Reacting Versus Responding II

More reacting versus respondingEugene Robinson writes that understanding isn’t the same as forgiving. This is an important point. I’ve never understood the mindset of people who equate behavioral analysis with “making excuses.” But let’s go on.

Robinson has talked to Bush Administration officials who explained how they felt on 9/11.

I said something like, “I can imagine what that day must have felt like for you.” The response was immediate: “No, you can’t.”

The official went on to describe the chaos and anguish — the shock of seeing the 110-story World Trade Center towers collapse into rubble, the fear that other hijacked planes might still be in the air, the gut feeling that the president and those around him were personally under attack. The official talked of how the president and his aides racked their memories to think of anything they might have done differently to prevent the attacks.

The initial inspiration for Mahablog came out of the growing realization that the Bush Administration had been given one warning after another about an imminent terrorist attack, and it had done nothing. Indeed, they had actively undone much of the groundwork already laid, such as the Hart-Rudman Commission report.

This was a two-year study analyzing our vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks and recommending strategies to remedy them. It was presented to Congress shortly after Bush’s first inauguration, and Congress had already begun working on its recommendations when the Bush Administration, notably Dick the Dick, reached out and stopped it. He would be the one to decide what counterterrorism measures would be taken, he said.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, he had done, um, nothing.

We’ve been told over and over again about the various outgoing Clinton Administration officials who warned the incoming Bushies to beware of Osama bin Laden, and we’ve been told over and over again about how Condi Rice and Dick and crew brushed it all off. The attack plan used for Afghanistan in October 2001 was, essentially, a warmed-over Clinton Administration plan drawn up after the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. This was revealed in mass media in 2002. Yet it was still news to Condi as recently as spring 2007, as was the old, old news of the several other warnings of the dangers posed by al Qaeda before 9/11. Yet, until the towers fell, al Qaeda wasn’t on Condi’s radar.

Here’s one of my favorite “memory hole” items, a CNN transcript of April 30, 2001:

The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there’s no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and “personalizing terrorism.” …

…POWELL: The results are clear: state sponsors of terrorism are increasingly isolated; terrorist groups on under growing pressure. Terrorists are being brought to justice, we will not let up. But we must also be aware of the nature of the threat before us. Terrorism is a persistent disease.

So in their arrogance and contempt for all things Clinton, the Bushies ignored all the hair-on-fire warnings and took no steps whatsover to safeguard the nation from what happened on 9/11. And even as the towers smoldered, they still could not admit to themselves that they had been wrong.

Then, having utterly screwed up national security, they persuaded the nation that they, and only they, were the ones who understood national security, and spent the next seven years reacting to 9/11. They were pro-active in exploiting 9/11 as a political resource, but strictly re-active in how they went about protecting America.

To this day, there is no comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy. There is just a scattershot mess of reactions.

Back to Eugene Robinson:

The Bush-Cheney record also includes the invasion of a country — Iraq — that had nothing whatsoever to do with Sept. 11. This misadventure has claimed more than 4,000 American lives, wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and grievously damaged our strategic position in the Middle East. In an interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News this month, Bush claimed credit for vanquishing al-Qaeda’s forces in Iraq. When Raddatz pointed out that there were no al-Qaeda forces in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion, the president answered, “Yeah, that’s right. So what?”

Here’s so what: Bush and Cheney, understandably shaken by an unprecedented act of terrorism, declared and prosecuted a “war” without specifying who the enemy was. Rather than focus on the architect and sponsor of the Sept. 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, they turned away to lash out at others in preemptive blows that dishonored our nation’s most precious ideals.

History will note that the point of the Constitution is that the ends don’t always justify the means — and that nowhere in the document can be found the phrase “so what?”

Robinson is kinder to the Bushies than I am. He assumes they meant well, somehow. I don’t think they “meant” at all. These are the least introspective and self-analytical people the world has ever knit together. My impression of the whole crew is that they are all utter strangers to themselves. Their entire modus operandi is to do what they feel like doing — what soothes, protects and glorifies their own egos — and to justify it later. And this feels like “competence” to them.

See also: At the Boston Globe, H.D.S. Greenway discusses The Shoe.

