“Nine-Eleven” Eleven Years Out

All of us who were alive eleven years ago and more than two or three years old at the time will remember the shock, horror, and anger aroused by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. It is quite proper that on each anniversary, in particular, we honor those who were victims and especially those who lost their lives or damaged their health trying to rescue the victims, most of all those brave passengers on the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the attacks on the United States which receives little attention on these anniversaries: they could have been prevented and they should have been prevented. I explained in detail why I came to that conclusion in Chapter Eight of Superpower Illusions. President George W. Bush and his closest advisors were warned repeatedly that Al Qaeda was planning a direct attack on the United States and also were told that there had been attempts to use hijacked aircraft as weapons. They did absolutely nothing to warn the industry, or to take steps that would make it impossible for hijackers to take control of an airplane (such as locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors).

Instead, they allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to continue to instruct pilots to follow the hijackers’ demands if their plane was hijacked! (Hey—I’m not making this up! Check with any pilot who was flying commercial aircraft in 2001. They will confirm that these were the instructions in force, even though there had not been a hijacking for more than a decade just to take the hijacker to another destination, such as Cuba.)

Not only did Bush and Cheney and their staffs not warn the airlines about the threat, they didn’t even warn law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI! And then they tried to avoid providing the CIA warnings to the 9/11 Commission, which got some of these reports declassified, but by no means all.

For this reason, I find it proper that The New York Times carried an op-ed today by Kurt Eichenwald entitled “Deafness Before the Storm.”

He recounts the warnings received by President Bush even before the one of August 6, 2001, that was declassified in 2004. It is clear that the president and his staff ignored repeated warnings and failed even to pass them on to federal law-enforcement officials.

Now, incompetence is not the same thing as complicity. I find the rumors that keep cropping up in some circles that there is evidence of “government complicity” in the September 11 attacks baseless and, indeed, contemptible, since they are so easily refuted by the facts. No, neither the Bush Administration nor any American official was in any way complicit in the attacks.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the president was the “decider” with both the authority and duty to see that the federal government did all it could to protect the American people. He failed in that duty and then tried to blame it on a “world that changed” rather than his own willful ignorance of the change that had occurred. Unfortunately, the American people and most leaders of the Democratic Party let him get by with this absurd excuse.

Karl Eichenwald ends his op-ed with the conclusion that “We can’t ever know” whether prompt action by the President could have prevented the attacks. Of course, we cannot be a hundred-percent certain of any variant in the past that did not actually happen. However, if the FAA had instructed pilots to lock cockpit doors and not to allow would-be hijackers to take control of the plane, it is difficult to see how any of the attacks could have taken place, even if the planes had been hijacked–which, of course, also could have been prevented.

If fact, if such instructions had gone out, they probably would have leaked, been publicized, opposed by the airlines, but nevertheless Al-Qaeda would have been compelled to revise its whole plan of action. A hijacker cannot fly a plane into a building unless he gains access to the cockpit.

This entry was posted in In the United States, In the World, Musings and Polemics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “Nine-Eleven” Eleven Years Out

  1. Brian Runyon says:

    I was only 12 when the attacks hapened, but remember it well. Bush and his people did nothing to stop the attacks. They blundered us into Iraq a few uears later based on false information.

  2. Kate Svyatets says:

    Jack, in your previous post you wrote that “Russia cooperates with the United States in its war in Afghanistan because Al Qa’eda and the Taliban are as much Russia’s enemies as they are ours.” I agree that 9/11 was the event that was a profound reason for Russia and the U.S. to put their differences aside in 2001 and to cooperate for the sake of making the world safer and free from terrorism. It was truly painful to watch how this positive momentum between Russia and the U.S. was deteriorating in mid-2000s, reaching its lowest point in 2006-2008. I just hope that the two great powers are not going to repeat the same mistakes now, when the situation has become even more complicated, as Vladimir Putin came back to presidency. We all need to learn from the lessons and path dependencies that last from the Cold War, to overcome our differences and make sure that democracy, freedom, and safety are guaranteed. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom!

  3. david speedie says:

    Agree with every word–and as to the challenge in your title: Can we learn from mistakes?–we’d better, given recent events in Cairo and, tragically, yesterday in Benghazi.

  4. Jack says:

    Yes, we have been discussing Syria and Libya in another thread. What an utterly absurd nightmare in Benghazi. What a loss to America and, if they only knew, to Libya and the Arab world in general, is the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other victims, Libyan and American, of this senseless act! It leaves one dumbfounded about the extent of human depravity that can produce such emotions and behavior as that of the Libyan mob, or of those irresponsible people who seem to derive a perverse pleasure from insulting and ridiculing the beliefs of others.

    Three general thoughts occur to me: (1) We Americans must find a way to reduce our military footprint in the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. We have to extricate ourselves from other peoples’ fights. (2) The Libyan experience should reinforce our resolve not to use American military force in Syria. Russia may have a better understanding of an apprpriate policy than some of our trigger-happy “human-rights” hawks. Let the Arabs and Syria’s neighbors deal with the problem. (3) The Obama administration must be firm in resisting Netanyahu’s outrageous effort to blackmail the U.S. to create self-defeating “red lines” regarding Iran. I believe Bill Keller is right that an Iran with a few nukes, if it comes to that, would be less dangerous than the fall-out from an attack by Israel or the U.S. on Iran. There is a real danger that an attack on Iran would provide the incentive for Pakistani weapons to be supplied to terrorists. Given all the political tensions in Iran, there is no way an Iranian government would let its nukes escape its complete control. Matter of life and death, you see–and they do too, you can be sure of that!

    • Brian Runyon says:

      Jack. You’re a wise man when it comes to foreign affairs. You hard Romney’s statement earlier on the Libya attack? I’m ovoting for the man, but I do wish he’dbe more spicific on his foreign policy views.

  5. Jack says:

    I can’t imagine why you would vote for him! See my comment today. It’s not just the foreign policy. The domestic policy would be a disaster. There is no way we are going to move toward a balanced budget without higher taxes on the richest Americans. Why is it that Romney pays less than 14% of his multi-million dollar income and I have deducted 20% of my paltry retirement savings when I take them out to supplement my modest government pension? Any candidate who will not release more than two years of his income tax returns has something to hide. The Democrats should be making more of it–can you imagine what Republicans would say about Obama if he didn’t release all of his? But it does show something of Romney’s character. I don’t believe that he or those thowing millions into his campaign care one whit about my interests or those of most Americans. They just want to achieve effective control of the federal government in order to augment their own economic power. Combining economic and political power is a very dangerous course for any country to take.

Leave a Reply