] recalled saying, "Its unbelieveable that somebody would do this". Conferring with Andrew H. Card Jr., his White House chief of staff, Bush said, "This guy must have had a heart attack."
Q One thing, Mr. President [sic], is that you have no idea how much you've done for this Country. And another thing is that, how did you feel when you heard about the Terrorist attack? (Applause.) If you accept either story, you would have to accept that Bush and his aides had not been informed by the FAA, NORAD, or the National Military Control Center, that there had been a hijacking of Flight 11 and that it had crashed in the World Trade Center.
THE PRESIDENT [sic]: Thank you, Jordan. Well, Jordan, you're not going to believe what state I was in when I heard about the terrorist attack. I was in Florida. And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there, I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff, who is sitting over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack."
If you accept only the "official" story in "10 Days," you would have to assume that Rove had been misinformed and in turn misinformed Bush. But how could that happen?
If you accept the second story you would have to assume that Bush saw something on TV that was not on TV. You would also have to assume that no one had advised him or his staff of what had taken place, and that he allowed himself to be "whisked off " to listen to children's stories knowing only that "one terrible pilot" had flown into the WTC.
But there is a third story, one written by the Post's White House reporter, Dana Milbank:
Washington Post, Dana Milbank, 12/12/01 AO6 "The Rove Review"
Rove told his audience about Bush's sense of command on Sept. 11, after Rove received word that the first tower of the World Trade Center had been struck. "The president [sic] came walking in the room, took one look at the television set and said, 'We're at war. Get me the vice president. Get me the director of the FBI.' " Why are there so many stories out there, stories told by Bush himself and by his advisor Karl Rove? Milbank's version is perhaps the strangest - a story that completely contradicts the "official" Karl Rove story as reported by Woodward and Balz and one that is ignored by them. This alone raises questions about the integrity of the "10 days" series.
There is no disagreement that Andrew Card informed Bush of the second crash at 9:05 a.m. At that point Bush knew we were under attack. Flight 175 had crashed into the South Tower.
But before the first plane crashed into the WTC, the FAA was aware that it had been hijacked and knew that Flight 11 was the plane that hit the North Tower. So it would seem inconceivable that this information would not have been passed on to the Bush staff.
Why didn't Woodward and Balz address this issue? Why didn't they question why Karl Rove would have been told it was a small twin-engine plane and an accident? Why didn't they report on what the FAA was doing and what the FAA was reporting? Why didn't they, since they accepted the Rove story, question why the Bush staff had not been informed of the hijacking of Flight 11 and of Flight 175, the second plane to hit?
Is it because the Rove story provides an "alibi" for Bush not doing anything between the time the first plane hit and the time the second plane hit? Did the obvious questions just not occur to Woodward and Balz, two experienced investigative reporters? Was it that they just felt such questions were not germane to the story they were narrating? Or did they have other motives?
But there is more to their reporting:
"Card whispered the news: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack". Bush remembers exactly what he thought: "They had declared war on us, and I made up my mind at that moment that we were going to war".Woodward and Balz next pick up the story of Bush's activities at 9:30 a.m. when he makes a short talk to the nation.
A photo shows Bush's face with a distant look.... He nodded and resumed his conversation with the class. "Really good," he said before excusing himself and returning to the holding room."
If one did not have all of the facts available, one would assume that Bush left the class almost immediately. His quoted thoughts "...we are going to war" would indicate that.
But that is not what happened. He sat there listening to students read a story about a goat.
Is the Woodward and Balz narrative deliberately misleading? They certainly don't mention his just sitting there. Nor is there any indication in their story that they asked Bush why he continued to listen to the students. One would think this a natural question for two experienced reporters. One would think that terminating the story session would be a natural action on the part of Bush.
Why didn't Woodward and Balz address the question of why Bush for a period of 25 minutes "did nothing" except listen to a story about a goat?
Why didn't they consider the implications of that and its connection to the crash of Flight 77, the third plane, into the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m.? (This is the time used in the series, in other reports it is given as 9:41)
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY
According to "10 days...9:32 a.m. The Vice President in Washington: Underground in touch with Bush"
The only reference to Cheney prior to 9:32 is that he was in his office in the West Wing of the White House. What did he know about the attacks? What was he doing in relation to the attacks? Was he watching TV? Was he listening to Bush's brief comments? Was he trying to reach Bush? None of that is covered. We pick up Cheney as he is being hustled out of his office to the White House bunker.
