« Tricksy President | Main | Credibility »

March 24, 2004
I Can't Write Good Headlines

It seems to me that this 9/11 Commission is fatally flawed. There's some kind of basic nonsense to trying to determine what could have or should have happened in the past with this level of detail. If there was something glaring, something obviously criminal or dastardly, that would be good, but I don't think there is. It's all just going to be a lot of he-said-she-said; a lot of we thought this then but we didn't know then what we know now so we never would have thought then what we think now and even if we had thought it, some other people didn't, so we might not have done anything anyway.

Speculation about what could have been done to avert this tragedy will continue for, like, ever.

The questions are so complex, the situation so encompassing of nearly every facet of the world's political history for the past hundred years, that the answers will be even more complex than the questions. Even if it is determined, say, that Bush received a memo dated August 14th, clearly stating that Al Qaeda was plotting a major attack; and then the next week the CIA flew a Predator drone and had pictures of exactly where bin Laden was cave-dwelling; and the Pentagon had moved faster to weaponize the Predator so it was carrying a missile; and the president had still not pulled the trigger; it's still an open question what the reaction of the country and the world would have been if he had pulled it. The highest levels of government and the intelligence community would know it had probably been a good move, but I'm not sure the public would have gotten it.

Before 9/11, we didn't feel like we do now. Rightly or wrongly, we felt safe (we were wrong). If we had turned on the television and seen that our government had blown up some guy most people had never heard of because they were pretty sure the guy was responsible for some bad plans and a few dozen deaths, tragic and evil as those were; and then we saw hundreds and thousands of radical Islamists chanting and yelling in the streets, burning our flag and yelling for our blood, like we saw in Gaza two days ago; and then several months later some nutcase blew up something here, even with relatively low casualties, we would be having dramatic hearings about why we assassinated that guy and stirred up such a hornet's nest.

I'm not saying that would have happened, but it seems a likely enough sequence of events. The point I'm trying to make is that I think this will generally dissolve into one of those "only history will tell" kinds of things. There may be some specific revelations about the exact sequence of events, but I don't anticipate there being anything remotely definitive enough to warrant assigning great blame. Blame for some bad decisions, probably; but more blame for a faulty system that allowed those decisions to be made. Nay, that required those decisions to be made. No, wait, go back.. allowed.

Unless of course there's a huge bombshell, some insane revelation that makes everyone go completely nuts. That would be pretty cool.


Previous Comments

I suppose this whole post-investigation is important on many levels, but I do wish they'd spend some time focusing on the admin reaction to 9/11 and whether some actions were adequate or justified, such as the subsequent war on iraq...