Could 9-11 Have Been Predicted?


Mr. Divine is George W. Littlefield Professor Emeritus In American History at the University of Texas, Austin. His latest book is Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Texas A&M University Press, 2000).

This article was first published at HNN in May 2002.

For the past week, a controversy has raged over whether or not the Bush administration neglected vital warnings prior to the terrorist attacks on September 11. Two intelligence reports, an FBI memo in July pointing to the danger of Arab pilots receiving flight training in the United States, and a CIA briefing in August warning the president of the possibility that Osama Bin-Laden would try to hijack an American airliner, are at the center of the storm. Members of Congress and the media have charged that President Bush and his advisers failed to connect the dots, to use the current cliché, which would have enabled them to foil the 9-11 plot.

A similar controversy developed a half-century ago over the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor. Just as with 9-11, the American people immediately closed ranks behind the president, in this case Franklin D. Roosevelt, who quickly persuaded Congress to declare war against Japan. Soon after, however, dissenting voices began to ask why the United States had been caught by surprise. In the election-year l944 , the debate became partisan as Republicans began to insinuate that FDR had deliberately exposed the American fleet to attack in order to enter the Second World War. During the campaign, vice presidential candidate John W. Bricker accused the President of withholding facts about"the disgraceful Pearl Harbor episode," while Representative Clare Booth Luce claimed that President Roosevelt"lied us into a war because he did not have the courage to lead us into it," calling Pearl Harbor,"Mr. Roosevelt's shame." 1 Only after General George Marshall wrote privately to GOP candidate Thomas Dewey, warning that the Pearl Harbor controversy risked disclosing to the Japanese that the U.S. had broken their secret codes, did the Republicans abandon this issue.

After the war was over, a Joint Committee of Congress held extensive hearings in late 1945 and early 1946 that failed to reach consensus. The Democratic majority, while retreating from the wartime tactic of placing all the blame on General Walter Short and Admiral Husband Kimmel, the Army and Navy commanders in Hawaii, still exonerated the administration, while the Republican minority argued that responsibility extended all the way up the chain of command to the White House, but refrained from accusing FDR of deliberately arranging for the attack. Subsequently, revisionist historians such as Charles Tansill pursued the"back door to war" thesis, while the majority of scholars tended to agree with Gordon Prange, whose exhaustive book put the primary responsibility for Pearl Harbor on the Japanese.

Another historian, Roberta Wohlstetter, provided the most convincing explanation for the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor in her l962 book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. The wife of nuclear theorist Albert Wohlstetter of RAND, she shared her husband's concern over American nuclear vulnerability to a Soviet first strike in the nuclear age. Her book was thus an attempt to use the example of Pearl Harbor to assess the likelihood of a successful nuclear surprise attack on the United States.

Relying on the 39 volumes of the l945-46 congressional hearings, as well as the extensive secondary literature, Wohlstetter set out to explain what had gone wrong in l94l. The primary difficulty, she argued, was separating"signals" (intelligence data that pointed to what actually happened) from"noise" (the flood of conflicting reports and assessments that pointed toward other possible outcomes)."To understand the fact of surprise," she wrote,"it is necessary to examine the characteristics of the noise as well as the signals that after the event are clearly seen to herald the attack." (p. 3)

Wohlstetter explored the range of contingencies facing American intelligence analysts in the months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack in l94l. Several times warnings were sent to Pacific commanders referring to the likelihood of a Japanese move to the north - an invasion of the Pacific maritime provinces of the Soviet Union. Other warnings dealt with the oil-rich Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and most often, the Panama Canal, vital to American defense in the Pacific. As it turned out, the Japanese did attack the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines, as well as Hawaii, but not Siberia or Panama. But only after the attack on Pearl Harbor did the signals become clear -- only then could an investigator focus on the data pointing to the likelihood of an attack on the American fleet and dismiss information suggesting moves against the Panama Canal as"noise."

Roberta Wohlstetter's conclusions about the Pearl Harbor attack bear directly on the question of an intelligence failure on September 11, 2001. She points out the folly of 20-20 hindsight by observing that"it is much easier after the event to sort out the relevant from the irrelevant signals.""After the event," she continues,"of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling, since the disaster has occurred." (p. 387) In the case of Pearl Harbor, she contends,"there was a good deal of evidence available to support all the wrong interpretations of last-minute signals, and the interpretations appeared wrong only after the event." (p. 392)

Even more significant than her analysis of Pearl Harbor is Wohlstetter's conclusion regarding future contingencies. Concerned about the risk of a surprise nuclear attack at the height of the Cold War, she concludes that there is no sure way to anticipate and prevent such a calamity. The greatest danger, she warns, is the tendency of people"to predict that events they want to happen actually will happen." (p. 397) and to ignore the unthinkable or the highly improbable. In his introduction to her book, nuclear strategist Thomas C. Schelling reinforces this point:"There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously." (p. vii)

Wohlstetter's realistic advice, that we must learn to live with uncertainty, is as true for the continuing threat of terrorist attacks on the American homeland today as it was for the danger of a nuclear Pearl Harbor in the Cold War era. Unpleasant as it is, we have to put up with a high degree of uncertainty, suffer under vague warnings of impending terrorist acts and frequent false alarms, because we must"accept the fact that the signal picture for impending attacks is almost sure to be ambiguous." (p. 401)

Those who today are genuinely concerned about how to use intelligence data to prevent future terrorist attacks should consult Roberta Wohlstetter's enduring book. The events of 9-11 proved what Thomas Schelling argued with so much foresight in its preface:

The danger is not that we shall read the signals and indicators with too little skill; the danger is in a poverty of expectations -- a routine obsession with a few dangers that may be familiar rather than likely."

The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center make these words as relevant in 2002 as they were when written four decades ago.

1 Martin Melosi, The Shadow of Pearl Harbor (l977), p. 81; Robert A. Divine, Foreign Policy and Presidential Elections, l940-l948 (1974), p. 146.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I agree with the analysis and conclusions of the two comments above and disagree with the general drift of Divine's piece, which seems to be that "disasters happen".

While the identification of 9-11 with Pearl Harbor has been grossly overstated in the popular press, there is another historical similarity between the two not noted above: the post disaster denial.

I also read Prangle some years ago, after a visit to Pearl Harbor and as a direct result of my visit. The nature, scope and preventability of the disaster was all but lost, in the exhibits and comments of speakers at the museum, beneath a blanket of "rah, rah, hurrah for our brave boys". I see nothing wrong with periodically saluting those who sacrificed for America in past wars, but that is patently NOT the story of Pearl Harbor.

A similar blanket of denial was thrown over America, in the weeks and months following 9-11-01, by the administration and mainstream TV and radio networks: "We at war" (against box cutters ?), and "hurrah for America and our heroic firefighters" (or similar nonsense to that effect) pervaded the airwaves. To be sure, the NYC firefighters were indeed brave and dedicated and selfless and very worthy of praise, but that is patently NOT why so many of them died. They -like the sailors on the Pearl Harbor ships- died because they were victims of a set of blunders by American public officials, blunders which only began to be really be comprehensively examined years later.

It is all well and good to go on at length about historical contingency, the unpredictability of human affairs, "fog of war", etc., but ultimately it is the old two-word boy scout motto which most succinctly captures the bottom line of both 12-7-41 and 9-11-01: "Be prepared". We were anything but, on both occasions, and to persist in blatantly denying this obvious truth is neither historically valid nor is it healthy for America's future.

kenneth Keuth Bottone - 8/16/2004

I was reading your story, 9-11-2001 was predicted

In a circuit court 15th judicial circuit 87-10396 AE

Kenneth Bottone being sworn under oath in the court case
in front of 9 witnesses two court reporters one oral one written, and judge Edward Garrison. Bottone has a paranormal experience documented makes predictions of fuutre events.

Describes all the events of 9-11-2001 in May 1989.
Bottone ordered his attorneys to stop the attack and contact the proper authorities.

For the record
Kenneth Bottone

malcolm Dodd - 7/24/2004


Like most Americans, I was gripped by senses of profound shock, horror, revulsion, sadness and rage as I watched the horror of September 11, 2001, unfolding live on my television screen. Watching the mass murder of thousands of innocent people live on television was the most upsetting experience of my life. …

But not all of the eye-witnesses to the 9-11 slaughter were so saddened. On September 11, five Israeli army veterans were arrested by the FBI after several witnesses saw them “dancing”, “high-fiving” and “celebrating” as they took pictures of the World Trade Center disaster from across the river in New Jersey. …

When the photos [taken by the dancing Israelis] were developed, they revealed that the dancing Israelis were smiling in the foreground of the New York massacre. According to ABC’s 20/20 attempted whitewash of the incident, in addition to their outrageous and highly suspicious behavior, the five also has in their possession the following items: box-cutters, European passports, and $4700 in cash hidden in a sock. Why were these Israeli agents so happy about the horrible massacre unfolding before their very eyes? … Could it be that these happy Israeli army veterans were in some way linked to this monstrous attack? That’s what officials close to the investigation told the Bergen Record newspaper of New Jersey. …


… Having established [that Israelis and Jews have committed acts of terror against Americans in the past], we can now easily deduce the reason why those five dancing Israeli agents who celebrated the 9-11 attacks were so happy is because they knew that Americans would now become unconditional supporters of their “Israeli ally” and fanatical haters of Muslims and Arabs. On the day of the attacks, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu was asked what the attack would mean for US-Israeli relations. His quick reply was “It’s very good … Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel)”

The five Israelis made such a spectacle that everyone who saw them felt compelled to call the police. According to ABC’s 20/20, when the van belonging to the cheering Israelis was stopped by the police, the first word out of the driver’s (Sivan Kurzberg’s) lying mouth were: “We are Israelis. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are your problem.” The police and FBI field agents became really suspicious when they found box cutters (the same items the hijacker supposedly used), $4700 cash stuffed in a sock, and foreign passports. Police also told the Bergen Record that bomb sniffing dogs were brought to the van and that they reacted as if they had smelled explosives.

From there, the story gets even more suspicious. The Israelis worked for a Weehawken moving company known as Urban Moving Systems. An American employee of Urban Moving Systems told the Bergen Record that a majority of his co- workers were Israelis and they were all joking about the attacks. The employee, who declined to give his name, said “I was in tears. These guys were joking and that bothered me.”

A few days after the attacks, Urban Moving System’s Israeli owner, Dominick Suter, dropped his business and fled the country. He was in such a hurry to flee America that some of Urban Moving System’s customers were left with their furniture stuck in storage facilities. The five Israeli army veterans (Mossad) were held in custody for several months before being quietly released. Some of the movers had been kept in solitary confinement for 40 days.

Immediately following the attacks, the Zionist controlled media was filled with stories linking the attacks to Bin Laden. TV talking-heads and scribblers of every stripe spoon-fed a gullible American public a steady diet of the most outrageous propaganda imaginable. We were told that the reason bin Laden attacked the USA was because he hates our “freedom” and “democracy”. The Muslims were “medieval” and they wanted to destroy us because of our wealth. But Bin Laden strongly denied any role in the attacks and suggested that Zionists orchestrated the 9-11 attacks:

“I was not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States nor did I have knowledge of the attacks. There exists a government within a government within the United States. The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; to the people who want to make the present century a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity. That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks … The American system is totally in control of the Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States.”

To date, the only shred of “evidence” to be uncovered against Bin Laden was a highly suspicious, barely audible amateur video, that the Zionist dominated Pentagon just happened to find “lying around” in Afghanistan. Though there is no evidence, be it hard or circumstantial, to link the Al Qaeda “terrorist network” to these acts of terror; there is in fact a mountain of evidence, both hard and circumstantial, which suggests that the Zionists have been very busy framing Arabs for terror plots against America.


Hours after the 9-11 attacks, authorities began to find clues conveniently left for them to stumble upon. The Boston Globe reported that a copy of the Koran, instructions on how to fly a commercial airplane, and a fuel consumption calculator were found in a pair of bags meant for one of the hijacked flights that left from Logan.

Authorities also received a “tip” about a suspicious white car left behind at Boston’s Logan Airport. An Arabic-language flight training manual was found inside the car.

How fortunate for investigators that the hijackers “forgot” to take their Koran and Arab flight manuals with them! Within a few days, all “19 hijackers” were “identified” and their faces were plastered all over our television screens.

Then, like a script from a corny “B” spy movie, the officials story gets even more ridiculous. The passport of the supposed “ringleader” Mohammed Atta, somehow managed to survive the explosion, inferno, and smoldering collapse to be oh-so-conveniently “found” just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.

