Review: The Road to 9/11 by Peter Dale Scott

{I wrote this review to appeal to a mainsteam audience and sneak past the gatekeepers. A fresh copy can be found on MyDD -- feel free to rate and add comments. I posted it on Daily Kos as well, a few days ago, with a special paragraph just to diffuse any attempts at censorship. Alas, due to some technical issues, I think it didn't get read much.}

I was able to get an advance copy of Peter Dale Scott's new book The Road to 9/11 from its publisher (University of California Press) so I thought I would share my review of it here. It will be available in your local bookstores this month, perhaps on the 11th itself.

This book, though it has 9/11 in the title, is about much, much more than 9/11. The title, I think, is a bit misleading. It might be more accurate to call it The Road THROUGH 9/11 since it's really about how 9/11 was used by certain neocon gentlemen - including a Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld - to get to where we are today. There are plenty of books one can read about the right-wing cabals that we are fighting against, such as David Brock's recent Blinded by the Right which describes his journey through the networks of the right-wing cultural wars, and Bill Moyer's 1988 Book The Secret Government (adapted from his PBS Special). But this book goes deeper, back through several decades and administrations, to examine this "deep" history of our government's leaders and their tendency to operate behind the scenes.

This book starts by taking us back to the beginnings of the modern-day structure of power and wealth within government, starting around the time of the founding of the CIA in 1947. "Domination of the public state by private wealth is not a novelty in America... The novelty since World War II, however, lies in the secret growth and articulation of this top-down power within government," Scott writes in the introduction.

This book's main thread really starts in the Nixon administration, where we had our last highly corrupt, paranoid executive branch. This is where we learn about the roles played by Henry Kissenger, David Rockefeller, and the CIA. The opening chapters provide some interesting context that we will see repeated in the decades to come. Rumsfeld, Ford, Cheney What I found most interesting is the discussion of the Ford Administration - what Scott calls "The Pivotal Presidency" - which most Americans don't think of as particularly significant. But two figures came on the scene, and stayed on the scene, starting then. On November 2, 1975, as part of the "Halloween Massacre" restructure of power in the executive branch, Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense; Cheney became Ford's chief of staff.

In Chapter Five, Scott discusses the Carter administration and its many defeats, particularly by the Rockefeller Overworld, in which the Rockefellers, through public and private pressure, overruled the president on many issues, especially related to the Shah of Iran. Chapter Six goes into the Republican "October Surprise" and the role of CIA director William Casey. "To understand the road to 9/11," Scott writes," it is necessary to revisit an almost forgotten episode in U.S. political history - the Republican negotiations with Muslim fundamentalists before the 1980 election to stop Carter from successfully negotiating the return of the American hostages in Tehran." He discusses the two competing secret negotiations, actually - the Democratic efforts (Called "Carter's October Surprise" by George H.W. Bush) and the Republican countersurprise, which are as of this time still not part of the mainstream history. Scott does a convincing job in presenting the available evidence, from which the reader can draw his or her own conclusion.

If I have taken such lengths to document the October Surprise of 1980, it is because the consequences are with us to this day.... But there is a significant difference between [CIA Director] Dulles in the 1950s and Casey in 1980s. The instrument of Dulles's covert policies was CIA, which Congress, rightly or wrongly, had authorized by the National Security Act of 1947. Casey and Bush supplemented their vigorous CIA programs with other activities, often illegal, that were supported by unauthorized networks. To quote from the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: "Reagan Administration officials decided to conduct foreign policy off the books, outside of congressional funding and oversight channels."

The inner cabals and outside networks that colluded with Casey and Bush in the 1980s, first in the Republican countersurprise and then later in Iran-Contra, are still with us today. In 2003, to be sure, the war conducted against Iraq was overt and handled through the regular channels of the Pentagon. But in the planning and lobbying for that war, and in the manipulation of evidence to justify it, we see the manipulative hands of some of the same groups. We see the same pattern of informal networks permeating through and outside the bureaucracy. In some cases we see even the same names.

Chapters seven through ten are about Al Qaeda. Most informed progressives are probably vaguely aware of our government's involvement in the early days of this organization; Scott's book does an adequate job in presenting this to the lay audience. Chapter nine, which discusses Ali Abdelsaoud Mohamed, is the most interesting; it talks about how this central figure in Al Qaeda - and his relations with the US government - have been covered up as far back as 1990. "I consider the scandal of Ali Mohamed's tolerated terrorism to be symptomatic of an ongoing fundamental problem.... As has happened after past intelligence fiascoes, the U.S. intelligence agencies were strengthened as a result of the 9/11 Commission and their budgets increased. It is time to confront the reality that these agencies themselves, by their own sponsorship and protection of terrorist activities, have aggravated the greatest threats to our national security."

Chapter Eleven is perhaps the most important part of the book, discussing the Orwellian-named "Continuity of Government" (COG) planned structure. This has Rumsfeld's and Cheney's fingerprints all over it. The COG plan, according to Alfonso Chardy of the Miami Herald quoted in the book, calls for "suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to FEMA, emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declarations of martial law during a national crisis."

By the time Scott comes to 9/11 itself in chapters twelve and thirteen, the main point of the book has already been made. The author writes "I argue that although much of the 9/11 Commission Report is well researched, professional, and credible, on the matter of Cheney's orders, the report resorts to deceptive and contrived misrepresentations of the truth." I won't get into the details of this section, but considering that the author has made a convincing representation of the buildup to secrecy by certain elements of the Government in the previous eleven chapters, it is not much of a leap to entertain the notion that such activities continued during, and after, the attacks. Scott meticulously documents contradictions within the testimony given to the 9/11 commission from various sources, in a way that I haven't seen before, that really makes one wonder just what Cheney was really doing that morning, and why.

The final two chapters are past the day of 9/11; they return to the subject of COG. (Scott quotes from a Washington Post article about the actual implementation of COG and, in my "it would be funny if it weren't so frightening" category, war games against Bloggers.) Scott concludes: "If there is merit to this analysis, then we must say that the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have taken us still further in the wrong direction. As I and many others have written, a change in U.S. policies in the Middle East would do far more to reduce terrorism than consolidating the security bureaucracies in Washington." (I hope that our next President coughEdwardscough follows this advice!)

Knowledge is power, and this book will give progressives some valuable context to understand the history of the neocon structures we are fighting. So this September Eleventh on the sixth anniversary, mourn the dead of the attacks and the healthcare plights of the survivors, but then go get this book at your local independent bookstore and arm yourself with knowledge.

Cool! I have to get a

Cool! I have to get a copy!

Scott should be required reading in US schools. Here is an ecerpt "Wealth, Empire, & the Future of America"/

A "must read". Simple as that.