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9/11: An Elseworlds Tale
August 15, 2006 4:59 AM   Subscribe

What If ... 9/11 Never Happened? "The broader culture would have gone its own way, 9/11 or no 9/11—progressing effortlessly from the obsessions of Gary Condit and Survivor in summer ’01 to Brangelina and American Idol in ’06. The Oliver Stone project of August ’06, however, would not be World Trade Center, but, with exquisite timing, Fidel."

One possibility from many in a collection of "could've-beens" compiled by New York Magazine. Other contributions of note: Tom Wolfe, Fareed Zakaria, an alternate-future blog by Andrew Sullivan, and perhaps best of all, a simple sketch from Ex Machina's Brian K. Vaughan.
posted by grabbingsand (118 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
How am I supposed to take seriously the opinions of anybody, regardless of political viewpoint, who uses the word "Islamofascism" without irony?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:05 AM on August 15, 2006


I'll save reading the links for this evening, but I'm going to be curious to learn on what pretext the US would've attacked Iraq anyhow in at least one alternate-history scenario.
posted by pax digita at 5:19 AM on August 15, 2006


The Oliver Stone project of August ’06, however, would not be World Trade Center, but, with exquisite timing, Fidel.

Would Jack Palance have reprised his earlier role?
posted by jonmc at 5:29 AM on August 15, 2006


what pretext the US would've attacked Iraq

9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq so we can only assume those non-existent weapons of mass destruction would still have been the pretext?
posted by twistedonion at 5:30 AM on August 15, 2006


Faint of Butt - Ali Sina disagrees with you as does Secularislam.org
posted by A189Nut at 5:55 AM on August 15, 2006


President Al Gore.
posted by elmwood at 6:15 AM on August 15, 2006


I'll grant that there are elements of fascism in the theocratic oligarchy that Bin Laden and his ilk wish to impose upon the world, but "Islamofascism" is still a ridiculous neologism, and one that attempts to conflate two principles that are, at base, unrelated. How would your average, peaceful, sensible Christian like it if I went around talking about "Christofascism" all day?

Then again, if we were to bring together both the Osama Bin Ladens and the Pat Robertsons of the world under the unified banner of "Theofascism," I wouldn't object.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:18 AM on August 15, 2006


God, if these fools only realized that the meta-narrative they are pushing is exactly the one that Islamic fundamentalist militants push. In other words, we are playing their game when we think like this. We were told time and time again that this was a war and that it was wrong to think of it under a law enforcement paradigm. This is exactly what bin Laden and his ilk wanted. War is a legitimizing force. You implicitly recognize the other side as a legitimate force and turn them into what they have always wanted to be--the poster child of Arab resentment and anger.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:18 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


having read all the articles ... (they're not very long) ... i think the answer is "not as much as you'd think"

compare the u s 5 years after pearl harbor to the u s five years after 9/11 and it's easy to see that we really haven't undergone the same magnitude of changes ... we're still on the same divisive, fragmented, self-absorbed track we would have been anyway ... that's the real irony of people saying, "the world changed forever" and "nothing will ever be the same" ...

it just isn't so ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:19 AM on August 15, 2006


I tried reading this yesterday but Sullivan's "blog" made me want to hurl. The sketch, I agree, is marvelously poignant.
Rudy sure as hell wouldn't be setting his sights on the White House now.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:20 AM on August 15, 2006


Faint of Butt is OTM. Also, there are few people I want to hear from on this subject less than Andrew Sullivan, Tom Friedman, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Wolfe, et al.

Instead, let's imagine an alternative history where any of these people are entertaining or enlightening.

Just when you thought House speaker Tom DeLay couldn’t get any crasser

I remember Andy's own "fifth column" remarks. Fortunately, he can rewrite history in the New York Magazine. And fortunately for him, he isn't relying on me to pull him from some gas-soaked subway tunnel.

(Vaughan's panel is nice.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:20 AM on August 15, 2006


If Al Gore were President, 9/11 would have never happened.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:36 AM on August 15, 2006


How am I supposed to take seriously the opinions of anybody, regardless of political viewpoint, who uses the word "Islamofascism" without irony?

The straight-faced use of "Islamofascism" is a surefire indicator of someone who doesn't want to know about Islam as it is, but chooses to believe in a strawman. It is intellectually lazy and cowardly.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:38 AM on August 15, 2006


My man Tom Wolfe was in a snarky mood when he wrote that blurb, wasn't he?
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 6:39 AM on August 15, 2006


faithfreedom?? an anti muslim site? That's the best you can provide?

I think Faint of Butt's statement stands.
posted by mulligan at 6:41 AM on August 15, 2006


I dunno, mulligan, we need a word to distinguish decent, peace-loving muslims from the small minority of apocalyptic nutjobs, just like we need to distinguish regular Christians from the Jerry Fallwell/Paul Hill types. 'Islamofacist,' is not the best possible word I suppose, but I haven't seen a better one.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on August 15, 2006


we need a word to distinguish decent, peace-loving muslims from the small minority of apocalyptic nutjobs

I suggest "zealot," or "criminal," or--heavens!--"terrorist."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:55 AM on August 15, 2006


This stuff is a strange mix, most of which seems particularly absurd to me.

We didn't really grasp the significance of this place, that it was more than just a financial combine. New York became a human place for people. We didn't realize who we were before: We are the center of the world. And I don't think we ever really understood what that meant before that day.

Without 9/11 NYC would continue to collectively ignore itself, remaining an inhuman place for non-people at the center of the world they take for granted?

Without 9/11, it seems certain that the Bush administration would have been shaped by the domestic crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Rather than standing on the rubble at ground zero with his bullhorn, Bush would best be known for standing on some waterlogged roof in the Ninth Ward and setting up a Gulf Coast White House, some federal nerve center to rebuild the whole region, fix the crumbling Lego levees once and for all, and bring attention to infrastructure nationwide—schools, roads, power grids.


I'm sure he was worn out from the first "bullhorn moment" - you have a cooldown timer on those that lasts about six years, if I recall.

Yes, there are grave risks of acting, but the fact remains that Al Qaeda has attacked U.S. interests at little cost for years now. From the USS Cole to the bombings at the embassies in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Spain, and Turkey, they have been sending a message of global threat. Each blast killed more and more. I believed Secretary of State Holbrooke’s presentation at the U.N. We have no idea what Al Qaeda has been able to get its hands on these past few years. Do they have secret contacts in Pakistan as well as Iran? Do they have nuclear material?

That Sullivan blog is weak, he goes right from the stereotypical meandering Robot-Gore pretext to amassing WMD & Terrorist Training Camp Intel on Taliban Forces in Afghanistan? This is like a really bad voiceover from the West Wing.

Five years later, I think New York is perhaps the least-affected place in the country. And that’s simply because the wheel that 9/11 set in motion has led to two wars and the largest deployment of military reserve forces in recent history. This means that places like Scranton, Pennsylvania, or Mobile, Alabama, have had their daily rhythms and lives continuously uprooted, and New York, and Manhattan in particular, with perhaps the lowest percentage of reservists of any area in the country, has not really felt the impact of Afghanistan and Iraq as much as Peoria, Illinois. The forces that have made New York what they are today—the drop in crime, the rising income inequality, the continual changeover from a city of renters to a city of co-op owners—these have little to do with 9/11.


I'm glad I read further, because this one is rather insightful and what I would consider to be the polar opposite of the majority of the selections.
posted by prostyle at 6:59 AM on August 15, 2006


You know, I missed the best part of that Sullivan rag - the "5 City World-Wide Gas Attack":

CNN is reporting that the chemical used—hydrogen cyanide—may have been detonated by up to a hundred suicide bombers around the world. They’ve invented this device called a “mubtakkar” that any Islamist teenager can carry in a pocket and detonate at will. It’s their version of an iPod: an iGod that kills. Talk about asymmetric warfare. The experts say the mubtakkars can be detonated remotely as well—so they’ve ordered a curfew until major buildings can be inspected. The use of suicide bombers is therefore ... simply a statement of determination and resolve. Martyrdom as a psychological weapon.

Somebody get this guy his own show! A five city gas attack with hundreds of islamist teenager suicide bombers utilizing iGods... shouldn't he be writing Science Fiction at this point?
posted by prostyle at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2006


faithfreedom?? an anti muslim site? That's the best you can provide?

I think Faint of Butt's statement stands.


Not quite. I cited an essay by Ail Sina, an Islamic moderate, linked to on the site (about which I know nothing.) I guess Secularislam.org is not to your liking either?
posted by A189Nut at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2006


Bush would best be known for standing on some waterlogged roof in the Ninth Ward and setting up a Gulf Coast White House, some federal nerve center to rebuild the whole region

Yeah, that one was especially absurd, given that Bush never demonstrated the least amount of interest in doing anything like that in the real world.

Which is fine, I guess, 'cause in my alternative post-9/11, Bush joined the Democratic Party. He was then nominated and elected to the Presidency in 2004 and he is presently working to fix Social Security, building a just and efficient national health care system, hunting down terrorists on his own and distributing ponies to everyone.

Hey. It could happen.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:14 AM on August 15, 2006


Also, there are few people I want to hear from on this subject less than Andrew Sullivan, Tom Friedman, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Wolfe, et al.

