funny business that 9/11

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    The Observer, Sunday 27th October 2002

    The Enemy Within

    Gore Vidal is America’s most controversial writer and a ferocious, often isolated, critic of the Bush administration. Here, against a backdrop of spreading unease about America’s response to the events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath, we publish Vidal’s remarkable personal polemic urging a shocking new interpretation of who was to blame.

    On 24 August, 1814, things looked very dark for freedom's land. That was the day the British captured Washington DC and set fire to the Capitol and the White House. President Madison took refuge in the nearby Virginia woods where he waited patiently for the notoriously short attention span of the Brits to kick in, which it did. They moved on and what might have been a Day of Utter Darkness turned out to be something of a bonanza for the DC building trades and up-market realtors.

    One year after 9/11, we still don't know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose. But it is fairly plain to many civil-libertarians that 9/11 put paid not only to much of our fragile Bill of Rights but also to our once-envied system of government which had taken a mortal blow the previous year when the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5/4 time and replaced a popularly elected president with the oil and gas Cheney/Bush junta.

    Meanwhile, our more and more unaccountable government is pursuing all sorts of games around the world that we the spear carriers (formerly the people) will never learn of. Even so, we have been getting some answers to the question: why weren't we warned in advance of 9/11? Apparently, we were, repeatedly; for the better part of a year, we were told there would be unfriendly visitors to our skies some time in September 2001, but the government neither informed nor protected us despite Mayday warnings from Presidents Putin and Mubarak, from Mossad and even from elements of our own FBI. A joint panel of congressional intelligence committees reported (19 September 2002, New York Times) that as early as 1996, Pakistani terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad confessed to federal agents that he was 'learning to fly in order to crash a plane into CIA HQ'.

    Only CIA director George Tenet seemed to take the various threats seriously. In December 1998, he wrote to his deputies that 'we are at war' with Osama bin Laden. So impressed was the FBI by his warnings that by 20 September 2001, 'the FBI still had only one analyst assigned full time to al-Qaeda'.

    From a briefing prepared for Bush at the beginning of July 2001: 'We believe that OBL [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.' And so it came to pass; yet Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor, says she never suspected that this meant anything more than the kidnapping of planes.

    Happily, somewhere over the Beltway, there is Europe - recently declared anti-Semitic by the US media because most of Europe wants no war with Iraq and the junta does, for reasons we may now begin to understand thanks to European and Asian investigators with their relatively free media.

    On the subject 'How and Why America was Attacked on 11 September, 2001', the best, most balanced report, thus far, is by Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed ... Yes, yes, I know he is one of Them. But they often know things that we don't - particularly about what we are up to. A political scientist, Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development 'a think-tank dedicated to the promotion of human rights, justice and peace' in Brighton. His book, 'The War on Freedom', has just been published in the US by a small but reputable publisher.

    Ashmed provides a background for our ongoing war against Afghanistan, a view that in no way coincides with what the administration has told us. He has drawn on many sources, most tellingly on American whistleblowers who are beginning to come forth and hear witness - like those FBI agents who warned their supervisors that al-Qaeda was planning a kamikaze strike against New York and Washington only to be told that if they went public with these warnings they would suffer under the National Security Act. Several of these agents have engaged David P. Schippers, chief investigative counsel for the US House Judiciary Committee, to represent them in court. The majestic Schippers managed the successful impeachment of President Clinton in the House of Representatives. He may, if the Iraqi war should go wrong, be obliged to perform the same high service for Bush, who allowed the American people to go unwarned about an imminent attack upon two of our cities as pre-emption of a planned military strike by the US against the Taliban.

    The Guardian (26 September 2001) reported that in July 2001, a group of interested parties met in a Berlin hotel to listen to a former State Department official, Lee Coldren, as he passed on a message from the Bush administration that 'the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action ... the chilling quality of this private warning was that it came - according to one of those present, the Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik - accompanied by specific details of how Bush would succeed ...' Four days earlier, the Guardian had reported that 'Osama bin Laden and the Taliban received threats of possible American military action against them two months before the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington ... [which] raises the possibility that bin Laden was launching a pre-emptive strike in response to what he saw as US threats.' A replay of the 'day of infamy' in the Pacific 62 years earlier?

