Thursday, May 26, 2005

An Emphatic "Fuck Yes" To This Column


After 9/11, the Bush administration creates a huge cabinet-level agency whose entire purpose is to be relentlessly, stringently paranoid about the possibility of terrorist attacks. Simultaneous to the creation of the DHS, the administration creates the color-code alert system, which has absolutely no concrete purpose beyond generally scaring the shit out of the population.

Now it comes out that the Bush administration routinely overruled its own house paranoiac to unilaterally declare orange and red alerts. The White House, of course, doesn't have its own intelligence apparatus. In making a dissenting assessment of intelligence, its judgments were entirely political.

We already knew that the timing of these alerts was extremely suspicious. The public has forgotten already, but it's worth recalling now that just four days before Christmas in 2003, at a time when the country was still somewhat divided over whether or not to go to war in Iraq, the DHS announced a code orange alert. Just as the population was settling in for the holidays, Donald Rumsfeld made an unequivocal announcement:

"Indications [are] that [the] near-term attacks," he said, "will either rival or exceed the [9/11] attacks."

Then there was the code red in New York on July 29, 2004—the same day that John Kerry made his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. We were told, among other things, that al-Qaeda was planning on blowing up the Citibank building. News leaked out later that this intelligence was at least three years old.

At the time, everyone blamed Tom Ridge for this. It was Ridge, after all, who said of the Citibank threat: "The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen."

Now it comes out that it wasn't Ridge at all, but the White House, acting on its own initiative. Considering the timing of the alerts—before elections in 2003, in a period when the administration was garnering support for the Iraq invasion, and before the 2004 election—the idea that the White House just pulled these stunts willy-nilly is criminal. Watergate started as a bunch of cheap frat pranks to knock Ed Muskie out of the race. This would be terrorizing 270 million people to go to war and win an election, if that's what they did. What does it look like?

Didn't most of us on the left pretty much know this all along? Or at least suspect it? Most everyone in the early 70s assumed everything Richard Nixon did was done in bad faith. I assumed the same thing of Bush where I wouldn't and don't of, say, John McCain (if someone thinks my appraisal is merely partisan). I think this vindicates me.

It's good that Taibbi has made the case so clearly, and made the appropriate historical analogy.

Do cynics inspire cynicism in others? I wonder, though I think a healthy cynicism about any politician is the best attitude. Do paranoids inspire paranoia in others? Apparently they do, and this White House is the most paranoid since Nixon's. It is also the most corrupt since Nixon's. The Bushies have obviously and consciously inspired and profited from paranoia via the DoHS. In reaction to them, I think everyone becomes a bit paranoid now out of necessity -- and not paranoid over terrorism, but paranoid over our own government. I assume, now more than ever, that anything Bush does starts from bad faith and is done to aid or cover his and his minions' massive corruption. There's nothing they will not do or try to do to get more power.