When President Bush and the rest of America’s elites mustered on Friday in the National Cathedral for the service of prayer and remembrance, vice president Dick Cheney was nowhere to be seen. The official reason given for this conspicuous absence of the man many believe has been running the country: the Secret Service and FBI fear further terrorist attacks, and insist that at no time can the President and Vice President be in the same place, lest a single terrorist blow would decapitate America’s leaders and leave the nation to be led by Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.
One very highly placed denizen of the Clinton White House is giving friends a rather different reason why Cheney is sequestered far from the press cameras at Camp David. It seems that President Bush’s widely ridiculed journey from Sarasota, Florida, through Barksdale AFB outside Shreveport, Louisiana, to a Strategic Air Command bunker outside Omaha, Nebraska, took place at the urging on none other than vice president Cheney. It was the vice president, on this account, who insisted that Bush not return directly to Washington, on grounds that the journey was too fraught with danger.
Bush finally limped into Washington late on Tuesday, with the vast, distraught national audience noting the contrast between Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s sterling conduct in New York and the prudent invisibility of the commander in chief. Cheney, it seems, decided against making a public appearance on Tuesday, fearing that this would seem too close to a vice presidential coup d’etat. Memories are still vivid in Washington of the terminal blow Secretary of State Al Haig struck against his own career when, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination bid on Ronald Reagan, he strode to the White House pressroom announced to the world, “I’m in control here.”
As Wednesday dawned a continued poor showing by Bush would have further savaged his credibility as a leader, particularly if Cheney seemed to be the man issuing the orders. On Wednesday Bush’s inner circle rushed to repair the huge political damage caused by Bush’s strange itinerary the previous day. Bush hatchetman Karl Rove leaked a preposterous story to the ever credulous William Safire at the New York Times that a Muslim terrorist mole in the White House had leaked targeting data and that it would have been madness to let Bush enter Washington air space. Bush was given a stronger script to read to his cabinet. Even then, Cheney was nowhere to be seen. He had already been packed off to exile in the Camp David dacha, told to keep his head down and his mouth shut. Revenge Tragedy
The lust for revenge is feverish, stoked by politicians left and right, talk shows and the editorial pages of the nation’s newspapers. Retributive attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries are being put forward not as a tragic consequence of war, but as a kind of perverse justice. Congressional leaders are calling for a declaration of war, without even identifying the respondent. Laptop military strategetist on the nation’s editorial pages are attempting to outgun each other in terms of the megatonnage of planned counter-attacks, with more than one suggesting that the only appropriate response would be a nuclear strike. All of this on a day of mourning and reflection.
“This nation is now at war. And in such an environment, domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity, a choosing of sides.”
Peter Beinart, editor in chief of The New Republic
“FORGET JUSTICE: WE WANT REVENGE! We shouldn’t lollygag…Justice should not take precedence over vengeance…we should turn their country into a glowing desert.”
New York Post
“I say bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it. They certainly found our civilians to be expendable.”
Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia
“We should give the Taliban, which protects this monster, 24-hours to clear the city of Kabul of innocent civilians and then start the process of urban renewal with high-altitude bombing. Then we should go into the interior, hunt down the desert rat and execute him and his followers on the spot. And if Saddam Hussein makes so much as a peep, do him, too.”
Steve Duleavy, NY Post
“When we reasonably determine our attackers’ bases and camps, we must pulverize them — minimizing but accepting the risk of collateral damage — and act overtly or covertly to destabilize terror’s national hosts. The Pentagon’s rebuilt fifth side should include a new Department of Pre-emption.”
“Along with the funerals, the grieving and the intelligence shakeup comes a grim recognition that America is at war and this time our land is one of the battlegrounds. The next attack will probably not be by a hijacked jet, for which we will belatedly prepare. More likely it will be a terrorist-purchased nuclear missile or a barrel of deadly germs dumped in a city’s reservoir.Which poses the most pertinent question: What are we doing to protect our skies, to develop innate immunity and multivalent vaccines, and to carry the war to the enemy? Now it’s our turn.
