tv George W. Bush Presidency and Counterterrorism CSPAN August 21, 2015 2:26pm-4:26pm EDT
robust would be a better idea. secret service could have been used as an opportunity to split secret service into two different agencies because right now they have a dual mission and that dual mission is very confusing for people in secret service which is monetary investigations and protecting the presidents and other officials. those are two, you know, unrelated missions. so i think other things could have been done that were maybe not quite as extreme as what we got. >> all right. i'm sorry, we're out of time. we had a good discussion. there's no doubt that this issue of homeland security is an important issue for our country. the organization of government change, the way that we look at government changed as a result of it. and you heard a challenge here today, if you don't like what you see, get involved with it. so thank you all. thanks to the panelists for being here. we appreciate everything. thank you. [ applause ]
tonight, on american history tv programs about the vietnam war. starting at 8:00 p.m. a south vietnamese perspective of the vietnam war. veterans of the south vietnamese government, army and air force reflect on their war experience. at 9:25 p.m. rescue of the uss kirk with jan herman, historian and author of "the lucky few," the fall of saigon and the rescue mission of the uss kirk which describes the ship's hu n humanitarian mission. and at 10:30 p.m. the screaming eagles in vietnam, a u.s. army big picture film episode documenting the 101st airborne division from their arrival in vietnam in 1965 through january
of 1967. that's tonight on american history tv on c-span3. later today democratic presidential candidate senator bernie sanders will be in columbus, south carolina, one of the early primary states. he'll be there for a town hall meeting and afterwards take your phone calls. live coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. more now from hofstra's conference as former senior bush administration officials debate the president's critics on counterterrorism and war fighting. former cia director porter goss and john negroponte served as director of state, director of national intelligence and u.n. ambassador and amy goodman trade views. my name's bernard firestone, i'm the deen of the college of
liberal arts and sciences here at hofstra. it's my pleasure to welcome you both to the bush conference and to this forum which is entitled the bush doctrine and combatting terrorism. we have with us two government officials, journalist, academics, who will comment on the presentations. we have no formal academic papers at this particular forum. but our participants will offer some remarks approximately 10 to 12 minutes in length. then they'll be an opportunity for them to ask one another questions. and then there will be the opportunity for you in the audience to ask questions as well. i'm going to introduce everyone on this panel as quickly as i can because we're more interested in what they have to say. i would alert you however this is going until 4:20. at 4:10 director goss and ambassador negroponte have to
leaf. i don't think they'll make any particular statement if they leave before this is done. porter j.goss served as the 19th and last director of central intelligence from september 24, 2004 until april 21, 2005. at that time he became the first director of the central intelligence agency under the newly signed intelligence reform and terrorism prevention act. he continued in that position until may 2006. previously director goss had served as a congressman from southwest florida for almost 16 years. he was chairman of the house permanent select committee on intelligence from 1997 until his nomination as dci in august 2004. he served for almost a decade as a member of the committee, which oversees the intelligence
community and authorizes its annual budget. during the 107th congress, mr. goss co-chaired the joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks of september 11, 2001. he was the second director of central intelligence to have served in congress. john d. negroponte is a brady johnson distinguished fellow in grand strategy and senior lecturer in global affairs at the jackson institute of yale university. prior to joining yail ambassador negroponte built a distinguished career in diplomacy and national security followed by a number of years in the private sector. he held government positions abroad and in washington between 1960 and 1997, and again from 2001 to 2008. he has been u.s. ambassador to honduras, mexico, the
philippines, the united nations and iraq. he served twice on a national security council staff first as director for vietnam in the nixon administration and then as deputy national security advisor under president reagan. he also held a cabinet level position as the first director of national intelligence under president george w. bush. carolyn eisenberg is a professor of u.s. history and foreign policy at hofstra, author of a prize winning book on the american occupation of germany. she has written and spoken widely about u.s. policy in iraq, served as a consultant to several members of congress and in 2004 chaired a task force on the u.s. occupation of iraq for a bipartisan coalition for a realistic foreign policy. her articles have appeared in the journal of american history, history news network, diplomatic
history, radical history review and nova. she is presently completing a book entitled, never lose, nixon, kissinger and the illusion of national security. stephen f.knott is a professor of national security affairs at the united states naval war college. he served as co-chair of the university of virginia's presidential oral history program and directed the ronald reagan oral history project. professor knott received his ph.d. in political science from boston college and taught at the united states air force academy and the university of virginia. he is the author of alexander hamilton and the persistence of myth, and secret and sanction covert operations in the american presidency. the latter in examination of the use of covert operations by early american presidents. he is a co-author of the reagan
years, and at reagan's side insider recollections from sacramento to the white house. dr. knott's most recent book, rush to judgment, george w. bush and the war on terror and his critics, was published in march 2012. amy goodman is the host and executive producer of democracy now, a national daily independent award winning news program airing on over 1,300 public television and radio stations worldwide. miss goodman has co-authored five "new york times" best sellers. her work has earned her numerous honors and awards. the neiman foundation for journalism at harvard honored goodman with the 2014 i.f. stone medal. she's also the first journalist to have received the right livelihood award, widely known as the alternative nobel prize for, quote, developing an
innovative model of truly independent grass roots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media, end quote. miss goodman was recipient of the american women in radio and television gracie award, and the puffin nation prize for creative citizenship. her reporting on east timor in nigeria has won numerous awards and the alfred du pont award. it's now my pleasure to introduce director goss who will begin this discussion. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. we've just had a very refreshing session next door with some students and some other folks in the audience who asked very penetrating questions about the
bush doctrine and our security and the threats. and i tell you that it is very stimulating for somebody like me coming back here and seeing people who are really interested in things that matter today and taking good questions under advisement and willing to tackle some of the more controversial issues that we've got. i think to talk about the bush doctrine a little bit, you need to understand it was really the change of a century, it was the beginning of new times, new landscape, new challenges in a way that we hadn't quite expected. and not only that, we were dealing with some new thoughts, but we were dealing with some old machinery. some of the old institutions that had gotten accustom to doing things a certain way certainly that would go to including some nations that were accustom to having things happen
in certain ways. it would go to organizations that involve many countries such as perhaps nato or the u.n. all of a sudden things changed and people had to come to grips with a new challenge. and president bush a very few short months into his presidency had to deal with that. from my perspective starting out on the role of chairman of the oversight committee in the house that dealt with the ability to get intelligence to advise the president of what he needed to know, i can say that the united states of america was not fully prepared to give the president all of the best advice and best information that he needed to have to make the decisions that he needed to make. we were willfully hollowed out after the peace dividend. nobody is blaming anybody for
the peace dividend, that is a good thing we have. but the fact of the matter is we sort of let our guard down and continued to march forward while we were enjoying that peace dividend. so when 9/11 actually happened to us, it was a large, large wakeup call. and we had to take stock very, very quickly. and we found just about every cupboard we looked into had a certain amount of depletion to it or was just plain outright bare. i remember as the chairman of the committee asking our intelligence people how many arab speakers do we have who can help me and help my colleagues on this committee understand what's going on. and the answer was woefully few. with little things like that opened our eyes very quickly. but i would emphasize in that period the president understood we needed to ramp up capability
fast. in the intelligent world you don't just go out and hire five spies. it takes time to recruit good clandestine service people. and it didn't done overnight. but the president committed early onto rebuilding our clandestine service overseas and our operational capabilities. and we do have the world's greatest intelligence organization in the world. we have certainly the greatest capabilities -- intelligence capabilities in the world. what we don't have and what we haven't had consistency is the policies on how to use them. because we're a free democratic open society. and leaving that debate about where the line is between your privacy and your protection from the ability of the government to get information on you or about you is a debate that should go on and will go on, i hope always, in our free democratic open society. because we never want the
pendulum to swing too far one way or the other. we want to be safe. but we don't want big brother looking over our shoulders every time we want to do something. president bush understood that very well. and tried very hard to find that balance and to perpetually keep that in front of us on the hill so that we stayed between the lanes between serving the united states of america and keeping it safe on the one hand, without getting into the private or the civil rights of the citizens that we all work for and represent. so i would say that the way it finally came out, if i had to give just a few words, is the hallmarks of the bush doctrine once we saw what we were up against after the horrors of 9/11 were strength, commitment and engagement. and i think that the president did an extraordinary job of