Secret Service agents burst in...."Sir " one said, "we have to leave immediately." Radar showed an airplane barreling toward the White House.So it would appear Cheney did not reach the bunker until after 9:39 a.m. the reported time of the crash into the Pentagon.
Before Cheney could respond, the agents grabbed the vice president and propelled him down the steps.... into the basement and through a long tunnel that led to the ...bunker. [This is the story that Cheney also told in a TV interview.]
Meanwhile, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 that had taken off from Dulles International Airport, turned away from the White House and flew back across the Potomac River, slamming into the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m.
In the tunnel.... Cheney stopped to watch a television showing the smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center towers, heard the report about the plane hitting the Pentagon and called Bush again (emphasis added).
Let's pause at this point to do a little analysis.
The use of "meanwhile" in describing the path of Flight 77 could lead one to wrongly assume that it had taken off from Dulles and embarked on its mission. Intentional or not, that is the impression. Actually Flight 77 had taken off just before 8 a.m. and flown 300 miles or so to Ohio where it reversed course and headed back to Washington. It has been reported that it was hijacked around 8:55 a.m., so there was a period of at least 45 minutes where it could have been intercepted and if necessary shot down. There was no question as to the direction of the flight path -Washington - although there have been disputes as to whether it was ever specifically headed for the White House. The radar tracking of the aircraft (Flights 11, 175, 77 and 93) have not been released so there is no definitive way to answer this question nor to determine what other aircraft were in the area to intercept any of the flights.
None of these points are raised in "10 Days". Nor is it explained why Cheney, and as indicated elsewhere Rice and other White House staffers, was moved to the bunker at the last minute, without even enough time to reach the bunker before the crash into the Pentagon.
The reference to "and called Bush again" is not explained. Was he trying to call Bush while Bush listened to children's stories? Our reporters do not tell us.
What was Cheney doing from 8:45 to 9:32 when the Secret Service grabbed him? What were his actions while Bush listened to children's stories? Our reporters do not tell us.
Instead they give us a dramatic recital of the actions of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta as he talked on an open line to the FAA.
Mineta, summoned by the White House to the bunker was on an open line to the Federal Aviation Authority operations center monitoring Flight 77 as it hurtled towards Washington, with radar tracks coming every seven seconds. Reports came that it was 50 miles out, 30 miles out, 10 miles out until word reached the bunker that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.No explanation is given as to why Mineta was already in the bunker, while Cheney and other White House staffers were rushed there at the last minute.
Once again we have unanswered questions. What was the FAA doing or recommending? We know they coordinate with NORAD and with the National Military Command Center. What was going on? Once again our reporters leave us in the dark. Lots of drama, but little hard information. A little later we will run into a similar drama with Flight 93.
Well perhaps the activities of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will explain it all.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE RUMSFELD
The first reference made to Rumsfeld is that he was in his office at the Pentagon meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. No time is given for the meeting and there is no information on when it broke up.
Nothing is said of his activities between the first attack by Flight 11 and the crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon. What was he doing? Was he in contact with Cheney? Was he trying to contact Bush? We are told nothing. As with Cheney, his activities are a mystery.
In his Pentagon office Rumsfeld felt the huge building shudder. He looked out his window, then rushed out towards the smoke, running down the steps and outside where he could see pieces of metal strewn on the ground. Rumsfeld began helping with the rescue effort until a security agent urged him to get out of the area. "I'm going inside" he said and took up his post in the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon's war room (emphasis added).The question of why he was in his office and not at "his post in the National Military Command Center" is not asked.
It is only then, according to the Woodward/Balz account, that the Pentagon sent up its airborne command center, established fighter cover over Washington, and dispatched fighters to escort Air Force One. This is well past the time that Bush had been told we have been attacked and had decided that "we were going to war".
Having reviewed the activities of the three principals - Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld - we are left with many unanswered questions. We don't know why Bush just sat there after making up his mind that we are going to war. And we don't know what Cheney and Rumsfeld were doing prior to the Pentagon being hit.
But perhaps the biggest question is whether Bush, by remaining frozen in position until 9:30, prevented the rest of the government from acting in an expeditious manner. Did Bush, by sitting in a room full of children while Flight 77 zeroed in on Washington, make it impossible for Flight 77 to be intercepted and shot down, thereby becoming partly responsible for the deaths of those at the Pentagon? Is that why we are told nothing of the activities of Cheney and Rumsfeld? Is that why we are told nothing of the activities of the FAA, NORAD, and the National Military Command Center?
