The Bush Economy

Written: 02/17/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

“To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation,” Bush touted in his State of the Union Address. It was certainly the largest tax relief to the wealthiest Americans in a generation and did not turn the economy around as promised. The U.S. now has some of the greatest deficits ever and it looks like deficits as far as the eye can see into the future.

Becoming the only president ever to suggest cutting taxes going into a war, Bush proposed that “all the income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year,” and claimed that “Ninety-two million Americans will keep – this year – an average of almost 1,100 dollars more of their own money.”

With so much of the tax breaks going to the richest Americans, this skews the “average” and misrepresents the truth.

The tax cuts will add over $90,000 to the income of millionaires, $400 to those making $30,000 to $50,000, and only about $58 to those making $10,000 to $20,000.

As someone recently said, “If Bill Gates were to walk into a roomful of bums, the ‘average’ income of everyone in the room would skyrocket — but you would still have Bill Gates and a roomful of bums.” Gates, by the way, would receive a $38 million tax cut under Bush’s proposal, while almost half of all tax filers would receive less than $100.

Bush’s first tax cuts will cost more than $1.3 trillion in revenue over 10 years. This new proposal pushes the costs to $2 trillion.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, called Bush’s tax cut plan “exorbitant.”

Bush’s budget runs up deficits over $300 billion a year, even without a war on Iraq, estimated at $50 to $60 billion, or the supplemental request of $15 billion to fight terrorism.

With tax collections going down and federal expenditures going up, Bush has become a spend but don’t tax Republican.

According to the Associated Press, “The annual spending blueprint, covering the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, appeared carefully tailored to provide maximum political lift for the president as he seeks re-election. It offers the biggest bang for the buck over the next year while delaying until after the November 2004 elections the heaviest costs.”

Bush has called for a defense budget of $380 billion, up 4.2 percent from this year. But that doesn’t include possible war with Iraq, which Budget Director Mitch Daniels has said could cost an additional $50 – $100 billion. It also doesn’t include an expected supplemental administration request for $15 billion to fight terrorism.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee remarked, “The Bush administration does not have a budget. It has a 308-page press release … pure P.R. with color pictures of little children and brave soldiers designed to distract the American public from the truth.”

Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a tax-cut advocacy group, commented, “This budget, which I find a lot to like in, is excessive in terms of how much money it’s willing to spend and how many new government programs it would create to solve every problem, up to and including AIDS in Africa. Bush philosophically believes you can do good things with government money. That’s very different from the Reagan theme that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”

To pay for tax cuts, increased homeland security, and the increased spending on defense – which now has risen to levels greater than all other countries combined – Bush has proposed cutting spending in hundreds of other programs that help those that stand to benefit the least from the tax cuts, including cuts in Medicaid benefits to the poor and disabled, school lunch programs, vocational education, literacy programs, rural development programs, and veteran’s benefits.

Norman Ornstein, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute said, “There’s no doubt that the president’s budget is affected by the election-year cycle. It’s also a budget that has gone through yeoman’s efforts to manipulate it so that it minimizes the real costs and maximizes the benefits.”

David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s DRI, warned, “We’re looking at deficits forever.”

Under Bush stocks have lost almost $5 trillion of value, unemployment is up more than 40 percent (to 6 percent, from 4.2), huge projected federal-budget surpluses have turned into huge deficits, and the dollar has fallen 13% against the euro.

Bush says he wants to “strengthen the economy by treating investors equally in our tax laws. It is fair to tax a company’s profits. It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits. To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly 10 million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends.”

Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer, commented, “Bush is saying that he wanted to end the double-taxation of corporate profits, first as corporate income, second as dividends. However, corporations are legally distinct entities. If he wants to get rid of that then we should be able to confiscate the personal assets of any individual who owns stock in a bankrupt company. Also, he is not ending ‘double taxation’ for the vast majority of Americans who own stock. Most stockholders hold stock through retirement accounts. Under the Bush plan, the dividends earned in these accounts will be subject to taxation as normal income at the point when it is withdrawn.”

Henwood also asks, “Is it fair that New York State taxes me on my gross income, which the federal government has already taken a piece of? Is it fair that it taxes my income, then taxes the income of the grocer I buy my food from, and then the income of the farmer that grows the food? All income is double taxed — but it is only taxes on the income of the very rich people that move Bush to action.”

Bush believes that “lower taxes” will bring “greater investment” and “help this economy expand” bringing “more jobs” and “higher revenues to our government.” Since the “lower taxes” will benefit the wealthiest Americans, he is counting on the rich to invest in America. This is essentially the discredited “trickle down” theory of the Reagan era, which left the country with huge deficits. The fallacy in his logic is that the rich don’t have to invest in America – they can invest outside the country, where labor is usually cheaper.

According to Ray Boshara at The Atlantic Monthly, the top 20% of American households earn 56% of the nation’s income and have 83% of the nation’s wealth, while the top 1% earn 17% of national income and control 38% of national wealth. He contrasts this with the bottom 40% of Americans earning 10% of the nation’s income and owning less than 1% of wealth, or even the bottom 60% earning 23% of income and less than 5% of wealth.

He says that:

“There is also the fact that wealth, like debt, is self-replicating. Compound interest turns wealth into more wealth and debt into more debt. Other things being equal, those with interest-bearing savings accounts will end up richer after a year, and those who must pay interest on credit-card or consumer household debt will end up poorer. Thus even a neutral government policy toward wealth and asset building will end up exacerbating the wealth gap. But over the past several decades policy has hardly been neutral. The federal government currently has two distinct policies: asset-building incentives for better-off Americans (in the form of more than $300 billion in tax benefits each year for such things as home ownership, business development, college education, and retirement saving)—and income support for the rest.”Tax breaks that encourage asset building are smart policy—except that more than 90 percent of the benefits of the two largest programs (which support home ownership and retirement saving) go to the wealthiest 55 percent of taxpayers. This enormously regressive policy thus excludes people who don’t earn enough to enjoy the benefits built into the tax code. In addition, many poorer Americans face limits on the assets they can own if they want to continue receiving necessary food, health, and other income-support assistance.”

Some of problems that make the United States “more unequal than at any other time since the dawn of the New Deal” and “the most unequal society in the advanced democratic world” are the “downward pressure[s] that globalization has exerted on wages; and changes that have made the tax code less progressive and more friendly to the better-off,” he says. So, is Bush’s assault on progressive taxation likely to help or hurt the nation’s trend toward plutocracy? Will massive tax cuts for the richest among us, while spending goes through the roof, change the country’s slide into bankruptcy?

Bush thinks so, if the wealthy will just invest in America, trusting in the integrity of American business.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

Bush claimed that, “To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.”

With the Securities and Exchange Commission retreating from even the mildest reforms and the economy looking bleak, it doesn’t look like a smart time to invest.

The Worst President Ever

 Written: 03/16/2007

It is abundantly clear that George W. Bush and his administration have violated the Constitution of the United States of America with extreme hubris in a myriad of ways and continue to do so, that his administration has been distinguished by its corruption, incompetence, and its callous disregard for the law, and that this administration has been, and continues to be, a threat to the general welfare and safety of the public, the laws of the land, and the ideals of America.

There is no area that has been left untouched by the disastrous policies of the Bush Administration, whether it be in education, health, science, the environment, the national debt, civil liberties, or the waging of illegal war.

The worst collection of crooks, cronies, and lobbyists have been assembled to manage things for their own benefit, and the benefit of their corporate relations, at the expense of the people, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been mismanaged, poorly spent, wasted, or lost.

The most delusional and incompetent ideologues have been given reign over our national policy, and they have mislead us into an illegal war and mismanaged its aftermath. Their actions have made us less safe and more despised, while undermining our liberties and ideals and accomplishing the opposite of what they intended.

Their pattern of incompetence is consistent, from 9-11 to Katrina, with their lack of planning for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in-between.

From lying us into war to violating FISA laws, from the erosion of the separation of church and state to illegal use of funds, from a war on science to a war on our troops, and from the power-grab of the so-called “unitary” executive to redefining torture, this has been the worst administration ever.

There has never been an administration that has violated the Constitution to such an extent with such arrogance, and if these actions do not warrant impeachment, then nothing does. There has never been an administration that was so dangerously incompetent, and if these actions do not call for a removal from office, then nothing will.

This is a matter of the rule of law, which must not be put aside for political expediency. Justice must be done regardless of the consequences. Those responsible must be held accountable for the good of the people and the protection of the Republic.

We the People must give this notice to any elected official who claims to be our representative or hopes to gain or maintain our support:

Any Congressperson who doesn’t at least attempt to protect the Constitution by holding this administration accountable for their actions by supporting impeachment proceedings isn’t worthy of our trust, respect, or vote in 2008, since they will have demonstrated they are more concerned about politics than their sworn duty to the country and the people.

Communitas Veritas

Written: 01/14/2005

In October 2004, Ron Suskind wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine examining how President Bush’s faith influences his policy. He quotes former treasury official and advisor to Reagan Bruce Bartlett speaking about Bush:

“He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.”

Later in the article a Bush aide draws the line in the sand:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

George Orwell couldn’t have said it better himself.

Bush lives in a faith-based world. In this world, truth is relative and appearance is reality.

In Bush’s world, anyone not a true believer in his policies doesn’t have a seat at the table and any strong dissent is corralled into “free speech zones” out of sight and out of mind (like the flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq). Within this bubble, not only does Bush isolate himself from any dissent, he isolates himself from the media (in both his personal consumption and his exposure to questions from the Press).

In Bush’s world, you are either with him or you are with the “terrorists” thus formulating the dangerous equation: Bush policy = patriotism. This has allowed his supporters to brand any opposition as “un-American” and “treasonous” which they have done with a McCarthy-like fervor.

In Bush’s world, Clear Skies means more pollution, Healthy Forests means clear cutting, and No Child Left Behind means destroying the public school system. Bush doesn’t see any contradiction in giving up our freedoms to fight those who supposedly hate us for them, claiming himself a Christian who feels it is better to do unto others (with violence) BEFORE they MIGHT do unto us, or believing that “when you are talking about war, you are really talking about peace.”

In Bush’s world, tax cuts are justified either because there is a surplus or because there is a deficit, just like the invasion of Iraq is justified whether there were WMD’s and a connection to al Qaeda or there wasn’t. Since he feels neither he nor his team has ever made any mistakes, then whatever actions he takes must be right. The justification can always be remade to fit the circumstance as needed. Or as Joshua Micah Marshall has said, “the policy is the parent of the rationale.” After you understand that, everything else makes sense.

In Bush’s world, the rule of law is just as malleable as justifications for war (from the Patriot Act to Gitmo to Abu Ghraib). Saddam was threatening world peace but we were liberators. Torture is what evil-doers engage in, but when we do it its merely isolated “abuse” by a “few bad apples.” And it is important to keep a tally on the deaths of Iraqis caused by Saddam but not those caused by Bush.

In Bush’s world, it makes sense to wage the vague “war on terror” because it gives a blanket excuse for any action associated with it, it makes it difficult to measure success or failure, and it cows much of the public with fears of unknown, faceless boogiemen.

