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August 18, 2007

Does America Need Another 9/11?


An interview with Stu Bykofsky

by Scott Horton

Scott Horton takes Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News to task for his suggestion that America needs another 9/11. By the end of the interview, Scott is practically straddling Bykofsky and pummeling him with facts, when Bykofsky goes whoops! I have a "real job" I have to get back to. The interview unfortunately ends abruptly.

Interview conducted August 15, 2007. Listen to the interview.

Welcome back to Antiwar Radio. Our next guest is Stu Bykofsky. He's a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. Welcome to the show, Stu.

Bykofsky: Happy to be here.

Horton: Good to talk to you sir. As you already know, just from the name of the show, you and I are going to disagree, but this isn't the Sean Hannity Show, so let's you and I be friends. And let's not get into one of those arguments where we each begin each sentence with "You believe this" and "You believe that" because I don't want it to be like that.

Bykofsky: Thanks Scott.

Horton: I have to say, Stu, I have a serious problem with the sentiment expressed in your recent column "To save America, we need another 9/11." What's going on there?

Bykofsky: Well, what's going on, first of all is the headline doesn't express what the text of the column does. The word "need" is wrong. Read the first sentence of the column if you would, Scott, so that your listeners know what we're talking about.

Horton: Sure. "One month from the anniversary, I'm thinking another 9/11 would help America."

Bykofsky: Okay. "Help" as opposed to "need" an attack. What that is – one man's opinion – it was my hypothesis, and what the column expressed was remembering the unity that we felt as Americans after 9/11, I kind of yearned for that, I see that we're terribly divided today and I speculated on whether or not an attack would do that. At the close of the column, I acknowledge that the unity brought by such an attack sadly won't last forever. The first 9/11 proved that. So I'm acknowledging it is not a cure-all, and it was an idea that I was throwing out there to underscore my belief that we're terribly fractured and there was reaction to the column, which I published on Monday, in which I said "I was wrong. An attack won't do it. We are so badly fractured I don't think there's anything that can do it."

Horton: Oh, and my apologies, because I'm just now seeing in the margin here that you wrote another column following up which I haven't read – so my apologies for that. But here's the thing, it seems to me is that the reason we're so divided is because of all the things that our government was able to get away with by exploiting all that unity that we felt on September 11th. Wouldn't we all be better off if we could find unity around the Bill of Rights, rather than around an aggressive foreign policy?

Bykofsky: Well, what I decided, my opinion in the column was that the fracture that we see in America today flows mostly from Iraq, the attack and the prosecution of the war that was botched by Bush. The war itself, because it has dragged on for four years, because there is no victory in sight, because there are casualties every day, that is what has turned people against the war, rather than people being against the war itself. My illustration of that point of view would be the first Gulf War which lasted 100 hours of actual fighting where we had a declared attack. There were people of course who were against that war too, but they were a very small minority, and as time passed that has receded into the distant. It is not up for national debate any more because we won that war, and we won it quickly.

Horton: Well, I'd agree with you that the American people were almost entirely happy with that war, but isn't the lesson of that first Gulf War that, no, we didn't win it, we got ourselves into another Vietnam situation where this thing began in January of 1991, and we're still bombing that place, and never stopped?

Bykofsky: You know, you're actually sounding like people on the Right now who say we didn't win the war because we didn't finish it off. George H.W. Bush should have gone in and taken it over right then and there.

Horton: Well, of course, that's not what I said...

Bykofsky: Now, I don't make that case. I think that's wrong thinking.

Horton: I do too, and that's why I opposed the second Gulf War – it was basically sold as finishing the job of George Bush Sr. and, of course, it didn't finish the job.

Bykofsky: I'm sorry Scott, it wasn't sold that way. That may be the truth as you see it, but it was never sold that way. It was sold as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Horton: Well, in a way. Honestly, that was how it was sold to the rubes. If you watched Meet The Press it was sold as "regime change," it was sold as "This guy, it's no longer tolerable that he's there so we're going to go in and finish the job from last time."

