Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why There Have Been No Attacks Since 9/11 in the US

Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on "Meet the Press" this morning, and, in response to being asked if the billions spent on invading Iraq might not have been better spent on securing Afghanistan and securing our ports and increasing other efforts recommended by the 9/11 Commission that have gone wanting, he argued that the fact that there have been no attacks on the US since 9/11 is a good indication that the administration is doing something right.

You're gonna hear that argument repeatedly leading up to the elections. It sounds compelling. But it's a lie, and Dick Cheney knows it. He knows full well that the abscence of attacks on US soil is not a good indication whatsoever of how well his administration has secured the nation.

From Ron Suskind's book, The One Percent Doctrine (which I will encourage you again to buy and read):
Inside the analytical shops at CIA, and NSC, the Madrid bombing and swift follow-up investigation lead neatly into another growing consensus--a conclusion that was the last thing anyone in the White House wanted publicized: al Qaeda might not, at this point, actually want to attack America.

A key element of that analysis was a report that had been picked up a few months before, in December 2003, by the Norwegeain Defense Research Establishment---the government's intelligence arm--from a jihadist Web site with close links to Saudi al Qaeda.

The forty-two-page treatise, Jihadi Iraq, Hopes and Dangers, was completed in September 2003, and bears the mark of none other than Yusef al-Ayeri. It is dedicated to al-Ayeri, carries quotations from several of his books, and has the unmistakable al-Ayeri tone of analytical--as opposed to religious--fervor. It may have been written in part by al-Ayeri before his death in May 2003, some CIA analysts believe, and then expanded and burnished by his disciples.

The strategic document carries a host of pointed recommendations about how to undercut U.S. efforts in Iraq. A primary one is to isolate the United States, separate it from its allies, and specifically add to America's financial burdens by forcing the withdrawal of its few significant partners....

Beneath those headlines, though, was further affirmation of what CIA analysts had first begun to see in signit and limited humint as far back as the spring of 2002: a possible strategic shift by al Qaeda away from further attacks on the U.S. mainland....

The deeply classified debate over why [Ayman al-]Zawahiri had called off the chemical attacks [on NYC], meanwhile, shed its old self-congratulatry thesis that this might be due to the pressure the United States was putting on al Qaeda's structure. That line of analysis gave way to growing evidence that al Qaeda might not have been trying to attack the United State in the three years since its singular triumph of 9/11.
Suskind qualifies this theory constantly, being far more careful than the Vice President ever is to indicate the difference between what is known for certain and what is merely our best guess. But it's clear with this theory as very possibly true, that the Vice President cannot truthfully claim that the abscence of attacks on US soil since 9/11 is indicative of our doing anything right at all. He may want to take credit, but if he's honest, he knows he can't.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting.
i will read.

what are your thoughts, or anyones about the premise of loose change and terror storm (alex jones?)
that 9-11 was a self inflicted wound by the current administation?
i am not really a conspiracy theory kinda person though i have been doing some reflection and research and it just doesnt add up,
as in this book.

9/10/2006 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

We had no terrorist attacks prior to Bush's presidency. So only Bush allowed them???? Quack logic.

9/10/2006 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Why doesn't anyone point out that ten years passed between the first WTC bombing and the 9/11 attacks? Five years without an attack on US soil is no indication of how safe we are.

9/10/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Correction:

8.5 years, not 10.

9/10/2006 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I agree with jec. If you'd had a blog on September 10, 2001, you could have posted the same headline with a different date.

Do any of you remember the passage in Catch 22, where Milo Minderbinder finds out that the Germans are planning on bombing the American air base he was stationed on off the coast of Italy? He convinces the Germans that they could save money if the Americans bombed their own base, and then just sent them (the Germans) a bill once they'd done so. (And of course he makes a profit from the transaction.)

Maybe our own administration is already doing so much damage to the US that another attack on us wouldn't be worth the trouble. I wonder if someone in Washington has been sending al Quaida a bill each month.

9/10/2006 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

PS - Typo alert. I can't get used to using a "Q" without a "U".

9/10/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger ondine-nyc said...

Since there was 6 or 7 years with no terrorist attacks on US soil when Clinton left office, would Cheney agree that Clinton had done a great job keeping us safe? I think not so Cheney is doing nothing more than blowing smoke as usual.

Let us all remember that Bushco was moving away from Clinton's preoccupation with terror in their first 9 months of office, not the opposite.

9/10/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger onesock said...

If the goal is to "terrorize" the AMerican people then Al Qaida can just sit back and let the Republicans do all the work.

Cheney's arguement is like someone with a brain tumor who is still alive after diagnosis 5 years ago
saying that chewing gum everyday had kept him alive. We are in big trouble, the Pakistani president has writen off the northern part of his country it is in complete control of ALQaida and Taliban forces. There is no logic in what this admin did in not going after the terrorists in afganistan and shoring up afforts in Pakistan. Especially when we had all the support we needed from world powers. The only logical reason for diverting the attention toward Iraq is that it was planned all along and an opportunity presented itself.

