William Rivers Pitt, May 23, 2002
The earthquake began on Thursday, May 16th: The Bush administration had been warned by the CIA months before September 11th of Al Qaida terrorists and plans to hijack airplanes. Nothing of substance was done to address the threat - "The proper agencies were warned," we were told, but no representative of any pertinent agency has since stepped forward to acknowledge receipt of any warnings.
In fact, the spokesman for Massport, the Massachusetts state agency responsible for security at Logan airport, stated bluntly in the pages of the Boston Globe that his agency never heard from the Federal government regarding any hijacking threat. The two aircraft that destroyed the World Trade Center towers and killed thousands of Americans went wheels-up at Logan.
By Friday the news was sprayed across the headlines of virtually every newspaper on the planet: Bush Knew.
The implications were deadly for the Bush White House. Information had been given that indicated terrorist attacks were imminent, but little if anything was done to prevent them. Concern for the profit margins of the airline industry, which would have been crippled had a serious terrorist warning been disbursed in high summer, were first offered as a good reason why no true measures were taken to prevent the hijackings.
Later, spokesmen like Ari Fleischer and Dick Cheney came forward to claim that the warnings were "vague" and "non-specific" and therefore not worthy of notice. We were told that the hijack warnings pertained to "traditional hijacking" scenarios, as if that forgave the lapse in security. The weekend political talk shows became a showcase for spin, and the word went out for all to hear - the Bush administration is blameless, and anyone who says otherwise is a traitor.
The truly interesting part came on Monday. All of a sudden, the world was coming to an end. FBI Director Mueller claimed there was no chance that another terrorist attack could be stopped. Dick Cheney stuck out his jaw and stated bluntly that another terrorist attack was inevitable. Don Rumsfeld said terrorists would definitely get their hands on nuclear or biological weapons, and then use them to terrible effect. The newswires vibrated with images of suicide bombers on New York subways, and a warning went out to apartment building landlords - watch for suspicious characters, because the next WTC-type catastrophe could be yours. The Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge were draped with bullseyes by the administration, though no one spoke of means to prevent these horrors.
The effect of these warnings was dynamic. People from coast to coast felt the clutch of fear in their guts as images of smallpox and mushroom clouds flickered behind their eyelids. New York City, battered and bruised, clenched its collective fist in a spasm of dread. It must be real, these threats, because the President and his people say so. Let there be terror and meekness in equal measure on the streets of the greatest city on earth.
And yet comes Wednesday, and an extraordinary series of revelations. An article in the May 21st edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that, "the White House quietly acknowledged that the threats are not urgent and that they are partly motivated by political objectives" and that "the blunt warnings issued yesterday and Sunday do not reflect a dramatic increase in threatening information but rather a desire to fend off criticism from the Democrats."
It seems that everyone can calm down. Horrific terrorist attacks are not, in fact, imminent. Everything is well in hand. The Bush administration is merely using the fear and horror that another September 11th-type attack may happen again as a means to deflect legitimate criticism from the Democratic Party. Nothing to see here. Go about your business. This is, after all, just politics.
It was bad enough that Bush had made his crass 'trifecta' joke eight different times. You know this one: Someone reported that Bush promised not to raid social Security or dive into deficit spending unless the nation was faced with war, recession or national emergency. After 9/11, Bush was heard to crack on eight separate occasions, "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta." Let it be noted that the country is running a $66.5 billion deficit seven months into the budget year, and the 9/11 death toll between America and Afghanistan stands above 5,000 souls.. That is one hell of a trifecta, and no laughing matter.
It was bad enough that Bush and his people were selling photographs of his phone calls during the 9/11 attacks to raise political funds. Al Gore called the practice "disgraceful;" the word is not strong enough. The English language is deficient in words required to describe those who seek to profit from a day of such blood and horror.
Now, with leaders like Daschle and Gephardt calling for a public investigation into the obvious intelligence failures behind 9/11, we have well-known members of the Bush administration going on national television to terrify the American people so as to avoid any questions. It wasn't enough for Condoleeza Rice to go on CNN's 'Late Edition' to state that the administration was against a public investigation into 9/11, as she did on May 19th. The American people needed to feel the wrath of pure terror from this administration, to ensure that it would get what it wanted - a continued veil of secrecy and the surety that prickly questions would go unasked.
Why the veil of secrecy? Perhaps it is as simple as the story told by respected British journalist Gordon Thomas, who has reported that Israel warned the American government on five separate occasions of terrorist plots to attack prominent targets. As late as August 24, 2001, the Israeli security agency Mossad informed the CIA that "terrorists plan to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture."
There are those who believe the absolute worst - that Bush and his cronies knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance, and allowed them to happen so they could advance nefarious personal and political goals. For the time being, such accusations are totally unprovable and essentially irresponsible. The truth in hand, however, is worse than the darkest conspiracy theory.
The Bush administration had specific information in hand from the CIA pointing to an airplane-based attack on American targets. They did not warn agencies responsible for security at American airports, nor did they beef up airline security by fiat. The FBI had specific warnings of terrorist attacks in hand earlier in the summer of 2001, but a failure in the chain of command caused these warnings to go unheeded.
The same administration that had the 9/11 attacks happen on its watch has fought tooth and nail to keep any investigation into the security failures that led to the attack from happening. Basically, those security failures are still there, intact, deadly to us all. The warnings of impending catastrophe from the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Mueller may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because this administration refuses to take responsible action to address them.
In fact, the Bush administration has proven itself more than willing to go to wretched extremes to keep any investigation from gaining steam, by frightening the public with warnings of doom that they themselves admit have far more to do with politics than reality.
We were wide open to attack on September 11th because of these security failures. We are wide open to attack today, because the same irresponsible leaders in charge on 9/11 are calling the shots today. Rather than work to protect Americans, they seek to terrify Americans as a means to cow any Democratic move towards an investigation into the causes behind the 9/11 attacks.
If we are attacked again, they will have no one but themselves to blame. The Democrats asking for an investigation are doing so because they want to protect Americans. Bush and his people are fighting this because they want to protect themselves. They are purposefully making people afraid to further this agenda. They play politics on a field littered with the bones of American dead, and they peddle fear to a nation already saturated with woe.
Such foulness is beyond contempt, and reeks of desperation. There will be a reckoning.