On Native Ground
USE TO AMERICA: CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH?
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If you thought President Bush's "Top Gun" photo-op on the flight of the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln was the ultimate in political opportunism, just wait until the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Next year's GOP convention will be held in New York City and it will be timed to coincide with the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
While aides to President Bush recently told The New York Times that they're concerned about the perception of exploiting the 9/11 attacks for political gain and that they're equally worried about the nation's continuing economic woes, they appear to have few qualms about making the 2004 election a referendum on national security.
If that is the case, why is the Bush administration so adamant against giving the nation a reasonable explanation about why the 9/11 attacks happened and what's being done to prevent a similar attack in the future?
It couldn't be that they've got something to hide now, could it?
Despite the U.S. spending close to a trillion dollars a year on its military, intelligence and law enforcement operations, 19 guys with box cutters managed to simultaneously hijack four airliners and turn those planes into missiles to kill more than 3,000 people. An intelligence and law enforcement failure of this magnitude demands an investigation.
But the Bush administration has fought hard against establishing an independent investigation into the event. When they relented last fall, once they got the right to name the chair of the investigation, they picked Henry Kissinger to lead it - which spoke volumes about the contempt the Bush team had for the whole process.
After Kissinger stepped down and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean - a safe, non-boat rocking Republican - was named as his replacement, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks was given a paltry $12 million to run its investigation - or four times less than was spent by the Republicans to investigate Bill Clinton's sex life.
It's very clear that the Bush administration is determined to make sure the American people find out as little as possible about the events that led up to the 9/11 attacks.
According to Newsweek, the White House has blocked the release of a more-than-800-page secret report by a joint congressional inquiry that detailed the various failures by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They've even tried to classify items that have already appeared in public - such as the now-infamous "Phoenix memo," written by an FBI agent in July 2001, that warned about al-Qaeda-linked operatives enrolled in flight training schools.
But even if President Bush succeeds in foiling an honest investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is already enough information out there to show that little was done before the attacks.
We know now that Russian, German and Israeli intelligence agencies all picked up signals during the summer of 2001 that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were up to something big. And on Aug. 6, 2001, President Bush received a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." It suggested that al-Qaeda forces were planning to hijack airliners sometime soon.
We also know that prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration did not take the threat of al-Qaeda seriously. It ignored warnings by the outgoing Clinton administration that al-Qaeda would be the single most important national security matter they would be dealing with.
Then there are the nagging questions that still are hanging out there. For starters, why did the Air Force fail to send its interceptors into action after it was learned that four airliners were hijacked? How did the FBI know the identities of the hijackers within a day of the attacks? Why was President Bush sitting in a Florida elementary school classroom, pretending that nothing was wrong, when he he'd learned the first jet had crashed into the World Trade Center before he entered the school?
The Center for Cooperative Research has an exhaustively annotated and sourced timeline of President Bush's Sept. 11 activities that's worth checking out at http://www.cooperativeresearch.net/timeline/main/essayaninterestingday.html. In the months before and after the Sept. 11 attack, the Bush administration has been more interested in political power and economic gain than in combating terrorism. And the same folks that lied to us to justify the necessity of going to war with Iraq are trying to make sure we don't ever find out the truth about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
This is starting to go beyond mere cynical political manipulation to keep the Republicans in power. This is a cover-up of epic proportions of an event that was the catalyst for unprecedented changes in our foreign policy, unprecedented assaults on our civil liberties and an unprecedented transformation of a democratic republic into a imperial power.
It's time to stop the stonewalling and the deception. The American people deserve to hear the truth about Sept. 11, and to hear about it while it can still make a difference.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).