It is obvious that this “evidence” was planted by individuals wishing to direct the blame towards Osama bin Laden. How is it possible that Arab students who has never flown an airplane could take a simulator course and then fly jumbo jets with the skill and precision of “top-gun” pilots? It is not possible and the fact is, the true identities of the 9-11 hijackers remain a mystery. In the fays following the disclosure of the “hijackers” names and faces, no less than 7 of the Arab individuals named came forward to protest their obvious innocence.

That’s right! Seven of the nineteen “hijackers” are alive and well. They were victims of identity theft, some of whom had their passports stolen. They were interviewed by several different news organizations, including the Telegraph of England. Here’s an excerpt from David Harrison’s Telegraph story entitled:

“Revealed: The Men With Stolen Identities

“Their names were flashed around the world as suicide hijackers who carried out the attacks on America. But yesterday four innocent men told how their identities had been stolen.

“The men, all from Saudi Arabia – spoke of their shock at being mistakenly named by the FBI as suicide terrorists. None of the four was in the United States on September 11 and all are alive in their home country.

“The Telegraph obtained the first interviews with the men since they learnt that they were on the FBI’s list of hijackers who died in the crashes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“All four said they were outraged to be identified as terrorists. One has never been to America and another is a Saudi Airlines pilot who was on a training course in Tunisia at the time of the attacks. Saudi Airlines said it was considering legal action against the FBI for serious damaging its reputation and that of its pilots.”

The story of these identity thefts was also briefly reported by ABC and BBC (England). The FBI does not deny this. Nobody denies the fact because it is easily verifiable. Instead, the US media and government just ignore this inconvenient little fact and keep right on repeating the monstrous lie that the hijacker identities are known and that 15 of them were Saudis.

CNN revealed that FBI director Robert Mueller openly admitted that some of the identities of the 9-11 hijackers are in question due to identity theft. Here’s what CNN reported on September 21:

FBI Director Robert Mueller has acknowledged that some of those behind last week’s terror attacks may have stolen the identification of other people, and, according to at least one security expert, it may have been “relatively easy” based on their level of sophistication.

This opens up a whole Pandora’s box of unanswered questions. First and foremost of which is this: why would Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian “cave man”, attempting to cover his tracks, steal the identities of … fellow Saudi Arabians??? What would be the point? Why go through the trouble of stealing identities that would point back to you. Why not steal Greek identities, or Brazilian identities, or Turkish ones? A much more logical conclusion is that non-Arabs stole these identities as part of a “false flag” operation designed to point the blame at Arabs, and Saudi Arabia in particular.

What kind of a character is FBI boss Mueller? He initially admitted that false identities were involved with 9-11, but then he allows the media to keep naming these innocent, and alive, Arabs as the hijackers? Why doesn’t he correct them? …

Now I’m really going to rock your faith in the false religion of 9-11. In February of 2000, Indian intelligence officials detained 11 members of what they thought was an Al Qaeda hijacking conspiracy. It was then discovered that these 11 “Muslim preachers” were all Israeli nationals! India’s leading weekly magazine, The Week, reported:

“On January 12, Indian intelligence officials in Calcutta detained 11 foreign nationals for interrogation before they were to board a Dhaka-bound Bangladesh Biman flight. They were detained on suspicion of being hijackers. ‘But we realized they were tabliqis, so we let them go’ said an intelligence official.

“The eleven has Israeli passports but were believed to be Afghan nationals who had spent a while in Iran. Indian intelligence officials, too, were surprised by the nationality profile of the eleven. ‘They say they have been on tabligh in Indian for two months. But they are Israeli nationals from the West Bank,’ said a Central Intelligence official. He claimed that Tel Aviv ‘exerted considerable pressure’ on Delhi to secure their release. ‘It appeared that they could be working for a sensitive organization in Israel and were on a mission to Bangladesh,’ the official said.

What were these 11 Israeli nationals doing trying to impersonate Al Qaeda men? Infiltrating? Perhaps. Framing? More likely. But the important precedent to understand is this: Israeli agents were once caught red handed impersonating Muslim hijackers!

