Saddam Hussein brutalised his country and ruled it by fear. He was without question an evil man responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of Iraqis. But he posed no threat to the West in general or the United States of America in particular. No threat whatsoever. Osama bin Laden on the other hand was a major proven threat. He had orchestrated numerous attacks against American lives and interests culminating in the 9/11 attacks when hijacked airlines, packed with passengers, were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another plane was brought down in open fields by a brave but ultimately fatal passenger rebellion. Three thousand innocent people were killed that day.
Yet the Neoconservatives, the lunatic right wing of the Republican Party in power in the Pentagon and the White House at the time, still saw Saddam as the main enemy instead of bin Laden. After 9/11 they launched a justified invasion of Afghanistan where bin Laden had a safe haven and they came close to wiping him out along with his entire organisation. Holed-up in Tora Bora, with no possibility of escape, and with American bombers pounding the mountains with fuel-air bombs of devastating power, bin Laden wrote out his last will and testament. Then a miracle happened. The Americans scaled down their operations and left a route open for bin Laden to escape into Pakistan. He would live to spread terrorism for another decade.
In “Deafness Before the Storm” Kurt Eichenwald explains how the Neocons briefed against the CIA who in the days leading up to 11th September 2001 were frantically trying to alert the White House to the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Acknowledging bin Laden as the principal threat did not fit with Neocon priorities so they did everything they could to discredit the CIA warnings. You can read the full article here. Outright lies and denying facts was stock-in-trade to them, indeed Karl Rove is attributed with saying they made their own reality.
Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defence during George H W Bush’s Presidency, and Vice President to George W Bush. Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defence to President George W Bush. Together, they regarded deposing Saddam during Bush 43 as unfinished business from Bush 41. The idea that after 9/11 they could still regard Saddam as a greater threat to America than bin Laden is extraordinary, but clearly they did. They diverted vital resources away from Afghanistan when US and allied forces were on the cusp of finally eradicating al Qaeda and they threw everything into a war against Saddam. A war predicated on the lie that Saddam was a threat to the West and to America when he was no such thing.
So that, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, is the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld legacy to America. They could not have prevented it, let’s be realistic, the CIA did not have sufficient evidence of the exact nature and timing of the attack. But they could have snuffed out al Qaeda in December 2001. Instead, they let bin Laden off the hook. They let him get away. They let him plot terror against America and her allies for another ten years. And even though bin Laden is now dead, no thanks to them, al Qaeda has grown stronger and more dangerous with semi-autonomous organisations in several regions of the world. Thanks to Neocon stupidity we are all at greater risk than ever before and another 9/11 scale atrocity has a frightening inevitability about it.
As the IRA used to say, “We only have to be lucky once; you have to be lucky every time.”