Geedubya's in Crawdad...
July 23, 2002
By Sheila Samples
Isn't it remarkable that it takes a monumental screw-up for
the guys at Justice to act? Looking back, it's difficult to
come to grips with how fat, dumb and happy we were last August.
The word, "terrorism" simply wasn't in our vocabularies. Terrorists
were hard-eyed, swarthy ghosts who moved through the shadows
of Robert Ludlum's complicated imagination - who were brought
down at the last microsecond by Bond, James Bond. We had no
reason to believe terrorists were coming for us. After all,
we were conditioned to believe when Geedubya's in Crawdad,
all's right with the world...
However, it turns out we could have - and should have - been
warned. It is somehow grotesque that we were allowed during
those dog days of summer to blissfully fritter away our last
days of Constitutional freedom as we know it. Freedom that
throughout our proud history - until last summer when we were
knocked flat on our emotional backs - was worth fighting for.
Actually, we were felled with a stunning one-two punch. First,
on 9-11, we were staggered by the indescribable horror of
3,000 innocent lives disintegrating right before our eyes.
Then, before we could find the TV remote to release us from
that fearful reality - before we could digest the terror that
mesmerized us or even attempt to assimiliate its impact -
up popped the humorless and ghoulish Attorney General John
Ashcroft, brandishing a list of freedoms that we must relinquish
immediately. He was going to round up all un-American terrorists,
he assured us angrily, and our assignment was to sit down,
shut up and continue living our normal lives. Those who argued,
who dissented, Ashcroft warned darkly as he knocked us down
for the count - would be un-American or, worse - terrorists.
How could this have happened? Even as Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney each called Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle
and demanded an investigative policy of "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell," the scapegoating began. The breathless rip-and-read
press-release media made the startling revelation that Ashcroft's
own FBI was a "fraud squad" incapable of assimilating warnings
from all points of the globe - to include world leaders -
about the probable destruction of US lives and property. Members
of Congress, eager to cover their own asses, nodded obediently,
waved their flags and gathered on the front steps to sing.
Pardon me for being un-American, but I don't buy that. Obviously,
some folks were asleep at the wheel, but it seems to me that,
last summer, our "lousy" intelligence system was working pretty
In June, warnings of impending terrorist acts alarmed the
State Department, and it prudently issued a general warning
to American travelers. On July 5, President Bush asked Anacondoleezza
Rice to look into the threats and, the very next day, a counterterrorism
group met under the aegis of the national security adviser.
By mid-July, threats were piling up, including a specific
threat against Bush himself while at the G-8 meeting in Genoa.
At the end of July, the FBI received the now famous Kenneth
Williams memo about flight schools. In early August, Bush
was told that aircraft hijackings might be a goal of Al Qaeda.
On August 13, Zacarias Moussaoui was nabbed on immigration
charges. On August 21, as part of its investigation into the
USS Cole, the CIA became suspicious of Khalid al-Midhar and
Nawaq Alhazmi and alerted the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) that these two were possible terrorists. Two
days later, the CIA realized al-Midhar was already in the
U.S., and alerted the FBI, but the Bureau couldn't locate
him. Both al-Midhar and Alhazmi were hijackers on the jet
that hit the Pentagon.
The point is, the intelligence was out there - the "system"
was working - but Administration and Justice officials chose
to either reject it out of hand or to ignore it. That could
be because while all this specific intelligence was flowing
in, Ashcroft was otherwise occupied. Throughout the summer,
Ashcroft was involved in Operation Avalanche, a scheme
to crack down on child pornography and, more important, Ashcroft
and his people spent both precious time and money trying to
ease the financial hardship on their corporate donors caused
by the Clinton-era tobacco suits. And, of course, keeping
"dope" out of the greedy hands of all those terminally-ill,
pain-wracked patients was a crusade that registered very high
on Ashcroft's agenda.
Ashcroft then took time out to cause a partisan furor by
sending a letter to the National Rifle Association backing
an individual's right to own guns. Not satisfied with that
bit of controversy, he then stirred the pot a bit more by
determining there was no intentional racial or ethical
bias in federal death penalty cases. No way. No how. Nada.
Zilch. According to Ashcroft, it's un-American not to pull
that switch on this country's evildoers. And we sure don't
want to downplay the importance of the "sting" operation in
the Big Easy, where Ashcroft snagged as many as a dozen hookers
in his net.
As you can see, it's easy to understand why Ashcroft had
no time for international terrorism, but he must have suspected
something was up because, although he didn't warn the
rest of us, he began traveling by private jet.
We now know that Ashcroft was indeed informed of the Williams
memo, but for reasons of his own, kept it a secret. However,
as if making up for lost opportunity, he began flailing around
in a state of near-hysteria, targeting anyone even remotely
resembling a Muslim, snaring thousands in a dragnet and imprisoning
them on the flimsiest of pretexts. Overnight, he came up with
the destructive Patriot Act, which sailed through Congress,
a spineless body whose members later shamefacedly admitted
they had neither read nor discussed its details.
It's interesting to note that not only have heads NOT
rolled for a breach of intelligence that resulted in the destruction
of so many lives, nobody's hair has even been mussed in the
ten months following the attack. The administration appears
to be far more interested in a stark, brazen attempt to seize
legislative and judicial powers for the Executive Branch and
to shroud that branch's actions in secrecy, much as Ashcroft
shrouded the statues at the Justice Department. The final
sliver of freedom's light was tamped out when Ashcroft ordered
all federal officials to resist at all costs releasing information
under the Freedom of Information Act.
The scapegoating of the intelligence network continues unabated
as the administration undertakes the project of fixing something
that ain't broke. Rather than sweep out the debris at the
top, those officials who clogged up the intelligence system
by refusing to heed warnings, Bush decided to restructure
the entire government complex under a massive Homeland Security
Department. This "war on turf," like Bush's "war on terror,"
is under way, and is likely to go on forever.
We are again entering the dog days of summer, and I am struck
by the thought that we are no longer innocent and we are no
longer free. Recently, a "soldier" in the right-wing army
that marches daily in lockstep through the studios of CNN
and FOX, made the announcement that "the only real freedom
we have as Americans is the freedom to live." He said
whatever freedoms we must give up in this time of war
is justified. It is necessary, you see, so that we can be
It may be un-American, but if Geedubya's in Crawdad, and
if the freedom to survive is the only freedom we have left,
I damn sure hope this power-mad bunch can ward off another
monumental screw-up this summer, don't you?
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer.