Friday, November 11, 2005


Raids and Presidents

Pre-dawn hours are the most dangerous. People, even people who are on high alert are most vulnerable during that period before dawn. With the anticipated approach of morning, people tend to succumb to sleep. All security services know that. All ‘tribal’ raiders know that. I certainly knew that but that did not save me from being caught off guard.

About an hour before dawn some time ago, we woke up to the sound of heavy pounding on our front door. I woke up with quite a start. Almost simultaneously, my wife yelled: “The boys!!!”

[My brother who lives next door was away in Jordan at the time with one of his boys. My two nephews were alone in the house. There is a side access between our two houses. And because the pounding was on the front wooden door and not the outside iron gate, my wife naturally assumed that it must have been the boys and because of the severity and urgency of the pounding, something must have happened to them.]

I rushed to the door, barefooted and, luckily, weaponless. It turned out to be a search party – a dozen armed men, mostly American with some ING soldiers, pointing their guns at me. I was relieved.

It was quite a shock that lasted only a few seconds before reality took over.

My relief was misplaced, but this is not the purpose of this post. What kept coming back to my mind was a video clip of President Bush being hurriedly told that America was under attack on the morning of September 11th, 2001 during a visit to a school.

We probably all know how he sat there in that classroom for several (seven? nine?) minutes sober and obviously thinking.

Very dignified; but is it natural?

What was he thinking about with the little data that he had? I would have thought that someone who was told of a calamity involving his family or his country would jump to find out more: What happened? What was the damage? Who was hurt? Was there more danger? Is there anything I can do? Who did it?... Hundreds of questions would flash through the mind in seconds. But the first thing most people would do is to jump to find out more… and not sit down and think about it. Thinking about such things, ‘analyzing’ them only comes after knowing the facts… not before!

Are Americans a different breed of people?
Does their President come from a different breed?



Cumon, you can't leave us hanging?

He's a President, like it or not. Of the most powerful country in the world. And people in that position don't, and shouldn't, run around in a panic like a chicken with its head cut off when confronted with a dire situation. 5 or 10 minutes doesn't make any difference in the course of events. There's nothing he could have done differently in that space of time that would have changed events. He was given information as it was obtained. The President himself does not personally rush to the scene to see what he can do. There's nothing he can do. There's an entire, huge mechanism of government that knows what it needs to do and will communicate with him, and get his input and approval for specific things, when necessary.

That's how it works and how it's always worked.

Especially when he is in a very public event, with cameras rolling and children seated in front of him, jumping up immediately and conveying panic to the world is not what's called for in that situation. How do you know those questions (who? what? when? where? why?) weren't running through his head? In that short space of time (several minutes) nobody had the answer to all of those questions.

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Please forgive me for deleting those comments. I hope to be able to restore them later!

1) Echo Anonymous in the first post. Tell the whole story, don’t leave us wondering.
2) Echo everybody else - can’t see your point. Bush heard about a possible attack, or maybe an accident, in New York. Not a nuclear assault on several cities. There was literally nothing he could do from where he was, he had to follow Secret Service directions in an emergency - might as well finish reading "My Pet Goat" while the situation was clarified.
It seems to have been the one time in his Presidency when he did the right thing - I don’t think you’re going to get many takers for your parallel.
Mind you, as to the long silences: I understand that it is firmly established that in the 48 hours after 9/11, a special flight was laid on, approved at the highest level, to take members of the Saudi royal family out of America. (I may have read that this included members of the Bin Laden family, but I’m not sure of that.)
Osama bin Laden was of course at one time quite close to the Saudi royal family. The way I read it, the original idea, when an Arab Jihadi contribution against the Soviets in Afghanistan was proposed, was that a Royal Prince should lead it. Not surprisingly, there were no takers, and Osama went instead.
Now those Saudi royals probably didn’t know the details of the 9/11 plans - the fact that most of the hijackers were Saudi only emerged months later - but it seems likely that that they knew that something was in the wind. "Our boy Osama’s got a big one planned," sort of thing. Hence their precipitate departure from the US - they recognised the handiwork.
And given their close relationship with the Bush oil family, it seems one of them could have slipped George the word. "Look out, something’s coming up."
That would certainly explain his silences. "Shucks, is this what Prince Abdullah was hinting at?"
That would have given him pause for thought.

I don’t know the answers to the question of what President Bush was thinking about during those minutes. I don’t think anybody does. People can only speculate… like Circular has done.

But this was not the issue.

I simply thought (and still think) that his reaction was not natural. The alternative need not have been to “… run around in a panic like a chicken with its head cut off” as anonymous above has suggested in the second comment. That would indeed have been undignified and unbefitting.

The natural thing I would have thought would have been to be alarmed by the news, calmly but speedily excuse himself from that classroom and seek the nearest link to find out as much as possible about what had happened.

Time can be a very important factor in these things I would imagine… particularly for a leader of the nation!

But then again, anonymous above could be right. It may just be possible that President Bush was letting “… an entire, huge mechanism of government that knows what it needs to do and will communicate with him, and get his input and approval for specific things, when necessary.”

Like he did during Katrina.

Quite possible.

Perhaps his reaction was quite normal in American eyes.

Well, it is something to try to grasp the psychology of 'worldleaders' or even just 'national' leaders. I can give the example of something quite terrible that has happened recently in The Netherlands.
Two weeks ago a fire broke out in a detention centre at the Schiphol airport. The fire went quick, which tells us that the construction materials were definitely of inferior quality to what they should have been. Now this prison was built just some years ago, and in the first place for smaller drug-traffickers. (Inferior class?) With the hardening Dutch politics on asylumnseekers, the prison came into use also for those who were rejected asylumn. Now it is not 'illegal' to seek asylumn. So these people shouldn't be imprisoned in the first place. The prisoncells could only be opened one by one. Eleven people died. Dutch government-politicians stated in the days directly after the disaster that the problem had been 'adequately solved'. They still keep that position. The word 'shame' is mentioned several times, these days in debates in this so small, once so tolerant country.
I guess it takes a very good psychiatrist to grasp the psychology of actual politicians...

take care abu, and so too to the other peops here at abu's comment-table, cheerio, cecile
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