The Real American Traitors October 5, 2001 by William Rivers Pitt "Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it." - H. L. Mencken Two weeks ago, I would have believed it impossible to imagine that anything I saw or heard could be more wretched, wrenching or enraging than watching those two airplanes slice into the World Trade Center Towers. Two weeks ago, I would have believed that I could never be more horrified than I was when I realized that those tiny dots on my television screen were human beings who, when faced with the choice between fire and falling, chose the high drop to meet their death. Two weeks ago, I would never have believed I could feel as much sorrow as I did when beholding the walls in Manhattan depicting the names and faces of the missing and the doomed. It is with awe, and with the purest disgust I have ever known, that I report to you another outrage, comparable to what transpired on September 11th. American Republicans are, right this minute, using the dead and the lost in New York and Washington for political vengeance and gain. There are many who do this, among whom are Congressmen and columnists, television pundits and hired hacks. By their actions, our American dead are being murdered again. To truly understand the depth and breadth of this depraved and evil hypocrisy, we must begin by reaching all the way back to the heady days of the Reagan administration. In those days there were two hot wars blazing, and both were used by Reagan to further his Cold War goals. The first was the protracted fight between Iran and Iraq that lasted ten years. Saddam Hussein, now known as a bloodthirsty demon, was in those days a boon compatriot of American interests. We armed him and his military to the teeth in their fight with Iran, because that nation was receiving weapons and funding from the Soviet Union. American SEAL teams fought alongside Iraqi troops, blowing up bridges and fighting the kind of covert guerilla war they are famous for. In the end, Iraq fought Iran to a stalemate, and found itself at the end of the war among the most well-armed and well-trained nations in the region. We all know how this ended. Barely two years later, Hussein was charging into Kuwait with his army and threatening to disrupt the flow of oil from the Middle East. America, under the leadership of the first George Bush, gathered a coalition of nations and drove him in flames back to Baghdad. In the process, however, we established military bases in Saudi Arabia, the original home nation of Osama bin Laden. bin Laden, appalled that the 'Crusaders' were again assembled under arms in his homeland, swore eternal holy war against the United States. The other hot war being waged at the time was much more vividly a Cold War conflict. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and the Reagan administration poured untold millions of dollars worth of weapons and arms into that nation, to be used by the Afghani Mujeheddin. The Mujeheddin freedom fighters, compared by Reagan to our Founding Fathers, were pledged to drive the Soviets from their land, and were more than happy to accept the help of the United States. The CIA trained scores of Mujeheddin fighters, among them Osama bin Laden. A number of these men were trained right here in America at Fort Benning, Georgia. In the end, the Soviet military smashed themselves into broken oblivion against the unyielding Afghani landscape, and were bled nearly to death by the stings of the American-armed Mujeheddin fighters. When they left, the once-united freedom fighters fell to war amongst various factions for control of the nation. Soon, the group now known as the Taliban assumed near total control of the country, and instituted a regime based upon a harshly interpreted version of fundamentalist Islam. Osama bin Laden, deeply involved in the fight against the Soviets, made a home with the Taliban, and was given their protection. In 1998 agents of bin Laden used a plastic explosive called Semtex, originally given to the Mujeheddin by the Reagan administration, to destroy two American embassies in Africa. This tangled web of Cold War loyalties and conflict has as much to do with our present state as any other factor. Arguments regarding the righteousness and validity of our involvement in these wars can, and have, raged for years. Both sides can boast persuasive arguments to bolster their opinions. This is not where foul hypocrisy has made its lair. The sickening, opportunistic Republican political vampires have ignored this very basic American history in the region from which our current woe has sprung, and instead have chosen a favorite partisan target to blame for this entire awful episode. You guessed it. The whole mess is Bill Clinton's fault. Forget the Cold War. Ignore the Gulf War. Leave aside the Mujeheddin warriors who became the Taliban by using American weapons to gain power and influence. In our darkest days, these Republican whores have plundered the graves of our American dead to attack, once again without foundation, a former President whose political viewpoint they disagree with. A columnist named Andrew Sullivan crystallized this revisionist nonsense, now parroted with glee by the worthless denizens of the Fox News Channel as well as other equally repugnant members of the conservative news