In the recent writings and discussions I’ve perused regarding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, I’ve heard a lot of talk about “actionable” intelligence. Did the Obama administration have “actionable” intelligence regarding Abdulmutallab? Did the CIA, FBI or Homeland Security have “actionable” intelligence and, if they did, why didn’t they connect the dots and take action? These are legitimate questions, but not ones that we as a people or culture like to answer.
The Fox News loop was quick to blame our young president for almost not keeping us safe. Some members of the G.O.P. intelligentsia even went as far as saying that nothing like this ever happened under the Bush Administration because Bush kept us safe.
“Kept us safe” is a popular Neocon talking point but, of course, it’s a bald-face lie. 9/11 occurred on President Bush’s watch and it’s an established fact that his administration had “actionable” intelligence pointing to a possible 9/11-type strike but didn’t act. Especially in any way that might have averted the attack.
It’s also fairly established that we didn’t have serious, “actionable” intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq. But, in that case, we did act.
I’m not writing here to rub anybody’s face in it. I just think the American people deserve a little honesty. They also deserve some blame.
We are surrounded by “actionable” intelligence everyday. We just don’t do anything about it. It’s too complicated or inconvenient. It might require us to think for ourselves. It’s easier to just parrot the pundits that reinforce views we’re already comfortable with.
For example, it’s abundantly clear that our healthcare system is on pace to bankrupt us. But one political party and the powers behind it are bent on blocking reform and fomenting doubt about the problem. It’s easier to tune in to Rush Limbaugh and hear the “actionable” intelligence undermined than have to act on it.
For another example, it’s abundantly clear that human beings are having a detrimental effect on the planet and their own ecosystem. But one political party and the powers behind it are bent on blocking environmental legislation and—you guessed it—fomenting doubts about the problem. It’s easier to turn the channel to Fox News and, again, watch the “actionable” intelligence be undermined than have to act on it.
There is clearly an abundance of good, “actionable” intelligence out there, but acting on it is simply not our strong suit. We see it or hear it and simply ignore it. It interferes with our plans. It complicates our goals and values. It makes going along to get along wrong and immoral–but going along to get along is how we get by in this world. It’s how we pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads. It’s tried and true, and besides, the path of least resistance is paved with glory and gold.
Where would the world be if the Bush Administration had acted on “actionable” intelligence and foiled 9/11? Without a fierce new fire and brimstone adversary to replace the Soviet Union, the American military-industrial complex would probably be in its final death throes. America would still have been a dwindling superpower, but at least with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan we could remain the most dangerous country on the planet. And with our domestic industries being shipped overseas and the middle class dead or dying, at least we still have war to make. And sell.
Blackwater (now called Xe) now retains the world’s largest stable of mercenary killers and they’ll deliver or dispose of the goods above or beyond the law. Halliburton (aka Warmart) is now the planet’s most profitable big box carnage shop and, if you’ve got a populace to pacify or foes to eliminate, they’ll provide the infrastructure and guns… and for a limited time only they’ll throw the body bags in for FREE!
The world isn’t any safer, but the danger gives us an excuse for keeping our war machine revved up and stoking our brawn and bluster.
Without the War on Terror we surely would have faced a great depression. Or an identity crisis. Maybe even a psychotic break.
All we have to do now is find a way to keep the War on Terror going… at least until we can come up with another enemy. And then we don’t have to change anything.
The Stars and Stripes brand may lose its market value and eventually wind up in the dustbin of empires, but at least we’ll fade with our boots on and our depravity intact.