What if 9/11 Never Happened?

New York Magazine has several different writers provide their scenario for What If 9/11 Never Happened? As anyone who has watched Star Trek knows, change one thing and the whole time line changes in unpredictable ways. (Actually that’s how I see the consequences of the 2000 election going to Bush rather than the rightful winner). Most likely other events would have changed things in unpredictable ways, but even considering this I cannot resist providing my own comments on what might have happened.

There would have been a major difference in the lives of both those personally involved and many public officials. George Bush was looking like a one-term President in August, 2001 and without fear of terrorism it is doubtful he would have been reelected. Rudy Giuliani would have retired as Mayor and most likely would now be living in obscurity.

Some have suggested that, without a war, the Democrats would not have nominated John Kerry. I disagree, believing Kerry was the natural front runner based upon his overall record. He would have remained front runner through 2003 as Howard Dean, without the war, would have been a minor candidate, assuming he still decided to run. The former Governor of Vermont might have created some interest with his proposals for universal health care and early childhood education, but he would not have challenged Kerry as he did. The one wild card is if Al Gore had decided differently and entered the race. Gore, not Hillary, is the ten ton gorilla who could be the front runner for the nomination in 2004 or 2008 if he chose to run.

Another big loser would have been Kiefer Sutherland. Without 9/11, 24 would never have been a big hit and Sutherland would not have revived his career. Many authors, such as Jay McInerney, would not have had 9/11 for their novels. McInerney might have had to stick to writing about wine rather than returning to his novelist career.

The consensus of the scenarios is that Saddam would have still been in power. Most likely this is true, but Bush had the goal of removing Saddam before 9/11. The attack was just his excuse, and perhaps he would have found some other way to get support for an attack. Fabricating a different excuse wouldn’t have been beyond him.

This assumes no terrorist attack, but sooner or later al Qaeda would have acted. Considering the slow time scale they work by, if their plans for 9/11 didn’t succeed it is likely that a major attack would not have been reattempted until John Kerry or Al Gore was in the White House. In either case we’d have a more competent government which would have been more willing to pay attention to warnings of attack. The old recommendations from the Clinton Administration for fighting al Qaeda might even have been dusted off before an attack. On the other hand, without the experience of 9/11 we’d be less vigilant, and perhaps last week’s plans in Great Britain would have succeeded.

In reality, the question may not have been whether but when we’d be faced with a direct confrontation with al Qaeda and other extremist groups. The difference may have been that it would have occurred when we had a more rational government here. A Kerry or Gore government would have responded to the crisis rationally, and would not have used it to play politics while placing the nation in greater danger as George Bush has done. Events might have forced Kerry or Gore to go into Afghanistan. They would have finished the job in Afghanistan, and perhaps a Kerry government would have had the opportunity to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora, rather than allowing him to escape by outsourcing the job.

Some old posts which relate to this follow:

Suskind Exposes Bush’s Inability To Handle Terrorism

Posted by Ron Chusid
June 19th, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

The New York Times looks at Ron Suskind’s latest book on the Bush Adminstration. The One Percent Solution provides further evidence that George Bush is the wrong man to be handling the terrorist threat, and should revive the belief that it was Dick Cheney who was really in charge:

“The One Percent Doctrine” amplifies an emerging portrait of the administration (depicted in a flurry of recent books by authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett and the former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond) as one eager to circumvent traditional processes of policy development and policy review, and determined to use experts (whether in the C.I.A., the Treasury Department or the military) not to help formulate policy, but simply to sell predetermined initiatives to the American public.

Mr. Suskind writes that the war on terror gave the president and vice president “vast, creative prerogatives”: “to do what they want, when they want to, for whatever reason they decide” and to “create whatever reality was convenient.” The potent wartime authority granted the White House in the wake of 9/11, he says, dovetailed with the administration’s pre-9/11 desire to amp up executive power (diminished, Mr. Cheney and others believed, by Watergate) and to impose “message discipline” on government staffers. . .

This book augments the portrait of Mr. Bush as an incurious and curiously uninformed executive that Mr. Suskind earlier set out in “The Price of Loyalty” and in a series of magazine articles on the president and key aides. In “The One Percent Doctrine,” he writes that Mr. Cheney’s nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy, and cites one instance after another in which the president was not fully briefed (or had failed to read the basic paperwork) about a crucial situation.

During a November 2001 session with the president, Mr. Suskind recounts, a C.I.A. briefer realized that the Pentagon had not told Mr. Bush of the C.I.A.’s urgent concern that Osama bin Laden might escape from the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan (as he indeed later did) if United States reinforcements were not promptly sent in. And several months later, he says, attendees at a meeting between Mr. Bush and the Saudis discovered after the fact that an important packet laying out the Saudis’ views about the Israeli-Palestinian situation had been diverted to the vice president’s office and never reached the president.

