After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential.
The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters — with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 — that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax — sent directly into the heart of the country’s elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets — that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.
So that is what made everybody concerned? The twisted reasoning that could assert that after 9/11 we in any way could think something like that couldn’t happen again, sans those letters, is pretty breathtaking. Once those letters were delivered however, it suddenly occurred to the American people that it might happen again? What kind of parallel universe is he living in? Oh, and if you couldn’t tell, this is the Sock Puppet talking.
So what could lead to someone having such a bizarre view?
Go ahead and read the rest of the piece. It is paranoid, stringing together innuendo, and a lack of facts, as evidence of some possible conspiracy, with our government behind the anthrax attacks…or something. The fact is though, that sometimes paranoids are correct. I would sure like for ABC News to tell who leaked the story that was used to implicate Iraq. Maybe our government, or parts of it, were behind them. Though of course, the motive for doing so only really fits if the anthrax events were of the great importance the talking sock thinks it is. Still, it would certainly be a huge story, and it would be regardless of its “consequential” nature.
So I don’t begrudge him going after the story, though it is ironic that in his search for the Bush terrorist he is using the same kind of reasoning the administration used in Iraq. Luckily for Bush, I don’t think Greenwald has any actual tanks to rumble across the White House lawn looking for evidence.
So what psychological need does this event fill for our conspiracy theorist? It is an interesting case study.
We should his evidence that it was of critical importance, so much so that:
it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era.
Not possible??? Could that be hyperbole?
No, the threadbare one doesn’t think anything he says is hyperbole. His evidence is a few stories and implied connections. Of course, we could find any number of stories to string together in a column to make them seem more significant than they are. It is a common feature of paranoid conspiracy theorists, from the truthers, John Birchers, the people pushing the stories that CIA started the Crack and AIDS epidemics to attack the black community (taking in many journalists) etc.
But again why?
In his world the state of fear post 9/11 needs to be manufactured. The fear was unreasonable in his mind post 9/11. The only reason the country was filled with fear was because that fear was created by evil forces. More than that, he needs it to be true because the Bush administration has to have made it out of whole cloth for his extreme fantasies to be true.
It is of course ridiculous that the fear needed to be manufactured, that it needed the anthrax scare, something that was a big story, but one of many, and far from the most talked about reasons to fear terrorism. However, as noted above he felt:
9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event.
it could have? I certainly seem to remember plenty of fear before the anthrax attacks. Nor was it a one off attack. There were a string of attacks, starting with the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993:
Feb. 26, 1993: A massive bomb explodes in a garage below the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in the blast. Analysts cite some links to al-Qaida in the attack, though Osama bin Laden disavowed any connection.
June 25, 1996: A powerful truck bomb explodes outside a U.S. military housing complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and wounding several hundred people.
Aug. 7, 1998: Two bombs explode within minutes of each other near the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The blasts kill 264 people.
Oct. 12, 2000: Seventeen American sailors are killed and 39 wounded by a bomb aboard a small boat that targets the the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer refueling in Aden, Yemen.
Nor was that fear kept alive by mere fear mongering:
Sept. 11, 2001: Hijackers commandeer four commercial jetliners, crashing two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon outside Washington. The fourth airliner crashes in a field in Pennsylvania. Some 3,000 people die in the attacks.
April 11, 2002: A truck carrying natural gas explodes outside a Tunisian synagogue, killing 19 people.
Oct. 12, 2002: A bomb explodes in a resort area on the Indonesian island of Bali, setting off fires and explosions that destroyed two nightclubs. More than 200 people are killed, most of them foreign tourists.
Nov. 28, 2002: Terrorists stage coordinated attacks on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, Kenya. Three suicide bombers crash an explosives-laden sport utility vehicle into an Israeli-owned hotel, killing themselves as well as 10 Kenyans and three Israeli tourists, and wounding dozens of others.
May 16, 2003: Thirty-three people are killed and about 100 others injured in five nearly simultaneous suicide bombing attacks in Casablanca. Twelve of the 14 bombers, all of whom were Moroccan, also die in the attacks.
Nov. 15 & 20, 2003: Car bombs explode within minutes of each other at two Jewish synagogues in Istanbul Nov. 15. A second pair of bombings five days later strike the British consulate and the offices of the London-based HSBC bank in Istanbul. The four bombings kill 58 people and wound about 750.