This is exactly how I felt a few years back when the Washington Monthly asked all those people to speculate what a Bush re-election would be like, and among the "experts" they asked was Grover Norquist, who responded that Bush's re-election would cause- I am not making this up- the complete collapse of the Democratic Party.

I couldn't get past the doctored graphics in Andrew Sullivan's poor-man's Tim LaHaye scenario before realizing it was another round of this shit. I think most people qualified to say what a no-9/11 scenario would realistically have been like would be the ones who say "you know what, I have no idea." Instead, we get professional wrong person Andrew Sullivan spewing worldwide multiple attacks and, of course, the necessary swipes at Michael Moore.

These people are wrong. They are constantly wrong. They are constantly wrong about almost everything on a constant fucking basis. Why would I want to hear them be wrong about things that didn't even happen?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:17 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


I often wonder what would've happened to the "anti globalization" scene in North America if the attacks hadn't happened. The protest movement really had the wind taken out of its sails by the chilled atmosphere after the bombings, and not too long after some massive mobilizations.

Of course, it may have entered a natural decline anyway, but I do wonder...
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:22 AM on August 15, 2006


9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq so we can only assume those non-existent weapons of mass destruction would still have been the pretext?

Hmm... I very much doubt they could have persuaded anyone to go for it without the political capital 9/11 gave them... in fact I doubt the Bush regime would have had the political capitol to do ANYTHING, and right now we'd be happily forgetting that GWB had ever been president. That terrorist attack really was the luckiest thing ever happened to them.
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on August 15, 2006


God, what pointless speculation. If 9-11 didn't happen, it would have been something else. 11-5, who knows. These idiots seem to be forgetting that they blew up embassies in Saudi Arabia, bombed the USS cole, etc before 9-11. They would have worked up to something. Maybe a truck bomb near the Capitol. It doesn't matter. And those who said if Gore were President 9-11 wouldn't have happened are dreaming. What would Gore have done? The memo hit the president's desk in August. The planes were down a month later. Don't forget, these guys didn't look like terrorists, and they could easily have faked ID's if the feds started cracking down on expired VISAs. Whatever we would have realistically done, they could have adapted to and worked around. Maybe it would have happened later, of differently, or on other targets, but it would have happened. But for a lucky accident on the Canadian border, LAX might have been bombed on New Year's Day 2001. They were determined.

With regard to the president, recall that Bush's defining moment before the 9-11 attacks was his decision on stem cell research. Remember the weeklong covereage of his deliberation followed by the televised address from his back porch in Crawford? Wasn't that in August or something? That's the presidency we would have had, which is precisely what we have now. A piddling 40-50% approval rating for a president scrambling to be a moral leader.

Katrina would have been no different with the exception of more reservists and less KBR for-hire troops. They would have bungled it regardless, because George Bush is a shitty manager, and Cheney, who is an exceptional manager, doesn't give a crap about Louisiana.

Very little would have been different in foreign affairs. We would have attacked Iraq in the same fashion with the same result. Zarqawi would identify himself with some other group had Al Qaeda not made a name for itself first. There'd be an insurgency because Iran is behind it and Iran is not defined by 9-11. We'd be gearing up for a war in Iran. Oil might be $55/bbl instead of $75.

The only difference is that we might have skipped over Afghanistan. But when was the last time there was any discussion or news coverage about that?

Why the magazine picked these dolts is beyond me - they collectively have no grasp of the issues that existed before 9-11 and the priorities of the parties at that time. Frankly, I'd rather hear from Newt Gingrich than these clowns. As a historian and a former politician, he might have something interesting to say.

Hell, they should have had Stephen King do it.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 AM on August 15, 2006


compare the u s 5 years after pearl harbor to the u s five years after 9/11
On Saturday, the Iraq War will have lasted longer than the US involvement in World War II.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:36 AM on August 15, 2006


Vaughan's sketch doesn't move me. It paritcipates in the *bullshit* lionizing of Giuliani that is one of the more absurd effects of 9/11 (along with the even greater bulshit lionizing of our boy king who Stood on the Rubble with His Megaphone).

Giuliani did nothing heroic during the crisis. He did what any modestly competent mayor would do in staying at his post. He didn't rush into burning buildings, he didn't inspire me or anyone I know, and he's the mofo who thought to put the emergency services center (and all its fuel reserve) on an obvious site for terrorist attack. That he has reaped enough reputational benefit from this to make himself filthy rich as a "consultant" on security (lol) and even to run for president disgusts me. He is a disgusting man.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:42 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sullivan's "blog" is a great exercise in wish-fulfillment. "Ooh! I'll just make everyone think and talk the way I think they should!"

Sullivan, as Al Gore: "History teaches, as President Reagan proved, that wars begin when our enemies believe the price of aggression is cheap."
  1. Who believes that Gore would ever invoke Reagan to validate an approach?
  2. The statement is false: Reagan proved no such thing.
OTOH, I have little problem believing that Gore might have gone to war in Afghanistan, even without 9/11. Made a hell of a lot more sense than going to war in Iraq.
posted by lodurr at 7:43 AM on August 15, 2006


twistedonion writes "9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq so we can only assume those non-existent weapons of mass destruction would still have been the pretext?"

9/11 was the sales pitch with which Bushco sold Iraq to America.
posted by clevershark at 7:45 AM on August 15, 2006


fourcheesemac writes "Vaughan's sketch doesn't move me. It paritcipates in the *bullshit* lionizing of Giuliani that is one of the more absurd effects of 9/11"

No kidding. As I recall Giuliani was easily the most detested person in New York City prior to 9/11. In the summer of 2001 his sole redeeming feature was that he was on his way out.
posted by clevershark at 7:52 AM on August 15, 2006


Vaughan's sketch doesn't move me. It paritcipates in the *bullshit* lionizing of Giuliani that is one of the more absurd effects of 9/11

I saw it as the opposite - a reminder that Rudy was just an increasingly unpopular mayor going through an ugly divorce until the attack.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:53 AM on August 15, 2006


On Saturday, the Iraq War will have lasted longer than the US involvement in World War II.

that page references VE-day as an end, not VJ-day ... so that's another 100 days or so before we can say that
posted by pyramid termite at 7:55 AM on August 15, 2006


Also, I gotta add my amazement that the most accurate analysis were the simple, concise answers from Al Sharpton and ony Harris and Brian Vaughan.

That's it. No partisan swipes, no petty injections of personal policy rhetoric (okay, maybe a little with promoting Ferrer), no "President Gore" garbage, nothing.

I lived in NYC during 9/11 and they're both correct. The attacks led Green to win the primary, and the attacks led to Green losing the election. And Giuliani would have left office as the disgraced, adulterous, abusive semi-despot he should have been immortalized as.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:56 AM on August 15, 2006


FourCheeseMac, not sure why you have bile for Giuliani, but for the record, staying at his post during 9/11 WAS an heroic act and nothing can take that away from him.

You may say it's just par for the course, him doing his job, and you could cite thousands of actions before and since that he's done which color Giuliani differently, but on that day, all the first responders were doing their job, and they were more trained for unexpected measures and extreme circumstances than any mayor. The fact it was their job to be heroes doesn't diminish the fact that's precisely what they were that day. Heroes. Same goes for Giuliani. He stood his ground. Did what was expected of him in the situation. Kept his calm with madness all around and others looked to him for guidance when things looked worst, and he pulled his weight to help them through.

Not alone. He had help, but he helped them coordinate and did his part to assist despite the technical and cultural complications of the day. He's no perfect being by any stretch, but Giuliani is a hero. Every human being in Manhattan that morning who reached a hand into the dust to help others rather than shirking from their duty, they were all heroes that day.

Your bile won't change that.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:00 AM on August 15, 2006


Damn, those folk at the New Yorker are cunning. They make their features too long to read on screen meaning I have no choice but to go out and buy the bloody thing.
posted by rhymer at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2006


All fascism is authoritarian, but not all authoritarianism is fascist. For instance, fascism is never a religious movement. It's always secular. Mystical, Romantic, but not religious. "Islamofascism" is an oxymoron. They're after an authoritarian regime, but their primary enemies are fascists—like Saddam Hussein. They're not fascists; they're a different type of authoritarian, a theocrat.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:07 AM on August 15, 2006


He did what any modestly competent mayor would do in staying at his post.

There are no reasonably competent city mayors. Contrast Guiliani on 9-11 with Mayor Goode's handling of the Move standoff in Philadelphia, Mayor Williams in DC during 9-11, the mayor of LA during the riots, and the mayor of New Orleans during Katrina and you realize how spectacularly amazing it is that a big city mayor was able to perform his job competently in a crisis.


9/11 was the sales pitch with which Bushco sold Iraq to America.
posted by clevershark at 10:45 AM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


Use your imagination. The first gulf war never ended - there was a cease fire in place. The us was spending $1 billion on month on combat air patrols over half of the country. There was a humanitarian crisis as Saddam (and the UN) screwed his people in the oil-for-food program. And even with 9-11, Saddam was refusing weapons inspectors, being deliberatly vague about his weapons programs, etc. And Congress passed into law in 1998 that regime change in Iraq was the official policy. There were dozens of possible pretexts to invade Iraq. That they chose the one that resonated the most in light of 9-11 does not mean they couldn't have chosen for the others absent 9-11.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:08 AM on August 15, 2006


DAMN, that's one slow website. Somebody should tell these folks that READERS GET ANNOYED ABOUT WAITING FOR 45 SECONDS FOR ALL THE FUCKING FLASH ADS TO DOWNLOAD AND WILL MORE THAN LIKELY GO TO SOME MORE INTERESTING CONTENT SITE, LIKE, SAY, SALON OR SLATE. (Sorry, had to get that off my chest.)