Keeping information away from the president, Mr. Suskind argues, was a calculated White House strategy that gave Mr. Bush “plausible deniability” from Mr. Cheney’s point of view, and that perfectly meshed with the commander in chief’s own impatience with policy details. Suggesting that Mr. Bush deliberately did not read the full National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was delivered to the White House in the fall of 2002, Mr. Suskind writes: “Keeping certain knowledge from Bush — much of it shrouded, as well, by classification — meant that the president, whose each word circles the globe, could advance various strategies by saying whatever was needed. He could essentially be ‘deniable’ about his own statements.”

Update: Review at the Washington Post

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Condi Lied, People Died

We might not hear much about it in the American press, but Daily Kos found the real news in the Australian papers–Condi Lied when she denied receiving warnings about al Qaeda:

US al-Qaeda warning revealed
From correspondents in Washington
11feb05

EIGHT months before the September 11 attacks the White House’s then counterterrorism adviser urged then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to hold a high-level meeting on the al-Qaeda network, according to a memo made public today.

“We urgently need such a principals-level review on the al-Qaeda network,” then White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke wrote in the January 25, 2001 memo.Mr Clarke, who left the White House in 2003, made headlines in the heat of the US presidential campaign last year when he accused the Bush White House of having ignored al-Qaeda’s threats before September 11.

Mr Clarke testified before inquiry panels and in a book that Rice, his boss at the time, had been warned of the threat. Rice is now US Secretary of State.

However, Ms Rice wrote in a March 22, 2004 column in The Washington Post that “No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration”.

Mr Clarke told a commission looking into intelligence shortcomings prior to the attacks, “There’s a lot of debate about whether it’s a plan or a strategy or a series of options – but all of the things we recommended back in January were those things on the table in September. They were all done, but they were done after September 11.”

The document was released by the National Security Archive, an independent US group that solicits government documents for public review.

Another document released by the archive said that from April to September 2001, the US Federal Aviation Administration received 52 intelligence reports on al-Qaeda, including five that mentioned hijackings and two that mentioned suicide operations, according to today’s New York Times.

The Times quoted a previously undisclosed report by a commission set up to investigate the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The report criticises the FAA for failing to strengthen security measures in light of the reports and describes as “striking” the false sense of security that appeared to predominate in the civil aviation system before the attacks, the paper said.

More Evidence That Kerry Was Right About Bin Laden

Posted by Ron Chusid
August 8th, 2005 @ 1:42 pm

Pamela recently reported on a book showing how Kerry was right about Bush’s failure to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora. This isn’t the only source to report this. Last April I posted a similar report at LUTD:


Kerry Right on Bush’s Failure to Capture Bin Laden

13 April 2005

A report in the New York Times on an interview with the head of German intelligence provides further evidence that John Kerry was right in his criticism of George Bush for “outsourcing” the attempts to capture Bin Laden as “to elude capture after the American invasion of Afghanistan by paying bribes to the Afghan militias delegated the task of finding him.” The article also reports:

During the American presidential campaign, the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, frequently criticized the Bush administration for what he called outsourcing the hunt for Mr. bin Laden. The search reached its most active phase after the fall of the Taliban, when American and Afghan troops attacked Qaeda hide-outs in the Tora Bora Mountains on the border with Pakistan.

Defenders of the administration have maintained that using local troops to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban was aimed both at minimizing American casualties and preventing the conflict from becoming an “American war.”

In his interview, Mr. Hanning was critical of that strategy as it applied to the goal of capturing or killing Mr. bin Laden, who, he said, was able to insulate himself inside a protective network of supporters after the early efforts to arrest or kill him failed.

Portions of the New York Times account were also posted at the Unofficial Kerry Blog.

Bush Failing in “War on Terrorism”

Posted by Ron Chusid
July 20th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

It’s been almost five years since the “War on Terrorism” began. It took less than five years after Pearl Harbor to beat Japan and Nazi Germany. George Bush has not done as well in five years. In addition to the quagmire in Iraq, the Rand Corporation has more bad news. They report that al Qaida has regrouped and is on the march:

Conventional wisdom — and the Bush administration — holds that the United States’ attack on Afghanistan dislodged and weakened the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

It’s back, a top terrorism expert told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.

“Today, al-Qaida has not only regrouped, but it is on the march,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the Rand Corp. “Al-Qaida is now functioning exactly as its founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, envisioned it.”

