Interview with Retired Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson on Obama, Clinton and National Security

October 25, 2010

In an exclusive interview with Accuracy in Media, Retired Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson says that President Obama is very “dangerous to our military, and to the national security of this nation.” He says that Obama’s refuses to “acknowledge the fact that we’re fighting a very extreme element of Islam.” And he cites the National Security Strategy Policy of the United States, which is President Obama’s national security policy, in which “he does not, one time, use the words jihad, Islam, Muslim, extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism—in fact, quite the opposite: He identifies the greatest national security threat to America being global warming.”

Patterson’s new book is Conduct Unbecoming: How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security. So who is Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Buzz Patterson? He is a bestselling author, and more importantly, from 1996 to 1998, Colonel Patterson was the Senior Military Aide to President Bill Clinton. During that period he was the man responsible for the President’s Emergency Satchel, also known as the “Nuclear Football.” It is the black bag with the nation’s nuclear capability that is supposed to be with the president at all times. In this interview Patterson points out, however, that isn’t always the case. Colonel Patterson was also operational commander for all military units assigned to the White House, including Air Force One, Marine One, Camp David, White House Transportation Agency and White House Mess.

In the interview we cover a wide range of topics, including his 20 years of active duty as an Air Force pilot who saw combat duty in global hot spots like Grenada , Somalia , Rwanda , and Bosnia . He talks about how he was chosen for the job with President Clinton, and how he came to view him in light of a number of incidents involving Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and others. This is not how Bill Clinton wants to be remembered, but it was the subject of Patterson’s first book, Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security.

We discussed President Obama’s Rules of Engagement for the troops in Afghanistan , and his efforts to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Patterson is very critical of the media for their fawning coverage of Obama. He says they were “completely in the tank” for Obama. “I mean, they got him elected and they’re going to protect his Presidency completely.”

We discussed Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s foreign policy and the threats that it poses to our national security. Patterson offers his views on Obama’s radical influences in his past, and how in some cases they are still present in his life at the White House.

Below, in italics, are a number of excerpts from the interview with Col. Patterson. But I urge you to take the time to read or listen to the entire interview, which can be found here.

“The U.S. had prepared an air strike to support the Kurds and repel Saddam’s Republican Guard forces in northern Iraq .  At this day, at the golf tournament, I started receiving phone calls from Sandy Berger—who was, at the time, the National Security Council Advisor—asking for President Clinton to go ahead and authorize this attack to repel Saddam’s forces, as they were really massacring thousands and thousands of Kurds in the northern part of Iraq .  I approached President Clinton on three occasions at this golf tournament to ask him for the go-ahead to launch this attack.  We had Air Force fighters in the air, ready to drop bombs and to repel Saddam’s forces, and on three occasions, President Clinton could not be bothered to take the phone call from Sandy Berger.  So, on three occasions I approached the President, he brushed me off—he wanted to watch the golf tournament.  So I saw, really, for the first time, the dereliction of duty, as it were, by President Clinton not being able—not being willing to take the phone call while thousands and thousands of Kurds were being slaughtered by Saddam Hussein.  That was really my first insight.

“...we had at least eight times, up to ten times that I recall, that we had a chance to either capture or kill Osama bin Laden.  And on every single occasion, President Clinton chose to pass.  I believe, quite frankly and honestly, that 9/11 was the responsibility—I put the blame for 9/11 at the feet of President Bill Clinton.  I think he had many opportunities to take out bin Laden, to either capture him or kill him, and chose, every single time, not to pull the trigger.  The movie—the series—The Path to 9/11 very accurately shows that the phone calls went all the way up to President Clinton, from Sandy Berger, and Clinton chose not to pull the trigger.  Again, I think that’s a very accurate representation of what happened, and I think President Bill Clinton was responsible for 9/11.