This event becomes even more mind boggling when we learn that it was Indian Intelligence that helped the US to so quickly identify the “19 hijackers”! On April 3, 2002, Express India, quoting the Press Trust of India, revealed:

“Washington, April 3: Indian intelligence agencies helped the US to identify the hijackers who carried out the deadly September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a media report said here Wednesday.”

Did you catch that? The Indian intelligence officials who were duped into mistaking Israeli agents for Al Qaeda back in 2000, were the very same clowns telling the FBI who it was that hijacked the 9-11 planes! Keep in mind that Indian intelligence has an extremely close working relationship with Israel’s Mossad because both governments hate the Muslim nation of Pakistan.

Now about Mohamed Atta … the so-called “ring leader”. There are a number of inconsistencies with that story as well. Like some of the 7 hijackers known to be still alive, Atta also had his passport stolen in 1999, (perhaps the same passport that miraculously survived the WTC explosion and collapse?), making him an easy mark for identity theft. Atta was known to all as a shy, timid and sheltered young man who was uncomfortable with women. The 5 foot 7 inch, 150 pound architecture student was such a “goody two shoes” that some of his university acquaintances in Germany refrained from drinking or cursing in front of him. How this gentle, non-political momma’s boy from a good Egyptian family suddenly transformed himself into the vodka drinking, go-go girl groping terrorist animal described by the media, has to rank as the greatest personality change since another classic work of fiction, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Atta, or someone using Atta’s identity, had enrolled in a Florida flight school in 2001 and then broke off training, making it a point to tell his instructor he was leaving for Boston, In an October 2001 interview with an ABC affiliate in Florida, flight school president Rudi Dekkers said that his course does not qualify pilots to fly jumbo jets. He also described Atta as “an asshole” Part of the reason for Dekker’s dislike for Atta stems from a highly unusual incident that occurred at the beginning of the course. Here’s the exchange between ABC producer Quentin McDermott and Dekkers:

MCDERMOTT: “Why do you say Atta was an asshole?”

DEKKERS: “Well, when Atta was here and I saw his face on several occasions in the building, then I know that they’re regular students and then I try to talk to them, it’s a kind of PR – where are you from? I tried to communicate with him. I found out from my people that he lived in Hamburg and he spoke German so one of the days that I saw him, I speak German myself, I’m a Dutch citizen, and I started in the morning telling him in German, “Good morning. How are you? How do you like the coffee? Are you happy here?”, and he looked at me with cold eyes, didn’t react at all and walked away. That was one of my first meetings I had.”

That is easily similar to the way in which Zacharias Moussaoui (the so- called “20th hijacker”) became “belligerent” when his Minnesota flight instructor tried to speak to him in French (his first language) at the beginning of that course. The Minnesota Star Tribune reported on December 21, 2001:

“Moussaoui first raised eyebrows when, during a simple introductory exchange, he said he was from France, but then didn’t seem to understand when the instructor spoke French to him. Moussaoui then became belligerent and evasive about his background, Congressman Oberstar and other sources said. In addition, he seemed inept at basic flying procedures, while seeking expensive training on an advanced commercial jet simulator.”

It truly is an amazing twist of fate that both Atta and Moussaoui had American flight instructors who spoke German and French respectively. Even the great Mossad could not have foreseen such a coincidence! The real Atta would have been able to respond to his instructor’s German small talk and the real Moussaoui would have been able to respond to his instructor’s French small talk. Atta just walked away and Moussaoui threw a fit! Neither responded because neither could. They were impostors, whose faces were probably disguised by a make up artist. Their mission was to frame the two innocent Arabs who were probably targeted by the Mossad at random.

The imposter was able to create a new Atta by using Atta’s stolen passport from 1999 – the same passport that floated safely to the ground with a few burnt edges on 9-11. These strange inconsistencies tend to give support to Mohammed Atta’s father’s claim that he spoke over the phone with his son on September 12th, the day after the attacks. Could a group of professionals have abducted and killed the real Atta in the days following the 9-11 attacks? Mossad agents, posing as “art students” were arrested after conducting some kind of operation in Hollywood, Florida, the same town that Atta stayed in! So what happened to the real Mohammed Atta? To quote his grief stricken father: “Ask Mossad!”

