A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
August 21, 2002
An Alternate Universe
by Maureen Farrell
Sometime between last fall and Christmas, scientists discovered an alternative universe. This wasn't confirmed nor publicized, mind you, but they're bound to announce it soon. Unless, of course, like Dick Cheney's energy task force meetings or President Bush's SEC files, it's being kept secret as matter of national security.
But no matter. Because anyone who's been paying attention hasn't missed the evidence that's been mounting steadily since last September. From the moment authorities discovered Mohamed Atta's "Terrorism for Dummies" manual and we learned about 72 virgins, Evil Doers' grooming tips, and how terrorists' passports (unlike black boxes) survive fiery crashes into buildings, things have become increasingly surreal.
If an alternative universe didn't exist, you see, jets would have been scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base, and, in the time it takes to say, "Payne Stewart," innocent lives would have been saved. The president wouldn't have fooled anyone with his "they hate us for our freedoms," schtick and Americans of all political stripes would have asked, "Why don't they go after Canada, then, eh?"
And how else could we explain Condoleezza Rice's insistence, that, despite warnings from French intelligence, G-8 Summit organizers and Tom Clancey novels, nobody could have predicted that terrorists would fly airplanes into skyscrapers? Because, in the alternative universe, on that very same day, CIA honcho John Fulton was conducting simulations of planes doing just that. As literature from this year's September 6th Chicago-based homeland security conference confirms: "On the morning of September 11th 2001, Fulton and his team at the CIA were running a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building."
Of course, that's not the only strange incident that occurred that day. At the moment the first plane struck the first tower, bin Laden family members were meeting with members of the Carlyle group, the nation's fifth largest defense contractor, which includes the president's father as a board member. Equally surreal was the New York Times' account of Congressman Porter Goss (R-FL) and Senator Bob Graham's (D-FL) September 11 breakfast with the head of Pakistani intelligence, who reportedly ordered that $100,000 be wired to Atta days before the attacks. Goss and Graham, you might recall, are co-chairs of the congressional committee investigating the attacks on New York and DC.
If that's not enough to convince you that weirdness prevails, consider this: if a post-9/11 parallel universe hadn't emerged, America would not be discussing first-strike nuclear policies or preemptive strikes against Iraq. Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, and Chuck Hagel wouldn't have suddenly and ironically become our nation's most vocal doves and G.W. would understand that declarations of war are Congress' department, not his. Cries of "Saddam gassed his own people!" wouldn't be shouted ad nauseam, while Bush #41's role as Hussein's silent ally during that gassing wouldn't remain largely ignored. And if not for this brave new world, civil rights commissioner Peter Kirsanow wouldn't be openly anticipating suspension of civil rights, while America's attorney general would cringe at the thought of concentration camps for anyone.
In our former reality, lessons from Vietnam were firmly ingrained. States hadn't yet linked driver's license applications to selective service registration, and the Universal Military Training and Service Act, which would require young men to report for 6-12 months of military training, education and indoctrination, had not been introduced in the House. Likewise, homeland security camps, like the one held for troubled teens over the summer, were more likely to be found in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch than in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And hypothetical dilemmas posed at the camp would be more parody than preparation. "If I have 40 acres of forest," one problem began, "how many search dogs will I need to find a fugitive?" If we weren't living in an alternative universe, you'd think I was making that up.
Then too, Frank J. Gaffney's nationally televised diatribes wouldn't be so glaringly at odds with foreign press reports regarding America's reputation worldwide. Wedding party bombings notwithstanding, Gaffney's claims that the citizens of Afghanistan are grateful for their American-sponsored liberation doesn't gel with Irish and American-made documentaries about U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. And, if anything, newspaper reports of "cruel Americans" storming into homes and filming naked Afghan women, whose clothing was burned off during bombings, reveal, at the very least, an alternative truth.
And how, but for a separate reality, could we ever explain the media hype surrounding missing children -- despite FBI statistics that show that kidnappings are not on the rise? How else could a mother from Texas, whose infant was stolen the day before, warrant a nationally televised press conference -- especially when she doesn't speak English and her baby was returned unharmed? And in what kind of world do newspapers run front page stories on why parents should consider having their children implanted with microchips -- as our global satellite positioning system baby-sits America's most branded?
"We have [global positioning system] units for our cars," Applied Digital spokesperson Matthew Cossolo told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If your car is stolen, we can locate it. Do we love our cars more than our children?" Translation: Have your kids "chipped" or you're a horrible person.
When the media reminds us, day in and day out, of how vulnerable our children are, we can overlook the Orwellian implications and understand why some people are clamoring for this device. In this alternative universe, however, we can also understand the implications of treating children like cattle, and why the Armageddon-minded view this chip as "the mark of the beast."
"Face it," wrote Garrison Keiller in Time, "a nation that maintains a 72% approval rating on George W. Bush is a nation with a very loose grip on reality." No kidding. These days, however, it's hard to know what's real and what's not -- including approval ratings, which seem grossly over-inflated. But then again, before 9/11, could we have imagined a futuristic world where governmentally-monitored biochipped children participate in mandatory military training? Or where state-sponsored concentration camps were anything other than History's horror stories?
In his book, "They Thought They Were Free," Milton Mayor chronicled the thoughts and experiences of citizens in Nazi Germany and offered a glimpse of how the German people could have allowed the Third Reich to thrive. As one unnamed scholar reported:
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. . . .Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."
Perhaps the Germans lived in an alternative universe, too.
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