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
* 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
* 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
* 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?