As we approach the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it might be useful to see how far an ordinary citizen's knowledge has progressed one year on. So here, in the way of a summing-up, based on journalistic documentation, is a list of things we Americans have learned since last September -- some of which might prove useful in the run-up to the November elections.
1. We've learned that Bush & Co.'s "war on terrorism" has morphed from finding and destroying those responsible for the 9/11 mass-murders to a worldwide campaign to install a Pax Americana, by force if necessary. In other words, neo-imperialism, reminiscent in many ways of the old Roman Empire or, closer to our own time, the British Empire.
2. We've learned that Bush & Co. has no desire to rethink any of its policies abroad, the same policies that isolate it and that generate hatred, suspicion and terrorism in so many regions of the globe. Rather than reconsider its policies, or try to accomplish its ends through diplomacy and alliances and cultural/economic initiatives, in its arrogance it continues to bully and threaten others, insult its European and other allies, disregard international treaties and courts, engage in unilateral actions without regard to the national interests of others, and, in general, simply throw its massive weight around. The prevailing attitude seems to be: We are the one Superpower, get used to bending to our will.
3. We've learned that Bush's national-security leadership was alerted months ahead of 9/11 (and, it has admitted, no later than Aug. 6, 2001) that a major air attack from al Qaeda was in the works, along with the likely targets, but did nothing to try to prevent those attacks or warn anyone about them. Caught in their own lies, they blame "the system," especially elements in the FBI, for "not connecting the dots." More than 3000 Americans died as a result of this malfeasance.
4. We've learned that plans already were in the works prior to 9/11 for the evisceration of Constitutional guarantees of due process of law. The White House hustled the so-called USA PATRIOT Act through a frightened Congress in a patriotic blur, just a few weeks after the attacks, with few, if any, of the legislators having had time to read the final version.
5. We've learned that prior to Sept. 11, the Bush administration was negotiating with the Taliban about a pipeline desired by a US-led energy consortium that would cross through Afghanistan. When the Taliban balked, the US negotiators told them they either could accept a "carpet of gold" or face a "carpet of bombs." The Taliban backed away from the deal and refused to hand over Osama bin Laden; shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, the US began bombing in Afghanistan.
6. We've learned that now with the Taliban having been overthrown, and a US-friendly regime installed in Kabul, the pipeline project is back on track, designed to carry energy supplies across Afghanistan from the Caspian Sea area to near India. The new US special envoy to Afghanistan was a former consultant on the payroll of the pipeline folks. And Hamid Karzai, the new governmental leader, is the choice of the US government, and -- surprise! -- is unusually compliant with whatever Washington wants.
7. We've learned that Bush & Co.'s Homeland Security Act includes programs that bear an amazing resemblance to totalitarian programs from the fascist/communist end of the spectrum: getting the military (restricted heretofore to activity outside the US) involved in domestic policing, signing up neighborhood and block snoops to work for the central government, investigating what books citizens are checking out and buying, denouncing those deemed insufficiently patriotic or suspicious because of their views, etc. Remind you of Stalin's Russia, Castro's Cuba, Hitler's Third Reich, the Stasi of East Germany? (There also are prototypes of patriotic youth leagues being tried out in cities, which could become a national program.) A kind of martial-law coming to a neighborhood near you.
8. We've learned that Ashcroft/Bush are shredding Constitu-tional due-process guarantees in their move toward total control: Already they have compromised attorney-client privilege, removed habeas corpus protections, locked up folks with no charges, secreted citizens at military installations which puts them out of reach of the judicial system, violated privacy in rifling through personal telephone and email communications, etc. etc. When the ambiguously-worded USA PATRIOT Act was first brought up, Ashcroft and Bush told us not to worry, promising that these rules would affect only non-citizens. Since that time, American citizens have been handled in similar fashion. Coming to a neighborhood near you.
9. We've learned much about the dangers of religious fundamentalism in Islam, but we've also learned about dangers posed by our own religious fundamentalists -- eager for a Christian theocratic society, symbolized most recently by a Secret Service agent scrawling on a Muslim suspect's refrigerator "Islam Is Evil, Christ Is King" -- and the extraordinary power they wield within the Bush administration, represented most openly by John Ashcroft, who in frame of mind resembles a Taliban mullah.
10. We've learned that the FBI, focusing now on foreign terrorists, doesn't seem energized with the same zeal to catch domestic terrorists, such as abortion-clinic arsonists -- and especially the anthrax-dispenser. Though the FBI seems to know that the anthrax villain probably worked at a government bio-lab, nobody has been arrested, or even targeted as a prime suspect. It may not be likely, but the unsaid is finally being asked: Could this dangerous terrorist actually be working for the government?
11. We've learned that the Hard Right of the Republican Party has taken control -- of the House leadership, of the Supreme Court, of the White House, of much of the conglomerate-owned media -- and has demonstrated its willingness to do nearly anything to maintain that power. (Only the courageous defection of Sen. Jim Jeffords from GOP ranks is standing in the way of Hard Right total control of all three branches of government.) More and more truly objectionable Hard Right judges are being nominated by Bush in an effort to stack the judiciary for decades to come. This by a man who lost the election by more than half-a-million votes, coming into his White House residency with no popular mandate only because his supporters on the Supreme Court installed him there.