9/10/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the documentary is pretty compelling. you can watch it for free here.

http://www.loosechange911.com/

9/11/2006 07:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Sorry, Edward, but to say that "al Qaeda might not, at this point, actually want to attack America," is even more preposterous as saying that an artist might not, at this point, want to exhibit at Gagosian. I'll believe al Qaeda doesn't want to attack America when America is dead. You might be right that Cheney is speaking with too much confidence, but I think your difference with Cheney is not a matter of truth, but only a matter of degree.

Don't take my word for it. As if on cue, AP reports today on Ayman al-Zawahri, saying, "Osama bin Laden's deputy warned that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets, according to a new videotape aired by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks." Forgive me for extracting some excerpts:

Addressing the West, the al-Qaida No. 2 said: "You should not waste your time in reinforcing your troops in Iraq and Afghanistan because they are doomed to defeat and are already all but defeated. Instead, you have to reinforce your troops in two regions. First is the Gulf, where you will be thrown out after you are defeated in Iraq, at which point your economic ruin will be achieved," he said. "The second is Israel, because the jihad reinforcements are getting closer to it."

[ ... ] In other portions of the tape aired by CNN earlier Monday, al-Zawahri urged Muslims to intensify their opposition to the United States and warned in general terms of new terror strikes. "We have repeatedly warned you and offered a truce with you," al-Zawahri said, addressing Americans. "Now we have all the legal and rational justification to continue to fight you until your power is destroyed or you give in and surrender."


It's a severe intellectual stretch to say al Qaeda lacks the desire. They're talking tough and saying they'll attack Israel and the Gulf region because, frankly, that's the best they can do. (If they can even do that). If Cheney isn't correct, he's a lot more correct than Suskind.

9/11/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Henry,

I think you're missing a crucial distinction here.

Clearly al Qaeda are still at large and plotting (who's to blame for that is another point worth debating, but not here perhaps). They are still a threat.

At some point in the future they may decide again to attack the US mainland, but as Suskind points out (and the AP article doesn't address this point at all), there's very good reason to believe that NOT attacking the US mainland since 9/11 has been a very conscious and deliberate decision, made to help keep the US's allies alienated from Bush (i.e., if we're attacked again, they may very likely rally to our side again).

This makes al Qaeda more, not less, of a threat, but it counters Cheney's assertion that some secret measures they've implemented (as opposed to the 9/11 Commission's suggested measures which they have most definitely done a very poor job implementing) are keeping us safe.

THAT is the intellectual stretch. Believing some top secret power and measures are keeping the terrorists at bay. It's dangerous and foolish to believe that, but that's what Cheney is asking us to do. Russert gave him ample opportunity to address the 9/11 Commission suggestions and he passed, insisting instead that some mysterious "something" they're doing is why another attack hasn't happened. It's insulting and negligent, and the SOB needs to stop promoting that idea.

9/11/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Al-Qeada are not in power to win a war and they know it.


Attacking constantly would only bring them problems or middle east countries + these attacks are costly.

The point of WTC was to hurt, not win a war.

People are still hurt and for a while, but it doesn't mean at some point another tragedy wouldn't occur to hurt again.

The frame of thinking is "Hey...we don't want you to forget how much we hate you".


WTC wasn't accentuated on the number of people killed but on the symbolism of the action.




Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

9/11/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward,

Sorry to be tedious, but I'm feeling frisky today. I think I know what you're saying, but I completely reject it, and stand firmly by my Gagosian analogy. I also think you're just trying to insult Dick Cheney, but our embassy in Syria was attacked today by those whom you claim are explicitly refraining from attacking the US, and I couldn't let it go.

You're free to claim that today's attack was not orchestrated as part of al Qaeda's larger strategy (which would be a guess at best), or that an embassy in Syria is not the US homeland (which is technically false and an intellectual stretch besides), but I think these people are all cut from the same cloth. Some of them are more charismatic and glib than others, but this is still just the gang that couldn't shoot straight, a group of clowns who would rise to the level of mafia if they didn't hide among babies. It upsets me that anyone would give them any intellectual credit whatsoever. I guess the question is whether you're more upset by Dick Cheney than I am by these idiots.

I might not be applying Ockham's Razor correctly, but the idea that terrorists are not attacking because they "don't want to" sounds like a schoolyard bully who's trying to save face after meeting someone bigger. I also find it hard to believe we're not appreciably safer after killing or detaining hundreds if not thousands of terror agents during the past five years. The CIA claims 5,000, but no matter the real figure, we all know from the news that many famous top leaders have been neutralized.

