America Two Years after 9/11:
25 Things We Now Know
by Bernard Weiner
August 21, 2003
Last year, close to the time of the first anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, I wrote "Twenty Things We've Learned One Year After 9/11." Now we're approaching the second anniversary, and it's time for an update.
Things we could only speculate about a year ago have taken place -- to name just three: an invasion and occupation of Iraq (based on misleading intelligence and outright lies), an administration that may have committed the treasonous act of deliberately revealing the identity of a CIA agent, and shocking revelations about the computer-screen voting system now being put into place around the country for the 2004 election.
The abbreviated list below can be used both as a reminder to all of us why we're fighting this good, oppositional battle, and as a place to start from when organizing and talking to others about why you will be voting for someone other than George W. Bush in the presidential vote next year.
Here are the topics and here's what we've learned, all factually validated by -- or strongly suggested in -- journalistic reports.
1. 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 State Department.
They helped found 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."
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.
2. We know that Bush and his highest officials -- notably Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, and, to a lesser extent, Powell -- lied outrageously about Iraq's weapons capabilities in order to get their war plans endorsed by the Congress and the American people. The biggest of many whoppers involved were the made-up stories about nuclear "mushroom clouds" over America, unleashed by the Iraqi drone air force.
These lies may have fooled many Americans at the time, but other countries, especially in Europe, smelled the rotten evidence and the imperial ambitions and would have nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, denouncing the Bush Administration to its face. Up to 10 million citizens (mostly organized via the internet) marched worldwide on the same day to try to stop the invasion -- before the war had even started! -- something that had never happened before in world history.
3. We know that Rumsfeld wanted to move on Iraq just a few hours after 9/11, even though he was quickly informed that it was an al-Qaida operation and that there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement. When the CIA and other intelligence agencies said the same thing about a supposed al-Qaida link -- and Iraq's alleged nuclear program and other WMD -- Rumsfeld set up his own intelligence-gathering unit inside the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, and installed a number of PNAC hardliners to tell him what he wanted to hear. Their cooked-books "intelligence" became the basis for invading Iraq.
4. We know that Bush and his highest officials, their lies having been exposed by their own contradictory words, as usual first decided to blame others: The patsy this time was the CIA, and Tenet fell on his sword, sort of, in accepting the blame. (Angry elements in the CIA then began leaking damning information about Bush&Co. involvement in other WMD lies.)
When Karl Rove and the others snookered the media into focusing on a mere 16 words in Bush's State of the Union Speech about supposed uranium sales to Iraq, they looked at the polls showing a majority of Americans not caring about the lies as long as the evil Saddam had been removed, and began telling even more whoppers. (Meanwhile, in the U.K., Blair could lose his job because he lied even more blatantly than did Bush, if such is possible -- he trumpeted that Iraq could launch biochemical agents at British sites within 45 minutes -- and now he's been found out as well.)
5. We know that Bush and Blair felt compelled to "sex up" their justification for going to war against Iraq by focusing on the WMD issue because the real reason -- to bomb and take over a weak nation in that area of the world as a demonstration warning to other Middle East, oil-rich countries that they'd better come on board or face the same consequence -- would never win the support of the American people. Americans aren't big on overt imperial rule, and the bullying and arrogant militarism that go with such rule, preferring more subtle means of influence and control.
6. We know that although the U.S. promised that there would be a swift turnover of civil rule to the Iraqis, that promise has been revoked. The U.S. occupying authority has appointed its own governing council of hand-picked Iraqis, over which it has veto power, and is hoping that gesture will suffice long enough to set up the Western looting-system. Such behemoth Republican-supporting corporations as Halliburton and Bechtel are making out like bandits with reconstruction contracts awarded by the Bush Administration (in the case of Cheney's old firm Halliburton, with no competitive bidding!).
7. We know that the PNAC cabal, which relied on Iraqi exile fantasies, believed that the citizens of that invaded country would welcome the American & British forces with kisses and flowers. Instead, major factions of the country are engaged in nightly guerrilla warfare against their "liberators" and have killed and wounded more U.S. soldiers after Bush declared the end of major hostilities than were killed in the invasion battles. Oil pipelines and water systems are blown up regularly. There is the familiar odor across Iraq of a Vietnam-type syndrome; you know what I mean: just a little more force and we'll have them on the run/are those friendlies or bad guys? don't take chances, fire!/the troops will be home by Christmas/send another 100,000 soldiers quick.
