Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Politics and 9/11


Politics and 9/11

Peter Schultz


                  It is most interesting how Americans think about the attacks of 9/11. Basically, they think of those attacks as this anonymous CIA official thinks of them: “The key to the whole game is to penetrate the organization [al Qaeda] and get inside the plot…. The question is, when, why, where, and how is it [the attack] going to happen.” In other words, avoiding an attack like 9/11 depended upon the discovery of al Qaeda’s secrets. And to do that, it was necessary to penetrate al Qaeda and get inside the plot.


                  This is a good description of the behavior of the CIA in the run-up to 9/11 and it is fair to say that it succeeded to a significant degree. For example, al Qaeda’s meeting to plan 9/11 in Malaysia was known to the CIA and spied upon. Further, the presence in the United States of at least two of the eventual hijackers was known, as they lived with or near an FBI asset and a Saudi Arabian intelligence officer. Another potential hijacker was arrested in Minnesota, and yet another was denied entry into the United States. And yet, still, the attack succeeded. Why?


                  Because the intelligence game is not a game geared to stopping wars. In fact, the intelligence game is a game played to facilitate, expedite, and rationalize war. It is a game that serves war-making, as is illustrated by the origins of the OSS during WW II. It is also illustrated by the creation and growth of the CIA during the Cold War, which facilitated America’s capacity to wage that war and eventually, as legend has it, win it.


                  If the goal is to prevent war, then the game that needs to be played is the political game. Why? Because politics is or should be about negotiations. If al Qaeda had been understood politically, then the question would have been: What political adjustments can be made in order to avoid war? Of course, the United States and al Qaeda couldn’t play that political game because neither one was prepared to reassess their policies in order to avoid war. Both were willing to make war if the alternative was to change their policies in order to negotiate and compromise. Without political changes, war was inevitable.


                  So, there was no alternative but war. Neither al Qaeda nor the United States could see any other alternative given their established policies. It is then naïve to say, as most Americans do, that the 9/11 attacks were due to intelligence failures. To be sure, there were such failures. But the attacks happened because of political failures. Neither al Qaeda nor the United States could conceive or accept an alternative to war. They still can’t.  

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