Bykofsky: Well, Saddam is a bad guy, I don't recall anyone saying that we're going to finish the job from last time, but that's a minor point.

Horton: Yeah, the point I'm making is not that they should have quote unquote "finished the job" back in 1991, the point that I'm making is that the war in 1991 never ended, it still hasn't ended, this is still the same war. And it wasn't declared. You said that it was a declared war, I think. It was not a declared war, it was not a defense of America, or even American interests.

Bykofsky: Oh, you're talking about the current Iraq War?

Horton: No, I'm talking about the first one that got us into this mess in 1991 that the American people still love so much.

Bykofsky: I believe that the first one was authorized by the United Nations.

Horton: Yeah. Well that' not a declaration of war from the United States Congress as mandated by the Constitution, and it certainly was not a defense of America.

Bykofsky: Well, that's right. When was the last time we had one of those? I don't even think Korea was... Korea was a "police action"' right?

Horton: 1941 was the last time Congress declared war.

Bykofsky: That's right, we don't do that any more.

Horton: Yeah, well, we ought to. If we're going to have a war I think the responsibility ought to be on the lawmakers, that's what Madison and them thought when they wrote the Constitution too.

Bykofsky: I agree with you.

Horton: Okay. We're too far off the point here. Let's get to the second Iraq war. You say that the problem that the American people have is the mismanagement of it rather than the war itself. I would submit to you, Sir, that there was no proper way to manage it. Whether they made a giant mistake firing the Iraqi army and so forth is debatable, although I think if they had tried to keep the Ba'athists in power, and the Iraqi army, they would have had to start the whole war all over again against the Shi'ites who were not going to tolerate that. That's why they fired them, because Ayatollah Sistani insisted on it. So there was no right way to wage this aggressive war, to somehow guarantee a new form of government and impose it on the people of that country. There was no right way to do that.

If the American people – and it is a minority, according to the latest polls I've read – if those Americans think that the war was still right, but it was just waged wrong, well, they're still just mistaken. What we're talking about is America was attacked by a stateless band of guerrilla fighters, left over from the war against the Russians, that America supported. They were basically out of work, the King of Saudi Arabia wouldn't hire them to oust Saddam from Kuwait – hired us to do it instead. Some of them went and fought in Bosnia for Bill Clinton in the 1990s and in Kosovo in 1999 there at the end of the last century, and they decided that they couldn't overthrow their local governments that they wanted to overthrow until they got rid of us first. So they would come and knock down our towers and get us to overreact and invade their land where they could shoot our guys and drain our treasury until our empire was so bankrupt they could force us out. And now, it seems to me that George Bush is doing – and this entire policy has been – exactly what Osama Bin Laden wants, and it seems to me that it's also the kind of thing that makes it much more likely that we'll have that next September 11th, when really what we're talking about is a war that could have been over in 6 months if it had been targeted against the actual mujahedeen warriors that knocked those towers down, instead of the Ba'athists who were number three on their list.

Bykofsky: Wasn't that what we were doing in Afghanistan?

Horton: Well, actually, no. In Afghanistan they went and waged war against the Taliban and they let al-Qaeda escape.

Bykofsky: Well, weren't we after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and wasn't that where they were?

Horton: That is where they were, but Tommy Franks even said "Osama Bin Laden is not our target. We're here for regime change against the Taliban." And I'm sure that there were some who would have liked to get them at Tora Bora (and I'm not saying that it was necessarily on purpose) but bin Laden and his top guys got away, and now we're stuck overthrowing the Taliban and trying to install Hamed "Lando Calrissian" Karzai in power there with his cape and his furry hat and the rest of it, and what do we have?

A resurgent Taliban, a resurgent al-Qaeda stronger than ever according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate. And it seems to me that this unity that you talk about - I mean, I kind of like the spirit of "Hey, you know, we can all get along and not have to fight amongst each other all the time" and what have you – but if that unity is to be exploited by our government to wage war on innocent people to make our terrorism problem so much worse, then what's the good of it? Wouldn't we better off as individualists?