    Why the US needed a Eurasian adventure

    On 9 September 2001, Bush was presented with a draft of a national security presidential directive outlining a global campaign of military, diplomatic and intelligence action targeting al-Qaeda, buttressed by the threat of war. According to NBC News: 'President Bush was expected to sign detailed plans for a worldwide war against al-Qaeda ... but did not have the chance before the terrorist attacks ... The directive, as described to NBC News, was essentially the same war plan as the one put into action after 11 September. The administration most likely was able to respond so quickly ... because it simply had to pull the plans "off the shelf".'

    Finally, BBC News, 18 September 2001: 'Niak Naik, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials in mid-July that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October. It was Naik's view that Washington would not drop its war for Afghanistan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban.'

    Was Afghanistan then turned to rubble in order to avenge the 3,000 Americans slaughtered by Osama? Hardly. The administration is convinced that Americans are so simple-minded that they can deal with no scenario more complex than the venerable lone, crazed killer (this time with zombie helpers) who does evil just for the fun of it 'cause he hates us, 'cause we're rich 'n free 'n he's not. Osama was chosen on aesthetic grounds to be the most frightening logo for our long contemplated invasion and conquest of Afghanistan, planning for which had been 'contingency' some years before 9/11 and, again, from 20 December, 2000, when Clinton's out-going team devised a plan to strike at al-Qaeda in retaliation for the assault on the warship Cole. Clinton's National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, personally briefed his successor on the plan but Rice, still very much in her role as director of Chevron-Texaco, with special duties regarding Pakistan and Uzbekistan, now denies any such briefing. A year and a half later (12 August, 2002), fearless Time magazine reported this odd memory lapse.

    Osama, if it was he and not a nation, simply provided the necessary shock to put in train a war of conquest. But conquest of what? What is there in dismal dry sandy Afghanistan worth conquering? Zbigniew Brzezinski tells us exactly what in a 1997 Council on Foreign Relations study called 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives'.

    The Polish-born Brzezinski was the hawkish National Security Advisor to President Carter. In 'The Grand Chessboard', Brzezinski gives a little history lesson. 'Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some 500 years ago, Eurasia has been the centre of world power.' Eurasia is all the territory east of Germany. This means Russia, the Middle East, China and parts of India. Brzezinski acknowledges that Russia and China, bordering oil-rich central Asia, are the two main powers threatening US hegemony in that area.

    He takes it for granted that the US must exert control over the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, known to those who love them as 'the Stans': Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan and Kyrgyzstan all 'of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and most powerful neighbours - Russia, Turkey and Iran, with China signaling'. Brzezinski notes how the world's energy consumption keeps increasing; hence, who controls Caspian oil/gas will control the world economy. Brzezinski then, reflexively, goes into the standard American rationalization for empire;. We want nothing, ever, for ourselves, only to keep bad people from getting good things with which to hurt good people. 'It follows that America's primary interest is to help ensure that no single [other] power comes to control the geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it.'

    Brzezinski is quite aware that American leaders are wonderfully ignorant of history and geography so he really lays it on, stopping just short of invoking politically incorrect 'manifest destiny'. He reminds the Council just how big Eurasia is. Seventy-five percent of the world's population is Eurasian. If I have done the sums right, that means that we've only got control, to date, of a mere 25 percent of the world's folks. More! 'Eurasia accounts for 60-per cent of the world's GNP and three-fourths of the world's known energy resources.'

    Brzezinski's master plan for 'our' globe has obviously been accepted by the Cheney-Bush junta. Corporate America, long over-excited by Eurasian mineral wealth, has been aboard from the beginning.

    Ahmed sums up: 'Brzezinski clearly envisaged that the establishment, consolidation and expansion of US military hegemony over Eurasia through Central Asia would require the unprecedented, open-ended militarisation of foreign policy, coupled with an unprecedented manufacture of domestic support and consensus on this militarisation campaign.'

