Twenty Things We Now Know Four Years After
August 30, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. For comments, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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