12. We've learned that to break the momentum of the Hard Right, all energy for the upcoming November elections (less than 90 days away, let us not forget) must be expended in electing Democrat candidates and defeating Republican ones. The objective conditions are just not ripe yet for anything more than trying to move the country back toward the middle of the political spectrum. We progressives more in tune with the Greens (Green candidates are being supported secretly in many states by the Republicans, to try to defeat Democrats) will have to wait. The difference between Democrats and Republicans may seem small to Greens and others, but, as we've learned in a painful way under Bush & Co., that difference is immense when it comes to foreign and domestic policy and its actual effects on real people, here and abroad.
13. We've learned that Cheney is up to his ears in Halliburton irregularities, and may well be liable for indictment for participating in financial fraud. In addition, we've learned that Cheney, who was the head of the task force that came up with a corporate-friendly rather than a consumer-friendly energy policy, has refused to turn over to Congress the requested documents that will reveal how that policy was arrived at and which industry leaders (other than Enron's Kenny Boy) helped shape it.
14. We've learned that Bush knew in advance, as a member of the Harken Audit Committee, that Harken Oil was going to release negative financial news, and sold his shares before that, reaping a fortune. He may be liable for indictment for insider-trading and other Harken irregularities. (Even if Bush and Cheney are not indicted, they are the last people on earth who should be speaking about corruption in the corporate financial world, as these hypocrites benefited from that very corrupt system. As did most of Bush's corporate-derived cabinet.)
15. We've learned that Bush & Co. were mightily opposed to any reform of corporate financial reporting, but when more and more companies were caught in such corrupt practices and the mood of the country shifted -- mainly because so many folks, especially seniors, lost huge chunks of their pensions and portfolio holdings when the stock market tanked as a result of investors' losing confidence in the numbers provided by corporations -- they jumped on the bandwagon and pretended they were reformers all along. In the background, they are trying to help their corporate supporters water down, and otherwise get around, the new rules. To that end, Bush & Co. have appointed Harvey Pitt and Larry Thompson, two tainted corporate types, to head up the "investigations" of corporate wrongdoing. Break out the whitewash.
16. We've learned that Bush & Co., having placed its chips on Ariel Sharon, continues to have no real desire for a just peace in the Middle East. All it wants is for the area to be quiet and controlled (thus giving carte blanche to the Israeli Army's police-state occupation and oppression), so that it can continue its plans for overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And, of course, there has been no declaration of a state of war by the Congress, neither against Afghanistan nor against Iraq, and no real debate about the wisdom of a war against Saddam -- even when the top brass at the Pentagon and in Great Britain have expressed their opposition to such military adventurism.
17. We've learned that there will be no peace now in the Middle East because the US is not fully engaged in the peace process, also because neither extreme in the area wants peace: Sharon thrives on war and brutality, Hamas needs Sharon's bloody policies to justify its campaign of terror. There are signs that moderate Palestinians finally are starting to speak out in favor of a peaceful solution, and there are plenty of land-for-peace Israelis (supported by many liberal Jews in the US), so the outlines of a peace are out there. But until the US and UN make the commitment to separate the warring extremists and arrange an equitable treaty both Israel and the Palestinians can live with -- secure borders for Israel (and an end to suicide bombing), a viable state for the Palestinians, abandoning of the settlements by Israel, reparations for Palestinians who lost their homes and property -- there will be only more bloodshed. And more fertile ground for new generations of terrorists, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
18. We've learned that Bush & Co. has been a total disaster for the environment, in every way: from reneging on its campaign promise to cut carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse emissions, to backing away from higher fuel-efficiency in cars (we could cut our dependence on foreign oil 20% just by increasing fuel efficiency by 5%), to giving breaks to corporate polluters all across the country, to permitting increased arsenic levels in the water, etc. etc.
19. We've learned that Secretary of State Colin Powell -- who sees the world in something other than simplistic black-and-white, us-versus-them dichotomies -- is a man imprisoned in the Bush Cabinet, forced to alter his principled opinions in the service of Bush & Co.'s stupidly aggressive and ultimately self-defeating foreign policies. Powell, a moderate conservative, looks like a raving progressive when measured against his masters. He should resign but probably won't.
20. We've learned that the tax-cuts provided to the most wealthy are not only payoffs to the corporate sector that provides support for Bush & Co. By locking in those tax cuts for 10 years (and with humongous chunks of the budget spent on the "war on terrorism"), Bush & Co. have ensured that innumerable social programs that aid the less well-off will be cut or eliminated. In short, a rollback of New Deal/Great Society programs, so hated by the Hard Right. (The Hard Right movement to detach prescription drugs for seniors from the Medicare program, and, especially, to privatize Social Security -- even in the face of recent stock-market disasters -- is part of this same desire.)
Even after all the above shorthand summaries, no doubt I'm leaving out lots of Bush & Co. dirt, but this list can provide a starting point, and a handy compilation of enough low and high crimes and misdemeanors to warrant their removal from power, either through the ballot box or by resignation or impeachment.
Finally, as we approach the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we know that one of two things will happen: Either Bush & Co. will start its Iraq war and carry out more under-the-radar attacks on important American programs, or the media will engage in more hard-hitting investigative reporting that will reveal in even more stark relief the machinations of Bush & Co. illegalities and other scandalous behavior. But, given the corporate nature of our corporate-owned media, don't count on it. Instead, we'll probably be flooded with anniversary photo-ops orchestrated by the White House -- and, from the media, lots of "kid-down-the-well"-type stories, or a good Condit-like sex scandal.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., of San Francisco has taught American government & international relations at Western Washington University and San Diego State University; he was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years.