Monday, March 26, 2007

Waiting for the Barbarians

Andrew Cockburn reports on a conversation between guardians of Judaeo-Christian values Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on September 11 (taken from the 9/11 Commission Report):

"After a brief discussion with [his acolytes], Rumsfeld finally made his way to the military command center. It was almost 10:30. Only then, as he later explained to the 9/11 Commission, did he begin to gain "situational awareness" of what was going on. After a brief interval he spoke with Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in a bunker under the White House and for the previous forty minutes had been issuing orders to shoot down suspicious airliners.

"There's been at least three instances here where we've had reports of aircraft approaching Washington - a couple were confirmed hijack," Cheney told Rumsfeld in his favored clipped, macho style. "And pursuant to the President's instructions I gave authorization for them to be taken out."

Actually, the presidential authorization cited by Cheney consisted, at best, of the words "You bet" from Bush as Air Force One streaked out of Orlando, Florida. In any event, it was Rumsfeld, not Cheney, who was legally in the chain of command and authorized to give such an order.

"So we've got a couple of [military] aircraft up there that have those instructions at this present time?" asked Rumsfeld, still catching up.

"That is correct," replied Cheney. "And it's my understanding they've already taken a couple of aircraft out."

Together, these two men dominated the U.S. government for six years. They must have had thousands of conversations, but this snatch of dialogue, as released by the 9/11 Commission, is the only known publicly available sample of a private conversation between them. Though brief, it is instructive. Not for the last time, they were reacting to information that was wholly inaccurate - there were no more hijacked airliners in the sky. One of the planes Cheney had ordered "taken out" was United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania ten minutes before he issued the command. The other was a low-flying medevac helicopter on its way to the Pentagon. Neither man seemed concerned that the president was not involved. Cheney was usurping his authority, since he was not in the chain of command. Lacking any experience in the military, the vice president may not have realized that military commanders like precise orders, and will not proceed without them, which was why the fighter commanders chose not to pass on his aggressive instructions to the pilots." (Andrew Cockburn in the book Rumsfeld, excerpted in the New York Times, March 25, 2007).


Post a Comment

<< Home