09/28/2006 08:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Condi Rice: Liar, Stupid, or Both?

When it comes to the 9-11 blame game, Condi Rice is either a liar or stupid.  No other logical possibility accounts for her delusional claim to the New York Post that, "We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda."   Rice was responding to President Clinton, who told Chris Wallace last week that his Adminstration left the Bush Administration with a plan for dealing with the Al Qaeda threat. 

But this ain't a case of "He said, She said".  There is a documentary record and it is unambiguous.  In fact there are two documents.  First, is the strategy itself.  Comprehensive and straightforward.  Second, is the memo from Clarke to Rice.  For folks unaccustomed to the intricacies of bureaucracy, this memo, which was given to Rice on 25 Janaury 2001, is the equivalent of a smoking mushroom cloud.  This is truly damning because it provides the road map for the actions the Bush team should have taken but didn't.

The first thing Clarke warns Rice about is the need for a comprehensive strategy to deal with Al Qaeda:

As we noted in our briefings for you, al Qida is not some narrow, little terrorist issue . . .Rather, several of our regional policies need to address centrally the transnational challenge to the US and our interests posed by the al Qida network. By proceeding with separate policy reviews on Central Asia, the GCC, North Africa, etc. we would deal inadequately with the need for a comprehensive multi-regional policy on al Qida.

Clarke then proceeds to lay out the history of Al Qaeda, why it is a threat, and highlights some key issues that the Clinton Administration had not solved.  But he does not stop there.  He does what any good soldier would do, he asked for specific guidance in four areas: 

I recommend that you have a Principals discussion of al Qida soon and address the following issues: 

  1. Threat Magnitude: Do the Principals agree that the al Qida network poses a first order threat to US interesting a number or regions, or is this analysis a "chicken little" over reaching and can we proceed without major new initiatives and by handling this issue in a more routine manner?
  2. Strategy: If it is a first order issue, how should the existing strategy be modified or strengthened? . . . .
  3. FY02 Budget: Should we continue the funding increase into FY02 for State and CIA programs designed to implement the al Qida strategy?
  4. Immediate CIA Decisions: Should we initiate CIA funding to the Northern Alliance and to the Uzbek's? 

Please let us know if you would like such a decision/discussion paper or any modifications to the background paper.

So, did Condi immediately convene a meeting of the Principals (i.e., President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc)?  NO.  She waited until September 4, 2001.

Did the Bush Administration adopt the position that "al Qida network poses a first order threat"?  NO.  Did Condi immediately decide on whether to modify or strengthen the "existing strategy" for taking on Al Qaeda?  NO.  Condi kicked the can down the road.

Condi can play all of the lawyerly word games she likes, but the cold facts expose her dissembling.  Dealing with Al Qaeda did not become a priority for the Bush Administration until the morning of September 11, 2001.  No effort to retaliate against Al Qaeda for the USS Cole bombing was made until after 9-11.  The real irony is that the Bush Administration, in the wake of 9-11, implemented a plan/strategy very similar to the one Dick Clarke gave Condi in January 2001.  So, Condi?  Liar or stupid?  You decide.

-- No Quarter