The “war on terror” is an endless ticket to ride….

Shortly after the Suskind article, a number of people who rejected Bush’s Orwellian world picked up on the label given them from the Bush aide and began to proudly declare their membership in the “reality-based community” on websites and blogs (web logs) across the Internet. It has served as a unifying slogan for those patriots who still believe in Truth, Justice and American Ideals.

This is fine, as far as it goes, but until this loose-knit community of dissent can organize its message and direct its power into a force for action, its effect will be insignificant.

The reality-based community must come together like a virtual think tank with a consistent message and a developing agenda. It must become a community of mutual support and action. It must evolve into a force to be reckoned with.

It must claim a seat at the table.

The Bush Administration’s On-Going War on Our Troops and Veterans

Written: 08/12/2006
Remarks delivered at an anti-war protest in Charlotte, NC

In early January 2003, a little over two months before the US invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush spoke to troops at Fort Hood Texas. He assured them, “I want to make sure that our soldiers have the best possible pay,” and, “I want to make sure the housing is the best possible for our military families.”

Two weeks later, Bush met with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center and told them, “We should and must provide the best care for anybody who is willing to put their life in harm’s way.”

These expressions of support, and others like them over the past 3 1/2 years since then, receive a lot of play on the cable news channels and make for good sound bites on the evening news. Anyone paying only superficial attention, or anyone who puts any faith in what Bush has to say, might come away with the impression that he sincerely means what he says, and that his words would translate into actions to benefit our servicemen and women.

Unfortunately, it has become all too clear that this Administration has a serious credibility gap, and has a long history of misleading the American people. A brief overview of what the Bush Administration has actually done, or attempted to do, over the past 3 1/2 years demonstrates that, despite their rhetoric of support, they have been waging an on-going war on our troops and veterans on every front where it matters.

After Bush declared “major combat operations” over in Iraq under the banner of “Mission Accomplished,” the Bush Administration tried to reduce proposals for modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay and the family-separation allowance, they opposed an increase in the $6,000 one-time payment to families of those killed in action, and acted to block a federal judge’s award of damages to Desert Storm veterans who had sued the Iraqi government for torture during the 1991 Gulf War.

They closed Small Business Administration offices that provided aid to veterans starting new businesses, closed several commissaries and military-run schools, and proposed increasing prescription co-payments and charging a $250 user fee for some veterans.

Before there was public outcry, the Bush Administration outrageously charged injured GIs $8 a day for food when transferred back to the US for medical treatment from injuries sustained in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Their budget proposals have included billions of dollars in cuts for VA medical and prosthetic research, military family housing, and VA hospitals.

The inadequate funding of healthcare and medical facilities has had its consequences. Various surveys and reports in the past couple of years have found that long-term care services are severely underfunded, that clinics have been withholding non-institutional long-term care services, that the VA was poorly prepared to serve the mental health needs of veterans, that over 310,000 veterans were waiting up to six months for medical appointments, that veterans receiving disability compensation had to wait from six months to two years, that there is a backlog of hundreds of thousands of benefits claims, and that the VA was only able to tend to 20% of homeless veterans.

Earlier this year, a Government Accountability Office audit of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs found that political pressure from the Bush Administration had caused VA officials to lower their budget requests to match the lowered funding targets from the White House, every year from 2003 to 2006.

Concerning this finding, Larry Scott of VAwatchdog.org wrote, “The VA’s healthcare budget didn’t make sense because VA officials, for at least the last four years, have been cooking the books.”

Back in July 2003, while withholding funding that military commanders said they needed for armor and body protection and while troops were scrounging for make-shift armor and buying their own if they could afford it, Bush’s answer to the growing insurgency was a taunting, “Bring ’em on.”

Later, in January 2006, the New York Times reported:

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

Over the past several years, reports continued to surface about how over-extended and over-taxed our military had become, the significant recruiting short-falls, and the various attempts the Administration had made to address these problems without calling for a draft. These attempts included extending service via a stop-loss program, twice raising the eligibility age for enlistment, offering thousands of dollars to troops to reenlist, the recall of retired and discharged troops, and sending our National Guard overseas for extended deployment in Iraq.

At the same time, the Administration was also putting pressure on recruiters, leading to reports of highly questionable and illegal tactics to meet quotas, including misrepresentation of benefits, false assurances about non-deployment to Iraq, and the compromising of minimum IQ requirements. As the situation worsened, monetary incentives to sign up were increased and induction standards were lowered.

All these efforts have not done much to relieve the situation; suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder are at an all-time high, and morale continues to decline.

And after all of that, sadly, there is more….

In the Spring of this year, it was revealed that this war was being fought by sending troops with post-traumatic stress disorder back into combat, and that the military was relying increasingly on the use of antidepressants in the war zone.

In this all too brief and limited review of the Bush Administration and their efforts on behalf of our troops, it becomes very clear that their “support” for our troops doesn’t go much beyond whatever meaningless, deceptive, and superficial rhetoric will suffice to create the illusion of support, and to inspire our armed forces to act as cannon-fodder for their delusional policy objectives.

There are many other examples that I have passed over here, including: their reluctance to support health hazard research regarding Depleted Uranium exposure, their lack of support for tax breaks for service members while giving tax breaks to the rich, their poor planning for the post-war situation, their lack of bright and clear guidelines on handling prisoners or how to interrogate them, and, finally, having them wage an unnecessary and illegal war without an exit strategy, but it appears that this Administration has no interest in doing what it really takes to “support our troops” beyond what amounts to the policy equivalent of slapping a bumper sticker on the back of their SUVs.

This callous disregard and disrespect for our military and its veterans is driven by this President and his chickenhawk cronies, who have managed to avoid service or combat themselves. This Administration has grown accustomed to using force to get their way while sacrificing others. In this case, tens of thousands of our troops have, and are continuing to, pay the price, while this President vacations in Crawford, Texas.

Republicans in Congress have not acted much better, to cite just a couple of examples: in September 2005, House Republicans proposed closing elementary and secondary schools for military family members and voted that the VA must cut $798 million over the next five years. And just this week, USA Today reported that:

Congress appears ready to slash funding for the research and treatment of brain injuries caused by bomb blasts, an injury that military scientists describe as a signature wound of the Iraq war. House and Senate versions of the 2007 Defense appropriation bill contain $7 million for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center – half of what the center received last fiscal year.

Last year, the Disabled American Veterans released a report on individual members of Congress, indicating the degree (from 0 to 100) that each elected official supported the interests of the organization in that year. The report gave a score of “0” to two-hundred congressional representatives, all of them Republicans. Only two Republicans received a score over 50. On the other hand, 154 Democrats received a score of “100” and only one Democrat scored under 60.

While Afghanistan deteriorates back into warlord fiefdoms and the Taliban reemerges within, while Iraq devolves into an undeclared civil war and has become a training ground for future terrorists, while the entire Middle East lurches towards total chaos and more people hate us than ever before, while the monetary costs threaten our economy and result in cuts in essential benefits and services, and while we are less free at home and the death toll on both sides is measured in the tens of thousands–all because of the policies of this Administration–the only war this Administration of chickenhawks seems to be winning is the war on our troops and our veterans

The Bush Administration’s on-going war on our troops and veterans is not honorable or sustainable, and we must do all we can to put a stop to it.

The Day the Skies Were Falling

“The Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century”

Written: 08/21/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

On September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush got out of bed at six in the morning at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort in Longboat Key, Florida. He had spent the night under the protection of surface to air missiles, placed on the roof.

Outside, a group of Middle Eastern-looking men pulled up in a van, claiming they were to have a “poolside” interview with Bush. They were turned away when their appointment could not be verified. (It appears that this might have been an assassination attempt similar to the murder of the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud, two days earlier by men posing as reporters carrying a bomb hidden in the video camera.)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was already on its highest state of alert. They were in the middle of conducting their semi-annual exercises known as “Vigilant Guardian” which drills for threats to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide.

Also that morning, the CIA was planning a simulation drill to test emergency response. The drill was to begin at 9:00 am. Contained within one advertisement for the “homeland security” event was this sentence: “On the morning of September 11th 2001, Mr. [John] Fulton and his team at the CIA will run a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building.”

At about 6:30, Bush began a four-mile jog around the resort.

The day before, Pentagon brass had suddenly decided to cancel a planned trip on the 11th because of security concerns, echoing the fears that had caused John Ashcroft to stop taking commercial airline flights in July. The concerns evidently resulted from warnings that had been coming all summer asserting that the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda might be a threat to commercial airlines, or that they might be planning an attack on America. Though the chatter level regarding intelligence monitoring of terrorist groups had been “way off the charts” and, according to some officials, “the most urgent in decades,” none of this evidently rose to the level of a public warning.

Back at the White House, a CIA plan to attack al-Qaeda in Afghanistan–with support for the Northern Alliance, including a U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan–was sitting on the President’s desk, awaiting his approval and signature when he returned from Florida. It had been placed there on the day before.

At 7:59 on the morning of September 11th, American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767-223ER, took off from Boston, headed to Los Angeles with 81 passengers, 9 flight attendants, and 2 pilots onboard, just as Bush was sitting down for his daily intelligence briefing.

During the briefing, at around 8:13, Flight 11 stopped communication with ground control. It also stopped transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon and veered dramatically off course, causing Boston flight control to determine that Flight 11 had been hijacked. They notified other flight control centers, but did not notify NORAD for another 27 minutes.

About the same time, United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767-222 flying from Boston to Los Angeles, took off from Boston’s Logan Airport with 56 passengers, 7 flight attendants and 2 pilots onboard.

As Bush’s briefing came to its conclusion at 8:20, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-223 flying from Washington to Los Angeles, took off from Dulles International Airport with 58 passengers, 4 flight attendants, and 2 pilots.

At about 8:35, Bush left the resort in a motorcade heading to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida for a photo-op to promote Bush’s education policies. This was just a few minutes before NORAD was notified that Flight 11 had been hijacked.

At 8:41, United Airlines Flight 93, took off from Newark headed to San Francisco with 38 passengers, 5 flight attendants, and 2 pilots onboard. One minute later, Flight 175 veered of course and its transponder stopped transmitting. NORAD was notified immediately.

At 8:46, Flight 11 slammed into the north tower (1 World Trade Center) at 470 mph, carrying 10,000 gallons of fuel.

At almost the same time, Flight 77 veered of course and its transponder stopped transmitting.

At 8:52, according to NORAD, two jets were finally scrambled to intercept Flight 11, about twelve minutes after they had been notified.

At 8:55, Bush’s motorcade arrived at the elementary school.

