With Steve Bucci (second from right) are Delaware County Patriots Mary Ellen Jones, Chuck Martini and Lisa Esler.
The Delaware County Patriots drew a crowd of 100 to the Newtown Square Knights of Columbus Hall, Sept. 11, to hear a man who had a front row seat of the first 9/11.
Steve Bucci, a former Special Forces officer who now heads the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at Heritage Foundation, became an assistant to then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in July 2001. His wife, a nurse practitioner, was looking for work and he suggested her for the clinic at the Pentagon. The day of her interview, she put on a nice dress, high heels and jewelry and rode in early with her husband. It was Sept. 11.
Bucci was breakfasting with congressmen with the television on when they saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. They felt it was pilot error. They were then watching what they thought was a replay when it dawned on them that it was a second plane. Bucci said they quickly determined we were under attack and went to a secure site in the building to plan a response. It was there he felt the building shake when the third plane struck. He looked for Rumsfeld and was told the Secretary went to the crash site.
“It was not a photo op,” Bucci said. Rumsfeld was manning stretchers to take away the wounded when he found him. He said he wasn’t worried about his wife getting hit by a strike as he knew where the plane crashed which was opposite from the clinic. He became concerned, though, when he realized his wife might also be assisting at the crash site. She was and in high heels and jewelry. It was a dangerous place. Bucci said the rescuers worked on an unstable floor to evacuate the wounded which they did before it collapsed 45 minutes after the attack
Bucci had much to say also about the second 9/11 one year ago in Benghazi, Libya. He noted that when he worked for Rumsfeld, the government would ramp up security on that date as it was obviously a symbolic target. That policy appeared to end when the Obama administration took over.
Bucci said our embassies are especially vulnerable. He noted that in 2012 a career State Department officer noticed the British, Red Cross and others abandoning Benghazi and requested additional security. He was repeatedly rebuffed.
When the attack came, Bucci described it as a “well planned, well executed military operation.” He noted the skillful use of mortars by the Islamic attackers which indicated significant training. He said the justification for the failure of our military to intervene — that the firefight would be over and that intervention was “dangerous” — was “crappy”. He also said the administration knew within hours that it was not a spontaneous protest over an internet video but a planned attack.
He said he believed the Obama administration ignored security and hid the terrorism because it was trying to maintain a narrative during the home-stretch of the election that it had made the world safe.
Regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria, Bucci expressed sympathy for the rebels noting that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was a “horribly evil dictator.” He said that the Obama administration declined to act for two years resulting Assad’s killing of 100,000 of his citizens. He said, however, that intervention was a tricky thing as the best and most dedicated fighters of the rebels are led by a faction that is likely worse than Assad. He said many of those supporting Assad do so out of fear of the rebels rather than love for him.
He noted that there is a part of the rebellion that would be worthy of support but didn’t seem confident that would end up running things if the Assad were overthrown.
He said Putin is no friend of the United States and took pleasure in making Obama look foolish.
Bucci patiently answered questions from the audience ranging from 9/11 conspiracy theories — which he treated respectfully — to the state of Homeland Security, which he said is much improved over what it was in 2001. He noted that one of the biggest dangers we face is political correctness and the fear of tying Islamic extremism to terrorism. He cited Obama’s unwillingness to call the Fort Hood murders an act of terrorism as an example.
He said that Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda both have made contacts with Mexican drug lords and others in Latin America.
Bucci continued to answer questions after the event ended.