the Vacation

"We but teach / Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plague th' inventor. This even-handed justice / Commends th' ingredience of our poison'd chalice / To our own lips" -- Macbeth, I, vii, 8-12

One of the more fascinating aspects of Macbeth is how Macbeth’s deed becomes embodied in various ways – as a ghost, as Macbeth’s wife’s madness, and as a prophecy about Burnam wood. The return of the repressed, here, cannot only not be repressed, but can’t even be predicted.

This multiple embodiment of a crime, an event that won’t act like an event and go away, has a lot of psychological plausibility. We can see a certain MacBeth like pattern in the way Bush operates. Whenever Bush truly fails, does something colossally bad, he will always return to it as an excuse for further action. I’ve never seen a president so use his failures to legitimate his demands. It is scary. And it has happened again. The LA Times is reporting that Bush is trying to justify his overriding of the legal procedures for wiretapping by referring to his greatest failure while in office:

In his radio address Saturday, Bush said two of the hijackers who helped fly a jet into the Pentagon — Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — had communicated with suspected Al Qaeda members overseas while they were living in the U.S.

"But we didn't know they were here until it was too late," Bush said. "The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after Sept. 11 helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities."

But some current and former high-ranking U.S. counter-terrorism officials say that the still-classified details of the case undermine the president's rationale for the recently disclosed domestic spying program.

Indeed, a 2002 inquiry into the case by the House and Senate intelligence committees blamed interagency communication breakdowns — not shortcomings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or any other intelligence-gathering guidelines.”

LI has been thinking of doing a temporary blog project. It would be called: the Vacation. Like those blogs that track Pepys day by day, this would be a day by day account of the Bush’s Vacation in 2001. Each day would track what we know Bush did, and what we know was happening in the country and the world at the time – what Atta was doing, what was happening in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, etc. It would begin, of course, a little before the vacation: on August 6, of course, the day Bush might have read, or – if it was too difficult – might have had explained to him the Presidential Daily Brief he received entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S." This would be an interesting project, since we still don’t know – and the Press has no interest in – what was happening in the intersection between the administration and the bureaucracy after Bush was alerted to the possibility of Al Qaeda attack. A little mapping of that time would reveal, at least, holes in our knowledge. For instance, we still don’t know if Bush directed Secretary of Transportation Mineta to be in the loop after he had supposedly absorbed the brief. A minor but telling thing, since we do know that the case of Ahmed Ressam, the man who was planning on blowing up the L.A. Airport, was well known. In Bush’s lie about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar we certainly have a MacBethian moment – for don’t their ghosts, and the ghosts of the people they killed, haunt the Oval Office? The return to those ghosts again and again, and the attempt to redo that history, is a rather pathetic thing, instancing as it does not the determination of a strong leader but the fugue of an unprepared and, it turns out, naturally unpreparable one. I am surprised that there haven’t been any books about The Vacation – it would make a great little attack book.

But I suppose that would be unseemly. Journalists, as we know, don’t want to be unseemly or partisan. Because it wouldn’t be right. But it might be just the kind of blog that would be fun – at least as much fun as licking the blood from a wound. Because blogging isn't seemly -- as the Political editor of the Washington Post said, it is just being part of the crankosphere.


Patrick J. Mullins said…
Roger--it would be interesting, in fact the most interesting thing, if it could be done. My intuition is that 'hidden 9/11' cannot really be explored unless someone is willing to give their entire being to it, including all the dangers and probable death that would occur (and death from almost any quarter would be my guess, because, I tell you, keeping up as best I can has not made me think I know much about it. Almost anyone reasonably informed knows as much or more.) One of the smartest bloggers talks about what are usually referred to as 'conspiracy theories of 9/11' and resents the abuse received--all of this is probably from heavily involved internet types, because if you don't believe it, it's still not worth fighting about, and just amounts to electronic argument that quickly evaporates. So most of the 'abuse' probably isn't really anything but just enjoyment of virtual debates.

On the other hand, it does not seem worth all that much even bringing up such theories, not because they are true or false, but because they are not even interesting if they can't be proved. Many things can be brought up and carefully thought-out opinions presented without proof, but not this. It also seems possible that if one had the proof one would automatically not talk about it. It would seem to me that persons really interested in this matter (I ought to be since I saw the towers fall and lost a friend, but I'm also middle-aged, complacent and have no resources to research it even if I would) ought to abandon all their other subjects of discussion if they expect to be convincing. Just making a case that something that huge is 'obvious' on a blog or other written form does not amount to much as I see it.

The reason is is that this subject is very different from others if there are hidden things. These would be the most heavily guarded secrets in the world if they exist. We know, as you've mentioned, that Bush saw the memo and he and Condi didn't act, etc. That's actually what I think happened (that's certainly shameful enough), but if more happened, the secrets would constitute a danger that writing endless leftist discontent about Iraq and almost anything else do not quite include. The reason these conspiracy theories about New York air space do not make any sense to me are legion, but even if a limited amount of New York had been determined 'not to matter', it's impossible to square with the Pentagon crash and even harder to square with the Pennsylvania crash that was supposed to be sent to the other D.C. places, I believe even the White House was mentioned. Especially since this was all coordinated on the same morning, it's hard how to see that one of them would have been different in intent from another; and I completely fail to see that Washington wanted to attack Washington.