Therefore, by the time Bush arrived at the school: NORAD was aware that two planes had been hijacked (Flight 11 and Flight 175) and that one (Flight 11) had crashed into the north tower (The FAA was also aware that Flight 77 was probably hijacked but did not “officially notify” NORAD until 9:24, almost half an hour after it had gone off course, although, according to testimony, the Pentagon was discussing how to deal with it well before then). Two F-15 jets had already been scrambled to intercept Flight 11 but ended up going after Flight 175, since Flight 11 had already crashed. Testimony by the pilots later indicated that they were traveling “full-blower,” which is as fast as they can go–1875 mph. According to NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold, they were traveling an average of 1100 to 1200 mph, and headed directly to New York City. If this were the case and the stated departure time is correct, it should have taken them about ten minutes to have arrived– before Flight 175 crashed into the second tower. However, according to the NORAD timeline, it took 19 minutes, (which means they would have been averaging under 600 mph).

Additionally, it appears that by the time Bush arrived, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada’s Strategic Command also knew that three planes had been hijacked and that one of them had crashed into the WTC.

Several conflicting stories have emerged from the statements of President Bush regarding when and how he first became aware of the first plane crashing. By their own admission, others in his motorcade were notified of the situation before they arrived at the school and it seems that Bush should have been notified at about the same time they were. Regardless of whether or not Bush knew beforehand, there is no doubt that he was informed upon arrival, even though there are multiple accounts as to who delivered the message.

There are actually seven different accounts of how this occurred: that he learned en route, that he was informed on arrival in person by Andrew Card, or by Karl Rove, or by Blake Gottesman, or by Deborah Loewer, or via phone by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, or that he saw the crash as it happened live on television. This last account is the most bizarre of all, since television coverage did not begin until after the crash and video of the first crash was not shown until the following day. But this version actually comes from Bush himself, and he has repeated the story on more than one occasion….

“I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower– the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there’s one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there, I didn’t have much time to think about it,” Bush said on December 4th, 2001.

On January 5, 2002, he said: “Well, first of all, when we walked into the classroom, I had seen this plane fly into the first building. There was a TV set on. And you know, I thought it was pilot error and I was amazed that anybody could make such a terrible mistake. And something was wrong with the plane…”

Whether or not such assertions are to be taken seriously, it seems that Bush did have a phone conversation with Condoleezza Rice upon arrival and was told of the first plane crash.

Fifteen minutes had passed since Flight 11 had crashed into the first tower at the World Trade Center, and it had now been 20 minutes since the first hijackings had been reported to NORAD. Yet by the time Bush spoke to Condoleezza Rice, neither she nor any of his other advisors seemed to be aware (or even somewhat concerned) that the crash might have been something more than an accident. Rice supposedly only informed him of a crash of an aircraft into the tower. And Bush had replied (according to her)– “what a terrible… it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed.” (This is especially disconcerting given the number of warnings that both Bush and Rice had received over the summer regarding the possibility of al-Qaeda planning to attack America using hijacked aircraft.)

Booker principal Gwen Tose-Rigell claims that after Bush spoke to Rice, Bush spoke to her. “He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we’re going to go ahead and go on, we’re going on to do the reading thing anyway,” she said.

Bush then entered Sandra Kay Daniels’ second-grade class just seconds before Flight 175 crashed into the south tower at 9:03 (Therefore, Bush would not have seen the second crash, so he could not have confused seeing the second attack live with seeing the first one in his earlier version of events.)

In the classroom, Bush was introduced to the children and then he posed for several pictures before the teacher began running through some reading exercises.

In an adjoining room, Secret Service watched the second plane, Flight 175 crash– live on a television.

Andrew Card was immediately informed but he waited for a break in the exercises before he approached Bush to whisper in his ear: “A second plane has hit the World Trade Center…. America is under attack.”

By most accounts it was 9:07 when Bush was informed (other accounts include 9:05 and 9:06). The children in the classroom were just beginning to open their books to read and it was a perfect opportunity for Bush to excuse himself, yet he did not move.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, DC, Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and hustled him quickly into an underground bunker.

At this time in the conflagration at the World Trade Center, burning, terrified people jumped from shattered windows to meet certain death and no one yet knew the full extent of the attack or how many planes might have been hijacked and en route to additional targets. President Bush was the only person who could have ordered any of them to be shot down. And while America was under attack and Bush was a likely target (meaning everyone at the elementary school was at risk), Bush sat there…reading a story about a goat with a class of second graders and asking questions of the kids for a full five minutes after he was informed of the situation. A video of the event confirms this portion of the Bush reaction, and it is available online at http://www.thememoryhole.org/911/bush-911.htm.

Even after finishing with the book, he hung around for reporters’ questions, posed for more pictures, and waited for all the reporters to leave before he joined his team in the next room. He was described as acting like “he didn’t have a care in the world” and as if he was “openly stretching out the moment,” by Bill Sammon of Publishers Weekly, who gave, in his own words: “[an] inside account of the Bush administration’s reaction to 9-11 [and] a breathless, highly complimentary portrait of the president [showing] the great merit and unwavering moral vision of his inner circle.”

Bush had been scheduled to leave the room at 9:20. Despite the emergency situation, he finally left only a few minutes ahead of schedule, about the same time that NORAD was notified that Flight 93 was hijacked at 9:16.

Even then he did not leave the school. He talked to Cheney and Rice on the phone and prepared for his speech, which he delivered at 9:30, just as scheduled, and he left the school at around 9:35, no earlier than originally planned.

It seems that it never occurred to anyone that if America was under attack, the President might be a target (especially since the event at the school was publicized in advance). All of the teachers and the children at the elementary school were at risk the whole time he remained there. Now they were heading to Air Force One, still not thinking that Bush (or Air Force One) might be a target.

Slightly earlier, at 9:27, three F-16 fighters were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77, which had veered off course 41 minutes earlier. (Flight 77 was headed to Washington. Langley is 129 miles away; Andrews Air Force Base is only 15 miles away, but no fighters were scrambled from there.) The fighters were supposedly airborne by 9:30. The F-16’s can travel at 1500 mph and needed to only travel 700 mph to make it to Washington before Flight 77.

Bush was informed en route to Air Force One that Flight 77 had crashed into the Pentagon at 9:38; the F-16’s somehow didn’t make it in time. When Flight 77 crashed, the fighters were 109 miles away, meaning that, if the reported departure time is correct, they were only traveling at 108 mph.

Twenty-one minutes after the FAA had warned that a plane was headed in the direction of Washington, and almost 40 minutes after Cheney was removed to a underground bunker, the White House began a general evacuation at 9:45 and the Capitol began evacuations three minutes later.

At this time, the only remaining hijacked plane was Flight 93, on its way to Washington. Although at the height of events, it was thought that as many as 11 flights had been hijacked. It was at this time that (not Bush, not Cheney, not Rice, not even Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta or FAA head Jane Garvey, but) FAA’s National Operations Manager Ben Sliney ordered the nation’s air traffic system to shut down.

At about 9:55, Air Force One took off without fighter escort.

Once airborne, Bush talked to Cheney on the phone and Cheney recommended that Bush “order our aircraft to shoot down these airliners that have been hijacked.”

At that time, Flight 93 was about 80 miles outside Washington and several fighter jets were in the air defending the Capitol. Washington had been declared a “free-fire zone,” fighters had finally been scrambled to intercept Flight 93 (about 44 minutes after it had been hijacked), and passengers on Flight 93 were storming the cockpit.

It was also about this time that the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed–at 9:59:04, based on seismic records.

Seven minutes later, at 10:06:05, according to seismic records, Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. (There is evidence that it was shot out of the sky by fighter jets, perhaps even after passengers had regained control, but there is no way to verify with any certitude what really happened at this time. Some of the evidence for this consists of eye-witness reports, the extremely wide crash debris field, and the testimony of F-15 fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash who, after returning to base from chasing Flight 175 and patrolling the skies over New York City, claimed that he was told that “a military F-16 had shot down a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania.”)

At 10:10, all U.S. military forces were ordered to Defcon Three (or Defcon Delta), the highest alert for the nuclear arsenal in 30 years. At 10:13, Washington federal buildings began evacuation. At 10:15, the section of the Pentagon hit by Flight 77 collapsed. At 10:24, all international flights to the U.S. were diverted.

At 10:28:31, according to seismic records, the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

All-in-all, it is estimated that almost 3,000 human beings were killed in the attacks.

Now that Bush was in the air, Air Force One began an unusual journey.

According journalists who were with Bush, the plane flew around in “big, slow circles” for some time as they tried to decide what to do. It was claimed that there were some threats to Air Force One by administration officials; it is unclear how many individual threats there were, as several were reported and some may be multiple reports of the same threat. One report was that there was an “inside” threat that Air Force One’s secret codes had been breached, which was confirmed by Karl Rove, but this turned out to be untrue. Could these reported threats to Air Force One have been fabricated – as a means to explain why Bush didn’t return to Washington right away?

Nevertheless, it appears that Air Force One finally had fighter escort sometime between 11:00 to 11:30, very much later than it seems was possible. The nearest fighters, that were on 24 hour alert, could have been scrambled in five minutes and could have arrived in ten–and the Bush team had known that they might be needed at least as early as when Bush was notified that America was under attack almost 50 minutes before.

From the time Air Force One became airborne, there were arguments about where Bush should go. Vice President Dick Cheney was on the phone with Bush, arguing against a return to Washington. The results of all the debating between Bush, Cheney, the Secret Service, and others was that Air Force One went to Barksdale Air Force base near Shreveport, Louisiana, landing at around 11:45.

In the next hour; some officials publicly speculated that the attacks appeared to be instigated by Osama bin Laden, parts of the Canadian and Mexican border were closed, U.S. air space became clear except for military or emergency flights, and Bush made a short taped speech from Barksdale (around 12:36) that was aired to the nation at 1:04. The President announced that the U.S. will “hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.”

After more debates about where Bush should go next, just before 1:00, it was decided that the U.S. Strategic Command center in Offutt, Nebraska was the best place, and Air Force One departed at 1:30, just after a state of emergency was declared in Washington.

During his time in the air, aircraft carriers and guided missile destroyers were dispatched to New York and Washington by the Navy, the North American Aerospace Defense Command went to its highest alert, and fighters, airborne radar, and refueling planes were scrambled.

Around 2:40, the CIA had determined that three of the hijackers were suspected al-Qaeda operatives and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had begun planning an attack against bin Laden, but he also seems to have been trying to link the event with Iraq as well.

According to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on September 11, Rumsfeld is quoted as saying he wanted “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time. Not only UBL (Osama bin Laden).” “Go massive,” the notes say; “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

Just before 3:00, Bush arrived at Offutt and was in an underground bunker (designed to withstand a nuclear blast) at the U.S. Strategic Command Underground Command Center by 3:06.

In an hour-long teleconference call with Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director George Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and several others in the National Security Council, Bush was told by Tenet: “Sir, I believe it’s al-Qaeda. We’re doing the assessment but it looks like, it feels like, it smells like al-Qaeda.”

After more debating, it was finally decided that Bush would return to Washington and address the nation.

Air Force One departed at a little after 4:30, escorted by two F-15 fighters and one F-16.

At 5:20, the 7 World Trade Center Building, collapsed from ancillary damage and fire.

A few minutes before 7:00, Bush arrived at the White House in the helicopter Marine One.

Just after Bush arrived, Powell returned to Washington from Lima, Peru and they both arrived at the White House at about the same time.

