Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Later- a 9-11 Retrospective

Much has been written about the 9-11 attacks and their aftermath. I'm taking my turn.

To say that the 9-11 attacks stunned this country would be an understatement. They were a shock and led, initially, to some rather panicky actions. Most of them can be understood. Some were kind of nuts. For instance, I was living in Cleveland at the time and the downtown office buildings emptied out on rumors that there was an airliner heading that way.[1] The grounding of all non-military aircraft for three days was probably a prudent measure.[2]

But at some point, the leaders of this country should have taken stock and realized that, as much as it was a shock, al Qaeda killed three thousand people in a country of 300 million. Like it or not, that's about five weeks' worth of highway fatalities or ten weeks' worth of homicides.[3] But no, the last Administration did not take a breath and reassure the nation that this can be dealt with. Instead, they poured over a trillion dollars into what was, if viewed rationally, a dramatic but minor threat.

Some of it was well-spent. I doubt that in the Fall of 2001 that nobody would have believed that al Qaeda would not be able to successfully pull off another attack on US soil. As much as I lambaste the stupidity of both the TSA and the DHS for their insanity, the increase in passenger security measures has made mounting a terrorist attack via aircraft much harder to do. Though, to be fair, the urge of the terrorists for dramatic actions does help law enforcement to detect and counter attacks.[4] When the cops haven't detected an attack, the ineptitude of the terrorists have resulted in failure after failure.[5]

Much of it has not. Afghanistan has turned into a massive clusterfuck of a war because the administration of George W. Bush, like his father before him, neglected to follow up on a tactical victory. President Karzai spent parts of 2003 through 2008 pleading with the Bush Administration to follow through on the crushing of the Taliban. Instead of cementing the tactical defeat of the Taliban, the Bush Administration proclaimed victory, went off on a tangent and invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. The Iraq War tied up much of the US military for seven years and, like it or not, the removal of Saddam Hussein also removed a counterweight to Iran.

As time went on, the Bush Administration seemed to veer between outright fascism and insanity. The absurdly-named USA Patriot Act might have alternatively been named the "Almost Martial Law Act." The Bush Administration asserted that it had the right to hold anyone it chose for as long as it chose, without trial, without access to counsel, so long as the magic words "terrorist suspect" were uttered. The initial Executive Order for military tribunals contained provisions that of a jury of military officers, only 2/3rds of the jury need to be in attendance at a trial and both a guilty and death sentence needed only a 2/3rds vote of the 2/3rds attending.[6] There was no meaningful right of appeal provided.

The over-reaction of the Bush Administration extended to the knowing commission of crimes against humanity. The use of "enhanced interrogation", a euphemism for torture, was approved at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. I submit, Gentle Reader, that in light of the revelations about the use of torture by the CIA and the US Army, that only a fool can now accept that the torture and abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison were the aberrant actions of a handful of junior enlisted soldiers. The torturing of prisoners, as well as the abrupt 180 degree turn by many politicians on the use of torture has been a shameful blot on this nation's honor.[7] That we so effortlessly threw away our national principles after a figuratively kick in the national shin has been a great propaganda victory for our enemies (and useful cover for every brutal regime on the planet).

Worse, the over-focus of the US on al Qaeda have both inflated their reputation and hampered this nation's ability to influence events in the rest of the world. Other nations are stepping up to fill the vacancy, China being one.[8] It is arguable whether or not Russia would have exercised more restraint in its Georgian War in 2008 if the US was not tied down at the time in Iraq, but it is beyond question at the time that the US could do little other than flap its gums.[9]

What we need to do, as a nation, is to stop focusing on piddly-ass threats and go back to our national interests.[10] It is not in our national interest to keep throwing hundreds of billions of dollars and the brunt of our military on areas of the word that do not affect our national interests. Al Qaeda is mobile and we have made the point that if they establish a footprint anywhere in the world, that we will hurt them badly. Other than that, it is hard to see what we have to gain by being in Afghanistan.

We also need to reclaim our heritage of a nation of laws. To do that, we need to roll back the police-state powers granted to law enforcement over the last nine years. We need to stop allowing the FBI and other agencies to peruse the records of Americans without probable cause. We need to stop the NSA, once and for all, from spying on the electronic communications of Americans. In short, we need to go back to the Constitutional presumption that we have the right to live our lives without law enforcement and the spooks watching us without cause.

