[Dehai-WN] CBSnews.com. Breaking unspoken taboos about 9/11

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Sep 08 2011 - 09:41:31 EDT

Breaking unspoken taboos about 9/11


Victor Davis Hanson

September 8, 2011 9:06 AM

Strangely, both the media and the public rarely mention some of the most
important aftershocks in the decade since 9/11. Here are some representative
examples of landmark events that to this day remain mostly undiscussed.

1. No more falling skyscrapers? Few imagined that the United States could go
an entire decade without another major terrorist attack - other than
freelancing jihadists' killing members of the American armed forces. Almost
monthly, U.S. authorities have thwarted serial attempts to cause mayhem on
airliners, bridges, city squares, shopping malls, and high-rises. It was
almost as if the more we caricatured the often silly security measures at
the airport, blasted Guantanamo Bay, and ridiculed renditions, the more we
assumed that our security, initially thought permanently imperiled ("not if,
but when"), was once again our birthright. Someone somewhere did something
that kept us safe, but we were strangely afraid to acknowledge that there
was any utility in the very protocols and foreign operations that had
weakened our enemies to the point of an inability to replicate 9/11. If
immediately after the attacks in New York and Washington we accepted that
the old security was no longer possible, soon thereafter we started assuming
not only that it was natural, but that, in organic fashion, it had
reappeared through spontaneous regeneration.

2. The greatest political turnabout of the age. If one had collated
everything candidate Obama declaimed about the Bush administration's
anti-terrorism policies from autumn of 2007 to November 2008, then one would
have expected a President Obama to dismantle the entire Bush-Cheney
national-security apparatus upon entering office, to pull out of Iraq (he
originally said this should be done by March 2008, no less), and to keep our
military out of the Middle East. Instead, Obama retained Secretary of
Defense Gates, stuck to the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq, expanded
Predator-drone attacks in Waziristan, surged into Afghanistan, bombed Libya,
and embraced everything from Guantanamo to renditions. That about-face, I
think, was the most radical political development of the last
quarter-century, and was treated with near silence by the media. It was as
if Moveon.org, Code Pink, and Michael Moore had simply vanished from the
face of the earth sometime around January 2009. The notion today that a
canonized Michael Moore would be invited to a lookout perch at the 2012
Democratic Convention or that Moveon.org would run another "General Betray
Us" ad is surreal. A cynic would say that the anti-War on Terror movement
did its job in helping to elect Barack Obama, and then moved on, so to
speak, when Barack Obama likewise did his job in continuing his
predecessor's anti-terrorism policies.

3. The taboo enemy dead. After Vietnam, who would wish to count enemy dead?
To a 21st-century public, such terrible arithmetic might seem macabre,
intrinsically politicized, or simply irrelevant in war. The age-old idea
that killing die-hard enemies wins wars and ensures the peace is for some
antithetical to the spirit of counterinsurgency doctrine, at least
superficially so. Few would ever channel William Tecumseh Sherman's
frightening remarks that to win the Civil War the Union army would have to
kill or humiliate several thousands of the Southern "cavalier" class, whose
livelihoods depended on slavery, whose zeal had started the war, and whose
boasts of martial superiority had galvanized the Confederate belief that its
fighters were far better than the Northerners and could trump inferior

Tens of thousands of hard-core jihadists from as far away as Algeria,
Chechnya, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies, Libya, Syria, and Yemen obeyed the
calls for jihad issued by the likes of Osama bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri, and
Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. They flocked to al-Qaeda's "main theater" of jihad in
Iraq - and in Baghdad and throughout Anbar Province were killed in droves by
the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies. Only off the record will military
officers confess that the eventual American success in Iraq was due in some
part to doing away with murderous jihadists and impressing the local
population with our martial superiority. And even off the record, few will
suggest that the absence of such killers from the world's pool of hard-core
terrorists may well have made life safer at home. We are in a new age when
we "beat" or "subdue" the enemy but do not admit that we do that often
through killing him. The Iraq War has become a story about troop levels,
hearts and minds, and training the Iraqis, but not much about a shooting war
in which thousands of jihadists lost.

4. Arab unrest. Conventional wisdom about our various responses to 9/11, and
especially during the depression that followed from the Iraqi insurgency,
dictated that the entire Arab Middle East would be set afire by U.S.
intervention and retaliation. It certainly seemed foreordained, if one
listened to the nightly incitement of Al-Jazeera, some of the lunatic
rantings from Western radicals (who were often praised and quoted in Dr.
Zawahiri's pseudo-lectures), and the constant boasts of the radical
Islamists themselves. If not our presence in Afghanistan or Iraq, if not
Korans flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo ("a tremendous recruiting tool
for al-Qaeda"), if not neo-con-driven favoritism toward Israel, then there
would be some other supposed provocation to incite Arab Muslims. But in
fact, while there were a few terrorist incidents, there were no oil
embargoes, no mass uprisings, no concentrated attacks on U.S. bases. Only
after nearly a decade following the U.S. retaliation in the Middle East did
the entire Arab world blow up, often literally, with revolutions in Tunisia,
Egypt, and Libya, unrest in the Gulf States, and ongoing efforts to unseat
the Syrian tyranny.

Yet even critics of the Bush administration are wary about suggesting that
the present violence has anything to do with U.S. policy toward Israel, our
War on Terror, or the occupation of Iraq. Likewise, even supporters of the
Bush administration's Middle East policies are reluctant to suggest that the
survival of Iraq's post-Baathist democracy gave some hope to other Arabs
that dictatorship was not the foreordained future of Arab society. Instead,
the revolts sort of just happened, but why and how few quite know - and
apparently fewer still wish to go out on a limb and speculate.

5. The Cheney monster. By 2011 a gaunt and ill former vice president Cheney
was the constant butt of late-night comedians and derided almost weekly by
smug columnists. But how and why that metamorphosis had come about was never
explored. It was as if Cheney was now and always had been Darth Vader, a man
who liked to shoot his hunting pals and who sat in retirement with
ill-gotten Halliburton riches. Few reminded us that for nearly 30 years Dick
Cheney was a centrist fixer, praised by liberals as fair-minded, bipartisan,
and sober and judicious in his rhetoric. He supported Ford over Reagan,
tried to cut lavish weapons systems at the Pentagon, and brought a Wyoming
humbleness to his Washington power-brokering. Then suddenly this all
vanished with cries of "war criminal," as the puerile Ronald Reagan Jr.
recently exclaimed on MSNBC.

Yet if one were to carefully collate Cheney's positions after 9/11, both
domestic and foreign, the caricature seems almost inexplicable. He opposed
the nomination of Harriet Miers; he thought appeasement of North Korea would
not work; he thought the automobile-company bailouts would ultimately be too
costly or counterproductive; he was one of the earliest proponents of the
surge; and he pushed hard for almost all the protocols that Barack Obama now

The charges against Cheney seem to rest on the waterboarding of three
confessed terrorists who had had a hand in the planning of 9/11 - and on
Cheney's unabashed defense that such harsh interrogation saved lives and
that he would most certainly do it again if we were in similar dire
circumstances. The decision remains controversial, as does the opinion of
many high-ranking intelligence officials (including many now serving in the
Obama administration) and apparently of Khalid Sheik Mohammed himself that
valuable information - some of it life-saving - was gleaned from such harsh

Somehow bloggers and op-ed writers have established by their selective
outrage a narrative that it was immoral of Cheney to approve the
waterboarding of three confessed terrorists like KSM, but quite moral of
Obama to expand fivefold the Predator targeted-assassination program that
served as judge, jury, and executioner of suspected terrorists - and of any
living thing in their vicinity when the Hellfire missiles obliterated their
compounds. It is apparently the nature of a therapeutic culture to demonize
one of the architects of the present anti-terrorism policy of renditions,
tribunals, Guantanamo, etc. only to apotheosize one of its chief critics -
while quietly assuming that Cheney so convinced Obama of the utility of
these protocols that the latter adopted nearly all of what he inherited.

The horror of 9/11 resulted in a number of subsequent enigmas, but to this
day most are seldom discussed and apparently better forgotten.

Bio: Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the
editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of
Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and
Modern. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the


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