It was the first time Powell was able to talk to Bush. He later said: “And the worst part of it, is that because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington.”

At 8:30, Bush addressed the nation in a five-minute speech and introduced, what would become, the “Bush Doctrine.”

“We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,” he said.

Bush then met with his National Security Council and everyone concluded that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks.

At around 11:30, before he went to bed, Bush wrote in his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today…. We think it’s Osama bin Laden.”

Questions

According to FAA regulations, air controllers should “Consider that an aircraft emergency exists… when: … there is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any… aircraft,” and it instructs: “If… you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.” The flight controllers are supposed to “hit the panic button” if a plane deviates from its course by 15 degrees (or two miles) and the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), the office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, “greatly enhancing the movement of vital information.”

Yet it seems to have taken roughly half an hour after Flights 11, 93, and 77 were known to be hijacked before NORAD was notified. The only hijacking that was immediately reported to NORAD was Flight 175. Why the delay?

Why was there a pattern of time lapses and delays by NORAD flight interceptions despite the fact that they were supposedly on their highest state of alert and what is the reason for the discrepancies in the accounts of pilots and other officials regarding departure times and flight speeds?

What could explain the pattern of strange coincidence when Pentagon brass suddenly cancel a scheduled flight because of security concerns, when the CIA plan a test drill simulation of a plane crashing into a building to begin at almost the same time that Flight 11 actually did crash into the north WTC tower, and when a U.S. plan to attack al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, including a U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan, was sitting on Bush’s desk on the morning of September 11th?

Additionally, is it a common practice for surface to air missiles to protect the President when he is not staying in Washington?

How should the statements by Bush that he saw the first plane crash be explained?

When Bush was informed on the phone by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that an aircraft had crashed into the north WTC tower, why was it that our National Security Advisor did not seem to be aware that the crashed plane had been hijacked or that there were two other hijacked aircraft in the air when NORAD, the Pentagon, and even Canada’s Strategic Command knew about them by then?

Why, after being informed that America was under attack, did Bush sit there reading a story about a goat and not immediately assume the duties of a Commander-in-Chief?

There might find any number of excuses for his slow reaction: shock, no experience, no training…, but why didn’t the Secret Service know better? Cheney had been whisked away to a secure location immediately after the second plane hit the second tower by the Secret Service guarding him. It seems that the Secret Service failed to protect the President as well as they were protecting the Vice President.

Or was it really their fault?

When the Secret Service were in the adjacent room watching the second plane hit the second tower, the Marine assigned to carry Bush’s phone said: “We’re out of here. Can you get everyone ready?”

Apparently, this Marine’s good sense and correct response was overruled by someone. Who overruled it? Who decided that Bush might not be a target if America was under attack and that he might not be needed to deal with the situation right away? If Bush was too stunned to determine that he was a potential target and that he might be placing the whole school at risk, why did the Secret Service protecting him fail to do so?

These questions loom larger in light of the President’s continuing resistance to cooperate and outright opposition to the attempt to carry out an impartial investigation of the attacks.

There are many things that happened on the day of 9-11 not touched on here: the false reports of bombs and other hijacked planes, the individual stories of the hijackers and the many missed opportunities to stop them, the rumors and conspiracy theories, and most importantly, the experiences of thousands of individuals that day… on the hijacked planes, in the World Trade Center, their loved ones who feared for them and searched for them, and all the people who were affected by it in one way or another, even if they were watching from the other side of the world.

All of these people deserve to know the truth. America needs to know the truth. Blocking the investigation into the events of September 11th will not help us find the best ways to stop it from happening in the future. Reluctance to assign responsibility for passed failures will not solve the problems before us. Rewriting the history of events will not make us more secure.

The failure of Congress and the mainstream media to ask these questions, leaves it up to the People to demand an answer.

UPDATE

This was written before the 9-11 Commission Report came out and was based on the information at the time. After reading the report, I might have made a few changes in this article:

1- The 9-11 Report suggested that the aircraft that were scrambled were headed out over the Atlantic before being given further instructions (supposedly because they were trained to expect an attack coming from outside the US). This might explain why they didn’t make it to their targets as soon as it would have been possible otherwise (however, this does seem to contradict earlier reports).

2- It also appears the fighters that were scrambled were not armed, so they would have had to try to stop the hijacked airliners some other way (by crashing into them for example).

3- According to the Report, Cheney et al were not sure which hijacked planes had already crashed and which hadn’t — they supposedly thought that the aircraft headed toward DC might even be Flight 11 (which was the first that had crashed), so the Report makes it look like they were more confused than the article gives them credit for.

4- In the Report, Cheney claims he gave the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft. The Report questions that claim since no fighter pilot (or anyone else) testified they had received such an order. If the fighters were not armed anyway, then I don’t know how much it matters, but, Cheney didn’t have the authority to give such an order.

5- One of the main things that I didn’t cover in the article below is that when “America is under attack,” the President and the Secretary of the Defense (Rumsfeld at the time) are supposed to try to get into contact with each other, forming the “National Command Authority” (NCA). Then, a course of action is determined and orders to execute are given. It appears that neither of these guys (Bush or Rumsfeld) attempted to contact each other right away and it appears that no one else suggested to either of them to try and contact each other. [It does make a lot of sense after all that the President and the guy in charge of Defense might need to talk to each other ASAP if we are under attack.]

You would think that protecting America from attack might be near the top of the list for their job description, and that they might have either looked into what they might have to do under these circumstances or that someone might have briefed them on it when they got the job. Even if they didn’t know, it seems some of the people working for them might know and tell them. Evidently not.

Rumsfeld had been informed about the planes crashing into the WTC. He even told the people with him at the time that this probably wasn’t going to be the end of it. When Flight 77 crashed into the other side of the Pentagon from where Rumsfeld was, he went to see and supposedly spent a fair amount of time trying to help survivors.

Think about that for a minute. He didn’t expect that the attack was over after planes crashed into the WTC, so he must have known we were under attack by then, and certainly he would have been aware by the time the Pentagon was attacked. So, here is a man that must have known that we were under attack and instead of trying to contact the President to deal with it, he spends time helping survivors at the Pentagon. In theory, he couldn’t have known what the full extent of the attack might have been at the time, and only he and Bush could have done anything about it. While it was nice of him to help with the survivors at the Pentagon, it was much more important for him to contact the President to decide what to do in case there were 11 more hijacked planes in the air (as they believed at one point), but he was out of touch when he was needed. If there had been other hijacked aircraft in the air, his delay could have cost the lives of who knows how many people.

Anyway, aside from the above, there is nothing else significant I needed to add to the article.

Unheeded Warnings

Written: 06/19/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

“There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.”

– FBI Director Robert Mueller, September 17, 2001

“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center … All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking.”

– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, May, 2002

Were there no warning signs that FBI Director Robert Mueller was aware of? Could National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice not have known that crashing an airplane into a building was a possibility?

In June 1994, a report commissioned by the Pentagon concluded that religious terrorists could hijack commercial airliners and crash them into the Pentagon or the White House. A September 1999 Library of Congress report concluded that “suicide bombers” could “crash-land an aircraft…into the Pentagon, the CIA or the White House.”

Should a FBI Director or a National Security Adviser be aware of these reports?

In December 1994, Algerian terrorists hijacked an Air France jetliner, planning to crash it into the Eiffel Tower, a French SWAT team stormed the plane on the ground and foiled the plot. In January 1995, police in the Philippines discovered a bomb factory run by Islamist terrorists. One suspect confessed that he learned to fly at U.S. flight schools and revealed plans to crash a plane into the CIA headquarters. “Murad’s idea is that he will board an American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger, then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA headquarters,” the report stated, “there will be no bomb or any explosive that he will use in its execution. It is a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.” In 1998, at the conspirators’ trial for the African-embassies bombing, al-Qaeda witnesses testified that bin Laden was sending agents for flight school training.

Should a FBI Director or a National Security Adviser be aware of these trials?

In the previous article in this series, I looked at some of the roadblocks and stonewalling by the Bush administration regarding the investigations into the events leading up to the attack on 9-11. Much of the information about what was known beforehand has been classified as secret by our government for legitimate security reasons or to protect sources. Whether every single document that is classified as such represents some security for us, or a cover up for failures, is up for debate, depending on the level of trust each individual places on this administration.

Putting the classified information aside, the volume of information available to the public is fairly enormous and includes many conflicting and convoluted stories and relationships, along with many strange coincidences and unheeded warnings. Many of these stories and relationships are interrelated and fall into more than one category. A full review of every story and relationship would take up several large volumes. Coincidences may mean something or they may just be coincidences. Warnings may, or may not have, risen to a level to have foreseen these specific attacks or to have prevented them from occurring. Additionally, how much of this available information is relevant or meaningful is also up for debate, but it should not be dismissed out-of-hand without some consideration. Even a very superficial review of the known information is highly intriguing and raises many questions. Unless these questions are addressed in a straightforward, nonpartisan manner, they may leave us at risk for another 9-11. If we are genuinely concerned about preventing a future occurrence of this event, we should not fear an investigation into its causes and we should be eager to discover all of them – no matter where they lead or who might be to blame.

WHAT IS KNOWN

After Bush was sworn in as President of the United States, Bush’s national-security aides were warned of an al-Qaeda presence in the U.S.. In national security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s handover briefing, the bin Laden threat was covered in detail and she was warned, “You will be spending more time on this issue than on any other.” [Washington Post, 1-20-02, Time, 8-4-02, Newsweek, 8-4-02] Shortly afterwards, CIA Director George Tenet warned Congress in open testimony that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were “the most immediate and serious threat” to the U.S. and its citizens. [AP, 2-7-01, Sunday Herald, 9-23-01] A few days later, Vice President Cheney was informed in a briefing that bin Laden’s involvement in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole had been conclusively proven. [Washington Post, 1-20-02]

So by mid-February, the Bush administration had been put on notice that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization was a serious threat to the U.S. and that their involvement in the USS Cole bombing had been proven. By this time they had also received a final report by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, a bipartisan congressional commission. The report took 2 1/2 years to complete and made 50 recommendations on combating terrorism in the United States.[Salon, 9-12-01]

The Bush administration ignored all the recommendations in the report, decided not to retaliate for the Cole bombing, told the U.S. intelligence agencies to “back off” investigating the bin Laden family and Saudi royals [BBC, 11-6-01] and discontinued the deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships near Afghanistan’s borders that had begun under President Clinton [Washington Post, 1-20-02].

The Bush administration had twice threatened the Taliban that they would be held responsible for any al-Qaeda attack and it appears that one reason they did not respond to the Cole bombing was because they were in the midst of negotiations with the Taliban for a pipeline through Afghanistan at this time. [Washington Post, 1-20-02] As far as “backing off” the bin Laden family and Saudi royals, it should be noted that the Saudis have been handled with kid gloves by this administration all along. For instance, even though the majority of the hijackers on 9-11 were from Saudi Arabia, since 9-11, new immigration restrictions have been placed on many Middle Eastern countries, but not Saudi Arabia.

