In the Arena

Lessons of 9/11: A Response to Evil

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Luz Maria Arismeldy stands in a moment of silence during ceremonies marking the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York City on Sept. 11, 2012

It is a perfectly beautiful morning in New York, just as it was 11 years ago today. By the end of that day, the world, as I knew it, had changed. In the small suburb where I lived, nine fathers didn’t come home that night. Our home filled with friends who were stranded because planes weren’t flying and the bridges to Manhattan were closed. We heard they needed shovels and gloves down at Ground Zero — and shovels and gloves were soon stockpiled in front of our local fire station. Neighbors cooked meals for the children of the nine widows. We were terrified, but, for the first time in a long while, we were citizens again, active in one another’s lives. That feeling didn’t last, of course.

Looking back now, the waste of the past decade seems momentous. The miscalculations of the Bush Administration seem stupendous. In the Times today, Kurt Eichenwald has a maddening column about the relentless warnings from the CIA about a terrorist attack in the months before 9/11 and the dismissal of those warnings by “neoconservatives” in the Pentagon. These followed furious red flags about al-Qaeda raised by Clinton Administration security officials during the transition, also ignored. Unfortunately, Eichenwald doesn’t tell us who those neoconservatives were, or very much about what was going on in the CIA at that time. I’d guess that Eichenwald is working on a book and there will be more details to follow. But the truth is, it wasn’t only the neocons but also militant nationalists like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who were blind to the threat — and blindly pushing for war with Saddam Hussein. The war between the militant fantasist Cheney and the largely accurate intelligence gatherers at the CIA became a defining chapter of the first Bush term. The wards of military hospitals across the country are filled today with Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s handiwork.

(PHOTOS: Eleven Years Later, New York Reflects on the Tragedy of 9/11)

And now these same militant nationalists and Israel-obsessed neoconservatives are pushing us toward a war with Iran. The U.S. military’s position on this war has been consistent since George W. Bush asked the Joint Chiefs about it during a meeting in the Tank, in the Pentagon, in December 2006: the military leadership believes — unanimously, so far as I can tell — that war with Iran is a very bad idea, with all sorts of unpredictable consequences. Sadly, the President made a major election-year concession to the Israel lobby last spring when, in his annual speech to AIPAC, he said containment of Iran’s nuclear threat is not an option. This is nonsense. Of course it’s an option, if Iran actually decides to assemble a bomb — a decision that most intelligence agencies believe has not yet been made, by the way. Containment and deterrence worked with the Soviet Union, a far more serious threat than Iran. (Indeed, Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and a history of Islamist coups, is a far more serious potential threat to U.S. national security than Iran is.)

And so, on this mournful day, we should remember two things. One is that evil exists in the world and we must be vigilant; that is why drone attacks on al-Qaeda leaders are necessary. The other is that we must be very careful about how we respond to evil — and that the blind, mindless, half-baked aggression that marked the Bush Administration’s response to 9/11, and current neoconservative thinking, must be avoided at all costs.

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Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Bin Laden was determined to strike even in Clinton days. CIA warnings were heeded by both Clinton and Bush. Bush administration took sufficient precautionary measures at all explosive spots, including airports. But nobody, including CIA, bothered about civilians without firearms  in airports. The routine checking was made while entering the plane. CIA never informed that terrorists in civilian clothes would use knives instead of pistols. So Joe's charge against Bush is meaningless and without sense.

annevincent
annevincent

That Bush and his cohorts were "reactionaries", is blatantly clear. The Iraq offensive was unjustified and among the biggest blunders that the US has ever embarked on. But both parties supported that insane maneuver, and all in Washington should be held accountable for that fiasco. Afghanistan was also a stupidly conceived "war"... without reasonable goals or sound plans for achieving success. (Or alternative schemes for achieving the end results.)

This entire irrational zeal for the US to militarily police the planet, is associated with corporate determination to conquer all markets in their "globalized" profit schemes. The American people have been lied to and ripped off, and had their entire futures disintegrated  over the last few decades, so that corporate America could reap continual profits. As long as our government is merely a puppet for the big powerful corporate interests, and the welfare of the American people is no longer relevant, we can expect things to continue to degenerate. 

drinkeroftherye
drinkeroftherye

Your wrong, Obama got us out of the "dumb war" (Iraq) so he could have theresources to surge in the "good war" , the "right war", a "war of necessity" in Afghanstan.   In less than four years, his drone stikes have killed more than three thousand in there and in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. After the election, BHO will have the flexability to negotiate a truce and political settlement with the Talibon.  Your post is outrageous, especially on this day. FORWARD March!

