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Sunday, April 24, 2011

9/11, Warren Buffet, the CIA and the power of establishing goals.

When 9/11/2000 occured I was sitting at breakfast next to Warren Buffet and an Admiral who was head of STRATCOM 4 stories down in their headquarters just outside of Omaha.  The mission of STRATCOM is to "Detect, deter, and prevent attacks against the United States and our allies - join with the other combatant commands to defend the nation should deterrence fail"  Basically that means they tell the Army, Air Force and Navy when to put the "hammer" down.

Our group was part of a tennis and golf tournament that was raising money for local charities in this amazing American City of Omaha.  Each team gave $7500 to participate.  For the previous five years the day had started off with the morning visit to this vast military headquarters followed by an afternoon of sport and an evening of listening to Warren accurately tell us what would be in store for the next year or so.  It was the most impressive group of people imaginable who came with deferential, religious fervor to listen to the absolute POPE of the business world.

Our breakfast on this day however was interrupted by a monitor showing one plane flying into the World Trade Center.   The Admiral sitting across from me was nonplussed and ridiculed my question about the danger.   He told all of us that a plane flying into a building like that was like a gnat flying into a tree.  He said that they were ordering all personnel to go into the building and bring everyone out because there was no risk of further danger.

Then suddenly a small group of heavily armed soldiers came into the room and our host, the Admiral, said that we had to leave immediately.   Only later did we all find out that George Bush was flying to Omaha because that was viewed as the safest bunker in the United States.  

We were all hustled out of the building, given a nice pen and pencil set with the emblem of STRATCOM, ushered onto our bus and driven to the Omaha Country Club.

Most of the hugely important executives in my group tried to get away and go to the airport to fly home in their jets but returned to the Club because they were told that no one could fly.

Finally with all of us sitting down at lunch, Warren Buffet, walked up to the lectern of the dining room and said,  "This has been a terrible day.  I figure that this event has cost me two billion dollars.  (It always amazed me that he had already figured out his loss in under three hours.)  But we live in a great country with amazing resources and creativity.  We will recover and prosper eventually.  My suggestion is that we all go out and play tennis and golf and enjoy this beautiful day."

This uplifting soliloquy was met with thunderous applause and we all did exactly as he suggested.

A few days later the man who founded and ran the public company that puts the spy satellites into orbit for the CIA told me that flying a plane into the Department of Defense was the worst thing that could ever have happened to the Islamic people and the leaders of the nations that allowed this to happen.

After seeing the might of STRATCOM a few days earlier there was no doubt in my mind that if he was right, all of those governments would indeed fall.   The sophistication that was shown that day was absolutely the most advanced imaginable. And here a group of 17 Saudis had knocked off sizable chunk of the Pentagon.  One certainly would think that this was ample provocation!

Reading the Wall Street Journal today and seeing their interactive map of the Middle East illustrates that he indeed was right.   It took them 11 years but it does seem to be happening.

Makes me glad these guys are on my side!

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