Alternative History - A Look at What Could Have Been
Reuters 24 June 2004
WASHINGTON - President Bush came under increased pressure to resign today in the face of mounting criticism over his handling of intelligence information warning of Iraqi intentions to commit terrorist acts within the United States. Members of the panel investigating the May 2004 Sarin gas attack inside the DC Metro subway system, blamed the President for failing to do more to stop the attack which left 743 dead and scores more injured.
Speaking before a packed gallery of press and victim's families, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice defended the administration's actions in the weeks and months before the attack, insisting that the intelligence data provided by the domestic and international agencies "lacked specifics" as to the location and nature of any Iraqi terrorist plot and that there was no "magic bullet" contained in the reports which could have prevented the Metro tragedy.
Panel Chair, Richard Ben-Veniste, pressed Ms. Rice to explain how intelligence reports on Iraqi capabilities and threats from the CIA, FBI, and a dozen foreign agencies did not prompt the administration to take decisive action to stop Saddamm Hussein. Reading from one report, Ben-Veniste quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, "After September 11, 2001, the Russian special services — the intelligence service — received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States." Over applause from family members, Ben-Veniste demanded to know the President's rationale for "gambling with American's safety."
In a heated exchange, Ms. Rice countered that nothing short of an invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation, could have prevented the attack and that international support for such an effort would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., a co-chairman of the joint congressional committee that investigated intelligence failures leading up to the attack, chided Rice and the President for "seemingly seeking a permission slip" from the U.N. to protect American lives. Graham proceeded to draw connections between Sadamm Hussein and other known terrorists, specifically citing Abul Abbas, who murdered American vacationer Leon Klinghoffer during a hijacking in the mid-1980s, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist who received medical treatment in Baghdad after he was injured in the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan in early 2002.
Ben-Veniste reminded Rice of Saddam's stipends of $25,000 each to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and the well documented chemical and biological and nuclear programs under his direction and again asked her to justify the administration's inaction.
Ms. Rice conceded that while mistakes had been made, it was important "move past finger pointing" and insisted that the President would make a very strong case for war this week before Congress and the U.N.
Outside the hearing Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA., decried the President's actions prior to the attack as "the most egregious example of criminal negligence by a President in the history of the United States" and that the administration had become "too focused" with Bin Laden while Iraq's intentions were allowed to go undetected. Referring to Saddamm Hussein, Kennedy added, "After 9/11, it's simply unfathomable how a man who has killed hundreds of thousands women and children, developed weapons of mass destruction, used them on his own people, invaded his neighbors, and sponsored terrorist organizations world-wide could be allowed to operate undetected - this type of negligence only encourages al Qaeda and rogue states to do the same."
Congressional impeachment hearings begin next month amidst calls from the President's own party for him to step down.