In the Spring, a report which provided “a listing of all bin Laden’s bases, his government contacts and foreign advisers,” his whereabouts and details of his al-Qaeda network was presented to the UN security council by the Russian Permanent Mission. [Jane’s Intelligence Review, 10-5-01]

In May, Bush made Vice President Cheney head of the new Office of National Preparedness. The purpose of this office was to oversee a coordination of federal programs to respond to domestic attacks. Cheney said at the time that “one of our biggest threats” could include “a terrorist organization overseas.” [New York Times, 7-8-02]

In early June, NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) conducted a planning exercise involving the hypothetical scenario of a cruise missile attack from a barge off the East Coast. Bin Laden was pictured on the cover of the exercise proposal. [American Forces Press Service, 6-4-02] Also, at this time, the CIA was warned by German intelligence that terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack “American and Israeli symbols that stand out.” [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9-11-01, Washington Post, 9-14-01, Fox News, 5-17-02]

On June 3, Bush’s national security leadership met – one of only two times they met before 9-11 to discuss terrorism. [Time 8-4-02] (This should be contrasted with the fact that Clinton’s Counter Terrorism Security Group met 2-3 times a week between 1998 and 2000.) [New York Times, 12-30-01]

On June 23, Reuters reported that “Followers of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden are planning a major attack on U.S. and Israeli interests in the next two weeks.” The reporter had interviewed bin Laden two days earlier and had come to the conclusion that “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” [Reuters, 6-23-01, Pravda, 6-26-01] On June 28, in a written briefing, CIA Director George Tenet warned Condoleezza Rice that “it is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” [Washington Post, 5-17-02] Also, around this time, Richard Clarke, White House National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, gave a warning to the FAA to implement increased security measures because of an impending attack. [New Yorker, 1-14-02]

Between January and September the FAA issued at least 15 memos to the aviation industry warning of possibly imminent hijackings or bomb attacks on airliners or airport terminals inside the United States. Two of the warnings named Osama bin Laden as a suspect. [CNN, 3-02, CNN, 5-17-02]

Between February and July, in the trial of four men charged with the 1998 embassy bombings, testimony was given that bin Laden operatives had received pilot training in Texas and Oklahoma. Detailed information about a pilot training scheme was revealed, but no action was taken. [Washington Post, 9-20-01]

Between March and September, in over 20 meetings between envoys of the Taliban and middle-ranking State Department officials, the handing over of bin Laden was discussed. The Taliban offered to hand him over to a third country, but the officials refused to accept that option and insisted that he be turned over to the U.S.. [Washington Post, 10-29-01]

By the summer, “the chatter level went way off the charts” regarding intelligence monitoring of terrorist groups around this time and remained high until 9-11. Some officials later described the summer alerts as “the most urgent in decades.” [Los Angeles Times, 5-18-02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9-18-02]

In early July, a briefing to senior U.S. government officials said, “Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.” [ Senate Intelligence Committee, 9-18-02, Washington Post, 9-19-02] At this time, Diane Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to CNN, “Intelligence staff tell me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months.” She argued that both the White House and Congress needed to put more money and resources into intelligence and counterterrorism measures. [CNN 3-02]

On July 5, in a White House meeting, counterterrorism officials warned the FBI, FAA, INS and others that a major attack on the United States was coming soon and informed Bush that attacks during the summer were possible. [Time, 8-4-02] The National Security Council group met the next day to discuss intelligence and potential attacks overseas. Nonessential travel by counterterror staff was suspended. [CNN,3-02, Washington Post, 5-17-02] Later, after receiving an unspecified “threat assessment” from the FBI, John Ashcroft stopped taking commercial flights. [CBS News, 7-26-01]

On July 10, The FBI’s Phoenix office warned that an unusual number of Middle Eastern men were enrolling in U.S. flight schools and speculated they may be part of an Osama bin Laden plot. The report was sent to FBI headquarters, but officials put off taking action. [New York Times, 5-20-02, Fortune, 5-22-02] Later, Vice President Cheney said that the memo should have never been made public. [CNN, 5-20-02]

In mid-July, Bush was warned about a possible al-Qaeda attack at the G-8 summit. One threat that was relayed by the Egyptian government to U.S. Intelligence was that Muslim terrorists could crash a plane into a building. [New York Times, 9-26-01, BBC 7-18-01, Los Angeles Times, 9-27-01]

Also in mid-July, FBI counterterrorism expert, John O’Neill complained privately that the White House was obstructing his bin Laden investigation. He said that the main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia. He said that, “All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden’s organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia.” He believed that one reason for the obstruction was that the White House was still hoping for a pipeline deal with the Taliban. [CNN, 1-8-02, CNN, 1-9-02, Irish Times, 11-19-01, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, released 11-11-01]

On July 21, A meeting was held in a Berlin hotel between American, Pakistani, and Russian officials. It was the third meeting of its kind called “brainstorming in Afghanistan.” Taliban representatives boycotted this meeting but had sat in on previous ones, nevertheless, Pakistani intelligence relayed information from the meeting to them. During the meeting, former U.S. State Department official Lee Coldren passed on a message from Bush administration officials. Commenting about the meeting later, he said, “I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action.” There are differing accounts of what happened, but Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik said he was told by American officials that military action to overthrow the Taliban was scheduled to “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the Middle of October at the latest.” One reported threat was that the Taliban could choose between “carpets of bombs (a war) or carpets of gold (a pipeline).” Americans officials who attended denied that there was any talk about a pipeline during this meeting. [Salon, 8-16-02, Guardian, 9-22-01, Guardian, 9-26-01, BBC, 9-18-01, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, released 11-11-01]

Late in July, Wakil Ahmed Muttawkil, the Taliban Foreign Minister, learned of an imminent attack by bin Laden on targets inside the U.S. that will be “huge” and kill thousands. He sent an emissary to the U.S. consul general and another U.S. official to warn them. He also sent the message to the political wing of the UN. [Independent, 9-7-02, Reuters, 9-7-02]

Early in August, a plot to attack the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, either by bomb from a plane or by crashing a plane into it was discovered by U.S. intelligence. The people discussing this plot were reportedly acting on instructions from bin Laden. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9-18-02] It was also about this time that the CIA warned the White House, Pentagon, and Department of State that bin Laden was intent on launching a terrorist attack soon, possibly inside the U.S.. [Sunday Herald, 9-23-01] On August 4, Bush left for a month’s vacation on his ranch in Crawford, Texas [ABC, 8-3-01, Washington Post, 8-7-01, Salon, 8-29-01] at which point, he had spent 42% of his first eight months in office vacationing either on the ranch, at the family compound in Maine, or at Camp David [Washington Post, 8-7-01].

On August 6, at his Crawford ranch, the president was told about possible attacks, including that bin Laden may hijack airplanes.

The CIA gave Bush an analytic report on al-Qaeda during his daily briefing, focusing on terrorist attacks inside the U.S.. The report was titled: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” [Newsweek, 5-27-02, New York Times, 5-15-02, Die Zeit, 10-1-02] and included a warning from Britain that specifically indicated al-Qaeda might attempt multiple airplane hijackings [Sunday Herald, 5-19-02]. After receiving the report, Bush left work early and spent the rest of the day fishing. [New York Times, 5-25-02]

On August 17, French-born Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota after suspicious flight-school trainers tipped off the FBI. [Time, 5-27-02] One of the agents wrote a warning that Moussaoui may be planning to “fly something into the World Trade Center.” [Newsweek, 5-20-02] On August 27, French authorities notified the U.S. that Moussaoui was a suspected Islamic extremist. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10-17-02, Time, 5-27-02, Time, 8-4-02, ABC News, 9-5-02] Repeated efforts to obtain a search warrant for his laptop and personal effects failed because FBI headquarters “almost inexplicably, [threw] up roadblocks,” according to Minneapolis FBI agent Coleen Rowley. [Time 5-21-02, Time, 5-27-02] The Minneapolis agents became so desperate that they tried to get help from the CIA, but were reprimanded for their efforts. The supervisor for the FBI’s Minnesota office was accused of trying to get people “spun up” about Moussaoui by a RFU (Radical Fundamentalist Unit) agent at FBI headquarters. The supervisor responded that he was trying to get people “spun up” to make sure Moussaoui “does not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center.” The RFU agent edited the request from the Minnesota office before passing it along, removing implications Moussaoui was connected to al Qaeda, and the request was denied. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10-17-02] Rowley said that some agents in the office were openly joking that there had to be spies or moles…working for Osama bin Laden blocking their requests. Those agents who blocked their requests were later promoted. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5-28-02, Time, 5-21-02]

In late August, counterterrorism expert John O’Neill quit the FBI because of repeated obstruction of his investigations into al Qaeda and recent power plays against him. [New Yorker, 1-14-02] Two days later, when he began his new job as head of security at the World Trade Center, a friend commented, “Well, that will be an easy job. They’re not going to bomb that place again.” O’Neill responded, “Well actually they’ve always wanted to finish that job. I think they’re going to try again.” On September 10th he moved into his new office on the 34th floor of the North Tower. That evening, he confided to his colleague Jerry Hauer, “We’re due for something big. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.” O’Neill was killed in the attack the next day. [New Yorker, 1-14-02, PBS Frontline, 10-3-02]

On September 4, Bush’s Cabinet advisers held their second meeting to discuss terrorism. [Washington Post, 5-17-02]

On September 9, Donald Rumsfeld threatened the Senate that he would encourage a veto if they proceed with a plan to move $600 million from defense to counterterrorism. [Time 8-4-02]

All during the final days leading up to 9-11, there had been a sharp increase in the short selling of stocks of American and United airlines in the New York Stock Exchange. [Reuters, 9-20-01, San Francisco Chronicle, 9-22-01] These put options were not reflected in trades of stocks in other airlines and they increased in the days approaching 9-11. One analyst said, “I saw put-call numbers higher than I’ve ever seen in 10 years following the markets, particularly the options markets.” [AP, 9-18-01, San Francisco Chronicle, 9-19-01] By September 10, “Alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the U.S. stock market” all during the afternoon, as reported by CBS News. For intelligence gathering, the CIA and other intelligence agencies monitor stock trading in real time using programs such as Promis. [CBS, 9-19-01]. Evidently, the heavy trading of American and United stocks did not set off enough alarm bells for the CIA to act. Also, two NSA intercepted messages in Arabic, one saying “The match is about to begin,” and the other saying “Tomorrow is the zero hour” were claimed not to have been translated in time. [Reuters, 9-9-02, ABC News, 6-7-02, Reuters, 6-17-02]

On September 10th several “ironic” and “coincidental” events occurred….