16 thoughts on “Reacting Versus Responding II

  1. Thanks. Although the Truthers are wrong about 9/11 being an “inside job,” that doesn’t mean the Bushies are blameless that it happened.

  2. Seems like the link to the HDS Greenway piece got mangled. I think you wanted :

    I like your phrase “they are all utter strangers to themselves”. It seems to get at an essential problem. I was thinking just the other day, as I was aghast at one of Bush’s recent interviews (perhaps the ‘so what?’ one, I can’t recall), that the man was thoroughly, completely, free of introspection or self-questioning. It’s astonishing. Disgusting, too.

    It also makes it hard for those of us who do a lot of introspection to really “get” the way they process the world. It’s hard for me to understand how they “think” because it’s so lacking in essential elements of how I define “thinking”.

  3. You don’t understand the mindset of people who equate behavioral analysis with making excuses. If you did, then you could use that understanding in the following fashion:

    Wingnut: “You’re just making excuses!”

    You: “You have just equated behavioral analysis with making excuses. The reason why you did so is a combination of intellectual sloth, conformism, cowardice, and blind pride. This defense mechanism is defective: it leads away from understanding and will therefore not shield you from further distress. You will continue to suffer until you reject willful ignorance.

    There; I have just analyzed your behavior. Was I making excuses for you?”

    This probably won’t enlighten the benighted, but it might repel them. And if one of them stays to argue, then there’s hope.

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    A Movement for Participatory Democracy Sends Honest Goodbye to George W. Bush

    Time and again the U.S. Constitution has been trampled since 9/11 under the jackboots of the George W. Bush Administration and an all too complacent U.S. Congress. In the wake of the landslide election results nearly routing the Republican Party from Washington, the time has come to take back our rights. One place to start is at with the momentum being built by

    A veritable national movement is being facilitated by Kate Wheeler and her daughter Ashley who came up with the idea for this site as a way to speak out and release the frustration so much of America has felt after 8 years living under Son-of-Bush. The Goodbye to George W. Movement, as Wheeler calls it seems to be picking up speed rapidly.

    “We just started the site and dozens of people have already written their letters. We think that the American People and the world need this. It’s a chance to tell Bush what they really think, a catharsis after so many years of a White House that promoted hatred and fear,” Wheeler said.

    Wheeler pointed to the concept of homeland security as the ideological militarization of U.S. mentality. With the U.S.A. Patriot Act and subsequent legislation, Constitutional limits were taken off of federal law enforcement.

    For example, the FBI has been requesting reading lists from libraries and bookstores; librarians and booksellers are prohibited from even speaking with a lawyer regarding the unconstitutional FBI requests.

    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, by early 2008 more than one hundred anti-war protests had been attacked by authorities in recent years.

    “Freedom of expression and democracy are among the values that the founding father amended to the U.S. Constitution and they are what has motivated us to launch the site,” Wheeler said by phone from her home in Georgia.

    The Goodbye George Movement that Wheeler and her daughter initiated with sets a challenge, in a real sense, to put participation back into U.S. politics. In the United States people may turn out to vote but beyond that are infrequently given forums for the ongoing voicing of their opinion to policy makers.

    “We see the Goodbye George Movement as the beginning of the end to politics-as-usual in our country. Today people are writing what the really think to President Bush. We are going to keep on top of Obama as well to see that the change this country needs really happens,” Wheeler concluded.

    The letters written at are not only a historic undertaking as a step toward making American politics more democratic, they will also be preserved as part of history in the form of a book that Wheeler plans to publish. Copies will be awarded to the first 100 letter writers

  5. A defining characteristic of righties is their lack of empathy toward others, which can be thought of understanding others on an emotional level. They commonly confuse it with sympathy, which it is not, in much the way that Robinson said that understanding is not forgiving.

    Righties not only lack empathy (emotional understanding) toward others, they also lack it toward themselves – the “strangers unto themselves” phenomenon. Their fearsome outer world is an extension of their inner world. If they got to know themselves better and worked through whatever traumatized them, they would find the freedom and release to leave their inner prison and start to make friends with the rest of the world. It’s been said that a liberal is a conservative who’s been through therapy.

