What Could Have Been

Since I’m still without the ability to post a vidblog, I’m going to resort to my Sunday Philosophy tradition. This week? Hindsight.

In the months immediately following 9/11, the first priority for everybody was recovery. The disaster was so massive that we didn’t have time to ask questions at first. Ask we did, though, and the questions were tough ones. How did this happen? How could they have pulled this off without tipping someone off? We had to have had some kind of warning–who knew what, and when did they know it? If they knew, then why wasn’t this stopped?

(Since many people, including myself, have soundly debunked the “truth movement” theories, I’m not even going to address them here.)

Today, the question remains thus: if we had some warning, why didn’t we act to stop it? I’m going to ask another question: What were we supposed to do?

Bill Clinton and some of his advisors have taken great joy in pinning the blame for inaction on the Bush administration by claiming that they warned Bush and his cabinet of the threat of Al Qaeda trying to use planes as flying bombs. That doesn’t answer the real questions, however. Everyone looking for more excuses for their long list of hating Bush 43 is happy to accept this as gold, because as we all know, Bush didn’t do anything, right? We can look back on it now and see where the warning signs were. The chatter being picked up, the suspicions of FBI agents who were told they couldn’t do anything, all of it points to inaction as the demon that led us down that path. Hindsight is 20/20, though. We can see it now. How clear was it then?

And even if it HAD been clear, what could we have legally done? According to our laws and the rights assigned in the Constitution, we weren’t legally allowed to listen to any conversations without warrants. An investigation would have had to be done. Evidence would have to prove to a judge that a warrant could be issued to listen in on the conversations. Then, any conversations picked up would have to show clearly–not subjectively, but plainly and clearly–that the men involved in the plot were planning a terrorist act. That would have to have been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt before any of them could have been arrested.

If even one of them had been arrested without clear and convincing evidence of their crime (which hadn’t even been committed yet), they would have been released within hours and the rest of the group would have been tipped off to change tactics. In order to stop them legally, the way Democrats are screaming for us to do with the combatants at Gitmo, we would have had to give them every single right each and every one of us is afforded in the Constitution. All of the precedents set for criminal trial by the Warren Court would have been applied. And I promise you, we wouldn’t have been able to do a damn thing. Deport them for their expired visas? Yeah, right. Every time a group is arrested, rounded up and deported everyone cries racism and inhumane treatment.

In order to stop 9/11, the USA PATRIOT Act would have had to be in place before they started going to flight schools. Like it or not, that is the only thing that has been able to stop terrorists now. Why? Because you can’t arrest someone for thinking of committing a crime. You can’t arrest someone for talking about it before they commit the crime, either, because legally that’s considered hearsay; talk alone would have been inadmissible in court before an actual crime had been carried out. There was little that could have been done in reality. 9/11 was brutally unfair. I wish just as much as anyone else that there had been some way to stop it. Think, however, of what would have happened if we’d tried to arrest the terrorists planning the attack before they’d done anything.

We can see what our reaction would have been by analyzing our reaction to the detainees at Gitmo. There would have been an outcry about their rights being violated, protests against the actions of FBI and CIA agents, and dramatic scenes put on by detractors of such actions depicting the “cruel and unusual” way they were being treated. Never mind that we could have learned from past incidents, such as the original bombing of the World Trade Center by members of the same Muslim terrorist cell. If you look back at it, it seems painfully clear what we could have done. It’s perfectly clear to me that it wasn’t possible.

What will we say in four years about what was going on at the beginning of Obama’s presidency today? When health care is socialized, inflation is running rampant and unchecked, and we’re drowning in tax rates, what will we say? When we realize that we could have learned about how horrible socialized health care is by looking at Canada, the UK, and Spain, what will we say? When the prisoners released from Gitmo manage to bomb us again and kill another three thousand because we weren’t willing to act the way we say we should have before 9/11, what will we say? Will we take responsibility for our actions and live with the consequences of not standing up and telling Obama and his cronies, “no, we won’t support that”? Or will we shake our heads and cast the blame on yet another scapegoat for what could have been?