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Cheney’s pre-4/19 mindset

March 6, 2007

I will be out of Internet range until Sunday. Boston seems to have interchanged January with March this year, and some downtime with pelicans, flamingos, Madame Bovary, and Lie algebras will be welcome.

Before soaring trustingly off (Jet Blue can’t be that bad, can it?), I do want to record links to a couple radio interviews with Seymour Hersh about his Redirection article. The first was with Christopher Leyden, and I link it here because I haven’t listened yet, and want to. The second was with Terry Gross, and well worth the listen.

What particularly struck me about the TG interview, definitely not present in the New Yorker article, was Sy’s assertion (paraphrasing here from memory) that, according to several people who knew Cheney well, the Veep is profoundly convinced that the moment Iran gets a few nuclear weapons, it is going to hand off a couple to Hamas, who already have cells in the USA, and they will explode them in major American cities.

That’s a crazily paranoid misreading of the Iranian government’s nature and intent; and Hamas has never historically shown any interest in attacking the US, only Israel. But it fits in with Cheney/Bush’s most central disconnect with the realities of terrorism: they are mired not only in a pre-9/11 mindset, but in a pre-4/19 mindset. For them, nothing whatsoever changed the day the towers went down, except for their sudden ability to use the terror card to get away with anything.

The lesson of September 11th is the same as the lesson of Oklahoma City on April 19: modern technology is an amplifier. It permits individuals to wreak the kind of havoc that once was the province of marauding bands of warriors; and hands to small groups the destructive powers once peculiar to nation states. And the amplifier displays ever greater gain. The day will come – within decades – when biotechnology will permit one bright high school kid to wipe out millions.

But the neocons see all events in the world as state-driven. Richard Clarke told us in Against All Enemies that he was confidently informed (IIRC by Wolfowitz) on September 12 that the previous day’s attack could not possibly have been carried out except under the aegis of a rogue government. The Administration was happy to let bin Laden slip away, because they believed it was only his connection to the “government” of Afghanistan that had made him dangerous. With the Taliban state dismantled, Al Qaeda, which the neocon cabal had never taken seriously, became the merest nuisance. Changing regimes was where the action was.

The new, unique threat comes from small, fanatical actors, who cannot be deterred because they care nothing for self preservation. In the history of the world, I know of no government that has not been deeply committed to its self preservation, and consequently subject to deterrence. With its near-suicidal refusal to grasp any of the realities America is actually facing, the Bush administration may come closest to matching that description.

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