From Democracy Now, we learn more about the connection between Saudi Arabia and 9/11. Why wasn’t this information widely available 10 years ago?
According to recent news reports, a wealthy young Saudi couple fled their home in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, just a week or so before 9/11, leaving behind three cars and nearly all of their possessions. The FBI was tipped off about the couple but never passed the information on to the September 11 Commission, even though phone records showed the couple had ties to Mohamed Atta and at least 10 other al-Qaeda suspects.
Former Senator Bob Graham described the news as, quote, “the most important thing about 9/11 to surface in the last seven or eight years.” Graham said, “The key umbrella question is: What was the full extent of Saudi involvement prior to 9/11 and why did the U.S. administration cover this up?”
Comparisons of the disaster of 9/11 to Pearl Harbor break down in the aftermath. What I remember is getting a phone call from my wife to turn on the news, any news, and then seeing the images on CNN. I then called several people, including some on the west coast, early as it was.
It was a binding experience.
Then the silence of the skies for next few days. All planes grounded. We don’t pay attention to all that background noise until it disappears.
And I remember wanting to strike back.
But at who?
I am not a reflex pacifist. I do not believe in turning the other cheek as an automatic gesture. The world, in the aggregate, does not yield to such gestures until much blood is spent, and disgust comes to the aid of the peaceful intent. Strike at me, hurt my family and friends, threaten my home, I have no compunction about the use of violence.
But not thoughtless lashing out, flailing, blind retaliation. That does less good than the habitual use of peaceful surrender. If we were to find these people, we needed to be smart about it, and move carefully. When caught, punishment must be determined accordingly.
That was not to be. I watched our so-called leaders turn this event into a justification for major abuse globally. The sympathy we had from the entire world evaporated as the United States began stomping around acting like a pissed off child whose lunch money had been taken by a bully. But we were not small and weak, so embracing the automatic response of schoolyard tactics resulted in calamity. I was horrified by the unfolding nightmare of the Bush years, all done supposedly in my name as a citizen.
The Associated Press is reporting that there is a new curriculum debuting in 7 states this year with the goal of teaching middle-school and high-school students about the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Developed by the September 11th Education Trust, the curriculum will focus on 7 areas “designed to help students reflect on the impact and legacy of September 11, 2001″. Sample units include:
- Understanding 9/11 as history
- Debating the government’s role during disasters
- Discussing the nature of heroism
- Evaluating foreign policy vis-à-vis national security
The Associated Press quotes former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani:
“This is one of the critical subjects on which young people should develop some ideas and thoughts. They’re going to have to live with this for quite some time,” he said. “It gives young people a framework in which to think about Sept. 11, all that it meant and all that it means to the present.”
I’m not quite sure what he means when he says that “They’re going to have to live with this for quite some time.” Does he mean the threat of terrorism? Does he mean the consequences of our reaction to 9/11?
According to Sharon Begley’s article at Newsweek, “Lies of Mass Destruction,” people are susceptible to upside down reasoning. She cites a large team of researchers who studied the people who believe the lie that Saddam Hussein caused 9/11. The researchers concluded that these believers believed that lie because the U.S. invaded Iraq. They refer to this upside-down process as “inferred justification.” Begley sums it up:
Inferred justification is a sort of backward chain of reasoning. You start with something you believe strongly (the invasion of Iraq was the right move) and work backward to find support for it (Saddam was behind 9/11). “For these voters,” says Hoffman, “the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.”
The researchers published their findings in a paper entitled “There Must Be a Reason”: Osama, Saddam, and Inferred
Justification.” Here’s an excerpt from Sociological Inquiry.
The primary causal agent for misperception is not the presence or absence of correct information . . . Our explanation draws on a psychological model of information processing that scholars have labeled motivated reasoning. This model envisions respondents as processing and responding to information defensively, accepting and seeking out confirming information, while ignoring, discrediting the source of, or arguing against the
substance of contrary information. Motivated reasoning is a descendant of the social psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, which posits an unconscious impulse to relieve cognitive tension when a respondent is presented with information that contradicts preexisting beliefs or preferences. Recent literature on motivated reasoning builds on cognitive dissonance theory to explain how citizens relieve cognitive dissonance: they avoid inconsistency, ignore challenging information altogether, discredit the information source, or argue substantively against the challenge. The process of substantive counterarguing is especially consequential, as the cognitive exercise of generating counterarguments often has the ironic effect of solidifying and strengthening the original opinion leading to entrenched, OSAMA, SADDAM, AND INFERRED JUSTIFICATION polarized attitudes. This confirmation bias means that people value evidence that confirms their previously held beliefs more highly than evidence that contradicts them, regardless of the source.
In her article, Begley suggests that the current health care debate stems from the same cognitive vulnerabilities.
There are legitimate, fact-based reasons to oppose health-care reform. But some of the loudest opposition is the result of confirmatory bias, cognitive dissonance, and other examples of mental processes that have gone off the rails.
Instead of taking this day to reflect on the Inauguration and the eminent change facing us, how oh-so different everything is going to be, and every other overstated bit of hopeful drivel with which the internet is still a-buzzing, I’d like to muse on my relationship with the outgoing president. Sure, jabbing at Bush is [...]
According to this 2001 edition of The Onion, God has clarified His Commandment: “Do not kill.” Here’s an excerpt: “I don’t care how holy somebody claims to be,” God said. “If a person tells you it’s My will that they kill someone, they’re wrong. Got it? I don’t care what religion you are, or who [...]
Nor is it primarily the result of a rational choice (i.e., a systematic analysis of facts) that liberals become liberals. We’d like to believe that we adopt our political views rationally, only after careful consideration of the “facts.” That’s a pipe dream, however. Jay Dixit’s article, “The Ideological Animal,” (published by Psychology Today) demonstrates that our [...]
We all knew it, but the details are now pouring in. It’s all so very reprehensible . . . This is an excerpt from today’s Washington Post: In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid “physical labor” and wrote of the need to [...]