Democratic Underground

25 Things We Now Know Three Years After 9/11

August 31, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

The Republican Party - in a shameless, all-too-obvious attempt to manipulate the tragedy of 9/11 for partisan ends - chose New York City for its nominating convention. Must have seemed like a great idea at the time.

Their coming to Manhattan not only infuriates New Yorkers, who were badly played by Bush&Co. after the attacks, but enables the rest of us in the country to use Ground Zero as the backdrop for examining the gross failures and crimes of the Bush Administration since that tragic day in September 2001.

So, here is an update* of things we've learned during the three years since 9/11 - documented mostly from government papers and respected journalistic accounts - about the Administration that rules in our names. If you find this compendium useful, you might want to make this list available to your friends and colleagues, especially to those still uncertain which presidential candidate they will vote for ten weeks from now.

THE 9/11 ATTACKS/COVERUP

1. Immediately after the destruction of the Twin Towers, Bush's Environmental Protection Agency tested the air in and around Ground Zero. Anxious Lower Manhattan residents, worried about possible airborne toxic particles affecting them and especially their children, were assured by the EPA on September 18 that the tests indicated it was safe for them to return to and live normal lives in their homes and apartments and businesses. It wasn't until two years later that the EPA admitted that they had lied to New Yorkers: The Bush Administration knew from their own test results that the toxicity revealed was way over the safe levels. Typical Bush&Co. pattern: secrecy, lies, denial, coverup.

2. There is no evidence that Bush&Co. ordered Osama bin Laden - who had been on the CIA payroll in Afghanistan when he and his forces were battling the Soviet occupiers - to launch terrorist attacks on the U.S. Resurgent radical Islam is a genuine phenomenon, with its own religious and political roots. There definitely are Bad Guys out there.

What is well-documented is that the highest circles around Bush were quite aware in the Summer of 2001 - as a result of fairly detailed intelligence frantically being passed on to them by other governments in the months and weeks before 9/11 - that a massive terrorist attack was in the works, which likely would involve hijacked airplanes aimed at icon American economic and political targets. (The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," talked about al-Qaida wanting to strike the nation's capital, preparations for airline hijackings, casing of buildings in New York, terrorists in the U.S. with explosives, etc.) Bush went to ground in Texas, the FBI told Ashcroft to stop flying commercial jets, etc. The attacks finally came on 9/11.

Bush could have assumed command immediately; instead, 27 minutes went by while he sat in a schoolroom and then posed for photos. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, somewhere on the Pentagon premises, was strangely missing from action, uninvolved in defending the country until after the horrific events had unfolded. Even though the protocols were clear, NORAD could not reach Rumsfeld and did not scramble jets until long after the horrific mass-murder attacks were over. When Bush did emerge from the school, he claims he could not reach Cheney or the White House by phone. (Passengers using cell phones on the final doomed jet had no problems reaching their loved ones and emergency centers all around the country.)

In short, the key Administration officials responsible for protecting America, and coordinating its responses to attacks, were not available, either out of incompetence and confusion or out of more nefarious motives. As Nina Moliver, a 9/11 sleuth puts it, "On 9/11, there was a grand stall. A stall for time. I learned this from a glance at the findings of the 9/11 commission. How could ANYBODY miss it? Bush and Rumsfeld didn't 'fail' on Sept 11. They succeeded masterfully." A bit far out, to be sure, but if the Bush circle knew something was coming that morning - and numerous others did, including the mayor of San Francisco - it's certainly a theory that can't be ruled out.

3. We know that the future neo-conservative architects of Bush foreign/military policy, members of The Project for The New American Century (PNAC), knew that their ideas were too extreme for most Americans to swallow. They noted that "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."

Again, there is no proof of coordination by the Bush Administration with the al-Qaida terrorists who carried out the terrorist attacks, but Bush/Cheney and their closest aides were aware on 9/11 that they now had the "Pearl Harbor" that would clear the way for their agenda to be realized.

4. We know that Bush and Cheney, early on, approached the leaders of the House and Senate and urged them not to investigate the pre-9/11 activities of the Administration, because of "national security." The coverup was beginning.