And I'm with the linguist on the Rudy cartoon. "Dines un-noticed..." Although I doubt it would have curtailed his presidential ambitions....

Sharpton: "The attack and the fear it generated led to people returning in mass to faith, depending more on religion for guidance and protection, which gave a tremendous revival to those who in my judgment misuse their religious fervor."

My first reaction is to point out that, according to a poll commissioned by Frontline, the attacks had about equal impact both ways: About as many people rejected faith as returned to it. But then I considered, and realized that Sharpton is technically correct. What happened w.r.t. "faith" was that people examined it.

So I think it's probable that that was one of a number of ways in which 9/11 ended up increasing the ideological divide that's tearing the American politic apart.

Hank Sheinkopf illustrates one of the most annoying fallouts from 9/11: The elevation of New York City Provincialism to status of a national religion. "We didn’t realize who we were before: We are the center of the world"

on prev:

ZachsMind: ... staying at his post during 9/11 WAS an heroic act and nothing can take that away from him.

True enough, but it was his job. And in fact, if you look at the details of how he did that job, there are no special heroics in it. He stayed at the command post. When the command post was moved, he moved. Where's the heroism?

I always kind of liked Rudy Giuliani as a "guy"; he seemed like a really good federal DA, from what I could see, and I'm sure a lot of folks in the NYC metro area liked him a lot for that. And it's true he cleaned up NYC. I suppose how you feel about that depends on how much you liked the old NYC versus the newer, cleaner, nicer version.
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on August 15, 2006


9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq

Well, you know that and I know that, but gee, how soon we forget how conflated they got.

I've talked to people who still have a terrible time disconnecting the two, even though W later disavowed any link, to his credit. Wanna guess who they voted for?

Even people who aren't real hip on world events were saying back during 2000 that "he's gonna finish what his daddy started" and "he's gonna get the guy that tried to kill his daddy." 9/11 just gave him carte blanche to put the intent into action along with hitting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan -- once you're on a war footing, it's easier to justify combat operations in an adjacent area. Especially when you've got a SecState who'll go to the UN and try pulling the same stunt Adlai Stevenson did with photo blowups.

I realize I'm derailing a bit with this, but again, I'll be curious to see if there are are any Iraq references in the alternate histories....
posted by pax digita at 8:13 AM on August 15, 2006


"Where's the heroism?"

He stayed at his post. He coulda ran. He coulda gone to some "undisclosed location" and directed events from a distance. He was there for others when they needed him. He supported other people, helped them do their jobs. He was a part of the team that day.

Not all heroes have to run into burning buildings or save damsels in distress from rampaging bulls or oncoming trains. At the risk of being a broken record... HE DID HIS JOB. He didn't run and hide. He helped others. Sometimes the only thing that makes one a hero is the willingness to help.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:16 AM on August 15, 2006


Tom Wolfe's and the sketch are awesome, the rest is, well, crap
posted by matteo at 8:20 AM on August 15, 2006


He coulda ran.
  1. But he wouldn't have. That's not Rudy. He's a trial lawyer by training and inclination -- wired for the fight. And in my book, you just don't get "heroism" credit if it's a simple thing like staying in the same building as the guys who are working the phones.
  2. Which brings me to my point: DOING YOUR JOB is not heroic. It's the things you do in doing your job that are heroic. I just don't see Rudy doing anything heroic that day.
I'd argue that you're more likely to find really heroic stuff in Rudy's history as a criminal prosecutor.
posted by lodurr at 8:20 AM on August 15, 2006


And even with 9-11, Saddam was refusing weapons inspectors, being deliberatly vague about his weapons programs, etc.

What?

Congress passed into law in 1998 that regime change in Iraq was the official policy.

Citation?

There were dozens of possible pretexts to invade Iraq. That they chose the one that resonated the most in light of 9-11 does not mean they couldn't have chosen for the others absent 9-11.

Ok, list them.
posted by prostyle at 8:23 AM on August 15, 2006


I thought it had been pretty well established that GW was obsessed with Iraq and was spectacularly uninterested in actual islamic terrorists (that weren't operating in or around Israel).

So, yeah, we might be at war in Iraq, anyway. We would almost certainly not have gone to war in Afghanistan (the one place where we had a reasonable argument for going to war).
posted by lodurr at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2006


I think the more interesting question is what would have happened if 9/11 was prevented. Or revealed to be a false flag op (sponsored by Bushco or some such). I doubt much would change in either case. That's not simply the Kang/Kodos dichotomy talking. Given the amounts of money and industry involved, one would need a very committed and/or very rich opposition. And that doesn't exist right now. The muscle part of the opposition anyway - however vocal. And it didn't exist thru the Clinton era when much of this was solidified. I suspect the lines would be drawn darker. But consider - what if FDR did know about Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen?
Lots of evidence to support that theory. Nothing conclusive, but we did indeed antagonize the hell out of the axis before we entered the war.
And one can make an excellent case that it was necessary for the U.S. to get involved in WWII and the world would be far worse off now had it not. One could make a similar claim with regards to the war on terror. By that I mean the basic concept is the same - force the enemy to initiate hostilities to incite your side to fight.
Given for example certain realities concerning energy and middle east political/religious ideologies that hamper trade and indeed interfere with their own economies (Hussein was a buddy, because he was secular) as well as our own. But those are nebulous concepts and while threatening - not a direct threat the way WMDs are, but perhaps a threat in the sense that the Axis ultimately would have been.
Now I don’t consider the two analogous and I’m certainly not taking that position. To my mind nearly any act predicated on a lie invalidates any good that might come of it. But if pushed - that could be the underground explanation for the “smart” folks while the cover story, whatever it is - rogue elements, total denial, obfuscation (goofy ‘conspiracy theories’) etc. - takes care of the suckers. Considering how it has ultimately benefited select groups, how could it not have happened? This kind of shadowboxing takes place all the time (from the Reichstag Fire to the Lavon Affair to Putin’s guys planting bombs with real c-4 during an ‘exercise’) it doesn’t have to be your people doing it if fighting serves both you and your enemy’s purposes. The structure of these kinds of things is solid and well-established - the details on the particulars are of course speculation. But the “what if 9/11 didn’t happen” is predicated on the idea that the events necessary for 9/11 to exist didn’t occur. That is an impossibility without much larger historical changes, I doubt that OBL’s death before this happened would have changed it.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:30 AM on August 15, 2006


lodurr: "DOING YOUR JOB is not heroic."

WHAT??? Then what you're saying is, none of the first responders that day were heroes. None of the men who ran up those stairs while everyone else was running down were heroes. They were just firemen. They were just doing their jobs.

Was Rev. Mychal Judge just doing his job? Sorry. I don't follow your reasoning.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:30 AM on August 15, 2006


They were just firemen. They were just doing their jobs.

Listen carefully: Doing your job is not heroic. It's what you do in doing your job that can be heroic. And I see nothing heroic in staying in the command center, or in just doing what comes naturally to your personality or personlity type.

Did I not type that loudly or clearly enough the first time?

And, for the record, I think it's an open question on whether a firefighter is heroic in the performance of his duty. If they were heroes on that day -- the day they died -- then they were heroes every time they went into a dangerous fire.

Dying don't make you a hero.
posted by lodurr at 8:36 AM on August 15, 2006


Being a mayor and sitting in an office is the same as being a first responder? WTF?
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on August 15, 2006


Also why don't we hear more about the brave hero stockbrokers on 9/11? They were after all the intended victims of the attack, they must have been doing something that pissed terrorists off, and therefore was heroic. Why doin;t we see them as ginat glowing images in the sky alongside all the firemen, cops, mayors etc?
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on August 15, 2006


Being a mayor and sitting in an office is the same as being a first responder? WTF?

Don't you understand yet, Artw? Everyone in America was a HERO on 9/11!

...why don't we hear more about the brave hero stockbrokers on 9/11?

That's the spirit!
posted by prostyle at 8:39 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel writes "There were dozens of possible pretexts to invade Iraq. That they chose the one that resonated the most in light of 9-11 does not mean they couldn't have chosen for the others absent 9-11."

The Iraq plan did not indeed come out of the blue, but the administration would have had a much, much tougher time selling it without 9/11. It would at least have taken a lot longer to make the case if Dick "pepper" Cheney hadn't been given ample time to lie to America again and again on various television shows about those elusive connections between Iraq and 9/11 (elusive because they were non-existent).

Perhaps the 2004 election would have been about whether to go to war, instead of being about how awful it was that homosexuals wanted to marry. Or maybe it would have been about both (knowing what we do about those in charge, probably the latter). If George W. Bush hadn't been allowed to set up his dais right on top of the almost 3000 who died on 9/11 he'd almost certainly be enjoying retirement in Crawford right now, whoever the Democrat had nominated in 2004.
posted by clevershark at 8:40 AM on August 15, 2006


The Iraq plan did not indeed come out of the blue, but the administration would have had a much, much tougher time selling it without 9/11.