getting us energized at a time when there was an audience in the world that was listening to -- and watching to see what the united states of america was indeed going to do. i think the president was let down somewhat by the information he got. i don't feel that the intelligence community as good as it is, it wasn't as good then as i say it'd been hollowed out, as wonderful as the men and women who are in the intelligence community and they are wonderful people, put up great sacrifice, i don't think that the president truly had all of the information he needed. i know he made statements that he thought were true that turned out to be wrong. because we had bad information. and that is going to happen. we are always going to have victims if we do not have good intelligence. so this is a shameless call for everybody to understand we need good intelligence at all times in our country because we might
get better decisions instead of making big mistakes. my time in the hill ended up with our review of the what happened on 9/11 and how it came to pass. and you could point a lot of fingers at a lot of people and a lot of institutions and say this happened and that happened, but the fact of the matter is when you're talking about a free democratic open society, we were just going about our business enjoying the wonderful land and blessings we have. we probably should have been paying more attention and not have dropped our guard, but we did. and i think that was a collective decision we made as americans. so we got back on track and we started to do things. i went down to the -- talked to the president. and he asked if i would be his dci after george ten gnat announced his resignation somewhat unexpectedly in the summer right before an election coming up, before a presidential election. this is not a time that most
people would say, gee, mr. president, if you happen to lose this election i'm out of a job. maybe i don't want to do this. the fact of the matter is i really wanted to get out of washingt washington. i'd been in congress for about as long as i needed to be and wanted to be. and so i was looking for an exit. and unfortunately i didn't find it. instead i found a great challenge for the president of the united states and my job involved five things. first of all, i was the dci, the last of the dcis because congress was beginning to lose some -- had some concern they were losing control of the intelligence community. and they wanted a little bit tighter reign on it. so they decided some new architecture was necessary. so the dci looked like it was going to be a short-term job. but it was nevertheless a job that required managing 15 agencies in the intelligence community, not all of whom i had much control over. and some of whom had cabinet
officers and very important chairman on the hill in charge. so this is a quite a team of people that a person who has not got cabinet level status has to deal with and supposedly manage. that was job one. job two was running cia, which as i said needed to be rebuilt and rebuilt in a hurry. number three was fighting the war. we had a war going on. we didn't know what the next step was going to be, whether we were going to get hit again or where it was going to come from. that was sort of an important job every day. and every day we met in the agency's war room and went over where we were and what was happening. then we had the whole question of the real problem of the agency's job is to advise the president. and that's done through something called the pdb, the presidential daily briefing. and that is compiling the best information that the president needs to have at the moment every given morning. and to have half an hour or so of the president's ear every day is an extraordinary honor, but
it's just a whale of a responsibility. just think about that. you're talking to the most important person in the world. you want to get it right. now, the temptation is always to give the president the worst case scenario. and then walk away. but if you do that, you might not have given him the most likely scenario. so we had some problems sorting out what really could go wrong and what was likely to go wrong. and in those days when we weren't sure, that was an extremely hard job and took about five hours of my day every day. and the last thing to do was congress did indeed pass a law and we had a new architect, new architecture and new setup, which i think ambassador negroponte will talk about because he became the chief of that operation, and that meant that we had to spend some time readjusting how all these 15 agencies worked with each other. i don't think there is a human being in the world who could do this job. i truly don't. i said that in los angeles, was
widely harassed for it. but the truth of the matter is other people who tried to do all five of those things while they were, had similar thoughts about doing them. i think that the good part of it all is that we got through it in a very sane american way that does credit to us all. we ended up on the right side of just about every one of those issues that we had to deal with. now, the last thing i'm going to say about the bush doctrine given the fact that we were at this time of change was, i think president bush was so clearly aware of the fact that we were not necessarily dealing state-to-state anymore, that we were dealing with people who are outside of the conventional norm. and these people were ruthless
troublemakers. again, i am speaking of radical fundamentalists. i'm not addressing all of islam or muslim people or anything. i'm talking about the radical fundamentalists who declared war on us and heard us grievously because we had let our guard down. the president never wanted that guard to be down again. and he never wanted to give those folks a sanctuary, a place where they could train, where they could get money, where they could make their plans, where they could arrange their travel, where they could manufacture their passports, put out their propaganda and do all of that stuff. the president got that. and he did something about it. he understood very well that the radical fundamentalists understood strength, respected strength. and he also understood that they would take advantage of weakness and disengagement. he got that part absolutely right. and for that we owe him a great
deal. thank you. [ applause ] >> good afternoon everybody. and thank you very much for this opportunity to speak with you this afternoon about the bush -- w. bush era. perhaps first before going into the principle part of my comments, let me just pick up on a couple of things that director goss said. and one is kind of a detail but an interesting one. and that is the president's daily brief. and when we made the transition from porter being the dci to my becoming the director of national intelligence there was about a month or so where we went in to see the president
together at 8:00 every morning to brief him. that for me was a very helpful and interesting time to transition over to doing it myself with the pdb staff in ensuing months. but one thing i want to say about president bush, and this is now 2005, right? he's been in office four years. when any president's been in office four years, they know the situation pretty well. they've met a lot of leaders, they meet dozens of leaders, national leaders, international leaders every year. it's kind of hard to give them a leadership profile, if you will, on somebody who they just saw the previous week at a nato meeting or at an asean meeting or a meeting of the apec countries.
and he was a particularly good customer, george w. bush really was fascinated by intelligence. he absorbed it. he liked that half hour that he spent every day. and like that half hour spent every day, and it was not just five days a week. it was six days a week that we briefed him, and i think he was one of the best customers of intelligence that i've ever nope. he had a dialect style, looking at the briefings saying, look, you guys wrote this, tell me what it says. he much preferred to have a conversation about issues than to actually read the material, or he would do that if he felt he ought to, but i can remember steams we would bring in people in addition to the regular articles that we would show him every morning, usually six or seven articles in the form of a one page, page and a half long,
or do a deep dive. a situation in a particular country of interest or a discussion of the leadership country whose leaders were both important to us and maybe particularly inscrutable, and we did a deep dive, and he'd really get into open discussion and valued it a great deal, and we would bring young analysts from the cia or from the dia or wherever, to present their views directly to the president. it was a good experience for the president, and it was a good experience, maybe a little intimidating at first for some of the analysts, but once they got used to it, they accounted for themselves. not every president devotes that much attention concentrated schedule time to absorbing their daily intelligence.
when i worked with colin powell, when i was his deputy, we just gave -- he didn't even have an intelligence briefing every day. we were his national security and deputy national security advisers respectively, and we would simply give him the president's daily brief, the book, and he was then had it at his leisure to read throughout the course of the day, and he'd give it back to us at the end of the day. if there was an article we felt need highlighted for him, we'd do that. different presidents have had different styles. bill clinton, apparently, didn't ever meet an intelligence briefer, and there was that famous story about the crash of the small plane on the white house lawn and somebody quipping that it was cia director trying to get in to see the president. so, anyway, we had a good customer, and he -- i'm sure he became an even better customer
after 9/11. the second point before getting to the topic is i thought that peter baker and others this morning made a very good point when they said that you really have to think of the presidency as dynamic, as evolving, and that essentially you've got two phases of the bush presidency. you have those first four years and the second four, and they were really quite different. they were different because of changing circumstances, but also because of changing faces.[0" condi rice moved over to become the secretary of state. she put priority then on maybe taking a more diplomatic approach to a number of reasons,
and vice president cheney became less influential. this might have had to do with health. i don't think he was necessarily energetic in the second term as he was in the first, and shortly into the second term, secretary rumsfeld left office, and he was replaced by robert gates, so the atmospherics were different, and i think that goes to the issue of the bush doctrine, which i'm coming to now. when i see combatting terrorism, i immediately think of the different justifications for the war in afghanistan and the war in iraq. i was at the u.n. when both of these wars were launched. the war in afghanistan, in fact, i was notified by a flash
telegram on a sunday, i think it was sunday, october 6th, 2001, seek out the president of the security council and ask for a security council meeting this evening to inform the council that we are going to be launching attacks into afghanistan in the exercise of our self-defense under article 51 of the unit nations charter. we dutifully did that. i don't think we had any argument from anybody as to the fact we were retaliating against afghanistan for retaliating because of the 9/11 attacks. i think well under both internationally and in our own country. there was an interesting footnote to that day for me,
which i think was a harbor of issues to come. that was that the second part of my instructions said, by the way, you should also seek out the ambassador to the united nations of iraq. this is sunday, october 6, 2001, mind you, and you should seek him out urgently, and, basically, read to him the following talking points, and the talking points were very tough. they said, if you -- paraphra paraphrasing here making it clol key, but if you take advantage of our situation, there will be hell to pay. i won't fill in all the blanks bout -- but it was almost threatening in its language.
