We are constantly admonished to remember the
lessons of 9/11. Of course the real issue is not remembering, but rather knowing
what the pertinent lesson of that sad day is.
The 9/11 Commission soon will release its report after months of fanfare
by those whose reputations are at stake. The many hours and dollars spent
on the investigation may well reveal little we don't already know, while ignoring
the most important lessons that should be learned from this egregious attack
on our homeland. Common sense already tells us the tens of billions of dollars
spent by government agencies, whose job it is to provide security and intelligence
for our country, failed.
A full-fledged investigation into the bureaucracy may help us in the future,
but one should never pretend that government bureaucracies can be made efficient.
It is the very nature of bureaucracies to be inefficient. Spending an inordinate
amount of time finger pointing will distract from the real lessons of 9/11.
Which agency, which department, or which individual receives the most blame
should not be the main purpose of the investigation.
Despite our serious failure to prevent the attacks, it's disturbing to see
how politicized the whole investigation has become. Which political party
receives the greatest blame is a high stakes election-year event, and distracts
from the real lessons ignored by both sides.
Everyone on the Commission assumes that 9/11 resulted from a lack of government
action. No one in Washington has raised the question of whether our shortcomings,
brought to light by 9/11, could have been a result of too much government.
Possibly in the final report we will discuss this, but to date no one has
questioned the assumption that we need more government and, of course though
elusive a more efficient one.
The failure to understand the nature of the enemy who attacked us on 9/11,
along with a pre-determined decision to initiate a pre-emptive war against
Iraq, prompted our government to deceive the people into believing that Saddam
Hussein had something to do with the attacks on New York and Washington. The
majority of the American people still contend the war against Iraq was justified
because of the events of 9/11. These misinterpretations have led to many U.S.
military deaths and casualties, prompting a growing number of Americans to
question the wisdom of our presence and purpose in a strange foreign land
6,000 miles from our shores.
The neo-conservative defenders of our policy in Iraq speak of the benefits
that we have brought to the Iraqi people: removal of a violent dictator, liberation,
democracy, and prosperity. If all this were true, the resistance against our
occupation would not be growing. We ought to admit we have not been welcomed
as liberators as was promised by the proponents of the war.
Though we hear much about the so-called "benefits" we have delivered to the
Iraqi people and the Middle East, we hear little talk of the cost to the American
people: lives lost, soldiers maimed for life, uncounted thousands sent home
with diseased bodies and minds, billions of dollars consumed, and a major
cloud placed over U.S. markets and the economy. Sharp political divisions,
reminiscent of the 1960s, are arising at home.
Failing to understand why 9/11 happened and looking for a bureaucratic screw-up
to explain the whole thing while using the event to start an unprovoked
war unrelated to 9/11 have dramatically compounded the problems all Americans
and the world face. Evidence has shown that there was no connection between
Saddam Hussein and the guerilla attacks on New York and Washington, and since
no weapons of mass destruction were found, other reasons are given for invading
Iraq. The real reasons are either denied or ignored: oil, neo-conservative
empire building, and our support for Israel over the Palestinians.
The proponents of the Iraqi war do not hesitate to impugn the character of
those who point out the shortcomings of current policy, calling them unpatriotic
and appeasers of terrorism. It is said that they are responsible for the growing
armed resistance, and for the killing of American soldiers. It's conveniently
ignored that if the opponents of the current policy had prevailed, not one
single American would have died nor would tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians
have suffered the same fate.
Al Qaeda and many new militant groups would not be enjoying a rapid growth
in their ranks. By denying that our sanctions and bombs brought havoc to Iraq,
it's easy to play the patriot card and find a scapegoat to blame. We are never
at fault and never responsible for bad outcomes of what many believe is, albeit
well-intentioned, interference in the affairs of others 6,000 miles from our
Pursuing our policy has boiled down to "testing our resolve." It is said
by many even some who did not support the war that now we have no choice
but to "stay the course." They argue that it's a noble gesture to be courageous
and continue no matter how difficult. But that should not be the issue. It
is not a question of resolve, but rather a question of wise policy. If the
policy is flawed and the world and our people are less safe for it, unshakable
resolve is the opposite of what we need. Staying the course only makes sense
when the difficult tasks are designed to protect our country and to thwart
those who pose a direct threat to us. Wilsonian idealism of self-sacrifice
to "make the world safe for democracy" should never be an excuse to wage preemptive
war especially since it almost never produces the desired results. There
are always too many unintended consequences.
In our effort to change the political structure of Iraq, we continue alliances
with dictators and even develop new ones with countries that are anything
but democracies. We have a close alliance with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, many
other Arab dictatorships, and a new one with Kadafi of Libya. This should
raise questions about the credibility of our commitment to promoting democracy
in Iraq which even our own government wouldn't tolerate.
Show me one neo-con that would accept a national election that put the radical
Shiites in charge. As Secretary Rumsfeld said, it's not going to happen. These
same people are condemning the recent democratic decisions made in Spain.
We should remember that since World War II, in 35 U.S. attempts to promote
democracy around the world none have succeeded.
