Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Secret History of 9/11

The documentary The Secret History of 9/11 details the manifold decision (and particularly bureaucratic) failures that led up to 9/11. George W. Bush’s infamous seven minutes of doing nothing in front of the Florida classroom actually makes him one of the quicker reacting decision-makers. (And he did go on to deliver a remarkable speech to Congress.)

The Clinton Administration had previously dithered and scrupled. The federal bureaucracies did not communicate well (or sometimes at all). The new Bush Administration wasn’t really interested (and was new). There was a persistent pattern of inertia. Notably, after the attack happened, regarding Iraq, which had been the Defence Dept Middle East focus for 10 years under three Administrations.

The screw-ups on the day itself can be summarised as peacetime. It was the sluggish reaction of peace-time bureaucracies. The doco makes much of crucial 10-15 minute delays, but they are what happen when folk have peace-time presumptions. Particularly given the continental US has not suffered a serious attack from foreign forces since 1812.

Oh, and the 9/11 conspiracy theories are really, really stupid. But we knew that. (Not to mention involving amazing and pervasive levels of contempt for others.) The documentary makes the post-occupation planning and other failures in Iraq, and the Katrina screw-ups, all make more sense simply from being a not-very-competent Administration. The old analytical principle of given a choice between a conspiracy and a screw-up, pick the screw-up works again.

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