now, this is 2001. you know, in retrospect, even though i was involved in the negotiation of the resolution 1441 in the fall of 2002 that led to the reinstatement of an inspection regime in iraq, in retrospect, it was clear that we sort of had, the administration, had iraq on its mind right from the beginning after 9/11. if you read george bush's book on -- called "decision points," he explains he met about military operations against iraq as early as december of 2001, and he had subsequent meetings or telephone conversations with general franks between december of 2001 and the summer of 2002. so that -- and i wasn't nearly as conscious of this at the time in 2002 when i was working on
negotiating this inspection resolution. i thought we had more time to allow for an inspection regime to work. well, as it turned out, that was more a matter of form, and it would appear that the decision had been made. exactly when? i heard porter say in the earlier panel, we don't know exactly wheth lly when, we're ny certain, but it seems pretty clear to me the administration's mind was made up at some point, even as we were going to the united nations that we were, in fact, going to invade iraq, and i think that is really the issue around which turns this whole question of judgment of the bush dock trip, the doctrine of preempti
preemption, and of unilateral action. ironically it's something of an exception to the rest of george w. bush's foreign policy, and he certainly evolved to a more moderate stance, but it was such an important exception, and it became such a major issue, and so much blood treasure was expended in iraq i think it's going to, for a long time at least, going to remain the major foreign policy issue on which george w. bush administration is going to be judge. i think as advisers fell back in a more traditional foreign policy approach trying to avoid unilateral action, if at all possible. i can recall because i was
deputy secretary of state at the time, and rumors during the second administration almost constant, particularly on wall street for some reason, that we were going to attack iran, but i know from the internal discussion in the white house and elsewhere at the time that nothing was further from our minds. i don't think mr. bush wanted to add to the litany of issues and problems that we had on our hands at that time. i think the issue of iran was more of trying to contain its nuclear development program through diplomacy or by economic sanctions. i don't think that military action against iran was seriously contemplated, and a related point, there was talk at the time and subsequently about
israel possibly taking such action against iran, but we have to remember that any kind of effort to eliminate iran's nuclear capabilities would involve a major military action. it isn't a one off thing the way israel's bombing the iraqi reactor in 1981 or the syria nuclear reactor in 2007 was, and there's, i think, serious question as to whether given factors of distance, number of facilities, where they are located, and so forth, whether israel would even have that capability, so i, for one, would -- i'm not sure i would elevate the one major unilateral and preemptive effort that the president took the level of
doctrine, so we'll have do see how history treats this issue over time, but i think it was a reaction to circumstances that arose after 9/11, possibly some legacy issues from having bush '41 administration having dealt with iraq as well, and i think by the time the president had handed off power to his office to president obama, i think you can point to a number of examples where mr. obama felt very comfortable carrying out the policies that his
predecessor predecessor gave him, thank you. [ applause ] >> i'm hoping by 45 years, i can finally find a microphone i can use. i thank you for being here today, and to express appreciation of your willingness to come here and talk about the issues. i don't know it's been openly acknowledged here, but the reality is that very few members of the administration have been willing to come here and talk about these issues, so i really, especially appreciate your presence here. some of you might have forgotten dean firestone's introduction, so in case there's any cop fusion, i want to make it clear
i'm not now nor ever been a member of the bush administration. i'm completing a book on the nixon administration, and before that, i wrote a long book on the cold war. before those projects, i wrote down hundreds, but it's actually thousands of hours reading top secret government documents, and these are records that are declassify 30 years after the fact. and i'm reading the documents, it gives you a lot of effects, making you seriously weird for one thing, but after a while, you read so many documents, and there's certain impressions you get, some of them obvious. one is that very ouch public officials say things to the public that are not true.
sometimes i read something in the document that's secret, and i look at president nixon or secretary kissinger, and they come up, and they say the exact opposite of what they said an hour ago, and i'm always amazed when this happens. sometimes officials are not truthful. sometimes they exaggerate. sometimes they deceive themselves. sometimes presidents can be misled by advisers. from reading all these documents, the most important thing, impression that i got, and i've been struggling on how to articulate it, is that when you look at the deliberations of people at the very top levels, they use a language and have a way of talking for this sort of national security ve knack cue lar that has an effect to isolate them from the reality
they're talking about, that somehow doesn't even enter the room. read minutes of meetings and memos, and what's happening in the places is like a million miles away from what's going on in those rooms, a million miles away. very little sense of what's happening. one of the speakers earlier was talking about, you know, presidents at the top of his game, has all the information he needs to have, and, you know, bush was familiar with all the world leaders, so that's what he needed to know. well, actually, i think bush would have benefitted by going to a village in afghanistan that we accidently bombed and talk to the people there. i think it would have been helpful for him and country if he saw it. and at that high level, deliberations have the effect of making those realities obscure to the people sitting in those rooms. it has the affect of generating a grandiosity by the people in
the rooms, sort of a tendency to say things that are actually fairly simple and make them sound like they are profound. i think the ambassador had the idea of the bush doctrine, soundsing like something phenomena. not exactly clear what it is, trying to look it up online, a couple important ideas. one, the united states needs to be militarily stronger than every nation in the world. two, that we retain the right to attack any country that does not expel people we consider dangerous. three, that we need not be bound by the pressure of allies or the unit nations. four, a threat does not have to be imminent for us to attack a country. boiled down to its essentials, we have the world's only superpower, and we can do what we want. now, this didn't originate with bush. actually, it goes back to 400
b.c. when they said in 400 b.c., you know as well as we do that right as the world goes, this only is in question between equals in power. while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. my initial point, that's the bush doctrine, that the bush doctrine is much less than meets the eye. a lot of old notions we cycle through the 21st century, but that does not apply it's meaningless. what it signalled was a newly aggressive militarized foreign policy that came into its own after 9/11. now, we're told, that's what the american public wanted, we're told that we are bloodless in the country, how brilliant a president bush to stand in the middle of the rubble on ground zero with the bull horn yelling i can hear you and soon the
whole world will hear from us, but there was another choice on 9/11, and a different mood in new york city than the one that's now portrayed. i can't make generalizations about the whole united states, but what i can say is that i was in new york, and in lower man hatten during that entire time. the city of new york was still, sad incredible compassionate. everywhere people were seeking to help one another. well, there's a bull horn for eternity. i wanted to tell you a little story about my brooklyn neighborhood which was right across the river from the world trade center. our streets and homes were covered in ashes. we're a diverse neighborhood with muslims, christians, and jews, and one week after the towers fell, the arab-american family support network in our neighborhood reemp edreached ou local sip gog and to my local peace group and proposed a candle light vigil to honor the
dead, first responders, and to pray for peace. it was organized hurriedly, and it was unclear how many would come, but when the moment arrived, hundreds of people came streaming down the streets with their candles and peace signs so there was not even a place to stand, no bull horn, but peace signs. that's the corny thing a professor might bring up in contrast to the harsh realities of the fighting terrorists out to destroy us. to shift ground for a moment, in opting for war, invading iraq and afghanistan, creating secret prisons and locations around the world, ignoring the conventions, torturing detainees in sites around the world, there was nothing realistic how the bush administration responded to
9/11. keeping us safe from terrorism, we think that's important. illustrates choices made -- another little professor story -- i want to talk about fire health, the ones in my neighborhood, just across the river from the world trade center. the trucks were called in right from the beginning of the attack. they drove across the brooklyn bridge, and they rushed into burning buildings and helped to save hundreds of lives. many of our firemen died when the buildings collapsed, including one of my friends. what happened a year later was that our fire house closed because there was no money to pay for the fire hazards, did not have the money to keep them open. meanwhi meanwhile, the bush administration was sending millions of dollars to iraq in suitcases for which there was never any accounting. the unbelievable slacking of
handling this money, millions disappearing into iraq, millions that could have been for schools never finished, hospitals never finished, housing that's not safe, but not enough money for fire houses or not enough for veterans health services either. what does that say about our national priorities? what does that say about keeping america safe? whatever exactly it meant, the bush doctrine found its culmination in the war in iraq. a war of choice with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, for the purpose of saiing us from weapons of mass destruction which turns out did not exist. this episode is now described as a mistake, a failure of intelligence. stuff happens, said donald rumsfeld. we didn't know the weapons were
