October 13, 2003

The Sins of September 11

Three more US soldiers have died in Iraq. For
what?Meanwhile, William Rivers Pitt has written a
powerful message that should be shared with as many of
your fellow citizens as possible. This wrong will eat
away at everything in this country, our economy, our
security, our humanity, just like what happened in
Fraudida, just like what has happened in Iraq, until
it is righted, until it is all righted..

William Rivers Pitt: "Had the Bush administration not continued this pattern of gross partisan ineptitude and heeded the blitz of domestic and international warnings, instead of trooping off to Texas for a month-long vacation, had Bush's National Security Advisor done one hour's worth of her homework, we probably would not be in the grotesque global mess that currently envelops us. Never forget that many of the activists who pushed throughout the 1990s for the annihilation of all things Clinton are now foursquare in charge of the country today."


The Sins of September 11
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 13 October 2003

I am beginning to despise reading. I have lost count
of the number of times I have read some passage in a
politically-oriented book, and then been
uncontrollably motivated to hurl said book against a
wall or across the room in fury. My library looks like
someone took a weed-whacker to it; all the
dust-jackets have taken a fearsome beating.

The book currently on my desk has begun to retain a
damaged appearance. Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton
Wars" is a meticulously researched and foot-noted tour
de force through the last ten years of the brainless
savagery of American politics. The retelling of the
contrived scandals clarioned by a media establishment
which abandoned any pretense of journalistic
integrity, pushed by a cabal of House members and
right-wing activists whose worshipped altar was the
desire for raw power, and the sad and sorry tale of
the impeachment itself, is a difficult but necessary
review of a truly pathetic time in our history.
Blumenthal manages to bring his readers back to that
tar pit, and keep them enthralled, with an excellent
and deft literary touch.

Since I have read most of the other books on the
scandal-gasm and impeachment, there was not much
through the middle of this book that brought me up
short, though Blumenthal does present interviews and
perspectives of players on both sides of that aisle
which are not present in the other histories (It was
amusing to read Congressional impeachment warrior
James Rogan speak of being "On the wrong side of
history" regarding the trial in the Senate). No, the
book began to take its obligatory pounding when I
reached page 656, and the second part of the chapter
entitled "The Twenty-First Century."

The astounding level of blunt ignorance within the
American populace about the events surrounding the
attacks of September 11 cannot be easily quantified.
In a nation with thousands of newspapers, thousands of
radio stations, and a ceaseless data stream from CNN,
MSNBC, CNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS, some 70% of
the population believed as late as a month ago that
Saddam Hussein was centrally involved in and
personally responsible for the attacks which destroyed
the Towers and struck the Pentagon. Beyond that, what
most people know about the single most important event
in American history does not go much beyond
"evildoers" who "hate our freedom."

That is, simply, incredible. It is also not an
accident. This ignorance has a great deal to do with
the stunning mediocrity of the television news media,
that empty well where most Americans go to become
informed. This ignorance also, and far more
importantly, has a great deal to do with the
Clinton-era actions of a large number of
conservatives, many of whom are in positions of power
today, many of whom are now making careers out of
September 11.

The two great myths that have settled across the
nation, beyond the Hussein-9/11 connection, are that
Clinton did not do enough during his tenure to stop
the spread of radical terrorist organizations like al
Qaeda, and that the attacks themselves could not have
been anticipated or stopped. Blumenthal's insider
perspective on these matters bursts the myths
entirely, and reveals a level of complicity regarding
the attacks within the journalistic realm and the
conservative political ranks that is infuriating and

Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against
terrorism that were unprecedented in American history.
He poured billions and billions of dollars into
counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum
of the intelligence community. He poured billions more
into the protection of critical infrastructure. He
ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and
vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack.
He order a reorganization of the intelligence
community itself, ramming through reforms and new
procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within
the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were
held three times a week to assess looming
conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy
Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and
Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the
planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in
virtually every important speech he gave in the last
three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered
a major address to the United Nations on the matter of
international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our

Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the
leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In
particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from
neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama
bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he
was thrown out of office by his own army. His
replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do
anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these
threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks,
terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed
across the world, and bomb plots against American
embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns,
these victories were never revealed to the American
people until very recently.

In America, few people heard anything about this.
Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed
by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken
to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media,
which was far more concerned with stained dresses and
baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration
did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist
network, the actions were dismissed by partisans
within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the
dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips
of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that
everything the administration was doing was contrived

The bombing of the Sundanese factory at al-Shifa, in
particular, drew wide condemnation from these
quarters, despite the fact that the CIA found and
certified VX nerve agent precursor in the ground
outside the factory, despite the fact that the factory
was owned by Osama bin Laden's Military Industrial
Corporation, and despite the fact that the manager of
the factory lived in bin Laden's villa in Khartoum.
The book "Age of Sacred Terror" quantifies the
al-Shifa issue thusly: "The dismissal of the al-Shifa
attack as a scandalous blunder had serious
consequences, including the failure of the public to
comprehend the nature of the al Qaeda threat."

In Congress, Clinton was thwarted by the reactionary
conservative majority in virtually every attempt he
made to pass legislation that would attack al Qaeda
and terrorism. His 1996 omnibus terror bill, which
included many of the anti-terror measures we now take
for granted after September 11, was withered almost to
the point of uselessness by attacks from the right;
Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of
the threats Clinton spoke of.