Bob Herbert on The Fight Against Terrorism

Posted by Ron Chusid
June 28th, 2006 @ 8:39 pm

Bob Herbert looks at our progress in fighting terrorism. “A strong, bipartisan consensus emerged on two crucial points: 84 percent of the respondents said the United States was not winning the war on terror, and 86 percent said the world was becoming more — not less — dangerous for Americans.”

Both Democrats and Republicans agreed we need to fight terrorism differently than George Bush has since 9/11:

The respondents seemed, essentially, to be saying that the U.S. needs to be smarter (less like a bull in a china shop) in its efforts to combat terrorism. “Foreign policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration’s performance abroad,” said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a participant in the survey. “The reason is that it’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force.”

The respondents stressed the importance of ending America’s dependence on foreign oil, saying that could prove to be “the single most pressing priority in winning the war on terror.” Eighty-two percent of the respondents said that ending the dependence on foreign oil should have a higher priority, and nearly two-thirds said the country’s current energy policies were making matters worse, not better.

“We borrow a billion dollars every working day to import oil, an increasing share of it coming from the Middle East,” said Mr. Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director.

The respondents also said it was crucially important for the U.S. to engage in a battle of ideas as part of a sustained effort to bring about a rejection of radical ideologies in the Islamic world. That kind of battle requires more of a reliance on diplomacy and other nonmilitary tools.

Sounds a lot like what George Bush’s opponent was saying back in the last election.

The Debates: Kerry vs. Bush on the Ports

Posted by Ron Chusid
February 25th, 2006 @ 10:51 am

Kerry brought up port security in the first debate on September 30, 2004:

LEHRER: We’ll come back to Iraq in a moment. But I want to come back to where I began, on homeland security. This is a two-minute new question, Senator Kerry.

As president, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?

KERRY: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I’ll do. And there are a long list of thing. First of all, what kind of mixed message does it send when you have $500 million going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq, and the president is cutting the COPS program in America?

What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq, but we’re shutting firehouses who are the first- responders here in America.

The president hasn’t put one nickel, not one nickel into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems. That’s why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention was there. We hadn’t done the work that ought to be done.

The president — 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians get onto aircraft, and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X- rayed.

Does that make you feel safer in America?

This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security. Those aren’t my values. I believe in protecting America first.

And long before President Bush and I get a tax cut — and that’s who gets it — long before we do, I’m going to invest in homeland security and I’m going to make sure we’re not cutting COPS programs in America and we’re fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect the nuclear and chemical plants.

The president also unfortunately gave in to the chemical industry, which didn’t want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure.

And there’s an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That’s a whole other subject, but I see we still have a little bit more time.

Let me just quickly say, at the current pace, the president will not secure the loose material in the Soviet Union — former Soviet Union for 13 years. I’m going to do it in four years. And we’re going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.

BUSH: I don’t think we want to get to how he’s going to pay for all these promises. It’s like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that’s for another debate.

So, port security is too expensive. After all, we can’t risk those tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and attacking Iraq was more important than going after al Qaeda or defending the United States. When Bush said this was for another debate, it did come up again in the third debate on October 13, 2004:

KERRY (FROM THE OPENING STATEMENT): Will we ever be safe and secure again? Yes. We absolutely must be. That’s the goal.

Now, how do we achieve it is the most critical component of it.

I believe that this president, regrettably, rushed us into a war, made decisions about foreign policy, pushed alliances away. And, as a result, America is now bearing this extraordinary burden where we are not as safe as we ought to be.

The measurement is not: Are we safer? The measurement is: Are we as safe as we ought to be? And there are a host of options that this president had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them — 95 percent come in today uninspected. That’s not good enough.

People who fly on airplanes today, the cargo hold is not X-rayed, but the baggage is. That’s not good enough. Firehouses don’t have enough firefighters in them. Police officers are being cut from the streets of America because the president decided to cut the COPS program.

So we can do a better job of homeland security. I can do a better job of waging a smarter, more effective war on terror and guarantee that we will go after the terrorists.

I will hunt them down, and we’ll kill them, we’ll capture them. We’ll do whatever is necessary to be safe.

This was hardly the first time Kerry discussed this during the campaign. From his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 29, 2004:

Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement all the recommendations of that commission.

We shouldn’t be letting 95 percent of our container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn’t be leaving nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.

Further information on Kerry’s plan for port security in the 2004 race here.

