Saturday, April 24, 2004

Did Bremer Predict 9/11?

Maybe, according to the following. Maybe Bremer should testify.

9/11: He Saw It Coming.

A career diplomat, Bremer was President Reagan's ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism. A decade later he sat on the Gilmore commission. In 1999 another congressionally mandated panel, the National Commission on Terrorism, began a six-month study of America's capacity to prevent and punish acts of terrorism. "Seriously deficient," it would conclude. Bremer chaired this commission.

On February 26, 2001, the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation opened a three-day conference on the theme "Terrorism: Informing the Public" at Cantigny, the colonel's estate in Wheaton. Bremer, who gave the keynote speech, recalled his work on the National Commission on Terrorism.

"We concluded that the general terrorist threat is increasing," Bremer said, "particularly because of a change in the motives of terrorist groups. . . . We have seen a move from narrow political motivation to a broader ideological, religious, or apocalyptic motive for many terrorist groups -- groups that are not attacking because they are trying to find a broader audience, but are acting out of revenge or hatred, or simply out of an apocalyptic belief that the end of the world is near." The new terrorists, he said, weren't interested in killing just enough innocent people to get noticed. For them it was the more dead the better.

The Bush administration had been in power just about a month at this point, but Bremer had already seen enough to draw some conclusions about it. He told the many journalists invited to the Cantigny conference to hold the White House's feet to the fire: "It is the media's responsibility, and an important one, though very uncomfortable for people in government, to put a very strong spotlight on the government's policies and practices on terrorism, especially given the current disorganization of the federal government's fight against terrorism. In this area, the federal government is in complete disarray. There's been remarkably little attention to the major recommendation the Gilmore Commission made for a substantial reorganization of the government's approach to terrorism. Journalists shouldn't let politicians get away with that.

"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit."

Bremer's remarks, somewhat abridged, survive in Terrorism: Informing the Public, the McCormick Tribune Foundation's book-length report on the conference. By the time it was published, in 2002, that window of opportunity had slammed shut.

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