Tuesday, August 30, 2005

four years after 9-11

Twenty Things We Now Know Four Years After 9/11

August 30, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers <http://www.crisispapers.org>

In a few days, it will be four years since the awful events symbolized
by the date "9/11." Time for our annual list of what we've learned from
that tragedy and what followed from it.

Much new information has been revealed this year, with corroborating
documents verifying aspects of the story we only surmised previously. So
without further ado, below are the twenty things we now know four years
after 9/11, based mainly on documented evidence found in the
Bush-friendly mainstream media.

A general assessment before we begin the numbered list: there now is a
widely-accepted foreign and domestic judgment that the Bush
Administration is composed of bumbling, dangerous, close-minded
ideologues. You can see it in the polls (as I write this, Bush's
approval ratings are at his all-time low, at or below 40%) and,
particularly, in how many conservative/traditional Republicans and
former military officers are expressing remorse at having supported this
guy in the 2004 election.

Bush these days still has his true-believer base of about 30%, but he's
extremely vulnerable politically, which is why Rove and his minions are
so desperate right now and are ratcheting up the rhetoric and
smear-tactics against their political enemies. And the desperation helps
us understand why Bush keeps returning to 9/11, the one talisman that he
thinks still may work for him, that singular moment in his history when
many Americans thought he looked good.

1. THE 9/11 ATTACK & COVERUP

We know that 9/11, regardless of the degree of complicity you believe
the Bush Administration was guilty of, was seized on by Bush & Co. as
the event that would be used to justify all that would follow
domestically and in foreign/military affairs. The evidence indicates
that, at the least, the highest circles in the White House knew a
spectacular attack was in the works in the days and weeks preceding 9/11
- warnings were coming into the White House from a host of foreign
leaders and intelligence agencies - but chose to do nothing, presumably
to make use of those events in the service of their hidden agenda.

Similarly, nothing was done as a result of the government's own
intelligence warnings. The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing,
entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," talked about al-Qaida
wanting to hit the nation's capital, preparations for airline
hijackings, casing of buildings in New York, and terrorists in the U.S.
with explosives. Bush went to ground in Texas, the FBI told Ashcroft to
stop flying commercial jets. The attacks finally came about a month
later, and the Bush forces were ready to make their moves.

The key neo-con leaders in charge of U.S. foreign/military policy
(Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Khalizad, et al.) were
founders of, and affiliated with, The Project for The New American
Century; in one of their key reports, they noted that the far-right
should expect their revolution to take a long time, "absent some
catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." Enter
9/11. (See "A PNAC primer" )

The neo-cons realized that presidents enjoy enormous patriotic support
during wartime, but when the war ends, those leaders lose their
compelling luster, as was the case with Bush #1. Ergo, Bush #2 would
become a PERMANENT wartime president, and those who opposed him could
then be tarred forever with the "unpatriotic" brush, and their political
opposition marginalized. And it worked: the Democrats cowered and gave
Bush virtually everything he wanted, up until relatively recently, when
occasionally they remember they have spines in their bodies and stand up
and fight as an opposition party should.

2. OIL & THE POLITICS OF PNAC

We know that after 9/11, Bush seemed to bring the entire country along
with him when he launched an attack on Al Qaida and its
Taliban-government supporters in Afghanistan. But there's no oil in that
destitute country - and, as Rumsfeld reminded us, not much worth bombing
- and thus no lessons could be drawn by Middle East leaders from the
U.S. attack. But, as Cheney's secret energy panel was aware, there was
another country in the region that did have oil, and lots of it, and
could be taken easily by U.S. forces; thus Iraq became the object-lesson
to other autocratic leaders in the Middle East: if you do not do our
bidding, prepare to accept a massive dose of "shock & awe": You will be
overthrown, replaced by democratic-looking governments as arranged by
the U.S.

The neo-cons - most from PNAC and similar organizations, such as the
American Enterprise Institute - had urged Clinton to depose Saddam
Hussein in 1998, but he demurred, seeing a mostly contained dictator
there, whereas Osama bin Laden, and those terrorists like him, actually
were successfully attacking U.S. assets inside the country and abroad.

But the PNAC crowd had larger ambitions than simply toppling a brutal
dictator. Among their other recommendations: "pre-emptively" attacking
countries devoid of imminent danger to the U.S., abrogating agreed-upon
treaties when they conflict with U.S. goals, making sure no other nation
(or organization, such as the United Nations) can ever achieve
power-parity with the U.S., installing U.S.-friendly governments to do
America's will, using tactical nuclear weapons, and so on. All of these
extreme PNAC suggestions, once regarded as lunatic, were enshrined in
2002 as official U.S. policy in the National Security Strategy of the
United States of America.