5. The 9/11 Commission examined how the intelligence community screwed up the pre-9/11 intelligence - thus effectively laying the blame on lower-level agents and officials - but says it won't issue its report on how the Bush Administration used or misused that information until after the election. The coverup continues. Many victims' families are furious.

6. 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 USA 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 emerge periodically to manipulate the public's fright by announcing another "terror" threat, based on "credible" but unverified evidence; these announcements can be correlated almost exactly to when Bush seems to need a headline to distract the public from yet another scandal or significant drop in the polls.

THE ATTACK ON IRAQ

7. We know that a cabal of ideologically-motivated Bush officials, on the rightwing fringe of the Republican Party, were calling for a military takeover of Iraq as early as 1991. This elite group included Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Woolsey, Bolton, Khalizad and others, all of whom are now located in positions of power in the Pentagon and White House, and, to a lesser extent, State Department.

They were among the key founders of the Project for The New American Century (PNAC) in 1997; among their recommendations: "pre-emptively" attacking other countries devoid of imminent danger to the U.S., abrogating agreed-upon treaties when they conflict with U.S. goals, making sure no other country (or organization, such as the United Nations) can ever achieve parity with the U.S., installing U.S.-friendly governments to do America's will, using tactical nuclear weapons, and so on. In short, as they put it, the goal is "benevolent global hegemony" - or, in layman's English, a kind of neo-imperalism.

All of these extreme suggestions, once regarded as lunatic, are now enshrined as official U.S. policy in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, published by the Bush Administration in late-2002.

8. We know that the Bush Administration was planning to attack Iraq long before 9/11, and that, even though Rumsfeld was told by his intelligence analysts that 9/11 was an al-Qaida operation, he began dragging an attack on Iraq - which had no significant contacts with bin Laden's network - into the war planning. When the traditional intelligence agencies couldn't, or wouldn't, furnish the White House with made-up "facts" to back up an attack on Iraq, Rumsfeld set up his own "intelligence" unit inside his office, the Office of Special Plans, staffed it with political PNAC appointees, and, lo and behold, got the justifications he wanted - which cooked-"intelligence" turned out to be the lies and deceptions that took the U.S. into Iraq.

Note: Rumsfeld's secretive Office of Special Plans, with direct access to the Secretary of Defense and thus to shaping policy toward Iraq and Iran, is implicated in the current, serious scandal involving possible treason (passing classified material to foreign countries, in this case maybe Israel and Iran), with potential links to the slimy double-agent Ahmad Chalabi and others.

9. We know that the Bush Administration felt that it could not get Congressional and public support for its plan to attack Iraq if the true reasons were revealed - to control the massive Iraqi oil reserves, to obtain a military staging base in the region, and to use a U.S.-friendly "democratic" government as a lever to alter the geopolitical situation in the Middle East and beyond. So, according to Wolfowitz, it settled on the one justification they thought would work: accusing Saddam Hussein of preparing to attack his neighbors and the United States with supposed massive stockpiles of "weapons of mass destruction." Senators were lied to by Administration briefers, who told them Iraqi drone planes could drop biochemical agents over American cities; Condoleezza Rice warned about "mushroom clouds" over New York and Washington.

Millions of citizens across the globe, and world leaders among our own allies, warned the Bush Administration that an attack on Iraq - a weak country, with no military power to speak of - was wrong, would backfire on the U.S. and world peace, would enrage the Islamic world and produce more terrorist recruits, and would lose America its reputation and its post-9/11 sympathy across the globe. But the Bush Administration had made the essential decision 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.") And, even though Saddam authorized the United Nations inspectors to return to Iraq to complete their weapons survey, Bush was determined to go to war. Secretary of State Powell was dispatched to the United Nations to outline the U.S. case and obtain authorization; his case was filled with laughably thin and phony intelligence, and the U.N. demurred. Bush launched his attack.