TianbianHaiou
TianbianHaiou

"Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons."

I don't need Mitt Romney's fantasized $ courage, nor the "fear" he recommended.

"Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world."

chupkar
chupkar

WHat's the old saying? How do you fight the monster without turning into the monster?

Lou Bruce
Lou Bruce

Drone strikes that kill 10 times the civilians along with the "terrorists". Evil does exists in the world, it is the U.S. military industrial complex fueled by stupid politicians that think bombs can solve all of their problems and who create ten future terrorists with each drone strike.

drinkeroftherye
drinkeroftherye

Evil does exist and Obama is getting us disengaged from it in the nick of time. After nine years of US occupation, Iraq is close to a failed state.  Given the resilience of the Taliban, and increasing attacks on US soldiers, it’s clear that a negotiated truce and political settlement will be forged sooner rather than later. Tribal civil war grows with every day in Syria.  Pakistan's survival is dubious: Islamists, separatists, potentially stray nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, economic and natural disasters, a booming and restless young population, rotting institutions and violent megacities. Hamas and Hezbollah grow stronger. The turbulence from the Arab Spring is intensifying. The emergence of self-defined Islamist parties and movements will continue as will the slaughter between the tribes. The House of Saud promulgates a different but no less virulent form of Islamism. Obama is wise not to risk his re-election on these little people who have such a grim future. 

drinkeroftherye
drinkeroftherye

Not true, while there may be some collateral damage, HO has reduced civilian causalities by classifying all military-age males in a strike zone as ‘terrorists unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent’.  FORWARD

Muhammad Khizir Farooqi
Muhammad Khizir Farooqi

Joe in his concluding paragraph says that we should remember two things. One is that evil exists in the world and we must be vigilant; May I ask him that his evil exist only in Vietnam, Japan Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and not in U S , G B, etc.

The other is that we must be very careful about how we respond to evil —Is Drone attacks are not the blind, mindless, half-baked aggression that marked the

Bush Administration’s response to 9/11. Instead of searching evils to eliminate them blindly it is better to search nobles  to make the world around us more noble.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

Joe Klein is nothing more than a Monica Lewinsky wannabe. The bottom line is that bin Laden and al Qaeda should have been wiped out before Bush became president. If Clinton had pursued bad guys with as much enthusiasm as he pursued bad girls, that would have happened. Consider Clinton’s response to the November 13, 1995 truck bombing outside of a US-operated Saudi Arabian National Guard training center in Riyadh. In that attack, the worse one on Americans in the Middle East since 1983, five Americans and two Indians were killed. Instead of spending his time working to find out who was responsible for the attack, on November 15 Clinton began his affair with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Sage__Owl
Sage__Owl

I, too, hate it when the White House ignores obvious warning signs. I'll add another one to your list:On September 11, 2001 members of al Qaeda hijacked four planes. They flew two of them into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon killing thousands. Instead of taking out the man who orchestrated the attacks, Osama Bin Laden, the White House chose to invade Iraq. Bin Laden remained at large from the first day through the last day of George W. Bush's presidency.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 Iraq came 18 months after 9/11. We were in Afghanistan less than a month after 9/11. Thousands of brave men and women took part in the hurt for bin Laden for nearly a decade. You spit on their efforts when you suggest that nothing was done to fin bin Laden on Bush's watch.

Sage__Owl
Sage__Owl

Keep your ridiculous hyperbolic language to yourself. I used the same phrasing in my post as you did in yours. If you don't like it you have only yourself to blame.

The bottom line is that bin Laden and al Qaeda should have been wiped out before Obama became president. If Bush had pursued bad guys with as much efficiency as Obama that would have happened.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 mantisdragon91:"Bush pulled special force troops out of Afganistan in his rush to

refocus on Iraq, and allowed Bin Ladin to flee to Pakistan where he was

given a safe pass by our so called allies."Now that's an example of why I call folks like you moonbats and morons. Your comment is devoid of facts.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Bush pulled special force troops out of Afganistan in his rush to refocus on Iraq, and allowed Bin Ladin to flee to Pakistan where he was given a safe pass by our so called allies. If anyone spit on the efforts of these brave men and women it was Bush. To add insult to injury he then sent them to a pointless war in Iraq where thousands were killed and crippled.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Wow. The reality you exist in obviously has nothing in common with the planet we live in. For a party that supposedly is strong on foreign policy and national security it is appalling how little you understand either.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

Instead of launching a personal attack, show me where I am wrong.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Watch that "ret*rded" word if you don't mind.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

mantisdragon91:

The Democrats booed God and cheered Clinton. That the Democrats showcased Clinton at their convention only proofs that they are a party of low standards and morals.

