"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," Mohammed said in a statement read Saturday during a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed's confession was read by a member of the U.S. military who is serving as his personal representative.
The Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of the closed-door proceedings on Wednesday night. Some material was omitted, and it wasn't possible to immediately confirm details. Some elements of it refer to locations for which the United States and other nations have issued terrorism warnings based on what they deemed credible threats from 1993 to the present.
When people are tortured and tried in secret, how much credibility is there behind the whole procedure of extracting confessions, especially when it comes to the rest of the world. When America announces a confession today, does it carry the weight it would have 20 years ago?
What's more, does his confession make one bit of difference? Guilty or not, confessions or denials, there was no way in hell Bush was going to let him go free. The "enemy combatant" was destined to a lifetime of "detention" anyway.
Make no mistake: I have no doubt that Mohammed could very well be as guilty of all to which he confessed. With no public trial, as sanctioned by our Constitution, we'll just have to take our government's word for it.
But what have we become, as a society founded on the principles of freedom and justice, as a nation that was once revered for its benevolent power, when secret trials, hidden interrogation bases and an administration that proudly proclaims its belief in torture by any other name become the order of the day?
So How Terrible Is It? Max Rodenbeck asks in the New York Review of Books, November 30, 2006 issue. Louise Richardson, a Harvard professor who has been teaching about terrorism for a decade, counts the ways:
Terrorism is not new.
Terrorism is nowhere near as threatening as, say, drunk drivers (who kill six times more Americans than 9/11 every year).
Terrorism using weapons of mass destruction is extremely difficult and rare.
Terrorists are rational.
Terrorism usually arises out of defensive desperation.
Suicide attacks are rational: cheap, effective against difficult targets and, well, terrorizing.
Terrorism and Islam are not linked. Terror has been perpetrated in the name of most religions, as well as for secular causes.
Democracy does not prevent terrorism.
Democratic civil rights do not impede prosecuting terrorists.
Military action is usually not effective against terrorist groups.
Armies usually cause more terrorism in response.
Addressing causes of terrorism is not surrender or appeasement to the terrorists themselves.
You can almost see Rush, O'Reilly and the other armchair hawks having apoplectic fits over these conclusions.
One particularly important point of Richardson's is that few terrorist groups have ever succeeded in achieving their stated primary aim, whether to foment a revolution or to "liberate" a territory. In fact, most of them do not really expect to do so, and are extremely vague about what they would do if they actually succeeded. Osama bin Laden has said next to nothing about what sort of society he would actually like to create, just as Marx never described in any detail what his communist utopia would look like. This may explain why the terrorist groups that have taken power have sometimes produced such incompetent rule —as was the case with Yasser Arafat.
Because terrorists tend to be aspirational rather than practical, their practices typically amount to what Ms. Richardson calls a search for the three R's of terrorism: revenge, renown, and reaction. As she puts it, "the point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message." This simple insight is important, because it suggests ways of dealing with terrorism: you must blunt the impulse for revenge, try to limit the terrorists' renown, and refrain from reacting in ways that either broaden the terrorists' appeal or encourage further terrorism by showing how effective their tactics are.
Richardson's three R's go a long way toward explaining why American policy has become so disastrously askew. As she notes, an act such as September 11 itself achieves the first of her three R's, revenge. So spectacularly destructive an attack also gains much of the second objective, renown. But the Bush administration's massive and misdirected overreaction has handed al-Qaeda a far greater reward than it ever dreamed of winning.
"The declaration of a global war on terrorism," says Richardson bluntly, "has been a terrible mistake and is doomed to failure." In declaring such a war, she says, the Bush administration chose to mirror its adversary:
Americans opted to accept al-Qaeda's language of cosmic warfare at face value and respond accordingly, rather than respond to al-Qaeda based on an objective assessment of its resources and capabilities.
In essence, America's actions radically upgraded Osama bin Laden's organization from a ragtag network of plotters to a great enemy worthy of a superpower's undivided attention. Even as it successfully shattered the group's core through the invasion of Afghanistan, America empowered al-Qaeda politically by its loud triumphalism, whose very excess encouraged others to try the same terror tactics.
That's right. Bush has decided us into military and political blunders that have resulted in placing al-Qaeda right up to superpower level in foreign affairs -- something akin to making some urban gangbanger into Public Enemy No. 1.
The 537-page book describes tensions among senior officials from the very beginning of the administration. Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.
On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.
The main content of the book, however, focuses on the confusion and dissention within the Bush Administration regarding Iraq -- whether to attack, how to wage the war, how to characterize the resistance, how to win the war.
As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.”
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as disengaged from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq — a task that was initially supposed to be under the direction of the Pentagon — and so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore” to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq.
The question is when this president is going to accept responsibility for getting us into this war -- and responsibility for getting us out. "Stay the course" until he can pass off the problem to the next president is not a winning strategy.
"The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false - and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.
This coming from the former National Security Advisor who pushed aside Richard Clarke, the in-house expert on al-Qaeda. This coming from the White House staffer who pretty much ignored the presidential briefing memo about Osama bin Laden's plans to strike within the U.S. This coming from a key player in the Bush Administration, which fought against even having a 9/11 Commission look into 9/11. They didn't want anyone looking into it.
"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice added.
She also whines about analyses by our own U.S. intelligence agencies that what the Bush Administration is doing is making things worse.
Transitioning to the global war on terror, an animated Rice questioned, "When are we going to stop blaming ourselves for the rise of terrorism?"
This is the perspective problem the entire Bush Administration seems to have: More concern about criticism of them, more concern about the political prospects of the GOP, more concern about spinning themselves into hero status, than any concern in actually doing something effective or at least making sure they're not just making things worse.
When, Condi? When you stop being a major cause of the rise of terrorism.
Asked about recently leaked internal U.S. intelligence estimates that claimed the Iraq war was fueling terrorist recruiting, Rice said: "Now that we're fighting back, of course they are fighting back, too."
"I find it just extraordinary that the argument is, all right, so they're using the fact they're being challenged in the Middle East and challenged in Iraq to recruit, therefore you've made the war on terrorism worse.
"It's as if we were in a good place on Sept. 11. Clearly, we weren't," she added.
Except, Condi, that the terrorists weren't even in Iraq until you and Bush invaded there. The terrorists were in Afghanistan.
Remember Afghanistan? That's the place where Osama has been, by many accounts, all this time. That's where al-Qaeda planned 9/11. That's where the Taliban government sheltered these terrorists.
We do not know what you have done, to prevent another 9/11.
You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.
You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.
And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.
And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture — which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.And there it is, sir:
Are yours the actions of a true American?
Here are some relevant videos via YouTube:
Clinton refuses to roll over for Chris Wallace on Fox
Olbermann on Clinton, and the Bush Administration's passing the buck