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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- President Bush was told flat-out that Osama bin Laden planned an assault on the United States and was directing his followers to hijack airplanes to carry out the murderous attacks. The president was made aware of this chilling information in an Aug. 6, 2001 briefing, while he was on an extended vacation at his Texas ranch, more than a month before the terrible events of Sept. 11.

The Associated Press reports the CIA-prepared PDB -- the president's daily intelligence briefing -- contained the dire warning that al-Qaeda was preparing to use explosives and airplanes in an attack on U.S. soil. This revelation upends the White House's repeated assertions that the briefing about the al-Qaeda threat was merely "historic."

And it also makes National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission, where she declared under oath that "there was no specific time, place or method" mentioned in the intelligence report, suspect at best, and raises the specter of perjury.

The briefing title alone, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S." should have set off alarms, but this president and his court see and hear what they want. Rice insisted the title was meaningless and said, "This was not a threat report." Well, it sure as hell wasn't a greeting card.

Then, in Clintonian parsing that should have caused laughter to erupt, the president's "warrior princess" made a distinction sure to please her king, telling the 9/11 Commission, "The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked. It says bin Laden would like to attack the United States." I would like to and I am going to call Condi Rice a fraud and a third-rate political hack posing as a national security adviser.

She is, however, the perfect Bush operative. Rice is a first-rate performer and truth-spinner extraordinaire. She promises candor as she conceals. She's cool and organized and appears to do everything ever so right.

She embraces the president's creed of public service based on unflinching loyalty to his political interests, the interests of his family and the international oil industry.

Condi knows how Bush thinks (that's a frightening thought in itself), and she reflects his glib arrogance. We are infallible and never admit mistakes. Responsibility and accountability are vices. If something goes wrong, somebody else did it.

Repeat the lies over and over until you actually believe them yourself, and never respond to a question. Just keep talking and answer the question you asked yourself.

Most academics I know are thoughtful and reflective. They speak carefully, often subtly. They see nuances. But not Condi, the always-confident, opinion-spewing automaton. If cliches grew warts, she'd look like a toad. She never stops yakking, often repeating the same threadbare lines, especially when it comes to protecting and promoting the interests of George W. Bush, her patron and protector. And she's so loyal, an indispensable virtue for a Bush operative.

So loyal, in fact, that when the national interest is in conflict with the president's political interest, she always opts to protect the boss -- and, of course, her own cherished image.

That's what Rice did in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission. If her adoring fans in the media stopped gushing over her theatrical performance for two minutes and thought about its lack of substance, they might realize the truth about Condi Rice. She is dangerous, in way over her head, and her judgments and decisions are an ongoing threat to our national security.

Rice insisted the warnings about bin Laden's intentions were "frustratingly vague" and merely "historical information." An aside: Did Bush actually read the report? I would not be surprised to learn that the man who brags that he doesn't read newspapers didn't bother even to scan the bin Laden intelligence report.

In that case, who read it for him? Condi? His wife, Laura, the former librarian? Whoever saw the actual words must have told George W. to listen up and do something. Or, perhaps, they didn't. Or, more likely, he didn't listen. "Hurry up, Condi. I've got some wood to chop."

How might Bush have reacted if the briefing were entitled, "Saddam Hussein Determined to Attack Inside the United States"? Red alerts! See what Cheney wants me to do. Call in everyone. Let's move now. Set up a television address to the nation. Call my daddy and Billy Graham.

As we've learned, no information pointing to the bogus threat of Saddam Hussein and Iraq was too "vague." The quality of the intelligence didn't matter one whit. It could be broad, unsourced and unconfirmed. "Historical information," you say? The case against Saddam was largely built with dated information and historical assessments that were inoperative for a decade. But that didn't matter. That's the kind of stuff Bush wanted and Condi and the boys provided it.

Whispers about Saddam were amplified and the media broadcast them as loud, unchallenged truths, while a bullhorn in the ear about bin Laden and al-Qaeda's intentions was simply not heard, because no one who wanted to remain in the president's favor wanted to listen.

This duplicity stems from George W. himself -- his intellectual laziness, his lack of curiosity, and his reliance on instinct, visceral feeling and what his "gut" tells him rather than the truth found in facts.

That brings us to the horrible situation in which we now find ourselves in Iraq. Bush and those around him believed Iraq would be a "cakewalk," and that the people in our new colony would appreciate us forever. On the eve of the war, Dick Cheney said with assurance, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

That has not happened and the "liberators" are in deadly danger every day. Tragically, the bloodshed for the Iraqi people and U.S. troops shows no signs of letting up. Sure, terrorists, drawn by the war itself, are responsible for some of the violence. But much more is now open resistance and rebellion from Iraqis who wanted to be rid of Saddam, but also say it's time to end the occupation and let them determine their own destiny.

Bush and the neocons who planned the war with Iraq long before Sept. 11 relied almost exclusively on the information and views of one man: Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted bank embezzler and con man who headed the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqis in exile opposed to Saddam.

Chalabi had not set foot in Iraq for nearly 30 years prior to the invasion and he had little, if any, support among the Iraqi people. But he was the darling of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz, and his word was golden for the warmongers.

But Chalabi's information about Saddam's weapons, enriched uranium shopping, aluminum tubes and mobile biological labs turned out to be bogus -- pure crap. Even Colin Powell now admits the worst of the phony claims he sold came from the Iraqi National Congress (read: Chalabi).

The administration also relied on Chalabi in planning for post-war Iraq and the restoration of sovereignty for the Iraqi people. Should we be surprised that every important thing the lying crook told us was false?

I met with some Detroit-area imams last week, on the day U.S. forces bombed a mosque compound and hundreds were killed in Fallujah. Their views about how to end the bloodshed are far different from the Bush administration's.

The Shiite clerics, all born in Iraq or other Middle Eastern nations, say neutral international forces are required to end the violence and build a democracy.

"The United Nations should have a role in helping the Iraqi people to form their own government until the nation can have free elections," says Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America.

The religious leaders insist the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council is not representative of the people and scheduling free elections is long overdue.

Imam Husham Al-Husainy smiles, knowing full well the irony of his words. "So, let's have an election. What are we afraid of? If we are really democrats and love democracy, let's have an election in Iraq."

These men know the U.S. government fears an Iraq with an Islamic government. But what do we say to the Shiites, who represent 60 percent of the Iraqi people and who bore the brunt of Saddam's oppression? They were always cut out of power.

They believe their time has come, and a religious state should not be feared.

Imam Ali Elahi says, "If there is an election and the majority chooses an Islamic government, that's fine as long as they respect the civil rights of every individual in the country. Why should that be a concern? If the majority chooses that form of government and respects minority civil and human rights, what is our problem with it?"

The president doesn't even need an unread briefing on this one. The concern for George W. Bush and his colonial counselors is that they couldn't control that government. And then, what's the use of conquest if you can't control the conquered people and their resources?

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 13 2004