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor."
-Rebuilding America's Defenses, Project for a New American Century, 1997
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2006


Fascism is never religious? I will have to go away and google that one. But are Islamic extremists religious?
posted by A189Nut at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2006


Congress passed into law in 1998 that regime change in Iraq was the official policy.
Iraq Liberation Act

And even with 9-11, Saddam was refusing weapons inspectors, being deliberatly vague about his weapons programs, etc.

What?


You're arguing in hindsight. The world didn't being with the election of George Bush. How many times did Saddam boot out inspectors in the late 90's, refuse access to sites, etc. See this chronology

In the post 2001 time frame, see this. The US may not have been acting in good faith, but neither was Iraq.


On the subject of pretexts:

1. Sanctions aren't working because the regime is feeling no pressure.

2. The US is already in a state of war over Iraq. No lfy-zones etc. IRaq continues to test the no-fly zones, in violation of the cease fire agreement. The US cannot maintain air operations over iraq indefinitely, particluarly in light of Saudi grumblings.

3. Regime change is the official policy of the US pre-Bush.

4. Iraq is not being forthright with inspectors and has not destoyed all facilities as required under the gulf war cease fire.

5. Iraq continues to fight with kurds in the north, the country is in danger of splitting into three. This is a violation of the cease fire.

6. Iraq is a test case for the UN. Every member of the security council voted to condemn iraq for violating UN resolutions. For that condemnation to mean something, the UN must take action, other wise the secutiry council and the UN in general have no credibility and no power.

There are plenty of reasons. WMD's were just convenient given the 9-11 context.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:58 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel writes "Every member of the security council voted to condemn iraq for violating UN resolutions. For that condemnation to mean something, the UN must take action, other wise the secutiry council and the UN in general have no credibility and no power."

The UN isn't doing shit to enforce its resolutions that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories. I don't see that changing anyone's mind about the UN's power to do anything in the world.

You're doing a great job ignoring the fact that the war in Iraq was sold to the American public by a pack of lies that involved apocalyptic imagery based on what would happen if Iraq decided to attack the US in a second 9/11. You know, the "mushroom cloud" bullshit. The yellowcake bullshit. The "Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague" bullshit. Once you remove all that, you've got to start from pretty damn far to build up a case for sending over 100,000 Americans halfway around the world for a pet-project kind of war.
posted by clevershark at 9:06 AM on August 15, 2006


There are plenty of reasons.

Really? Reasons worth spending the money, blood and destroyed infrastructure?

WMD's were just convenient given the 9-11 context.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:58 AM PST


For them to be a convenient reason, it would have to be true.

otherwise it was a lie.

Why aren't you calling a lie a lie?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:09 AM on August 15, 2006


There are plenty of reasons. WMD's Lies were just convenient given the 9-11 context.

Yeah, while they are all middling in comparison I agree they existed. The thing is, as XQUZYPHYR notes, they (PNAC) knew the public wouldn't spring whole hog behind "regime change" without a catalysing event. The very architects of the construct we currently find ourselves in disagree with your position. That is why I disagree when you assert that we would be in Iraq wether 9/11 happened or not.

Thanks for the link to the ILA.

Others have argued that while the Act does demonstrate that the U.S. was favoring regime change in Iraq as of 1998, the Act itself prohibits the use of U.S. military force to achieve that aim and that the main goal of the Act was to restore access to U.N. inspectors.
posted by prostyle at 9:12 AM on August 15, 2006


Perhaps the 2004 election would have been about whether to go to war, instead of being about how awful it was that homosexuals wanted to marry. Or maybe it would have been about both (knowing what we do about those in charge, probably the latter).
posted by clevershark at 11:40 AM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


You're missing the point, the election was about homosexuals because that's how Republicans framed it. Without 9-11, they would have framed it some other way. The fact that democrats have been unable to form a cohesive opposition despite record low presidential approval ratings because of an unpopular and poorly executed war, the post-Katrina disaster, and republican congressional scandals, etc tells me that without the Iraq disaster, the democrats would be totally useless.

Bush got elected because he turned out the evangelicals. He was almost elected without controversy in 2000 without 9-11, based on a moral/christian image.

And without the wars, the country fiscal situation would be much better. So explain to me gain what brilliant campaign Kerry or Gore or Gephardt would have run that would have left Rove in the dust. Rove and company are better organized, more efficient, more innovative, and more creative when it comes to elections than all the dem strategists combined.

Jesus Christ, Gephardt ran his 2004 compaign based on his ties to labor unions. What labor, please show me all the millions of heavy industry jobs in the US that aren't realted to defense contracting. Manufacturing in the US fled to China long before 2004, what the hell was he thinking relying on labor unions? And Kerry ran the 2004 election based on his fucking Vietnam experience and Vietnam anti-war image. Kerry made the election about Vietnam, not Iraq. All that swft-boating nonsense was republican response to Kerry's Vietnam purple heart "I'm a tough guy too" bullshit.

And Edwards?! The democrats ran a goddamn personal injury laywer as their connection to the south?! What psychopharmacology was involved in making think decision? Jesus H. Fucking Christ in a horse-driven sidecar. EVERYBODY HATES LAWYERS, ESPECIALLY PEOPLE FROM THE SOUTH. The Democrats had a medical doctor ex-governor, and they sacrificed him, irreparably tarnished his image by making him look like a loon, just so they could run the old guard.

I'm going to make a prediction - The Republicans will keep both houses in 2006 and win the Presidency in 2008. And not because of cheating or fraud. Just watch.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:16 AM on August 15, 2006


You're doing a great job ignoring the fact that the war in Iraq was sold to the American public by a pack of lies that involved apocalyptic imagery based on what would happen if Iraq decided to attack the US in a second 9/11. You know, the "mushroom cloud" bullshit. The yellowcake bullshit. The "Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague" bullshit. Once you remove all that, you've got to start from pretty damn far to build up a case for sending over 100,000 Americans halfway around the world for a pet-project kind of war.

I'm not ignoring anything. I'm saying absent the 9-11 attacks they would have found other reasons. Hell they didn't even need the WMD lies to go into iraq. They could have laid out the cease fire violations, the UN's responsibility ot hte people of Iraq, gotten more countries on board, set a deadline, and invaded it anyway.

Hell you could have had the Cheney talk about peak oil and how dangerous it is to have one of the top 3 oil countires in the world run by a rogue state. IT would take longer, but it would have happened anyway.


The UN isn't doing shit to enforce its resolutions that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories. I don't see that changing anyone's mind about the UN's power to do anything in the world.


That's because without the US military, the real UN is no more powerful than Model UN. And in any case, Israel has started withdrawn from much of that territory.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2006


And not because of cheating or fraud.

Why don't you think there will be cheating or fraud?
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2006


Hell they didn't even need the WMD lies to go into iraq. They could have laid out the cease fire violations, the UN's responsibility ot hte people of Iraq, gotten more countries on board, set a deadline, and invaded it anyway.

Since they felt compelled to falsify evidence even with 9-11 in recent memory, I doubt they believed they could push the case for invading Iraq without lying.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:26 AM on August 15, 2006


And those who said if Gore were President 9-11 wouldn't have happened are dreaming. What would Gore have done? The memo hit the president's desk in August

I believe Gore would have listened to Clinton's nat-sec people more. Condi was scheduled to start meetings on AQ the week of 9/11, and of course Ashcroft was more interested in busting bordellos in New Orleans than anti-terrorism. You remember the budget he released on 9/10, right?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:28 AM on August 15, 2006


The us was spending $1 billion on month on combat air patrols over half of the country.

The no-fly zones were legally dubious, since they weren't authorized by the UN. In June 2006 the Congressional Research Service estimated the US is spending $8 billion per month [PDF] in Iraq.

There were dozens of possible pretexts to invade Iraq. That they chose the one that resonated the most in light of 9-11 does not mean they couldn't have chosen for the others absent 9-11.

Not legal ones [PDF; links added]:
The United Nations Charter is a treaty of the United States, and as such forms part of the "supreme law of the land" under the Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2. The UN Charter is the highest treaty in the world, superseding states’ conflicting obligations under any other international agreement. (Art. 103, UN Charter)

Under the UN Charter, there are only two circumstances in which the use of force is permissible: in collective or individual self-defense against an actual or imminent armed attack; and when the Security Council has directed or authorized use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security. Neither of those circumstances now exist. Absent one of them, U.S. use of force against Iraq is unlawful.
Invading Iraq was illegal under US and international law, and the "dozens of possible pretexts" would've been, too, unless they were one of the two circumstances defined in the UN Charter.

Iraq Liberation Act

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act." Section 4(a)(2) says, "The President is authorized to direct the drawdown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations."

How many times did Saddam boot out inspectors in the late 90's

The CIA was using the inspections to spy on Iraq. And Saddam didn't boot out the inspectors, chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler withdrew them on the advice of Peter Burleigh, the American representative to the United Nations.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:46 AM on August 15, 2006


And those who said if Gore were President 9-11 wouldn't have happened are dreaming. What would Gore have done? The memo hit the president's desk in August.