not there. we did not know the invasion and occupation would cost so many lives. we did not know we'd spend more than a trillion dollars to pass my the place. people make mistakes, but in this instance, many of the things were knowable people didn't know these things. there were weapon inspectors in iraq saying, wait, there might be nothing here. there were military people saying, we can't run an operation like this on a shoe string. there were middle east experts saying over and over, if you try to occupy this country, it will be a disaster. these warnings were ignored, and those kinds of people who said those kinds of things never made it into the stuffy rooms where military realism prevailed. can i get some water for the chi cheerful talk? thank you. so as a result -- one of the results of the realistic choice
or i say unrealistic choice, according to the watson institute of brown university, iraq already cost us $1.7 trillion with app additional $490 billion owed to war veterans. we killed 135,000 iraqi civilians -- we -- not -- the war killed at least 135,000 iraqi civilians. as many as 5 million iraqis were driven from their home. by inning taccounts, it's the m incredible in recent history. what a great customer of intelligence was president bush in the context of the truly disastrous decision made with the horrendous human cost invol involved. in one last story, on september
12st, 2001, rescue workers pulled out a woman, age 30, the last person to be saved from the devastation. while most of you are too young to remember, as those last people were pulled from the rubble, it was an incredible moment. somebody was saved. one person was saved. people wept when they pulled one from the rubble. why was that? because one of the things we learned on 9/11 is that every single person's life is important and precious. that points to the tragic legacy of the bush doctrine. bush administration which was so taking the human life, whether it's afghans, iraqis, or own soldiers in unbelievele ways, the bush administration never caught bin laden, but it did immense damage, and we're still living with that now. the responsibility for these mistakes no longer rest with us up here, but it rests with all
of us in the audience. because if we forget or minimize gravity of the mistakes made over those years, we'll continue to make those mistakes on into the future and many, many more people will die. thank you. [ applause ] >> well, i, too, would like to thank you for hosting this very important conversation. appreciate you all for coming today. let me begin by saying the accusation that president bush abused his power and reside over a lawless organization which is levelled against this president frequently, is certainly nothing new for partisans on both sides of the proverbial displays of
hypocrisy regarding presidential power. they tend to criticize the sitting president whether he's a member of their party or not, or, excuse me, on partisan groupds, so, you know, putting that aside, i would say that george w. bush has besubjected e of the worse demagoguery. it comes from a number of my conrads, especially historians, and law professors considering themselves experts on the presidency, and i find this particularly disturbing in that his tor yaps, especially, are supposed to wait for documents to come out. they are supposed to wait for oral history interviews to be conducted. they are supposed to wait for memoirs from both domestic political figures, and foreign political leaders as well, and do the up sexy work of archiving and spending a lot of quiet time looking at boring documents. unfortunately, far too many
historians abandon any pretense of objectivity and seem unwilling to place george w. bush's actions into historical context. i'm talking about historians, by the way, pronouncing in 2005 or 2006 that the bush presidency was already an epic disaster and one of the worst presidents in history. he was one of the worst presidents in history. now, i'm not standing up here saying that george w. bush was a great president by any stretch. hur can katrina, economic collapse, the war in iraq, there's a number of issues that need to be put into the equation when assessing a presidency. but at the very least, it struck me that my scholar ri comrades had an obligation to wait until a presidency was over before proclaiming it as one of the worst ever. i would even argue that here we are five, six, seven years out, and it's still very early to
make sweeping judgments about any presidency, and as a reminder, at this point after harry truman's departure from the white house, he was still remarkably unpopular figure, and certainly in psychologically circles after eisenhower's departure from the presidency, eisenhower was considered of rank mediocrity. nonetheless, this conventional antibush narrative, which also sometimes suggests that vice president cheney was actually pulling the strings, which is a millionth, you know, persists to this day and persists among those who know better. i'm referring to the fellow scholars who avoided the hard work of history in terms of doing some actual digging opposed to reading the op-ed page of the "new york times." curiously, many of the same scholars who condemn president bush as a lawless presidency,
celebrate the presidencies of john f. kennedy, whose administration wiretapped dr. martin luther king jr., and plotted assassination of fidel castro, and many of these folks, not all, there is some consistency there, but it's the exception, they also celebrated the presidency of franklin roosevelt who used the federal bureau of investigation as his private investigation agency, and had a tribunal that hastily sent the defendant to the electric chair. to make matters worse, many of my fellow activist scholars abandon preacceceptsmlfñ of thes as i said before, prior to examining a single document or conducting a solitary interview. i think this deep scholarly animosity towards president bush and vice president cheney was the result of the fact that bush was the first president to face
a serious challenge to america's security since the enactment of a new regime, post water gate, post vietnam reforms designed to curve the imperial presidents. these reforms had the effect of enhancing the power of the congress in the courts, to check the executive, and in concert with an adversary media, and scholar, it was secrecy in dispatch. since the founding of the nation, the courts and congress deferred to the executive branch on these issues, but that tradition gp began to erode in 1960s and '70s, rightly so in many cases, as they expanded their role in the arena, and courts align themselves with congress in order to check the executive branch. in a sense, bush and chai any tried to play by the ol rules,
by the prewatergate, prechurch committee rules, and as of 2014, we can at least say they appeared to have lost in their effort to kind of restore the system back to its watergate committee mode. i would just warn you that history can be fickle, and at least in regards to bush's war on terror, i believe that someday they'll become to be seen in more favorable light as partisan passions pool. i don't expect it to occur fast or bush to emerge in that top ten lists of presidential greatness where, by the way, harry truman resides, and if we want to talk about torture, we can have a lengthy debate over the truman administration's use of hundreds, if not thousands of ex-members of the ss as intelligence sources in dealing with the new cold war. so if we're going to look at
cases of water boarding, if we're going to look at rendition, we also, then, need to do history justice and re-examine the presidencies of harry truman, for instance, jfk, or any number of progressive presidents who, unfortunately, are frequently cut a lot of slack by my fellow academics, precisely because they are aggressive presidents, not conservative presidents. george w. bush's low standing, i believe, among my fellow academics reflecting in part the rise in partisan scholarship, the use of history as ideology, and as a political weapon, which, in my view, means the corruption of history as history. again, i don't believe that george w. bush was a great president. in fact, he's probably going to come out at some point either as below average or average president, but the conventional wisdom regarding the presidency of george w. bush, i believe, is
misguided, and a revisionist account of this presidency, at least in regards to his national security policies, is overdue. i'll just leave you with this, we're not too far from the world trade center site. put yourself in bush's position or in his seat on 9/12, put 9/11 aside for a minute, put yourself in bush's seat on 9/12, and ask what you would have done. i know what he did. either that day or the next, told his fbi director and his attorney general to do whatever it took to make sure that this did not happen again. that seat, i probably would have said the same thing. thank you. [ applause ] >> 9/11 was clearly a defining
moment, a horrific moment when close to 3,000 people were incinerated in an instant. the question, though, was, what did iraq have to do with 9/11? if you ask yourself as the last speaker suggested, what would you have done on september 12? why would you attack a country that had nothing to do with this horrific attack on the united states? just today, a report came out from the nobel prize winning international physicians for the prevention of nuclear war. they've done some calculations. they released a report saying this investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has directly or indirectly killed around 1 million people in iraq,
220,000 in afghanistan, 80,000 in pakistan, a total of around 1.3 million, not included in this figure are further war zones such as yemen. the figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major ngos, and this is only a conservative estimate, they write. the total number of deaths in the three countries name above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely lly unl. 1 million deaths. in iraq. in the last bit more than a decade. in a country the bush administration said they were going to save, that would, as they famously said, cheney and
rumsfeld, greet u.s. soldiers with flowers and sweets, as vice president cheney said, we are going to liberate the people of iraq. sadly, the bush administration exploited 9/11. the blueprint for what happened, and i think it's important to go back, even not so far in history, was drawn up years earlier by the project for the new american century. i'm reading from my first book. "the exception to the rulers". a think tank formed in 1997 to, quote, promote american global leadership, unquote. its founders are a who's who of the neoconservative movement that mori mucheded into the bush 2 administration.
