9/11: May We Never Forget, But May We Also Know Why

The attacks of 9/11 had an interesting, but largely unknown genesis. Have you ever heard of "extraordinary renditions"? Not many people have. In the past 10 years or so, these 'tools' have become a common facet of American foreign policy. In multiple instances, such renditions have become the impetus for retaliation in the third world--what the CIA has come to refer to as "blowback". There is no evidence that any of these CIA renditions have made America any safer, but there is ample evidence that they have made our national security much more precarious, particularly before 9/11.

Extraordinary renditions helped radical Muslims to become more radical and reach the boiling point that we now commemorate as 9/11. Even more unfortunately, such renditions have become far more frequent since the attack 7 years ago today.

It's called Patriot's Day now. Some of the LDS Scout troops put up flags in their LDS ward neighborhoods

America is much more imperiled than it was seven years ago. So in all our not forgetting what happened on 9/11, let us also come to know why it happened in the first place.

to commemorate it. Our ward doesn't. We don't put up flags on Pearl Harbor Day, either. But more importantly, in retrospect, this day didn't have to be. The most frustrating thing about 9/11 is that a careful reading of US foreign policy history makes it clear that the atrocities of September 11, 2001 came about as reactions to US foreign policy lunacy.

In his book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, Chalmers Johnson tells us about some cases of blowback that most of us don't even know about. We have been conditioned to see these events as unprovoked attacks. However,

None of the recent attacks on American interests have been without deep provocation.

none of the recent attacks on American interests have been without deep provocation. Nearly every such retaliation is related to largely secret "extraordinary renditions", funded by that significant portion of the CIA's budget that not even very many members of Congress know about.

US Embassy Bombings in 1998

...between 1995 and 1998 the CIA carried out a series of renditions aimed particularly at Islamic freedom fighters working in the Balkans...Virually [all of these captives] were killed after being delivered into Egyptian hands. Predictably, enough, these kidnappings generated blowback, although ordinary Americans did not [know] because the actions that provoked the retaliation were, of course, kept totally secret. [A few] days later, al-Qaeda blew up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania with a loss of 224 lives.

Nemesis, pp. 122-123
But it gets worse.

The USS Cole Attack

Johnson continues:
The U.S. renditions continued with the CIA and FBI carrying out some two dozen of them in 1999 and 2000. These, in turn, helped provoke the attacks on the navy destroyer USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden on October 12, 2000.

Within days of the September 11, 2001 attacks, President Bush expanded the original finding Bill Clinton had signed, giving the CIA authority to act without case-by-case approval from Washington.

Nemesis, p. 123

When we come to know such facts, it's critical that we step outside our American selves for a moment. Imagine if the KGB were to infiltrate America and begin 'disappearing' people...

kept more secret since 9/11, Johnson says, is the number of renditions that are still occurring, but based on NY Times articles and a story on 60 Minutes, it's safe to say that they number in the hundreds.

We don't know much about these things, and we therefore don't have much of an opinion about them, because they've never happened to us. But these things are happening.

When we come to know such facts, it's critical that we step outside our American selves for a moment. If the KGB were to infiltrate America and begin 'disappearing' people to countries we-don't-know-where, for generic reasons of sponsoring or engaging in terrorism. How would you feel? Would you might actually even feel like the United States were being occupied?

That's why it's critical that we care when it happens to other people. As Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can [eventually] make you commit atrocities."

I always have, do, and will continue to love my country very much. But my country has been hijacked. It unnerves me, therefore, that we are still broadly supporting two groups of people (the McCain and Obama campagins) that had a lot to do with that hijacking.

America is much more imperiled than it was seven years ago. So in all our not forgetting what happened on 9/11, let us also come to know why it happened in the first place.


  1. I just ran across your blog the other day and want to say thanks for writing this particular post. It seems strange to me that so many people (including those in Utah Valley) seem to think it unpatriotic to examine our nation's possible flaws and wrongs. Thanks again for being willing to.

  2. Another post specializing in blaming the rape victim for being raped. The US certainly isn't faultless. But the continual harping on blaming us for 9/11 is just way over the top. At least it doesn't quite go to the level of the 9/11 'Truthers,' but I wonder if that's not far off.