Philadelphia Daily News Editorial
“The people who planned Tuesday’s bombings combined world-class evil with world-class genius to devastating effect. And unless we are ready to put our best minds to work combating them the World War III Manhattan project in an equally daring, unconventional and unremitting fashion, we’re in trouble. Because while this may have been the first major battle of World War III, it may be the last one that involves only conventional, non-nuclear weapons.”
Thomas Friedman, New York Times
“The nation has been invaded by a fanatical, murderous cult. And we welcome them. We are so good and so pure we would never engage in discriminatory racial or “religious” profiling…We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”
“It will soon become obvious that only a few terrorist organizations are capable of carrying out such a massive and coordinated strike. We should pour the resources necessary into a global effort to hunt them down and capture or kill them. It will become apparent that those organizations could not have operated without the assistance of some governments, governments with a long record of hostility to the United States and an equally long record of support for terrorism. We should now immediately begin building up our conventional military forces to prepare for what will inevitably and rapidly escalate into confrontation and quite possibly war with one or more of those powers. Congress, in fact, should immediately declare war. It does not have to name a country. It can declare war against those who have carried out yesterday’s attack and against any nations that may have lent their support. A declaration of war would not be pure symbolism. It would be a sign of will and determination to see this conflict through to a satisfactory conclusion no matter how long it takes or how difficult the challenge.”
Robert Kagan, Washington Post
They Were Warned!
German police have confirmed that an Iranian man, while in German custody, phoned US police and the Secret Service several times last week warning that a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center complex was impending. The man also brought his concerns to officials at the Langenen prison in Lower Saxony, where he was being held pending deportation back to Iran. However, according to the Justice Ministry there, his warnings were discarded by both German police and the US Secret Service. Frank Woesthoff, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, told the Hanover paper, Neue Presse, that the man phoned America “several times”, but that he was dismissed as being “mentally unstable”.
Blame the ACLU, Pagans and Lesbians?
Amid the den there are few voices sounding notes of caution. Two of the nation’s most prominent Christian leaders seemed to be thumbing through the Old Testament in search of passages of retributive justice that would, however feebly, back their desire to annihilate the Islamic fundamentalists. Of course, when it comes to causality, Robertson and Falwell reach back to their old cast of villains: the American Left, the ACLU, gays, and pro-lifers. A sample of their treacle:
“The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this. And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God or successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happenDid you notice yesterday, the ACLU, and all the Christ haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out to God in prayer and sang ‘God Bless America’ and said ‘let the ACLU be hanged’. In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time-calling upon God.”
“And we have thought that we’re invulnerable. And we have been so concerned about money. We have been so concerned about material things. The interests of people are on their health and their finances, and on their pleasures and on their sexuality, and while this is going on while we’re self-absorbed and the churches as well as in the population, we have allowed rampant pornography on the internet. We have allowed rampant secularism and occult, etc. to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered in our society. We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God’s eye and said we’re going to legislate you out of the schools. We’re going to take your commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states. We’re not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We’re not going to let the Bible be read, no prayer in our schools. We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say “why does this happen?”. Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting his protection from us. And once that protection is gone, we all are vulnerable because we’re a free society, and we’re vulnerable. We lay naked before these terrorists who have infiltrated our country. There’s probably tens of thousands of them in America right now. They’ve been raising money. They’ve been preaching their hate and overseas they’ve been spewing out venom against the United States for years. All over the Arab world, there is venom being poured out into people’s ears and minds against America. And, the only thing that’s going to sustain us is the power of the Almighty God.” Bunker Mentality
Clinton got to New York from Australia quicker than Bush got to DC from Florida. A Very Big Hammer Even though there’s much carping about the CIA’s failures in regard to Tuesday’s attacks, there seems to be an unparalleled unity between the White House and the Congress on the desire for a swift and savage retaliatory response, a response that one Pentagon official described as demonstrating “our big hammer, a very large hammer that can be brought to bear in a number of ways at any time. That’s not a threat, it’s a fact.”
The Senate and House, in between a rash of bomb threats and “suspicious packages” that emptied the Capitol building on Thursday evening, have moved forward with a $40 billion military package that may signal the onset of a huge military build up and the end of all rational debate about the fate of the social security system. Thus was the lock-box blown apart.
