Magie Burns
"We haven't had a terrorist attack since"
Wed Jul 5, 2006 18:28

"We haven't had a terrorist attack since"
by margieburns on Wed 05 Jul 2006 01:45 PM EDT | Permanent Link

Continuing from previous blogs . . . The current lockstep line from the corporate Right is that “we haven’t had a terrorist attack since 9/11 [because of this administration],” or words to that effect.

One demurrer is that this statement omits the anthrax mailings without a mention. (Even individuals with anthrax most on the brain, e.g. former NYTimes reporter Judith Miller, have seldom or never mentioned the names of two innocent postal workers, Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris, and two women in the Northeast, Kathy Nguyen and Ottilie Lundgren, killed by the anthrax mailings.) Presumably the administration has decided that the anthrax mailings were a crime rather than an “act of war” but prefers that that line of thought not be explored.

Setting aside the anthrax, the core statement that we haven’t had another terrorist attack in this country has a certain limited validity. Let’s take a look at it.

Indeed, if we admit the basic proposition, we can state with some assurance that the U.S. has not had another terrorist attack since about 11:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001.

So presumably it would be illuminating to look back at what administration figures were doing on 9/11.

For a start, I remember that day and was on Capitol Hill myself, although not in the Congress building. My best recollection – corroborated by any number of other individual recollections – is that on September 11, everybody was blown around. People everywhere were rushing around under the impression of understandably wrong guesses – the major one being the instant question, is this only a first strike with further attacks coming? (It’s interesting, when you think of it, how deeply the White House has buried that first erroneous assumption, held by so many people.)

This initial question was posed at least as much by government personnel as by the man on the street:

* Richard Clarke’s book Against All Enemies mentions among other items an early false report saying that 11 planes were off course or missing. Even after clearer information and after the Pentagon had been struck, 4 more planes were still thought to be hijacked, among the 3900 aircraft still in the air.
* There were repeatedly expressed concerns/fears of simultaneous strikes against U.S. interests overseas; the military went to DEFCON 3.
* Amid similar fears for the safety of the president and first lady, the FLOTUS (first lady) was whisked to safety; Clarke himself ordered the president out of his photo-op location in Florida and a fighter escort for the president, who was taken to several different bases successively.
* Again amid similar fears, Mrs. Cheney was taken to safety (the VP, however, stayed on location in the PEOC).
* The White House was largely evacuated except for Clarke’s group convening a videoconference of security personnel from different agencies, on the basis of fears that the White House would be targeted.
* From Capitol Hill, as I saw firsthand, smoke from the Pentagon looked as though it was coming from Foggy Bottom; people on the street were wondering widely whether the State Department. People wondered whether other government agencies were being hit or were about to be.
* There were similar concerns – not unrealistic on their face -- that the Capitol building and Congress would be attacked; the Capitol was largely evacuated.
* Clarke reports that there was an early false message of a car bomb at the State Dept building.
* Orders were issued for Continuity of Government, protecting Rep. Dennis Hastert, next in line of succession after the president and VP.
* Tall landmark buildings including the Sears Tower in Chicago were evacuated around the country.
* There was a false report that a large jet had crashed in Kentucky.
* Orders were issued for the protection of tunnels, the New York harbor, and borders (with awareness that the borders could not be physically secured).
* Early speculation, widely passed along in the press for the next couple of days, was that the terrorists had slipped in from Canada; I was leery of that one (a ferry?), but it was humanly understandable – nobody’s first assumption was that all the normal barriers and safeguards were completely down.
* Widespread and instantaneous conversation among numerous unrelated individuals in every walk of life, suggested that “heads would roll” over this failure of EMS and due precautions (– those ideas, of holding the higher-ups accountable, vaporized the next day).
* Early and widespread guesses, also passed along in the press, about the number of fatalities in the World Trade Center were grotesquely exaggerated.
* Meanwhile, shortly after the attacks and even on 9/11 itself, well-placed Saudis and those connected with them including at least one international banker were placed on jets, collected, and flown out of the U.S., some before the airways had been reopened to commercial traffic. As other writers have pointed out, some of these flights took place when relatives of 9/11 victims could not get aboard a plane.

Okay, a few questions here. If administration measures are responsible for there not being further attacks, then presumably the efficacy of such measures must have begun before noon on 9/11. So (1) What protections were in place by 11:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001, that had not been in place before 8:00 that morning?

(2) If the actions taken by Clarke and others, often based on mistaken reports and on understandable hypotheses that didn’t pan out, did indeed ward off attacks – why hasn’t the administration told us about it?

(3) If administration measures were so effective that they started working as instantly as antibiotics against infection – a claim even this administration hasn’t advanced, if you notice -- then why weren’t they in place, say, four hours earlier?


It is to be hoped that eventually our corporate media will decide to serve the American people by treating administration claims rationally. Meanwhile, virtually all inside or informed accounts of government responses to 9/11 make one central point clear. Among the numerous individuals involved in decision-making, the normal and understandable reactions to the strikes at the WTC and Pentagon – that is, actions recognizable as the response you would make if you thought we were under attack -- were taken by Richard Clarke and others onward down the chain of command, not by the office of Condi Rice and up the chain of command through the top heads of Defense, intelligence and the White House. (Then-National Security Adviser Rice accompanied Cheney into the PEOC while personnel from the Pentagon, the FAA, the FBI, State and elsewhere were convening by videoconference).

In view of factors like the above, I cannot feel persuaded that further attacks were ever coming. Thus I lean toward the hypothesis that the 9/11 attacks, bloody as they were, were deliberately limited in scope. Why?

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