Clinton wanted to attack the financial underpinnings
of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies
and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and
financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its
money-laundering operations. Texas Senator Phil Gramm,
chairman of the Banking Committee, killed Clinton's
bill on this matter and called it "totalitarian." In
fact, he was compelled to kill the bill because his
most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its
criminal executives in Houston, were using those same
terrorist financial networks to launder their own
dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders.

Just before departing office, Clinton managed to
make a deal with the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development to have some twenty
nations close tax havens used by al Qaeda. His term
ended before the deal was sealed, and the incoming
Bush administration acted immediately to destroy the
agreement. According to Time magazine, in an article
entitled "Banking on Secrecy" published in October of
2001, Bush economic advisors Larry Lindsey and R.
Glenn Hubbard were urged by think tanks like the
Center for Freedom and Prosperity to opt out of the
coalition Clinton had formed. The conservative
Heritage Foundation lobbied Bush's Treasury Secretary,
Paul O'Neill, to do the same. In the end, the
lobbyists got what they wanted, and the Bush
administration pulled America out of the plan. The
Time article stated, "Without the world's financial
superpower, the biggest effort in years to rid the
world's financial system of dirty money was

This laundry list of partisan catastrophes goes on
and on. Far from being inept on the matter of
terrorism, Clinton was profoundly activist in his
attempts to address terrorism. Much of his work was
foiled by right-wing Congressional conservatives who,
simply, refused to accept the fact that he was
President. These men, paid to work for the public
trust, spent eight years working diligently to
paralyze any and all Clinton policies, including
anti-terror initiatives that, if enacted, would have
gone a long way towards thwarting the September 11
attacks. Beyond them lay the worthless television
media, which ignored and spun the terrorist issue as
it pursued salacious leaks from Ken Starr's office,
leaving the American people drowning in a swamp of
ignorance on a matter of deadly global importance.

Over and above the theoretical questions regarding
whether or not Clinton's anti-terror policies, if
passed, would have stopped September 11 lies the very
real fact that attacks very much like 9/11 were, in
fact, stopped dead by the Clinton administration. The
most glaring example of this came on December 31,
1999, when the world gathered to celebrate the passing
of the millennium. On that night, al Qaeda was
gathering as well.

The terrorist network planned to simultaneously
attack the national airports in Washington DC and Los
Angeles, the Amman Raddison Hotel in Jordan, a
constellation of holy sites in Israel, and the USS The
Sullivans at dock in Yemen. Each and every single one
of these plots, which ranged from one side of the
planet to the other, was foiled by the efforts of the
Clinton administration. Speaking for the first time
about these millennium plots, in a speech delivered to
the Coast Guard Academy on May 17, 2000, Clinton said,
"I want to tell you a story that, unfortunately, will
not be the last example you will have to face."


Clinton proved that Osama bin Laden and his terror
network can be foiled, can be thwarted, can be
stopped. The multifaceted and complex nature of the
international millennium plots rivals the plans laid
before September 11, and involved counter-terrorism
actions within several countries and across the entire
American intelligence and military community. All
resources were brought to bear, and the terrorists
went down to defeat. The proof is in the pudding here.
September 11, like the millennium plots, could have
been avoided.

Couple this with other facts about the Bush
administration we now have in hand. The administration
was warned about a massive terror plot in the months
before September by the security services of several
countries, including Israel, Egypt, Germany and
Russia. CIA Director George Tenet delivered a specific
briefing on the matter to the administration on August
8, 2001. The massive compendium of data on Osama bin
Laden and al Qaeda compiled by Sandy Berger, and
delivered to Condoleezza Rice upon his departure, went
completely and admittedly unread until the attacks
took place. The attacks themselves managed, for over
an hour, to pierce the most formidable air defense
system in the history of the Earth without a single
fighter aircraft taking wing until the catastrophe was

It is not fashionable these days to pine for the
return of William Jefferson Clinton. Given the facts
above, and the realities we face about the
administration of George W. Bush, and the realities we
endure regarding the aftermath of September 11, the
United States of America would be, and was, well
served by its previous leader. That we do not know
this, that September 11 happened at all, that it was
such a wretched shock to the American people, that we
were so woefully unprepared, can be laid at the feet
of a failed news media establishment, and at the feet
of a pack of power-mad conservative extremists who now
have a great deal to atone for.

Had Clinton been heeded, the measures he espoused
would have been put in place, and a number of powerful
bulwarks would have been thrown into the paths of
those commercial airplanes. Had the news media been
something other than a purveyor of masturbation
fantasies from the far-right, the American people
would have know the threats we faced, and would have
compelled their Congressmen to act. Had Congress
itself been something other than an institution ruled
by narrow men whose only desire was to break a sitting
President by any means necessary, we would very
probably still have a New York skyline dominated by
two soaring towers.

Had the Bush administration not continued this
pattern of gross partisan ineptitude and heeded the
blitz of domestic and international warnings, instead
of trooping off to Texas for a month-long vacation,
had Bush's National Security Advisor done one hour's
worth of her homework, we probably would not be in the
grotesque global mess that currently envelops us.
Never forget that many of the activists who pushed
throughout the 1990s for the annihilation of all
things Clinton are now foursquare in charge of the
country today.

These are the sins of September 11. Thank you,
Sidney. I'm sorry I broke your book.


William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of
truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international
best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq,"
available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition
is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our
Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in
August from Context Books.


Posted by richard at October 13, 2003 04:29 PM