So what’s in store? We got some clue today from Paul Wolfowitz, the hyper-hawkish assistant secretary of defense, who said that the Pentagon would begin examining how to retaliate against the “host countries” of terrorists with the intent of “ending states that support terrorism”. In other words, the decimation, occupation and reconstitution of nations that the Bush crowd finger as being part of Terror Inc. Afghanistan won’t be the only target (Iraq, ever the whipping post of the Bush crowd, and, perhaps, Iran are also on the list), but the Russian experience in the Hindu Kush and in Chechnya should give any rationale military planner pause. Years of fighting, thousands dead, no ground gained.
But word coming out of the Pentagon is grim. A top Pentagon official told NBC news on Thursday evening that “Americans have to get over their fear of bloodshed. The events of Tuesday should have vaccinated them against a fear of casualties.”Most revealing reaction
Benyamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister, on being asked what the attack means for relations between the US and Israel: “It’s very good.”Least credible analysis
New York Times columnist William Safire, claiming there was a terrorist mole in the White House, relaying to the kamikaze pilots the whereabouts of the President and the special coordinates of Air Force One. Safire’s political mission in that particular column was to explain why the President fled down a SAC bunker in Nebraska.
America’s Greens Rally to Flag, Run for Cover
Hot to present themselves as staunch flag-waggers, some of America’s premier environmental organizations have disgracefully ditched their principles.
The Sierra Club, America’s oldest green group has abruptly turned off its campaign against the anti-environmental program of the Bush administration. CounterPunch has secured an internal memo in which the club’s high command explains to its staff why it suspending its campaigns. “In response to the attacks on America,” the memo goes, “we are shifting our communications strategy for the immediate future. We have taken all of our ads off of the air; halted our phone banks; removed any material from the web that people could perceive as anti-Bush, and we are taking other steps to prevent the Sierra Club from being perceived as controversial during this crisis. For now we are going to stop aggressively pushing our agenda and will cease bashing President Bush “
The memo then instructs club staffers on how to respond to the press: “If you are asked about what this terrorism does to the Sierra Club’s agenda, please respond simply by saying that right now the public needs to focus on comforting each other and strengthening our national security to deal with the crisis at hand.”
Imagine if this craven posture spreads across the public interest movement. We could expect First Amendment defenders to say that they were abandoning efforts to protect the Bill of Rights. We could expect groups defending immigrants to say that henceforth the INS should be given free rein. Fortunately First Amendment defenders and defenders of immigrants have stronger spines and principles than the supposed defenders of the environment at the Sierra Club. Are we now to expect the Club to endorse drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve as necessary “for national security”?
Even groups that we here at CounterPunch have admired are now in pellmell cowardly retreat.
The Berkeley-based International Rivers Network, which has been the main bulwark against the Three Gorges dam in China, now announces that it is suspending its planned nationwide protest against Morgan Stanley, one of the dam’s principle financiers. Morgan Stanley had 50 floors of offices in the World Trade Center. IRN has also announced that “out of respect for the victims of this disaster, with understanding of the strategic difficulties in conveying to a shocked media and public our messages regarding the World Bank and IMF, with concern for the integrity of security systems in Washington DC, and for the safety of all, we will refrain from participating in activities surrounding the planned World Bank / IMF this month. We are also sharing our concerns with the leading organizations responsible for planning and coordinating these activities.”
The Ruckus Society, the direct action training group involved in many demonstrations at the World Trade Organization has simultaneously announced that it is canceling its training camp, to be held in Middleburgh, Virginia, scheduled as preparation for the next World Bank meeting. This camp was to be cosponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies, Jobs with Justice and Global Exchange. All these organizations have now backed out, saying that now is not the time for such activity.
The Rainforest Action Network, based in San Francisco, describes itself as being in a “wait-and-see mode.” “Things are definitely on hold,” said RAN’s Patrick Reinsborough.
