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Twenty Things We Now Know
Four Years After 9/11


By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers


August 30, 2005

 

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 has only a 40% approval rating, amazingly low) 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, 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 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, Khalilzad, 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 "How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: 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 their 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. Shortly thereafter, Cheney, Rice and others in the White House Iraq Group went big-time with the WMD scare and the 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, regarded as 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 & 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, Islamist 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 c