Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Bush at War: An untested President...
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Bush at War: An untested President Responds to a World of Terror

Nancy Sundstrom - January 9th, 2003
It’s something of a given that any new book from journalist Bob Woodward will shoot to the top of the bestseller list. And history has repeated itself with his latest effort, even though some would argue that the history on which it is based is still being written.
“Bush at War“ is an investigative account of the first 18 months of the Bush White House, a tenure that changed dramatically with the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Based on hundreds of interviews with Bush staffers and hours of exclusive interviews with the subject himself, Woodward‘s mission was to provide “the first in-depth, behind-the-scenes story of the new, untested President as he responds to the worst acts of terror on American soil.“
The good news is that he delivers, thanks to his access to all the major players in the war on terrorism and to classified reports and cabinet meetings, along with a neatly-delivered narrative that gives a day-by-day account of Bush’s decision-making processes and power struggles for the first three months following 9-11.
During that time, the U.S. prepared for war in Afghanistan, took steps toward a preemptive strike against Iraq, intensified homeland defense, and began a well-funded CIA covert war against world terrorism. Everything is well-documented and detailed, and Woodward‘s signature analysis of Bush as a leader during a time of crisis is thoughtful and fair, especially when it comes to dissecting Bush’s often by-the-seat-of-the-pants management style.
The tome starts right where it should, on a clear September morning well over one year ago, when the world changed in an instant for everyone:

“Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began as one of those spectacular pre-fall days on the East Coast, sunny, temperatures in the 70s, light winds, the sky a vivid light blue. With President George W. Bush traveling in Florida that morning promoting his education agenda, his intelligence chief, CIA Director George J. Tenet, didn‘t have to observe the 8 A.M. ritual of personally briefing the president at the White House on the latest and most important top secret information flowing into America‘s vast spy empire.
Instead Tenet, 48, a hefty, outgoing son of Greek immigrants, was having a leisurely breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks north of the White House, with the man who was most responsible for his rise in the world of secret intelligence -- former Oklahoma Democratic Senator David L. Boren....
“What are you worried about these days?“ Boren asked Tenet that morning.
“Bin Laden,“ Tenet replied, referring to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi who was living in Afghanistan and had developed the worldwide network al Qaeda, Arabic for “the Base.“ He was convinced that bin Laden was going to do something big, he said.
“Oh, George!“ Boren said. For the last two years he had been listening to his friend‘s concerns about bin Laden. How could one private person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat? he asked.
“You don‘t understand the capabilities and the reach of what they‘re putting together,“ Tenet said.
Boren was worried that his friend had developed an unhealthy obsession about bin Laden. Nearly two years earlier, just before the 2000 millennium celebration, Tenet had taken the highly unusual and risky step of personally warning Boren not to travel or appear at big public events over New Year‘s Eve or New Year‘s Day because he anticipated major attacks.
More recently, Tenet had worried that there would be attacks during the July 4, 2001, celebration. Though he didn‘t disclose it to Boren, there had been 34 specific communications intercepts among various bin Laden associates that summer making declarations such as “Zero hour is tomorrow“ or “Something spectacular is coming.“...Nothing had happened, but Tenet said it was the issue he was losing sleep over.
Suddenly, several of Tenet‘s security guards approached. They were not strolling. They were bolting toward the table.
Uh-oh, Boren thought.
“Mr. Director,“ one of them said, “there‘s a serious problem.“
“What is it?“ Tenet asked, indicating that it was okay to speak freely.
“The World Trade tower has been attacked.“
One of them handed Tenet a cell phone and he called headquarters.
“So they put the plane into the building itself?“ Tenet asked incredulously.
He ordered his key people to gather in his conference room at CIA headquarters. He would be there in about 15-20 minutes.
“This has bin Laden all over it,“ Tenet told Boren. “I‘ve got to go.“ He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. “I wonder,“ Tenet said, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.“ He was referring to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent whom the FBI had detained in Minnesota the previous month after he had acted suspiciously at a local flight training school.“

What follows makes for very compelling reading, and there are times when Woodward strings sequences together for maximum tension, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Bush has something of a cowboy quality to him, especially as he presses his team for concrete decisions and plans of action, and it’s revealing that he developed his “Bush Doctrine“ (which states that the U.S. would not only go after terrorists everywhere, but also the governments or groups which harbor them) without first consulting Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is particularly telling. Other usual suspects also find themselves under Woodward scrutiny, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Tenet , and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Battles for control, agendas, and initiatives abound at every level, and while Woodward does lean heavily on transcribed conversations, this is still impactful stuff, and sometimes even a bit chilling.
How the war on terrorism will finally be played out under the Bush presidency remains to seen, but when it is, there will perhaps be another volume to complement this one. As it is, it acquits itself as an insightful look into some of the earliest days of Bush in the White House, ones no one could have predicted and the likes of which, hopefully, will never be seen again.

 
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