rumsfe rumsfeld, cheney, scooter, defense policy board member, richard pearl, national security council staff member, elliot abrams among others. the members had a reputation around washington explains, ray mcgovern, a retired cia analyst with 27 years experience, as talking about the presidential daily brief, yes, ray mcgovern was one of the cia analyst. he did it for vice president george h.w. bush, but he observed, when we saw these people, talking about the members, coming back in town, oh, my god, the crazies are back. mcgovern said their wide eyed geopolitical schemes typically went right into the circular file. in september 2000, they issued a report that called upon the united states to dominate global
resources, the key to realizing this was, quote, some catastrophic and cat liezing event like a new pearl harbor, and so you have the allegations of weapons of mass destruction and iraq itself for a larger scheme. the unresolved conflict for iraq gives immediate justification, the need for american force presence in the gulf transcends the issue of the regime of sue dam hussein. and rumsfeld reacted to the attacks by declaring to bush's cabinet that the united states should immediately attack iraq. it didn't matter then or later that iraq had no connection to al qaeda or the 9/11 attacks. he told senior council, quote, to think about how do you
capitalize on these opportunities? she compared the situation with 1945 to 1947, the start of the cold war. not all people in the national security council felt the way that those administration officials did. take richard clark. he'd advise, oh, president reagan and george h.w. bush on counterterrorism. he was carried over to george w. bush's administration, his counterterrorism czar, and was also with president clinton, he was shocked when rumsfeld said we have to look at iraq and shocked when president bush toll him to look at iraq. one of the things he told "60 minutes" about bush, i think he's done a terrible job on the
war against terrorism because he said, months before the 9/11 attacks, he had warned the administration, we have to look at al qaeda, and to be told after the 9/11 attacks, you must look at iraq and think about it today. one million iraqis dead. but the bush administration didn't do it alone. they had a complaint press to amplify their allegations, the falsehoods, and that also has to be looked at during the years of the bush administration, where was the press? the white house propaganda blitz was launched on september 7, 2002, at a camp david press conference, british prime minister tony blair stood side by side with president george w. bush, declaring evidence from a report published by the u.n. national atomic energy agency
showed iraq was six months away from building newark lar weapons. president bush said, i don't know what more evidence we need. actually, any evidence would have helped. there was no such iaea report, but at the time, few mainstream american journalists questioned leaders' outright lie, and the following day, it popped up, and they wrote, more than a decade after hussein agreed, they accepted up the quest for nuclear weapons and stepped up the quest for materials to make a nuclear bomb, according to bush administration officials, they wrote. in a revealing example how they spun it, the authors included the phrase, soon to be repeated by president bush and top officials, the first sign of a smoking gun administration, officials argue, may be a
mushroom cloud. harper's publisher, john mcarthur, author of second prompt, sensorship in propaganda in the gulf war knew what to make of the front page bomb shell writing in a disgraceful piece of stenography, he wrote gordon and miller inflated an administration leak into something resembling imminent armageddon. the bush administration knew just what to do with a story they fed to gordon and miller. the day the times story ran, vice president cheney made the rounds to the sunday talk shows to advance the administration's bogus claim. on "meet the press," he declared iraq purchased tubes to enrich uranium, not mattering the iaea refuted the claims, but chai any did not just want his word for it saying there's a story in the new york times this morning, and i want to attribute the times, he said. this was the classic
disinformation two step. the white house leaks a lie to the times. the newspaper publishes it as a startling expose, and then the white house convenient lly danc behind the credibility of the new york times. what matters is the unencumbered roll out for a commercial for war. what matters now, we had a media in the country that acted as a conveyor belt for the lies. why does that matter? is it just an academic exercise? because the lies took and are taking lives. that's what we have to look at. not all in the press were complicit. there were many on the front lines trying their hardest to get out the truth on the ground and iraq. which takes us to the moment the day before the u.s. marines pulled down the statue of hussein, april 8th, 2003.
you had a young reporter who just joined al jazeera in their baghdad offices. he went on the roof to set the camera, and he was killed when u.s. helicopter strived the building. the hosts were shouting on the air, help us, as they were being hit. within hours, the palestine hotel became a target for the u.s. military. now all new at that time that the palestine hotel in baghdad was where well over 100 unembedded journalists were staying. they were working hard. when the abrams tank set their sights on the hotel and opened fire, they killed two reporters,
one of roiters on his balcony t film what was happening, about the fall of baghdad. and then there was jose, on another balcony filming for another station in spain. both of them were immediately killed, and many others were wounded on that day. that was april 8th, 2003. then you come to the summer, the summer of 2003. another video yog fer, one of the findest, outside what would later become world famous, but not yet. he was there with the sound man covering what was happening. they talk to u.s. soldiers, but within minutes, he filmed his own death. as the u.s. soldiers attacked him. the soundman said, we had just been speaking with the soldiers. later a pentagon spokesperson would say, they accidently, quote, engaged the camera man.