3. SEXING UP THE INTEL

We know that given the extreme nature of the neo-con agenda, the Bush
Administration had its work cut out for them in fomenting support for an
invasion and occupation of Iraq. Therefore, among the first move by
Rumsfeld following 9/11 was to somehow try to connect Saddam to the
terror attacks. The various intelligence agencies reported to Rumsfeld
that there was no Iraq connection to 9/11, that it was an al-Qaida
operation, but that was merely a bothersome impediment. Since the CIA
and the other intelligence agencies would not, or could not, supply the
intelligence needed to justify a war on Iraq, Rumsfeld set up his own
rump intelligence agency, the Office of Special Plans, stocked it with
political appointees of the PNAC persuasion, and soon was stovepiping
cherry-picked raw intel straight to Cheney and others in the White
House. And Cheney, Rice and others in the White House Iraq Group started
the non-existent melding of Saddam Hussein with the events of 9/11.

Based on this sexed-up and phony intelligence, Cheney, Bush, Rice,
Rumsfeld and the others began warning about mushroom clouds over the
U.S., drone planes dropping biological agents over the East Coast, huge
stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq, etc. Secretary of State Colin
Powell, the most believable of the bunch, was dispatched to the United
Nations to make the case, which he did, reluctantly, by presenting an
embarrassingly weak litany of surmise and concocted facts. The world
didn't buy it, and the opposition to the U.S. war plan was palpable and
huge: 10 million citizens throughout the world hit the streets to
protest, former allies publicly criticized Bush. Only Tony Blair in
England eagerly hitched his wagon to the Bush war-plan with large
numbers of troops dispatched - as it turned out, over the legal, moral
and political objections of many of his closest aides and advisers.

4. THE DOWNING STREET REVELATIONS

We know that those advisers warned Blair that he was about to involve
the U.K. in an illegal, immoral and probably unwinnable war - which
would put U.K. and U.S. troops in great danger from potential insurgent
forces. How do we know about these inner workings of the Blair
government? Because a few months ago, someone from inside that body
leaked the top-secret minutes from those war-cabinet meetings, the
so-called Downing Street Memos.

We also learned from those minutes that Bush and Blair agreed to make
war on Iraq as early as the Spring of 2002 - the intelligence, they
decided, would be "fixed around the policy" to go to war - despite their
telling their legislative bodies and their citizens that no decisions
had been made. In fact, the Bush Administration had decided to go to war
a year before the invasion. "Fuck Saddam," Bush told three U.S. Senators
in March of 2002. "We're taking him out."

5. BUSH RACES TO WAR

We know that many of Blair's most senior advisors thought the WMD
argument rested on shaky ground, and that the legality of the war was in
question without specific authorization from the United Nations Security
Council. But the Bush Administration rushed to war anyway - in haste
because the U.N. inspectors on the ground in Iraq were not finding any
WMD stockpiles - without proper planning and with no workable plan to
secure the peace and reconstruct the country after the major fighting.

6. THE BIG LIE TECHNIQUE ON WMD

We know (thanks to the Downing Street Memos) that both the U.S. and U.K.
were well aware that Iraq was a military paper tiger, with no
significant WMD stockpiles or link to Al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks.
Nevertheless, the major thrust of Bush & Co.'s justification for going
to war was based on these non-existent weapons and 9/11 links. The Big
Lie Technique - repeating the same falsehoods over and over and over -
drummed those lies into our heads day after day, month after month, with
little if any skeptical analysis by the corporate mainstream media,
which marched mostly in lockstep with Bush policy and thinking.
Wolfowitz admitted later that they chose WMD as the primary reason for
making war because they couldn't agree on anything else the citizenry
would accept. But frightening people with talk of nuclear weapons,
mushroom clouds, toxins delivered by drone airplanes and the like would
work like a charm. And so they did, convincing the American people and
Congress that an attack was justified. It wasn't.

7. PUSHING IRAQ TOWARDS IRAN

We know that the real reasons for invading Iraq had precious little to
do with WMD, Islamic extremism and terrorists coming from inside that
country, installing democracy, and the like; there were no WMD to speak
of, and Saddam, an especially vicious dictator, did not tolerate
religious or political zealotry of any stripe. No, the reasons had more
to do with American geopolitical goals in the region involving oil,
control, support for its ally Israel, hardened military bases and
keeping Iran from having free rein in the region.