Let’s get this straight. If all resisters to the Bush political program were to follow this shameful exhibition by these green groups, we would see peace groups declining to protest against nuclear attacks on Iraq and armed invasion of Afghanistan. We would see civil rights sitting on their hands as racial and religious profiling is used to persecute people of Middle Eastern descent. Defenders of Palestinian rights would say that for the time being they wouldn’t protest the use of US Apache helicopters against civilians in West Bank towns and villages. What nonsense! Principles are never more important than when it is inconvenient or dangerous to stand up for them. Big Oil’s Kamikaze
Rep. Don Young, the wild man from Alaska, was one of the few members of congress who didn’t completely buy into the notion of Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of the attacks on the World Trade complex and the Pentagon. There’s some possibility, Young told the Alaska Daily News, that the attacks are linked to the protests against the World Trade Organization, another of which is scheduled for later this month in Washington D.C. “If you watched what happened (at past protests) in Genoa, in Italy, and even in Seattle, there’s some expertise in that field,” Young said. “I’m not sure they’re that dedicated but ecoterrorists –which are really based in Seattle — there’s a strong possibility that could be one of the groups.”
Young doesn’t believe any of this. But he smells weakness in the environmental movement and, like the old fur-trapper that he is, he is poised to exploit it. Young is not beneath using the carnage of the World Trade Center as a launching ground for his own agenda: oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, logging in the Tongass rainforest, passing laws against environmental protest and construction of new missile bases in the Alaska tundra and on the Aleutian Islands.
Chemical War in Manhattan As the environmentalists are putting themselves into a state of suspended animation, the citizens of Manhattan and the thousands of volunteer rescue workers mulling through the rubble at the World Trade Center complex may well be in the whirlwind of a toxic event, which has received little media attention and almost no precautionary aid from FEMA or other federal agencies coordinating.
Early reports from the Environmental Protection Agency described the destruction of the World Trade complex “an environmental catastrophe”: the air of Manhattan clotted with asbestos, dioxin and other poisons. Yet, rescue workers found themselves without little more than surgical masks between their lungs and the poisons emanating from the smoldering ruins.
For years, the Pentagon and other terror pundits had been warning of the vulnerability of American cities to attack by biological and chemical weapons, the so-called asymmetrical warfare. These apocalyptic scenarios held that terrorist groups would unleash anthrax or sarin gas attacks in subways, water supplies or mega-office buildings, such as the World Trade Towers. Well, it turns out that the attackers didn’t need to pack any chemicals, the buildings themselves proved to be quite toxic enough. The attackers used American planes as missiles and the buildings as chemical weapons.
Built during the height of the asbestos boom, the guts of the World Trade Center may have been one of the world’s largest repositories of the carcinogenic fiber, used as insulation in the giant towers.
Underneath the rubble, thousands of tires continue to burn, sending plumes of pitch black smoke down the canyons of Manhattan. This smoke is contaminated with dioxins and assorted other poisons of the petrochemical age.
Early Warnings Reports keep coming in to us of advanced warnings that an attack of some sort was eminent. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was booked to fly from the Bay Area to New York City on the morning of September 11. But Brown says that late Monday evening, a full 8 hours prior to the attack, he received a call from a person Brown described as his “airport security man” telling him that he should be extra cautious about air travel on September 11.
In addition to what we have previously reported about heightened security at the World Trade Center itself in the weeks leading to the attack and at the Picatinny Arsenal in Rockaway, New Jersey, CounterPunch has also learned that an internal memo was sent around Goldman Sachs in Tokyo on September 10 advising all employees of a possible terrorist attack. It recommended all employees to avoid any American government buildings.
That said, according to Rep. David Bonior, the Michigan Democrat, the Congress was the last to know. Even after two planes had struck the World Trade Center towers and another had smashed into the Pentagon, Bonior says congressional officials were not warned by the CIA or any other intelligence arm of the federal government that the 30,000 workers in the Capitol might be at risk of an attack. Bonoir has been one of the few members of Congress to openly question the value of bowing to the demands for more money made by CIA and other intelligence agencies. “If they can’t even warn members of Congress about an ongoing attack, you really have to wonder what good they are,” Bonior said. CP
More CounterPunch Stories Sense and Nonsense About Sept. 11
Moniak: Nuclear Sites and Terrorism
Chomsky: A Quick Reaction