Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 anniversary 2012

Austria's Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) posted this image of an election poster, presumably from 1945 just after Austria's liberation from Germany, on their Facebook page today. It's titled "11 Years of Fascism" with images of Adolf Hitler and the famous damaged facade of the Karl-Marx Haus of workers' residences that was damaged in the short but bitter Austria "civil war" of 1934 under the "corporate state" (Standestaat) dictatorship of Engelbert Dolfuss (1892-1934).

I doubt that they intended it to be any kind of comment on what has happened to civil liberties and respect for international law in the United States during the last 11 years. And "9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" has been the justification used for it.

It's worth remembering that basically one change in airline policy would have prevented the 9/11 attacks from going down as they did: reinforcing the doors to the pilot's cabin and changing the practice of having the pilots negotiate face-to-face with hijackers.

Obviously, any reasonable response to the 9/11 attacks would have strengthened other security measures, as well, such as the pre-boarding passenger screening.

But we got way more than that. We got a full-blown resumption of the Cold War with two hot wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) with the one in Afghanistan still going. Only this time The Enemy was a nuclear-armed super-power like the Soviet Union but a small band of terrorist that almost certainly no longer exist in anything like the form they did eleven years ago.

It appears that the major progress against the actual Al Qa'ida group of Osama bin Laden was in the early weeks of fighting in Afghanistan, when they were heavily concentrated in Afghanistan and were engaging in conventional battles against the US-backed and largely US-directed Northern Alliance supported by US airpower. If the Cheney-Bush Administration and its Defense Secretary Rummy (Donald Rumsfeld) had been more serious about getting Bin Laden, they might well have gotten him in the battle of Tora Bora in early 2002. Or at a minimum they could have wiped out virtually all his remaining well-trained cadres there.

Now, in addition to "Al Qa'ida" being the chief Enemy for our massive US military establishment and the industries that supply it at a healthy profit, we have a full-blown counter-terrorism industry with big bucks riding on continued public fear, rational or otherwise, of the present-day bogeyman called "Al Qa'ida". Because of the extreme levels of government secrecy under Cheney and Bush, intensified under the Obama Administration, it's virtually impossible for journalists or the general public to have a very good evaluation of the real threat from terrorism. But it's hard to imagine from what we do know that whatever terrorists groups are out there, even ones that have adopted the name "Al Qa'ida" in tribute to the original, that the actual organization that Bin Laden headed on 9/11/2001 continues to exist in any meaningful form.

And they weren't super-spies when they did exist. The 9/11 operation reportedly cost something like $250,000 altogether. They mainly exploited lax security procedures by the airlines, who then ran the pre-boarding passenger screening, and the indifference of the leaders of the Cheney-Bush Administration prior to eleven years ago today. Speaking of indifference, the New York Times just provided us more details of how little they cared about the actual threat of Al Qa'ida in 2001 prior to September 11: Kurt Eichenwald, The Deafness Before the Storm 09/10/2012.

In any case the Obama Administration continues to flog the threat of "Al Qa'ida". Bin Laden's much-celebrated death didn't diminish that. As of today, the federal National Counterintelligence Center's (NCTC) page defining Al Qa'ida reads:

Despite leadership losses, al-Qa‘ida remains committed to conducting attacks in the United States and against American interests abroad. The group has advanced several unsuccessful Western plots in the past two years, including against the United States and Europe. This highlights al-Qa‘ida’s ability to continue some attack preparations while under sustained counterterrorism pressure and suggests it may be plotting additional attacks against the United States at home or overseas.
Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First has the right idea in 11 Years After 9/11, It's Time to End the War on Terror 09/11/2012:

But fixing the real problem isn't how things happen in politics. So instead of just improving intelligence and communications among government agencies and going after the people who attacked us, the U.S. government embarked on two ill-defined wars, created a massive new "Homeland Security" bureaucracy, doubled the defense budget (not counting the cost of the wars), and created overseas prisons and military commissions to avoid the basic requirements of the United States Constitution.

Some detainees were tortured in those prisons; the U.S. government is still covering it up today.

Much of that response to the 9/11 attacks wasn't only unnecessary, it was downright destructive.
She also points to the practically open sham that is the headline for the ongoing "war on terror": "Although U.S. officials have acknowledged that the al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 has been all but defeated, the government has ramped up the war against far-flung al Qaeda affiliates, some of which didn't even exist in 2001." Her conclusion:

Eleven years later, it's time to turn things around. Instead of generating more enemies and motivating more attacks, we should be doing the opposite. Sure, keep using intelligence and law enforcement and diplomacy and development and all the many tools the U.S. government has to track, prosecute, punish and thwart terrorism.

But spending trillions on secret wars, secret trials, offshore prisons and forever prisoners? There's no future in that.
Sounds right to me.

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