Political wrangling led to our present
The recent anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center brings to mind the squabble going on between the FBI agents in Minneapolis and the terrorism “experts” at the FBI when the agents asked for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s laptop and apartment. Moussaoui had paid $8,000 in cash to learn how to fly a 747. He wasn’t interested in learning how to take off or land. The agents, were certain they had a terrorist on their hands; when his visa expired he was arrested. The agent’s request was met with skepticism; FBI officials wanted to see a direct tie between Moussaoui and Al Qaeda.
According to a NEWSWEEK article Agent Harry Samit asked his boss Special Agent Greg Jones to use his influence with the higher ups to get the warrant. Jones told counterterrorism savant Michael Maltbie, one of the main skeptics, Moussaoui might be planning “To get control of an airplane and crash it into the World Trade Center or something like that.” Maltbie wouldn’t bite, making fun of the idea even though an attack on the Trade Center had happened less than ten years previously. The FBI’s acting director and the bureau’s senior counterterrorism official never found out about Moussaoui at all.
Worse yet, there WAS a direct connection between Moussaoui and Al Qaeda and the FBI knew about it: An internal memo prepared for outgoing FBI director Louis Freeh. Then assistant director Dale Watson warned about “significant and urgent” intelligence to suggest “serious operational planning” for terrorism attacks by “Sunni extremists with links to Ibn al Khattab, an extremist leader in Chechnya and to Usama Bin Laden.”
Copies of the memo were sent to eight members of the FBI, including Maltbie’s boss, who says he spent about twenty seconds considering the Minneapolis’s agents request before scoffing at it. The Minneapolis agents knew about Moussaoui’s adoration for Khattab from a friend arrested at the same time.
Colleen Rowley, one of the Minneapolis FBI agents who would later be on the cover of TIME as woman of the year, talked to Maltbie after the first plane struck on the day of the attack; he told her not to ask for a warrant until she heard back from him. After all four planes finally hit, a judge granted a warrant to search the laptop and Moussaoui’s lodgings. Agents found evidence of an advanced Al Qaeda hijacking plot and also the phone number of Al Qaeda paymaster Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Maltbie was later promoted. Rolince, Malbie’s boss who spent twenty seconds or so considering the warrant request, was also promoted and maintains “I haven’t heard of a single person who can articulate the logic of how you would get from Moussaoui to any of those other 19 hijackers.” I smell Darth Vader, don’t you? How does that man look in the mirror and deny outing CIA Valerie Plame? That’s assuming he has a conscience.
Methinks there was some political wrangling going on at the FBI since there was a temporary FBI director and the GOP was doing their best to get their own guys in the top spots. They tried to do it with federal prosecutors later, so why would you doubt it? Colleen Rowley, one of the main Minneapolis agents involved in the warning, later ran as a democrat against John Kline for a house seat so maybe that office had a liberal reputation. Kline makes Dick Cheney look like a liberal. Another reason politics may have been a culprit is the case of Richard A. Clarke, President George W. Bush’s terrorism expert who also warned of an imminent Al Qaeda attack. Afterwards, he was cut out of the loop involving terrorism meetings. This may have had something to do with the fact that Clarke was also Bill Clinton’s terrorism expert and Darth didn‘t trust him. More political wrangling?
This is where we begin to spend money like a Beverly Hills Housewife. First there’s the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not so bad since we kicked their butts in no time and had Osama bin Ladin cornered, but Bush let him get away. If the hawkish GOOPs had violated Pakistani space as Obama did, they could have trapped him then. Were they afraid of nukes or what? We don’t even know if Pakistan has a delivery system.
Then Bush declared war on Iraq, assuming with not an iota of evidence that Saddam had something to do with the attack on the Trade Center. Saddam hated Al Qaeda. Some maintain it was because Saddam had threatened to kill Bush’s father. Others maintain he sincerely believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Some conservative voters still do. The SS wasn’t this loyal to Hitler. There’s no excuse for this blunder, mainly because the war with Afghanistan wasn’t over until we captured bin Laden and destroyed the Taliban. This could have been another one of those “wag the dog” tactics. The GOOPs really thought the Iraqi people would welcome them if they attacked Iraq, as it appeared they did the first time. But they forgot there were two kinds of Muslims, Sunnis and the Shiites, who hate each other. Anyway this whole mess cost us something like four trillion dollars, much of which we borrowed from the Chinese, instead of raising taxes. But Bush cut taxes instead, twice, in 2001 and remarkably after the Al Qaeda attack in 2003. Somehow this was supposed to help the economy when anyone with a brain knows corporate execs would use robots if they could (they do; talk to a customer relations person lately?) rather than create jobs. Bush also refused to reinstate the draft, costing us thousands of national guard lives. National guard members tend to be family men and women. They’re supposed to be members of the home guard (you know, the militia mentioned in the second amendment). And isn’t this ironic since George W. Bush never did finish his tour of duty with the same National Guard? But we know why he relied on the National Guard. The college kids would have eaten him alive if he’d tried to draft them to go to Iraq. Sounds like a Cheney idea. How deferments did he get, five? For all we know he was protesting against the draft, too.