“When TWA 800 went down, the first response, the first, initial reaction was to suspect terrorism.  President Clinton immediately asked for a lot of the background information we had on al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and Operation Bojinka.  Then, as things unfolded over the next few days, and few weeks, the concern came about whether or not to label it as a terrorist attack, and I think it got covered up, quite frankly.  I’ve had this discussion with a lot of people, and I think that we chose, as a government, President Clinton chose, and Vice President Gore chose to approach TWA 800 as an accident, an airborne accident, and not an act of terror.  But I do know, initially, that the response, the reaction, was that it was a terrorist attack.

“Mrs. Clinton—I think she’s going to run against Barack Obama in 2012.  I don’t see Mrs. Clinton being happy as Secretary of State, or even just being a Vice Presidential candidate.  I think she’ll come out and run against Barack Obama.  They have an incredibly efficient political machine, I’ll give them that.  Seeing it up close and personal for two years was eye-opening.  They are quintessential politicians—he much more than she.  But I would not underestimate her. 

“I think we’ve elected a man, in Barack Obama, who’s more dangerous to our military, and to the national security of this nation, than even Bill Clinton—and that pains me to say, but I believe that, to be honest and sincere, that we have elected a man more ill-equipped, more unqualified, than President Clinton.  We’ve elected a man to the Presidency, at a time when we’re fighting a global ideological enemy—that is, radical Islamism and jihadism—and we’ve elected a man to be our commander-in-chief at a time when we’re fighting hot wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.  The damage he’s doing to our military, at a time that we’re fighting a war, to me, is egregious. 

“I don’t think he understands that we’re fighting—in my estimation—an ideological enemy every bit as dangerous as we fought last century with Communism, fascism, Nazism.  We’re fighting a global ideological enemy, radical Islam.  It’s in over 80 countries around the globe.  It’s metastasized internationally.  We’ve been fighting this enemy since 1979.  And President Obama refuses to acknowledge the fact that we’re fighting a very extreme element of Islam.  In fact, if you look—in my new book I have the National Security Strategy Policy of the United States of America , President Obama’s national security policy.  He does not, one time, use the words jihad, Islam, Muslim, extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism—in fact, quite the opposite: He identifies the greatest national security threat to America being global warming.

“When I embedded myself over in Iraq in 2006, I received several briefings from the Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about the enemy we’re fighting.  It is a global, ideological enemy.  It’s in over 80 countries around the globe.  It is not just al-Qaeda.  It is an ideological movement that is seeking to attack Westerners—Americans, primarily—around the globe.  It is seeking to institute sharia law around the globe. 

“When you Mirandize a terrorist, and tell him he has the right to be silent, he becomes silent, and we don’t get the intelligence that we need to interrupt other attacks on Americans around the globe.  I think we lose a lot of very valuable intelligence by doing that. 

“Bob Woodward’s book does my book a great service, because Bob Woodward proves and substantiates a lot of what I talk about that’s happening in Afghanistan .  The fact that Obama, number one, named General McChrystal to be his commanding general to fight the war in Afghanistan, and then met with General McChrystal only one time in twelve months before firing him, and General Petraeus has now taken over—and I have a very good friend working for General Petraeus—and much the same is happening with General Petraeus...Obama’s not engaged in Afghanistan, and the Rules of Engagement are killing our troops, quite frankly. 

“When he was campaigning against and running against Hillary Clinton he had to prove his national security bona fides.  He had to prove that he could be a strong commander-in-chief, and so he made the Afghanistan war the central point of his campaign, in terms of how he would approach things as commander-in-chief.  Once elected, he then realized that he had made Afghanistan his war and he was not prepared to fight it.  I think that he had to play to the moderate elements of the Democratic Party by being perceived as a hawkish commander-in-chief, and now that he’s been elected he realizes that he doesn’t have the stomach for the fight. 

“I think I voice the military’s concerns, because they can’t really do it in an open forum.  I think you’re going to see more and more the military folks being disgruntled, being more vocal, and I don’t think that’s a real good thing for the commander-in-chief.  I think it’s a bad thing, but I think it’s important for Americans to understand we have a total lack of leadership in the White House right now, at a time when we need leadership. 

Copyright ©2010 Roger Aronoff

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at