Here is an excerpt from Meet the Press, September 16, 200l:
MR. RUSSERT: What's the most important decision you think he made during the course of the day? As Cheney says, "It's a presidential level decision" - but it wasn't made until Cheney talked to Bush the second time at 9:55 a.m. and in connection with the last plane, Flight 93.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the--I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft.
MR. RUSSERT: And you decided?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We decided to do it. We'd, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time...
It doesn't do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don't give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it's appropriate.
MR. RUSSERT: So if the United States government became aware that a hijacked commercial airline[r] was destined for the White House or the Capitol, we would take the plane down?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes. The president [sic] made the decision...that if the plane would not divert...as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out. Now, people say, you know, that's a horrendous decision to make. Well, it is. You've got an airplane full of American citizens, civilians, captured by...terrorists, headed and are you going to, in fact, shoot it down, obviously, and kill all those Americans on board?
...It's a presidential-level decision, and the president [sic] made, I think, exactly the right call in this case.
Why this decision was not made until then, and why the Pentagon did not act to protect Washington DC until after the Pentagon was hit, has to be answered. The facts suggest the answer lies with Bush and his unexplained inactivity between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m. The Woodward/Balz narrative provides no answers to these questions. Instead, they provide a narrative that is at times misleading (the takeoff of Flight 77), and at others difficult to understand (why would they accept the Karl Rove story about the first crash?). When two experienced reporters leave so many questions unanswered, and even unasked, then it is fair to question their motives.
After the Pentagon is hit at 9:39 a.m., Mineta with the concurrence of Cheney orders all planes in the air to go to ground. The Pentagon goes to a high alert status and defensive posture. Planes are ordered to patrol the skies over Washington and a fighter escort is dispatched to protect Air Force One.
Bush has arrived at the airport and is airborne at 9:55. It is then, at the recommendation of Cheney, that Bush agrees that if all else fails, hijacked aircraft should be shot down. Bush then calls Rumsfeld and discusses the procedures to be followed in such an event; procedures that are already mostly established under FAA regulations and past practices, with the exception of the shootdown procedures.
We then have another breathless narrative, much like that involving Mineta and Flight 77, only this time involving Flight 93.
In the White House bunker, a military aide approached the vice president.Is this story true?
"There is a plane 80 miles out" he said. "There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?"
Around the vice president, Rice, deputy White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and ...Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, tensed as the military aide repeated the question, this time with even more urgency. The plane was now 60 miles out. "Should we engage?" Cheney was asked.
"Yes " he replied again.
As the plane came closer, the aide repeated the question. "Does the order still stand?"
"Of course it does," Cheney snapped.
The vice president said later that it seemed "painful but nonetheless clear-cut. And I didn't agonize over it"
Flight 93 crashed some 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh near Somerset, Pa. That is some 160 miles or so northwest of Washington DC. So the story of the plane getting closer and closer to Washington DC and less than 60 miles away is at best not factual, and at worst "made up" either by the vice president or by Woodward/Balz, perhaps to add a little drama to the narrative. It also casts Cheney in the role of the tough-minded executive making the hard decisions and with no regrets.
Presumably the aide relayed the order to bring the plane down. But Bush had already given Rumsfeld that authority. Why was someone, not identified, contacting Cheney, and why through his military aide? If there was a question, why not Bush? Bush had just completed his conversation with Rumsfeld authorizing and delegating such authority to Rumsfeld and the military.
On the face of it, the story is suspect and one can only wonder why it is included when other more important aspects were not, including whether or not the plane was actually shot down or brought down by heroic passengers. It should be noted that the plane being shot down would not detract from the heroism of the passengers who clearly had embarked on a dangerous course of action. It is not an either/ or situation.
The narrative goes on in reference to those in the bunker:
Many ...feared Cheney's order had brought down a civilian aircraft. Rice demanded that someone check with the Pentagon.There is no explanation given as to why this would take two hours. Presumably Flight 93 and the military plane (or planes) were being tracked by the National Military Command Center and other agencies. It is reasonable to assume that they were in voice contact with the pilot (or pilots) involved and that Bush's instructions had been passed on.
On Air Force One, Bush inquired, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash".
It took the Pentagon almost two hours to confirm that the plane had not been shot down.... (emphasis added).
But our reporters provide no explanation for this. One can only wonder at Bush's reaction when in answer to his inquiry he was in effect told, "we'll have to get back to you".
The narrative notes that there was an "enormous relief" when it was reported back that it had crashed. Politically, a crash instigated by heroic passengers was much more desirable than a "shoot down".
Many questions have been raised about this. Witnesses claim they saw the plane shot down. There is a cell phone conversation from a passenger on the plane reporting an explosion. Debris from the plane was found as much as 8 miles away from the impact site. All of this could have been caused by a hijacker setting off a bomb rather than a missile attack. But none of this is mentioned in the narrative.
The military has refused to release the name or names of the pilot or pilots on the scene. As previously noted, information from the radar tracks and the recovered black boxes has not been released, and may never be released. It has already been stated that the Flight 93 cockpit conversations will not be released in deference to the families of the victims and the pain it would cause them, something that has never been done in other crashes.
As long as the radar tracks, the cockpit conversations, and the military pilots are kept sequestered, we will not know what actually took place.
Our reporters failed to even note this controversy, much less report on it.
WHERE DID BUSH GO AND WHY DID HE GO THERE?
Columnists and editors have been fired for questioning the conduct of Bush on 9-11 and for his failure to return to Washington directly. Why did he sit there listening to a story about goats? Why did he seem to go wondering aimlessly about the country?
Rightly or wrongly, Americans expect our leaders to head to where the action is, in this case the White House. Politically, any questions raised about the courage or the decisiveness of Bush could be disastrous. For White House image-makers, it becomes crucial to justify Bush's conduct.
Woodward and Balz provide a narrative that attempts to explain what happened. But it fails to fully report all that occurred. As noted previously, we don't know what went on in Cheney's office or in Rumsfeld's office prior to the crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon, but then we get detailed accounts of what was going on in the bunker. The information being reported seems to be selective. This also seems to be the case with Bush's trip home. Much of what is reported are conversations between the principals. There is no way to verify such accounts or to weigh their importance.
Some objective insights should have been available to Woodward and Balz. Reporters were traveling with Bush and they were on Air Force One. Whether or not the Washington Post had a reporter on that trip is not disclosed, but other reporters were there.
It would help to know when Air Force One received a fighter escort. It would help to know how Bush and his aides conducted themselves in the aftermath of the three crashes as viewed by an objective observer. Since the reporters operate as a pool on these trips, the information was available to Woodward and Balz, whether or not there was a Post reporter assigned. The absence of such commentary is puzzling and not explained.
10:32 The President [sic] on Air Force One: Still a threat to WashingtonWe are given two reasons for the diversion to Barksdale: the threat to "Angel One" and the unavailability of a fighter escort for 40 to 90 minutes. Air Force One had already been airborne for 37 minutes and the Pentagon, as reported above, had ordered a fighter escort to be dispatched. This means that the earliest escort would appear at 11:12 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. for a plane that had departed at 9:55 a.m. Woodward and Balz do not comment on this, not even to the extent of wondering about the failure of the military to provide immediate protection to Bush in an area (the Southeast US) where there are numerous military facilities of all three services.
Cheney called Bush on Air Force One, on its way from Florida to Washington, to say the White House had just received a threat against the plane. The caller had used its code word, "Angel," suggesting terrorists had inside information. Card was told it would take between 40 minutes and 90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort up to Air Force One.
Bush told an aide that Air Force One "is next." He was in an angry mood. "We're going to find out who did this," he said to Cheney, "and we're going to kick their asses."
Air Force One was still en route to Washington when Cheney called again at 10:41 a.m. This time, he urged Bush not to return. "There's still a threat to Washington," the vice president said. Rice agreed, and had told the president [sic] the same thing. There was little debate or discussion.
The threat to the plane turned out to be false. Someone inside the White House had heard a threat to Air Force One, perhaps in a phoned-in call, and passed it up the line using the code word "Angel." Others thought the threatening caller had used the code word. It took days for the incident to be sorted out and weeks before the White House publicly acknowledged it.There is far more to this than they report. This was a story that was actively pushed by members of the administration. William Safire wrote a column where he went so far as to suggest that there may have been a "mole" in the White House who had disclosed the code name for Air Force One. A bin Laden "mole" in the White House?
