9/11 and the Evolution of Lies
Posted by CA Pol Junkie
The Bush administration is a fascinating case study in the Darwinism of lies.
A lie can persist and prosper in its political niche until the environment changes. Then, the lie must adapt to the new circumstances and take a new form. The evolution of official Bush administration statements has been well documented on sites such as Billmon's Iraq WMD quote database and Mary's Niger uranium timeline.
The administration's 9/11 lies started out, naturally enough, as an attempt to cover up that they basically acted like a deer in the headlights when a truck was approaching at high speed. The ultimate source of information on the administration and 9/11 is the exhaustive Center for Cooperative Research 9/11 Timeline. The Timeline documents the evolution of the administration's message:
Q: Had there been any warnings that the president knew of?
A: No warnings.
Ari Fleischer, 9/11/01
Those sneaky bastards - we had no idea they were up to something!
Never (in) anybody’s thought processes ... about how to protect America did we ever think that the evil doers would fly not one but four commercial aircraft into precious US targets... never.
George W. Bush, 9/16/2001
If Bush were fluent in English, this would be interpreted as expecting one hijacking but being surprised by four. The charitable interpretation, however, is that he is saying they had no inkling that particular mode of terrorism would be used, and that they didn't think "precious U.S. targets" would be hit. Of course, things changed on 5/15/02, when CBS News broke the story of the August 6th memo, ruining the myth of "no warning". The memo referred to bin Laden's desire to strike in the U.S. and mentioned hijacked airplanes as a possibility. Then "no warning" became "no specific warning" and "no warning of airplane hijacking and planes used as missiles and specifically on the WTC and Pentagon". Here was the new story:
The president did not - not - receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers.
Ari Fleischer, 5/16/02
The new story is that warnings of hijackings were in the traditional sense, holding hostages. Fleischer also claimed the August 6th memo was entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US", in support of their contentions that threats applied to U.S. interests abroad, but reports indicate the actual title ends, "in U.S." 5/18/02
The overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas."
Condoleeza Rice, 5/16/02
This appears to be a claim that the U.S. government was vigilant in protecting its overseas interests, but the domestic attack caught them by surprise. Like Fleischer, it is an apparent challenge to the "in" in the reported title of the August 6th memo. Condoleeza Rice, in her 5/16/02 news conference, continues the claim that they did not conceive of hijacked planes being used as missiles and refutes a contention never made that the entire plot should have been predicted in specificity:
I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile," adding that "even in retrospect" there was "nothing" to suggest that.
All this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking.
With the release of the Joint Intelligence Committee's 9/11 Report coming this week, we will get yet another opportunity to witness the miracle of evolving lies. Hints that the pending report will be "explosive" would no doubt be true if the report were released intact. The administration's coverup of intelligence failures and failure to pursue the real source of al-Qaeda support (hint: it's not Iraq) are widely recognized in the left half of the political blogsphere and have been a major theme of Bob Graham's presidential campaign. However, certain embarrassing sections of the committee's report will be redacted (blacked out) in the interest of "national security". We may learn as much from what they don't want us to see as from what we are allowed to see, but we are likely to see a subset of the following:
Evidence of Saudi Arabia government support of al-Qaeda, and non-cooperation since 9/11, in spite of Bush's claim that As far as the Saudi Arabians go, they've been nothing but cooperative, (9/24/2001)
Evidence of summer 2001 warnings, of varying specificity as to mode and target, from...
Germany: Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack "American and Israeli symbols, which stand out."
Egypt: threat to assassinate Bush and other Western leaders at July 2001 G-8 summit in Italy, with "an airplane stuffed with explosives"
C.I.A.: "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests."
U.K.: al-Qaeda is in "the final stages" of preparing a terrorist attack in the West
Jordan: a major attack, code named The Big Wedding, is planned inside the US and that aircraft will be used
Russia: suicide pilots are training for attacks on US targets
U.K.: warning of al-Qaeda attack using multiple airplane hijackings
C.I.A.: "There was something specific in early August that said to us that [bin Laden] was determined in striking on US soil."
Egypt: bin Laden's network is in the advanced stages of executing a significant operation against an American target, probably within the US.
Of course, revelations such as these from an official government source would nullify the current story that warnings were not specific, referred to targets overseas, and that they did not conceive of airplanes being used as missiles. Here's a preview of what Ari Fleischer's replacement might be saying a week from now...
"We disagree with the report's findings regarding Saudi Arabia. On the whole, our relationship has been productive and we consider them to be a partner in the War on Terror." (Contradict the report, tell mean reporters not to insult our friend)
"The warnings were only general, with no specific date or place, and not actionable." (Pretend general warnings are useless)
"What were we supposed to do, shut down civil aviation?" (Straw man, actually already used by Condoleeza Rice on 5/16/02)
"It would incite panic or reduce air travel to issue a warning to the public." (Of course, Clinton increased airport security in response to unspecified terrorist threats with no problems)
"Not all of the warnings received by the C.I.A. were brought to the President's attention" (It's Tenet's fault!)
"There were alot of warnings, most of which turned out to be false alarms." (Why bother)
"There were so many warnings, there was "warning fatigue". (If there are alot of warnings, doesn't that make it even more important to pay attention to them?)
"Before 9/11, there was no precedent for airplanes being used as missiles. We just didn't believe it would really happen." (No ordinary American expected it, so why should the administration?)
"The attacks had a level of sophistication and planning which we could not have anticipated." (Those nasty terrorists are just way more clever than we are!)
"Hindsight is 20/20." (Oh, well... c'est la vie)
Stay tuned for next week's episode to see how the story unfolds!