As the first year in the new millennium draws to a close, it might help us
sort out what’s happened in the past three+ months -- and thus how to respond
-- by compiling a summary list of What We Know.
1. As was the case with various other major mass-murder bombings (East
African embassies, USS Cole in Yemen, U.S. barracks in Saudia Arabia, etc.)
we know that Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda was behind the Twin Towers/Pentagon
2. We know that the Bush Administration, like the administrations before it,
was exceedingly lax when it came to security matters, including the amassing
and analysis of intelligence about terror groups. (But the CIA and FBI,
rather than being investigated and perhaps punished, got their budgets
3. We know that the Bush Administration and its corporate friends had its
eyes on Afghanistan as a possible war zone -- and possible location for a
Central Asian oil pipeline -- before September 11.
4. We know that the Bush Administration was wise enough to see in 9/11 the
homeland beginnings of the new type of war -- low-tech means to carry out
high-tech-like results -- and began to organize a war on terrorism that is
worldwide in scope and ambition.
5. We know that the Bush Administration made secret bilateral deals with
various countries in order to bring them into this anti-terrorist coalition,
specifically with Russia, the “’stans,” perhaps China and Indonesia also.
6. We know that the Bush policy of massive bombing from the air, combined
with support for the local anti-Taliban forces on the ground (and then
introducing select U.S. units on the ground), was able to do much more
psychological and logistical damage that was originally thought could be
possible in such a limited time-frame.
7. We know that the Taliban and Al Qaeda made strategic withdrawals and
“surrenders” in order not to engage the overwhelming force against them, and
disappeared into Pakistan, the mountains, the villages, conserving their
strength for other battles later. In short, we’re in a deceptively quiet
period at the moment.
8. We know that even with a U.S. policy of limiting “collateral damage” to
civilians, perhaps as many as several thousand innocent Afghans were killed
and injured, and several million became internal refugees.
9. We know that bin Laden and his network have chemical, biological and
nuclear ambitions, and may well have created crude weapons of mass
10. We know that even with the arrests and detentions of Al Qaeda agents and
supporters, “sleeper” agents are still living in the 60 nations where bin
Laden has operatives. US intelligence agencies estimate that about 70% of Al
Qaeda’s sleepers are still in place around the world.
11. We know that even if Bush had no exact foreknowledge of 9/11 events, he
has used those terrorist attacks -- and the popular response of the citizenry
to his handling of the crisis -- as a “cover” to try to force his
right-wing social and economic agenda through the Congress, and has been
fairly successful in so doing.
12. We know that Bush feels emboldened by his high popularity ratings to even
attempt an end-around the Constitution’s Bill of Rights in terms of shrinking
civil-liberties protections for those suspected of terrorist connections --
all this rationalized by “protecting the homeland” and “national security.”
And, by and large, a frightened citizenry has gone along, preferring
security seemingly at any price -- and not paying much attention to how
quickly citizens can be treated like non-citizens.
13. We know that the Democrats in Congress have felt constrained to support
Bush’s anti-terrorist policies -- even when many of them knew the damage
those policies could cause to representative democracy and the Constitution
-- because of fear of being seen as insufficiently “patriotic.” And so,
frustrated as hell by their war constraints, they are (thank goodness!)
being much less friendly to the Bush agenda on other domestic matters.
14. We know that so successful and swift has the U.S.-led coalition been in
the early weeks, with Muslim opposition fairly muted and containable, that
the Bush Administration feels it can begin attacks in other countries
suspected of harboring terrorists.
15. We know that there is no clearly understood definition of the word
“terrorist.” One man’s or country’s “terrorist” is another man’s or
country’s “freedom fighter.” So far, this fuzziness of definition has not
caused major problems -- but it surely will.
16. We know that there has been no declaration of a State of War by the
Congress, only a resolution authorizing the President to do what must be done
in combating the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attack on the U.S.
17. We know that, especially in the heartland captured by Bush in 2000 but
way beyond as well, a new kind of McCarthyism is rearing its head, taking its
lead from Bush’s “you’re-either-with-us-or-you’re-with-the-terrorists”
kind of demagoguery and Ashcroft’s equation of criticism with aiding
terrorists. Already, those deemed insufficiently patriotic are being
blacklisted in academia and journalism, with the result being
18. We know that because of Bush’s popularity and the way anti-terror war
news dominates the headlines and energies, so many aspects of Bush’s
right-wing policies are going insufficiently examined, especially with regard
to environmental and judicial matters. And the Enron scandal, which involves
Bush on the periphery, is barely visible, whereas Whitewater was front-page
scandal for months.
19. We know that because the Muslim reaction in the Middle East has been
relatively muted, the U.S. decided it didn’t need to do anything major to
keep the Palestinians happy. It said the right words about the need for a
“Palestinian state,” but it essentially left the Palestinians to the tender
mercies of Ariel Sharon’s military campaign.
20. We know that if Arafat is eliminated as the Palestinians’ viable leader,
the Israelis will have to face Hamas and Hizbollah, which the U.S. has
declared are terrorist organizations.
21. We know that Israeli intelligence officials have acknowledged that peace
and security will not, and cannot, be obtained through military means, and
that only a political settlement will work.
22. We know that peace and security will come in the Middle East when, and
only when, Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories -- including
withdrawing all Israelis from the settlements (thus turning them over to
returning Palestinian refugees -- and the Palestinians formally acknowledge
Israel’s right to exist and agree to international status for Jerusalem. But
knowing that -- and knowing that the Israelis and Palestinians also know that
-- means nothing in the current violence unless somebody else steps in to
help arrange the peace. The U.S. must be at the heart of that peace-making
23. We know that helping bring peace to the Palestine area will also, in the
long run, reduce the impetus for terrorism among fundamentalist Arabs. Along
the same lines, we know that alterting other policies in the Mideast likewise
will help alter the soil in which terrorism grows -- such as more economic
justice and jobs, such as removing U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, such as
encouraging more democratic reforms in the area, etc. We know that Bush,
thinking that armed intervention and threats can do the job, does not want to
alter U.S. Policy along these lines.
24. We know that we could significantly reduce our dependence on Mideast oil
(perhaps as much as 20%) -- with the concomitant political ramifications --
simply by legislatively ordering that our automobiles be made more
energy-efficient, say, by five miles more per gallon. We know that Bush does
not want to do this.
25. We know that the progressive left is in disarray, not certain how to
respond to Bush’s expanded-war policies and civil liberties outrages. But we
also know that we have to devise a strategy -- one that includes reasonable
policies to go after the fanatic terrorist cells and networks -- before
full-fledged fascism is the “wartime” norm in this country.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught at Western Washington University and San
Diego State University; he was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly
20 years. E-mail: YonWax2@aol.com