Shortly after September 11, Dan Rather–or “El Diablo” as he is known to conservatives–appeared on Letterman and announced, “George Bush is the President, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where.” About a year later, Rather came to understand how misguided a sentiment this is for a journalist and took it back: “We haven’t lived up to our responsibility,” he admitted. “We haven’t been patriotic enough to ask the tough questions.”
The costs of the media acquiescence to the atmosphere of superpatriotism are all around us. We’re fighting one war in Afghanistan and may be about to enter another in Iraq. And yet because of the Bush Administration’s penchant for obsessive secrecy coupled with the media’s misplaced deference, we’re not much more knowledgeable about our path than thirty-eight years ago, when Lyndon Johnson sent US troops into combat in Vietnam by retaliating for an imaginary attack.
As a patriotic American, I’d like to offer up a few questions to which we might like answers related to the attacks of September 11, the war against Al Qaeda (which I support) and the proposed war against Iraq (which I don’t). In addition to my own research, I have relied on recent reports by Patrick Tyler and Jim Dwyer of the New York Times, Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post, Eric Boehlert of Salon and Juan Gonzalez, author of the new book Fallout. Here goes:
Why did the Bush national security team ignore the Al Qaeda briefing it received from President Clinton’s National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, in the fall of 2000?
Why did the President ignore the August 2001 intelligence briefing warning him of the likelihood of an Al Qaeda hijacking?
Why, in August 2000, was the FBI unable to locate Al Qaeda operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, both of whom had been placed at a terrorist planning meeting by Malaysian intelligence in December 1999? Hazmi was listed in the San Diego telephone directory and Midhar was using a credit card with his name on it. Both were active at the San Diego Islamic Center.
Why didn’t the National Security Agency have foreign language expertise to translate the words “Tomorrow is zero hour,” spoken by Al Qaeda operatives and picked up in real time on September 10, 2001?
Why can’t the FBI afford a decent computer system and people who know how to run it? Can’t they hire Microsoft?
Why can’t the CIA and the FBI talk to each other? Why can’t either talk to the NSA? Microsoft could probably handle this one, too.
Why has no one, apparently, been fired, anywhere, despite a clear systemwide breakdown?
What was really up with George Bush flying around the country on September 11? If they thought they had a “credible threat” to Air Force One, why the hell did he fly on Air Force One?
What’s up with those “loose” and missing Soviet-era nukes in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere? Why is the White House cutting funding for the Nunn-Lugar program, designed to protect them and keep them away from bad guys?