Maybe you're saying Cheney is wrong to claim success for certain parts of the anti-terror strategy, but I don't think that's what you're arguing, and I also don't think you and I have enough information to pull apart individual aspects to decide which parts work and which parts don't. By the way, when a Democrat is elected president, are you going to make sure all of Bush's executive privileges and secret programs are repealed? Would you commit to that?

P.S. I think Zawahri's message above also directly contradicts your assertion that the flypaper strategy is a lie. Not only does he affirm the flypaper strategy, he practically defines it.

9/12/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Henry,

I don't much time, but I'll say this again. Suskind says there's good reason to believe al Qaeda has not wanted yet to attack the US mainland. Mainland. Mainland. Mainland. Mainland. Attacking other places, even US embassies in other places do not constitute the US MAINLAND.

9/12/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, more time now...sorry for the terseness of that last comment. Let me address your comment point by point in the context of my post.

To begin with, let me emphasize that the main theme of my post is that Cheney et al. have not followed the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and then when challenged on why, they brush it aside and refer to some nebulous steps they've taken instead. If they 9/11 commission recommendations are not needed, they should come out and say so, but I will not take their word for it that we're safer without them just because there's been no additional attack on the US mainland since 9/11, when clearly that might be due to the al Qaeda's very conscious strategic decision NOT to attack the US mainland.

I also think you're just trying to insult Dick Cheney, but our embassy in Syria was attacked today by those whom you claim are explicitly refraining from attacking the US, and I couldn't let it go.

I actually watched Dick Cheney hoping to hear reasons not to insult him. You'll have to take my word for that.

We're not yet sure who attacked the embassy in Syria. Might be al Qaeda, might not. I don't like to equate all terrorists with al Qaeda. I don't think it's helpful.

If it was al Qaeda, then perhaps they've changed their strategy again, but that still doesn't mean what Cheney said was true or helpful. I maintain that it wasn't helpful because he's hiding behind some supposed secret measures to keep safe when he should either implement the 9/11 Commission's measures or explain why they shouldn't be implemented.

that an embassy in Syria is not the US homeland (which is technically false and an intellectual stretch besides)

You're fond of that phrase, aren't you? When we know whether the attack was al Qaeda or not, we'll know whether or not their strategy now includes additional attacks on US property. That won't change what I've said about the mainland or the fact that no attacks on the US mainland are not a good indication that Cheney's done "something" right.

I think these people are all cut from the same cloth

Then thank God you're not responsible for keeping us safe. Seriously. To suggest there's a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with various groups is to ensure we'll be more vulnerable.

It upsets me that anyone would give them any intellectual credit whatsoever.

I can see that, but the alternative is to underestimate them, which may not upset you, but puts you at greater risk.

I guess the question is whether you're more upset by Dick Cheney than I am by these idiots.

That's a false choice. It's not a matter of liking one or the other. It's a matter of whether Cheney is doing a good job of protecting us. The 9/11 Commission (a bipartisan organization, mind you) says no. Cheney says, don't look at their report card, just look at the fact we haven't been attacked again since 9/11. Who do you trust? The bipartisan group with no other agenda than keeping us safe, or the man who ensured his former company got a no-bid contract to profit from the Iraq invasion? Seriously...who do you trust more? And why?

I also find it hard to believe we're not appreciably safer after killing or detaining hundreds if not thousands of terror agents during the past five years. The CIA claims 5,000, but no matter the real figure, we all know from the news that many famous top leaders have been neutralized.

How many new terrorists have been recruited though? The danger had been centralized, with bin Laden calling the shots. What's sprung up in response to our occupying a Middle Eastern country are DIY groups lashing out with bombings in London, Bali, etc. just because they're furious with the West and our perceived imperialism.

But, that's off topic. If there's one determined terrorist out there, then Cheney should still be implementing the measures recommended by the 9/11 Commission and not dismissing them.

Maybe you're saying Cheney is wrong to claim success for certain parts of the anti-terror strategy,

I'm saying he's wrong to so glibly push aside the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

but I don't think that's what you're arguing, and I also don't think you and I have enough information to pull apart individual aspects to decide which parts work and which parts don't.

Who does? They won't tell us what these secret measures are? And maybe they shouldn't, but with the very public measure recommended not being implemented and all of the nation able to see that, why on earth won't the man address them?

By the way, when a Democrat is elected president, are you going to make sure all of Bush's executive privileges and secret programs are repealed? Would you commit to that?

I think any program worth having in the protection of the country is worth asking Congress to pass into law. Period. We live in a representational democracy, not a monarchy. Any Democrat who's confused about that doesn't belong in office either.

I think Zawahri's message above also directly contradicts your assertion that the flypaper strategy is a lie. Not only does he affirm the flypaper strategy, he practically defines it.

