Up, Up and "B.S. Away!"
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor,
The Crisis Papers
April 13, 2004
The Silicon Valley scientist-friend who introduced me to
several months ago, invited me to visit again for a second tryout of his new
truth-spray invention. After watching Condoleezza Rice's slip-and-slide
performance before the 9/11 Commission, and the U.S. military spin on the
unraveling events in Iraq, I couldn't resist.
"Your spray worked like magic last time," I said. "I know before your patent
is granted that you're not allowed to tell me too much about how it works,
but, just between you and me, how does it work?"
"Quit kidding around and just use the stuff," he replied, and handed me a
little spray bottle. I raced home to try it again, on Rice and Iraq-spin and
I found a re-broadcast of Condi's testimony and spritzed the "B.S. Away" on
the TV. Here's what I got:
CONDI'S MASK SLIPS AWAY
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had rehearsed for three days how to spin and
filibuster your questions about the Administration's pre-9/11 knowledge --
you know, the structural reforms of the intelligence bureaucracies weren't
yet in place, we were doing everything we could to prepare our Al Qaida
offensive, we didn't know what was about to happen, the FBI and CIA dropped
the ball and didn't connect the dots, and anyway whatever went wrong wasn't
our fault. But then I just decided to come in and tell it like it was.
"When we first moved into the White House, we were kind of fixated on larger
issues, such as how we could transform Islam in the Middle East and control
the stability of the oil flow in a world fast running out of petroleum
reserves, and how we could get a military foothold in Iraq to assert our
dominance in the area. Besides, we were suspicious: the outgoing
Administration was warning us so much about the dangers posed by Osama Bin
Laden and Al Qaida that we thought the Clintons were trying to set us up, so
we stayed away from their recommendations like the plague. We didn't ignore
terrorism, but we weren't focusing on it either. We left that concern to
Dick Clarke to obsess about and made sure to keep him away from the wielders
of power. We had a different agenda in preparation.
"Because of Sen. Jeffords' defection from the GOP, we were stymied in our
domestic program in Congress, and our long-range foreign/military policies
were being tied up in diplomatic complexities abroad. We needed something
big, a catalyzing event, that would alter the chemistry of our political
"In the summer of 2001, things started to materialize for us along those
lines: We got all those warnings about a spectacular Al Qaida attack that
was planned for inside the U.S., probably by airplane and aimed at
unspecified but guessable icon targets in New York and Washington, D.C. (We
even ran a test run on such a disaster at the Pentagon, a drill that assumed
a large plane had crashed into it.) Bush hightailed it out of Washington and
went to ground in Texas for a month; Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial
jets; somebody was buying huge amounts of airline stock 'puts' on the
assumption the price would plummet, and so on.
"We'd been briefed and were getting direct calls from various countries'
intelligence services passing on anxious warnings, so we sure as hell knew
something major was about to go down, even if we didn't know the exact date
and targets. So, we decided simply to look the other way about the imminent
Al Qaida attack, whenever and whatever it turned out to be -- and, like
Pearl Harbor in 1941, to use the ensuing tragedy to wake up the country to
our new situation in the world.
"After the attacks, we cobbled together a lot of old bills that the Congress
had refused to pass in previous years because of civil-liberties problems,
wrapped them inside a few genuine national-security measures that everyone
could agree on, and rushed the Patriot Act through a frightened Congress
still reeling from 9/11 and the anthrax scare. Passage of the Patriot Act
made it easier to get things done domestically without having constantly to
deal with Constitutional prohibitions. We began moving more assertively
abroad, without having to worry about anyone stopping us -- or being
restrained by, or having to share power with, the United Nations or any
other group -- since we were the only superpower left standing.
"I guess we thought and hoped the Al Qaida attack would involve only some
localized bombings and maybe one plane that might get hijacked and crashed
into an out-of-the-way government structure or a military base or something
like that; lots of death and destruction but a small price to pay for the
freedom to move on our important work. We never wanted to believe that a
whole fleet of commercial jets could be taken over and used as fuel-laden
missiles against huge skyscrapers and major government centers of power, and
that 3000 people would die.
