Did Bush Know?

The scary Truths Behind our “National Tragedy.”

 by Michael I. Niman , ArtVoice 6/13/02

            Since his appointment to the White House, the general consensus has been that George W. Bush is a rather dim bulb.  Now, since revelations about what the government knew about the impending 9/11 attacks, even Bush’s own spin-meisters and members of his cabinet are joining the chorus.  It was all innocent.  We just didn’t connect the dots.  Sorry.  Junior bureaucratic heads will roll.

            Early on in the Bush presidency, however, there was speculation that Bush, like Reagan, was simply packaged to appear stupid as a strategy to throw off the political opposition.  It goes like this – If you think he’s an idiot, you don’t take the threat he poses seriously.  Since losing in the national popular vote during the last presidential election, and now it appears, losing the Florida presidential election as well, Bush’s ascendancy to the White House and his success in pushing through an unpopular reactionary political agenda, should stand as evidence that he and his handlers are anything but dim.  With this caveat in place, let’s revisit the 9/11 story.

            The mainstream press has done a fair job in bringing us all the juicy tidbits about what warnings the government had and did not act upon before 9/11.  The general consensus now is that the whole horror of that day could have been prevented, if we had our shit together.  This is the scapegoat the petty bureaucrat script.

            Before congratulating the media for muckraking job well done, however, we need to look at the bigger picture.  First off, they did’nt break this story.  It’s been circulating around in the non-corporate media and in the foreign press since late September.  The mass media’s only role has been to keep it from us until now.  The story, however, developed a life of its own and couldn’t be stopped, hence the mass media started to play catch-up, essentially packaging stale old news as fresh and new.  In the American psyche, however, the mass media, with their glossy pages of cigarette, liquor and SUV ads, have given a sense of legitimacy to the story.

            In reality, however, they are still stonewalling us.  They’re doing this by giving us only disjointed pieces of the story, and by failing to juxtapose the various pieces of the puzzle, such as what the administration knew, and what they did, over one another. 

What They Knew

            Here’s what we know.  During the summer immediately prior to 9/11, Italian, Israeli, Jordanian, Egyptian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Russian, Malaysian, Filipino and British intelligence agencies warned the Bush administration that al Qaida was planning a large terrorist hit in the U.S.  Many of these agencies accurately speculated upon both the targets and the means by which they would be attacked.  The Filipino report, according to The New York Times, detailed the cross-country odyssey of one would-be terrorist as he attended flight schools in New York, Texas, California and North Carolina in order to learn the skills needed to precisely fly a jumbo jet directly into a target.

The FBI in Oklahoma, as early as 1998, in a memo titled, “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” warned that suspicious foreigners were receiving flight training for no apparent reason, and that they might be part of a plot to use airliners in the manner they were eventually used on 9/11. In the months leading up to 9/11, other FBI offices around the country followed suit, warning about the potential use of airplanes as terrorist weapons, with the most recent warning coming out of the Phoenix office in July of 2002, less than two months before 9/11.  Officials in Minneapolis were more specific, and had already identified Zacarias Moussaoui as one of the would-be hijackers.

The Unthinkable is Thinkable

            The Bush folks countered that such an attack was unforeseeable.  Unthinkable.  But in 1995, Ramsi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, revealed plans to fly a hijacked jetliner into the CIA’s headquarters in Virginia.  Filipino police, according to The Associated Press, recently warned that another such plan was in the works.  None of this was new.  In 1994, Algerian hijackers attempted to use an Air France jetliner to destroy the Eiffel Tower, only to be thwarted during a stop on the ground in Marseille.  The unthinkable was clearly thinkable, planned, and already attempted. 

            A 1999 study commissioned by the U.S, government also foresaw the unforeseeable, reporting that al Qaida wanted to crash aircraft into several targets in Washington, D.C.  Richard Clarke, Bush’s top Counter-Terrorism official, said that U.S. intelligence agencies were convinced, ten weeks prior to 9/11, that a major al Qaida attack was imminent.  Documents indicate that the administration expected the attack to be aimed at symbolic structures such as the White House and the World Trade Center.

            The Washington Post reports that on July 5th, 2001, the White House briefed officials from a dozen federal agencies that, “Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.”  Richard Clarke ordered all counter-terrorism officials to cancel vacations and get ready for immediate action.  The unfortunate reality is that the “immediate action” wouldn’t take place until after the terrorists struck.

            So this, in a nutshell, is what the Bush administration knew.  Now let’s look at what they did.

What They Did

            On July 26th, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial airliners.  According to CBS news, the only mainstream media outlet to cover the story, the Justice Department explained that Ashcroft would no longer fly commercial airliners due to a “threat assessment.”  Officials, however, would not “identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.”  Bush, for his part, took an extended vacation – out of Washington.

