11 September 2016

Strands of Dr. Strangelove Surrealism in Bush Advance Man's 9/11 Memories

As America commemorates the 15th anniversary of the September 11th 2001 attacks by Islamic terrorists, the sting of the memory may have grown faint in some circles. Whether it is due to the passage of time or the widespread reluctance to show the terrible videos about planes hitting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville PA, killing nearly 3,000 souls that day. So the producers of a commercial showing the collapse of twin towers of mattresses might not have struck them as being offensive humor.

However, Bush White House Director of Advance Brian Montgomery had a slightly sardonic memory of that dark day preparing for an impromptu stop at Barksdale AFB on September 11, 2001, as it seemed like Dr. Strangelove surrealism. 

The Secret Service was very protective of the President and were chary about returning to the White House to avoid the possibility of a decapitation strike. This sensibility was reinforced especially after hearing chatter that "Angel" (code name for Air Force One) was "next".  So the Presidential entourage was diverted to Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, Louisiana.

It so happened that on that very day, the 8th Air Force based at Barksdale AFB was in the midst of their annual big exercise Global Guardian, including having loaded bombers at the ready.   So Barksdale AFB was already proceeding in a THREATCON Delta mode.  So when Advance Director Montgomery disembarked from Air Force One, he could see the B-52 Stratsfortress bombers lined up wing-to-wing it seemed surreal.
Bush White House Advance Director Brian Montgomery Recalls 9/11 at Barksdale AFB

Adding to the surreal scene was being met by a military man who looked like ready to roll General Buck Turgidson telling him that the squadron of B-52s were loaded with nukes, no wonder Montgomery thought of Dr. Strangelove.

Better to work with a guy looking like General Buck Turgidson than guy acting like General Ripper. However, to all reports, once the second plane hit the World Trade Center everyone in the military was on war footing.  

And despite less than ideal communications on Air Force One, President George W. Bush was able to reach out to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fletcher recalled: "Putin was fantastic that day.  He was a very different Vladimir Putin in 2001.America could have had no better ally on September 11th than Russia and Putin. Putin  accepted the President Bush's reassurances that America was under attack and hostilities were not directed towards Russia. 

President Bush exiting Air Force One on September 11,2001 with "Doomsday Plane" in the background

So despite "Angel" landing next to a fully loaded nuclear squadron of B-52's and being met on the tarmac by a guy who was a doppelganger for General Buck Turgidson, there was little chance on 9/11 that life would imitate art in Dr. Strangelove's (1964) climactic ending.

H/T Politico

No comments: