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How a Dutch dandy became a conservative darling.
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The misery of AIDS in Africa.
Fear and Loathing.
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The savings and clone scandal.
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No thanks, World Bank says to a critical study.
Teaching social responsibility.
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Strength and Light
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May 24, 2002
Fear and Loathing
s warnings from the Bush administration of an imminent terrorist attack spark fear in Americans, it behooves us to consider the following chronology:
July 1996 A Pakistani terrorist with ties to Osama bin Laden tells the CIA and FBI that he planned to be trained as a pilot in the United States and fly an explosive-packed plane into CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia.
September 1999 The CIA warns: “Suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA or the White House.”
January 31, 2001 Former Sen. Gary Hart, co-chairman of a bipartisan terrorism commission, warns that America is vulnerable to “a weapon of mass destruction in a high-rise building.”
June 22 CIA Director George Tenet is reportedly “nearly frantic” about the possibility of an al-Qaeda attack.
June 22–August 16 The Federal Aviation Administration issues five warnings to airlines about impending threats.
June 28 Condoleezza Rice is warned in an intelligence report: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.”
July 5 White House officials are informed that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it is going to happen soon.”
July 10 In a memo to Washington that mentions bin Laden, an FBI special agent in Phoenix warns that a large number of Arabs are seeking flight training in the United States.
August 6 Bush, taking one of the longest vacations in presidential history, is warned that bin Laden followers might try to hijack U.S. planes. The memo is titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States in U.S.”
August 16 Zacarias Moussaoui is detained in Minnesota after his flight school alerts authorities to his lack of interest in learning how to land a plane.
September 6 Hart meets with Rice and urges the White House to move faster in response to terrorist threats.
September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks kill more than 3,000 people in New York and Washington.
December 20 The Washington Post publishes an interview with the president, in which Bush explains: “I knew [bin Laden] was a menace, and I knew he was a problem, but I didn’t feel the sense of urgency.”
May Press reports reveal that that the administration had prior warnings of attack.
May 19 Amid calls for a congressional investigation, Vice President Dick Cheney says the administration will not release the text of the warning Bush received on August 6. He tells America that another terrorist strike is “almost certain.”
May 21 Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) calls for an independent congressional inquiry. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) says such an inquiry “during a time of war is ill conceived and frankly irresponsible.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns that terrorists will “inevitably” obtain weapons of mass destruction. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says that more terrorists attacks are “not a question of if, but a question of when.” Bush explains, “Al-Qaeda still exists, they still hate America and any other country which loves freedom, and they want to hurt us. They’re nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers.”
May 23 Bush rejects calls for an independent congressional inquiry.
Are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ridge, et al., responding to new evidence of a real threat? Or are they stoking public anxieties for their own strategic ends?
For the past seven months, with the nation united in a war against “evil-doers,” the administration has avoided scrutiny of how it is waging that war and, by extension, its domestic policy agenda.
Cultivating public fear of sinister outside forces bent on destroying American life and liberty became a time-honored tool during the Cold War. It helps explains how Americans were initially sold on going to war in Vietnam—a war that killed 58,000 Americans and an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese.
September 11 proved a threat exists. But what transpired in Washington prior to that dark day raises serious questions about the Bush administration’s competence. Yes, additional terrorist attacks may loom. Impending danger, however, is not a reason to avoid a complete inquiry. Congress needs to order a full investigation now. America can’t let this happen again.
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