02 April 2004

The 9/11 Acid Test

Molly Ivins once said, "I hate this administration for making me feel like a conspiracy theorist all the time." It's a great quote, and true.

Luckily, whenever we are getting snowed under a blizzard of BS, there always seems to be somebody or something that comes along and reaffirms our basic goodness and values, which often puts those in power in an uncomfortably unflattering spotlight. Jessica Lynch quietly and with dignity destroyed the lie the administration told about her heroism, proving that she really is a hero; Richard Clarke (finally) stood up and said he'd had enough and told the truth about what the last four administrations have done (and not done) about terror.

Have you noticed, by the way, that some of the present administration's harshest critics are lifelong Republicans?

But pity the public, particularly those who are not as well-informed as the news junkies who write and read these blogs. To say they get conflicting information from seemingly reasonable, sincere people is the biggest understatement since "Fox News seems to have a bit of a conservative bias." They don't know what to believe, and if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool Bush-hater, the inclination (quite natural, and fundamentally patriotic) is to want to believe the President and his representatives, to give them every benefit of the doubt until there's no more doubt. This is a good quality in Americans, one we should be proud of -- but unfortunately it has been shamefully abused by the last four Presidents. Thank goodness, then, that there is almost always a simple litmus test for these folks, an easy, infallible way for them to cut through the clutter of hyperbole from both sides and diagnose the truth of the situation. If they're willing to challenge their beliefs and do it, that is.

On March 11th, I posted a simple, easy "acid test" that people could use to gauge the conservative or liberal bias of their favourite news channel -- "how many times have you heard them report about George Bush's selling of the Lincoln Bedroom and Camp David to campaign contributors?" Remember how much hay the Republicans (and the media) made with that when Clinton did it? Now Bush has actually expanded that program to include Camp David, the very height of hypocrisy since he ran against that "issue" very specifically as a candidate.

As you may have noticed, not a lot of media outlets have given this story (either the factual one about what the administration is doing, or at least a comment on their hypocrisy) much play. None, in fact, from most of the major outlets (a couple of prominent newspapers have mentioned it, but have not pursued it with much vigour). Draw your own conclusions.

Now comes another easy litmus test, one which will help Americans decide if the 9/11 Commission -- a body that has several very partisan people from the Republican party at its core, though there are also some Democrats involved -- are going to rise above their partisanship and do the right thing, or are they going to whitewash this administration for fear of being tarred with the same brush that Richard Clarke has been experiencing.

Here's the test: go read this explosive story in the Independent (UK, a conservative newspaper by the way). This is not speculation -- this is fact. The commissioners have already said publicly and repeatedly that the facts of what we knew pre-9/11 are not, for the most part, in dispute.

Now wait for the Commission to issue their report, and see if they place the kind of emphasis on the now-indisputable fact that the Bush administration had info in advance that Al-Queda was going to attack America with airplanes -- and did nothing about it -- that any reasonable American would think they would.

The degree to which they downplay this smoking gun of Bush administration culpability for the security failure of 9/11 is a perfect barometer of how much certain Commission heads are willing to put party loyalty ahead of patriotism. I wish I could say that if they overplay this information, it would be an indication that they are liberally biased (or at least anti-Bush), but not only is that not going to happen, I don't see how it could. There's simply no way to overemphasise how damning this is.

Allow me an excerpt:
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".

She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."

She added: "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used ? but not specifically about how they would be used ? and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities ? with skyscrapers.

Had this happened on Clinton's watch, he would have had to resign. No question.

Makes you wonder -- and worry -- about America, doesn't it?

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