media, in a recent column: "The decision to get down and dirty with the terrorists, to take their threat seriously and counter them aggressively, was simply never taken. Former president Bill Clinton, whose inattention to military and security matters now seems part of the reason why America was so vulnerable to slaughter." The facts of the matter are far different. In 1999, the Clinton administration initiated a bold plan to capture or kill bin Laden by training approximately 60 members of Pakistani intelligence for the task. This was done in response to the attacks upon our African embassies, and may well have succeeded. The plot collapsed when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a coup by General Pervez Musharraf, who remains today the leader of Pakistan. Musharraf refused to support the plot, and it withered on the vine through no fault of Clinton. Earlier, the Clinton administration, acting upon information provided with an imprimatur of certitude by the Pentagon, launched some 66 cruise missiles into Afghanistan. These missiles were aimed at a training camp the Pentagon believed was sheltering bin Laden. The information proved to be erroneous, and bin Laden was unharmed. Again, the Clinton administration acted boldly, but was foiled by circumstances beyond its control. The Clinton administration spoke often about the need to augment America's defenses against terrorist attack. Clinton, having presided over the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the destruction of American embassies in Africa, knew in an acutely personal way what needed to be done. His attempts to address the threat were not only foiled by circumstance, and were not only foiled by an American mood that neither knew or could even conceive of an attack like that which transpired on September 11, 2001. Clinton's attempts to address the threat of terrorism against the United States were disrupted and diverted by the same Republicans who seek today to blame him for the tragedy. The most potent weapon Osama bin Laden has to wield against America is his financial resources, and the means to move that money secretly from cell to cell. Bluntly, it takes a man of means to fight a nation of means. During his administration, Clinton offered legislation that would give the Treasury Secretary broad powers to ban foreign nations and banks from accessing American financial markets unless they cooperated with money-laundering investigations that would expose and terminate terrorist cash flows. The legislation was killed by Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who doubtless rationalized this now-portentous obstructionism by reminding himself that Clinton was a Goddless womanizer who wished only to strip him and his constituents of their American freedoms. Asked in September 2001 to defend his actions, Gramm responded, "I was right then and I am right now. The way to deal with terrorists is to hunt them down and kill them." The idea of choking off their financial resources, now so popular as to be almost axiomatic, apparently does not resonate with Senator Gramm. In the guise of this balding failed Presidential candidate lives yet another wall thrown up by opportunistic and narrow-minded Republicans, whose desire to stick it to Clinton aided and abetted the murderers who visited New York last month. The hypocrisy behind current Republican attempts to blame Clinton for the World Trade Center attacks finds its roots far beyond the opportunistic posturing of Phil Gramm. It reaches back to the viciously partisan Republican-controlled Congress of 1996, which thwarted legislation offered by Clinton that would have substantially augmented America's ability to defend against terrorist threats. In 1996 Senator Orrin Hatch referred to several threats which Clinton warned us of, threats that now are as commonplace as stores that have sold out of gas masks, as "phony threats." He used these words to attack Clinton's legislation, helping to create a legislative environment that gave birth to a watered-down, Congress-driven version of an anti-terrorism bill that has been proven to be utterly worthless. Senator Trent Lott, with his powers as Republican Majority Leader, did everything in his power to hamstring Clinton's attempt to enact real protections against American threats in 1996. Yet he found within himself the unmitigated gall to stand in the well of the Senate during a debate about the current iteration of Clinton's anti-terrorism measures on October 2nd, 2001 and say, "If anything happens, if there is a terror attack, the Democrats will have to explain to the American people why they didn't pass this bill." This is bottomless, bottomless hypocrisy, and the story of it only gets worse from here. On January 31, 2001, the Hart-Rudman report was published. This report voiced dire warnings about threats to American security posed by terrorist attacks. Further, this report recommended the creation of an Office of Homeland Defense that would be responsible for the implementation of defensive measures to combat this threat. The Hart-Rudman report was summarily dismissed and ignored by the Bush administration. On February 12, 1997, Vice President Al Gore delivered to President Clinton a report entitled 'White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.' In this