    Sun Tzu said you have to know your enemy, which is difficult for a rightie, because they lack empathy. Instead,they offer absurd, meaningless statements like “they hate our freedoms”, which these people actually believe. This results in the wasteful, inept potshots at anything out there, in their frenzied and expensive belief in dominance at any cost. It’s like being in a fight with a blind man who swings at anything. Our real enemies could not ask for a better, more inept opponent.

    What makes this double plus bad, is the right’s inability to ever admit error. It’s a measure of the degree of fear they live in, that they can never be wrong, and they’ll go through all kinds of self delusions to contort the truth to cover themselves. These people are terrified of losing and not being dominant.

  6. “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere”

    “I had but one prayer; Oh lord, make my enemies rediculous, and the prayer has been answered.”

    Pretty clever, those French……

    CNBC: Beer sales are up! Cheers!!
    Wall Street is freaking out.

  7. Another quality lacking in the Bush administration personnel is intellectual curiosity – a quality that can lead to self-questioning and introspection. Moonbat beat me to the empathy comment, but empathy cannot come without introspection and self-questioning. One cannot empathize until s/he can see the truth of her/his own life.

    As for forgiveness v. understanding I agree there is a difference – a monumental difference. I agree with Alice Miller, who sees no reason to forgive unless forgiveness is sincerely asked for by the perpetrator(s). In fact, unasked-for forgiveness often retards and prevents the healing process; it merely condones the perpetrator’s behavior. The core Abrahamic holy writ of “Honor thy father and thy mother” prevents both personal as well as national rehabilitation. When we forgive our nation’s historical sins (i.e. “they meant well”), we condone current and future ones.

    It seems to me that it is only through rehabilitation that we can respond rather than react. Arrogance and contempt is reactive – not responsive.

  8. Great post.

    The neoconsuperfratboy will surely go down as the most incompetent chief executive this country has ever had to endure. I don’t think he has the mental capacity to manage a little league team (that rangers job was just like Texas governor position: not really substantial and Daddy got him both). I remember listening to him during a republican debate back in 1999 on NPR, and thinking this tool doesn’t stand a chance. Well unfortunately the rest is history. I think Bush’s real problem is exactly as he has described himself: “I’m the Decider”. He is the decider which is good on one level, problem is that’s all he is. He isn’t interested in molding policy or leading government, he is only capable of deciding between options (almost all bad options) presented to him by his advisors. So Bush never stood a chance, he surrounded himself with a bunch of thoughtless neocons who hate good government, he had no good policies to decide from. Is it 1-20-09 yet? He still has time to decide some more!

  9. The president and his aides racked their memories to think of anything they might have done differently to prevent the attacks.

    Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer to that one!
    August 6 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, hair-on-fire alarm about chatter indicating impending terrorist attack in the US. Briefing delivered by Tenet and his deputy Copher Black, who traveled to Crawford in person to highlight the perceived seriousness of the threat.
    Chimp response: “Alright, you’ve covered your ass. I’m gonna go clear some brush”.

    Maybe his aides did, but I doubt Bush ever racked his brains in self-reflection over his actions before 9/11. He has the rock-headed certainty of a deeply stupid man of willful ignorance who never looks back and never admits error.

  10. This administration did everything it could to distract attention from Osama Bin Laden, and when they could have captured him at Tora Bora he was allowed to escape.

  11. Moonbat, that was well said, thank you. I’ve always believed that irrational, mortal fear was another defining characteristic of the typical rightie. They’re terrified of gays, liberals, foreigners (especially Muslims), blacks, probably their own shadows. It’s hard to empathise when you are wetting your pants.

    As horrific as 9/11 was, I’ve never understood why people in Nebraska (to name a state at random) were so afraid of further attacks that they’d loudly support the shreading of the Constitution to protect them from “the terrorists.” Bin Laden and company go after big targets; you won’t find them blowing up shopping malls in Lincoln. Israel still exists after countless small-scale terror attacks; they do what they have to do, and they get on with their lives. But if you want to bring down the US, all you’d have to do is blow up one 7-11 in a small town in Missouri. We’d be a police state by the end of the week.

    Irrational fear leads to irrational acts. It’s hard to rethink irrationality.

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