On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.
The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.
The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.
The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.
This is an example of how the White House's Cold-War-era rogue-state-centric view of foreign policy was institutionally incapable of recognizing the threat from terror groups such as Al Qaeda.
Look, I am willing to cut the Bush Administration MAJOR slack for not realizing the true nature of the Al Qaeda trhreat. I criticize them for not taking it seriously enough to continue the weekly Principals meetings of Cabinet members and intelligence briefings that Clinton successfully used to ward off the Millennium bombing plots, but that's a critique whose purpose is to ensure that the mistake doesn't happen again, it is not a punitive one.
Where I do get punitive is that the Administration has responded to Clarke's allegations with the blatant falsehood of "Al Qaeda was our TOP priority!" when clearly by their own planned speeches, essays in Foreign Afairs, etc the entire foreign policy and national security advisor corp to the President was spouting Cold War rhetoric.
The Administration is incapable of 1. admitting honest error and 2. changing its mind in response to evidence that prior action was wrong. This alone is grounds for removing them from office, because they are simply too inflexible to deal with a changing and evolving enemy such as Al Qaeda and god knows what else will arise in the year ahead - including unforseeable blowback from our Iraq adventure.