Bykofsky: Did I hear – were you critical of the United States intervention in Bosnia under Bill Clinton?

Horton: Yes. That war was fought basically for the mujahedeen. Bin Laden's guys were used as shock troops in that war.

Bykofsky: Okay but it wasn't to save Muslims who were being rounded up and exterminated?

Horton: No, I don't think it was.

Bykofsky: Wow. Okay.

Horton: Particularly when you're talking about the Kosovo War.

Bykofsky: That's what I'm talking about

Horton: Well, the Kosovo war, there were no mass graves. The FBI left after 2 weeks. They found a total of 3,000 bodies, all of them were of fighting age men. There were no men, women and children rounded up and shot and dumped into mass graves. The Clinton administration promised us hundreds of thousands of bodies, and they never found them any better than they found Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. They didn't exist. It was a lie.

In fact, it was Hillary Clinton – as we were just discussing in the last half-hour here on the show – it was Hillary Clinton (and she's bragged about this publicly) who called Bill Clinton and basically browbeat him into going ahead and starting the bombing based on that lie. There was no genocide in Kosovo.

Bykofsky: And there were no concentration camps with starving Muslims? Those pictures were all faked? I saw them Scott.

Horton: There was footage of Kosovar refugees from after the bombing began fleeing to Albania, I saw that footage on CNN too. But I'm telling you Sir, do the Google search. There were no mass graves. They found a total of like 3,000 bodies. Total. And they weren't civilians. There were no mass graves, they promised us a hundred thousand bodies from that war that had already been killed – that was the genocide they were stopping. And they used the mujahedeen. In fact Brendan O'Neill has written all about this, how Bill Clinton really strengthened al-Qaeda and really internationalized the modern jihadist movement by backing them in Kosovo. And it did not serve American interests one bit whatsoever.

Bykofsky: Scott, I'm glad to hear that you're criticizing Democrats as well as Republicans on the basis of information.

Horton: I'm a partisan toward freedom. I want to live in a free society, and so whichever administration is working against my liberty, they're the target of my criticism. Let's get back to the original point here. Americans got along a lot better in the days and weeks and months after September 11th. People stopped calling 911 on each other so much, people stopped fist-fighting in bars so much, and the level of the tragedy got to us in a way, everybody put an American United and all that on the car, but my fundamental question to you is, "Is that really a good thing?"

Wouldn't we have been better off if 90% of the American people had said "Wait a minute! George Bush and Dick Cheney are the same people as they were on September 10th, and they shouldn't be trusted with any more power or authority than we would have trusted them with on September 10th. No! Not everything has changed. The Bill of Rights has not changed, the Constitutional separation of powers has not changed and the fact that it is immoral to wage aggressive war against countries who have never attacked us has not changed"?

Bykofsky: Scott, do you remember that the administration, the CIA and FBI were criticized for failing to connect the dots?

Horton: Absolutely.

Bykofsky: Okay. What I see now is that the Left, by and large, will not give the administration the ability to connect the dots by lawful, lawful, eavesdropping. I'm against unlawful eaves dropping.

Horton: Ah, jeez. The Democrats just passed it last week. The president can tap anybody he wants and the paper says today that George Bush is now telling the courts that they may not even review any lawsuits about warrantless wiretapping because it would violate the States' Secrets Privilege – that was made up by the courts in the first place.

Bykofsky: He was given the authority after he had usurped the authority, and I am certainly not for that. Now why did the Democrats give him the authority? Because they don't want to be accused, after the next attack, and Scott, you know in your heart we will be attacked again...

Horton: As long as we continue this foreign policy I absolutely believe that is true.

Bykofsky: Our foreign policy at this moment has nothing to do with it. We will be attacked again. There are already al-Qaeda cells in this country...

Horton: Oh, come on.

