Sunday, December 21, 2014

9/11 remembered -- and Bush's blank stare finally explained

9/11 remembered -- and Bush's blank stare finally explained

Today is September 11 -- an important day in American history (still the most important one of the 21st Century) and always a good day to reflect. As one expected, the day has a somewhat different feel now that we're passed the 10th anniversary. Like the JFK assassination, 9/11 is passing into "do remember where you were...?" land. Time marches quickly. My kids were in grade school then, but this fall they're both voting in the presidential election.

For me, other than the horrific images on the TV, my most vivid memory is taking our adorable then-puppy golden retriever Rosie out back and sitting under a tree for a few minutes while she got some exercise before I dashed into work. All around me it was a perfect Indian summer day -- warm, with a powder blue sky. How could such beauty and such evil exist at the exact same moment, under that same glorious firmament?

The most important thing to remember today is the 2,977 decent everyday people who were killed for no other reason than showing up for work that morning, and the thousands more who continue to mourn their loss. The evil carried out against innocents by a power-mad Osama bin Laden and followers of his warped vision is unspeakable and unforgivable. It is why we pause to remember -- but as a socierty we can and should do more than just pause. Even after 11 years, there is much to learn and understand, in the hope there is never again a day like that.

It's always seemed that somewhere between the hologram lunacy of hard-core 9/11 truthers and the Ari Fleischer-inspired "Americans need to watch what thay say" crowd, there are a surprising amount of unanswered questions about that day. Bob Graham, the ex-Florida senator who was a top 9/11 prober before retiring from politics, co-authored with World Trade Center survivor Sharon Premoldi a piece calling for the investigation to be re-opened, largely because we just don't know enough about Saudi complicity:

The passage of time since September 11, 2001, has not diminished the distrust many of us feel surrounding the official story of how 9/11 happened and, more specifically, who financed and supported it. After eleven years, the time has come for the families of the victims, the survivors and all Americans to get the whole story behind 9/11.

For me, and I imagine for some other folks, one thing that always troubled me was the scene pictured at the top of the blog, when chief of staff Andrew Card whispered into then-President George W. Bush's ear -- according to his own account --  “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” That was shocking news that day, especially for anyone who saw it transpire on live TV and probably gasped or covered his mouth.

But Bush's reaction is off. He didn't say a word. He didn't ask any of the obvious questions, starting with "Do we know who did this?" There's a pained look on his face -- but not one of surprise. It's more like dread. Some conspiracists have claimed that's a "tell" that the government was actually in on the attacks. That's silly, and not just for all the obvious reasons. In a bizzaro world where some anti-matter President Bush did have a diabolical plot against his own country, would he really have that expression? A look of panic. Or regret.

I add "regret" because of a stunning report on the op-ed page of the New York Times today by former Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald. It said that advance warnings to the Bush administration of a looming al-Qaeda attack on America were both much more numerous and also more specific than we've been told before now.

He writes:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

So Eichenwald raises a ton of questions -- but I think he answered one, the one about Bush's expression. He didn't need to ask who had done this, because he already knew. And the pained grimace is explained by the fact that he'd done so little, if anything, to stop them.

There's a lot to ponder here. Americans might want to ask themselves why one of the two main candidates for president is advised by the exact same neo-con cabal that was so irresponsible 11 years ago. And they should support Bob Graham and the others who'd like to see further investigation. The friends and loved ones of 2,977 victims of 9/11 deserve more than just our silence,

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Will Bunch
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