Following the September 11 attacks, news quickly circulated that the Bush administration was seeking a declaration of war on Afghanistan. Georgia representative Cynthia McKinney released a statement asserting that war would reduce civil liberties and sacrifice American lives for an cause with no decisive plan. 9/11 brought widespread hysteria within the government and the greater American populous. Many of the proponents of war with Afghanistan were chicken hawks – people who had avoided military service yet advocated for war. The Bush administration did not outline a clear plan for the invasion, and planned to reduce or eradicate civil liberties for Americans they deemed dangerous. It was not lost on many that similar actions in other countries had garnered criticism from the Bush administration. Nonetheless, large numbers of people saw the need to locate Osama Bin Laden and retaliate. McKinney’s remarks are unique in that Operation Enduring Freedom was widely popular with government representatives. Nonetheless, her comments about the reduction of civil liberties in wartime were applicable to every preceding American war and foreshadowed the Bush administration’s actions. McKinney’s dissent perpetuated the trend of clear hypocrisy within the government during wartime. Ultimately, people like McKinney decide the direction of the country, and the undertaking of war is a massive commitment. As a government official, McKinney’s act of dissent perpetuates the idea that civil liberties should be central to American lives, and war provides an opening to reduce them.
Our armed forces are poised to conduct military strikes in foreign lands. My own State of Georgia is contributing significantly to our overseas forces with troops being committed from the:
116th Bomb Wing from Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins in Savannah
117th Air Control Squadron, from Hunter Army Airfield in Warner Robins
293rd MP Company from Fort Stewart in Augusta
224th Joint Communications Support Squad. Brunswick, GA
I have no doubt that men of the elite 75th Ranger Battalion from Fort Benning are currently, or will soon be, deploying overseas.
I pray for God’s intervention in ensuring the safe return of our many young men and women who are now being sent off to fight this war against terrorism. They face tremendous dangers and uncertain futures and their families will endure many long and sleepless nights waiting for their safe return. We must remember them all, including their families and loved ones, and acknowledge the great personal sacrifices they are going to have to make on our behalves in the coming days.
Mr. Speaker, our nation suffered a terrible injury last week with the attacks in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Many thousands of our innocent civilians were unjustly taken from their families and loved ones and we as a nation must now respond. We must find and hold accountable all those who perpetrated those most terrible crimes against our nation and its people. But just how we should do that and how should we respond to these attacks, both internationally and domestically, is now giving rise to considerable debate.
We have read and heard the Bush Administration’s call to arms to fight the first war of the 21st century. I understand that our nation’s full military resources are soon to be turned against, not just the terrorists responsible for last week’s attacks, but international terrorism generally. Our intelligence agencies have allegedly identified terror cells in some 60 countries and that, whether or not Afghanistan actually surrenders Osama Bin Laden, the alleged master mind of last weeks attacks, our military intends fighting a long and bitter worldwide campaign against international terrorism in many of those 60 countries. Or as Secretary of Defense Rumsfield announced this earlier this week, “We intend to drain the swamp”.
And now we hear calls from the Bush Administration asking, cajoling and even demanding additional wide ranging law enforcement powers and suspensions of fundamental civil liberties in order that our nation might better fight terrorism.
I understand a draft bill, which is the first of a far larger package of anti-terrorist legislation, is now circulating Capitol Hill and I am told it proposes giving law enforcement the power to detain non-US citizens for indefinite periods without charge, giving immigration authorities greater and accelerated powers to deport non-US citizens, and at the same time curtailing rights of non-US citizens to judicial review and appeal. Many of these reforms that the Bush Administration is now proposing are the very same types of state powers that we routinely criticize other nations for possessing in our State Department’s annual report on international human rights – prolonged and arbitrary detention, denial of access to legal counsel and limited judicial review of government decision making to name but a few.
I am greatly concerned that we are about to engage in an extremely hazardous military campaign of unknown duration, with unrealistic objectives and perhaps even ultimately harmful long-term consequences for our nation. Already there is growing disquiet in the Muslim world that the US is poised to turn its terrorist campaign into a war against Islam. The Bush Administration has already had to change the name of the military mission once when it used the term Crusade and they are now about to change it a second time because of the term Infinite Justice is still offensive to the world Muslim community. All these gaffes feed the growing Muslim fear that this impending US military action could become a broader campaign against them. Mr. Speaker, I know I don’t need to address the impending catastrophe should large sections of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims unify and turn against the US.
I am also worried that by enacting the anti-terrorist legislation proposed by the Bush Administration we will be eroding long standing fundamental freedoms, many of which form the bed rock of our nation’s political and social justice systems. And more importantly, we still won’t know that by enacting this legislation if we will really have any positive impact on preventing or even reducing terrorist acts at all. It would be ironic indeed if we as a nation destroyed democracy in the name of saving democracy.
Surely, before we grant more powers and massive resources to our law enforcement, military and intelligence communities we should be examining why they didn’t detect the threat of these and other attacks. Especially, since we’re being told the attacks last week were sophisticated, involved many people over a considerable period of time and maybe even involved assistance from a foreign government. We knew, or should have known, that Bin Laden was capable of attacking our major cities. Just 7 months ago during the trial of suspects charged with the embassy bombings in Africa federal prosecutors detailed the Bin Laden network in open court. Details of Bin Laden’s business and financial history, his international terror network, as well as, his hatred for America were all systematically dissected by federal prosecutors. Given these revelations it was clear, or should have been clear, that our nation and its citizens were in grave danger from Bin Laden and his supporters.