Bin Laden Reveals Mixed Results From US Response to 9/11

Posted by Ron Chusid
February 20th, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

The Miami Herald reviews The Osama Bin Laden I Know by Peter Bergen. Among the items mentioned are Bin Laden’s hatred of Saddam, and that the U.S. response had mixed results, both decimating al Qaeda in Afghanistan but helping rebuild al Qaeda due to increased recruitment due to the invasion of Iraq. Here’s some highlights of the article:

The world’s most wanted and deadly terrorist worries about public relations, watches Larry King Live and carefully cultivates the image of soft-spoken, thoughtful cleric. But he has no real strategy left–just the tactic of extreme violence. And while he may be a legend in the Muslim world after overseeing the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, he also miscalculated the impact of those attacks and has become a divisive figure among even Muslim radicals.

His conclusions are clear-eyed and credible. He reports that bin Laden badly misjudged the U.S. response to 9/11, expecting either a withdrawal from the region or a massive Soviet-style, conventional invasion of Afghanistan. Instead the attacks sharply divided Muslim extremists, and the U.S. counterattack has left al Qaeda decimated and bin Laden on the run.

Along the way, Bergen puts several myths to rest, such as reports of CIA sponsorship of bin Laden against the Soviets in the 1980s, or an al Qaeda-Iraq connection. In several interviews bin Laden declares his hatred of Saddam Hussein.

Bergen doesn’t think the terrorist mastermind will be taken alive; his bodyguards have orders to kill him rather then allow his capture. In hiding, bin Laden is no longer the operational leader that he was before 9/11. But it’s a big mistake to underestimate him. The Iraq war was a gift and a recruitment tool that bin Laden’s allies are using to gather a new generation of jihadist fighters, gaining experience against U.S. forces, Bergen writes.

How bin Laden Ruined America With Bush’s Help

Posted by Ron Chusid
December 26th, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

Robert Steinback of The Miami Herald shows how the reaction to 9/11 did far more harm to this country than the harm caused by the terrorist attacks:

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn’t win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden’s attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution — and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it — I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat — and expect America to be pleased by this — I would have thought our nation’s sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation’s leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas — and call such procedures necessary for the nation’s security — I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president’s staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy — and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy — I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

After further discussion of these issues, Steinback concludes by asking:

Ultimately, our best defense against attack — any attack, of any sort — is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn’t understand or respect that. Do we?

Frank Rich on How Bush Made Us Less Safe

Posted by Ron Chusid
November 19th, 2005 @ 10:54 pm

Frank Rich discusses how Bush’s disasterous foreign policy mistakes have strengthened al Qaeda and made us less safe:

One hideous consequence of the White House’s Big Lie – fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 – is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That’s already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America’s will and resources to confront that expanded threat.

We have arrived at “the worst of all possible worlds,” in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke’s former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990’s, and their riveting new book, “The Next Attack,” is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, “we are losing” the war against the bin Laden progeny now.

“The Next Attack” is prescient to a scary degree. “If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad,” the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams.” The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate, “could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East.” But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label “Iraq.”

Only since his speech about “Islamo-fascism” in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the “evildoers” of Saddam’s regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can’t escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.

Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying “to rewrite the history” of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America’s “broad and coordinated homeland defense” even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration’s inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.’s, as opposed to Saddam’s fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how “we’re standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes” even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.

Reminders for 9/11

Posted by Ron Chusid
August 19th, 2005 @ 10:08 am

It should come as no surprise that Bush plans to continue to use 9/11 for politcal gain. Ron Fournier reports that Bush plans on 9/11 reminders:

Changing the subject would help Bush, and he has a chance to do that with the upcoming fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes. Aides say the president plans to invoke Sept. 11 in his weekly radio address Saturday as he begins a weeklong push to remind Americans why he believes the United States must stay on the offensive in Iraq and not bow to terrorists. He plans to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday and a National Guard group on Wednesday.

Here’s some reminders for George Bush:

George Bush received warnings about al Qaeda and recommendations for fighting them upon taking office, but ignored them.

George Bush received warnings about that Bin Laden was planning an attack prior to 9/11 and ignored the warnings.

George Bush tried to link Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, but there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11 (and Saddam didn’t have WMD either). Actually secular governments such as Iraq were a major target of Bin Laden’s and the attack on Iraq played right into his hands.

Bush had a chance to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora and blew it.

Studies last year showed that in response to the war al Qaeda was able to triple their number of operatives. More recent studies have shown that Iraq has turned into a training ground for terrorists, with most of the terrorists being people who were radicalized by war and were not previously terrorists per both Saudi and Israeli studies.

Regular readers here and previously at LUTD have seen posts on all of the above. Additional articles on Bush’s failures against terrorism can be found here. Articles on Iraq can be found here.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    Abdul says:

    If 9/11 never happened, then shortly later something worse would’ve. It’s Islam testing the nerves of Americans.

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