In the closing arguments of the Moussaoui trial, the government claimed that the only reason they didn't prevent the 9/11 attacks was that Moussaoui lied to them about the attacks. The FBI agent who interrogated Moussaoui repeatedly told the FBI he believed that Moussaoui was planning on hijacking an airplane and said that the FBI ignored his warnings. (If you prevent hijackings, you prevent the attacks.)

This was right after President Bush, who's said he "didn't feel that sense of urgency" about terrorism despite getting more than 40 briefings on Al Qaeda between January 20 and September 10, 2001, was warned that Al Qaeda was planning to hijack planes and attack inside the United States and stayed on vacation. President Bush ignored Sandy Berger and Richard Clake's repeated warnings about Al Qaeda. He ignored the Hart-Rudman Commission's warning that "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers" due to terrorism. Maybe if the president had felt a sense of urgency about terrorism, the FBI brass would've been more responsive to their field agents' concerns about terrorism and, by the government's own logic, prevented the attacks.

Clinton made terrorism a priority and"chaired near-daily meetings with Justice, CIA, FBI, Defence and all relevant principals." After an alert Customs agent captured Ahmed Ressam, the Clinton administration went to "battle stations" and captured other members of the Millennium Plot. Gore's policy would probably have been closer to Clinton's than to Bush's.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:00 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


We were told time and time again that this was a war and that it was wrong to think of it under a law enforcement paradigm. This is exactly what bin Laden and his ilk wanted. War is a legitimizing force. You implicitly recognize the other side as a legitimate force and turn them into what they have always wanted to be--the poster child of Arab resentment and anger. - Ironmouth

Wow. I don't think I've heard that analysis before, but it makes a lot of sense. I've never heard someone advance the idea of approaching it as law enforement. Why? I must chew on this for a while.

Thanks for that insight, Ironmouth.


If they were heroes on that day -- the day they died -- then they were heroes every time they went into a dangerous fire. - lodurr

Many people would make this arguement.
posted by raedyn at 10:01 AM on August 15, 2006


Raedyn, since 9/11 there have been vocal opponents to the characterization of the fight against terrorism as a war. They go by many names, the blame America first crowd, traitors, etc.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2006


Ironmouth has it exactly right. A lot of us (including yours truly) felt from day one that federal response to 911 should have been handled as a law enforcement exercise with significant diplomatic and military components (such as raiding and shutting down the training camps in Afghanistan), rather than conducted as a war.

Look back at what happened after the first, failed plot to bring down the WTC in January of 1993. To my knowledge, all of the perpertrators of that event were found, tried and jailed according to US Constitutional procedure.

Instead, we have waged war on a group of Arabs for something another group of Arabs has done, we have arrested people indiscriminately outside of the law, and we STILL haven't brought the original planners of the event in question to justice. I don't think they even think about it anymore.

As I read more and more about how Afghanistan seems to be backsliding into chaos, I fail to think of one positive thing that came out of the whole terrible ordeal.
posted by psmealey at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2006


“I've never heard someone advance the idea of approaching it as law enforement. Why?”

Seriously? It’s been said a bunch of times. And in fact works pretty well. What (apparently) impedes the works in the U.S. is the posse comitatus act. But it works just fine for the coast guard and the military can render technical assistance and support to domestic law enforcement agencies. In other countries you have special police units like GSG9 (in Germany) which are federal domestic counter-terrorist agencies. Those would be illegal here, but there are plenty of agencies which could take up that role - in fact the FBI does plenty. The law enforcement vs. terrorism instead of military vs. terrorism argument is predicated on light unit mobility and intelligence work as opposed to infantry occupation or other heavy foot kind of operations. Far more efficient, and yet - I think it was Dean who got laughed at for positing it.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:24 AM on August 15, 2006



A lot of us (including yours truly) felt from day one that federal response to 911 should have been handled as a law enforcement exercise with significant diplomatic and military components (such as raiding and shutting down the training camps in Afghanistan), rather than conducted as a war.


And a lot of us (me included) felt that this would be disastrous both internationally and domestically.

What law are you enforcing? Should everyone captured in Afghanistan be put on trial in a New York federal court? On what charge? Do they get to post bail? How, if they don't have visas and aren't citizens? What if they plead the fifth? How do you gather evidence?

What if Afghanistan said that it would prosecute bin laden and co. in accordance with their own law.

This would be a disaster because most of the people in al qaeda didn't break any laws, there are huge jurisdictional problems, and ultimately, you'd never get a fair trial.

To my knowledge, all of the perpertrators of that event were found, tried and jailed according to US Constitutional procedure.

Not quite. Some were tried in absentia, which is basically meaningless. And anyone accused of a terrorist act here and arrested here was been put on trial (Jose Padilla, Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, etc).
posted by Pastabagel at 10:32 AM on August 15, 2006


And a lot of us (me included) felt that this would be disastrous both internationally and domestically.

Good thing your reasoned alternative won out, then. We almost had a fiasco on our hands.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:38 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel, this is all so much Monday morning quarterbacking, but I do think there are some valid points for debate in the first part of your post. On the second part, 10 of the perptrators of the Jan 93 attack, were arrested, tried and jailed, including the leader, Ramzi Yousef. That's 10 more than we were able pin 911 on.

But, you completely lost me here:

anyone accused of a terrorist act here and arrested here was been put on trial (Jose Padilla, Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, etc).

For starters, with all of our counter terrorist machinery in full gear, only three have been arrested? And of these three, exactly none of these guys had anything to do with 911, and thirdly what about all those people arrested and put in Gitmo without representation or right, similarly those held in dark sites in the former eastern bloc, and all those stories of people swept up domestically and held for weeks at a time with the same?
posted by psmealey at 10:42 AM on August 15, 2006


And a lot of us (me included) felt that this would be disastrous both internationally and domestically.

What law are you enforcing? Should everyone captured in Afghanistan be put on trial in a New York federal court? On what charge? Do they get to post bail? How, if they don't have visas and aren't citizens? What if they plead the fifth? How do you gather evidence?


Which of these dilemmas have we avoided or solved by taking the war approach?
posted by effwerd at 10:44 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel, do you mean disastrous compared to the current approach? How do you figure? Would a law enforcement centric approach to terrorism cause the seas to boil, or the moon to crash into the earth, or would our flesh melt off like Nazis opening the Ark of the Covenant? Seriously, you realize how completely hillarious that post came off as, right?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:48 AM on August 15, 2006


Let me put it another way. 9-11 or not, the US was inevitably going to war with the radical Islamic world at some point in the near future.

Go all the way back to the 70's. You had not one but two arab oil embargoes. Then hostages were taken by the Iranian government for a few hundred days. That segued into all those TWA hijackings, embassy bombings, and nightclub bombings in Europe. Remember the attack on the marine barracks in 1983? How many staged demonstrations were we treated to of US flag burnings? I note that they were staged because the governments in those countries were stanging those demonstrations for western media.

Then Saddam invades Kuwait just as the cold war is ending. Now the US knew all along that in the balance of power, the soviets were backing up the arab world just as the US was propping up israel. But when the Cold war ends, the signal we get from the largest power in the muslim world, Iraq, is that it's open seasn to settle old scores. Jammu-Kashmir flares up again. In other words, the end of the cold war seems to auger the start of hot wars in the middle east. Right on top of all of that oil.

So the US fights a war in Iraq. Then we are treated to the World Trade Center bombing, the Khobar towers bombing, the rise of Hezbollah, hamas, and the USS cole bombing. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan get nuclear weapons, and oil demand outstrips supply.

These events are all within two or three years of each other. LAy it all out on a timeline and you see its inevitable. It is inconceivable that there would not have been a massive war in that region. Everyone involved is a prisoner of our shared history. The question to ask is who the enemy is and how all these different forces are able to draw for the same populations simultaneously. Are Hezbollah and Al Qaeda different or the same?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel, two quick questions: what does your second post have to do with the first, and what the hell are you talking about?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2006


So because war seemed inevitable, it is therefore the best approach to fighting the war on terrorism; is that it?
posted by effwerd at 10:57 AM on August 15, 2006


I think you have confused the forest for the trees.

I could just as easily look at all those different events you have strung together in a search for and categorize them as specific local reactions against the lingering remnants of colonialism/imperialism, rather do as you have done: look at is as a burgeoning monolithic struggle between Islam and the west (not quite sure how India fits in there, however).

I think that's something of a Hegellian view of history, where every seemingly unrelated or related event needs to have some meaning that leads to some cathartic point of upheaval. I don't think the world is thus.
posted by psmealey at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel, do you mean disastrous compared to the current approach? How do you figure?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:48 PM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


Disastrous meaning it would be a total failure and we would look ridiculous. You wouldn't be able to prosecute enyone of consequence, because you wouldn't catch them. Meanwhile, all of their infrastructure remains in place. The war in Afghanistan is succsessful because no one runs international terror groups from there.

Keep in mind that in the law enforecement context, CIA and NSA intelligence is completely useless because it's inadmissible in court. You need witnesses, corroborating testimony, etc. Not to godwinize the thread, but look how complex the nuremberg trials were, and everyone knew that the guys on trial were running the country that started the war. In this case, you have loose associations, and decentralized networks that would fall under ordinary criminal conspiracy or organized crime laws. IT would be a disater because you couldn't prosecute anyone unless you fought a small war to cathc the guys in question.

We only put Noriega on trial after we fought a teeny tiny war in Panama, remember?

Bizarre as it sounds, you actually need less proof/evidence to fight a war. We don't have to prove bin laden planned the 9-11 attacks to fight a war against his group, but if we put him on trial, could we really convict him? Of what?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2006


I don't know who you're trying to troll, but it's getting old fast.
posted by prostyle at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2006


Disastrous meaning it would be a total failure and we would look ridiculous.

Good thing your reasoned alternative won out, then. We almost had a fiasco on our hands.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:04 AM on August 15, 2006


Keep in mind that in the law enforecement context, CIA and NSA intelligence is completely useless because it's inadmissible in court.

What kind of evidence are we talking about here?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2006


I don't know who you're trying to troll, but it's getting old fast.

Jesus Christ, people with differing opinions around here are now trolls? What the fuck?

This site is being taken over by children...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:09 AM on August 15, 2006


Disastrous meaning it would be a total failure and we would look ridiculous.

Even if your assertion was true, how would that be better than total failure and the US looking like warmongering idiots with the blood of countless innocents on their hands? I fail to see how even your worst-case scenario is remotely as bad as what we have now.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:12 AM on August 15, 2006



“What law are you enforcing? Should everyone captured in Afghanistan be put on trial in a New York federal court? On what charge? Do they get to post bail? How, if they don't have visas and aren't citizens? What if they plead the fifth? How do you gather evidence?”

Pastabagel, I’m with you on the general concept that the events that unfolded over the past years would have unfolded similarly without 9/11 specifically but perhaps with another catalyst. But your ignorance on this topic is pretty deep and I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t mean that in the perjorative sense, my ignorance on microprocessors (among many other topics) is pretty deep f’rinstance. I’d start with maybe Khalfan Khamis Mohamed or Mamdouh Mahmud Salim as a late example. International rendition has been going on for quite a while with no (legal) problems. The Achille Lauro hijackers for example. What’s (fairly) new is rendition practiced by the CIA (as per Bill Clinton’s directive) and the (very new) practice of extraordinary rendition without contacting the rendering country’s LEA and without being brought to U.S. soil. (Which is certainly much more accepted than it would be had 9/11 not happened.)


“Keep in mind that in the law enforecement context, CIA and NSA intelligence is completely useless because it's inadmissible in court.”
I dunno - have you heard of the state department?

“We only put Noriega on trial after we fought a teeny tiny war in Panama, remember?”

Intimately. And no, that wasn’t a war. And in fact we misused military units there as well. And again - Noriega was tried in a court of law. Law - Enforcement.

“We don't have to prove bin laden planned the 9-11 attacks to fight a war against his group, but if we put him on trial, could we really convict him? Of what?”

You are not differentiating between various kinds of use of force, the purposes and intent of those forces, and the process after the action is resolved. A war is fought and won under certain conditions. In this case the enemy (terrorists in general, The Base in particular) is generally seen as either unwilling or unable (in that given the cell structure of a terrorist organization you have independant actors) to surrender in any traditional sense. That neutralizes the traditional ground assault/infantry model of warfare (the whole point of guerilla warfare). Beyond this there is a whole school full of counterterrorism theory and practice that I can’t address here. But in essence - you don’t fight a very mobile opponent with your artillery.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:12 AM on August 15, 2006


It is inconceivable that there would not have been a massive war in that region.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagel - I can trace the timeline back to the PLO being formed in 1964. Terrorism has been a constant factor in the region dating back to the formation of Israel. There is nothing anywhere that states that it is a requirement that there be a war to resolve everyone's differences. The reason law enforcement is a better solution than military force is simply because LE is going to create less victims of violence and less martyrs. For all the talk of smart weaponry, the smartest weapon is the one where the enemy is taken off the street and shown for the lunatic they are, not wiping him out with an LGB along with his family and friends.
posted by longbaugh at 11:14 AM on August 15, 2006


So because war seemed inevitable, it is therefore the best approach to fighting the war on terrorism; is that it?
posted by effwerd at 1:57 PM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


Relating the question in the thread of whether the US would have invaded Iraq anyway absent the 9-11 event, I'm suggesting that if you look at the larger context and more distant history between the region and the US, you see that a war was brewing the war the second world war was inevitable given how the first ended and what was done to germany.

The powers that be in both places - were locked into mindsets that made a confrontation inevitable. Creative thinking and foreign policy certainly could have avoided it, but it would be required on both sides. Too many forces were converging - the destabilised world after the fall of the soviet union, the peak oil crisis, the rise of militant islam throughout the arab world and in Europe. I'm not happy to see a war by any means, but looking at history, these kinds of big problems tend to result in wars more often than not.

I think that's something of a Hegellian view of history, where every seemingly unrelated or related event needs to have some meaning that leads to some cathartic point of upheaval. I don't think the world is thus.
posted by psmealey at 1:59 PM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


That's an interesting point but it's academic because most of the events I listed are in fact related. The islamic group that killed Anwar sadat in 1981 was Egyptian Islamic Jihad headed at the time by Ayman al-Zawahri who is the number two guy in Al Qaeda (he's in the most recent video). The cleric who called for the assassination of Sadat was Adel Rahman, who was implicated in the 1993 WTC bombing.

Hezbollah as everyone knows is funded by Iran.

Finally, while the map shows different countries, there are trends that cross these borders. The Baath party in Syria is the same party as the one in Iraq. These guys that we call terrorists are often held up as heroes in the mosques throughout the middle east world.

If you read about these guys and their groups in depth, you'll notice that they share financing sources, spiritual leaders, rely on the same networks to move people, guns and money around, etc. They aren't disconnected or isolated groups.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2006


When someone says "the world changed forever" I just want to hurl.
posted by mike3k at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2006


Tom Wolfe’s the guy in the white suit right? That’s neato.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:33 AM on August 15, 2006


You are not differentiating between various kinds of use of force, the purposes and intent of those forces, and the process after the action is resolved.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM EST on August 15 [+] [!]


We're talking about two different things. You are talking tactics, rendition, etc. but I'm talking about how the hell you put on a trial when you have no witnesses at best and witnessed with conflicting and ever-changing stories at worst. Forget about how difficult it will be to get these guys in a US court. This is what I think people mean what they say law enforcement (see someone's mention of the WTC bombing trial above).

How do you put bin laden on trial even if you do catch him? For what? Do you have any evidence? A chain of custody for that evidence? Can Osama bin Laden even get a fair trial in a country where are large percentage of the population believe iraq was behind 9-11?

Unless you put people in trial in court, talking about law enforcement as counterrorism is simply changing the scale and scope of the war.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:38 AM on August 15, 2006


Can Osama bin Laden even get a fair trial in a country where are large percentage of the population believe iraq was behind 9-11?

Can Saddam? What is your point?

This site is being taken over by children...

So sayeth the sockpuppet.
posted by prostyle at 11:42 AM on August 15, 2006


Great discussion guys. When 9/11 happened, it seemed the whole world was on America's side. If ever there was a time it could have been treated as a large scale criminal case with co-operation from most of the countries in the world, that would have been it. But... we'll never know now, will we?
posted by Bearman at 11:48 AM on August 15, 2006


You are talking tactics, rendition, etc. but I'm talking about how the hell you put on a trial when you have no witnesses at best and witnessed with conflicting and ever-changing stories at worst.

Shit, we may as well just throw up our hands and give up!

Oh, wait, that's right, we can lie to the public and start an illegal war that does not address any of our counter-terrorism goals! But will make a lot of money for us! And we can use it as a pretext to enlarge our legal powers!

How do they ever manage to get convictions in normal organized crime trials, anyway? Doesn't matter now.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:56 AM on August 15, 2006


The objective is to stop terrorist attacks on our interests and allies. A "fair trial" for UBL may or may not be impossible, but it's not the primary goal, so it's kind of a red herring.

The military vs law enforcement debate is a false dichotomy. A successful strategy necessarily involves both -- not one at the exclusion of the other.

Pastabagel, while I respect the points you've raised, I strongly disagree with your conclusions. My problem with your argument boils down to the fact that you're pointing out the theoretical problems with a law-enforcement-only approach, while shortshrifting / glossing over those very real, observed problems which are part and parcel of the military approach.

And let's be frank here...regardless of what side of this false dichotomy one falls on, it's natural that both sides want UBL's head on a plate and would support whatever method got there soonest. Fair trial be damned.
posted by edverb at 12:02 PM on August 15, 2006


“you are talking tactics, rendition, etc. but I'm talking about how the hell you put on a trial when you have no witnesses at best...”

No, I addressed that point. It’s been done. I cited several examples - Khalfan Khamis Mohamed for one, who was indicted, tried, and incarcerated for life for his part in the bombing of U.S. embassies. Laws exist for this sort of thing. The justice system covers it. The only reason (I suspect) you think it doesn’t is the rhetoric on the part of the current administration. And Noriega, for example, was convicted - granted there were issues with his trial, but that’s because it was such a political/intelligence snafu, not because of anything missing from the justice system (and indeed CIA agents, the DEA, agents of the state department, and foreign intelligence officers testified at his trial).
posted by Smedleyman at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2006


Relating the question in the thread of whether the US would have invaded Iraq anyway absent the 9-11 event

Ah, I was still relating your comments to law enforcement v military campaign as a means of combating terrorism.
posted by effwerd at 12:07 PM on August 15, 2006


Pastabagle, please think this through.