So who, if not the “19 Arabs” was on those planes? That’s the million dollar question! There are a number of alternative scenarios. Could some Israelis have been fanatical enough to have volunteered for such a suicide mission? Odd as that may sound at first, it is not out of the realm of possibility. The fact is, hard-core Zionist extremists have proven themselves to every bit as fanatical (and more so) than Arab extremists.

A nation which can produce thousands of bloodthirsty Zionist extremists, Irgun war criminals, Mossad terrorists who blow up occupied buildings, assassins who kill Israeli Prime Ministers in full view of policemen, and crazed killers who have conducted sickening massacres of Arab women and children, would surely be capable of recruiting a few fanatics willing to sacrifice for “the cause.” The theory becomes even more plausible when we consider that only the pilots would have needed to know that the planes were on a suicide mission. …

One has to wonder if some of [Baruch] Goldstein’s admirers were flying those planes on 9-11. There is one interesting side note here which may or may not be of any significance. One of the two Israelis who died aboard the hijacked planes was Daniel Lewin – who was aboard the first plane to crash into the Twin Towers. The Ha’aretz News Service of Israel revealed that Lewin was a one time officer in the Israeli Defense Forces Sayaret Matkal commando unit.

Peter F. Hollings - 7/21/2004

It's curious that public discourse concerning 9-11 has focused on prediction (the "intelligence failure"), while ignoring the more salient question of prevention. Prevention does not necessarily require prediction.

For many years the United States has had an air defense system designed precisely for such things as aircraft hijackings. Under standing orders the FAA would notify NORAD upon an apparent hijacking or even loss of radio contact. NORAD, in turn, would scramble interceptors that were always on stand-by. Precedures also authorized the Secretary of Defense to order a shoot-down if there was a threat to life. The first WTC impact should have been more than adequate warning of the threat to life.

It is difficult to comprehend why the interceptors failed to stop even the plane that hit the Pentagon. Given the public nature of NORAD's mission and procedures, is also difficult to understand how the hijackers assumed they would be lucky enough to avoid interception -- on all four flights.

Andrew D. Todd - 7/20/2004

At Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel and General Short could have done much more than they did, at very little expense. They could have installed barrage balloons, torpedo nets, smoke generators, revetments, etc. Their failure to do so was as much as anything an indication of their dismissive attitude to the airplane. The performance of the airplane had increased so much in the preceding ten years, that many senior officers were misinformed about its potentialities. As Gordon W. Prange observed, specific intelligence indications of Pearl Harbor were drowned out by signals generated by the much larger movement into Southeast Asia. However, Kimmel and Short knew that the Seventh Fleet was in Hawaii, for the purpose of potentially sailing west and attacking the Japanese, and they should have been bound to realize that the Japanese would not be very happy about this. It was not their job to worry about the defense of Singapore.

If one had done a systematic risk analysis of terrorism targets, using such criteria as number of people, relative importance of those people, small horizontal footprint, feasibility of attack, and difficulty of evacuation, the World Trade Center would have placed very high on the list. One could not predict the terrorists' intentions with any accuracy. As John Masters put it, "no spy succeeds in hiding under the table at the Winter Palace." However, one could reasonably have assembled a list of twenty targets, two or three in each category, ie. military, business, industrial, civil government, etc. One could then have seen whether it was feasible to reduce these targets' risk exposure, presumably at the expense of the federal government.

Furthermore, suppose that the fire marshals had ordered the firms in the World Trade Center to reduce their floor space and headcount by ten percent, and their fireload by twenty percent. The idea would have been to use the released space for additional fire safety measures, eg. large tanks of water. The order could have been complied with, without any overwhelming difficulty. Certain functions would have been shifted to the back offices in New Jersey. In fact, a considerable amount of space in the World Trade Center was already sublet at very low cost to people who had no identifiable need to be in the financial district, but who were attracted by cheap rents. The tenant firms were stuck with space they could not use, by the terms of their leases. The effect of a fire marshal's order would probably have been to give the tenants an escape clause. The whole tendency of business was to use computers to concentrate control in as few hands as possible, and either automate the remaining employees out, or turn them into either technicians or low-level clerks. In either case, these employees could be moved out into the sticks somewhere.

At this level, the World Trade Center attack was reasonably foreseeable.

