by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
September 17, 2009
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE
BRADENTON, Fla., Sept. 11, 2009 -- What we can never know is why the Bush Administration's top officials watched the flow of reports that warned of an impending attack on the United States and did nothing to stop it. One FBI undercover operative tells of being ordered to ignore bomber Mohammad Atta and pay more attention to innocuous "wannabes" instead. An Army unit called Able Danger saw its testimony ignored after the event about an early identification of Atta; they said his photo was on their bulletin board up until the day the attacks occurred.
A vast amount of what Sen. John McCain calls this nation's "blood and treasure" was exhausted in the response to the attacks mounted by Atta and his crew on behalf of Al Qaeda, including wars costly in American lives and American money in Afghanistan and Iraq, and operations all across the globe we usually don't hear about. A trillion dollars, they say, has been spent as a result, and there were at least $800 billion in insurance stock market losses directly resulting from the attacks.
But is there a link between the failure of the Republican leadership and the "blood money" earned by vast paramilitary and defense organizations? The Halliburtons, Blackwaters and other defense contractors who have profited immeasurably - and failed miserably, for the most part - in Iraq and Afghanistan are far richer for their roles, as once were the campaigns of presidential and other candidates they supported. Many of them, and especially Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, had close ties to the top Republicans like Cheney and resident Bush.
All one really had to do to make the Al Qaeda attacks succeed was nothing. No overt act that could later be prosecuted had to occur. All the leadership had to do was ignore the daily intelligence briefing that warned of the impending attacks. Doing nothing would mean billions upon billions of dollars for the defense industry that would fight the resulting wars.
The memory of September 11 will always be a painful one for Americans, who can be quick to anger and slow to forgive - and even slower to look back, think and carefully analyze what is known about that terrible day. Yet, as patriots, we are inclined always to believe in our presidential leadership, in the good intentions of our Congress, and the enduring valor and skill of our military. That conundrum has left the hardest questions unanswered, and they may remain that way for many, many years to come.
After the Warren Commission finished its work on the JFK assassination, its report was deemed so flawed that a second investigation was undertaken by a committee of the House of Representatives. There, the evidence presented was much different from that received by former Chief Justice Earl Warren's investigators, and the resulting controversy reignited the anger and dissent that followed the first report. No conclusive statements by either commission have been accepted by skeptics.
There is more to learn about how American intelligence agencies handled what little they knew about Al Qaeda's intentions in the late Summer of 2001. Investigations that were once deemed exhaustive seemed to miss many salient issues that have emerged later, such as the Able Danger testimony and the claims of the FBI undercover agent - and other agents, too, who tried to warn Washington something was up with a group of Arab flying students who only wanted to learn to take off, not land.
The ninth anniversary of 9/11 is perhaps a good time to begin re-examining these questions. Time will erase memories and evidence, so it is the enemy of truth in this case, while also being the element that may make a new investigation possible.
Yet beyond and above all else is the conduct of our nation today. Should we be continuing to fight unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that show only an illusory peace in Iraq and a desperate struggle ahead in Afghanistan? Is the future security of our nation clearly, or even probably, endangered by the elements that remain fighting against the United States and its allies there?
That is a more difficult question. It is almost a certainty that given their predilections for violence, whatever remains of Al Qaeda and the Taliban would do all they can to hurt America. Are they capable of mounting an attack like Sept. 11, and would it succeed? Possibly not, due to the hardening of our transportation and immigration infrastructure that has come at a prohibitive cost in dollars and rights and public convenience, but will likely be necessary for years to come.
A substantial infusion of new troops into Afghanistan, where they probably should have been deployed in the first place, can make a substantive difference in the battle against the Taliban, whose creed and cruelty remains unwelcome in many Afghan and Pakistani villages, towns and cities that have suffered under them. If the warlords of Afghanistan's opium-producing provinces come to believe that they must choose between the Taliban and their poppy fields, they will probably act in their own interest, even if we trade against the interests of millions of American heroin addicts).
An awkward, fragile, tentative and dangerous peace is probably the best we can hope to achieve. That would be the hard-won result of nine years of war spurred by vengeance and by caution. It is hard to forget the image of bodies falling from the World Trade Center towers, of the huge panic that the attackers ignited in the streets of Washington and New York.
The men and women of the emergency services that gave their own lives to rescue victims of the attacks will never be forgotten, and it is one of the few proud moments of our response to the attacks that they and their families have been compensated to the degree that money can ever compensate for the loss of husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sons and sisters, uncles, nephews, cousins and kin.
And for those continue the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Somalia, Yemen and other places we hear and know little about, the brave American men and women who serve their country must be constantly assured we stand in their honor today, proud and unyielding in our respect, affection and esteem for each of them.