Finally, we need to hold our own officials accountable for the commission of crimes of torture and not leave it to another nation to do so. This is our mess, we need to be the ones to clean it up.

But let me be frank: I doubt if any of this will ever happen. The Republicans contain within their party the bulk of the war criminals of the last decade and they will fight as fiercely to protect their own war criminals as they fought to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blow job. The Democrats do not have the spine to go after the GOP's war criminals.

So nine years after the 9-11 attacks, I see no sign that any of this will be fixed anytime soon.

We are so screwed.

[1] I was probably one of the few who said "this is nuts, they'll hit Chicago or LA before Cleveland."
[2] The grounding of all VFR flights, in some areas for two months, was not only imprudent, it was an early signal that the Bush Administration had no clue what it was doing and would continue to over-react to any perceived threat, real or imaginary.
[3] 2001 murder figures exclude 9-11 fatalities.
[4] The only two "home grown terrorist" attacks to result in deaths were those where the terrorists used firearms. The only one with more than a couple deaths was where the terrorist opened fire in a place were weapons were prohibited.
[5] The "shoe bomber", the "underwear bomber" and the "Times Square bomber".
[6] If you do the arithmetic, you will see that comes to 4/9ths.
[7] To my knowledge, none of the senior members of the Bush Administration or the torture lawyers have gone abroad since Bush left office. Like the US, many other nations assert universal jurisdiction for acts of torture.
[8] The Chinese Navy has been conducting more operations away from its home waters.
[9] I fully recognize that the war itself was started by Georgia, which bet that Russia would not respond in kind.
[10] It is human nature, unfortunately, to worry about the spectacular threats and not the real threats. But that is what we are supposed to have leaders for.


Eck! said...

6 4/9ths barely a quorum, doesn't meet the requirement for a civil conviction by a jury.

As a nation of laws we should have law that is enforceable and clear.
IF it takes team of law professionals
to de-cypher(1) what a law means how the heck does a civilian?

Something more effective is that all Americans should have basic military training. We (adults) should all be properly trained and armed. Also with that training some instruction about law. It's notable that some of the worst of the home grown terrorists were likely to be effective as they intended to prey in weapon free (and likely law enforcement scarce) zones. We then go from a land of 300 million victims to a land of 300million that potentially can stop a crime or stop a terrorist.

Much of security theature from the sheep bleating its not my job, hire someone else to do that. These are people that do not want to take responsibility for their own safety.
They are unsafe to themselves and to those around them. Their motto is "I see nothing". Me I say let them complain about the criminal cleaning their toilet, they would not have that problem if they did it themselves.

For the worst of the miscreants in or formerly in government we have the ballot box and no statute of limitations. For those that have run,
issue a warrant and freeze their assets and income. We should consider
forcing career political figures to adhere to the law rather than hide behind exemptions and privlidge.

(1) De-cypher as in needs a one time pad to interpret in plain text.


tom said...

The impact of the day while not as fresh, still hurts. A native New Yorker living in exile in Seattle, one who lost a High School friend...
The other so called intangible losses mostly accrue to our rights..
I still shake my head about how the media and people were bullied/tricked into surrendering the need for a subpoena to listen in on or otherwise look into our private lives, and the YAHOOS who say we should IGNORE these rights (it seems many of them only believe in one amendment...the right to keep and bear arms..."
The real victory for these folk who love PARTS of our constitution and our historical liberties is that they are uneducated, the confederates. the willfully stupid..
Like the folk who think waterboarding is ok....if they were EDUCATED they would realize that we put Japanese in prison and executed some for torturing our boys in WW2 with waterboarding..
The defunding of education by the luddites (confeds) is the main cause of this sorry condition

Anonymous said...

I agree, our officials *should* have got hold of themselves & given a rational, proportional response. But I suppose that knowing that their skins were at risk was too much to overcome.

Anonymous said...

The right-wing has always talked tough, but are really just a bunch of pants-wetting panic artists.

Cujo359 said...

At this point, many of those war crimes have become Obama's war crimes. His Justice Dept. has sued, sometimes successfully, to cover up information related to those crimes. It has committed what surely are crimes of its own, like the cluster-bombing of that "terrorist" camp in Yemen.

I don't foresee the Democrats being any more interested in trying war criminals than Republicans are.