  3. Kathy,

    Thank you. I'm glad you are one of the few who have an open mind.


    Did you read the article? Would you like to comment on something that you specifically think is untrue? I don't blame the 3,000 Americans and others who were killed that day. What I do blame is American foreign policy for setting up an environment for such to happen. Of all the people who read this blog, I thought you'd be one of those who had thought through all the issues.

  4. Frank, the problem is that in order to form an educated opinion on your take, one would have to find the book that you're referencing, read it, then come back here to leave a comment.

    I think Reach wanted to comment on the obvious and overall theme of the post (and often your blog in general) that America's chickens are simply coming home to roost. It's that you (in this post and many others) seem to go out of your way to find American guilt in everything.

    Now, on the other side of the coin, there are those who simply deny any American wrong doing. That is juvenile and should be pointed out as well.

    Reach wasn't commenting on your book. He was commenting on the general theme. Hold him accountable for that, not the specifics of your book that he did not address.

  5. DS,

    I'm glad you point out that the America is somewhat to blame. I admit that Reach said something similar.

    There are several people who I have blamed in these pages in the past (Chavez, Putin, Ahmadinejad, and probably Yasser Arafat). I agree that these buffoons cause(d) a lot of the problems in the world.


    (1) We can't change what they do.
    (2) We can fix our own mistakes.
    (3) There are certain mistakes we made that, had they not been made, 9/11 would never have happened. (I don't think comparing that to a rape victim is very apt.)

    By the way, my copy of The Gift of Fear finally arrived, and I've read about 75 pages. My observations on the book fit in nicely here--de Becker states that it is important to understand the motivation behind the aggressor, which are almost always rational, and if we don't try to understand we'll never get to the crux of the problem. In the case of violent Islamists, it is important to understand the listed reasons why we were attacked. It may not have warranted an attack (I don't think it did), but their beefs are valid.

    I have listed the page numbers that I quoted from out of Johnson's book. I encourage you to find a copy (stop by Barnes and Noble) and read just those 2 pages. Then tell me whether you think what Johnson catalogs there is true or not. If you think these things are happening, do you condone them?

    I think what Johnson describes is happening, and we can't condone it. And if so, America is not a "rape victim".

  6. The use of the word rape does bring some interesting thoughts to mind. I think America was raped, but not by the terrorists. We have been raped by our own government and are being blamed for it as well.

    It would seem from what I have read and heard regarding 9/11, that the attacks were just another event in a string of tit for tat events that our government has being engaged in with foreign entities. I don't mean to dimish the horrendous event which it was, but as Frank pointed out, there is a bigger picture to look at.

    By the government shifting the blame from their failed policies and actions, and trying to convince us that it is our love of freedom that provoked the attacks. We have been deluded into thinking the attacks were aimed at us.

    Having watched some of Mr. Guilianis' speech at the RNC, I was further convinced, the 9/11 has become a great tool in instilling fear into the American people, in order to further take away our civil liberties and justify immoral actions overseas.

    As I said before, I believe a rape of sorts has occured, we're just not sure as a people who the rapist is, because he keeps telling us it was someone else. I'm in no way excusing the terrorists actions, but at the same time, our government's hand are by no means clean over this incident either.

  7. Hey Frank,
    I know it has been a long time, but I told you I would check this out and make a comment. First, your not totally crazy (I think that is the words you used). I wont take up too much space because a lot of what I believe has been stated. Personally I agree that America is not totally at fault, but not perfect (by a long shot). I know we have had the conversation before of how if we were being occupied we would want to fight back. I will agree that the point of them wanting to fight back is valid. Let's look at the method though. I just want to take a guess and say that the CIA is not hijacking planes and killing thousands of radical muslims. I know that if I was in a situation where my country was being under attack, or just certain people being abducted by the KGB as in your example, I would fight back, but I wouldn't attack thousands of innocent people. That doesn't get my point across very well. I would attack that agency or government that wronged me. I don't think that America deserves what happened on 9/11/01, I don't think that anybody would deserve that. Even if it was provoked by the stupid Foreign Policy. I wouldn't say that we were the cause. We should put blame where it is deserved, it was radical extremists, not America that caused 9/11.

