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Beat Back the Bush Attack:
June 1, 2002
By Jack Smith

Posted via Jack Smith's Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, June 1, 2002, Issue #65 (subscribe to

Progressive-thinking people been waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop ever since Congress, in an hysterical fit of excessive patriotic zeal a month after the Sept. 11 disaster, passed that devastating attack on civil liberties known as the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

It finally dropped May 30 when the Justice Department eliminated a number safeguards against wholesale FBI surveillance of domestic political organizations, churches, libraries, internet websites and civilians just going about their business.

It's all being done in the name of fighting terrorism, as are the new wars President Bush is threatening against several countries with no relationship to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

It was obvious from the beginning, at least to those who did not misuse the American flag as a blindfold, that President Bush and his top advisers intended to exploit the Sept. 11 tragedy to engage in military expansion abroad and implement an ultra-right political agenda at home.

The "opposition" Democratic Party has proven itself to be useless in the struggle to impede the Bush administration's dangerous quick-march to the right on all important issues from the environment and economic justice to peace and civil liberties. The only recourse open to people of the left who want to stop aggressive wars and to keep their liberties is to take to the streets and meeting halls and unite with all who can be united in building a mass and militant protest movement aimed at beating back the Bush attack.


If ever there was evidence Washington was exploiting and compounding the fear, insecurity and hyperpatriotism engendered by the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York, the Bush administration.s "Chicken Little, Chicken Little, the sky is falling!" scaremongering about terrorism the week of May 18-25 constituted proof positive. Evidently, there are few lengths to which the White House will not go to advance the right-wing agenda and the fortunes of empire.

By midweek, New York Times headline writers were engaging in soft satire -- first by announcing that "Security is Tightened in New York After Vague Threat of Terrorism;" then, introducing an editorial headlined "Distractions and Diversions" (noting that "these warnings, which have already lost much of their power to command public attention, will become meaningless if they are perceived merely to be a way of changing the subject"); then "The Warning du Jour Comes via Rumsfeld...." (describing an article stating that most intelligence "was too vague to provide meaningful precautionary advice"); finally concluding with a column headlined, "Cool It!" (pointing out, "Remember, it's supposed to be al Qaeda that's running scared, not us").

Even our own Poughkeepsie Journal, in an editorial supportive of the Bush administration and its war on terrorism, commented that Americans were being treated "to an overdose of terrorist warnings. It's an inevitable consequence of all the criticism President Bush faced last week for failing to warn people about a possible terrorist attack before Sept. 11."

The need to minimize the news that Bush and his aides were vaguely informed of a planned attack before Sept. 11, but said nothing publicly, evidently was a factor -- but not the major one -- in the flurry of scare stories. As soon as top Democrats began to ask, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" unnamed officials grabbed headlines by suggesting that al Qaeda "is trying to carry out an operation as big or bigger than the Sept. 11 attacks." This was followed in short order by Vice President Cheney's announcement that another massive terrorist attack was "almost certain," by FBI director Robert Mueller's suggestion that "We will not be able to stop" inevitable suicide bombings and "further terrorist attacks," by Homeland Security director Tom Ridge's warning that another terrorist attack was "not a question of if, but a question of when," by Secretary of State Colin Powell's declaration that "terrorists are trying every way they can to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction," and by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.s warning that "terrorist networks ... would not hesitate one minute in using" such weapons.

By the end of the week millions of Americans were plunged back into fear and trembling. A few days later, the Justice Department was able to exploit these new fears by providing the FBI with vastly expanded new powers of surveillance. An even bigger reason for the administration's terrifying alarms was to manipulate the multitude into continuing its support for the war on terrorism -- no matter what comes next.

After nine months, the traumatized American people are finally getting their lives back together. Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan are fading from the forefront of consciousness. At the same time, however, the Bush administration is planning several more military adventures, including a major war against Iraq that could result in thousands of U.S. casualties -- and there.s no telling what the government is preparing for Cuba, Colombia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, et al.