10. We know that no WMDs were discovered. No nuclear program. No missiles aimed at U.S. or British interests. No drone planes. No biochemical weaponry. Bush and his spokesmen then attempted to change the rationale for the war away from those scary WMDs to an implication that Saddam was part of the terrorist network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. There was no convincing proof offered, merely the constant repetition of the non-existent al-Qaida tie - so much so that the Big Lie technique worked early on as 70% of Americans thought there must have been some tie-in to 9/11. The 9/11 Commission verified that there was no such operative connection to al-Qaida. Bush publicly agreed, but Cheney and others even today continue to suggest otherwise. When the American public stopped believing in the al-Qaida/Iraq lie, the rationale for the war was switched again. Now the reason for the war was that Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant - an assertion everybody could agree on - though why we toppled this guy and not a half dozen other equally as bad dictators (some of them our close allies) was left unanswered.

We also know that the predictions of our key allies, and those millions in the streets who protested, have come true. The U.S., having had no "post-war" plan, is bogged down in Iraq, facing a nationalist insurgency, and a rebellious religious faction of fighters, with no end in sight; it has lost the countryside and is losing the cities as well. The U.S. has engineered an American-friendly interim government that is locked into the reconstruction contracts that permit huge American corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton - who, quite by coincidence, of course, are huge financial backers of the Bush Administration - to make out like bandits in that country, often with no-bid contracts. The U.S. has at least 14 military bases in Iraq, which it intends to continue using as a military/political lever in reshaping the geopolitics of the Middle East - regardless of the costs in lives and treasure, and not caring that its policies with regard to the Palestinian/Israeli problem fan the flames of terrorism in that area of the world, and beyond.

AUTHORITARIAN MANEUVERINGS

11. We know that CIA Director George Tenet fell on his sword, taking the thrust of the bad-intel blame away from Bush. Other elements inside the agency, outraged by Bush&Co. using them as whipping-boys, then began leaking all sorts of damaging information about White House skulduggery. Elements in the State Department, appalled at the neo-cons in control of U.S. military policy at the Pentagon, likewise leaked information damaging to the extremists.

12. We know that once Bush assumed power, he moved to obtain immunity for U.S. officials and troops from international war-crimes prosecutions, pulling America out of the relevant treaties. We didn't know why at the time, but later, after our covert and overt behavior in Afghanistan and Iraq and the tortures scandal erupted, we figured it out.

13. We know that Bush lawyers in the White House and Pentagon (State Department attorneys did not agree) issued memorada that outlined how Bush and other key officials could avoid criminal prospecution for their wartime policies and for advocating use of "harsh interrogation methods" (read: torture) of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo, and in Afghanistan, Iraq and other U.S. facilities around the world. Ignoring the Founders' wise "separation of powers" - designed to keep any leader or branch of government from assuming total control of the levers of powers - the lawyers claimed that whenever Bush acts as "commander in chief" during "wartime," he is above the law. In common parlance, these are rationalizations for authoritarian rule, by dictatorial decrees.

14. We know that the Pentagon was well aware of the tortures at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere - key military reports had been submitted - but the issue was ignored until grisly photographs and videotapes surfaced in public media documenting the "harsh interrogation methods"; some of those methods resulted in a goodly number of deaths to prisoners under U.S. control. Several commissions reported that the rot came from the top at the Pentagon, including Rumsfeld, but, by and large, only lower-level troops and officers have been disciplined or charged. In the meantime, the humiliating and brutal treatment of Muslim men, women and children in U.S. custody has reverberated throughout the Islamic world, helping create more and more converts to terrorist organizations.

SCANDALS AT HOME

15. In two instances, the Bush Administration, for its own political reasons, compromised American national security by naming key intelligence operatives - one a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, with 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 name of a CIA agent is a felony. The other, more recently (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 ongoing and future plans of al-Qaida. That's our anti-terrorism government at work.

16. We know that Karl Rove - Bush's senior political advisor, who along with Dick Cheney, manipulates Bush's strings - has been instrumental in helping get the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" off the ground. Longtime GOP operatives and major Bush donors supplied the money and organizing skill, and then let them loose with their lies - with precious little skepticism displayed by the corporate-owned mass-media. Apparently, at least initially, the Big Lie technique worked once again - though now polls show the smears being doubted - forcing Kerry to stop his attacks on Bush domestic policies and concentrate on damage control. The Kerry campaign took a while to rev up its counter-campaign, bringing in all sorts of eyewitnesses that documented the truth of his heroism in winning his Vietnam medals. Even slimier charges are expected at any moment about Kerry's post-discharge opposition to that war.

