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COLUMN NINETY, MAY 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

THE TERRORISTS FLEW AND BUSH KNEW


t r u t h o u t

When Andrew Card interrupted the 298th reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by whispering words of fire and death into the ear of George W. Bush as he sat with schoolchildren on September 11th, 2001, Mr. Bush's face betrayed not a hint of surprise and shock. 

Now, we know why. 

Governor Jeb Bush of Florida signed Executive Order No. 01-261 on September 7th, 2001, renewing an order signed six months earlier that allowed the National Guard to be called out in case of emergency. On September 11th, he used this order to command members of the National Guard into active service and essentially declared martial law in Florida. When informed of the attacks in New York and Washington, Governor Bush responded, "Was it the terrorists?" 

Now, we know why. 

On the eve of his first State of the Union speech, George W. Bush along with Vice President Cheney contacted Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and asked him to soft-pedal any Congressional investigations into the September 11th attacks. The requests were little more than thinly veiled threats. 

Now, we know why. 

Virtually every news outlet is buzzing today with the newest revelation: Bush had been warned in the months before 9/11 of Al Qaida terrorist plans to hijack airplanes. The White House response to this thunderclap has been predictably muted: "The administration, based on hijackings, notified the appropriate agencies," said Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. He did not deign to reveal which agencies were alerted, nor did he specify the content of the warning. 

Jose Juves, spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, the state agency responsible for security at Boston's Logan Airport, stated in today's Boston Globe, "The Federal government never handed down any intelligence regarding hijackings." The two airplanes that destroyed the World Trade Center towers came from Logan. 

Someone is lying. 

Fleischer has described the warnings as having been regarding "hijackings in the traditional sense," and that no one in the administration could have conceived of a plot to turn commercial airlines into suicide bombs. This does not defray the substance of the central question: 

If Bush heard the words "Al Qaeda" and "hijackings in America" in the same sentence, why did


The warnings
to Bush did not occur
in a vacuum


he fail to substantially augment airline security across the nation? He and his people did not need to conjure images of 9/11 before the actual event to understand that avoiding terrorist hijackings within the continental United States was of paramount importance under any circumstances. Besides, one protects an airplane from getting hijacked in the same way one protects an airplane from becoming a fuel-air bomb. 

The warnings delivered to Mr. Bush regarding Al Qaeda plans to hijack  American airplanes did not occur in a vacuum. FBI agents in Phoenix issued warnings in the summer of 2001 about suspicious Arab men receiving aviation training in American flight schools. The warning was never followed up. An agent in the Arizona field office commented in his case notes that Zacarias Moussaoui, arrested in August after suspicious activity at one of these flight schools, seemed like a man capable of flying airplanes into the World Trade Center. 

Newspapers in Germany, France, Russia and London reported in the months before September 11th of a blizzard of warnings delivered to the Bush administration from all points on the compass. The German intelligence service BND warned American and Israeli agencies that terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as weapons to attack important American targets. Egypt warned of a similar plane-based plot against Bush during the G-8 summit in Genoa last June, a warning taken so seriously that anti-aircraft batteries were placed around Columbus Airport in Italy. 

Last August, Russian intelligence services notified the CIA that 25 terrorist pilots had been trained for suicide missions, and Putin himself confirmed that this warning was delivered "in the strongest possible terms" specifically regarding threats to airports and government buildings. In that same month, the Israeli security agency Mossad issued a warning to both the FBI and CIA that up to 200 bin Laden followers were planning a major assault on America, aimed at vulnerable targets. The Los Angeles Times later confirmed via unnamed US officials that the Mossad warnings had been received. 

On September 16th, 2001, Vice President Cheney gave an interview to Tim Russert on the NBC news program Meet the Press. In the course of the interview, the following exchange took place: 

"MR. RUSSERT: Were you surprised by the precision and sophistication of the operation? 

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, certainly, we were surprised in the sense that, you know, there had been information coming in that a big operation was planned, but that's sort of a trend that you see all the time in these kinds of reports. But we didn't... 

MR. RUSSERT: No specific threat? 

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No specific threat involving really a domestic operation or involving what happened, obviously, the cities, airliner and so forth. We did go on alert with our overseas forces a number of times during
the course of the summer when we thought the threat level had risen significantly. So clearly, we were surprised by what happened here." 

Cheney's claim that no threats had been leveled against domestic targets "involving what happened" stands in stark contrast to the warnings received from foreign intelligence services regarding suicide pilots, aircraft and important American buildings. Furthermore, Ari Fleischer's claim that no one in the administration could have conceived of any hijackings beyond the "traditional" kind stumbles across these same warnings. 

Conspiracy-minded Americans have taken as an article of faith the idea that the Bush administration and the CIA knew full well that the 9/11 attacks were coming, and allowed them to happen for personal and political gain. Though largely circumstantial in nature, these claims do have some definite substance. It cannot be denied that Bush has enjoyed phenomenal support from the American people since the attacks, and political opponents who were ready to take his policies apart last August have been cowed into silence for months now. 

Bush has personally used 9/11 to earn laughs at the expense of the dead, and to make some fast cash for the Republican Party. On no less than eight occasions, Bush has made his "trifecta" joke before fawning GOP audiences. Based on a reported campaign 2000 promise that he would not raid social security or enter deficit spending unless the rise of war, recession or national emergency, Bush has since 9/11 remarked that he "hit the trifecta" and was safe to crack open the taxpayer piggy bank. The joke never failed to earn laughs from the crowd. It was recently revealed that the GOP was selling photos of Bush's activities on September 11th as a fundraising gimmick, an act that Al Gore has labeled "disgraceful." 

The idea that Bush allowed 9/11 to happen for his own gain is difficult to swallow, and even more difficult to prove. As things stand today, however, the evidence and information in hand is damning enough. The Bush administration was repeatedly warned by foreign intelligence services of immediate threats via aircraft to American targets. FBI agents in Phoenix had more evidence in hand, which was ignored. Bush himself was warned of Al Qaeda hijack threats, but failed to augment airline security. Vice President Cheney lied on national television about having received these warnings, and Ari Fleischer has been bolstering this lie with many of his own since the story broke. 

Add this to already-existing reports that the administration stood down its anti-terrorism forces many months ago out of concern that such investigative activities might offend a variety of oil-rich nations. This stand-down came on the eve of the conclusion of a major deal involving a natural gas pipeline through the Subcontinent that was sponsored by Unocal. 

This much is certain: The Bush administration, the FBI, and the CIA failed utterly to act upon readily available warnings regarding September 11th. Bush himself owns this failure. Not only must he answer for this, but he must also become the Number One Advocate for a far-reaching Congressional investigation into the attacks, and into the failure of his administration and its intelligence services to address the threat. He must stop making jokes about trifectas, and he must stop selling photographs of himself depicting the moment of his greatest shame. 

Thousands of Americans are dead, thousands of civilians in Afghanistan are dead, and thousands more may follow in Iraq. 

Now, we know why. 

: t r u t h o u t 2002  ##

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