Senator Feinstein asked for a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney about draft legislation on counterterrorism and national defense that she had sent to him on July 20, his chief of staff told her they needed six months to prepare for it. She said she worried that they didn’t have six months. [Newsweek, 5-27-02]

Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected a proposed $58 million increase in financing for programs relating to counterterrorism, he sent a request for budget increase to the White House which didn’t include any new money requests for counterterrorism, and he sent a memo to his department heads listing his seven priorities – none of which related to counterterrorism, yet Ashcroft had stopped taking commercial flights in July because of terrorist threats, and he had told a Senate committee in May that counterterrorism was his “highest priority.” [New York Times, 6-1-02, Guardian, 5-21-02]

NORAD was supposedly at its highest state of readiness, as it was conducting its semi-annual exercises known as “Vigilant Guardian.” [Newhouse News, 1-25-02, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6-3-02, ABC News, 9-11-02, ABC News 9-14-02, Ottawa Citizen, 9-11-02, Code One Magazine, 1-02]

Pentagon brass suddenly cancelled a trip for the next day because of security concerns. [Newsweek, 9-13-01, Newsweek, 9-17-01]

The CIA were planning a simulation drill to test emergency response. The drill was to start the next morning at 9:00 am. In an advertisement for the “homeland security” event was this sentence, “On the morning of September 11th 2001, Mr. [John] Fulton and his team at the CIA will run a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building.” [National Law Enforcement Security Institute, 8-02, AP, 8-21-02]

A CIA plan to attack al-Qaeda in Afghanistan – with support for the Northern Alliance, including a U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan – was put on Bush’s desk, awaiting his approval and signature when he returned from Florida. [Time, Newsweek, MSNBC, 5-16-02, Los Angeles Times, 5-18-02]

On September 11, terrorists attacked.

WHAT IS UNKNOWN

Is it conceivable that Rice and Mueller had no idea that such an attack was possible? Why were the initial 50 recommendations by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century ignored and would any of them have stopped the attacks had they not been? Apparently, the Taliban were interested in getting rid of bin Laden, but were concerned about how it would look to turn him over to us. Was it so unreasonable to suggest turning him over to a third party? They also evidently tried to warn us about an attack. Why wasn’t this warning taken seriously? Was there sufficient evidence to connect the dots with all these warnings and take preventable action? What information caused the suspension of nonessential travel by National Security Council counterterror staff, John Ashcroft to stop taking commercial flights, and Pentagon brass to suddenly cancel a trip, but which didn’t reach the level of a public warning? What was contained in the CIA report, given to Bush at his ranch, titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”? What did Bush know and when did he know it? Did the administration act competently to the threat or did a desire to get a pipeline through Afghanistan cause them to take their eye off the ball? Who was obstructing O’Neill’s investigation and why? Is our oil dependence preventing us from dealing with the Saudis as we should? Did we threaten the Taliban over a pipeline deal? How was Bush expecting to get approval for a plan to launch a military invasion of Afghanistan without the attack against us? What reasons would he have given? These questions and many others need to be openly addressed.

It is interesting to note that Enron, one of Bush’s biggest contributors, desperately needed a pipeline deal through Afghanistan to make its biggest project, the Dabhol power plant, profitable and to avoid bankruptcy. Enron sat in on the Energy Task Force meetings, which occurred several months prior to 9-11 and which Cheney refuses to divulge any information about. It would be very interesting to find out what was discussed at these meetings. There now will be a pipeline built through Afghanistan, Enron has reformed into a pipeline building business, and it looks like they may be able to complete their project in Dabhol.

It actually may be possible to guess what was discussed and suggested by the oil company representatives which attended at the secret Energy Task Force meetings by looking at a report that was submitted to Cheney in April, 2001. The report, called “Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century” was commissioned by the Council on Foreign Relations and James Baker, former Secretary of State under President Reagan and was linked to a “veritable who’s who of U.S. hawks, oilmen, and corporate bigwigs,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The report made the argument that there is a need of U.S. “military intervention” in Iraq to secure its oil supply and possibly infers a pipeline through Afghanistan where it said that the U.S. should “Investigate whether any changes to U.S. policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region…the exports from some oil discoveries could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly.” [Emphasis mine] Later, when the results of the Task Force meetings were announced in Cheney’s national energy plan, it contained the suggestion that the U.S. could no longer depend on traditional sources and would have to obtain supplies from the Caspian regions and that the U.S. would have to overcome foreign resistance to the current limitations of American energy companies.

It is also interesting to note that many of the main players involved in the Bush administration either have connections to the oil business and/or the Project for a New American Century, who released a report a year before the attack on 9-11 called “Rebuilding Americas Defenses,” which became the basis of our National Security Strategy and proposed everything we are currently engaged in, including the removal of Saddam Hussein because; “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” It also lamented that the climate in America was such that there was no hope of obtaining their objectives without “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

The odds of all these events being a coincidence would be impossible to calculate.

Some have suggested that investigating what happened will somehow weaken our resolve to adequately respond to future threats. This seems to be how the Bush administration sees it. Despite public pronouncements, there is a seeming lack of interest in aiding an investigation and general reluctance to fully cooperate. Some have suggested that that investigating might undermine our need or desire to play the role of the totally innocent victim, which may have resulted from a strong identification with the actual victims from overexposure to the event by the media directly after 9-11. Still others have suggested that there are those with something to hide, either because the evidence will prove incompetence or complicity. It is exceedingly important that these suggestions especially are adequately addressed as they will undermine faith in this administration and this country, at home and abroad, and likely fuel conspiracy theorists forever.

Note: While I have acquired much of this information over time, I wish to thank the people at the Center for Cooperative Research for allowing me to paraphrase some material from their extensive database for this article.

Roadblocks and Stonewalls

Written: 05/24/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

A Political Whitewash?

The Official Investigations into 9-11

Dateline – New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, 09-06-01: Antoinette DiLorenzo, English teacher to Pakistani immigrants, questions a student who is staring out of the window, “What are you looking at?” Pointing out of the window to the World Trade Center, the student responds, “Do you see those two buildings? They won’t be standing there next week.” [MSNBC, 10/12/01]

Dateline – Undisclosed elementary school, Dallas, Texas, 09-10-01: A fifth grade student “casually” tells his teacher, “Tomorrow, World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United States will lose.” [Houston Chronicle, 9/19/01]

Dateline – Martin Luther King Elementary School in Jersey City, New Jersey, 09-10-01: A sixth grade student of Middle Eastern descent warns his teacher to stay away from lower Manhattan because something bad was going to happen. [Insight, 9/10/02]

What did these elementary schoolchildren know that we didn’t know?

Dateline – A prison in Germany, early September 2001: Ali S., an Iranian awaiting deportation repeatedly calls U.S. law enforcement to warn of an imminent attack on the WTC that will “change the world.” He also calls the White House 14 times and tries to fax Bush. Warnings also came from a Morroccan man being held in a Brazilian jail. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 9/13/01, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01, Ananova, 9/14/01]

Dateline – New York, New York, early September 2001: members of a mosque are warned to stay out of lower Manhattan on 9/11. [New York Daily News, 10/12/01]

Dateline – New York, New York, early September 2001: the New York Stock Exchange sees “unusually heavy trading in airline and related stocks several days before the attacks.” [AP, 10/02/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/03/01]

What did these prisoners, mosque members, and stock traders know that we didn’t know?

Dateline – Dept. of Justice, Washington D. C., 07/26/01: Attorney General John Ashcroft stops taking commercial airline flights. [CBS, 07/26/01]

Dateline – London, England, 09/03/01: Author Salman Rushdie is banned from taking internal U.S. flights by the FAA. Authorities tell his publisher it is because of “intelligence of something about to happen.” (Rushdie is a known target of death threats from radical Muslims for years.) [London Times, 9/27/01]

Dateline – Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 09/10/01: Pentagon brass suddenly cancel a trip scheduled for the next morning. [Newsweek, 9/13/01, Newsweek, 9/17/01]

What did our government know that we didn’t know?

On September 11th, 2001, terrorists struck America. Hijacking commercial aircraft, they managed to bring down the World Trade Center buildings and a section of the Pentagon. One hijacked airliner apparently did not reach its target and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The total death toll is estimated at 3,026.

How did this happen? Who was responsible? What were the reasons and motivations behind the attacks? Could this disastrous failure in national security have been prevented? Who might have known and when did they know it?

These are just some of the questions that should be answered in order to develop a plan to prevent such future occurrences.

A CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION

Although President Bush showed no interest in establishing a commission to investigate 9-11, an attempt by Congress to do so was inevitable. Democrat Bob Graham of Florida soon became the Senate committee chairman, and Republican Porter J. Goss, also of Florida, became the House committee chair in the joint congressional investigation. The former federal prosecutor and Pentagon inspector general, Eleanor Hill sat in on the hearings.

Running into a myriad of roadblocks, it took nine months for the joint congressional intelligence committees to effectively get started. Even then, half the hearings were closed, and of the final 900-plus page report, only twenty-four pages have been released to the public. Bush and Cheney both sought a restricted probe of the matter. Key administration members were never interviewed (national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for example), and requests for additional funds to hire more staff members to sift through the mountains of information were blocked by then Senate Minority leader Trent Lott.

Additionally, no information was given regarding President Bush. Aside from a few brief observations in the press, whatever knowledge Bush may have had about the events leading up to 9-11 has to this day remained classified.

Throughout the congressional hearings, committee members made it clear that they had no intention to “point fingers.”

Yet, during the hearings, someone leaked classified information to the press that “alarmingly specific” communications regarding the attack were received on the day before it occurred. Though it was claimed that these communications were not translated in time to make a difference, the leak prompted an investigation of the committee itself by the intelligence community, the very people who were the main object of the investigation. Ultimately, no charges were made regarding the leak, but the committee had been effectively neutralized.

The summary conclusion of this limited congressional investigation, released in December 2002, was that the intelligence community was fully aware of the possibility that aircraft could be used to carry out an attack, that there were lapses in communication, and that the intelligence community “failed to capitalize on both the individual and collective significance of available information that appears relevant to the events of September 11.”

In the wake of the probe, even Republican Sen. John McCain acknowledged that the Bush administration “slow-walked and stonewalled” the proceeding. Republican Senator Richard Shelby also complained of lack of cooperation from the various intelligence agencies, observing, “You know we were told that there would be cooperation in this investigation, and I question that. I think that most of the information that our staff has been able to get that is real meaningful has had to be extracted piece by piece.”

Since the time of the investigation, some information previously released to the public (and available on the Internet) has been reclassified for security reasons and may not appear in the final report.

Committee chairman, Bob Graham, has pointed to delays and the restrictive classification of documents as attempts by the Bush administration to avoid embarrassing revelations for reasons having little to do with national security.

Graham has suggested that the report also reveals the continued existence of terrorist cells in the U.S., with ties to foreign governments that for some reason, American officials are afraid to pursue. And Graham has complained that the war on Iraq has enabled al-Qaeda to regroup and inspire new recruits for other terrorist organizations.

Recently speaking on CBS News’ Face The Nation, Graham said, “By continuing to classify that information . . . the American people have been denied important information for their own protection, for the protection of the communities.”

According to Graham, “the American people should be informed about what kind of capability terrorists have inside the United States. They should be informed about the prospect that foreign governments have been aiding the terrorists…”

AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION

Prior to and in the wake of the committee hearings, numerous members of Congress and the press called for a full, frank, and completely independent commission to investigate the 9-11 attacks. But President Bush persistently opposed it until fierce lobbying by some of the families of 9-11 victims convinced him otherwise.