Columnist Joe Conason in an October 5 Column reported:
Falsehoods uttered at the White House press podium always matter, if only because they injure the reputation of the Presidency, but some are more important than others. Under the present administration, which vowed to restore "honor and integrity" to Washington, the credibility of the people who speak for George W. Bush has decayed, week by week, beginning with their promotion last winter of bogus accusations against their predecessors.Other reports allege that Karl Rove actively called reporters to push the story. As we already know, Karl Rove is a featured player in conflicting stories about the first crash into the WTC.
That ugly episode, however, wasn't nearly as troubling as what now appears to have been the promulgation by the nation's highest officials of a false story about the events of Sept. 11.
For two weeks following the terror attack, White House officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Presidential Assistant Karl Rove and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, repeatedly insisted that a "credible threat" -- involving code-word confirmation -- had convinced the Secret Service that terrorists were trying to hit Air Force One and the White House. Only when those assertions were shot down by CBS News and the Associated Press did the spinners back down, claiming that it had all been a "misunderstanding" by staffers, with little elaboration.
The importance of this is that this is the basis - along with the inability to provide a fighter escort - for Bush not immediately returning to Washington. One would think that two reporters of the stature of Woodward and Balz would have more to say about this and would have made an effort to determine when Air Force One first received a fighter escort.
Bush arrived at Barksdale AFB (La) at 11:45.At this point, there is no reason for him to not depart for Washington. By now one would have to assume they finally could provide fighter escort. Only the Secret Service advised him that things were still unsettled and not to return. But Bush is in charge! If he wants to do something, he can do it. The Secret Service is always advising Presidents to stay away from crowds, but they all ignore the warning and dive in shaking hands and greeting the voters.
12:16 p.m., the FAA command center reported that U.S. airspace had been cleared of all commercial and general aviation aircraft; only military and lifeguard flights were airborne. Twenty minutes later, according to the red digital clock in the conference room near the Barksdale base commander's office, Bush entered, looking grim. Reporters in the room noted that his eyes were red-rimmed. It had been more than three hours since Bush or any senior official had said anything publicly.
Instead of going home, at 1:30 he departs for Offutt AFB in Nebraska.
On the plane, Bush expressed his irritation over being away from the White House. "I want to go back home ASAP" he told Card, according to notes of the conversation. "I don't want whoever did this holding me outside of Washington".It would seem that the decision always rested with Bush, and certainly after 12:16 there was no reason not to head for Washington and home. But he didn't.
We have presented an analysis of some aspects of the "10 Days" series. We restricted ourselves to Day One, and within that to those aspects that could be analyzed. Obviously there is no way of evaluating the musings of George Tenet or other administration figures.
The question of whether this series was slanted or even propaganda has been raised. It can be argued that there are sufficient unanswered and unasked questions, along with incidents only partially reported, to question the objectivity and motives of the reporters, Woodward and Balz.
Throughout the series they present a portrait of a decisive and hard nosed group. But that is based largely on things that can not be checked. We would suggest that this be evaluated in light of the things that we were able to check and the failure of Woodward and Balz to give us a complete report.
The big questions - such as why the planes were not intercepted; why Bush and his advisors, in particular Karl Rove, told stories about the events that were contradictory and untrue; and why Bush sat and listened to the story about a goat while all hell was breaking loose - are not addressed.
Other aspects, such as what occured prior to September 11, were not part of the story. That is a writer's choice and we really can not fault them on that.
We urge you to write your Senators and Representatives (along with the media) urging a complete investigation of the events of September 11 and of the allegations that a "carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs" had been offered the Taliban. Urge them to use their influence to see that the Intellegence Committee does a full and complete investigation of all aspects, and that a full report is presented to the public and not limited as requested by Bush and tentatively agreed to by Sen. Graham.
We also urge a constant drumbeat of objections to partial or slanted coverage. This is what is happening with the Bush supporters. Just look at the "Letters" section of your local paper or of the New York Times or Washington Post. One way to do this is to build a list of media sources and political sources. When you write one, carbon copy or blind carbon copy all the others. Send it to the list. It's one way to increase the pressure.
Instead of just letting your Senator or local newspaper know of your displeasure, let everyone else know too. Instead of just corresponding with one, you are corresponding with all that are on your list. If we all do it, it will increase our impact.