As it turned out, by invading and occupying Iraq, it pushed that country
and Iran into a far closer religious and political alliance than would
have been the case if Saddam had been permitted to remain in power. Bush
may have sacrificed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of
American wounded, and more than 100,000 Iraqis as "collateral damage" -
with the result being that Bush & Co. quietly is willing to accept an
Islamist government more attuned to Teheran than to Washington, one with
precious little regard for human rights, especially involving women.
That is one royal FUBAR.

8. IRAQ AS A DISASTER ZONE

We know that Bush's war been a thorough disaster - built on a foundation
of lies, and incompetently managed from the start. As a result, the
Occupation has provided a magnet for jihadists from other countries,
billions have been wasted or lost in the corrupt system of organized
corporate looting that ostensibly is designed to speed up Iraq's
"reconstruction," etc. Indeed, so much has Bush's war been botched that
the "realists" in the Administration know they must get out as quickly
as possible if they are to have any hope of exercising their
considerable muscle elsewhere in the Middle East.

9. WHERE WILL THE BODIES COME FROM?

We know that Bush's Middle East agenda also is suffering because the
U.S. military is spread way thin over Afghanistan and Iraq, the
desertion rates are high, soldiers are not re-upping at the usual clip,
recruitment isn't working and illegal scams are taken to lure youngsters
into signing up - in short, there are no military forces to spare on the
ground. Either a military draft will be instituted or all future attacks
will have to come from air power or from missiles, which will merely
deliver a message, making the bombed populations even angrier at
America, and with no guarantee of success in forging U.S.-friendly
"democratic" governments in Iran, Syria, et al. In short, we are
witnessing the limits of imperial power in the modern world.

10. HIDING THE TRUTH FROM THE PUBLIC

We know that Bush & Co. made sure that there would be no full-scale,
independent investigations of their role in using and abusing the
intelligence that led to war on Iraq.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republican Pat Roberts, held
hearings on the failures lower down the chain, namely at the CIA and FBI
level, and promised there would be followup hearings on any White House
manipulation of intelligence. But, election over, Roberts says no
purpose would be served to begin such an investigation.

Likewise, the 9/11 Commission did not delve deeply into how the Bush
Administration misused its pre-9/11 knowledge. Bush sent an October 5,
2001 memo to Rumsfeld, Powell, O'Neill, Ashcroft, and the heads of the
CIA and the FBI restricting their talking to Congress about 9/11 and
other "national-security" matters; the only Democrats who could receive
these "sensitive" briefings - meaning they were forbidden to make them
public - were the Senate and House Minority Leaders, and the ranking
members of the Intelligence Committees. Nobody else was to be in the loop.

In short, this secretive administration made sure that everything was
done to head off at the pass any investigations whatsoever. Cheney and
Bush told the minority and majority leaders in Congress that there
should be no 9/11 hearings, for "national security" reasons. Bush & Co.
fought tooth and nail against an independent 9/11 Commission, and
against the families who pushed for it.

11. THE ROAD TO DICTATORSHIP

We know that Bush has no great love of legitimate democratic processes,
certainly not inside the United States. He much prefers to rule as an
oligarch, but to do that, he had to invent legal justifications that
granted him the requisite power. So he had his longtime lawyer-toady,
Alberto Gonzales, devise a legal philosophy that permits Bush to do
pretty much what he wants - ignore laws on the books, disappear U.S.
citizens into military prisons, authorize torture, etc. - whenever Bush
says he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime."

And, since "wartime" is the amorphous "war on terrorism," from which
there is no end, Bush is home free. There always will be terrorists
trying to do anti-U.S. damage somewhere around the globe, or inside
America, and the "commander-in-chief" will need to respond. Ergo, goes
this logic, Bush is above the law, untouchable, in perpetuity. (Bush &
Co. also made sure that U.S. officials and military troops would not be
subject to indictment by any international court or war-crimes tribunal.)

Neither Gonzales, nor Bush, has disavowed this legal philosophy of a
dictator-like President being beyond the reach of the law. No doubt, the
issue ultimately will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, to which Bush
has nominated Judge John Roberts, who would be the key swing vote.
Roberts, as author Chris Floyd has noted, recently upheld Bush's
sovereign right to dispose of "enemy combatants" any way he pleases. In
a chilling decision, the appeals panel, of which Roberts was a member,
ruled that the commander-in-chief's arbitrarily-designated "enemies" are
non-persons, with no legal rights. Bush now feels free to subject anyone
he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted.