In order to fulfill its imperial objective of sweeping the world clean of "Rogue States" over the next months and years, the White House requires a pledge of unambiguous allegiance from the great majority of the population, including the craven Democratic Party. And the only way to fashion such fidelity is to keep the people of the United States in a continual state of personal fear of terrorism, livid anger toward those who dared tread upon us, and flag-waving hyperpatriotism. It is thus necessary from time to time for the administration to stimulate emotions similar to those experienced by the American people in the first months after Sept. 11. Hence the choreographed recent reminders that after the twin towers, the sky itself may be next to fall, unless George W. Bush is allowed carry the war on terrorism through to the end, wherever that may be.


The leadership of the Democratic Party, backed, oddly, by certain forces on the left, is calling for Congress to initiate an "independent" inquiry into what the Bush administration knew about the Sept. 11 attacks before they took place. At immediate issue are revelations that the government was privy to some raw information from intelligence agencies months before the Pentagon and World Trade Center were hit, suggesting that al Qaeda planned to hijack airliners -- and did not make this material public, much less prevent the attacks.

By extension, these revelations dovetail with a variety of reports circulating for many months that the Bush administration may well have participated in a conspiracy that knew about but did nothing to prevent the terror raids in order to provide a pretext to further the right-wing agenda and launch a war on terrorism.

We have no doubt that the Bush administration and the Pentagon had various war plans ready to extend the U.S. empire into Central Asia, to topple Afghanistan, to wage war against Iraq, to finish off Cuba and North Korea, to weaken Iran and so on. These plans in fact constitute what has become known as the war on terrorism. Such blueprints have been on the Pentagon drawing boards for years, and are continually updated by the warmakers in each successive political administration, based on political, economic and military considerations and military opportunities of the moment. And it is obvious as well that the Bush administration has most certainly exploited the national crisis engendered by Sept. 11 to pursue its reactionary domestic policies.

But we are dubious about supporting the Democratic Party's opportunist call for an investigation into why the Republican administration was unable to prevent the attacks. And we remain unconvinced there was a conspiracy involving the Bush administration.

Had the Democratic leaders coupled their call for an inquiry with a declaration of opposition to the war on terrorism, perhaps some good could have come out of it. But since they strongly support the war, backed the $48 billion hike in the Pentagon budget, and remained mute when the White House announced the new policy of first-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states -- among many other outrages -- what, exactly, is supposed to come out of a full-scale investigation?

What we fear is that any such inquiry will conclude that the FBI, CIA and other spy agencies must be strengthened even further, that the Homeland Security office must be enlarged to play a bigger role in preventing future attacks, and that even more restraints must be removed from police forces to enable them to act faster and more decisively in future, among other such recommendations.

What will not emerge from such an inquiry is a serious examination of the role played by the U.S. in creating many of the conditions that ripened to the point where a group such as al Qaeda could launch the terror attacks. Will the inquiry examine the role the CIA played in supporting right-wing fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan (including Osama bin Laden) from 1979 to 1994? Will it analyze the degree to which Washington's role in Iraq and Palestine and Saudi Arabia, among many other areas in the Middle East, contributed to the rising tide of antipathy toward the U.S. throughout the region? Will it investigate the imperialist uses to which the Bush administration has put the terror attack in terms of extending the empire? Will it question why the Pentagon needs permanent bases throughout Central Asia as a consequence of the war against Afghanistan? Will it probe the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan?

If these and dozens of other similar questions were the focus of the inquiry demanded by Senate Democratic leader Sen. Tom Daschle and House Minority leader Rep. Richard Gephardt, we would have a great deal more confidence that it would serve a politically useful or at least educational purposes. But if it's just "what did Bush know and when did he know it," or "who tied the FBI's hands," it seems like two-party establishment politics as usual, intended to foster the customary illusions.


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