8. We know that elements of the PNAC/Bush cabal appear anxious to move on to another country, though it's still unclear whether the next target for control (and perhaps "regime change") will be Syria or Iran -- with North Korea becoming more and more bellicose off to the side.
9. We know that two high officials of the Bush Administration leaked to a conservative newspaper columnist the name of a covert CIA agent -- which is a felony. The agent is the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the man sent by Cheney to Niger last year to see if there was anything to the story that Iraq supposedly was trying to buy "yellowcake" uranium; Wilson reported back saying that the story was "highly unlikely." After the Bush Administration continued to use this lie in various public speeches -- even though they knew the documents were forgeries -- Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, documenting his version of events. Wilson has since said that by naming his wife, the Bush Administration is sending a warning to other potential whistleblowers in the Administration not to speak up or risk unpleasant consequences. The FBI says it may investigate the matter. Sure it will.
10. We know that just prior to the launch of the Iraq war, the U.S. announced its "road map" for Middle East peace in order to lower the possibility of upheavals in the Arab world. Since the U.S. refuses to fully and energetically engage in the peace process -- to do so would mean leaning heavily on Israel to make major concessions and remove its permanent settlements on Palestinian land -- there is not likely to be genuine and lasting peace in that tortured area of the world. Abbas can't control his extremists, Sharon has his own extremist streak -- the perfect ingredients for more slaughter, and more anger in the Arab/Islamic world against the U.S. and its Israeli proxy. And more fertile soil in which young terrorists can be grown.
11. We know that the inner national-security circles of the White House knew an attack was coming from al-Qaida, with planes used as weapons, aimed at American icon targets. (These warnings were coming from other governments -- sometimes directly to Bush -- as early as the Spring of 2001 and intensified greatly during the Summer. That is the period, you may remember, when Bush went to ground in Texas for a month and Ashcroft would no longer fly in commercial jets. Even with this advance warning, the Bush Administration did nothing to interdict, stop or otherwise interfere with the terrorist attacks they knew were coming.
12. 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.
13. We know that, to this day, the Bush Administration has stonewalled and delayed turning over essential information to both the Congressional committee and to the blue-ribbon independent panel investigating the pre-9/11 period. When the Congressional report recently was released, the Administration redacted 28 pages dealing with the role of Saudi individuals and government officials in financing the terrorists, and, what's perhaps even more vital, redacted all papers related to the May 6 presidential briefing document from the CIA about the likelihood of a domestic terrorist air-attack in the United States.
14. We know that the coverup continues today, from the first days after 9/11, when Condeleeza Rice claimed that the Administration had no idea that planes could be used as weapons against buildings, to the blaming of the FBI for "not connecting the dots." The incoming Bush Administration, including Rice, had been warned by the outgoing Clinton Administration that the #1 national-security threat was al-Qaida terrorism; other Islamic terrorists had tried to use planes as weapons previously, and the chief defendant in the 1993 WTC bombing had admitted that al-Qaida wanted to bomb key buildings, including the Pentagon and the Congress, in future attacks.
The independent 9/11 commission has publicly expressed its frustration at how their investigation -- which must submit its final report in just a few months -- is being hampered by the consistent stonewalling and delaying tactics of the Bush Administration. Likewise, the victims' families are appalled by and angry at those examples of foot-dragging, denials and lying.
15. 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. More than 2,000,000 citizens have lost their jobs since Bush was installed in the White House.
16. We know that the HardRight conservatives who control Bush policy 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 the 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 and weak economy.
17. We know that those with a vested interest in energy policy (the Kenny Lays of America) had major impact in writing that policy, with no consumer-group input; this basically gave these energy cartels carte blanche to rob the states and the public blind. The push for "deregulation" led to gross and illegal manipulation of the energy markets in state after state, and has nearly pushed California, for example, into bankruptcy, with the Bush Administration not lifting a finger to help. And Cheney continues to refuse to tell the courts who attended those energy-policy meetings and what was discussed.
18. 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.
19. We know that in general, the public interest plays little role in the formulation of policy inside the Bush Administration. Those on the inside who have left have revealed that political considerations are at the heart of all decision-making, with little if any discussion of what might benefit the people. 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.