PROTECTING THE VOTE

17. We know that even though several large states - among them, California and Ohio - have prohibited computer-voting machines from beng used in the November election, unless there is a voter-verified paper trail, most of the toss-up states will be using the touch-screen, unverified system. This would be suspicious if Democrats or Republicans were in charge of those machines, but in this election it's virtually all Republicans. The three largest makers of the machines are owned by far-right Republicans; those same companies tabulate the results. Republican-leaning companies also control the testing of those machines. In short, it smells rank - especially inasmuch as it's been demonstrated how easily the software can be manipulated, without anybody knowing - and definitely looks as if the fix is in. The CEO of one of the companies, a major "Pioneer" donor to the Bush campaign, promised Bush he would "deliver" his state to the GOP candidate, and Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida has quashed all attempts to stop or alter computer-voting in his state. (Note: The GOP has urged all its members in Florida to vote by absentee ballot, because the machines are "unreliable." Get the picture?)

18. We know that the GOP is trying, by hook or by crook, to lower the number of potential Democrat voters. Attempts have been made to remove thousands of African-American citizens from the rolls (reminiscent of Florida in 2000, where anywhere from 47,000 to 90,000 black voters where disenfranchised), police agents have visited numerous elderly black voters in their rural homes and warned them about possible violence at the polls, a GOP official in Michigan talked about the need to "discourage" the vote in largely-black Detroit, GOP "observers" will stand outside voting places in rural areas as possible intimidators of older black voters, GOP operatives registering new American citizens filled out the paperwork for them and signed them up as Republicans, and so on.

19. We know that Administration lawyers have issued memoranda making it possible for Bush to "postpone" the November election for "anti-terrorist" reasons - say, a major attack or "credible" threat of a major attack. (Note: There has never been a national election postponed, not even during the Civil War.)

20. We know that Administration attorneys have issued memoranda that would make it possible for Bush to be elected by partial voting. That is, he could be elected by voters supporting him, even if citizens in pro-Kerry states were prohibited from voting or having their votes counted. Again, the fig-leaf is "terrorism." If a "red alert" were to be issued for certain areas on November 2 - say, the West Coast and New England states - Bush could, under state-of-emergency declarations, "limit the movement" of citizens in those areas, while the election proceeded as normal elsewhere. A truncated election would be permitted, and, under this scheme, whoever had the most ballots would win.

STARVING THE GOVERNMENT

21. 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. 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 jobs. In 2004, it's clear that whatever positive "trickle-down" effect the tax refunds may have provided, that impact is no more, and the (jobless) "recovery" is slowing and starting to look recessional again. People need good-paying employment.

22. We know that the hard-right conservatives who control Bush policy don't really care what kind of debt and deficits his policies cause; in some ways, the more the better. They want to decimate and eviscerate popular social programs from the New Deal/Great Society eras, including, most visibly, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare (and real drug coverage for seniors), aspects of public education. 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.

23. We know that Bush environmental policy - dealing with air and water pollution, national park systems, 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.

24. 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 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 - in other words, don't bother me with facts, my mind's made up. Some of this non-curiosity may be based in fundamentalist religious, even Apocalyptic, beliefs.

25. 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 - with the shredding of Constitutional rights designed to protect citizens from a potential repressive government - are taking us into a kind of American fascism at home and an imperial foreign policy overseas.

As a result, we are beginning to see more alliances between liberal/left forces and libertarians traditional conservatives horrified that their party has been hijacked by extremei deologues. If Bush loses his bid for a second term, it will come less from what we progressives do and more from those moderate-to-conservative Republicans and Libertarians, who cannot abide what Bush&Co. have done to their party, their movement, and to this country.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D in government, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. He is a contributing author to the recently-released Big Bush Lies book.

* To read the previous "Things We've Learned Since 9/11" assessments in 2002 and 2003, see here and here.

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