Featured: Top of Home Page

It's the Stupidity, Stupid

David Sirota

If we're lucky, the investigation into 9/11 will uncover a President who understood terror warnings and covered them up, rather than a President who was intellectually incapable of grasping overt national security threats.

"What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

For an older generation, this Watergate-era question encapsulated how America stopped trusting its leadership. But as President Bush now claims he had no warnings of a terrorist attack before 9/11, our generation is facing a similar crisis of confidence, and has a similar question: "What didn't the President know, and why didn't he know it?"

The facts are clear: the Bush Administration was warned in July of 2001 that Islamic terrorists were plotting to use airliners as missiles to carry out an attack against the US. The Wall Street Journal noted that the warning was consistent with earlier intelligence showing al Qaeda planned to "use passenger jets as kamikaze weapons". The President himself was personally warned in August of 2001 that Al Qaeda was planning an imminent attack on America using hijacked planes. These warnings corresponded to a major surge in terrorist "chatter" that was picked up by US intelligence in the spring and summer of 2001. At least some of that chatter warned that "bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States."

Despite this evidence, the Administration has offered the public little except denials. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claimed that no one in the government knew terrorists "would try to use an airplane as a missile." Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said "all the chatter" (before 9/11 was of an attack, a potential al Qaeda attack, overseas" and President Bush himself said he had no prior warnings at all.

In truth, one of two things is happening: Either the President is lying to the American public about what he knew before 9/11 in order to hide his gross negligence, or the President is telling the truth and he ignored and/or did not understand the dire warnings he was given. Instead of doing something about the problem, he opted to take the longest vacation in Presidential history.

The lying scenario would be fairly typical of a President who has become the Michelangelo of dishonesty. And, in one sense, it would be more comforting than the "asleep at the wheel" scenario: it is better to have a President who at least understood terror warnings even if he covers up his past negligence in addressing them, rather than a President who was intellectually incapable of grasping overt national security threats.

And that is where the Watergate-style questions arise: after receiving all the intelligence warnings, how could the President still not known about a serious threat? What did he fail to comprehend? Why was he unable or unwilling to act? And most importantly, if he failed to understand such repeated and dire warnings then, can he be trusted to grasp them now?

For its part, the Bush campaign wants none of these questions asked. Its ads invoking images of Ground Zero are designed to make it seem as if President Bush took office on 9/12, instead of eight months beforehand, when 9/11 might have been prevented. But there is something a little odd about a President running on his supposed ability to protect America while simultaneously admitting he was asleep at the wheel during the worst national security breakdown in American history. It is as if the President thinks voters are as ignorant of reality as he was ignorant of pre-9/11 intelligence.

But people are not stupid. And until President Bush provides real answers about why our country was so vulnerable on 9/11, it will be impossible to believe he has the capacity to secure America in the future.






Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pay Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.