Although publicly agreeing to such an investigation, acting on it was another matter. Congressional authorization was delayed again and again and Bush insisted on certain restrictions before final acceptance.

One restriction was that any witness subpoenaed by the commission would have to be approved by six of the ten-member panel. With five Republicans serving, witnesses who might prove embarrassing to the administration could be effectively vetoed.

Another restriction was that Bush could appoint the chair, and soon Bush revealed his intentions by naming Henry Kissinger to this post. Kissinger, a well-known Washington insider from the Nixon era, remains notoriously linked to Vietnam era controversies, and has been accused and indicted for war crimes in South America. With the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos in 1969, and the 1973 overthrow of the Allende government of Chile on his resume, it is hard to imagine a worse choice for this position.

Because of his reputation and because of his refusal to reveal the clients of his consulting firm for possible conflicts of interest, Kissinger created a grand uproar among the 9-11 families. When the controversy threatened to undermine the entire investigation, he resigned just seventeen days after his nomination.

Bush then selected former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean (R). Kean was found to have been director of the oil firm Amerada Hess, which had joined with Delta Oil in a drilling venture in Azerbaijan. Delta Oil is a Saudi company, whose backers include Khalid bin Mahfouz, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law. According to Fortune magazine, Khalid bin Mahfouz does business with the Carlyle Group, the investment consortium in which George Bush Sr. is a paid consultant.

Many of the remaining nine panel members also have questionable conflict of interest issues. Former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton is an advisor to President Bush on homeland security, a member of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s National Security Study Group and a member of the CIA Economic Intelligence Advisory Council. Former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, is now a director of Schlumberger, Ltd, an oil service company, and United Technologies, a major defense contractor and airline engine manufacturer. She is also on the CIA’s National Security Advisory Panel. Former Reagan legal counsel Fred Fielding does work for two top Bush fundraisers and five of the ten panelists have relationships with the airline industry, including American and United, working for law firms that represent them.

After the “independent” investigators were picked, there were further delays as they each had to pass through security clearance checks. The investigation also has a deadline of May 2004 to complete its work, so as not to interfere with the upcoming presidential election.

After numerous delays and restricting conditions, the independent investigation–named the “National Commission on Terror Attacks Upon the United States” – finally began one-and-one-half years after the attack of 9-11-01.

But the tone for this official probe soon became clear enough. Echoing the previous committee’s statements, Chairman Kean commented, “We are not going to try to go out of our way to assess blame.” The commission would focus on border control and money laundering instead of issues relating to the unanswered questions of the events leading up to the attacks.

A recent edition of Newsweek reported that Bush may invoke executive privilege to keep certain key documents from the commission. Apparently, some information from the first investigation will not be made available. And former House representative Tim Roemer, a member of both investigative committees, recently complained that he had been barred from reviewing transcripts of testimony from the previous investigation.

Roemer called the action “outrageous,” adding, “The White House is continuing a trend of presenting obstacles to us rather than cooperating with us…. There is a tight definition of what should be classified, and it does not include references to mistakes, missed communications or political embarrassments.”

What will be the result of the latest official probe of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States? Were the delays and roadblocks merely the result of politics as usual, the slow wheels of government bureaucracy, or something more? Is the stonewalling and secrecy the result of a legitimate concern with national security, or do they reflect a fear of political embarrassment resulting from administration failures? Will the roadblocks and stonewalling lead to a whitewash? How long will it take for the American people to find out the truth about 9-11?

An American Protest

Written: 11/19/2002
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

FRIDAY NIGHT, OCT. 25TH

I was in a horrible mood. I had been driving through blinding rain and fog in heavy traffic through most of Virginia. It seemed to only get worse as I got closer to my destination. I was driving up I-95 on my way to Washington D.C. to attend an anti-war demonstration.

I was wondering if it was worth it.

Congress had already abdicated its Constitutional duty to decide when to wage war, giving a blank check to Bush to pursue it at his discretion. I had hoped that the people opposed to this would have a chance to look their representatives in the eye before they reached a such an important decision.

A few email write-in campaigns against the war had begun to sway some in Congress. The issue passed with less votes in the House than initially expected because of them. Links to the email campaigns were spread by anti-war, peace, and “liberal” websites on the Internet, as well as the word of future anti-war demonstrations.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

Senator Robert Byrd, from West Virginia, had made a valiant effort to dissuade his fellow legislators with some courageous and eloquent speeches, pointing out the Constitutional authority to wage war rested in the legislative branch of government, not the executive. Quoting Madison and Lincoln, he had accused the President of “hubris” (hubris: “to rush at impetuously” wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or from passion). His words seemed to fall on many deaf ears. With the mid-term elections at hand, Democrats were too fearful to challenge a popular President, who seemed ready to wage war regardless of Congressional or international blessing. They were as eager to get this issue out of the way before elections as Bush was eager for them to rubber stamp his agenda.

Earlier that day, Senator Paul Wellstone, from Minnesota, an unabashed and extremely principled liberal, who had also stood against the rush to war, had been killed in a small plane crash. His first speech, as a member of Congress, had been opposing the first war against Iraq; his last speech opposed a second one.

This protest seemed a feeble attempt to counter Bush’s new National Security Strategy, which promotes the un-American and unchristian idea of doing unto others BEFORE they MIGHT do unto you, and the public’s seeming enthusiastic support for war, which had left me feeling isolated throughout the past year or more.

I partly blamed the media for its lack of coverage of dissent and lack of in-depth analysis about what was going on. I was angry that they weren’t making more out of the Bush administration’s policies, casting aside international and Constitutional law. I didn’t understand why they were failing to insist that Bush explain, and more fully define, his “war on terrorism” and his overall objectives in clearer terms than going after “evil-doers.” How could they not question Bush’s statements about the UN being irrelevant if it didn’t enforce its resolutions against Iraq, when somehow it is not irrelevant when it doesn’t enforce the resolutions against Israel? Where was the outrage when it was revealed that the Bush administration withheld the information that North Korea had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) from the Congress and the American public until after the Senate vote giving him the power to go into Iraq? I was shocked that the same papers and columnists, who earlier reported that the inspectors themselves finally decided to leave Iraq in 1998, because of the lack of cooperation of the Iraqi government, were now spinning the lie that Iraq had “kicked” them out. I was discouraged with the lack of coverage regarding how the unilateral actions of this administration were making even countries friendly towards us highly uncomfortable. And I didn’t know why massive protests overseas by hundreds of thousands were barely making the news (a British protest against fox hunting, a few weeks earlier, had received much more coverage than a British antiwar protest which drew over 400,000 people, which occurred on the same day).

With the Congress and the media abdicating responsibility and a feeling of futility, I drove into Washington in the rain.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26TH

By Saturday morning, the rain had stopped, but it was still cloudy and overcast when I took the Metro into the heart of the city. I was heading to Constitution Garden Park, adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial where the protest was centered.

When I arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. There were already several hundred people there. I let go of my worst fear, that this would be a wash-out.

It wasn’t long before the speakers started and the crowd began to swell into the thousands on the wet and muddy grounds.

The demonstration seemed to involve many disparate groups. Many with different additional agendas besides peace. For some, peace is not even on their agenda. They were just trying to use the anti-war movement to market anti-establishment ideas and felt that they can find likely customers among dissenters. There were the expected socialists and Greens and anarchists (oh, my!), but there were also people who are trying to prove things like the Kennedy assassination was part of a plot to undermine Asians (an actual argument someone was presenting at the march). With all the kooks and crazies globbing on, it makes it easy for the “establishment” to mock the whole cause, but it may be an unavoidable aspect of any protest of this type.

The International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism) Coalition was the primary organizer of the event. It seems they have some associations with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, founder of the New York-based International Action Center (IAC).

Mirror demonstrations were being held in other cities across the country and across the world that day in San Francisco, New York, San Juan, Berlin, Stockholm, Madrid, Tokyo, and Manila, to name some of the more significant, but I felt this one was the most important. This one was going to look them in the eye.

Not In Our Name (a group of prominent Americans including; Edward Asner, Noam Chomsky, Casey Kasem, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Gloria Steinem, and Howard Zinn – among many others) were the hosts of the protest in New York.

It is difficult to assess the power possessed by each of the scores of “umbrella” organizations for peace like A.N.S.W.E.R. or Not In Our Name and it is possible that an inadequate or inappropriate group may succeed in pulling off an event – and gain power – because of their marketing ability, not because of their competence in other areas.

In spite of the diversity of groups and their perspectives, the driving force behind the turnout could be found in the people who came. It wasn’t just the kooky, weird looking people that CNN might tend to focus on to make for better TV in their coverage. It was the mothers and nuns and veterans and “regular” people from all over the country, who felt that this war was wrong. Many people at the march didn’t know anything about A.N.S.W.E.R. or many of the other groups vying for attention, but everyone seemed incredibly relieved with the turnout. They no longer felt alone in their objection to war and it gave everyone some hope for the future – something sadly lacking in the current administration’s vision for it, i.e.: that we have to learn to expect terrorism.

I talked to one gentleman who had come on a bus from Tennessee. He had brought an American flag to carry and wave at the rally. He was trying to illustrate that you can be a patriot, and still oppose the policies of the current administration BECAUSE you love your country.

I also saw someone carrying a large North Carolina state flag and I knew that a local Wilmington peace group called P.E.A.C.E. (People Educating with an Active Commitment to Equality) was there as well, so my state and city were well represented.

By midday, the overcast skies and morning fog had burned away and the sun was shining. It had become a beautiful, clear and comfortable autumn day as the crowd continued to swell. There were people as far as I could see. I walked to the edge of the park and looked out across the water. I was surprised to see people gathered all around the banks, too far away to hear the speakers, but unable to get closer because of the crowd size.

The anti-war protest in Washington turned out to be the largest demonstration against war in America since the late 1960s protests against the war in Vietnam. Full media coverage was provided by C-Span and Pacifica Radio, who estimated the crowd gathered to protest at over 200,000. Limited or cursory news coverage was made by the commercial media – who variously reported figures anywhere from “hundreds and hundreds” to “thousands” to “tens of thousands” to “over 100,000.” Apparently, the figures reported depended on when they dropped by to make their report – the crowd grew as the day went on and it doesn’t seem they could spare someone to take eight hours or so to give an accurate reporting of events. I know NBC failed to even mention it on their nightly newscasts (perhaps because there weren’t any bombs or bullets involved).

Considering all the various reports, including comments reported by Police (estimating over 100,000 to over 150,000) and my own experience with concert and sports crowds, I estimate that there were at least 130,000 to 150,000 protesters at its peak and I could not see them all.

Many people spoke at the rally. Maybe there were too many, as the crowd was ready to march at least an hour before the speakers were through and began drifting away from the stage to march before the organizers were ready. The speakers were not of one voice on all points either. For example, Jesse Jackson said the previous war with Iraq was justified, Ramsey Clark said that it wasn’t. I think there was a power play there, among the various speakers and groups that wanted to be recognized, and some were using the event for their own political purposes. A.N.S.W.E.R. allowed for the different voices. I’ve since heard criticism “from the left” regarding A.N.S.W.E.R. allowing one speaker or another to speak, but my thought about that was, “why didn’t they step up to the plate?”