I realize this is not exactly what you are talking about, and your Vacation project could well be of interest; the more actual facts you had would reveal the inevitable gaps in what you can't find in particular. I don't now how similar I think this is to the conspiracy theories, so it may be important to write up, in both cases, what facts one has, because the gaps are then revealed, whether or not there is any effect (there couldn't be much, positively or negatively is my hunch, but I don't know.)

This might be just rambling, but you may have some balanced ideas on these things. Apologies for going on like this, thought I would take the opportunity of reduced traffic to indulge.

Merry Christmas, too. I can't believe I don't mind it anymore.
roger said…
Patrick, thanks for the extended comment, man.

Frankly, what I would be looking for is less conspiracy than inertia and mindsets. I would really like to know: was there any thought of alerting Minetta after Bush's briefing? If there is an omission there, why was the transportation secretary overlooked? And etc. I suppose my belief is this: almost all the homeland security measures taken since 9/11 have been taken against an attack that didn't happen, one that would prevent, say, the conveyance of an atomic bomb into Wyoming by paramilitary al qaeda members from Iraq using AOL chat equipment to communicate. To my mind, this is a little bizarre. I have never heard of a war in which one side prepares to fight totally imaginary configurations of members from the other side. I think that this looks less like Clausewitz and more like something made up by Garcia Marquez. I mean, what we all know right now is that AQ consists of, at most, 15 thousand members strung out in Northern Pakistan. And what we are doing right now is spending about 200 million dollars per member to prevent them from doing things we have no reason to think they are going to do in the first place.

The vacation blog -- and why, pray tell, has no journalist come up with something like this, an undoubted best seller? -- as I envision it (and will probably never do it, but ...) would use the open source nature of the net, so that instead of one researcher putting up, say, Day one, August 6, 2001, column one Bush receives memo, column two the FBI does such and such, column three Mohammed Atta and his band meetin Las Vegas, column four al qaeda operative in Karachi sends x amount of money, you would have a pooling of resources. Somebody who reads Arabic notics something published on August 6 in an Omani paper, somebody digs out an item from the Congressional Record, etc.

What I hate to see is this: we are going from the false meme, everything changed on 9/11, to the un-meme -- or is it just the meme of the undead? - that what happened around 9/11 is "just something we're gonna have to forget" (to quote that Bob Dylan line in "Clothes Line," one of the best one line analyses of American politics ever). I fear we are going to forget it before we even remember it.
Patrick J. Mullins said…
Roger-many thanks, both for the 50% I could follow and the 50% I will hope to grow into! I'm not sure that the 'false meme' is false, if only because even if in the purest sense some or much of it is false, the '9/11 changed everything' has been the direct stimulus for all policy since (including the Orwellianization of 9/11 itself, which is made possible by all the Homeland Security measures that were made for the 'attack that didn't happen', so that the attack that did happen has been dwarfed both by those domestic measures and all foreign policy which has little or nothing to do with 9/11 ).

The un-meme is, I think, already here, and made possible by all the greater velocity in all media available to make it so than there was after 1993 (which was just small enough and could self-limit), i.e., Virilio actualy pointed out that 'everything changed' with that first bombing, and the exact same feeling of a lulling effect of wished-for forgetfulness that set in after 1993 has truly begun to reappear for 9/11 (I have been consciously waiting for this lull to appear for a year or maybe even two, but was not sure it had set in very solidly till recently). I remember the NYTimes editorial that said 'perhaps the buildings could have even been toppled.' Perhaps? Were they saying 'I guess they probably like, you know, maybe wanted to blow up the buildings, not just make a few dents for fun and kill only 5 people.' I remember even feeling myself that the woman who refused to go back to work there was being irrational.

Further evidence of the new un-meme is that at LAX this past weekend I heard something about how 'scissors' (and something else sharp) were not going to be as carefully restricted or searched for--or something--in order to keep the lines moving. Indeed the lines were not stretching around the building as they had been last year (I go every year for a week around Xmas), which seemed to indicate then that any of us might never get through. My driver actually said 'All that stuff's over', which I just attributed to his generally obsequious manner, so I just said 'No it's NOT.' (He needed no prompting about his shameless asshole-ism in trying to gouge me.)

'Inertia and mindsets.' I think that's the key to it too, not the other. In the end, I do not think that all those writing in the mainstream media are wrong to cite 'incompetence', because hasn't the administration managed to get the power to ACQUIRE incompetence? (Of course in this one thing they are only now becoming incompetent, but there may still be a lot of reserve.) They want this incompetence, because it is their idea of fun, or at least more fun than governing--and they try to keep their eye on their own baseball, of course. One mindset that is most interesting and has increased is the desire NOT to benefit humanity: It seems to have become a reflex that it is safer for the political elite's standing to ALWAYS refuse help, to be always draconian, reminding me of one of Wm. Burroughs's books in which he talked about how one thing the rich are very suspicious of is the 'request for a small loan.'

