Book Review of
The Road to 9/11:
Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America
By Peter Dale Scott
University of California Press
I have always been fascinated with trying to see the more subliminal/hidden aspects of our world, so long as if they are either based in hard-nosed verified fact; or understood as speculative vision (which may possess a metaphoric validity of its own). With The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America University of California Berkeley professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott delivers the preceding. Tightly non-speculative, meticulous and insightful, Dr. Scott shines the know-glow on a rather extensive and sordid history of U.S. governmental shadow activities; predominantly partial or total cover-ups. Fortunately, in this his magnum opus, he also holds out the promise of an American redemption, so long as the festering boil of turpitude is lanced and drained in the light.
Writing with a touch of the charm of the poet that he is, Dr. Scott has been walking us through this political-historical shadow land for some time now. The Road to 9/11, which as the title indicates, provides historic origins of the terrorist strikes of September 11th 2001, builds on and extends his prior research into secret intelligence activities as presented in his two past UC Press books; Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (1993) and Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1996) (among others) by speaking both about current concerns with the Bush-Cheney administration in relations to the events on 9/11/01 and by going further backwards – scrutinizing secret American governmental activities just after the end of World War II. It vividly concentrates on Richard Nixon’s failed regime and Tricky Dick’s early forays into threatening constitutional democracy as revealed during the Watergate hearings. He then depicts and examines the activities of Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford, concentrating on his (what would later become neo-con) team of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Scott pays close attention to the Rumsfeld-Cheney collaboration under Ronald Reagan’s regime on what is known as the Continuity of Government (COG) strategy: a parallel planning structure in lieu of nuclear war which includes plans for warrantless surveillance, suspension of habeas corpus, and the arrangements for mass detention; proposals which can also be described as plans for a potential military-civilian coup. By now the narrative of shadow government - what Scott calls “deep politics” (p. 121) – has taken hold and the book begins to read like an airport page-turner; scorching the eyes with tale after tale of intrigue and deception. But the characters are real (Kissinger, Casey, Brzezinski, Carter, Reagan, the Rockefellers, bin Laden, Clinton, et al) and the events - which rotate around big oil, terrorism, drug trade, arms deals, covert financing and secret security configurations are heavily documented in the copious footnotes (which I equally read with jaw-dropping fascination). Highlighted are the adventures of multiple intelligence agencies and their involvement with terrorist organizations that they once backed and helped create, including al Qaeda. At this point Scott’s deep political analysis has a kind of Rimbaudian poetics to it, astutely avoiding moral condemnation. He is just letting the deviant facts speak for themselves.
Already there is material here for numerous Hollywood blockbuster films, but 3/4th through this dark narrative thoroughly takes off. Enter the reckless American empire of George W. Bush and his neo-con administration. With the intelligence of a scholar and the sensitivity of a poet, Scott's description puts forward here evidence that the 9/11 attacks were the zenith of long-standing, but secret, trends that menace the existence of American democracy as an open society. Additionally, he questions why the U.S. trillion dollar defense system failed to protect on 9/11. He also shows through extensive research that there has been a substantial cover-up of the events on 9/11. Here Scott specifically zooms in on suspicious statements and actions made by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld; before, during and after September 11th. He focuses our attention specifically on the Continuity of Government plan that was called into action that day, outlining Cheney’s secret communications with Rumsfeld and President Bush before or about 10 AM.
He further critically examines Philip Zelikow’s 9/11 Commission Report, showing specific examples of the report’s systematic and concerted cover-up; partly by its omissions, but also by it’s cherry picking of evidence to create impressions that are authoritatively disputed (such as the contested time of Cheney’s arrival in the crises bunker). Scott points out a consistent pattern to the cherry picking: which is to minimize Dick Cheney’s responsibility for what happened that day. He carefully dissects Cheney’s orders with respect to a plane approaching Washington, as testified to by then Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. (pp. 199 – 200) As a result, Scott asks whether Cheney on 9/11 was occupied in exploiting the attacks as a means to implement an agenda of constitutional revision which he already had in place.
Peter Dale Scott’s major contribution in this book is not merely to our larger, if darker, understanding of world and U.S. history. It is his knowledge of the contemporary importance of the Rumsfeld-Cheney Continuity of Government plans and their relevance to today’s world. Scott maintains that this understanding may be the answer to various questions concerning Dick Cheney’s hazy actions that morning. The hair-raising questions explored here, I hope I need not say, are imperative, as many see an obvious drift of the American nation towards constitutional crisis (see Naomi Wolf’s recent book The End of America, for example).
By examining only the verifiable aspects of the suspicions surrounding the catastrophe of 9/11, Peter Dale Scott shows how America's military expansion into the world under the banner of 9/11 has been the result of crucial but surreptitious arrangements made by small cliques reactive to the agendas of privileged affluence; agendas resulting in the disbursement of the communal democratic state. Irrefutably, this is an imposing and scrupulous examination of how secrecy and terror is used as political weapon when shifting public authority to an unaccountable prosperity class. As such, I could not put it down and highly recommend it.