The first sixty pages of A Pretext for War give a harrowing replay of the hijackings of 9/11, as experienced in the Air National Guard’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, tracking the planes as they pursue their deadly course. The personal details, conversations and horror-struck reminiscences are a reminder of the shock felt by all caught in the glare of this national nightmare.
This book addresses specific issues that are pertinent to the direction of the country since the Iraq War, namely the current condition of our government agencies: CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, etc., and whether they have incorporated the drastic changes necessary since the end of the Cold War. Some of the topics covered in the text are: manufactured intelligence in pursuit of a vote for war in Iraq; bypassing Congressional oversight of major policy decisions; Chalabi’s part in supplying information and the money the INC has received for that information; the Niger uranium connection; the pro-Israeli Neo-Cons; Bush’s connection with Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel; and a redrawing the geopolitical map of the Middle East.
Bamford carefully dissects the spy apparatus in this country, from the Cold War efforts of the NSA, George Tenet’s meteoric rise as the head of the CIA during the Clinton Administration, and the importance of Presidential Daily Briefings in keeping the president appraised of daily security issues. Then Bamford segues into the parallel growth of Osama bin Ladin’s Al Quaeda. The continuing support of America regarding Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is critical to bin Ladin‘s cause and his success in recruitment. The May 1996 Israeli “Grapes of Wrath” Invasion of Lebanon and the massacre at Qana gave bin Ladin his battle cry, although the incident was barely covered by the American press.
The author reveals a solid, if disturbing, amount of information, moving toward his conclusion: we are not much better off now, two years later, regarding the security of this country. There is a credibility gap about what information is accessible to the public. The condition of our intelligence-gathering agencies is critical, and the problems must be faced. As well, the lack of Congressional oversight is troubling. In reading Bamford’s A Pretext for War, my main concern is maintaining balance of power between the branches of government, with the appropriate Congressional oversight.
Bamford doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of the problems facing America in the current state of crisis. In addition, Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill’s comments make more sense in context with all the information now being published. Certainly, 9/11 permanently changed our world, but the blanket use of discretionary powers to protect us from the terrorists has created a host of other issues that must be discussed and exposed to the democratic process as the framers of the Constitution intended.