  8. You're right. I remember when we were out on OP 2 and OP Bridge and the news reporter asked one of you at OP 2 how the insurgents must feel. At the time, I told someone that if I'd been there and not at Bridge, I would have said "I don't give a #%$^ what they think."

    But now that I'm out of the military, I have begun to care what they think, because imagine if you were a civilian in Baghdad on that first night of "shock and awe" back in 2003. We may not fly airplanes into buildings, but our bombs have killed at least as many innocent civilians.

    I don't know what point I'm trying to make, other than that I think I can see the point of the insurgent now.

  9. Perhaps if you were to look at the attacks from another angle...

    Our government is elected by the people... Perhaps if the terrorists had only attacked the Pentagon, or CIA headquarters, we wouldn't have cared enough about it to effect change.

    Perhaps their intention wasn't terror at all, it was an attempt to wake up the American people to elect a government that wouldn't stick it's nose in places it didn't belong.

    Ironic that Bush and McCain now use that attacks to help support their campaigns.

  10. I think that's exactly the reasoning used by bin Laden to rationalize the 9/11 terror attacks. It just pains me to read it used by someone he tried to kill.

  11. I'm not saying it was the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a valid reason. If Bin Laden's goal was the annihilation of all freedom loving American's don't you think he would have just said that instead of making up some fancy tail about our Government?

    And wouldn't it make sense for the US Administration to convince us that the reason for the attacks was Islamic Extremists trying to kill us all, instead of admitting that they are meddling in places they shouldn't, and this was an act of retaliation?

  12. Cameron,

    When I was in the military (and didn't want to look at the issue in detail), I used to think like you.

    Now I think like UK. Study what the US has done to other countries and it will give you a new perspective. It doesn't make what Osama and the 9/11 hijackers right by any means, but it helps you see where they're coming from.

    It also helps you see what we could change in our foreign policy to severely minimize such terror acts from ever occurring again. I know that's not what a bully superpower wants to hear, but it's nonetheless true.

  13. "I'm not saying it was the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a valid reason."

    That doesn't make any sense.

    It is my view that there is no valid reason for hijacking those planes and using them as human missiles.

    There is a whole lot of blaming the United States for its history, without any mention of understanding or context or rationale, and a whole lot of freeing terrorists from blame using those same excuses.

    I do not believe that should we leave the Middle East completely that terrorist attacks would end. I think 9/11 occurred precisely because bin Laden was able to convince followers that terrorism works. I also believe that Iraq was and is a referendum of sorts on whether Osama is still correct about the effectiveness of terrorism.

    I believe that al Queda's actions in Iraq prove that they care nothing about Arab sovereignty. They care about their own power. Had they not instigated the "insurgency", Iraq would be even further along towards building a successful democracy. It is that democracy, that freedom, that al Queda has fought against since Saddam Hussein was deposed.

  14. Wait a second... At no point did I say the terrorists should be held blameless.

    9/11 was wrong, and was a horrible tragedy, but it was not an unprovoked attack.

    I grew up in South Africa under Apartheid. Every day at school we would have terrorist drills, incase our school was attacked. Every time we went to the store, we would be searched for explosives. Anytime it looked like there would be an uprising, we stayed home from school.

    I know all too well what terrorism is, but I also know, since I was able to go back to South Africa years later and see the changes that were brought about because of it.

    In South Africa the terrorism eventually brought about a positive social change. Those supporting it (Including the US indirectly) were doing it to bring about those changes.

    In the case of South Africa, a little willingness on both sides to see the other sides motivations and points of view would have gone a long way and saved a lot of innocent blood from being shed.

    This situation may be slightly different, but if we are to end it without further loss on innocent life - on both side, there needs to be some understanding and willingness to speak to the other side.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Your experiences in South Africa confirm how terrorism can work. But it in no way justifies bombing elementary schools or hijacking airplanes. The end does not justify the means.

    But I understand that you are trying to say that if we would only understand what motivates people to resort to terrorism then we could prevent the killing.

    But I disagree.