The fact remains that if Clinton had pursued bad guys with as much passion as he pursued bad girls, 9/11 never would have happened.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 How about in your partisan knee jerk desire to absolve the Bush administration of all blame and pin everything on Clinton. The proof to you lies is the simple fact that Clinton is proudly showcased front and center in this election, while the Republican party is hiding Bush like a retarded child born out of wedlock.

René Milan
René Milan

While I largely agree with Joe's opinions expressed in this article, talking about "evil" is not only counterproductive (as it increases the degree of incitement that will serve to support the policies of the "neocons" and "militant nationalists" he rightfully decries), but downright infantile, like toddlers in the playground going "you're stoopid", "no YOU're stoopid".  The day's events were immediately interpreted in terms of war instead of crime, and with some moral and intellectual justification (even though I don't think it was a smart thing to do).  And this was a direct reflection of the attackers' view that it's the u.s. that's evil, and that they meant it as an act of war, and considering the amount of damage it has effected over the past eleven years to the u.s. economy, the lives of its citizens, its collective psyche and its standing in the international "community", I am sure they consider it a major success even after the death of osama.  In this war neither side has been overly concerned with "collateral damage".  While it's perfectly understandable that its innocently bystanding victims on both sides (and there were and are vastly more of them outside the u.s. than inside) view the killers and maimers on the other side as evil, it's not acceptable to have these views confirmed in what is meant to be political analysis. 

drinkeroftherye
drinkeroftherye

While Mitt blathers, Barack kills.  After eigt years, Bush had only gotten a miserable two hundred from drone killings in Pakistan.  Now in less than four years Obama has killed more than three thousand in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.  FORWARD March!

Karen Haggerty
Karen Haggerty

Bush's folly.......became an idea and then a mandate..........I would not want it on my soul.....that I was in charge when the decision to go to war in Iraq was hatched.......and  decided that america must go to war..........i think that it was a mistake.....no matter  what, no matter what!!!!!! 

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Joe,

"Indeed, Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and a history of Islamist coups, is a far more serious potential threat to US national security than Iran is."

Joe you are full of it as usual.

Iran is governed by a crazy radical religious leader and a crazy radical president. Their armed forces are controlled by fanatics that are totally loyal to their crazy leaders.

Pakistan is governed by a rational semi-democratic government and has armed forces that are controlled by a professional military leadership.

Pakistan has its crazy radicals but they are not in leadership positions in the government or the military.

You views are wrong as usual.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 The only reason Iran is pushing so hard to get the bomb is that Bush invaded countries on both it's borders and blatantly singled them out as the next victim in his Axis of Evil speech.  Pakistan on the other hand is only one coup away from selling Nuclear technology and possibly weapons to the highest bidder.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were singled out as the greatest threats to the U.S. by Secretary of State William Cohen in July 2000. Check the reality.

http://armed-services.senate.g...

bobell
bobell

Cohen didn't literally describe them as "greatest threats," but he did use them (and no others) as examples of states trying to devlop WMDs.  Point to KG.  I have no idea whether this influenced Dubya's "axis of evil" remark: I wonder if anyone knows.

On the other hand, there's a huge difference in significance between prepared remarks for a Senate committee hearing (which is where Cohen made his statement) and the SOTU address.  Not to mention the vivid label used in the SOTU.

Anyway, it's now 2012, not 2001, and although Iran still poses serious danger to US interests, Pakistan is now both better armed and more susceptible to a meltdown.

René Milan
René Milan

All countries are governed "semi-democratic"ally at best, but on the dysfunctionality scale Pakistan ranks considerably higher than Iran.  At least in terms of the problems of proliferation the collapse of the USSR was not a welcome development, and Pakistan which HAS NWs is currently more likely to disintegrate than Iran which as yet doesn't have them.

Dave
Dave

The most damning bit in the Eichenwald piece:

"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..."

What a freaking bunch of amateurs. And now Romney is embracing this crowd and readying to bring them back into power.

That is why Romney must not be elected. He would bring back the same disastrous Bush policies. He'd gleefully dash off to war with Iran, damn the consequences.