Do you not remember what an uphill climb it was to get us into the war in Iraq? Now imagine that without the impetus of fear and rage from 9/11 that just wasn't satisfied by bombing Afghanistan (further) back into the stone age.

Also, you're digging yourself into a hole. Smedleyman knows more about asymmetric warfare than most of us could ever learn. Put that aside, though, and address the content of his post: Rendition has worked in the past, and there's nothing sufficiently new about the al Qaeda situation to suggest that it wouldn't have worked for that, as well. Rahman, Yousef and Noriega are all still in jail. Whether the trial would have been fair or not, if bin Laden were captured and tried in America, he'd go to prison. And stay there. You live here; don't tell me you don't know that's true.

Using a Law Enforcement approach (which, I feel compelled to say, I advocated from the get-go as well, though I wasn't here at that time), you also have the distinct advantage of wrapping yourself in a fairly secure coccoon of righteousness that just is never going to be available once you take in ground forces.

Instead, we've decided to use force and not bother with legal niceties. When people do that, we call the 'vigilantes' and we put them in jail. We cry a great deal about the rule of law and Democracy, but we aren't willing to actually let people rule themselves by their own laws, or live up to the tenets of our own.
posted by lodurr at 12:09 PM on August 15, 2006


The primary reason the Bush admin holds the law enforcement approach in disdain is that they are loathe to allow counterterrorism information to see the light of day in a courtroom.

The courtroom approach suffers from the dual detriments of:

--achieving none of their other strategic objectives (oil security, Mid East footprint just to name two)

--putting our intelligence methodologies at risk.

Plus it could make the dimension of blowback painfully obvious to the American people...can't have that.
posted by edverb at 12:16 PM on August 15, 2006


Its clear why Sullivan doesn't write fiction:

There are poignant reports on CNN of text messages sent from the subway cars in the few minutes before the gas killed the passengers. They finish mid-sentence.

OMG GAS! LOL! OMG CHOKING! GASP! GA...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:00 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Must... press send key... on incomplete... sentence... -CHOKE!-
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on August 15, 2006


Al Sharpton: "Certainly we would not have had the Iraq war. That would have changed the lives of the soldiers who died."

Classic.
posted by JonasParker at 1:45 PM on August 15, 2006



Also, you're digging yourself into a hole. Smedleyman knows more about asymmetric warfare than most of us could ever learn. Put that aside, though, and address the content of his post: Rendition has worked in the past, and there's nothing sufficiently new about the al Qaeda situation to suggest that it wouldn't have worked for that, as well. Rahman, Yousef and Noriega are all still in jail. Whether the trial would have been fair or not, if bin Laden were captured and tried in America, he'd go to prison. And stay there. You live here; don't tell me you don't know that's true.


Rendition has not worked in the past, and extraordinary rendition may be a violation of constitutional rights, the issue has never been tested. Imagine the embarrasment if it is tested, and the test fails. But please continue to tell me how I don't understand some minor technical detail while you completely miss the big picture.

By your own admission we have caught a handful of semi-important figures. But those trials have done nothing to stop the growth of Al Qaeda or the emergence of other groups.

Furthermore, those trials took place largerly out of the spotlight, many with court appointed defense lawyers. And recall how poorly the Moussaoui trail went. Now imagine how poorly a bin laden trial goes if he chooses to spend some of his vast fortune to hire top lawyers. They didn't make OJ's conviction stick, and he only killed two people.

And you contradict your "cocoon of righteousness" statement" with "whether the trial would have been fair or not". What's the point of an unfair trial? So the rest of the world can see that the US govt is as corrupt in the US as it is outside of the US?

The purpose of the war is not to punish bin laden. Its purpose is to destabilize the muslim world, secure oil, and to safeguard the existence of those states that cooperate with the US. Read the history of this region. Examine why people like Al Zawahiri, an educated person with a vast knowledge of western intellectual history, embrace and espouse the ideology they have. Think about why that part of the world has so stubbornly refused to modernize and has even experienced violent backlashes to modernity, despite being flooded with petrodollars. The Arab world of the 60's is in many ways more modern than it is now.

So, no I don't think prosecuting this as a law enforcement operation would have accomplished anything. At best you lock up some top people in trials where the prosecution has to bend the law, but then those people are replaced. At worst, you look impotent chasing people you can't catch.

Al Zawahari is still out there. Go arrest him. Let's see how that works out. Let's bring him to NY, put cameras in the courtroom, and let him have his day in court. This is a guy who when he was arrested for being part of the Sadat assassination, delivered a speech on television espousing his principles in English from his jail cell. You should watch that speech and then tell me if this is a guy you want on a witness stand with a worldwide live audience with only some two-bit federal prosecutor to cross-examine him.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:49 PM on August 15, 2006


So, no I don't think prosecuting this as a law enforcement operation would have accomplished anything. At best you lock up some top people in trials where the prosecution has to bend the law, but then those people are replaced. At worst, you look impotent chasing people you can't catch.

So the question bears repeating, how has using war for counter-terrorism been any better? It seems you're rationalizing a war-as-counter-terrorism stance by saying it will "destabilize the muslim world, secure oil, and to safeguard the existence of those states that cooperate with the US." And earlier, that it appeared inevitable anyway. I don't see these as counter-arguments to the law enforcement approach. Your ridicule of the law enforcement approach applies equally to the war approach, only a war (or two) is added on top.

It also seems the character of your argument is this, "Pursuing justice through the proper channels is hard so we're just gonna start bombing economically and politically justified targets."
posted by effwerd at 2:05 PM on August 15, 2006


Rendition has not worked in the past...

You haven't supported that idea so far.

Also, the "coccoon of righteousness" in no sense is contradicted by "whether fair or not", because I'm talking about perceptions. We can lay claim to due process of law; but we all know (and those of us who don't, are kidding themselves) that if bin Laden (or Zawahiri) were tried in the US they would end up in prison. At least.

You should watch that speech and then tell me if this is a guy you want on a witness stand with a worldwide live audience with only some two-bit federal prosecutor to cross-examine him.

Are his words so powerful that we should be so afraid of him as to refuse to listen? Will they corrupt the ears of our children?

And I think you should give government prosecutors a little more credit for brains and oratory. "Works for the government" does not automatically mean "is stupid."
posted by lodurr at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2006


They aren't meant as counterarguments to the law enforcement approach. It's not war or law enforcement, one to the exclusion of the other. But ther is no way you even begin to address any of the political forces shaping the middle east without a war. And diplomacy doesn't really work here because diplomacy is usually between states, and the arab states are really the driving forces here, these groups are.

With a law enforcement approach, the attacks never stop, they keep happening, each worse than the last (look how they escalated in the 90s).

The war isn't for counter-terrorism purposes, and that's why its not an opposition to also using law enforcement where applicable. The war is to reshape the thinking in the muslim world about radical ideology and it's impact on them.

Maybe the disconnect here is that we are arguing different things. You are talking about justice, but implied in that is the western concept of justice. The Islamic Jihads concept of justice is very different. They are seeking justice for all of the perceived wrongs perpetrated against them and their religion. This was my point about the history. From their persepctive, we in the west subjected the muslim world to imperialism, colonialism, marxism, socialism, facism, zionism, and capitalism. To them it's all against Islam and an attempt to crush islam. It doesn't matter to them that in the west some of these -ism's were in opposition to or replaced others. It's all anti-islam. They believe they are trying to preserve their culture and religion through "the sword". To them, that is justice. Ultimately, justice is subjective.

War is not about justice, I don't care what rhetoric about liberation the adminstration spews out. War is objective, not subjective. War is about power. Oil is of vital, not passing or tertiary, but vital importance to the United States. It is not a strategic national interest. It's the strategic interest. Destroy XYZ group or else. The purpose of this war, and the war in iraq, is to demonstrate to the people in that region that allowing those groups to operate from within their societies will bring them catastrophic results. You can argue whether a war can achieve this, but there's not doubt that prosecuting a few terrorists on US soil does NOT acheive this.

I don't actually personally agree with how the war has been conducted or the rhetoric around it and leading up to it. But the war was going to happen. There would have been some catalyst at some point. These groups have already been fighting the war for decades. They brought the war here on 9-11, but if we stopped that, they would have tried again and again until they succeeded.

Likewise, unless we deal with the nuclear proliferation in the region now it is going to be a lot worse and harder to do later. Do I think there needs to be a war in Iran? No. But the administration needs to be prepared to make Iran suffer economically until they stop pursuing nukes. And the adminstration needs to prepare the American public for $100+ oil as part of that strategy. The fact that they haven't done that yet signals to me that they think a military solution is in order. Whether that is better than nothing is debatable.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Rendition has not worked in the past...

You haven't supported that idea so far.


The prosecutions in the past did not stop 9-11, or the subsequent attacks in Europe. They did not stop the USS Cole bombing or the Khobar towers bombings. Hence, they did not work.

Are his words so powerful that we should be so afraid of him as to refuse to listen? Will they corrupt the ears of our children?

He won't be addressing us. And we refused to listen in 1981, and look what happened.

