25 Things We've Learned Since 9/11|
By Bernard Weiner
As we look back on the first year in the new millenium, it might help us to sort out what's happened in the past four months -- and thus how to respond -- by compiling a summary list of What We Know.
1. As was the case with various other major mass-murder bombings (East African embassies, USS Cole in Yemen, U.S. barracks in Saudia Arabia,
we know that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda was behind the Twin Towers/Pentagon attacks. They regard the United States as the primary target; the larger
target is the world of the "infidel": the JudeoChristian world of the
2. We know that the Bush Administration, like the administrations
it, was exceedingly lax when it came to security matters, including the
amassing and analysis of intelligence about terror groups. (But the CIA
and FBI, rather than being investigated and perhaps punished, got their
budgets increased instead.)
3. We know that the Bush Administration and its corporate friends had
eyes on Afghanistan as a possible war zone -- and possible location for
Central Asian oil pipeline -- before September 11.
4. We know that the Bush Administration was wise enough to see in 9/11
homeland beginnings of the new type of war -- low-tech means to carry
high-tech-like results -- and began to organize a war on terrorism that
worldwide in scope and ambition.
5. We know that the Bush Administration made secret bilateral deals
various countries in order to bring them into this anti-terrorist
coalition, specifically with Russia, the "stans," perhaps China and
6. We know that the Bush policy of massive bombing from the air,
with support for the local anti-Taliban forces on the ground (and then
introducing select U.S. units on the ground), was able to do much more
psychological and logistical damage that was originally thought could
possible in such a limited time-frame.
7. We know that the Taliban and Al Qaeda made strategic withdrawals and
"surrenders" in order not to engage the overwhelming force against
and disappeared into Pakistan, the mountains, the villages, conserving
their strength for other battles later. In short, we're in a
quiet period at the moment.
8. We know that even with a U.S. policy of limiting "collateral damage"
civilians, perhaps as many as several thousand innocent Afghans were
killed and injured, and several million became internal refugees.
9. We know that bin Laden and his network have chemical, biological and
nuclear ambitions, and may well have created crude weapons of mass
10. We know that even with the arrests and detentions of Al Qaeda
and supporters, "sleeper" agents are still living in the 60 nations
bin Laden has operatives. US intelligence agencies estimate that about
of Al Qaeda's sleepers are still in place around the world.
11. We know that even if Bush had no exact foreknowledge of 9/11
he has used those terrorist attacks -- and the popular response of the
citizenry to his handling of the crisis -- as a "cover" to try to force
his right-wing social and economic agenda through the Congress, and has
been fairly successful in so doing.
12. We know that Bush feels emboldened by his high popularity ratings
even attempt an end-around the Constitution's Bill of Rights in terms
shrinking civil-liberties protections for those suspected of terrorist
connections -- all this rationalized by "protecting the homeland" and
"national security." And, by and large, a frightened citizenry has gone
along, preferring security seemingly at any price -- and not paying
attention to how quickly citizens can be treated like non-citizens.
13. We know that the Democrats in Congress have felt constrained to
support Bush's anti-terrorist policies -- even when many of them knew
damage those policies could cause to representative democracy and the
Constitution -- because of fear of being seen as insufficiently
"patriotic." And so, frustrated as hell by their war constraints, they
(thank goodness!) being much less friendly to the Bush agenda on other
14. We know that so successful and swift has the U.S.-led coalition
in the early weeks, with Muslim opposition fairly muted and
that the Bush Administration feels it can begin attacks in other
suspected of harboring terrorists.
15. We know that there is no clearly understood definition of the word
"terrorist." One man's or country's "terrorist" is another man's or
country's "freedom fighter." So far, this fuzziness of definition has
caused major problems -- but it surely will.
16. We know that there has been no declaration of a State of War by the
Congress, only a resolution authorizing the President to do what must
done in combating the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attack on the
17. We know that, especially in the heartland captured by Bush in 2000
way beyond as well, a new kind of McCarthyism is rearing its head,
its lead from Bush's "you're-either-with-us-or-you're-with-the-
terrorists" kind of demagoguery and Ashcroft's equation of criticism
aiding terrorists. Already, those deemed insufficiently patriotic are
being blacklisted in academia and journalism, with the result being
18. We know that because of Bush's popularity and the way anti-terror
news dominates the headlines and energies, so many aspects of Bush's
wing policies are going insufficiently examined, especially with regard
environmental and judicial matters. And the Enron scandal, which
Bush on the periphery, is barely visible, whereas Whitewater was front-
page scandal for months.
19. We know that because the Muslim reaction in the Middle East has
relatively muted, the U.S. decided it didn't need to do anything major
keep the Palestinians happy. It said the right words about the need for
"Palestinian state," but it essentially left the Palestinians to the
tender mercies of Ariel Sharon's military campaign.
20. We know that if Arafat is eliminated as the Palestinians' viable
leader, the Israelis will have to face Hamas and Hizbollah, which the
has declared are terrorist organizations.
21. We know that Israeli intelligence officials have acknowledged that
peace and security will not, and cannot, be obtained through military
means, and that only a political settlement will work.
22. We know that peace and security will come in the Middle East when,
only when, Israel withdraws from the Occupied Terrorities -- including
withdrawing all Israelis from the settlements (thus turning them over
returning Palestinian refugees -- and the Palestinians formally
acknowledge Israel's right to exist and agree to international status
Jerusalem. But knowing that -- and knowing that the Israelis and
Palestinians also know that -- means nothing in the current violence
unless somebody else steps in to help arrange the peace. The U.S. must
at the heart of that peace-making process.
23. We know that helping bring peace to the Palestine area will also,
the long run, reduce the impetus for terrorism among fundamentalist
Along the same lines, we know that altering other policies in the
likewise will help alter the soil in which terrorism grows -- such as
economic justice and jobs, such as removing U.S. troops from Saudi
such as encouraging more democratic reforms in the area, etc. We know
Bush, thinking that armed intervention and threats can do the job, does
not want to alter U.S. policy along these lines.
24. We know that we could significantly reduce our dependence on
oil (perhaps as much as 20%) -- with the concomitant political
ramifications -- simply by legislatively ordering that our automobiles
made more energy-efficient, say, by five miles more per gallon. We know
that Bush does not want to do this.
25. We know that the progressive left is in disarray, not certain how
respond to Bush's expanded-war policies and civil liberties outrages.
we also know that we have to devise a strategy -- one that includes
reasonable policies to go after the fanatic terrorist cells and
before full-fledged fascism is the "wartime" norm in this country.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught at Western Washington University and
Diego State University; he was with the San Francisco Chronicle for