March 11, 2004: Ten bombs explode within minutes of each other on four crowded commuter trains in the center of Madrid, killing 190 people and wounding more than 1,400.
Of course, then there was the attack on London, which happened as I was going to Kings Cross station to begin my honeymoon. Needless to say we had to change our plans. Not so bad for us, we went to Brighton instead. The dead and their families in London I am sure were less sanguine.
Nor is that all, since these are only major attacks. Many, many other attacks occurred around the world, both before and after. Throw in all kinds of evidence of Saddam’s ill intent (even if you feel it was neutered by then.)
So, obviously, without those anthrax scares the public would have just figured, “They got lucky, no real worry. An isolated event.” Right?
Yeah, well it is absurd. Seen in context the idea that the anthrax scares in particular were the key event is patently ridiculous, no matter that you can find a quote from Richard Cohen that makes it sound as if it was for him (though I doubt he really holds that view. If so, then he is a fool.)
Given all that, why the administration, or anyone else, would feel the need to fake this attack for policy reasons is awfully strange. Whether you feel the administrations rhetoric after the war was cynical manipulation, an overreaction or well founded fear doesn’t really change that they hardly needed to manufacture concern, it was palpable and had plenty of things to work with. If they were behind it, then it was certainly overkill and close to irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Governments have done stupider things though, so who knows?
Like listening to John Birchers amass their “evidence” against the trilateral commission, we see the paranoid mind can’t accept the possibility the support the American people gave the administration, and the fear they expressed, had any real basis. That reduces the rationale for all kinds of connected conspiracies, including the administration pursuing its policies out of well grounded fear (if arguably misguided) rather than from what can only be described, in Greenwald’s world, as evil. So we need an event that was totally unconnected with Islamic, or Middle Eastern, terrorism to have been of critical, world altering importance. All the better if it was a manufactured event itself!
Only a special few, according to the paranoid mindset, can see the truth. The rest of us are brainwashed by a manipulative government whose tentacles are highly coordinated (an odd notion to me) and the pieces fit together for the person who can string together the “facts” and suppositions (and there is only one possible reason why people act in the way they do) and tease out the “truth.” Great fun when you are watching the X-Files, and hilarious in Men Who Wear Black. Less compelling for those willing to point out that each “fact” may not be true, is a rumor, a coincidence, is possibly a lie or action for rather pedestrian and shallow reasons or is a simple difference of opinion on what is wise and expresses no deeper meaning. That exclusive hold on the truth however is something the paranoid mind is deeply invested in, and just enough of what they believe or predict proves out to keep them convinced that they do possess the larger truth.
The problem is, that whether the event was manufactured or not, it just didn’t carry that kind of weight. The American people supported the Patriot Act, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for reasons which Greenwald may not feel were sufficient or were manipulated by the administration (though given the circumstances it hardly required a genius, or a need) but because of real terrorism and fear of it. That just isn’t evil or conspiratorial enough for the paranoid mind. So he needs the critical event to have been a sham. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. The real story, when it comes to understanding Greenwald and the paranoid mind, is not the story’s validity, but the paranoid need for it to have been so important.
Update: AC McCloud asks some intelligent questions about the underlying story, and takes a look at Richard Cohen’s place in this:
The right might be on ignore mode, but the left is going apoplectic on this story, insinuating Ivins was killed to cover some Bush inside job. No doubt Waxman will soon be involved as well. Their main smoking gun is a story from liberal Richard Cohen of the WaPo who claims somebody instructed him to use Cipro right after 9/11 and before the letter attacks occurred. Good. grief.
As if there was no previous history with anthrax and toxic agents. Do they not remember Defense Sec William Cohen holding that bag of sugar? Or heck, the reason we bombed al-Shifa? Do they not remember our troops being vaccinated during the Clinton years? Are they oblivious to the top-level “mad scientist” we just killed, associated with al Qaeda’s fledgling bio program? Apparently in their BDS that answer is yes. As a result their smoking gun is more like a novelty cigarette lighter.
I did a technorati search on the puppetmasters post and there are hundreds of posts in left land. The reaction to the story either ignores how nuts the underlying view of the attack is, says it didn’t drive them personally and moves on or, most commonly, just accepts hook line and sinker that this was the pivotal story of the time. Groupthink and paranoia are riding high.
Update II: The Belmont Club takes a look at the story as well. He brings up the parts of the narrative that don’t quite fit the neat little story that the Greenwald wants to set up. The threads are looking a bit bare on his narrative.
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