20. We know that there seems to be a "faith-based" view of reality. For example, when there was public clamor for policy to deal with the effects of global warming, the Administration said that was a "controversial" issue that would need more study; it appointed a scientific panel to review the situation. When that panel reported that global warming was real and needed to be dealt with on an urgent basis, Bush denounced the scientists that he himself had appointed as little more than "bureaucrats" and dismissed their conclusions; he also deleted the section on global warming from the annual EPA report. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman resigned, one would imagine at least partially out of total frustration in dealing with these Neanderthals.
21. We know that the Patriot Act -- which was rushed through Congress in the days right after 9/11, with few legislators having had a chance to read the final draft -- has generated a huge groundswell of public opposition. More than 130 towns and cities have passed resolutions opposing it in part or in whole. The main objections center around the removal of all sorts of constitutional guarantees of due process of law, such as lawyer-client confidentiality and the sanctity of home privacy, and which authorizes wiretapping and snooping into personal computer files without you ever knowing about it. Even though Ashcroft already has thrown U.S. citizens into military prisons, thus removing them from judicial review, he appears to be desirous of even more outrages in Patriot Act II, including the exiling and deporting of American citizens deemed to be "terrorists."
We know that the Bush neocons were able to get these and similar bills passed by invoking the patriotic buzzwords "national security" and "homeland defense." Most members of Congress went along so that they wouldn't be tarred with the "unpatriotic" brush. And, in general, the Administration constantly has manipulated post-9/11 fears in the population, because it serves their electoral/policy purposes to keep folks jittery and looking to the central government for assurance and stability. (There ARE bad guys out there who wish us harm, but it's possible to deal with that reality without all the Constitution-shredding and psychological manipulation.)
22. 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 domestically 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 extreme ideologues.
23. We know that the response to the 2000 Florida election debacle -- going to touch-screen computer voting machines -- may turn out to be even worse. Three outfits dominate the computer-voting market, all companies owned or supported by Republicans, and that they refuse to permit their software to be examined by outsiders, even though tests have revealed major flaws in their systems: The votes can be manipulated easily without any evidence that the count has been tampered with, and with no verifiable paper trail to check against the final tallies. (There are suspicions that this may actually have happened in the 2002 elections in a number of states, where Democrats were leading in the last-minute polls going into the election but lost when the computer votes were added up.)
Given what happened in Florida, the 2004 vote must be honest and fair and, perhaps even more important, must be SEEN as honest and fair by the citizenry at large. Another disputed election and democracy in America may well die a quick death -- or lead to revolutionary discontent about the need to restore our Constitution.
24. We know that the Bush Administration continues to nominate ideologically-minded conservative judges, especially for the all-important appellate courts. The Democrats fall for the bait -- opposing the handful of nominees who are truly repellant extremists -- and, to show how fair they are, approve the 100+ others. Thus, the neoconservatives lock in approval for their HardRight policies for years, maybe even decades, to come.
25. We know that after a long, quiescent snooze, where the ostensible opposition party, the Democrats, played obedient lap dog to Bush&Co., things are starting to shift. Many Democrats have suddenly discovered their spines and are opposing HardRight initiatives, though not as consistently and as firmly as they should (Daschle, for example, is a notorious wimp). The Democrats see the Bush Administration as more vulnerable with the voters today as a result of the disastrous and duplicitous way they bamboozled American citizens and Congress into approving the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Having a number of tough-speaking presidential contenders aim their darts at Bush&Co. policies certainly helps generate more opposition.
Well, those will do for starters. No doubt, you have plenty more to add: The possibilities seemingly are endless when it comes to Bush&Co. misdeeds, scandals, incompetencies, lies and crimes.
As the presidential election run-up approaches, and if we do our jobs correctly, more and more citizens will add up what has happened to their country since the terror attacks of two years ago, and decide that Bush&Co. has to go -- preferably by resignation, but, if not, by impeachment or by the voters.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., is co-editor of The Crisis Papers, where this essay first appeared (www.crisispapers.org). He has taught at various universities, and was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years. He is author of Boy Into Man: A Fathersí Guide to Initiation of Teenage Sons (Transformation Press, 1992). Please consider supporting the good work of Crisis Papers.