It seemed like a good morning to go fishing: warm (but not too hot), sunny, and calm. I launched my boat at Moutardier and proceeded to catch a few crappie. Something, however, didn’t feel right. The lake was too quiet, nearly deserted. The sky was quiet, too, and empty — not a plane or jet or contrail in sight.
As the day grew brighter, my vague sense of anxiety increased. Although the fish were biting, I quit fishing a bit earlier than usual. It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Inside my car, I turned on the radio. The broadcaster was hysterical. He sounded like Herb Morrison, who delivered a firsthand narrative of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. “Oh, the humanity!”
Repeatedly the broadcaster urged listeners to go home, take shelter, watch the news —and pray. I could barely discern any facts among his panicky histrionics.
I arrived home in less than 10 minutes. (We live 4 miles from Moutardier.) Both of the Twin Towers were down. My wife had watched on live TV the attack on the South Tower. She quickly filled me in on what had happened. We spent the rest of the day watching TV news.
Somewhere in Afghanistan, turbaned men, members of the Taliban, sat on the ground and calmly claimed responsibility for the attacks. ‘You must be stupid,’ I thought. ‘Don’t you know, we’re coming for you —’ It was only a matter of when.
On October 7, 2001, less than a month after 9/11, President George W. Bush announced that the war on Afghanistan —Operation Enduring Freedom — had begun.
“Good afternoon. On my orders the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime and Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime...Two weeks ago I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the al-Qaeda network. And return all foreign nationals including American citizens unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met, and now the Taliban will pay a price....”
The best-case scenario, as I saw it, would be the killing or capture of those responsible for 9/11, the destruction of al-Qaeda training camps and facilities, and the speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
But according to Wikipedia: “The U.S. and its allies rapidly drove the Taliban from power by December 17, 2001, and built military bases near major cities across the country. Most al-Qaeda and Taliban members were not captured, escaping to neighboring Pakistan or retreating to rural or remote mountainous regions during the Battle of Tora Bora.”
The goals in Afghanistan then became vaguer and broader. The U.S. mission became less of a police action (killing or capturing those responsible for the 9/11 attacks), and more of an attempt at nation-building — something Pres. Bush had renounced. “We’re not into nation-building,” he said. “We’re into justice.”
The war in Afghanistan has dragged on for nearly two decades, making it the longest war in U.S. history. It’s cost close to $1 trillion, and more than 2,000 American soldiers have died. U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan before September 11, 2021.
After the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan was inevitable. I wish it had been more focused and short-lived, but sadly, it was not.
I will always denounce and lament the invasion of Iraq. It was unnecessary, and worse — it was justified by a lie.
Long before the 9/11 attacks, Pres. Bush and his cohorts began sharpening their knives for Iraq. In his book The Price of Loyalty, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind reveals: “On the afternoon of January 30, ten days after his inauguration...George W. Bush met with the principals of his National Security Council for the first time.
“He turned to [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice. ‘So, Condi, what are we going to talk about today? What’s on the agenda?’
“ ‘How Iraq is destabilizing the region, Mr. President,’ Rice said, in what several observers understood was a scripted exchange....”
CIA director Tenet “pulled out a long scroll, the size of an architectural blueprint, and flattened it on the table.
“It was a grainy photograph of a factory...The CIA believed the building might be ‘a plant that produces either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.’
“Soon, everyone was leaning over the photo. Tenet had a pointer. ‘Here are the railroad tracks coming in...here are the trucks lined up over here....’
“After a moment, [Secretary of the Treasury Paul] O’Neill interjected, ‘I’ve seen a lot of factories around the world that look a lot like this one. What makes us suspect that this one is producing chemical or biological agents for weapons?’
“Tenet...said there was ‘no confirming intelligence’ as to the materials being produced.”
On January 28, 2003, President George W. Bush delivered his second State of the Union Address. After praising the supposed progress in Afghanistan, he then proceeded to demonize Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Hussein was mentioned by name 19 times, sometimes in the same sentence as September 11. Bush mentioned weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, 17 times.
The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003 — less than two months after Bush’s inciteful and deceitful speech—and lasted until December 15, 2011.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,424 total deaths of military personnel (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action during the Iraq War.
In the American Political Science Association journal (10/1/2004), “When Osama Became Saddam: Origins and Consequences of the Change in America’s Public Enemy #1,” Scott L. Althaus and Devon M. Largio write: “In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden quickly became America’s leading enemy. But as the Bush administration prepared its case for war against Iraq...officials began to avoid mentioning Osama bin Laden’s name in public. At the same time, administration officials increasingly linked Saddam Hussein with the threat of terrorism in an effort to build public support for war. By the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks it appeared that this public relations effort had produced results beyond all expectations: several polls...revealed that majorities of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11.”
On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Pres. George W. Bush finally and publicly admitted that Saddam Hussein had no part in the 9/11 terror attacks. But he was unapologetic, insisting, “The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.”
Pres. George W. Bush’s lies about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs led us into a long and costly war with Iraq.
Pres. Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him led to the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Bush at least admitted his fiction. I doubt Trump will ever tell the truth.
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.