The speakers included Jesse Jackson, Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, Congressmember Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, singer Patti Smith, Secretary-General of the International Longshore Workers Union Local 10 Clarence Thomas, Mahdi Bray of Muslim American Freedom Foundation, attorneys Leonard Weinglass and Lynne Stewart, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, Ahmed Al-Awazza of the Muslim Students Association, Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against the War, youth organizer for A.N.S.W.E.R. Peta Lindsay, and author Leslie Feinberg.

As much as I might disagree with someone like a Jackson, a Thomas, or a Sharpton on some issues, they made eloquent speeches and, at least, they stepped up to the plate.

After too many speeches, we finally marched. Well, at first, those at the tail of the march stood for about 1/2 hour, as the march was so large that there was a temporary gridlock, when protesters at the head of the march returned to Constitution Avenue on their way back, they had to wait to allow demonstrators at the tail of the march to pass.

The NY Times, who had vaguely reported that “thousands” attended the rally in the next day’s Sunday paper, was so deluged with complaints regarding its coverage that it did a follow up piece on Wednesday. Here’s how they described it in the second report:

“The demonstration on Saturday in Washington drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers’, forming a two-mile wall of marchers around the White House. The turnout startled even organizers, who had taken out permits for 20,000 marchers. They expected 30 buses, and were surprised by about 650, coming from as far as Nebraska and Florida.”

The crowd was entirely peaceful and included all ages and races. People even brought their children. In spite of the various agendas by various groups and speakers, the majority of the people, who had come out to made this demonstration a success, were united against war and united in a desire for peace. That unity of feeling ultimately overcame everything else.

This is me with my sign. The picture was taken as the march was breaking up.

There were no clashes with police and I was glad and relieved the “peace” demonstration had been entirely “peaceful.” Overall, it had been a positive demonstration instead of a negative one and, with the numbers of people involved, I felt that we had made a statement that was bound to be heard.

AFTERWARDS

As I left the city on Monday morning, the rain started again and, by then, I had discovered that the event wasn’t very well covered at all. It was several years into the Vietnam war before a protest of this magnitude occurred and this protest had been largely ignored by the media. It was amazing to me, when I came home to Wilmington, to find that many people here hadn’t heard a thing about it. It was even more disheartening after November 5th and the mid-term elections, when Republicans took control of the Senate, giving them control of all three branches of government and leaving the country without any checks or balance – or even a token alternative to the dim prospects offered by those who now hold our future in their hands.

But there is one thing different that I know now that I didn’t know before, that is; there are a lot of people who are as opposed to the bill of goods being offered to us as I am, and our numbers will do nothing but grow. Our message will be heard. If not through the mainstream media, then by other means. Eventually, we will not be ignored.

There will be another protest in Washington on January 18-19, and more people will know and more people will come.

Progressives of every stripe must have the courage of Robert Byrd to reclaim the moral and patriotic high-ground from those that are using those ideas merely to undermine them. They must seize this moment to make a better world and offer a brighter future and greater vision than is being offered to us.

The People must not abdicate their responsibility.

Paul Wellstone is dead, but his message did not die with him.

Meet Big Brother

Written: 12/18/2002
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

According to President Bush the “war on terrorism” is supposed to last many years and most of it will take place in secret. The government will tell us all we need to know. There is no objective end in sight. Everyone seems to be willing to give up certain liberties if need be….

The U.S.A. Patriot Act, hastily passed shortly after 9-11-01, and certain executive orders, allows the government to monitor religious and political institutions or federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients. It allows the government to search and seize your papers and effects without probable cause. It allows the government to jail you indefinitely without a trial, without right to legal representation, without being charged, or without being able to confront witnesses against you.

Now, there is a new office in the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is called the Information Awareness Office and it is charged with creating “Total Information Awareness” about every U.S. citizen….

This office is headed by John Poindexter, the man behind the illegal Iran-Contra affair under President Reagan. The stated purpose of assembling this “virtual, centralized grand database” of information is to increase the chance of spotting potential terrorists before they act.

The database will include your passport, driver’s license, credit card purchases, e-mails, website visits, medical prescriptions, travel records, academic records, court records, toll booth records, bank deposits….

The logo for this new department is the all-seeing eye over the pyramid in the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States looking out over the earth. The Latin below it reads; “Scientia Est Potentia” (Knowledge is Power).

According to their site; “the most serious asymmetric threat facing the United States is terrorism, a threat characterized by collections of people loosely organized in shadowy networks that are difficult to identify and define.”

Considering this statement, it is interesting that they would pick a logo which has so often been associated with the Illuminati and whose initials; I.A.O. have a meaning in Aleister Crowley’s mysticism. Not to mention the obvious similarities to George Orwell’s book, 1984, which included the all-seeing eyes of Big Brother, watching out over the populous, protecting them from a “vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State.”

Freedom of movement has been restricted with increased security checks. Public spaces are being taken over with camera surveillance. The possibility of requiring all citizens to obtain a National Identity Card is being discussed….

We are conducting a war to have peace. We are sacrificing freedom for security. And the ignorance of the public about what is going on, gives us the strength to defend our country…

“War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength” are looking more and more like slogans we could adopt for the duration – or maybe beyond….

As we rush to our telescreens (computers) where Big Brother may be watching, we are not sure exactly who we are at war with this week because the “Enemy of the People” keeps changing. The war involves “mostly highly trained specialists,” the fighting “takes place on vague frontiers” and, if we incur “the displeasure of the Party,” we might get “disappeared” and no one will know what happened to us….

“Of course we can’t afford to take chances,” agreed Winston dutifully.

“What I mean to say, there is a war on,” said Parsons.

It looks like 1984 came a little later than expected.


UPDATE #1: The website for the Information Awareness Office has removed the biographies of those assigned to this office and removed the logo as it is rendered above. The logo, can still be found there – smaller and in a slightly altered form – if you look closely at some of the images explaining how the department gathers information.

UPDATE #2: The Total Information Awareness Office has changed its name to Terrorist Information Awareness and claims that it will not gather information on U.S. citizens and their site now has a new look, which included a change in the logo. These actions may be a result of pressure from Congress and civil liberties groups and may only have driven it underground. It seems that while DARPA may be backing off tracking citizens through its Total Information Awareness Office, it has started a new program called LifeLog which plans to pick up where the Total Information Awareness Office left off.

UPDATE #3: John Poindexter resigns.

An American Restaurant

Written: 06/13/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

THE HUBRIS IS SERVED…

Note of explanation: Senator Robert Byrd, from West Virginia, has accused the President of “hubris” (hubris: “to rush at impetuously” wanton insolence or arrogance).

[Scene: A dimly lit American restaurant with a little Wagner playing in the background]

Waiter: How are you tonight?

Patron: I’m fine.

Waiter: May I recommend the Hubris this evening?

Patron: No thank you.

Waiter: It’s our special….

Patron: No thank you.

Waiter: I must insist…..

Patron: I was thinking of having the Peace and Prosperity entree with Liberty salad.

Waiter: I’m sorry, sir, but those items are no longer available.

Patron: That was my favorite…. What happened??

Waiter: We are now under new management. We have a new menu. Would you like some time to look it over? …. I must say that you will regret it, if you don’t try the Hubris.

Patron: No, thank you. This place does seem different – I didn’t expect the body scan at the door and it looks darker in here…. What’s with the curtains?

Waiter: Our new cook doesn’t like to be watched…. I think you should try the Hubris. It is excellent this evening. Everybody else is having it.

Patron: No, thank you. What else do you have?

Waiter: The specials of today are: Guantánamo Bay Detainees – individually gagged and hooded, lightly tortured, and some of them are very young and fresh; Immigrant Stew – isolated indefinitely under strong lights, abused and traumatized, left without the will to object; the Preemptive Strike, an oil-based recipe, stuffed with false allegations and soaked in dreams of empire, guaranteed to shock and awe; the Patriot Act, made with shredded bill of rights and fostered on a cowardly congress; Poindexter’s Nightmare with Orwell’s eyeballs, arranged in such a way that it almost appears they are looking at you; and finally, and especially, the Hubris, which I think would be best….

[The lights go out – sounds of a slight muffled struggle]

Patron: What happened to the lights???

Waiter: One of our patrons is being moved to the Delta room.

Patron: What’s that?

[The lights return]

Waiter: You don’t want to know…. I am urging you most strongly to have the Hubris now….

Another Patron: Whasamatter, buddy? Hubris not good enough for you? You think you are better than us?

Waiter: Why won’t you have the Hubris? It is an arrogant pompous, filled with lies and deceptions, covered in a chicken-little fear-mongering, and soaked in a mixture of false patriotism and moral relativism to make it exceedingly smooth going down.

Patron: I find the lies difficult to swallow…. I was interested in something else….

Waiter: Oh, I see we have a Taliban lover tonight!

Patron: I never cared for the Taliban. The Taliban has always made me feel repressed.

Waiter: Perhaps you would like the Dissenter’s Protest in a bed of lazy socialists and godless communists? It comes with a liberal helping of unwashed and unshaven hippie greens in anarchy on the side….

Patron: What else do you have?

Waiter: Well, we have the Cheney Halliburton, the Wolfowitz/Libby Imperium, and Rumsfeld’s Remarkable Ruminations… We also have some fine Spineless Democrats with a republican lite dressing…or some very tender Media Pushovers with sheep dip…. but the Hubris is really your only choice. Everyone else is having it. It comes with freedom fries….

[The waiter motions to the side]

You simply must try it. I must insist….

[The Hubris is served…]

Patron: I didn’t order this!

Waiter: It doesn’t matter. It is all we really have. You must take it.

Patron: It looks like some kind of a bush! These fries are burnt to a crisp…and I wanted meat. Where is the meat?

Waiter: The Hubris is never served with meat.

Another Patron: Hey buddy, either take the Hubris or leave.

Patron: Excuse me, but I would like to speak to the manager.

Waiter: The manager is unavailable; he is posing for our next television commercial. We are advertising our new locations opening in the Middle East.

Patron: I don’t see anything I like on this menu. This place isn’t as nice as it use to be…. Don’t you have any Decency left? I could have some of that….

Waiter: I’m sorry sir, I must ask you to leave now….

Patron: But I am a life-long patron…and a stockholder!!!

Waiter: I must refer you to the new management.

Patron: You said he was unavailable….

Waiter: Mr. Ashcroft may see you. He handles these kinds of things.

[The waiter motions to the side]

Patron: I don’t want to see Mr. Ashcroft. I want to see the manager!

[Mr. Ashcroft appears]

Waiter: Perhaps, you would be more comfortable waiting in the Delta room while we figure your bill.

[The lights go out]

Patron: Hey, what happened to the lights!? What kind of place is this!? Muft! mumm….

[Muffled struggle]

Waiter: Everything will be fine, sir. Your ignorance and inattention will bring your just desserts.