I think the flypaper strategy is still up for debate as to whether it was an intentional strategy or convenient second excuse after the WMDs Cheney said he "knew" were in Iraq proved not to be. What's not up for debate, IMO, is that the flypaper strategy is morally reprehenisble and beneath any American I consider honorable.

9/12/2006 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe bushco attacked our embassy in syria, i believe no one was killed....THANK GOODNESS,
this can just again help punctuate the 'WAR ON TERROR'

hey ed have you seen loose change?

9/12/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger paulraphael said...

Let's not forget that there were also no attacks BEFORE 9/11.

One simple observation is that the qualiity of policing in the U.S., on the local and national levels, has always been high enough to make carrying out big devastating conspiracies very, very hard.

I know an ex-marine turned anti-government investigative journalist, who told me about the spooky covert things that went on to stop terrorists on U.S. soil. This conversation took place a couple of years before 9/11. He spoke about people being "disappeared" in the orwellian sense. I asked him his sources, and he only said "I know people who are directly involved."

Anyway ... this is total heresay, so take it with a grain of salt. The real observation is that our current attack-free status really just means a return to the status quo, after an unplesant aberration.

9/15/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward,

Thanks for the reply. I'll give you the last word on Cheney and the 9/11 commission. I don't listen to him and won't defend him, and also agree that the commission should scrutinize our responses to terror. I guess I'm just trying to err on the side of eradicating terrorists, and am afraid that people are fighting more vigorously over the GOP than over the intolerant inhuman and deadly authoritarianism we're fighting. (BTW, since you mentioned WMDs, I never considered them the most important item. I think intelligent debate suffers when one focuses on this issue when it was but one of many. Administration be damned. I didn't depend on WMD in my pre-war arguments, and don't care what Bush said or didn't).

I still believe the US causes no more terrorism than a short skirt causes rape or a tough FBI official causes gangland crime. This won't change. I still don't believe that terrorists refrain from attacking the US mainland because they don't want to. [You're right, I confused "mainland" with US interests in general]. Maybe I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the administration, no matter what party it is.

Also, to follow paulraphael's point above, just because they attacked the Cole, the Khobar Towers, the African Embassies and all sorts of other non-mainland targets, it didn't preclude them from "wanting" to attack the WTC in 93 and again in 01. If you want to say "they don't have the skills," or "they don't have the ability," or "they're a bunch of idiots," then I might buy that argument. But lack of desire? No way.

You're also right that I'm suffering from a great deal of confusion right now. I find it painfully difficult to live in a world where half the political spectrum cannot bring itself to challenge a statement like that of Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, who said of the Pope yesterday that "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence." Is there a political angle to this statement? This is a simple contradiction. Every moralist and humanist should be in absolutely perfect agreement on this. We say Bush & Co are Orwellian, but we can't see 1984 when it bites us in the butt -- I mean ass.

I'm sorry Edward, I really am, but I'm in the middle of a really big intellectual crisis. We're getting all upset and indignant that people in North Carolina and Australia are banning slightly naughty art, and we go nuts every time Cheney says something silly, but Iran hangs two young gay men for "raping" a 13 year old boy last summer and there isn't a peep from anyone in the art community here. It drives me nuts. It makes me sick. Say the word Bush or Cheney in a crowd of "educated" people and they'll start spitting venom and talking about Hitler, but say Iran or North Korea and they'll get all Orientalist on you and talk about the wonders of exotic things. I'm just so upset. Sorry to take it out on you.

9/15/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

ut Iran hangs two young gay men for "raping" a 13 year old boy last summer and there isn't a peep from anyone in the art community here. It drives me nuts. It makes me sick. Say the word Bush or Cheney in a crowd of "educated" people and they'll start spitting venom and talking about Hitler, but say Iran or North Korea and they'll get all Orientalist on you and talk about the wonders of exotic things. I'm just so upset

when we only look good in comparison with terrorists and the sort of ignorance that leads to the murder of people because of their sexual orientation, we're so far lost it doesn't matter in my opinion, Henry.

9/16/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I'd be pretty upset if I thought you were implying I'd claim the US can use any tactics it wants just because "we're better than them." I was just trying to say that if Bush is being attacked for one thing, but the xenophobic and authoritarian regimes of the world are not being attacked for worse things, then the attacks against Bush are at risk of being dismissed as political score-settling rather than as the principled applications of universal values.

9/18/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the last 5 years have trying to answer the question of why no more terrorist attacks since 911 on American soil? The only response I can come up with is that the terrorists realize that they would be killing the golden goose so to speak... A lot of the money for their operations comes from fund raising sponsored by Muslims in this country. I now actually believe that "they" regret doing 911 since it caused the US to take some action that is having a significant negative impact on their goal to control the planent.

12/31/2006 10:05:00 PM  

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