After considering President Bush’s stubborn refusal to back away from trying to claim authority to conduct secret domestic surveillance, I can’t help but look back at many of the previous stories that have come to light since 9/11 and consider them anew.
The Downing Street Minutes, the rollup of Able Danger, the ignored PDB about Bin Laden’s determination to attack in the U.S., the warnings given by Richard Clarke about Al Qaeda, torture at Abu Ghraib, Niger forgeries, and other events, all seem to take on new meaning now that Bush has brazenly chosen to claim presidential authority that appears to be above the laws of our country.
Another revelation sticks in my mind as well - a widely reported statement in the paper, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, published by the neo-conservative think tank, Project for the New American Century in September of 2000. It stated “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one absent a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor.”
Now I’m not prepared to join those who have speculated that the Bush administration knew that 9/11 was going to happen. To paraphrase Condoleeza Rice, how could they possibly have known that 19 terrorists would hijack 4 planes and fly them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania? No, they couldn’t possibly have anticipated what happened on 9/11.
However, when I look at all of the events that have come to light since 9/11, I am struck with all of the warnings signs that were available and ignored, despite tools and programs that might have been able to prevent the attack. I am struck by the contrast between how little they thought they could do before 9/11, and how quickly programs were put in place after 9/11. How did they immediately know exactly what needed to be done after 9/11, but knew nothing before?
As I consider these stories, the image emerges of a Bush administration that could have been doing everything they could do to try to anticipate and prevent a serious terrorist attack like 9/11. However, instead of paying attention to the warning signs, they were too busy making a shopping list of all the things they would want to buy if they were fortunate enough to be in power during the End-of-the-World Blowout Sale on Neo-Conservative Ideas - the new Pearl Harbor, in whatever form it might take.
1. Invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. Check!
2. Expand presidential powers to avoid legislative and judicial oversight. Check!
3. Use defense and homeland security costs to justify cutting programs for the poor and middle class. Check!
4. Characterize the democrats as weak on security to build public support,lock up republican control for the future, and force them to go along with tax cuts and privatization of Social Security. Check!
5. End cooperation with the international community, disparage the U.N., and ignore the Geneva Conventions. Check!
6. Large no-bid contracts for friendly corporations like Halliburton, Blackwater, Et al. Check!
All of which leads me to remember another statement that came from the mouth of Dick Cheney during the 2000 Republican National Convention as he and Bush were preparing to run against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. It is a statement that is more true now for Bush and Cheney than it ever was when Cheney levied it against Gore, and that statement is (repeat after me):
“IT’S TIME – FOR THEM – TO GO!!”