Former National Security Council member and expert on terrorism in both the Clinton and GWB White Houses, Roger Cressey:
One ally, Clarke's former deputy, Roger Cressey, backed the thrust of one of the most incendiary allegations in the book, about a conversation that Clarke said he had with Bush in the White House Situation Room on the night of Sept. 12, 2001. Clarke said Bush pressed him three times to find evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The charge is explosive because no such link has ever been proved.And this MSNBC article from just before Clarke came out of the closet:
"'I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,'" Clarke writes that Bush told him. "'See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way.'"
When Clarke protested that the culprit was Al Qaeda, not Iraq, Bush testily ordered him, he writes, to "'look into Iraq, Saddam,'" then left the room.
Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, responded at a White House briefing on Monday by saying that Bush did not remember having the conversation and that there were no records that placed the president in the Situation Room at the time. [IHT]
Now Cressey is speaking out for the first time. He says in the early days of the Bush administration, al-Qaida simply was not a top priority, “There was not this sense of urgency. The ticking clock, if you will, to get it done sooner rather than later.”Cressey maintains that the US had the intelligence and a plan to strike terrorst Abu Musab Zarqawi and his training camps in the Kurdish controlled Northern Iraq area long before the Iraq war. We didn't execute those plans because George W. Bush was "more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists," according to Cressey.
Cressey and other witnesses have told the 9/11 commission of long gaps between terrorism meetings and greater time and energy devoted to Russia, China, missile defense and Iraq than al-Qaida.
For example: One document shows a key high-level National Security Council meeting on Iraq on Feb. 1, 2001. Yet, there was no comparable meeting on al-Qaida until September.
Is Cressey saying that some senior members of the Bush administration viewed Saddam Hussein as a greater threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden? “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was inconceivable to them that al-Qaida could be this talented, this capable without Iraq, in this case, providing them real support." [MSNBC]