NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN

It's Accountability Time

By Scott Ritter

09/09/05 "AlterNet" -- -- The power and fury of Hurricane Katrina has momentarily pushed to the side the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. However, to fully understand the ramifications of Hurricane Katrina, and the failings on the part of our government to protect us from harm, we must not forget that before Katrina there was an event we were told “forever changed the world we live in.”

September 11, 2001 represented not only a dark day for New York City and its citizens, but all of America and indeed the world. In retrospect, the gravest damage inflicted by that act of terrorism wasn't the human suffering and material loss, but rather the serious assault on the very soul of the United States by those who used the horrific events of 9/11 for political purpose.

This “assault” came in the form of actions on the part of the Bush administration, a cowed Congress, and a compliant media that worked hand in glove to spin the events of September 11, 2001 into a storm of hype and fear that exploited an already traumatized people. This conditioned them to accept at face value any characterization of events, no matter how far removed from fact, as well as any remedy put forward as a solution, no matter what the cost to fundamental notions of liberty and justice as set forth by the Constitution.

From the smoke and ashes of 9/11 came legislation in the form of the so-called “Patriot Act,” which represented a frontal assault by its conservative drafters on the very Constitution that defined a United States of America worth dying for. Congress voted unanimously to enact this legislation without even bothering to read it, since to vote against the Patriot Act was to open oneself to charges of being unpatriotic.

Congress went further, legislating into existence a new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, which at its best provided Americans with a nonsensical color-coded system for mandating national levels of fear, and at its worst created the illusion not only of an ever-present terrorist threat, but also the notion that the federal government, in its role as “Big Brother,” was there to protect us from all evil.

For nearly four years America proceeded down this path of self-induced ignorance and bliss, reassured by our Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, as well as a compliant media. We were repeatedly told that a threat to our security loomed on the horizon, a threat so grave we as a people needed to cede our liberties to a benevolent federal authority that guaranteed the security of a nation we now called our “homeland.”

The newly erected Department of Homeland Security absorbed the various departments and agencies that had previously performed specialized tasks, such as border security, customs, and emergency response, under a single monolithic entity to serve as a guarantor of our collective protection.

Billions of dollars were spent in the name of “homeland security.” But under the Bush administration, homeland security really meant the domestic defense against terrorism, and even in this case the emphasis was placed on pre-emptive law enforcement (i.e., implementing the provisions of the Patriot Act) rather than actual response to an act of terror (i.e., providing aid and comfort to the victims of an attack).

Little heed was given to real threats to the collective security of our nation, such as tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes and floods, and the impact these would have on the infrastructure and integrity of the nation. These real threats were never given a color-coded system for the purpose of hyping them to the American people; they were instead pushed into the background by a White House and Congress addicted to the legislative and electoral simplicity of fear of the unknown -- terrorism.

If anything, Hurricane Katrina has stripped away the many layers of deceit, deception and misinformation that have been peddled to the American people by the White House, Congress and the mainstream media regarding the true state of our national security. With the dead still uncounted in New Orleans and the Gulf States, Americans are coming to grips with the fact that the Bush administration, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting the citizens of the United States from the true threats facing us as a nation.

For the first time in a long time, the mainstream media broke ranks with the spin doctors in Washington D.C., the all too real face of human disaster compelling them to sort fact from myth, truth from hype. Finally, when the American people turn on their television sets, they are watching and listening to reporters and commentators who seem shocked and alarmed by the callous attitude and cavalier behavior of those entrusted by the American people to lead and protect them.

With this newfound clarity of vision, the mainstream media is starting to focus not just on the appalling lack of response from the government, but also for the first time on what is transpiring in Iraq. The post-9/11 period of journalistic sleepwalking allowed the Bush administration to get away with outright fabrication of intelligence information used to create a case for war based on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that had long ago disappeared from Iraq. During this period, no one in the mainstream media had the integrity or courage to stand up and ask for any proof the Bush administration could provide to back up its unsubstantiated allegations about Iraqi WMD. More than two years have passed, and the media still refers to the WMD lie as an "intelligence failure," instead of the massive fraud it really was, and is.

It took a brave stance by a bereaved mother of a slain soldier outside the vacation home of President Bush to awaken the media to the harsh realities of the ongoing occupation of Iraq, and the absolute inadequacies of the system of government put in place by the United States. (Hopefully, reporters will soon stop speaking about the "Purple Finger Revolution" of January 2005 as reality, instead speaking of a U.S.-manipulated event that was neither free nor democratic).

As American service members continue to fight and die for a country that cannot even produce a viable constitution, perhaps the post-Katrina mainstream media will start accurately reporting on the realities of occupied Iraq with the same clarity and purpose they now grant to the coverage of the hurricane and its aftermath.

Hurricane Katrina may end up posing a great threat to the hold on power enjoyed by the Republican Party today. The 2006 mid-term elections are but a year away, and already the Republicans in Washington are scrambling to limit the political damage caused by the dual blows of Katrina and Iraq.

The American people and a newly enabled media must keep in place the very data filters that now provide so much clarity regarding the duplicity of the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, so as to prevent any bait and switch gambit that might be sprung in order to divert the attention of the nation away from the absolute requirement of electoral accountability.

At the end of the day we, the people, are in control of the people and bureaucracy we empower to govern us. The mechanism of our control is the process of free and democratic elections. No matter what the pundits and politicians say, 9/11 did not change this reality. In 2006 the American people will have the opportunity to express their will on the national stage.

Each and every one of us must ask ourselves whether are we happy with the people we have currently empowered to represent us. If the answer is no, then we must make sure that in the coming year we do everything in our power to identify those who have failed us, Republican and Democrat alike, and replace them with those who represent the will of the people, and not the will of special interests. If we fail to act, and America is once again struck by a calamity, whether it be an act of God here at home, or an act of illegitimate aggression abroad, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Scott Ritter was U.N. chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998 and author of "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of America's Intelligence Conspiracy," to be published by I.B. Tauris (London) in October 2005.    

© 2005 Independent Media Institute.

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