ERenger
ERenger

I have a little problem with the idea that "evil exists in the world." To me, when the term "evil" is used that way, it refers to a supposed supernatural force the drives people to wickedness. I don't believe in that. Certainly wickedness does exist, and Al Qaeda is wicked, but I don't think they are somehow being driven by a supernatural evil force to do their wicked acts. 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

It's call Satan.  But that's another story.

ERenger
ERenger

I know it's about Satan, and that's exactly my problem with it. I don't believe in the idea that people do bad things because The Devil got into them. And I don't believe that fighting Al Qaeda has anything to do with fighting Satan. 

ERenger
ERenger

I think we as a nation and people did pull together after 9/11, and we could have nurtured that spirit and would have been made stronger for it. We started to pull apart again when the Bush administration began to manipulate and stoke our fears for their own purposes --- promoting the war in Iraq. 

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

I remember watching the news that morning … and the dawning horrified realization that one of my cousins worked in Tower 2. He's alive now only because he was late to work that morning. I remember two days of frantic phone calls from Texas to NY and NJ before we got the word that he was alive, though just about everyone else in his office was dead.

I remember long lines at the local blood bank, flowers and cards left at local fire stations, people stopping police officers to thank them for the jobs they do. I remember folks smiling and talking to perfect strangers … and having to come up with an answer for my then-8YO daughter about what would happen if a plane hit her school. (I suspect many parents of young children were answering questions they'd never imagined then.)

I remember being perfectly okay with the attack on Afghanistan (though silly me thought we'd just go over, get the job done and get out … ha), and then I remember being utterly appalled when talk turned to Iraq. And I remember being told I was a traitor because I was "against" the president. I remember how pissed I was that the victims of 9/11, including my cousin (because, yes, the survivors are victims, too), were being used to justify a war that was wrong.

And now we're doing it again with Iran, ginning up a war we have no business even contemplating.

Apparently many of the lessons we learned from 9/11 were the wrong ones.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

D!ck and W and Rummy all used 9/11 as a gateway to off Saddam--which they obviously had intended to do in the first place. 

Colin Powell drew up the justification for war, and eventually wound up with egg on his face.

Rumsfeld is still looked at as manipulative.

Condi put on the brave Mary Richards face and soldiered on, doing absolute harm to the world's perception of us.

D!ck made million$ from Halliburton.  Washed his hands of blood.

W doesn't even peek his head out of the door much now.

What a legacy.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

At that time, Foggy, I had no idea Iraq had been such an obsession with the neocons. All I knew was that Saddam had tried to off Bush I and this was Dubya's excuse to get revenge. It wasn't until I started reading up on the subject that I realized just how determined the neocons were from the very beginning to get us into Iraq. From Wolfowitz on down, this was their driving ambition.

I was horrified – and infuriated – to learn that our country's entire foreign policy had been perverted by ideologues who had absolutely no idea what they were doing. And our troops, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis, were (and still are) paying the price of that ignorance and arrogance in blood.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 "Colin Powell drew up the justification for war, and eventually wound up with egg on his face."

There's one major problem with that claim: The Clinton admin left office in January 2001 saying that Saddam had WMD and, thus, was "a clear and present danger at all times." Hillary Clinton is also on record saying that the intelligence regarding Iraq was consistent from the Clinton admin to the Bush 43 admin.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

nflfoghorn:

"I'm not gonna say you're lying, Real Name, but that account from Joe Wilson has never been made before."

It has. You're just ignorant of the facts.

On October 13, 2002, Wilson wrote a column entitled “How Saddam Thinks” for the San Jose Mercury News. In this column, Wilson asks, “Can we disarm Saddam this time without risking a chemical attack or a broader regional war that threatens our allies?”

Wilson also referred to Iraq’s WMD in a February 6, 2003 column in the Los Angeles Times: “There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to

defend himself if the United of States comes after him. And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that.”

You can be forgiven for your ignorance since the media buried these columns after no WMD were found in Iraq.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 forgottenlord:

"Kevin: Dubya had clear evidence that the Yellow Cake was a total hoax

and was being directly advised by his intelligence officers that it was

bogus.  They didn't want to stand anywhere near it.  He still quoted it

during SotU.  Why?"It was not a lie . Check the record.http://www.factcheck.org/article222.h...

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Actually, nfl, I've heard that claim, but I think it was more of a guard Wilson threw up to say that his report wasn't refuting that Saddam didn't have WMD's....just that the yellow cake was ridiculous.