All right we’ve moved from the attack on the trade center to money, and the America people are being bamboozled once again. Whatever happened to our bullshit detectors? The GOP is using money as an excuse to deny Obama a second term when they were responsible for 80% of the national debt prior to Obama’s taking office. Well, let’s look at the budget just before Bush left office. The mass media went along with the lie that we were only about 460 billion over budget, but somehow Bush’s budget director got away with not counting the two wars and the money borrowed from social security. In actuality it was more like a trillion dollars. We’re about a million five over now, thanks to the stimulus plan and other attempts to stop the Great Depression II. Oh, I forgot the prescription plan which Bush came up with, the money for which was borrowed from the general fund, so that’s still adding to the deficit. The oldies didn’t need a prescription plan; they needed the Federal government to have the right to negotiate with drug companies. After all, you do that with your biggest customer, don’t you? Of course, the GOP never mentions that continuing prescription mistake and for some reason, neither do the democrats. Why wasn’t that plan paid for? Everything Obama wants to do must be paid for. We didn’t do our new president any favor electing Grover Norquist clones in 2010. Grover Norquist is the author of the infamous “No new taxes, no new revenue” pledges. This GOP economic hero was pals with Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reid, both implicated in the theft of millions from the Indian casinos. Word is Norquist tried to launder the money lobbyist Abramoff stole through his “No New Taxes” organization.
Of course the mortgage bubble didn’t help the deficit much either but the GOP would have you believe that was caused by Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae’s loose policies toward making loans to the poor. They’re about 900 billion in the hole now because of this. But Bush and his conservative director of the Federal Reserve Allen Greenspan approved of loosening the conditions for Fannie and Freddie loans. Besides, Fanny and Freddie don’t make loans; the banks and mortgage companies do, and they thought the cost of owning a home would continue to go up forever, and they were handing out bonuses like hard candy during a parade. The mortgage bubble was like that super computer Wall Street is running that bets on stocks. If the stock is up for ten days running, the computer sells; if the stock is down for ten days in a row, it buys. It’s all based on a mathematical algorithm, just as the derivative mess was. The viability of the company doesn’t matter; who’s running the company doesn’t matter, only the algorithm and how long the stock has been up or down. A drunken homeless person would know better.
Derivatives are supposed to be a guarantee against a recession, not cause one. That computer caused the stock market to go down 600 points in like a half hour. They’re still making billions on the thing; it’s never lost. Until it does. This should sound a whole lot like what happened before Wall Street caused the Great Depression. People were buying stock on margin. People were betting on whether stocks would go up or down. By the way, that’s legal now, too; you don’t even have to own a stock to bet on it. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley own most of the oil futures, in case you were wondering why gas prices are so high. Do you think it could be possible for Texas oil billionaires to hire people to buy oil futures? Do you think they might do that? Wouldn’t that be fraud? These are the Swift Boat people we’re talking about. These are the Koch Brothers, founders of the vile Cato Institute that supports a restaurants’ right to deny service. That’s were Rand Paul got the idea.
The GOP says talking about things like 15% of the American public being at or below the poverty line is class warfare. Actually the term “Class warfare” is just more spin.” That’s what Conservative think tanks do, they create spin. They blame the mortgage bubble bursting on Obama’s stimulus plan, which actually worked, by the way. It worked for corporations who are sitting on four trillion dollars they refuse to use to hire people because they don’t trust Obama’s. Don’t forget the United States Chamber of Commerce donated fifty million to conservative candidates. Wouldn’t this be a form of treason? Obama is right; the American people don’t have fourteen months.
How about a solution to the national debt problem that would actually work? Adopt the Japanese factory model only in all corporations, not just factories. We don’t have a lot of them any more. (Yes, I know Japan went through a ten year recession, but that was caused by faulty economic policy, not working conditions).They pay their people a living wage, they have proactive health care programs and company teams (volleyball, table tennis etc),they encourage employee meetings where workers can contribute ideas as well as air grievances, they even give them bonuses and profit sharing. And if your worker doesn’t miss work (How many American workers take mental health days?), he/she should get a bonus, and of course you need some kind of pension. Is a worker as effective if he’s constantly worried about being laid off because of a recession? Japanese factory workers operate like a team. Executives don’t look down their noses at their workers. And these are the people that kicked the butts of the American auto industry. What kind of car would a Toyota employee buy? A Mazda? Not on your life. What we’re doing now, this Ayn Rand form of capitalism which results in a recession every ten years and a depression or near depression every twenty, punishes corporations’ most faithful customers, their employees. Pay them a living wage, treat them like human beings and your profits will go up, way up.
I just heard a statistic this morning that was rather frightening. One out of every six bosses is a psychotic (They may have meant sociopath). I would have guessed three out of six, considering all those golden parachutes and bonuses for running the country down the drain. 700 people were protesting against Wall Street yesterday; they say they’re not going anyplace until Corporate America starts thinking about people rather than greed. If that 15% poverty rate goes much higher you’ll be seeing 700,000 people protesting on Wall Street and they’ll be breaking some windows and burning some buildings. That’s when you’ll see some real class warfare.
Quit falling for Conservative (Might as well call a spade a spade) spin, like the Right to Work programs that are popping up in conservative states with Rick Perry types claiming huge advances in employment. Right to Work means you don’t have to join the union if you work for a union shop. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! The unions worked hard to get their employees a living wage and benefits; they forced non-union shops to pay higher wages to compete. Kill the unions like the Ohio governor is now trying to do with the fire fighters there, and your wages go down. Many of Perry’s new jobs pay minimum wage or less. Get out your bullshit detectors, muchachos.
Dave Schwinghammer's novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available at Amazon.com, used and new. Please read the reviews.