The fact that Roberts did not recuse himself from ruling on this issue
while he was in the process of being interviewed for the Supreme Court
appointment by the employer being sued in the case, would seem to be an
open-and-shut case of conflict-of-interest. If the Democrats have any
balls, this egregious ethical lapse should serve as an "extraordinary"
reason for a filibuster of his nomination.

12. TORTURE AS OFFICIAL STATE POLICY

We know that Gonzales, then Bush's White House Counsel, and Pentagon
lawyers beholden to Rumsfeld, devised legal rationales that make torture
of suspects official state policy. These Bush-loyalist lawyers also
greatly widened the definition of what is acceptable interrogation
practice - basically anything this side of death or terminally abusing
internal organs. They also authorized the sending of key suspects to
countries specializing in extreme torture. After all this, Bush and
Rumsfeld professed shock - shock! - that those under their command would
wind up torturing, abusing and humiliating prisoners in U.S. care. But
the Administration made sure to stop all inquiries into higher-up
responsibility for the endemic torture. The buck never stops on Bush's
desk - if something goes wrong (and he never will admit to mistakes),
it's always someone else's fault.

13. MAKING THE BILL OF RIGHTS "QUAINT"

We know that the Bush Administration has been able to obtain whatever
legislation it needs in its self-proclaimed "war on terror" by
utilizing, and hyping, the understandable fright of the American people.
The so-called Patriot Act - composed of many honorable initiatives, and
many clearly unconstitutional provisions, cobbled together from those
submitted over the years by GOP hardliners and rejected as too extreme
by Congress - was presented almost immediately to a House and Senate
frightened by the 9/11 attacks and by the anthrax introduced into their
chambers by someone still not discovered. Ridge and Ashcroft emerged
periodically to manipulate the public's fright by announcing another
"terror" threat, based on "credible" but unverified evidence; Ridge, who
has since resigned, recently admitted that there were no good reasons
for many of those supposed "alerts." Meanwhile, Congress (shame on you,
Democrats!) recently made most of the Patriot Act laws permanent! Unless
those can be repealed, that vote will be a nail into the coffin housing
the remains of the Bill of Rights.

14. THE OUTING OF COVERT AGENTS

The Bush Administration, for its own crass political reasons,
compromised American national security by outing two key intelligence
operatives - one, CIA agent Valerie Plame, who had important contacts in
the shadowy world of weapons of mass destruction (outed by two "senior
Administration officials," apparently in retaliation for her husband's
political comments); revealing the identity of a CIA agent can be a
felony. The other, apparently to show off how successful they were in
their anti-terrorism hunt, was a high-ranking mole close to bin Laden's
inner circle, who could have kept the U.S. informed as to ongoing and
future plans of al-Qaida. That's our war-on-terrorism government at work.

It's now clear who at least two of the "senior administration officials"
were who leaked Plame's identity: Karl Rove, Bush's guru, now deputy
chief of staff, and I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Special
Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to unseal indictments in this
case sometime this fall that either could focus narrowly on perjury
involving Plame's outing, or could be expanded to the broader issue of
the manipulative lies emanating from the machinations of the White House
Iraq Group (Cheney/Libby, Rove, Card, Rice, Hadley, Hughes, Matalin, et
al.) in taking this nation to war. It is possible that Bush and Cheney
and Bolton, among others, could be charged or listed an unindicted
co-conspirators.

15. PROTECTING THE VOTE

We know that America's voting-machine system - and more importantly,
vote-counting system - is corruptible and likely has been corrupted.
Sophisticated statistical analysis along with wide-scale exit-polling,
suggests strongly that the 2004 election results were fiddled with by
the private companies that tally the votes. These companies are owned by
far-right Republican supporters. But the same objection would be lodged
if Democrats owned the companies. There are no good reasons to
"outsource" vote-counting to private corporations - who refuse to permit
inspection of their proprietary software, and whose technicians have
behaved suspiciously on election nights in 2000 in Florida, in 2002 in
Georgia, and in Ohio and Florida in 2004. This doesn't even mention the
GOP dirty-tricks department whose function has been, by hook or by
crook, to lower the number of potential Democrat voters, especially
minority voters. Note: Unless the vote-counting system can be changed
soon - and the vote-tallying scandal will not be adequately dealt with
by voter-verified receipts - the integrity of our elections will be
suspect into the far future.