Promoters of war too often fail to contemplate the unintended consequences
of an aggressive foreign policy. So far, the anti-war forces have not been
surprised with the chaos that has now become Iraq, or Iran's participation
but even they cannot know all the long-term shortcomings of such a policy.
In an eagerness to march on Baghdad, the neo-cons gloated and I heard them
of the "shock and awe" that was about to hit the Iraqi people. It turns
out that the real shock and awe is that we're further from peace in Iraq than
we were a year ago and Secretary Rumsfeld admits his own surprise.
The only policy now offered is to escalate the war and avenge the deaths
of American soldiers if they kill 10 of our troops, we'll kill 100 of theirs.
Up until now, announcing the number of Iraqi deaths has been avoided purposely,
but the new policy announces our success by the number of Iraqis killed. But
the more we kill, the greater the incitement of the radical Islamic militants.
The harder we try to impose our will on them, the greater the resistance becomes.
Amazingly, our occupation has done what was at one time thought to be impossible
it has united the Sunnis and Shiites against our presence. Although this
is probably temporary, it is real and has deepened our problems in securing
Iraq. The results are an escalation of the conflict and the requirement for
more troops. This acceleration of the killing is called "pacification" a
bit of 1984 newspeak.
The removal of Saddam Hussein has created a stark irony. The willingness
and intensity of the Iraqi people to fight for their homeland has increased
many times over. Under Saddam Hussein, essentially no resistance occurred.
Instead of jubilation and parades for the liberators, we face much greater
and unified efforts to throw out all foreigners than when Saddam Hussein was
It's not whether the Commission investigation of the causes of 9/11 is unwarranted;
since the Commissioners are looking in the wrong places for answers, it's
whether much will be achieved.
I'm sure we will hear that the bureaucracy failed, whether it was the FBI,
the CIA, the NSC, or all of them for failure to communicate with each other.
This will not answer the question of why we were attacked and why our defenses
were so poor. Even though 40 billion dollars are spent on intelligence gathering
each year, the process failed us. It's likely to be said that what we need
is more money and more efficiency. Yet, that approach fails to recognize that
depending on government agencies to be efficient is a risky assumption.
We should support efforts to make the intelligence agencies more effective,
but one thing is certain: more money won't help. Of the 40 billion dollars
spent annually for intelligence, too much is spent on nation building and
activities unrelated to justified surveillance.
There are two other lessons that must be learned if we hope to benefit by
studying and trying to explain the disaster that hit us on 9/11. If we fail
to learn them, we cannot be made safer and the opposite is more likely to
The first point is to understand who assumes most of the responsibility for
the security of our homes and businesses in a free society. It's not the police.
There are too few of them, and it's not their job to stand guard outside our
houses or places of business. More crime occurs in the inner city, where there
are not only more police, but more restrictions on property owners' rights
to bear and use weapons if invaded by hoodlums. In safer rural areas, where
every home has a gun and someone in it who is willing to use it is, there
is no false dependency on the police protecting them, but full reliance on
the owner's responsibility to deal with any property violators. This understanding
works rather well at least better than in the inner cities where the understanding
is totally different.
How does this apply to the 9/11 tragedies? The airline owners accepted the
rules of the inner city rather than those of rural America. They all assumed
that the government was in charge of airline security and unfortunately,
by law, it was. Not only were the airlines complacent about security, but
the FAA dictated all the rules relating to potential hijacking. Chemical plants
or armored truck companies that carry money make the opposite assumption,
and private guns do a reasonably good job in providing security. Evidently
we think more of our money and chemical plants than we do our passengers on
The complacency of the airlines is one thing, but the intrusiveness of the
FAA is another. Two specific regulations proved to be disastrous for dealing
with the thugs who, without even a single gun, took over four airliners and
created the havoc of 9/11. Both the prohibition against guns in cockpits and
precise instructions that crews not resist hijackers contributed immensely
to the horrors of 9/11.
Instead of immediately legalizing a natural right of personal self-defense
guaranteed by an explicit Second Amendment freedom, we still do not have armed
pilots in the sky. Instead of more responsibility being given to the airlines,
the government has taken over the entire process. This has been encouraged
by the airline owners, who seek subsidies and insurance protection. Of course,
the nonsense of never resisting has been forever vetoed by all passengers.
Unfortunately, the biggest failure of our government will be ignored. I'm
sure the Commission will not connect our foreign policy of interventionism
practiced by both major parties for over a hundred years as an important
reason 9/11 occurred. Instead, the claims will stand that the motivation behind
9/11 was our freedom, prosperity, and way of life. If this error persists,
all the tinkering and money to improve the intelligence agencies will bear
Over the years the entire psychology of national defense has been completely
twisted. Very little attention had been directed toward protecting our national
borders and providing homeland security.