The 'Vacation Project' could also parallel, of course, the 2005 Vacation, the details of which are more widely known. Again, all the arguments against 'incompetence' and for 'careful evil planning' do not convince me for New Orleans either--and the contrast is very important, because things are being revealed daily now, which they were not for several years. I simply cannot see that an administration so concerned with its own propagation and that only, would care to release such images as someone having to gingerly goad the POTUS into watching a DVD about hurricane damage in New Orleans; or that they really want the public to hear things like Condi's 'Don't get him upset'. That's 'impressive hubris' only to the very tiny Norman Podhoretz types, I'd guess.

(I need to send a short email to you about one specific matter.)
Alain said…
I think the Vacation idea is great. And I think the available information, if you dig, is sufficient to raise the suspicion that key people in government were "looking the other way" in the days leading up to the event, as well as on the day itself.

Much of the information for your project has already been gathered at
Patrick J. Mullins said…
'And I think the available information, if you dig, is sufficient to raise the suspicion that key people in government were "looking the other way" in the days leading up to the event, as well as on the day itself.'

Roger--Alain has written this interestingly, so that 'looking the other way' might mean inertia and incompetent not-paying-attention of a passive sort. 'Looking the other way' could not mean an overt cooperation with the execution of attacks on 9/11; an overt interaction would mean 'looking straight at' getting the thing done. I think the Administration was just being lax and slack, and agree with Harkavy that Bush's smirk in the coming months was about how he hadn't been taken to task for ignoring intelligence that was right before him in August and that the Congress knew was right before him--not that they had gotten away with an active plan to make these events happen. They simply could not have, at that point, gotten away with something that actually reduces to self-attack (but with hopefully no immediate family members injured; again, it's the Washington attacks, whether the Pentagon or aborted PA flight one that are always ignored in favor of NY, which also makes no sense at all, despite the intelligence and obvious wishes of the contrivers of these idiot scenarios). I do not think it was because the Administration had an overt plan to make this event happen, even if it was only to dangerous for them, for their own asses. So if people want to call the mainstream and also perfectly obvious belief that NY and DC were, in fact, attacked by Al Qaeda 'corny,' then I don't mind calling them 'hostile and irresponsible conspiracy theorists.' After all, a little blog abuse, as they term it, is not really all that serious, and if they want to insult everyone else, being so much smarter while completely without proof, then some of them can put up or shut up.

Also, if there was a conspiracy, which is all these people are saying even if they try to ridicule everyone in the mainstream for expecting proof(they've completely failed, which they should at least note wholeheartedly), what would ever be the point in there being a memo? What would ever be the point in letting it be known that there was a memo that Al Qaeda was about to strike? If Al Qaeda was about to strike, how could there be an insider US Government conspiracy aiding and abetting it? The only answer is 'ideology.' there has to be an ideology that makes these 'facts' be necessitated.

Absolutely no proof whatever has been given. I don't even any longer care to defend my distaste or the Bush administration to these people, since they have no interest except to tell people that it would all be nice middle-class life after the revolution that is NOT going to happen. Such ideologies in which one wishes vile things had occurred to fit political parties that they hope to find recruits for (barely distinguishable from the pushier religious cults at this point, like Scientologists that tried to give me the e-meter test the other day--yet again)are completely unappealing and foreign. They are the mark of people who have excess funds and would not object to more. The point is to refuse such moronic forms of recruitment. The nightmares of the day need something other than mere Communist exploitation.
roger said…
Alain, Patrick, okay, I gotta confess that the thing that attracts me to the idea is less 9/11 per se as the form of the investigation. I'm a little sick of the way we depend on journalists to know about the larger things that are happening in the world, and journalists are such obvious syncophants of this or that power bloc. I like the idea of something that is blocked out by the grassroots, blocked off with dates, and filled in -- of course, the fill being still journalism dependent, but the relationship between different pieces of information emerging in a completely different way than it emerges in journalism. The connections would be raw. And -- if I am right -- one could gradually get away from 'unnamed sources' and the inevitable control of the news -- news is by definition information under some control, produced and received as 'new.' This sounds abstract, so here's an example of what I mean: is it true that Pakistan's ISI sent some 100 thousand dollars in aid to Atta? This was reported by an Indian paper, and I've read somewhere it was confirmed by the FBI. And then the little datum disappeared. Did it disappear because it wasn't true? That's always possible. Or did it disappear because, given the U.S. alliance with Pakistan, we don't want to talk about it? I don't know. And that rather pisses me off. I should be able to know such an elementary thing.
roger said…
ps -- Alain, only after I wrote the above did I check out your link. Fantastic! Thanks so much!
Patrick J. Mullins said…
Well, I guess that's that then. Diplomacy is inevitable and necessary.
Patrick J. Mullins said…
Roger--I just looked back in a lot of your archives and they have ? marks inside black diamonds and a bunch of them from 2003 are in sections called 'dope' and 'remora', I guess you were using these terms at the time. I couldn't click on something at first, so I searched through by hand for awhile. Thanks.
roger said…
Patrick, sorry about the marks. When I changed templates, they appeared. They are simply apostrophes and dashes and such. Annoying, I know. One of these days I'll figure out how to correct that problem.