"But once our doing-nothing deed was done, we had to keep going, and the
coverup began. A few savvy liberal and internet analysts sussed out the
truth pretty early -- and later our secret made its way into the mainstream
press; after the essence of the August 6, 2001 PDB was revealed, we were
horrified at that huge headline May 16, 2002 in the New York Post: "HE
KNEW!" But the country was still too scared to think those thoughts in that
early period. Instead, just as we hoped would happen, the citizenry rallied
around the President and, when we invaded Afghanistan, around the flag as
"There were calls for an early investigation of how 9/11 happened, but
Cheney went to Gephardt and Daschle and headed off any Congressional probes
-- 'national security,' you know. So we had a free ride up until relatively
recently, when we had to cave in to the victims' families and OK an
'independent' 9/11 commission. We thought, given the veteran insiders we
appointed, that they'd skim over the surface of the facts -- especially when
we didn't provide them many. We delayed and delayed and postponed and
postponed, but the public pressure was getting so intense, we had to give
them some documents we would have preferred to keep secret.
"Anyway, to sum up: Our 9/11 crime was looking the other way for our own
purposes; power-hunger will do that to good people sometimes. Our long-range
intentions seemed honorable to us at the time. I apologize to all the
families who suffered due to our incompetence and hunger for control. We
can't bring your loved ones back. We can't guarantee that there won't be
another major terrorist attack. But we as leaders, and we as a country, this
time can try to cut those chances to an absolute minimum. I ask for your
understanding and forgiveness. And I hereby tender my resignation."
Next, I listened to Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the military
chiefs trying to downplay the unraveling of U.S. control over the situation
in Iraq and the beginnings of a countrywide intifada. Out with the "B.S.
Away," and in with a more truthful version:
Said Rumsfeld: "We're in a devil of a fix. Because the whole premise of the
war was based on lies and deceptions -- we built up Saddam as a mad monster,
with huge stockpiles of WMD, and believed that the Iraqis, so happy to be
liberated, eagerly would work with us to establish the kind of system we
wanted for them -- we weren't able to deal with, or even to appreciate, the
situation as it really was.
"We understood neither Iraqi nor tribal culture, nor the religious
complexities, nor the strength of nationalist feelings. And, even though we
weren't guarding the armament dumps around Iraq, we did not anticipate the
swiftness with which large elements of the Iraqi population could generate
an insurgent response to our occupation. In short, we did very well with
Plan A -- our 'shock-and-awe' military phase that overthrew the Saddam
regime -- but we had no Plan B ready to go for the post-war restructuring of
Iraqi society, in a hostile environment.
"We rushed way too fast into our initial military attack (so as to make the
war a fait accompli before the U.N. or the American people could put
roadblocks in our way), and then tried to nation-build with the soldiers who
had just destroyed so much of the country; naturally, we ran into problems.
We hand-picked malleable Iraqis and put them into power as an interim
governing body, and then were surprised that so many Iraqis regarded them as
"Rove and Cheney and Bush want our troops out of the main killing areas by
June 30, because of the American election campaign, but, given the level of
violence right now -- and the scary signs of possible mergers between Shia
and Sunni forces -- we may not even make it to June 30. And even if we do,
to whom do we turn over the supposed domestic 'sovereignty' of the country?
And will this stop the growing strength of the intifada?"
Wolfowitz, misted with some "B.S. Away," said: "I don't know what we should
do. We're between a rock and a hard place. None of this complexity was
taught at the Neoconservative institutes and organizations like AIE and
PNAC. That was all theory. Now we're in reality -- and it's ugly and messy
and total chaos. We totally wanted to believe what Chalabi and his Iraqi
exile-friends were telling us, and we're paying the price for our
"Yes, we were wrong about trying to do these wars on the cheap, counting on
our technological might to frighten populations and leaders into submission.
One way we could move would be to bring in a hundred thousand more troops to
try to quell the nationalist insurgency and to deal with Sadr's
fundamentalist army. But if we do that, it'll really look like Vietnam all
over again, constantly sending in more and more troops -- who will be forced
to treat all Iraqis as potential enemies, which will make us more hated and
reviled -- and then having to negotiate for an ignominious exit down the
road. The Democrats would eat us alive.
"Or we could can go hat in hand to the United Nations and offer them shared,
or even full, authority if they'll come in with an international
peacekeeping force -- if they would even consider something like that, given
how we humiliated them before we launched our war, and how things are
falling apart there. If they decide not to come in and help out, preferring
that we stew in our own juices, we're back to square one.
"Or we could cut our losses, declare victory in ridding the country of a
tyrant and setting up rudimentary democratic institutions, and simply leave.
In which case, not only would there be hell to pay electorally for our
policy debacle and all the deaths we caused for nothing, but the radical,
anti-American Islamists would gain control, and we would have to abandon our
entire Middle East strategy of altering and modernizing the face of Islam
and maintaining control of that oil-rich area.
"My guess is that Rove-Cheney-Bush will decide to pour more troops into the
battle, if only to prolong the inevitable withdrawal until after Election
Day in November. Use the American troops as our electoral shield, as it
were. If we lose the war after we win the election, we'll deal with the
unfolding situation at that time, even if we have to make it up as we go
along. If we lose the election, let the Democrats handle that hot potato.
Damn those neocon theorists! Wait a minute, I'm one of the main ones. My
Attorney General John Ashcroft wants to expand the Patriot Act -- because,
he claims, it doesn't give him enough police powers to go after terrorists
-- even though more than 200 cities and states have approved resolutions
against the worst aspects of that hastily-passed law.
I took the bottle and sprayed a number of his speeches, and here's what
"Well, yes, we didn't pay that much attention to combating Al Qaida, neither
before nor after 9/11. We needed the terrorists (and still need them) for
our own purposes -- they are a positively frightening, murderous group --
just as the terrorists need us as the Great Satan to energize their radical
"Without their terror, we wouldn't have been able to get the Patriot Act OKd
and all the other extra=constitutional measures passed or authorized by me
or Bush. Sure, we probably need those measures to help in our hunt for
terrorists, but we only catch one or two real bad guys that way. The real
pleasure for me is using our police powers to scares folks from dissenting,
and in reining in immoral behavior. It's amazing: I can accomplish this
simply by invoking politically-magic phrases -- 'national security' and 'the
war on terrorism'. Is America a great country or what?
"I have to testify before the 9/11 Commission soon. They're going to ask me
all sorts of questions about why my September 10, 2001 request for budget
increases covered 68 programs but none of them related to counter-terrorism,
and why my memorandum to heads of all departments at Justice stating my
seven priorities didn't include counter-terrorism, and why I turned down an
FBI request for hundreds of agents to be assigned to tracking terrorist
threats. I'm going to have to lie and spin like crazy to get out of those
corners. I wonder if they'll believe me when I say I never saw the famous
August 6, 2001 PDB memo about Al Qaida's plans for domestic terrorism.
"But Condi was a good role model: No matter what question they ask you,
stick to your talking points -- hindsight is 20-20, we were actively engaged
in anti-terrorism programs, national security was our prime concern, we had
no specific information, we didn't know anything that we could operate on,
those beneath me didn't connect the dots, it's their fault, the dog at my
homework, and so on.
"I'm rehearsing the Ashcroft Glare for those times when they get too close
to 'national security' matters -- meaning, of course, too close to
embarrassing revelations -- and I'll firmly suggest that to question my
actions and those of the President in such a forum is to give aid and
comfort to our enemies. But that may not work as well this time out. It's a
different climate than right after 9/11, and I'm not sure we can totally
count on all of our Republican appointees to the commission to toe the line.
"Oh well, if worse comes to worst, we'll take the hit from their report
that's due out in July, and spin like crazy. Besides, the election isn't
until November and the American people are notoriously forgetful and
intolerant of 'old news.' Besides, I can 100% guarantee that we'll be able
to distract their attention from our gross failures. We'll get through this,
and, after victory in November -- or if the election has to be postponed
because of terrorism -- we'll take care of those who tried to do us in. A
whole lot of people are going to be 'vacationing' in Git-- " Blank.
I tried to give another spray to Ashcroft to hear the rest of that threat,
but the bottle was dry. Oh well, I'd heard enough anyway for today. You
don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the B.S. is blowing.
Copyright 2004, by Bernard Weiner