take this forward to the beginning, january of 2004, remember jordan, the head of cnn. well, he was inacaught oven a microphone at the forum saying the u.s. military targeted a dozen journalists killed in iraq. there was a great fire storm. ultimately, he resigned after 23 years at cnn, not wanting cnn to become a target. journalists targeted in iraq. those are the journalists. now i want to talk about the whistle blowers, the very brave people who stepped forward, for example, soldiers who were horrified by what they saw. while the new york times very much paved the way for war, they also published a few very good op-ed pieces like jaffer and
larry's piece honoring those who said no. they began, in january of 2004, specialists joseph m.darby, 24-year-old reservist in iraq, showing others in his company torturing in the prison, anguished, struggling over how to respond. he recall later, i had the choice of what was morally right and my loyalty to other soldiers. i couldn't have it both ways, he said. he copied the photographs, sealed it, and delivered it to the investigation command. three months later, seven years ago today, they wrote, the photographs were published. he soon found himself the target of death threats, but he had no regrets, testifying in a pretrial hearing saying the abuse, quote, violated everything i personally believed
in and all i've been taught about the rules of war. yes, there are many brave people, people on the ground, soldiers, journalists, who did speak out. cy published the photos in the new yorker said, and they were horrific, said, you actually haven't seen the worst of them yet. so now let's talk about whatf ws not talked about, the word torture. there is no doubt torture played a role in the push for invading iraq. while the senate report and other critics said torture deduced false information that could have been one of the programs goals. they roberted the bush administration applied tremendous pressure on
interrogators to put tremendous pressure on detainees to find cooperation between al qaeda and hussei hussein's regem. they said, quote, there was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told my cheney's people to push harder. this person said. the iraq torture connection gets only bare mention in the summary released in december. it still is significant. in a footnote, the report cites the case of u.s. forces sending him for torture in egypt, libby made up the fathers and mothers claim that iraq provided training and chemical and biological weapons to al qaeda. secretary of state powell used
libby's statement in february 5, 2003 address to the u.n. security council. an address he'd later call a stain on his career. that speech at the u.n. falsely alleging iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. the senate report says, quote, libby later recanted the claim, claiming he'd be tortured, only telling what he assess ed they wanted to hear. torture. it's so important to talk about this today. what has gone on, and who should be held accountable. the senate intelligence report, the executive summary released in december, covering between 2002-2006. even senator john mccain will, a man, himself, tortured in
captivity as a p.o.w. in vietnam, called for its release. graphic new details of the post 9/11 u.s. torture program came to light in december when a senate intelligence committee released the 500 page summary of the investigation into the cia with key parts redacted. the report concludes that the intelligence agency failed to disrupt a single plot despite torturing al qaeda and other captives in secret prisons worldwide from 2002-2006 and details a list of torture methods used on prisoners including water boarding, sexual threats with broom sticks, medically unnecessarily rectal feeding. the report confirms the cia ran black sites in afghanistan, lithuania, poland, thailand, and a secret site on the naval base known as strawberry fields. so far no one involved in the
cia interrogation program has been charged with a crime except for the whistle blower, who just came out of two years of prison and is currently under house arrest. well, it is so important to assess the bush administration, and i hope in a few years you'll be doing the same for the obama administration as you have done in the past, should president bush, vice president cheney, secretary of defense rumsfeld, and cia officials be tried for torture? that is a very serious question. a human rights group in berlin has filed a criminal complaint against the architects of the bush administration's torture program, the constitutional human rights, accusing former bush administration officials
like cia directors and donald rumsfeld of war crimes calling for immediate investigation by a german prosecutor, following the release of the senate report, but it's not only international law groups that are calling for this. yes, president bush's own counterterrorism czar, richard clark, has called for the same. i want to congratulate this assessment of the bush administration, but i think now it has to go beyond assessment, and this is to a larger audience in this country and around the world, if we really care about national security and being a model for the world of justice, it has to move from assessment to an accounting and to accountability. thank you. [ applause ]
>> it was certainly working at the podium. is it working up there? >> no. >> i think it's cia's dirty tricks. >> cia did it. >> does silence mean assent? [ laughter ] >> we're coming together now. >> okay, we're okay now. >> hi, just simply in the interest of fairness, would respond a little bit on the senate select committee on intelligence study on rendition interrogation was a partisan political study. it was not two side. there are further facts that need to come out from those who are able to, i think, correct some of the misstatements in the senate study. that has not happen yet. i hope it will happen because i do believe the american public
needs to know the truth of all of this, the senate study is not the full truth. >> was there any truth in it? >> sorry? >> was there any truth in it? >> of course there was some truth in it. it was a cherry picked selective presentation of information to support a narrative that was made before this report actually was even started. the announced purpose of the report of the study, if i'm correcting chairman feinstein or quoting chairman fooeinstein correctly, it's to this never happens again, and i know what the this was, neither do a lot of people, but apparently as you go through the report, as you go through this study, there are a series of observations that
involve information that the decision makers could have provided to the people doing the report and would have given a fair and more complete understanding of what happened and why. if you want to know why something happened, it's a good idea to go back to the people who made the decision and ask them. they calculated and determinedly avoided going back to anybody that thought might spoil their narrative. consequently, yes, there is some information that is cherry picked, some out of context, and some actually factually correct as far as i know. i have not read a word of the report. i have not read a word of any of this stuff because, to me, it was purely partisan political, and to litization of intelligence in this country is
going to hurt only one person, and that's every citizen in the united states. >> i just wanted to quote senator mccain. who -- >> i love senator mccain, and i would certainly agree with you that senator mccain is the icon of prisoner of war conduct. he has suffered greatly for our country and made great sacrifices and deserves to be listened to, but he does not have all the information either. >> he said, it is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that i believe not only fail their purpose to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the u and our allies, but actually damaged our security interests as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world. >> he is welcomed to his. . i doubt he's read the report. in any event, he has certainly not asked the people who were involved in this activity, what they think, because they have all indicated he's not asked
them. even he is dealing with less than a full deck. >> well, yeah, i think i'd love to hear some questions from the audience but i would recall, those of you who might not have been here this morning, and peter baker, i thought, put it well and it's a point i made in my initial presentation that the administration was a dynamic one. it evolved. there were seven behaviors that occurred in the early part of the administration. baker talked about warder boarding and said yes but the last case of waterboarding is 2003. mr. goss took his job in 2004, i did in 2005. this was an evolving situation.
let's remember that they -- neither mr. powell nor president obama -- mr. powell did not deliberately mislead the security council when he made that presentation in 2003. i was sitting right behind him with george tenant. the source who should not have been believed -- and this was a real intelligence failure -- had deliberately deceived his handlers and deliberately set that -- fabricated the information that iraq had wmd he was an iraqi source and he wanted us to do exactly what we did in the wake of his testim y testimony.
so this was an intelligence fill your and lead to significant reform but neither bush nor mr. powell were trying to mislead anybody. they believed that intelligence themselves and were very deceived by the fact that it turned out to be false. the last point i'd like to make is that the foreign policy of the bush administration ranged over an enormous variety of issues, whether it's his free trade agreement, his policy towards africa and the petfar program to save people from the effects of the hiv/aids virus. his strategic move towards india, establishing relations with the country of india that
were unprecedented in recent decades between the united states and india and his outreach of the people's republic of china as well. so just remember presidents have a very full plate in addition to, of course, their domestic responsibilities and i would say that over time it's not going to happen today or tomorrow but overtime i think that president obama is going to be evaluated for the entirety of his foreign policy and not just the war on terror and the two wars in afghanistan and iraq. >> mr. goss and dr. eisenberg. >> i was just going say that if those who remember that era of
2001 and 2002 when we were talking about weapons of mass destruction the conventional wisdom was they were there and it wasn't just something that was manufactured it was every intelligence organization on a global basis with whom the networks were talking to each other and there was a lot of different information coming from different sectors. it was all whiffedy information. one was saddam hussein's son came out and gave information and went back and were summarily executed at some point. i think that's correct. it's been a while since i remembered all this. but i remember the celebrated moment was when director tenant announced to the president this was a slam dunk, yes, of course, they had weapons of mass
destruction and i don't believe anybody was intentionally misleading anybody. what i said was our intelligence wasn't up to snuff because we had hollowed out our capacity after -- as part of the peace dividend. and the fact that we didn't have the best information is sad and it lead to tragic consequences in a number of cases, i am sure. but we did learn the lesson and the lesson was rebuild our intelligence community which is what we're trying to do. but it will never work if we politicize for partisan gain or some other agendatpsp the fas try and tell a part of the narrative rather than the whole narrative and that's my beef with the senate study. >> all right, is that working? i have to say i want to laugh when we talk about the
politization of information it's certainly well known and well understood by this time that vice president dick cheney not once, not twice, not five times, not seven times went to the cia headquarters and pressured them to come up with a certain result. and if that's not politization of intelligence i don't know what is. so i think it's very important that we keep that in mind and, again, particularly because that pressure on that agency and other agencies of government led to policies that proved to be enormously costly for other people. i don't want to spend a huge amount of time about who lied, who didn't know, whatever. i would say that as president of the united states turns to the director of the cia and asks if the intelligence really is reliable and the cia guy says "it's a slam dunk," and that's persuasive i don't necessarily feel like that is the most
intelligent consumption of information on the part of a president. i actually think it would have been important for george bush to ask more questions than that. now go beyond all of this, i think ambassador negroponte alluded to this, i think to keep in mind that there were weapons inspectors in iraq. that because of the u.n. resolution which you helped to get through, saddam hussein in those last months admitted weapons inspectors into his country without restriction. and there were inspectors going there from the international atomic energy commission, there were other inspectors under hans blix looking for chemical and biological weapons. elbaradei from the nuclear side said they found no evidence of saddam hussein restoring a nuclear capability, any effort, no nuclear program, none. hans blix was left short. but he went many, many places. and just remember, rumsfeld and
dick cheney kept saying over and over "we know where these weapons are." right? not just -- we know where they are. so here are these uninspectors, they're presumably in communications with americans who know where these weapons are. weeks are going by and they're not finding anything. and you're the president of the united states. and you're being told by two teams of weapons inspectors either definitely not or "we don't seem to be finding it, give us more time." and instead of responding to hans blix in that way who says "we're not finding anything, get us more time" and international support is eroding everyday because people are becoming more and more suspicious about whether they're really there, instead of doing that, the president decides to invade. so whether or not the cia did its job or not, the question still is why didn't the president of the united states if he wanted to avoid a war why didn't he listen to the u.n. teams? >> i think it's time for us to
take questions from the audience. what i would ask is i think there's a microphone, somebody's holding a microphone, right? we'll go around to -- if you raise your hand and when you ask your question if you want to direct it toward one of the panelists, just indicate which of the panelists and if it's a general question you're throwing out then it will be up to one of the panelists to take that question. please remember, we're here to ask questions and not make statements. i believe you had your hand up all the way back there. yes, you. where's the microphone? okay. >> this question is for professor knott. you mentioned what would you if in your opinion the scenario and his scenario on september 12. what about from january to september 10 when he ignored the numerous warnings from the intelligence agencies?