Bykofsky: You don't want to believe it? Fine. But Jeez, somebody attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 and was convicted of the crime.

Horton: Yeah, and...?

Bykofsky: Now that wasn't imagined was it?

Horton: Yeah, and you're telling me those guys are still out on the loose?

Bykofsky: If you don't want to believe that there are already terror cells in this country, you're free not to believe it. I choose to believe it and I would encourage our government to do something to protect us against it.

Horton: Well, I'm happy with people believing whatever they want. What I'd like to see is some evidence. What I've seen is...

Bykofsky: I've described the evidence. There've been convictions.

Horton: I've seen the Director of the FBI testifying under oath before the United States Senate that they have no evidence whatsoever of any current al-Qaeda cells inside the continental United States whatsoever.

Bykofsky: And you believe everything that he tells you?

Horton: Well, I believe him when he says "We have no evidence. We're looking, but we can't find any." I believe that.

Bykofsky: Look, the AP today is carrying a story about citizens banding together to – well, I'll tell you to look it up and you can read it for your listeners, I don't want to do it over the phone – a story by Tom Hayes from the Associated Press about groups that believe, that are joining together and being radicalized to air their grievances through terrorism. As I said, we've already had a conviction, there were others, there was the conviction in Detroit. We have people who are going on trial for a supposed attack on Kennedy airport. Now, I'm not saying they're guilty, and I'm not saying the plot is actual – let's have the trial and see what happens.

Horton: Right, well, let me stop you there. I never denied that Ramsey Yousef and what became the al-Qaeda movement were responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing, or any of those attacks in the 90s. I never denied any of that so let's just get that straight, and secondly, you cite the Detroit case there. You know that they only got convictions on two out of the four, and then the Judge turned around and let the two convicted go free because the prosecutor and the guys from the State Department were being indicted for perjury and suborning perjury and withholding evidence from the defense, that they were convicted on the basis of thin air, and the judge overturned the convictions and the Justice Department is now prosecuting the Federal Prosecutor who persecuted them.

And so, again, I'm not denying that there's such a thing as al-Qaeda or that there's a threat to this country. Let's not go cite a bunch of bogus make-believe terrorism cases that the FBI has conjured out of thin air to support our case now, Stu. There is a real terrorist threat to this country, and the fact of the matter is you talk about these guys being radicalized. They're not being radicalized by a speech on some audio tape. They're being radicalized by watching the American military occupying their Holy Land, and killing people who look, and believe, like them. That's why they're being radicalized. That's why they were being radicalized in the 1990s.

You mention Ramsey Yousef and the first World Trade Center bombing - have you ever read his rant to the judge upon his conviction when he gave his statement to the court? This is all about American foreign policy, it's always been about American foreign policy, and if they attacked us because we're occupying their holy Land and putting sanctions on them, and bombing them, well, then occupying their holy Land and putting sanctions on them, and bombing them more, is not going to solve the problem. See, that's going to make the problem worse. Again, we started off on September 12th at war against a stateless band of mujahedeen warriors who didn't control so much as a county on Earth. They were kind of an adjunct alliance with the Taliban, but they weren't even the government of Afghanistan. They were nothing, they were a band of pirates, and now we act like they're the Soviet Union.

Bykofsky: Scott, I hate to interrupt your speech, but I told your producer I have 15 minutes for the interview, I've done 15 minutes, I'm glad it was civil, and it was nice talking to you, but I've got to get back to work.

Horton: Okay. I'd like to give you a chance to go ahead and answer that last bit if you'd like.

Bykofsky: I have a real job to do here, Scott, and I've given you actually more time than most interviewers which want to do five or seven, but I really do have to get back to work. I appreciate talking to you and I appreciate your point of view.

Horton: Alright. Thanks very much. Everybody, Stu Bykofsky from the Philadelphia Daily News.

 

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  • Scott Horton is an assistant editor at Antiwar.com and the director of Antiwar Radio.

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