I don’t understand how our intelligence services have the ability to penetrate, analyze and publicly distribute records of Bin Laden’s alleged cellular phone traffic in the hours immediately after the bombings and from these conversations we learnt of Bin Laden’s alleged celebrations with supporters. But in stark contrast these same US intelligence services appear to have heard nothing at all of Bin Laden’s planning and preparations of the attacks, or any of the other attacks that we attributed to him, in the months and years prior to September 11th.
I am deeply concerned at recent reports in the press of specific, credible and quite extraordinary warnings of terrorist attacks on our citizenry, which were ignored by our government. And Mr. Speaker, some of these warnings directly referred to the use of hijacked aircraft attacking the WTC. For example: –
The LA Times reported on 20 September, 2001 that MOSSAD, the Israeli Intelligence Service, had warned FBI and CIA officials that a major terrorist force of some 200 individuals was entering the US and planning a major assault on the United States. MOSSAD cautioned that it had picked indications that a major US target had been selected and that Americans would be very vulnerable.
The Advertiser Newspaper from the Murdoch Group reported on Monday 17th September, 2001 that a man in the Cayman Islands wrote to US authorities on August 29th and warned them that he had just overheard 3 Afghan men in a bar talking of impending attack on US targets. The CIA is said to have followed up the report on September 6th but apparently did not take it any further because of a shortage of staff. And then it’s also reported that a week later an Iranian in Hamburg, Germany contacted police and warned them of an impending terrorist attack against the United States using hijacked planes. Apparently, his warning specifically mentioned the World Trade Center. The same news paper report also speaks of FBI agents tracking some of the alleged terrorists at their flight schools in the US and that the CIA was told as long as 2 years ago that a suspicious group of Middle Eastern men were gathering in Florida.
But Mr. Speaker, NOTHING, and I repeat NOTHING was done with any of this extraordinary information. Mr. Speaker, it appears that possible that the tragic attacks on New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania could have, or indeed should have, been prevented.
And tragically I am forced to say this doesn’t appear to be the first time our intelligence services have been caught flatfooted. Earlier this year Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, while testifying in New York against the four men accused of the US Embassy bombings in Africa, said that he told US officials that Bin Laden’s group was trying to make war on the United States and in particular would bomb a US embassy. Similarly, Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador in Nairobi, warned the State Department of the poor security of her embassy in Nairobi. Regrettably, and with tragic consequences, these warnings appeared to be ignored. Not surprisingly, our government now finds itself subject to civil actions by survivors and family representatives of those killed in the US Embassy bombings in Africa for failing to heed these warnings.
But whatever the state of our intelligence agencies precise knowledge of these attacks surely, given Bin Laden’s history of violence against our nation in recent years I would have thought that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies would have long had Bin Laden and his network under a microscope.
I don’t want to be unduly critical, but I do think the observation needs to be made at this time. Count up the combined assets of our nations law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies charged with fighting terrorism over the last 10-15 years and you have budgets worth billions and billions of dollars, space age technology that most nations only dream of and staffing levels made up of tens of thousands of men and women. And despite all these resources we’ve sustained terrible attacks upon our military bases, our embassies, our warships and now even our own cities. In my view this is not a problem of resources but rather a failure of implementation on a scale that shames us all. Indeed, I note that yesterday Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN: “I think it was a debacle. It was a real massive failure…In my judgement too many bureaucratic failures, not enough coordination between the Agencies.”
But what frustrates me most is that no one in a position of leadership in our nation has yet sought to seriously ask why has our nation been attacked in this way. Why have our cities, our embassies and our military forces been systematically targeted by terrorist organizations. Why is it that our nation and its people are being attacked in these ways? Our politicians and political observers have for years been ready, willing and able to analyze and then discuss the complex reasons why groups such as the IRA waged war on England, why the Shining Path fought in Peru and why Red Brigade terrorized Italy. But now when it comes to our own recent exposures to terrorism all our national debate appears to be focused on the “how to respond to” question without ever really stopping to ask the “why did it happen” question. And unless and until we analyze why these attacks against us occurred then how can we realistically ever really hope to develop a coordinated course of actions that will ensure that they will never happen again.
People I have spoken to who have lived in cities under siege from terrorism, like London for example, tell me that increased law enforcement and military measures only go so far to combat terrorism. Indeed, they only seem to deal with the symptoms and not the root cause. These people have told me that ultimately, the long-term solution to terrorism is found in policy and not war, diplomacy not military subjugation. Secretary of State Colin Powell is absolutely right: Give diplomacy a chance.
We must honestly ask ourselves what is the root cause of this war being waged on our people and our country. I suspect that we will need to look at altering some of our foreign policy positions in some parts of the world. Unless we do this I fear that a military campaign, unsupported by sound foreign policy strategies, will only cause immeasurable civilian suffering throughout the world and may well actually lead to more terrifying attacks upon our cities and our citizenry.
I would ask our President to sidestep the rambos in the White House and The Pentagon who are reported to want to use nuclear weapons and free our Secretary of State to do his job.
Finally, I pray that common sense and reason will prevail.
 Acharya, Amitav. “State Sovereignty After 9/11: Disorganised Hypocrisy.” Political Studies 55 (2): 274–96