16. NO ECONOMIC PLAN

We know that the Bush Administration paid off its backers (and itself)
by giving humongous tax breaks, for 10 years out, to the already wealthy
and to large corporations. In addition, corporate tax-evasion was made
easier vis offshore listings. All this was done at a time when the U.S.
economy was in recessionary doldrums and when the treasury deficit from
those tax-breaks was growing even larger from Iraq war costs. So far as
we know, the Bush Administration has no plans for how to retire that
debt and no real plan (other than the discredited "trickle-down" theory)
for restarting the economy and creating well-paying jobs for skilled
workers, so many of whom have had their positions outsourced to foreign
lands.

17. STARVING THE GOVERNMENT

We know that the Hard-Right conservatives who control Bush policy don't
really care what kind of debt and deficits their policies cause; in some
ways, the more the better. They want to decimate and starve popular
social programs from the New Deal/Great Society eras, including, most
visibly, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare (and real drug coverage
for seniors), student loans, welfare assistance, public education, etc.
(Especially egregious is the education scam known as "No Child Left
Behind.")

Since these programs are so well-approved by the public, the destruction
will be carried out stealthily with the magic words of "privatization,"
"deregulation," "choice" and so on, and by going to the public and
saying that they'd love to keep the programs intact but they have no
alternative but to cut them, given the deficit, weak economy and
"anti-terrorist" wars abroad. Bush's whirlwind tour trying to sell his
Social Security "reform" plan has backfired badly, but he's still
pushing a good many of those ideas, just in case he can slip it in
somewhere, maybe by tying it somehow to Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

18. THE ENVIRONMENTAL GIVEAWAY

We know that Bush environmental policy - dealing with air and water
pollution, mineral extraction, national parks, and so on - is an
unmitigated disaster, more or less giving free rein to corporations
whose bottom line does better when they don't have to pay attention to
the public interest.

19. THE GREED OF POLITICAL POWER

We know from "insider" memoirs and reports by former Bush Administration
officials - Joseph DeIulio, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, et al. - that
the public interest plays little role in the formulation of policy
inside the Bush Administration. The motivating factors are mainly greed
and control and remaining in political power. Further, they say, there
is little or no curiosity to think outside the political box, or even to
hear other opinions.

20. FAITH- OR REALITY-BASED PROGRAMS

We know that this attitude ("my mind is made up, don't bother me with
the facts") shows up most openly in how science is disregarded by the
Bush Administration (good example: global warming) in favor of
faith-based thinking. Some of this non-curiosity about reality may be
based in fundamentalist religious, even apocalyptic, beliefs. Much of
Bush's bashing of science is designed as payback to his fundamentalist
base, but the scary part is that a good share of the time he actually
believes what he's saying, about evolution vs. intelligent-design,
stem-cell research, abstinence education, censoring the rewriting of
government scientific reports that differ from the Bush party line,
cutbacks in research & development grants for the National Science
Foundation, etc., ad nauseum. This closed-mind attitude helps explain,
on a deeper level, why things aren't working out in Iraq.

AMERICA OR GERMANY IN THE '30s?

Finally (although we could continue forever detailing the crimes and
misdemeanors of this corrupt, incompetent Administration), we know that
more and more, the permanent-war policy abroad and police-state tactics
at home (the shredding of Constitutional rights designed to protect
citizens from a potential repressive government) are taking us into a
kind of American fascism domestically and an imperial foreign policy
overseas. All aspects of the American polity are infected with the
militarist know-nothingism emanating from the top, with governmental and
vigilante-type crackdowns on protesters, dissent, free speech, freedom
of assembly, etc. happening regularly on both the local and federal
levels. More and more, America is resembling Germany in the early 1930s,
group pitted against group while the central government amasses more and
more power and control of its put-upon citizens.

Bush has had a rough first year of his second term. It's as if the
public blinders are starting to come off, and the true nature of this
man and his regime are finally starting to hit home and he is seen for
what he is: an insecure, arrogant, dangerous, dry-drunk bully who is
endangering U.S. national interests abroad with his reckless war in
Iraq, his wrecking of the U.S. economy at home, and with his
over-reaching in all areas.

If a Democratic president and vice president had behaved similarly to
Bush and Cheney, they'd have been in the impeachment dock in a minute.
If the Plame-Iraq indictments come down as expected, a momentum for
impeachment of Bush and Cheney will be generated.

Our job now is to keep that political momentum building to get rid of
these guys, while we try to organize a pro-democracy, anti-imperialist
movement for change in this country that is inclusive, non-dogmatic, and
capable of winning elections. That may or may not involve the Democratic
Party.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has
taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San
Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers
<http://www.crisispapers.org>. For comments, write
crisispapers@comcast.net <mailto:crisispapers@comcast.net>.

Crisis Papers Archive
<http://www.democraticunderground.com/crisis/index.html>

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