Twenty Things We Now Know Four Years After 9/11
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
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
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
preceeding 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
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 >>
/PNAC.htm << .)
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
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
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
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 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" -- and now Bush&Co. quietly are willing to
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 has 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. etc. Indeed, so much has Bush's
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 East.
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 in 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 being used 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
we are witnessing the limits of imperial power in the modern world.
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 in launching 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
these "sensitive" briefings -- meaning they were forbidden to make
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.
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
And, since "wartime" is the amorphous "war on terrorism,"
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 war-crimes
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.
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