What Did “W” Know?

As a closet conspiracy theorist myself, I can see how the following story would confirm the paranoia that leads to such “hair-brained” theories as the one that insists that George W. Bush knew the attacks on the World Trade Center were about to take place and simply chose to be elsewhere when it happened.

Now, 11 years later, new details of the attack on the World Trade Center continue to emerge from the government’s vault of classified documents and the journalists who’ve gained access. This year, the reporter with the jaw-dropping scoop is Kurt Eichenwald, a former Timesman and present contributing editor at Vanity Fair.  After reading more than one tweet with the simple instructions “Read this,” we clicked on the link to Eichenwald’s powerful op-ed, due to be published in The New York Times on September 11. In it, Eichenwald goes into teeth-grinding detail about how the Bush administration had even more advance notice about Osama Bin Laden’s attack than we previously realized.

In fact it seemed at the time that the CIA almost certainly had a pretty good idea that something big was “coming down.” And the terrible events that occurred on September 11th might have been prevented if those in charge had been willing to err on the side of caution. But that is not the way we do things in this country — witness the widespread unwillingness to take steps to thwart global warming. We embrace “crisis management” — we wait until something dreadful happens and then we try to figure out what went wrong.

Pert of this, at least, is our cultural hubris, our conviction that America can do no wrong. Another part is our blind addiction to technology and its presumed ability to solve all problems. Another part of it is the business mentality that refuses to consider the long run: it’s all about the short run self-interest (read: profits). And part of it is a sort of brash foolishness that borders on stupidity — like the person who continues to drive and text at the same time thinking that nothing can happen to him. But whatever we call it we should learn a lesson from all this: don’t wait until after the event happens before taking steps to avoid disaster. And don’t dismiss the warnings of reliable people when the consequences might be calamitous.

At the very least, “W” and his administration were wrong not to listen to informed people who gave warnings ahead of the event. At worst he knew pretty well what was going to happen and allowed it to happen in order to lead this country into war with Iraq — something that both he and the neoconservative advisers wanted (as the story above mentions). But that smacks of conspiracy theory and we know that stems from paranoia. I have been told, however, that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!


12 thoughts on “What Did “W” Know?

  1. Further evidence that W surpassed James Buchanan and James Garfield as the worst president ever. Buchanan’s incompetence led to lost lives in the Civil War, although such an explosion was still likely to occur. Bush’s incompetence had, and continues to have, serious negative effects at home (the economy, business deregulation, etc.), and has cost countless thousands of lives from 9/11 onward.

  2. There were regular briefings on bin laden, going back to clinton, according to what ive read. But the deer in the headlights picture on W’s face when told of the tragedy proves in my mind how clueless he was. His subsequent attacks on Iraq, even though the 9/11 attackers were Saudi, proves he just wanted a war, but wouldn’t risk the sources of oil.

  3. Great post. You could add we ignored the counsel the New Orleans levees would not survive a direct hit of a hurricane. I use the word “stewardship” often these days. We are entrusting our leaders to be good stewards with our resources and information. When they are not, we all suffer. I am presuming they have better information than the public has (that is not a given with anymore) and hope they will act with judicious stewardship – being bold when they have to and showing caution when they must.

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