            FBI officials all over the country, who accurately predicted an impending al Qaida strike, petitioned the Justice Department for more resources for counter-terrorism operations.  John Ashcroft turned down their requests despite the fact that he, as his own actions indicate, clearly believed the threat to commercial aviation was real. During the prior year, Ashcroft, now a born-again anti-terrorism zealot, did not list anti-terrorism efforts as a priority for the Justice Department.  Of the 68 programs he requested budget increases for, anti-terrorism efforts were not among them.  Anti-terrorism was also not listed among his seven priorities.  Prior to 9/11, the Justice Department was more focused on raiding California Health Care clinics dispensing medical marijuana, then on preventing terrorism.

            Not only did Ashcroft’s Justice Department ignore warnings from the FBI and refuse to fund anti-terrorism operations – something was also amiss within the FBI as well.  Reports of potential terrorists training as pilots were routed from both the Phoenix and Minneapolis FBI offices, to the Washington, D.C. based Radical Fundamentalists Unit of the FBI, where they were promptly misplaced until 9/11.  FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley, in a very rare X-file-ish break from agency decorum, accused a supervisory agent at FBI headquarters, of “Consistently, almost deliberately, thwarting the Minnesota FBI efforts” to investigate the terrorist-flight school connection.

Back off the bin Ladens

            Also, during the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the Bush White House ordered the FBI to back off on its investigation both of al Qaida and bin Laden.  FBI Deputy Director John O’Neill, who was active in the bin Laden investigation, was so disgusted with the order that he quit the agency, taking a job as the security director for the World Trade Center, where, ironically, he died on September 11th. 

The official position is that the bin Laden’s, minus Osama, are a respectable family.  The Wall Street Journal reports that they are heavily involved in the Carlyle Group, an investment banking firm headed by Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of Defense, Frank C. Carlucci.  Carlyle employs George Bush Senior, and formally employed George W. Bush.  Despite their close connections to the U.S. government, however, Greg Palast, a London based investigative reporter working for the BBC and The Guardian, reports that prior to 9/11, the FBI was investigating two bin Laden brothers.  We later learned that they lived two blocks away from four of the 9/11 terrorists.  Following 9/11, the bin Laden brothers were evacuated out of the country by Bush’s State Department. 

Also, prior to 9/11, the Defense Department drew up plans for the invasion of Afghanistan.  U.S. and British troops were already en route to Central Asia on 9/11. 


Hunches about impending terrorism seemed to be pretty common immediately prior to 9/11.  San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown cancelled his September 11th trip to New York because of warnings he had heard about security concerns.  Brown prefers not to talk much about his sudden change in travel plans or whose loose lips saved his life.  In the weeks following September 11th, many similar stories have emerged.  Equally spooky is the stock market activity leading up to 9/11, where investors bought “put options,” basically gambling that a stock’s price will fall, on United and American Airlines, the two carriers whose planes were hijacked. (For more information, see my previous article, “9/11 Conspiracy Tales,” archived at http://mediastudy.com/articles).

Fast forward to the present.  As mainstream media outlets pick up alternative press reports about what Bush knew, people across the political landscape are calling for a full-scale investigation.  The Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, however, are doing everything in their power to stonewall any independent investigation.  According to Cheney, the same intelligence community that is being implicated for failing to thwart the 9/11 attacks, should run the investigation instead of an independent commission.

How They Profited

So now we have two levels of this story juxtaposed together – what they knew versus what they did.  The third and final dangling story line is what has happened since 9/11 and who profited from our national tragedy.  In a nutshell, Bush’s failed presidency was rescued, with an illegitimate president morphing, literally overnight,  into one of the nation’s most popular presidents in history.  The final reports about the Florida presidential election, which showed that more Floridians cast votes for Gore than Bush, were due to be released to great media fanfare in mid-September.  That release, which would have been damning to the whole Bush clan, was postponed and finally obscured and obfuscated by a compliant “wartime” press.  

Kathleen Harris, Florida’s shameless Bush campaign co-chair and Secretary of State responsible for openly stealing the presidential election, rose from being a discredited political assassin, to being a congressional candidate.  A slew of draconian laws such as the misleadingly named USA PATRIOT Act, have been enacted, giving John Ashcroft’s Judicial Department big brotheresque police state powers.  Our political landscape has so changed in one year, that we now openly talk about chargeless detentions, secret military tribunals and the “practical value” of torture.


            On the economic front, energy companies such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and the Bush-connected Unocal are completing lucrative deals in newly “liberated” Central Asia.  The war on terrorism, we are told, mandates that we drill for oil in all sorts of environmentally sensitive areas, extracting our last reserves, while still ironically buying and driving gas guzzling SUVs.

            Oh yeah.  SUVs.  That’s the forth story that needs juxtapositioning.  Despite this whole mess – What the Bush crowd knew, what they did, and how they profited – Americans are still intoxicated with the fantasy that our individual anti-social behaviors, such as driving to Wal Mart in a 5,000 pound behemoth, has nothing to do with this whole degenerating global political, social and environmental meltdown.

 Copyright 2002 Michael I. Niman - May be Linted to Freely.  For Reprint permission contact permission@mediastudy.com.

Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous ArtVoice columns are archived at http://mediastudy.com/articles.  Hate mail may be sent to hatemail@mediastudy.com.