Kevin: Dubya had clear evidence that the Yellow Cake was a total hoax and was being directly advised by his intelligence officers that it was bogus.  They didn't want to stand anywhere near it.  He still quoted it during SotU.  Why?

I will accept the argument that Tenet, not Cheney, was the problem with the WMD's and it wasn't fake intelligence but bad intelligence.  But stuff like the Yellow Cake story where something was clearly and explicitly false but not once caused them to question whether their assumptions about Saddam's WMD programs were false says everything I need to know: America was driven to a war it was capable of realizing it didn't need.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I'm not gonna say you're lying, Real Name, but that account from Joe Wilson has never been made before.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 nflfoghorn:

A Joe Wilson reference. Of course, Wilson argued prior to the invasion that Saddam had WMD. Check the record.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Dude...no one invades a country without clear and compelling (i.e., not made up) evidence that imminent harm will be done to us or our allies if we don't stop it first. 

Powell took the fall for what Rumsfeld, D!ck and W intended to do all along. And I don't know if you know it or not...

...but it was all a big lie.

Yellowcake, anyone??

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

"In the Times today, Kurt Eichenwald has a maddening column about

the relentless warnings from the CIA about a terror attack in the

months before 9/11 and the dismissal of those warnings by

“neoconservatives” in the Pentagon. These followed furious red flags

about Al Qaeda raised by Clinton Administration security officials

during the transition, also ignored"

Leave it to a waste of space like Joe Klein to politicize 9/11 on 9/11. Let's look at the facts. The August 6 PDB contained absolutely no specific or current information about an imminent al Qaeda attack. The part about a possible hijacking of an airliner was actually from a December 4, 1998 PDB that entailed an uncorroborated report that al Qaeda planned to hijack a plane in an effort to release Islamic extremists in the U.S. All action on that PDB was concluded by February 1999, or nearly two years before Bush became president.

Richard Ben-Veniste was forced to admit that the August 6, PDB contained no specifics regarding an imminent al Qaeda attack when he grilled Condi Rice before the 9/11 Commission.

Richard Clarke in "Against All Enemies" noted that there was no "proof or specificity" regarding an imminent al Qaeda attack during the summer of 2001.

The claims that the Clinton admin raised red flags about al Qaeda during the transition came from members of the Clinton admin who were in CYA mode. An actual examination of contemporaneous comments shows that the Clinton admin was much more concerned about Iraq. Let's look at the facts:

- In July 2000, Secretary of Defense William Cohen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss national missile defense. Cohen made it

clear what he considered the greatest threat to the people of the United States. “Chairman Warner, Senator Levin, members of the Committee, I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with you the U.S. National Missile Defense program,” Cohen said. “I cannot think of a more important issue to address than protecting the American people from the threat posed by states such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq who are seeking to acquire nuclear, chemical and

biological weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them.”

http://www.armed-services.sena...

- After al Qaeda blew up the USS Cole on October 10, 2000 (less than three months after Cohen portrayed Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the greatest threats facing the U.S.), the Clinton admin made no effort whatsoever to retaliate against al Qaeda even though it had more than three months to do so. This gave al Qaeda the impression that it could act with impunity.

- In December 2000, the Clinton administration released “A National

Security Strategy for a Global Age” to Congress. The 45,000-word document made no mention of al Qaeda and mentioned Osama bin Laden by name just four times. “Iraq” and “Iraqi” were mentioned dozens of times.

- During the transition period, the State Department on January 8 issued a press release that began with these words: “The United States will continue to press Iraq to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition of lifting economic sanctions, even after the end of the Clinton administration January 20, current U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.” Albright apparently did not discuss al Qaeda during her farewell address.http://www.usembassy.it/file2001_01/a...

- A January 11 press release with the headline “Holbrooke: Iraq Will Be a Major UN Issue for Bush Administration” covered U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke’s farewell address. According to Holbrooke, “Saddam

Hussein’s activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times.” Like Albright, Holbrooke did not broach the topic of al Qaeda during his farewell address.http://www.usembassy.it/file2001_01/a...

If Klein or any other moonbat here can share contemporaneous press releases or articles in which Clinton admin officials raised "red flags" about al Qaeda, I invite you to share them.

bobell
bobell

Who's politicizing 9/11, fella?  Check your mirror.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 Look at the piece above, Skippy. I'm merely sharing facts to counter the scumbag's lies.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Calling people moon bat and skippy only makes you seem even less informed than you come across as. Impossible as that may seem.