    Successful terrorism breeds more terrorism. Osama bin Laden can recruit members to his group because he can show them a successful strategy. As you said, it worked in South Africa. It has worked for bin Laden numerous times around the globe. It almost worked in Iraq. But, for once, the US saw it through despite the terror and al Queda was seen for what it is. Now, it is time for us to deliver on our promise of a democratic and free Iraq. A victory here would go a long way towards refuting bin Laden's rhetoric and proving there are other avenues for change besides terror.

  17. Yes, of course successful terrorism can breed more terrorism. But terrorism often starts as a reaction to an unwelcome and much more powerful occupation force against which there is perceived to be no other means of counterattack.

    Please read Dying to Win, by Robert Pape, which carefully documents suicide terrorism and how it almost never occurs outside of such situations. Even the bombings in Pakistan of late can be seen to be related to American actions in that region.

    I personally think UK's South Africa anecdote is a perfect example of the fact that terrorism can be abated in many cases simply by returning to an environment of justice and fairness.

  18. The difference in the analogy is that American "occupying" forces are not South African apartheid, and there are easily accessible means in Iraq to effect change. Means that don't require beheadings.

    A "return" of any sort in Iraq meant a return to genocide and dictatorship. A withdrawal meant leaving Iraqi citizens to fend for themselves in an al Queda fueled sectarian disaster, which would ultimately end in yet another dictatorship.

    If we want to gain an understanding of what al Queda terrorists want, we need look no further than Iraq. The difference between what the US has tried to accomplish there and what bin Laden has tried for are stark.

  19. There are a couple of different topics going on here...

    1. South Africa. In an environment where a group of people were left without options, terrorism was resorted to as a last ditch attempt to gain equality and freedom. It wasn't pleasant, it cost a number of lives, but in the end the country in on the way to a more free and equal nation.

    2. 9/11 would appear to be a retaliatory attack for action which our government has carried out, and continues to carry out overseas. It wasn't pleasant, I don't blame the American people for it, but at the same time, perhaps the message isn't that the Arabs want America irradicated, but more that we need to examine our country's foreign policies and stop being the big bully that we have become.

    3. Irag. Without 9/11 we would not be in Iraq. Iraq is perhaps an excellent example of the types of actions which may have fueled 9/11. Just because we think Iraq needs to have a democratic government, does not give us the right to bomb them, occupy their country and then convince them that we did them a favor. Iraq wasn't a perfect place to live, but few countries are. I'm not excusing Sadam's behavior, nor am I excusing ours. I think both are regrettable.

    I don't agree with or like terrorism, but if you were living in a middle eastern country, and were tired of hearing of another country adopting foreign policies that were contributing to problems in your region, wouldn't you want to do something about it, and if so, what options might you have at your disposal?

    Finally, with respect to Frank and the other brave and honorable men who have served in Iraq and on other foreign missions. I have the utmost respect for them and what they do. I beleive our Armed Forces are among the greatest in the world. At the same time though, I think there is a better way to honor these men that sending them off in a desert, facing the possibility of being killed or maimed while serving.

  20. I enjoyed your article. What advice would you have for someone currently in the military who sees things as you do?

  21. An excellent question. While I was in the military (I retired after 25 years in December 2006) I kept my head in the sand, not wanting to know what was going on, for fear that it would be too difficult for me psychologically. I now wish I had paid more attention to what was happening, because I'm still playing catch up.

    Probably the biggest difference would have been that had I paid more attention to American foreign policy I would have been able to empathize with and develop a better relationship with the Iraqi people.

    As a current member of the military you can have a great leavening influence on your fellow service members. Encourage them primarily to realize that Iraqis, Afghanis, and everyone else are people every bit as much as Americans are. Tell them to always take their sunglasses off when having a conversation with someone in their host country. Tell them to learn the host culture and language as much as time permits. Tell them to develop a profound respect for host nation differences.

    When practiced on a broad scale, that will make a world of difference. It is my opinion that "the surge" in troops is not what necessarily worked in Iraq, but rather these tactics (the tactics of David Petraeus) caused the Iraqi people to invest in their own future because they finally found someone who cared.

    And whenever you get a chance, vote for people like Ron Paul, so that our foreign policy matches the American message of freedom (and not imperial domination).


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