I agree, not all govt prosecutors are bad, but don't assume that the guys at the top of these organizations are like the lower level operators we have prosectued in the past. That's probably why we haven't caught them yet...
posted by Pastabagel at 2:39 PM on August 15, 2006


pastabagel, I take it you're in agreement with Michael Ledeen:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

I think the reason you're having such a hard time making your case is that you're starting from here:

Destroy XYZ group or else. The purpose of this war, and the war in iraq, is to demonstrate to the people in that region that allowing those groups to operate from within their societies will bring them catastrophic results.

I don't go along with your premise. You and Ledeen both seem to conceptualize our Mid-East policy as a big ol' bar fight, where we start and finish the violence on our own terms. That's delusional, as anyone who's been in an actual bar fight can tell you. Scale it up, and the delusion, the costs, the risks grow exponentiall.

Your notion of war -- yours and Ledeen's and PNAC's, et fucking al. -- is totally discredited. It didn't work. It couldn't work. I'm not sure why you're still pushing it, or why you expect anyone to buy it, this far past its expiration date.
posted by vetiver at 3:33 PM on August 15, 2006


Maybe the disconnect here is that we are arguing different things.

That is it.

You are talking about justice, but implied in that is the western concept of justice. [...] Ultimately, justice is subjective.

Actually, I was referring to the less conceptual form of justice. The one where the individuals who perpetrated a crime within our jurisdiction are caught, brought to trial and sentenced accordingly.

but there's not doubt that prosecuting a few terrorists on US soil does NOT acheive this.

I think it could be more accurately portrayed as: prosecuting a few terrorists on US soil, absent comprehensive political follow-thru, has not achieved this yet and may never; though I don't necessarily agree with that either. Similarly, this: With a law enforcement approach, the attacks never stop is just as sweeping and speculative. I could just as easily say that the war didn't stop the attacks and won't ever. As evidence, I present every terrorist attack since the invasion of Iraq. But for fairness' sake, I won't include the plots foiled by law enforcement.

Oil is of vital, not passing or tertiary, but vital importance to the United States. It is not a strategic national interest. It's the strategic interest. Destroy XYZ group or else. The purpose of this war, and the war in iraq, is to demonstrate to the people in that region that allowing those groups to operate from within their societies will bring them catastrophic results.

It's funny. When the admin was lying their way into this war, I remember saying to my friends, if they would just be honest and frank about why they actually want to go into Iraq, I would respect them more. Now that I hear your frank and honest appraisal of why you support the invasion of Iraq in principle, I'm not so sure. I just think killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis for the sake of economic and political expediency is evil. Call me Pollyanna.
posted by effwerd at 4:21 PM on August 15, 2006


“Its purpose is to destabilize the muslim world, secure oil, and to safeguard the existence of those states that cooperate with the US....The war is to reshape the thinking in the muslim world about radical ideology and it's impact on them....demonstrate to the people in that region that allowing those groups to operate from within their societies will bring them catastrophic results”

That’d be a war I don’t support. And that’s certainly not a cause that I would fight for or I would want my kids fighting for. And if I knew for certain that was the course of action my government was taking I’d openly rebel and act against it. There are better ways to secure a priority resource than invasion that turning the volunteer armed forces of a democracy into Sturmabteilung - stormtroopers (“terror must be broken by terror”).


“...but there's not doubt that prosecuting a few terrorists on US soil does NOT acheive this.”
I don’t even know where to begin here. Your information - wherever you’re getting it is incorrect. Terrorist groups are not partisan organizations of the societies they live in. If we treat them as such we legitimize them (didn’t someone say this earlier?) and alloy their cause with the society in question. Textbook examples abound.

“And the adminstration needs to prepare...The fact that they haven't done that yet signals to me...”
The administration has consistently ignored solid advice from experianced military and civilian leadership. We apparently both think that various conflicts were inevitable, but for different reasons.

“Rendition has not worked in the past, and extraordinary rendition may be a violation of constitutional rights, the issue has never been tested. Imagine the embarrasment if it is tested, and the test fails.”

It has always ‘worked’ in the past where ‘worked’ = subject to existing laws and treaties and the agreed upon due processes. Ad hoc process within the system anywhere delegitimizes faith in the governance under that system everywhere. That’s a solid conservative principle that has been completely abandonded by this radical administration.
What’s embarassing is Suleyman Zain-ul-abidin and the fact that all of the criminal cases lately seem to be politically motivated.
What’s embarassing is Walter Jones introducing the War Crimes Act in 1996 (which when applied subject foreign nationals to prosecution if they treat a U.S. citizen or U.S. property in a way that violates U.S. laws - but we all knew that) and the Attorney General creating "exempt" categories for detainees and "exempt" areas in which prisons could be built and unregulated interrogations conducted so as to dodge the law and saying “fuck you” to the supreme court (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) decision that said they had to comply with it by pressuring Congress to pass legislation that retroactively shields from possible prosecution anyone who authorized or encouraged the use of such coercion during interrogations.
What’s embarassing is that prisoners finally charged will have to wait for another Supreme Court decision to compels the administration to restore procedural rights that it does not want to accord to men who violate international standards of conduct. Meanwhile the people charged with violating international standards of conduct will remain in the hands of those who don't recognize international standards of conduct.
I won’t even fucking get into treaties, reciprocity and constitutional protections.

(note: I blatently stole most of that last bit from Col. Dan Smith (ret) )
posted by Smedleyman at 4:45 PM on August 15, 2006


/and again Pastabagel, we agree on some conceptual issues. I take this personally however and were it for the good of the country I might (might) even agree. If it meant we would be held hostage to foreign powers I’d reenlist. But I see no evidence that any of this is serving the interests of more than an elite few. And as much as I like the mamluk sword, American troops are sworn to uphold the constitution; they are not slaves or mercenaries.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:58 PM on August 15, 2006


Law enforcement couldn't have worked because of American domestic opinion.

No matter how feasible- or, ultimately- preferable using a LE would have been, it would have been a political disaster for whomever held the White House on 9/11. People and Congress were screaming for blood.

President Bush, or Clinton, or Gore or Kerry would have self-immolated had they waited much longer than the real-life month or so to launch the war.
posted by spaltavian at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2006


Spaltavian, when people talk about the "law enforcement option", they're not talking about sending in Marshalls. They're talking about taking the the offending characters and putting them on trial.

The "law enforcement option" is not in opposition to "war"; it's in opposition to "special rendition" and black sites and assuming that we have a moral prerogative that allows us to route around niceties like law.
posted by lodurr at 6:03 PM on August 15, 2006


Unless the "law enforcement option" involves a military invasion of Afghanistan, it is in opposition to "war" to swaths of Americans and leaders in Congress.

The distinction you just made would not, I believe, have resonated with most Americans. Regardless of the Administration's line on 9/11, the country did not see the attacks as a crime. They saw it as the opening salvo of a war. The Herculean task of re-branding the attacks as a criminal act would have been a massive and political unrewarding gambit for any president.
posted by spaltavian at 6:10 PM on August 15, 2006


err, that should be politically unrewarding gambit
posted by spaltavian at 6:11 PM on August 15, 2006


The war in Afghanistan was broadly supported and widely seen as being both legitimate and necessary. Afghanistan could have served as a demonstration of US might and served as an example of democracy. But Bush dropped the ball there and focused on Iraq.

President Bush's "bullhorn moment," where he vowed to get "the people who knocked these buildings down," was his most genuine public moment and I think will be remembered as the high-water mark of his presidency. His failure to follow through on that vow could be his legacy.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:26 PM on August 15, 2006


... did not see the attacks as a crime.

Sure they did. Many also saw it as an act of war. With coaxing, many more came to see it as an act of war. They're not mutually exclusive.

Whether the "law enforcement option" would have resonated would have depended entirely on how it was put. In fact, Bush laid the groundwork for that framing, as kirkaracha point out, in his "bullhorn moment", but he didn't follow through. Why? Well, because the concept of "justice" as an abstract, as something that a person defers to a higher or larger entity (such as the legal system) does not resonate with him.

For that matter, it doesn't resonate with most people. That doesn't mean we should scrap it. It means we need to learn to talk about it in a way that lets people understand why it has to work that way.

As for the war in Afghanistan: That was essentially framed as a large law enforcement exercise: We were cleaning out the gansters (and for the time being ignoring the fact that we'd allied with gangsters to do it).
posted by lodurr at 4:30 AM on August 16, 2006


Courtroom #36 USA vs. Bin Laden

Prosecutor - "Is that you in the video saying 'Death to imperialist America! I will not rest until you leave the sacred soil of our countries and I am terribly glad I financed all those acts of terrorism against you. May you all die horribly in whichever heathen hell you believe in.'"

Mr Bin Laden - "Err...Yes, that's me."

Judge - "Case closed. Off with you to Sing Sing for 4,000 consecutive life sentences. Now, who's for beer and snacks?"

Naah. That'd never work what with all those activist judges and stuff.
posted by longbaugh at 5:13 AM on August 16, 2006


I try to maintain the belief that US citizens, along with my fellow Australian citizens, would not have allowed the war in Iraq to happen had they not been in a state of shock from the 9/11 attacks.

But I really think I am deluding myself.
posted by Diag at 5:20 AM on August 16, 2006


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