Our attention, all too often, was and still is directed outward toward distant
lands. Now a significant number of our troops are engaged in Afghanistan and
Iraq. We've kept troops in Korea for over 50 years, and thousands of troops
remain in Europe and in over 130 other countries. This twisted philosophy
of ignoring national borders while pursuing an empire created a situation
where Seoul, Korea, was better protected than Washington, DC, on 9/11. These
priorities must change, but I'm certain the 9/11 Commission will not address
This misdirected policy has prompted the current protracted war in Iraq,
which has gone on for 13 years with no end in sight. The al Qaeda attacks
should not be used to justify more intervention; instead they should be seen
as a guerilla attacks against us for what the Arabs and Muslim world see as
our invasion and interference in their homelands. This cycle of escalation
is rapidly spreading the confrontation worldwide between the Christian West
and the Muslim East. With each escalation, the world becomes more dangerous.
It is especially made worse when we retaliate against Muslims and Arabs who
had nothing to do with 9/11 as we have in Iraq further confirming the
suspicions of the Muslim masses that our goals are more about oil and occupation
than they are about punishing those responsible for 9/11.
Those who claim that Iraq is another Vietnam are wrong. They can't be the
same. There are too many differences in time, place, and circumstance. But
that doesn't mean the Iraqi conflict cannot last longer, spread throughout
the region and throughout the world making it potentially much worse than
what we suffered in Vietnam. In the first 6 years we were in Vietnam, we lost
less than 500 troops. Over 700 have been killed in Iraq in just over a year.
Our failure to pursue al Qaeda and bin Laden in Pakistan and Afghanistan
and diverting resources to Iraq have seriously compromised our ability
to maintain a favorable world opinion of support and cooperation in this effort.
Instead, we have chaos in Iraq while the Islamists are being financed by
a booming drug business from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan.
Continuing to deny that the attacks against us are related to our overall
policy of foreign meddling through many years and many administrations, makes
a victory over our enemies nearly impossible. Not understanding the true nature
and motivation of those who have and will commit deadly attacks against us
prevents a sensible policy from being pursued. Guerilla warriors, who are
willing to risk and sacrifice everything as part of a war they see as defensive,
are a far cry, philosophically, from a band of renegades who out of unprovoked
hate seek to destroy us and kill themselves in the process. How we fight back
depends on understanding these differences.
Of course, changing our foreign policy to one of no pre-emptive war, no nation
building, no entangling alliances, no interference in the internal affairs
of other nations, and trade and friendship with all who seek it, is no easy
The real obstacle, though, is to understand the motives behind our current
policy of perpetual meddling in the affairs of others for more than a hundred
Understanding why both political parties agree on the principle of continuous
foreign intervention is crucial. Those reasons are multiple and varied. They
range from the persistent Wilsonian idealism of making the world safe for
democracy to the belief that we must protect "our" oil.
Also contributing to this bi-partisan, foreign policy view is the notion
that promoting world government is worthwhile. This involves support for the
United Nations, NATO, control of the world's resources through the IMF, the
World Bank, the WTO, NAFTA, FTAA, and the Law of the Sea Treaty all of which
gain the support of those sympathetic to the poor and socialism, while too
often the benefits accrue to the well-connected international corporations
and bankers sympathetic to economic fascism.
Sadly, in the process the people are forgotten, especially those who pay
the taxes, those whose lives are sacrificed in no-win undeclared wars, and
the unemployed and poor as the economic consequences of financing our foreign
Regardless of one's enthusiasm or lack thereof for the war and the general
policy of maintaining American troops in more than 130 countries, one cold
fact soon must be recognized by all of us in Congress. The American people
cannot afford it, and when the market finally recognizes the over commitment
we've made, the results will not be pleasing to anyone.
A "guns and butter" policy was flawed in the 60s, and gave us interest rates
of 21% in the 70s with high inflation rates. The current "guns and butter"
policy is even more intense, and our economic infrastructure is more fragile
than it was back then. These facts dictate our inability to continue this
policy both internationally and domestically. It is true, an unshakable resolve
to stay the course in Iraq, or any other hot spot, can be pursued for years.
But when a country is adding to its future indebtedness by over 700 billion
dollars per year it can only be done with great economic harm to all our citizens.
Huge deficits, financed by borrowing and Federal Reserve monetization, are
an unsustainable policy and always lead to higher price inflation, higher
interest rates, a continued erosion of the dollar's value, and a faltering
economy. Economic law dictates that the standard of living then must go down
for all Americans except for the privileged few who have an inside track
on government largess if this policy of profligate spending continues. Ultimately,
the American people, especially the younger generation, will have to decide
whether to languish with current policy or reject the notion that perpetual
warfare and continued growth in entitlements should be pursued indefinitely.
I'm sure the Commission will not deal with the
flaw in the foreign policy endorsed by both parties for these many decades.
I hope the Commission tells us why members of the bin Laden family were permitted,
immediately after 9/11, to leave the United States without interrogation,
when no other commercial or private flights were allowed. That event should
have been thoroughly studied and explained to the American people. We actually
had a lot more reason to invade Saudi Arabia than we did Iraq in connection
with 9/11, but that country, obviously no friend of democracy, remains an
unchallenged ally of the United States with few questions asked.
I'm afraid the Commission will answer only a few questions while raising
many new ones. Overall though, the Commission has been beneficial and provides
some reassurance to those who believe we operate in a much too closed society.
Fortunately, any administration, under the current system, still must respond
to reasonable inquiries.