report, Gore outlined numerous ways in which the airline industry could protect its aircraft and passengers from the threat of terrorism. Many, if not all of these recommendations would have gone a long way towards thwarting the September 11 attacks. Like Hart-Rudman, the warnings voiced by Gore's report were ignored by the Bush administration. What is most reprehensible about the treatment the Gore report has received can be explained through the simple geometry of the airline industry marketplace, which has one of the most powerful lobbying voices to be found on the floor of the Republican-controlled Congress. It has been no secret within the airline industry that security at American airports is a bad joke. These checkpoints are mostly manned by poorly-trained workers who make minimum wage. Between 1991 and 2000, FAA agents managed to smuggle grenades, guns and other weapons aboard aircraft at Logan airport in Boston with a 90% success rate. Logan, it must be noted, was the point of origin for the aircraft that stuck the Towers. The terrorists had done their research. The FAA, during the Clinton administration, proposed sweeping changes to the way security is enforced at airport checkpoints. These measures were fought every step of the way in the Republican-controlled Congress by the aforementioned airline industry lobby, to good effect. None of the changes desired by the FAA have been legislated, because the airline industry did not want to pay for them. Even today, after all that has happened, Republicans in Congress fight the idea that some sort of Federal presence at these vulnerable security checkpoints might not be a bad idea. A healthy bottom line for Delta and American is more important to the Republican Congressmen who accepted their share of the $35 million in campaign contributions from said lobbies, apparently, than the safety and security of the nation. No credence was given to the Hart-Rudman report or the Gore Commission report by the Republican-controlled Congress, on whom falls the responsibility for enacting legislation based upon such warnings. This was done for purely partisan reasons, and nothing more. The New Republic, in an article published in 1997, commented prophetically about the demise of the Gore Commission report: "The truth is, there is not a whole lot that can be done to stop a trained professional terrorist. Terrorism will continue, and, in calmer moments, people will recognize that any attempt to stamp it out completely would impose such extraordinary costs and time delays as to destroy the airline industry altogether. The Gore Commission…inaugurated with such fanfare, will likely see their recommendations disappear into archival history. And everything will settle down until the next explosion." Recently, the Republican-controlled Congress gave a multi-billion dollar bailout to the airline industry, whose greedy culpability in the events of September 11th is beyond question. This industry was given approximately four times the amount they had lost while grounded, money that was once earmarked for Social Security and Medicare. Immediately after receiving this bailout, United Airlines ordered almost a dozen planes from a French airline manufacturer. According to OpenSecrets.org, Republicans received 60% of the total campaign contributions donated by the airline industry, amounting to $4,115,439. In 1998 they received a meager 59% of the contributions, amounting to $2,440,897. Since the attacks of September 11th, anyone who dares criticize Republican President George W. Bush has been labeled a traitor. Reporters have been fired for doing so, talk show hosts have been repudiated for doing so, and the White House Press Secretary himself has warned all of America to "watch what we say." The reasons for this intellectual lockdown are articulated as being necessary to combat the threat of terrorism, and to present a united front against our enemies. Most of those demanding this united front are Republicans who have wrapped themselves in the flag. They do so not out of patriotism, but to hid their shameful and guilt-ridden faces from a public that deserves to know the truth. For this, and for everything described above, I accuse them of treason. For attempting to obscure fundamental American history that could help to explain to a shocked America where these attacks have come from, I accuse them of treason. For attempting to blame a former President for their own actions and partisan-motivated lack of action that led directly to this horror, I accuse them of treason. For using the blood and bones and woe of American dead to further a repulsive and apparently ceaseless jihad against the Democratic Party, I accuse them of treason. For stifling dissent in a land founded upon the freedoms expressed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, I accuse them of treason. For aiding and abetting the noxious greed of an airline industry that stands in deep taint for their refusal to address clear and present threats, because such actions would cut into profits, I accuse them of treason. They are guilty. The facts are clear. You cannot hide from history. The Republicans are the real American traitors. They are the shame and the sorrow and the scourge of this nation. The dead remember. So do the living. So do I. So should you.