Derek Charles Catsam - 7/20/2004

Wait, so it was Hull's intransigence that was the problem? Not murderous Japanese incursions into Manchuria and the Dutch East Indies? How's that? And what does this have to do with haves and have nots? The Japanese Empire were the haves when compared to the Manchurian people. We made sure to be able to strangle their war machine. They then attacked the US. They wanted war. Well, war they got.

George Wolf - 5/27/2002

Having also read AT DAWN WE SLEPT, I am surprised at the conclusions in this short article. If everybody had gotten the "War Warning" message that was sent to Admiral Kimmel and gone on a proper alert (whether in the Aleutians, Pearl Harbor, the Panama Canal or anywhere else the "noise" indicated), there would still have been a battle, maybe even a disaster, but we wouldn't have had the Pearl Harbor hearings.

As it was, Admiral Kimmel never ever let his fleet sail on Sunday and General Short (who controlled the Army Air Corps assets that were supposed to protect the fleet in harbor) didn't understand his job. General MacArthur in the Phillipines was also asleep at the switch. He got the news of Pearl Harbor and the intelligence about troop ships sailing towards him -- and his planes and ships were still caught "with their assets exposed" on the ground or in harbor.

And yet I don't blame them, exactly. Just before the events of 12/7/41 and 9/11/01, there were two very different general attitudes that could be summarised in the following imaginary statements, sentiments of the leaders. The Americans: "We are so strong, mighty, righteous, and great that nobody would be stupid enough or crazy enough to attack us." The Japanese/Al-Quaeda: "Our elite, superior warriors and our strong religious devotion will easily let us get what we want from those fat American playboys who hardly know we're here!"

The enemies didn't seem to think much would happen. The Japanese First Air Fleet sailed back to Japan and tied up at the dock. El Quaida conducted business as usual in Afghanistan.

I digress. Somebody once said that people get the government they deserve. It appears that the United States gets the military disasters it deserves. Relations with Japan stank on both sides for thirty years before Pearl Harbor. Relations with countries in the Middle East and South Asia have had a similar smell for at least as long.

Thanks for reading this,

George Wolf

Thanks for reading this.

George Wolf

Greg Gubler - 5/23/2002

The crux of the problem to the Japanese was oil and rubber.
The embargo after Japan's entry into Indo-China created an
emergency in the minds of the military which was fighting
a bitter war in China. Many Japanese, in fact, considered the
embargo an act of war and, thus, the contingency plan to break the stranglehold. Nonetheless, there were still hopes that a diplomatic settlement could avert war until Hull took a tough stance by making withdrawal from China a condition of further negotiations (in late November). This step back demonstrated the intransigience of Hull's position. The Foreign Office, which had tried mightily for a solution, lost their gamble and the military was given the green light. I realize there are two sides to every quarrel. But the tragedy is that we continue to always claim the moral high ground (as we did in the 30s)and still are not capable of dealing (outside of military damage control) with the problems of the "have-nots." In fact,
things are so politicized we cannot even control who and
what comes into our country.

Bill Harshaw - 5/23/2002

I hope at some point the chattering classes will pick up on Wohlstetter's thesis. While I yield to no one in my disdain for the Bush administration, the one thing that is almost always missed in analysis (political and then historical) is the sheer simultaneity of stuff, whether noise or signals who knows.

Tristan Traviolia - 5/22/2002

Would Mr. Gruber clarify what he means by "Hull's ultimatum" and "stubbornness"? Did not the Japanese occupation of French Indochina initiate the diplomatic crisis, and then her clear designs on the Dutch East Indies demanded an increase in diplomatic pressure. I would appreciate a fresh perspective to consider.

Greg Gubler - 5/22/2002

Certainly, this is the American side but having spent
considerable time at the Japanese Diplomatic Record
Office and with other Japanese sources, one must
see Pearl Harbor as a contingency plan that became
a reality when negotiations went nowhere. At least,
the Japan Foreign Office had hopes of a settlement
until Hull issued his ultimatum showing his stubborn
stance in late November. Then, the military got
their green light. It is said that "military
intelligence is a misnomer." Rarely is it
coordinated and read correctly. Too many experts
and not enough expertise (as usual). How many people
are able to penetrate the Al-Quada circle? Like
any secret society will to die for the cause, they
are almost impossible to stop. History continues to
show us that. Greg Gubler (History, BYU-Hawaii)