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Deep Inside America's Pursuit of its Enemies since 9/11.
Ron Suskind
Book Review and commentary: Updated 08 Jan 2008

A Pulitzer Prize winner has done it again. For anyone wanting or needing insight into the inner workings of the Bush Administration, this is the book to read.

On the page after his dedication, Suskind quotes a founding father:

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government."
Thomas Jefferson

Suskind picks up on Jefferson's wisdom and shows why this is so. And one can ask:

With our government full of liars,
how can we Americans be well informed?.

Forward from the morning after 9/11, Suskind details the thinking and driving policies for good and bad results. The amazing thing about Suskind is that he was able to cut through all the secrecy and bring out the facts in a sympathetic way. Human beings are sometimes caught up in situations they cannot imagine, much less prepare for. That seems to be the case with the Bush Administration. By the same token, the measure of the small clique that runs the country lies in how they address the task.

It is not the mistakes one makes, but how they are handled that count.

Their method of operation seems to to shoot first and ask questions later. Cliches based on emotions are center stage when the going gets tough as it surely is in these times.

His title lies at the core of Administration policy. The One Percent Doctrine may be stated as follows:

If there is a one percent chance that terror will emanate from any source, then preemptive action is justified against that source.

Cheney's initial statement was:

"Even if there's just a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qa'ida build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response!" (p. 62)

This was the thinking about Iraq and the basis upon which the al Qa'ida connection was fabricated. And it was indeed down around one percent. A fundamental problem is that the focus was on the last one percent: What of the other 99%. Cheney, believing his own propaganda, would reply: "There was nothing higher than Iraq." But that too fails the more fundamental questions:

  • What else is more likely, more possible?
  • How could they not be in tune with the Middle East and foresee any post-invasion danger at all? Throughout history, indigent peoples have opposed invaders and occupiers.
  • What is the down-side to this specific action? (Iraq ultimately and most importantly!)

Apparently no one dared to ask, or if they did, their question was squelched.

Thoughtful readers will question our question; What of the other 99%? Well, it is easy to calculate: total up all known threats relative to each other so that they necessarily add up to 100%! The 100% assumes only that the other side is certain to attack again. There may be unknown threats that are not included, of course, but if so, one percent grows smaller still. As for the unknowns, those too can become known by research.

Put this logic aside; what do we have instead?

Cheney chased one percent into an awful abyss. Most likely, he never totaled up the threats in order to give each the weight they deserved in guiding his response.

But as a doctrine, it was also illusory when it came to Iraq. For if a one percent likelihood of a terror attack was the trigger, then what was the terror potential of those states that were:
  • known to be years ahead of Iraq in both terror potential and nuclear weaponry -- North Korea and Iran, also part of the "Axis of Evil?"
  • Saudi Arabia, the cradle of al Qa'ida?
  • Pakistan exporting nuclear technology? [This one happened!]

That more likely sources of terror were ignored leads one to think hubris is too light a word: Was this doctrine just an excuse for invading Iraq, to even an old score, secure a supply of oil? Or worse, was it dereliction of duty to ignore the more significant problems? We prefer the excuse--hoping it was not dereliction of duty.

Retroactive thinking is always more accurate historically, but the fact remains, one percent was expressed as a doctrine in writing while more likely probabilities have yet to be attended to. We doubt that history will be kind in describing the Bush II era. Maybe this administration, as a general said, wants to be remembered by its slogan: "This administration stood up!" This would be true to its authoritarian character. Reading a little history, and thinking about it, was not even on their radar screen. The American people deserve better, even if we were intentionally mis-informed and consequently in the dark.

David Corn notes in connection with U.S. district Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision against the government's use of FISA:

Weeks before he took office in 2001, Bush quipped, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

For sure, Mr. Bush would dismiss this crack as idle chatter. However, his actions leading to this decision say otherwise.

Suskind presents numerous examples of similarly "forced thinking" arising from emotionally dominated decisions. Suskind's tale is one that once started cannot be put down easily; it reads like a novel. It also ties together tightly and is presented in a sympathetic way with the ring of truth.

We rate Suskind's book five stars for its accurate and daring portrayal of an administration that deliberately led America astray.


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