Republicans have notoriously short memories. They never miss an opportunity to shout “Benghazi” from the rooftops, but conveniently forget that the worst terrorist attack against the United States, 9-11, took place during the watch of George W. Bush. Evidence that the Bush Administration ignored warnings about the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is abundant.
The New York Times, in an April 2004 story, claimed President Bush was told on August 6th, 2001 that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes. A government official confirmed that the report was part of the president’s briefing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
According to a 2006 Washington Post report, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet had been anxious the summer of 2001 over intelligence reports he had seen about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. For months he had been trying to convince National Security Adviser Condolleeza Rice to come up with a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy, but was frustrated by members of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had questioned the NSA intercepts and other intelligence, thinking it could all be some sort of grand deception to measure U.S. reactions and defenses.
On July 10, 2001, Tenet and his counter-terrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Condolleeza Rice. They laid out their case showing the likelihood that bin Laden and al Qaeda would soon attack the United States. They tried to persuade her that immediate action was required. According to Tenet, Rice was polite during the meeting, but both he and Black left the meeting feeling frustrated. They felt they had been brushed off. Tenet looked back on the meeting with Rice as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush, it was said, did not want to swat at flies and Rice had her mind on other matters, especially the ballistic missile defense system that Bush had campaigned on.
Senior Clinton administration officials testified they repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation — and how the new administration was slow to act. ”It was very explicit,” Richard A. Clarke (President Clinton’s counterterrorism advisor) said of the warnings given to the Bush administration officials. Former President Bill Clinton, who had a policy of not criticizing his successor, told Chris Wallace on the September 24, 2006 edition of Fox News Sunday:
“At least I tried. That’s the difference between me and some, including all of the rightwingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.”
Despite the facts, Republicans will, no doubt, continue to shout “Benghazi” every time they think someone may be listening. Since reasoning with them seems to be futile, perhaps the best reaction is to smile and say, “Did you mean to say, Bushghazi?”