I saw Ron Suskind give a talk tonight at Politics and Prose in Washington on his essential new book The Way of the World . I tore through this book in two days, and I can't recommend it highly enough; it's a searching, globe-hopping masterpiece of investigative journalism and empathetic prose. (That's the best back-of-book-type blurb I can come up with.)
Amidst the "arabesque" of richly drawn characters, Suskind reveals a few bombshell discoveries regarding the Bush Administration's irresponsibility and outright lies. One, blogged about by Suskind on the Huffington Post, involves the CIA's forging--at the administration's insistence-- of a letter by Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil Habbush, dated 2001, declaring that Sadaam Hussein had WMD. The letter was created in fall 2003, after it was clear that Sadaam had none, and the Bush Administration could not face that political reality. In fact, Habbush had been an informant to British intelligence agents in January 2001, claiming that Sadaam was isolated and had no WMD but continued to posture as if he did out of a paralyzing fear of neighboring Iran's nascent nuclear program.
This was before Bush's State of the Union and Powell's U.N. presentation. They knew. Then they lied.
However, the other major discovery that Suskind breaks actually exploded in the news today with the failure to convict the foiled al-Qaeda terrorists in Britain for the summer 2006 plot to blow up seven transatlantic airliners. After the 2005 London underground train attacks, a disillusion Muslim "walk-in" source approached British intelligence with information about the airline terror plot. (America's moral authority is so diminished that nobody comes to us with inside information anymore, as this source did in Britain.)
A yearlong investigation involving well over a thousand British agents had around 40 terrorists so completely covered that, as Suskind said, "They couldn't sneeze without making a file." But the British were patient. They were so tightly on top of the suspects that there was no chance the al-Qaeda members could blow up planes with liquid explosives, as they planned. The British agents knew that such a huge operation would require the personal go-ahead from the top leadership--Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden himself. Waiting would provide the direct link that would be admissible in public court and lock away these soulless miscreants forever.
But Bush couldn't wait. In the summer of 2006, with Republicans tanking in the pre-midterm election polls, Bush needed a deliverable to prove that his party was #1 on national security. He pushed Tony Blair to wrap up the investigation immediately, but Blair steadfastly refused. The British were on the cusp of busting the biggest al-Qaeda plot since 9/11, along with all of their top leadership.
So Bush went grumbling to Dick Cheney, who dispatched Jose Rodriguez, the director of operations at CIA, to Islamabad, where almost immediately, a Pakistani contact of the British bombers was arrested.
A shock was immediately sent to the British bombers, who knew their cover was blown. In the middle of the night of August 10, 2006, British police frantically busted and arrested as many suspects as they could. When the sun rose in America, the Bush Administration's media strategy was already in place.
And today, British courts were unable to convict any of the eight major suspects on the plane-bombing charges. Mohammed Gulzar, a man whom Scotland Yard described as a crucial figure in the plot, was acquitted and went free.
Suskind's revelation about Bush and Cheney's role in sacrificing this crucial investigation for ephemeral (and ultimately worthless) political points ought to be hammered into the consciousness of every American.
Are we ready to wake up from the Bush nightmare? Sarah Palin, the "Trojan Moose," is dominating the headlines while our lost country may just elect the candidate to whom George W. Bush and Dick Cheney give their full embrace.
Thank you, Ron Suskind, for your outstanding work. Now excuse me while I freak out!