i think that's the more important question to ask. what would you do in those days leading up to it? >> i think bush -- both presidents bush and clinton deserve some criticism for not giving the threat from al qaeda the priority it was due. i know richard clarke would disagree. he says the clinton administration did focus on al qaeda. but al qaeda declared war in the united states in 1996, they repeated that declaration in '98. in the meantime, you had two embassy bombings in africa in '98, you had the uss "cole" in the fall 2000, you had other events where al qaeda kept increasing the intensity of their attacks. so there's plenty of blame to go around in my view, both president clinton and president bush in that interim period did not give al qaeda the attention it was due. and to be perfectly honest, i think they failed in a critical
role kwhich the president has t play which is to educate the american public. again, the fact was this group was determined to strike the united states and kept escalating and look how many americans were surprised when 9/11 happened. that shouldn't have happened. it shouldn't have been a surprise to anybody. >> can i ask a question of director goss and mr. negroponte? rather of mr. negroponte. mr. goss said if we knew then what we know today we might have done things differently, which i think is a very reasonable thing to say. do you think that -- mr. negroponte -- that knowing what we know today the iraq was war wrong and do you think that torture is wrong? >> look -- well, torture is never right. >> do you think the bush administration was wrong to engage in it? >> i say torture is never right. that's my first point.
my second point was i'll just stick with the way i felt during the time of those events and you can find quotes what have i said when i was ambassador the u.n. i was asked if i thought we should use no, sir iraq and i said well in questions like this i think we ought to approach from issue with a great deal of caution. i also said that we ought to -- and i felt that we ought to allow the inspection process more time to do its work. i was disappointed that it wasn't allow. but you know you have one president at a time. he's the commander-in-chief. he's got the constitutional authority and that's what he decided to do the last point i would make about the issue of hans blix and mohammed elbaradei, blix and i had a chance to reminisce about this later on. i said it's amazing, you set up this inspection thing and we never found anything and what
the heck happened? and blix said, you know, that's right. but he said i still don't understand why saddam behaved so guilty. and that's maybe why he had some doubt because he was -- saddam sort of emitted, emanated, this sort of sensation that he had -- he was hiding something. now, some people have speculated and i think it was an fbi agent who had interviewed him extensively that actually he wanted some people to think that he had wmd -- in his neighborhood in the wake of the iran/iraq war so maybe this was part of his strategy. but it kind of -- if, indeed, it was his strategy, it boomeranged. >> next question from the audience? yes? >> during your time as ambassador -- amy goodman exposed the role of the u.s., in
training death squads and tortures within the iraqi security forces so i'm wondering if anything was done on your part to crack down on that. and the second question -- and that could be part of the dark legacy, that the u.s. was associated with some very vicious elements in iraq. what are your thoughts on that? and the second element was talking about other elements of bush's foreign policy, you consider applying columbia great success? we know there were great human rights abuses of the colombian military. that's been the model in mexico so is that a success? and also what about the u.s. support for the congo war? you mentioned africa and we know, yes, i agree that the aids initiative was very positive but what about the u.s. role in supporting the rwandan and ugandan militaries and their plunder of congo and the five million deaths that occurred in congo? is that a success?
>> well, i think probably we don't have time to go through all of these issues exhaustively but i think t thought that colonel steele was training death squads in iraq is utter nonsense and certainly our objective when i was ambassador there was to stand up a professional national army and i considered that a priority objective. obviously we had mixed -- our success at best has been mixed but that was the objective. on colombia, all i would tell you, i think you mentioned colombia. plan colombia has been a great success. it was started by bill clinton, it was pursued by george w. bush and colombia is a democratic country. it's had a series of democratic elections and the country is more secure and safe than it was before. you know, war is hell. we know that.
but i think that president yurie and santos after him both approached the conflict with democratic ideals in mind. they were not trying to be dictators. they were not trying to behave in a bestial way. they were trying to win the security of their country but preserve its democratic framework. >> yes? >> this question is really for mr. goss or just about anyone, actually. after the invasion of iraq in 2003 there were these massive bloodshed within the civilian population because of the brewing insurgency. why did it take the bush administration so long to
realize that they had an insurgency in iraq and why did they fail to protect the civilian population? >> i suspect maybe the ambassador has a better key on iraq than i do but my answer to that would be simply the situation in iraq evolved rather quickly from what we thought was going to be the desired result and what some thought, the policymakers thought, was going to be the desired result that as somebody said flowers were going to be strewn and our soldiers were going to be greeted. well, it turned out we didn't have that, we had a pro council out there and an ambassador who brought things along. the process while we were trying to build democracy in iraq there were people in nearby countries and groups trying to destabilize iraq and trying to make sure that those efforts to plant
seeds of democracy did not succeed and i would give you iran as a case in point where killing our soldiers or providing the equipment to kill our soldiers while at the same time we were trying to bring the democratic institutions to bear and set up friendships between people who weren't friendly to share the power of the country in a system that would look like a potential way to bring forward change in government in the future without violence and bloodshed. the problem is, we're dealing with something that's been going on since 640 ad if not longer if you take into the condition of humanity and those folks still are trying to set it will score. we withdrew, a vacuum took place, the surge worked for a while we left, we didn't have status of a force agreement, look what we've got today. we have isil. would we have had isil 12 years sooner if we had never gone to
iraq? fair we do ask. >> all the way in the back. yes, you. >> hi, my question is somebody made a reference to sort of historians rushing to judgment about george w. bush. yeah, right. it's not my place to -- how true that is. my question is then going forward how possible is it, will it be, to do real work, research wise, history wise when so much of the information is demonized? i think of the iraq war logs as an example. yeah, that's my question. >> so much of the history -- i'm sorry, i missed the word you used. some of the history is what? >> demonized.
oh, oh. well, i'm not a professional archivist. i know we have the director of the bush library here. i'm sure he can answer your question for you. i'm not sure what you mean by demonized unless you're talking about leakers who are still within the government and then decide to follow edward snowden's path or whatever, you're correct. there are people who demonize them. point being, if you're a presidential historian, a good one will tell you, you have to wait at least 20 years because you have to let the passions cool. you have to do that. now, the problem is worse than you suggested because nobody puts anything down in writing anymore it was a point that was made earlier today in the first panels because they're afraid of gaegt subpoe getting a subpoena her from capitol hill or some special prosecutor created. so the historical record, unfortunately, is riddled with holes that go well beyond what you just said.
