What Is It Good For? Absolute Disasters!
February 7, 2003
By Bernard Weiner, The
There is a direct connection between the Columbia shuttle
disaster, the U.S. reaction to the Twin Towers/Pentagon attacks,
and the coming war with Iraq: the arrogance of power.
The Bush Administration believes it has a lock on all wisdom,
it knows what is best for us Americans, and for everyone else
in the world - because, as Bush told us in his State of the
Union address, America acts in the world under God's divine
protection, and he, Bush, is the representative of the nation
and thus, we are led to believe, operates under God's aegis
Given this arrogant, we-know-it-all attitude, there was no
reason, then, for Bush and his subordinates to listen to the
technical experts who warned early last year (1),
and even as recent as last August (2)
about the disaster-in-the-making for the Space Shuttle and
its crews unless certain procedures and processes were fixed.
These NASA experts were ignored by Bush and his advisors (2),
and removed from their positions (1).
And, given this same arrogant tone, there is no reason to
listen to the millions of Americans, and to most of our allies
abroad, who tell Bush and his war-bent cronies that attacking
Iraq at this moment, more or less unilaterally with no U.N-authorized
international coalition at our side, is the height of folly,
and will bring ruin and chaos not only to Iraq but to the
United States as well.
Let's start with the shuttle disaster. As with everyone else,
I'm appalled too by the tragedy of the Columbia explosion.
But let's put things in perspective here. This is a a tragedy
for the nation, to be sure - and especially for the families
involved - and, while there are budgetary and other implications
associated with the disaster (including the Bush arrogance
that leads to such tragedies), it pales in comparison to what's
about to go down in the Persian Gulf.
There, when the U.S. begins the wave of missile attacks and
the ground invastion to follow, we can be sure that more than
seven brave American soldiers will die, along with thousands
of innocent Iraqi civilians. And the war could drag on for
a long time. And, even if the battle is over quickly, the
after-effects will take years to sort out, with billions spent
and untold dead and maimed.
A shuttle flames into destruction and the major media, the
public, editorialists and columnists demand, and are getting,
a quick investigation into why this happened and how it can
be prevented in the future.
Nobody begrudges the victims and their grieving families
the widescale coverage (though the exploitation of this story
by the media is more than unusually over-the-top), and the
immediate moves toward a full investigation of the tragedy.
But the attacks that killed 3000+ on September 11, 2001, have
yet to yield a full and politically-neutral investigation
and that was more than 15 months ago!
You do remember that both Bush and Cheney quietly asked the
then-leaders of the House and Senate, Gephardt and Daschle,
not to investigate the pre-9/11 period for reasons of "national
security." Perhaps one of the things they'd like to keep hidden
was the fact that they were warned by the outgoing Clinton
Administration specifically about the enormous dangers posed
by Osama bin Laden/Al Qaeda, but, in their arrogance, the
incoming Bush Administration decided not to pay any attention
to those warnings; instead, they said they were going to set
up their own commission to look into terrorism, with Dick
Cheney as head. Cheney - too busy putting together an energy
policy with Kenneth Lay's Enron and the other energy companies
- did nothing and the promised report on terrorism never materialized.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when Ronald Reagan
was gunned down, when the Watergate crimes were unearthed,
when the Iran/Contra scandal broke - when these and other
major catastrophes happened in our country, blue-ribbon panels
and commissions were appointed and given a mandate to get
to the bottom of the tragic events.
A chairman already has been appointed for the probe of the
Columbia disaster, and is at work. Bush fought for many months
an independent commission to investigate 9/11, but, under
heavy public pressure, finally gave in. But whom did Bush
first appoint to chair the 9/11 probe? Blood-on-his-hands
Henry Kissinger! The stink was so great from the victims'
families and others around the country that Kissinger bowed
out. So whom did Bush appoint in his place? A former New Jersey
governor with business connections to two Mideast oil moguls
who are suspected of ties to Al Qaeda - indeed, one is the
brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden.
Will we ever learn the truth of the pre-9/11 events, and
get answers to key questions? Here are just a few to start
1. Since Bush and Condeleeza Rice were receiving fairly detailed
warnings from about 20 governments around the globe in the
summer of 2001 - that an attack, by air, was on its way, aimed
at American icon targets - why did the Bush Administration
do nothing in the way of advance preparations?
2. The Bush administration admits it knew as early as August
6 that an attack was imminent. Why was nothing done to take
steps to deal with it at that late date, a month before the
atttacks? Such as alerting the air carriers - the photos of
hijacker suspects was released the following day, so why couldn't
these and other photos and names been sent to the airlines?
Such as putting fighter jets into the skies around Washington
and New York? Such as putting border agents on high alert?,
3. Why, during the period immediately after the attacks,
when no civilian aircraft were permitted to take off or land,
were 18 members of the bin Laden family permitted to fly back
to Saudi Arabia, over FBI objections since they hadn't been
4. Why were no fighter jets scrambled over New York and Washington,
D.C., when the FAA already knew about the hijacked planes
at least one hour earlier?
5. Why did Bush take a sudden month's vacation at his Texas
ranch in August of 2001? And why did Attorney General Ashcroft
suddenly stop flying commerical aircraft in July of 2001?
The Bush Administration certainly seemed to be taking the
many mid-Summer warnings seriously, for themselves, but none
of that concern seems to have been passed on to those who
might have prevented the awful events.
6. Why did Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declare martial law in his
state on September 7th? Why did he say (overheard by a reporter),
"Was it the terrorists?" when informed about the WTC attacks?
7. Why, after his chief of staff whispered in his ear that
the U.S. was under terrorist attack, did George W. Bush continue
listening to schoolchildren read a storybook for a half-hour?
8. Somebody was making a fortune off the sale of airline
stock "puts" just prior to 9/11, the implication being that
someone, perhaps lots of someones, knew in advance about the
impending terror attacks. Who made those sales, and why haven't
they been brought forward to testify?
I'm not suggesting that any or all of these, and other, questions
necessarily would yield definitive answers that prove a conspiracy
on the part of the Bush government to look the other way when
they knew an attack was coming, but the point is that none
of these, and similar, questions have been fully and independently
It was fitting and proper that an investigation began immediately
into the Columbia tragedy. It was fitting and proper that
Congressional and independent, blue-ribbon investigations
began after the other national scandals and disasters mentioned
But it is a civic disgrace - and gives the appearance of
a grand coverup on the part of the Bush Administration - that
it has fought and delayed all attempts to mount a truly hard-hitting
investigation of our nation's most horrific tragedy in recent
years: Why more than 3000 citizens and resident aliens had
to die on September 11, 2001, when the government knew that
something like the air attacks was coming and decided, apparently
for its own political ends, to look the other way.
"When an expert NASA panel warned last year that safety troubles
loomed for the fleet of shuttles if the agency's budget was
not increased, NASA removed five of the panel's nine members
and two of its consultants. Some of them now say the agency
was trying to suppress their criticisms. (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/03/national/03NASA.html)
From Don Nelson to Mr. Bush: "I am a recently retired NASA
aerospace engineer and it is my duty to inform you that our
space shuttle astronauts are in imminent danger. Your intervention
is required to prevent another catastrophic space shuttle
accident. NASA management and the Aerospace Safety Advisory
Panel have failed to respond to the growing warning signs
of another shuttle accident." (August 25, 2002, www.nasaproblems.com/#Moritorium)
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., Co-Editor of The
Crisis Papers has taught at Western Washington University,
San Diego State and San Francisco State Universities. He was
a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly