20 Things We've Learned Nearly a Year After 9/11
As we approach the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it might be useful to see how far an ordinary
citizen's knowledge has progressed one year on. So here, in the way of a summing-up, based on journalistic
documentation, is a list of things we Americans have learned since last September -- some of which might prove useful in
the run-up to the November elections.
1. We've learned that Bush's "war on terrorism" has morphed from finding and destroying those responsible for the 9/11 mass-murders to a worldwide
campaign to install a Pax Americana, by force if necessary. In other words, neo-imperialism, reminiscent in many ways of
the old Roman Empire or, closer to our own time, the British Empire.
2. We've learned that Bush has no desire to rethink any of its policies abroad, the same policies that isolate it and that generate hatred,
suspicion and terrorism in so many regions of the globe. Rather than reconsider its pol icies, or try to accomplish its
ends through diplomacy and alliances and cultural/economic initiatives, in its arrogance it continues to bully and
threaten others, insult its European and other allies, disregard international treaties and courts, engage in unilateral
actions without regard to the national interests of others, and, in general, simply throw its massive weight around. The
prevailing attitude seems to be: We are the one Superpower, get used to bending to our will.
3. We've learned that Bush's national-security leadership was alerted months ahead of 9/11 (and, it has admitted, no
later than August 6) that a major air attack from al-Qaida was in the works, along with the likely targets, but did
nothing to try to prevent those attacks or warn anyone about them. Caught in their own lies, they blame "the system,"
especially elements in the FBI, for "not connecting the dots." More than 3000 Americans died as a result of this
4. We've learned that plans already were in the works prior to 9/11 for the evisceration of Constitutional guarantees of
due process of law. The White House hustled the so-called USA PATRIOT Act through a frightened Congress in a patriotic
blur, just a few days after the attacks, with few, if any, of the legislators having had time to read the final version.
5. We've learned that prior to September 11, the Bush Administration was negotiating with the Taliban about a pipeline
desired by a U.S.-led energy consortium that would cross through Afghanistan. When the Taliban balked, the U.S.
negotiators told them they either could accept a "carpet of gold" or face a "carpet of bombs." The Taliban backed away
from the deal and refused to hand over Osama bin Laden; shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, the U.S. began bombing
6. We've learned that now with the Taliban having been overthrown, and a U.S.-friendly regime installed in Kabul, the
pipeline project is back on track, designed to carry energy supplies across Afghanistan from the Caspian Sea area to
near India. Hamid Karzai, the new leader of Afghanistan, formerly was a consultant on the payroll of the pipeline folks;
likewise, the new U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan.
7. We've learned that Bush's Homeland Security Act includes programs that bear an amazing resemblance to totalitarian programs from the
fascis/communist end of the spectrum: getting the military (restricted heretofore to activity outside the U.S.) involved
in domestic policing, signing up neighborhood and block snoops to work for the central government, investigating what
books citizens are checking out and buying, denouncing those deemed insufficiently patriotic or suspicious because of
their views, etc. Remind you of Stalin's Russia, Castro's Cuba, Hitler's Third Reich, the Stasi of East Germany? (There
also are prototypes of patriotic youth leagues being tried out in cities, which could become a national program.) A kind
of martial-law coming to a neighborhood near you.
8. We've learned that Ashcroft/Bush are shredding Constitutional due-process guarantees in their move toward total
control: already they have compromised attorney-client privilege, removed habeus corpus protections, locked up folks
with no charges, secreted citizens at military installations which puts them out of reach of the judicial system,
violated privacy in rifling through personal telephone and email communications, etc. etc. When the ambiguously-worded
PATRIOT Act was first brought up, Ashcroft and Bush told us not to worry, promising that these rules would affect only
non-citizens. Since that time, American citizens have been handled in similar fashion. Coming to a neighborhood near
9. We've learned much about the dangers of religious fundamentalism in Islam, but we've also learned about dangers posed
by our own religious fundamentalists -- eager for a Christian theocratic society, symbolized most recently by a Secret
Service agent scrawling on a Muslim suspect's refrigerator "Islam Is Evil, Christ Is King" -- and the extraordinary
power they wield within the Bush Administration, represented most openly by John Ashcroft, who in frame-of-mind
resembles a Taliban mullah.
10. We've learned that the FBI, focusing now on foreign terrorists, doesn't seem energized with the same zeal to catch
domestic terrorists, such as abortion-clinic arsonists -- and especially the anthrax-dispenser. Though the FBI seems to
know that the anthrax villain probably worked at a government bio-lab, nobody has been arrested, or even targeted as a
prime suspect. It may not be likely, but the unsaid is finally being asked: Could this dangerous terrorist actually be
working for the government?
11. We've learned that the HardRight of the Republican Party has taken control -- of the House leadership, of the
Supreme Court, of the White House, of much of the conglomerate-owned media -- and has demonstrated its willingness to do
nearly anything to maintain that power. (Only the courageous defection of Sen. Jim Jeffords from GOP ranks is standing
in the way of HardRight total control of all three branches of government.) More and more truly objectionable HardRight
judges are being nominated by Bush in an e ffort to stack the judiciary for decades to come. This by a man who lost the
election by more than half-a-million votes, coming into his White House residency, with no popular mandate, only because
his supporters on the Supreme Court installed him there.
12. We've learned that to break the momentum of the HardRight, all energy for the upcoming November elections (less than
90 days away, let us not forget) must be expended in electing Democrat candidates and defeating Republican ones. The
objective conditions are just not ripe yet for anything more than trying to move the country back toward the middle of
the political spectrum. We progressives more in tune with the Greens (Green candidates are being supported secretly in
many states by the Republicans, to try to defeat Democrats) will have to wait. The difference between Democrats and
Republicans may seem small to Greens and others, but, as we've learned in a painful way under Bush, that difference is immense when it comes to foreign and domestic policy and its actual effects on real people, here
13. We've learned that Cheney is up to his ears in Halliburton irregularities, and may well be liable for indictment for
participating in financial fraud. In addition, we've learned that Cheney, who was the head of the task force that came
up with a corporate-friendly rather than a consumer-friendly energy policy, has refused to turn over to Congress the
requested documents that will reveal how that policy was arrived at and which industry leaders (other than Enron's Kenny
Boy) helped shape it.
14. We've learned that Bush knew in advance, as a member of the Harken Audit Committee, that Harken Oil was going to
release negative financial news, and sold his shares before that, reaping a fortune. He may be liable for indictment for
insider-trading and other Harken irregularities. (Even if Bush and Cheney are not indicted, they are the last people on
earth who should be speaking about corruption in the corporate financial world, as these hypocrites benefitted from that
very corrupt system. As did most of Bush's corporate-derived cabinet.)
15. We've learned that Bush were mightily opposed to any reform of corporate financial reporting, but when more and more companies were caught in
such corrupt practices and the mood of the country shifted -- mainly because so many folks, especially seniors, lost
huge chunks of their pensions and portfolio holdings when the Stock Market tanked as a result of investors' losing
confidence in the numbers provided by corporations -- they jumped on the bandwagon and pretended they were reformers all
along. In the background, they are trying to help their corporate supporters water down, and otherwise get around, the
new rules. To that end, Bush have appointed Harvey Pitt and Larry Thompson, two tainted corporate types, to head up the "investigations" of
corporate wrongdoing. Break out the whitewash.
16. We've learned that Bush, having placed its chips on Ariel Sharon, continues to have no real desire for a just peace in the Middle East. All it
wants is for the area to be quiet and controlled (thus giving carte blanche to the Israeli Army's police-state
occupation and oppression), so that it can continue its plans for overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And, of course,
there has been no declaration of a State of War by the Congress, neither against Afghanistan nor against Iraq, and no
real debate about the wisdom of a war against Saddam -- even when the top brass at the Pentagon and in Great Britain
have expressed their opposition to such military adventurism.
17. We've learned that there will be no peace now in the Middle East because the U.S. is not fully engaged in the peace
process, also because neither extreme in the area wants peace: Sharon thrives on war and brutality, Hamas needs Sharon's
bloody policies to justify its campaign of terror. There are signs that moderate Palestinians finally are starting to
speak out in favor of a peaceful solution, and there are plenty of land-for-peace Israelis (supported by many liberal
Jews in the U.S.), so the outlines of a peace are out there. But until the U.S. and U.N. make the commitment to separate
the warring extremists and arrange an equitable treaty both Israel and the Palestinians can live with -- secure borders
for Israel (and an end to suicide bombing), a viable state for the Palestinians, abandoning of the settlements by
Israel, reparations for Palestinians who lost their homes and property -- there will be only more bloodshed. And more
fertile ground for new generations of terrorists, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
18. We've learned that Bush has been a total disaster for the environment, in every way: from reneging on its campaign promise to cut
carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse emissions, to backing away from higher fuel-efficiency in cars (we could cut our
dependence on foreign oil 20% just by increasing fuel efficiency by 5%), to giving breaks to corporate polluters all
across the country, to permitting increased arsenic levels in the water, etc. etc.
19. We've learned that Secretary of State Colin Powell -- who sees the world in something other than simplistic
black-and-white, us-versus-them dichotomies -- is a man imprisoned in the Bush Cabinet, forced to alter his principled
opinions in the service of Bush's stupidly aggressive and ultimately self-defeating foreign policies. Powell, a moderate conservative, looks like a
raving progressive when measured against his masters. He should resign but probably won't.
20. We've learned that the tax-cuts provided to the most wealthy are not only payoffs to the corporate sector that
provides support for Bush By locking in those tax cuts for ten years (and with humongous chunks of the budget spent on the "war on terrorism"),
Bush have ensured that innumerable social programs that aid the less well-off will be cut or eliminated. In short, a
rollback of New Deal/Great Society programs, so hated by the HardRight. (The HardRight movement to detach prescription
drugs for seniors fr om the Medicare program, and, especially, to privatize Social Security -- even in the face of
recent stock-market disasters -- is part of this same desire.)
Even after all the above shorthand summaries, no doubt I'm leaving out lots of Bush dirt, but this list can provide a starting point, and a handy compilation of enough low and high crimes and
misdemeanors to warrant their removal from power, either through the ballot box or by resignation or impeachment.
Finally, as we enter August, we know that one of two things will happen in the summer-doldrums, with the Congress on
vacation: Either Bush will start its Iraq war and carry out more under-the-radar attacks on important American programs, or the media, bereft
of their usual Beltway stories, will use the down time to engage in hard-hitting investigative reporting that will
reveal in even more stark relief the machinations of Bush illegalities and other scandalous behavior. But, given the corporate nature of our corporate-owned media, don't count
on it. Instead, we'll probably be flooded with this summer's Condit-like sex scandal. #
* - Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American politics and international relations at Western Washington University
and San Diego State University; he was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years.