but i would still make the case if that you're a presidential historian like, god rest his soul, arthur schlesinger claimed in 2005 that george w. bush was one of the worst presidents in american history and, in fact, what the bush/cheney administration was attempting to do was to create a system of world domination that's editorializing without evidence. next question, please. by the way, i'll take this opportunity, two of our panelists have to leave right now and i just want to thank them on behalf of hofstra for coming here today and participating. [ applause ] we still have a few minutes ahead of us and let's take any other questions that are -- yes? >> student over here. >> so professor knott, you said
that with the events leading up to 9/11 we should have taken more account and, like, put more focus on the event, like the threat of afghanistan. do you believe that -- >> al qaeda in afghanistan. >> yeah. so do you believe that now with isil we should be putting more focus on them or should we differently than we are? >> look, i'm not trying to be evasi evasive, i just -- even though i teach at a war college, that's not my specialty. at the moment, the anti-isil or isis offensive seems to be led primarily by iran which is a little bit troubling, at least to me. but it's pretty clear to the american public has zero appetite for the old boots on the ground expression, whether we can contribute the air power coupled with indigenous forces coupled with the iranians which,
who would have ever thought, whether that will work or not, i'm just not in a position to say. i just don't know. >> i would commend the human rights watch report that came out today called "after liberation, destruction" and it's about the areas of iraq that were taken over by isil and now with iraqi militias moving through, they're destroying whole towns and they have the video of this and it's extremely important to understand what has happened in iraq today. how extensive the devastation is. >> marty? >> i'm sorry the other panelists have left because the question really applies to them. that has to do with the fact that we have supposedly 17
intelligence agencies with tens of billions of dollars expended on so-called intelligence and yet we didn't predict the end of the cold war. we didn't predict 9/11. and we haven't predicted isil coming to power the way they did. can you explain why? >> yeah, we've had -- i agree and actually i'm glad they left because there are some serious problems with the intelligence community. [ laughter ] >> why did you think you couldn't raise them with them there? >> oh, no, i would have. i would have. well, they might have killed me. [ laughter ] no, we've -- look what i'm about to tell you is very much -- it's not the majority view amongst -- i do presidential history but i also kind of do intelligence history and in my view a lot of damage was done -- and i know my
colleagues won't agree with this at all -- but if you want to penetrate a group like al qaeda or isil you have to do some pretty nasty stuff and that just does not sit well with the congressional oversight committees which were created in the mid-1970s after the church committee that i alluded to earlier. so i think there's been a lot of restrictions put in place and a lot of things that make the congressional overseers uncomfortable which is why -- explains some of those intelligence failure, not all of them. not all of them. the language problem i think director goss alluded to is a critical one as well. i think we've made some improvements there but the fact is -- and i grant you, we need to have a debate in this country. how much of a player do we want to be on the world stage. if the answer is we want to be then you need an intelligence community that will be doing things that are not necessarily going to maybe us proud all the
time. but there's not an intelligence service in the world that doesn't undertake uncomfortable actions to say the least, and especially if you're talking about a group like isil or al qaeda. >> if you're talking about the u.s. engaging in torture, i think torture -- the practice of torture threatens our national security. what it did in the leadup to iraq, it's very interesting to hear mr. negroponte say he had serious questions about going to war in iraq. but this came from faulty information that came from people who were tortured who gave information that they thought their torturers wanted to hear so when you question whether congressional oversight serves a democratic society i think the only thing that doesn't serve it is when intelligence -- the intelligence community is not overseen. that's what we've seen through the bush administration.
>> let me just point out if i could that on the question of at least waterboarding we do know that key members of the intelligence committees were briefed, including nancy pelosi, we won't go down this path because i believe she's since denied that but there's good evidence to indicate these folks were told and in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the word back was "do whatever the hell you have to do and if need be do more." so at the very least, if you're opposed to torture, don't focus your fire exclusively on the bush white house. a lot of it was coming from capitol hill as well. >> do you believe there was any chance that any intelligence that indicated contrary conclusion would have prevented that war? i know what you will say, i think, but dr. knott, if they were here i would have addressed it to them, negroponte and goss. >> i don't share the view that bush on 9/12 was determined to
go after iraq. it's pretty clear that people like paul wolfowitz were. he was the deputy secretary of defense. i think bush had to be persuaded over time. i also don't buy the view that it was because saddam hussein tried to kill his father. i think there's a lot of crazy stuff out there. but i do think bush was radicalized by 9/11 and there's a clear link to the invasion. >> what is the connection between 9/11 and the invasion of iraq? >> just that it radicalized bush. i'm not saying that al qaeda/saddam stuff is fiction. but i do believe that bush himself was radicalized by the events of 9/11 and opted to go big and go big was to send a shock wave through the part of the world -- the phrase was used at the time, pardon the expression "drain the swamp." the swamp being these semi states that were providing shelter for groups like al qaeda. again, not're but that somehow
by sending the shock wave you might move the region of the world in a more positive direction. >> we have time for one more question. kayla? >> just to broaden the conversation back to the decision to invade iraq. former u.n. secretary general kofi annan is that this was an illegal war, that it was a war of aggression also the nuremberg tribunal called the -- called it a supreme international crime. what about accountability for that? amy goodman mentioned accountability. we've been talking about torture but just around this scope. would you call this an illegal war right off the bat? >> well, in terms of strictly american legality, the authorization to use force or
whatever, yeah, the initial authorization to use force against nafz the fall/winter of '01, you did have congress go on record essentially giving bush the authority use force if he thought that was appropriate and, again, we should point out that there was pretty decent bipartisan support for giving bush this authority. hillary clinton, joe biden, john kerry, harry reid, richard gephardt, et cetera, et cetera. so from a strictly american standpoint i have a hard time viewing iraq as an illegal war. it was certainly more legal than president obama's use of force in libya two or three years ago where he didn't even go to congress at all. >> international? >> yeah, well, i'll let these folks -- >> i think we've been pretty clear in suggesting this was a violation of international law.
[ inaudible ] >> just sit closer to it, that's all. >> i can't speak for amy goodman, i think it's clearly a violation of international law. the united states went into iraq without the backing of the united nations, attacking a country that had not attacked us and there was where there was no imminent likelihood they would attack us. this seems to me kind of a very self-evident point. the practical situation that there's nobody in the world that can call us to account. and when i think it's very, very important keep some sort of overarching perspective. the extent to which folks in the bush administration were really people who were looking around in the aftermath of the cold, way think it took a while far to
sink in that we didn't have the soviet union as an enemy anymore. we didn't have to be careful about certain things we hesitated to do before and you really had coming to power in the bush administration people who were taking the view that now that we were the sole superpower that we were able to exert exert our influence in ways we have not done previously. so in that context the idea that you would attack another country that hadn't committed aggression against you -- i don't see any possible way to justify this in terms of international law. >> and i just wanted to end by saying i think it's important when -- so important what hofstra is doing -- evaluating presidencies but i also think
it's possible to evaluate the grass-roots movements that are the true movers and shakers, the bravery of those who have spoken out and continue to speak out. you know, brash lee, the congress member from oakland, california. as you pointed out, hillary clinton and many others in the democratic leadership voted for war. there's no question voted to authorize at the end 2002. barbara lee stood alone in those weeks after september 11 saying that war is not the answer, that she would not sign any blank check for war if we wanted to make ourselves safer. and i think 14 years later in 2015 as we look back this woman was prophetic and it's the movements that she represented and those that she didn't, these also deserve university examinations to give voice to
those who lost their lives, who continue to speak out mo who are imprisoned. who are the targets of u.s. foreign policy. we have to hear from all of them and their loved ones who can't speak for themselves. >> dr. knott has asked for the last word i guess, because it is the last word. >> a relatively minor point but it hasn't been mentioned yet. at least i didn't hear it. there's no question the neocons were itching, many of them, to get even, in a sense, or to go into iraq but it's also important to note that under president clinton with congressional acquiescence, regime change became the official policy of the united states government during the clinton years not the bush years. that doesn't necessarily justify the '03 invasions but there were a series of steps you could see leading to that. >> well, i would like to thank our surviving panelists. [ laughter ] and i want to thank you. thanks very much.
[ applause ] on c-span 2's book tv and american history tv on c-span three, this month with congress on its summer recess the city's tour is on c-span each day at 6:00 p.m. eastern. today the history of columbus, georgia, from the first prehistoric residents to the growth of the textile industry, as well as a look at confederate gun boats from the civil war and civil rights activism.