Why 9/11?

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

[Taki’s Magazine]

With the 9/11 anniversary upon us once again, Middle East expert Robert Fisk in Beirut has written another instructive article about our predicament. He says that we have lied to ourselves for 10 years to avoid asking the one real question. That question is, "Why?" Fisk is talking about the motive for the attack. This is rather important, because without motive, there would have been no attack.

Not to be supercilious, but I don't believe Fisk is entirely accurate in saying that we have lied to ourselves. The reality is a little different. Rather, it is we who have been misinformed and misled. We are on the receiving-end. We have swallowed the lies. Swallowed them much too easily, to be sure. Maybe that is what Fisk meant to say. How could we be so naive?

On the other hand, some of us have taken the route of avoidance, as Fisk suggests. It is easier that way. Some of us think it is debonair to proclaim that, hey, I don't give a damn about the Middle East and those people, why should I? Or words to that effect. This misses the obvious circumstance that what happens out there is affecting us back here. What our leaders do in the greater Middle East has repercussions on the home front. Sometimes dramatic, adverse repercussions.

The 9/11 terrorist attack is a case in point. In CIA parlance, this is called Blowback, the unforeseen or at least unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy decisions. If we care about our own fate, therefore, it would be wise to understand what Washington, in all its inglorious malfeasance, has been doing in our name in the Middle East. You can forget about those countries and their people, if you like. Fine, be that way. Just concentrate on the aftereffects to America and Europe.

Please understand, I don't think we are in any real external danger from "the Muslims" or "the Arabs" or from anyone else for that matter. Rather, the danger is from within. I believe we have deliberately put ourselves in harm's way. Again, it is not we who are actually responsible. We are just along for the ride. We are almost irrelevant. It is the policymakers in Washington who have done it. They created danger and mayhem where there was none before. But we have allowed them to do it.

We have failed to take corrective action to prevent the President--whether it be Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, Bush Jr., or Barack Obama--from pursuing self-destructive and counterproductive policies. So we suffer the consequences. That is too bad, but it is nothing new. It has been going on for a very long time, at least since 1917 when Woodrow Wilson brought America into the Great War to save England from certain defeat by Imperial Germany.

For us today, the most horrific consequence of Washington's mischief-making has been the 9/11 attacks. As with Pearl Harbor in 1941, the 9/11 atrocities were the direct result of an errant, incendiary U.S. foreign policy, operating largely in the shadows, but sold to the American people and the world as something entirely different. Innocent people on the ground paid the ultimate price for bad decisions made in Washington.

In his article, Fisk mentions Kenneth Pollack and his 2002 book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for invading Iraq. Remember that? I do. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was hyped to the skies across the full spectrum of the establishment media. While Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, working in tandem with their creepy Neocon playmates, ginned up the fear propaganda about "weapons of mass destruction" from inside the government, it was Pollack's fat book that reaffirmed and justified the hysteria from the outside, and gave it a scholarly gloss. It was all part of the same mindless, talking-heads' crusade in response to 9/11. The target of the moment was Iraq.

Everybody who was anybody wanted to hop on that war wagon, including the ambitious future Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton, as well as the rest of the "liberal" Democratic leadership in the Senate. Among the more notable "liberal" pundits beating the war drums were Tom Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, George Packer, Jeffrey Goldberg, Richard Cohen and the hyperactive Christopher Hitchens. Of course, the so-called "conservatives" were all gung-ho. We have traveled together on the bipartisan war wagon ever since, without looking back. Meanwhile, Ken Pollack has been rewarded for his brilliance and service to The Cause by being made the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Who knew?

I remember talking with some of the country club Republicans at my club in 2002 during the long run-up to the invasion of Iraq. In an unguarded moment, I informed them of my belief that, contrary to the noise from the White House, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that it was all a canard. I suggested that Bush Jr. and Cheney were con men, intent on launching a private agenda war.

My remarks did not go over well. No weapons of mass destruction? The idea was not just preposterous. It was insane. The Cheney White House and the Rumsfeld Pentagon were not to be disputed. The Washington party line with respect to "the war on terror" was taken for granted and was beyond dispute. For a surprising number of people, it still is.

In the entire club, there was only one member who agreed with me and took the position that it was Cheney and Bush who were out of line, if not out of their minds, and needed to be reined in. He wasn't a country club Republican. He was a European. As such, he had a better perspective over the horizon. He did not deny that Iraq might possess some WMDs. He just felt it was most unwise for America to go off unilaterally invading Iraq when Iraq was clearly not a threat to America and probably not a danger at that point in time to any of its neighbors. After years of murderous economic sanctions, Iraq in his view was a non-factor.

He felt sorry for Bush Jr., because he actually knew him and the whole Bush family. But he felt more sorry for his adopted country. America was being deliberately led astray and taken advantage of. My European friend did not buy the idea that there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, so invading Iraq made absolutely no sense to him. I'm wondering how was it that only two individuals in the whole club realized that Cheney and Bush were not telling the truth. We both wondered about that at the time.

The explanation, it seems to me, is that the average American has been far too unwary and trusting of official, authorized explanations, and that a misplaced patriotism with respect to 9/11 went a long way, a very long way, to keep America from confronting the all-important question, "Why?". Why did that happen? Why is this happening now? 9/11 is the basis for everything which followed. The bill is now coming due, and we need some honest answers.

Actually, the answer to the 9/11 question was self-evident to any honest observer of U.S. Middle East policy and to anyone who knew the history of the Palestinian conflict. On September 12th, 2001, the aforementioned Robert Fisk wrote a powerful piece for the Independent in London, entitled "The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people". It holds up well and should be studied. Written the day after the event, the only thing Fisk got wrong was the number of casualties.

In March 2002, ex-CIA operative Robert Baer gave an interview to the Sunday Observer (London). The article was entitled "Bombing Saddam is Ignorance". Baer had worked in the Directorate of Operations for 25 years, mostly in the Middle East. From the article: "After a quarter of a century abroad, Baer hardly recognises the States and is appalled at the level of public ignorance. 'There is no debate,' he says. 'People will not address the question of Palestine in the context of the World Trade Centre attacks. It's not in the terms of discussion.'"  

Later, in June 2004, FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald testified about the motives of the hijackers before the 9/11 Commission, but his remarks never made it into the Commission's final report for fear of implying that Washington might want to reassess its policy vis-à-vis Israel. After watching U.S. Senators and Congressmen acting like trained seals during BiBi Netanyahoo's speech before a joint session of Congress on May 24th, 2011, you can understand how that might cause a problem. Fitzgerald reaffirms the outlook of both Fisk and Baer.

Until America comes to grips with why New York and Washington were attacked on 9/11, and understands what motivated the terrorists, there will be little hope of Americans regaining control of their own country. To repeat, 9/11 has been both the cause and justification for everything which followed.

Thanks to 9/11, America was railroaded into invading Iraq. That invasion was based upon a mountain of mendacious propaganda produced for the American people by their own government. There has been no accountability. The rhetoric has been adjusted under Barack Obama, but U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the greater Middle East remains essentially unchanged. It has been on the same trajectory since 1990. Unwise, dishonest, unsustainable and self-destructive. Again, the question remains, why?  

Related I: “The Vengeance of Osama Bin Laden”, William Pfaff, September 6th.

Related II: “The Connection between Iraq and 9/11”, Al Jazeera, September 7th.

Related III: “How 9/11 Triggered America’s Decline”, Der Spiegel, September 9th.

Related IV: “Why They Hate Us”, LewRockwell.com, September 10th.

Related V: “We’ve Learned Nothing since 9/11”, Mondoweiss, September 11th.