    Afghanistan is the gateway to all these riches. Will we fight to seize them? It should never be forgotten that the American people did not want to fight in either of the twentieth century's world wars, but President Wilson maneuvered us into the First while President Roosevelt maneuvered the Japanese into striking the first blow at Pearl Harbor, causing us to enter the Second as the result of a massive external attack. Brzezinski understands all this and, in 1997, he is thinking ahead - as well as backward. 'Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.' Thus was the symbolic gun produced that belched black smoke over Manhattan and the Pentagon.

    Since the Iran-Iraq wars, Islam has been demonized as a Satanic terrorist cult that encourages suicide attacks - contrary, it should be noted, to the Islamic religion. Osama has been portrayed, accurately, it would seem, as an Islamic zealot. In order to bring this evil-doer to justice ('dead or alive'), Afghanistan, the object of the exercise was made safe not only for democracy but for Union Oil of California whose proposed pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean port of Karachi, had been abandoned under the Taliban's chaotic regime. Currently, the pipeline is a go-project thanks to the junta's installation of a Unocal employee (John J Maresca) as US envoy to the newly born democracy whose president, Hamid Karzai, is also, according to Le Monde, a former employee of a Unocal subsidiary. Conspiracy? Coincidence!

    Once Afghanistan looked to be within the fold, the junta, which had managed to pull off a complex diplomatic-military caper, - abruptly replaced Osama, the personification of evil, with Saddam. This has been hard to explain since there is nothing to connect Iraq with 9/11. Happily, 'evidence' is now being invented. But it is uphill work, not helped by stories in the press about the vast oil wealth of Iraq which must - for the sake of the free world - be reassigned to US and European consortiums.

    As Brzezinski foretold, 'a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat' made it possible for the President to dance a war dance before Congress. 'A long war!' he shouted with glee. Then he named an incoherent Axis of Evil to be fought. Although Congress did not give him the FDR Special - a declaration of war - he did get permission to go after Osama who may now be skulking in Iraq.

    Bush and the dog that did not bark

    Post-9/11, the American media were filled with pre-emptory denunciations of unpatriotic 'conspiracy theorists', who not only are always with us but are usually easy for the media to discredit since it is an article of faith that there are no conspiracies in American life. Yet, a year or so ago, who would have thought that most of corporate America had been conspiring with accountants to cook their books since - well, at least the bright days of Reagan and deregulation. Ironically, less than a year after the massive danger from without, we were confronted with an even greater enemy from within: Golden Calf capitalism. Transparency? One fears that greater transparency will only reveal armies of maggots at work beneath the skin of a culture that needs a bit of a lie-down in order to collect itself before taking its next giant step which is to conquer Eurasia, a potentially fatal adventure not only for our frazzled institutions but for us the presently living.

    Complicity. The behavior of President George W. Bush on 11 September certainly gives rise to all sorts of not unnatural suspicions. I can think of no other modern chief of state who would continue to pose for 'warm' pictures of himself listening to a young girl telling stories about her pet goat while hijacked planes were into three buildings.

    Constitutionally, Bush is not only chief of state, he is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Normally, a commander in such a crisis would go straight to headquarters and direct operations while receiving the latest intelligence.

    This is what Bush actually did - or did not do - according to Stan Goff, a retired US Army veteran who has taught military science and doctrine at West Point. Goff writes, in 'The So-called Evidence is a Farce': 'I have no idea why people aren't asking some very specific questions about the actions of Bush and company on the day of the attacks. Four planes get hijacked and deviate from their flight plan, all the while on FAA radar.'

    Goff, incidentally, like the other astonished military experts, cannot fathom why the government's automatic 'standard order of procedure in the event of a hijacking' was not followed. Once a plane has deviated from its flight-plan, fighter planes are sent up to find out why. That is law and does not require presidential approval, which only needs to be given if there is a decision to shoot down a plane. Goff spells it out: 'The planes were hijacked between 7:45 and 8:10am. Who is notified? This is an event already that is unprecedented. But the President is not notified and going to a Florida elementary school to hear children read.

    'By around 8:15am it should be very apparent that something is terribly wrong. The President is glad-handling teachers. By 8:45am, when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower, Bush is settling in with children for his photo op. Four planes have obviously been hijacked simultaneously and one has just dived into the twin towers, and still no one notifies the nominal Commander-in-Chief.

    'No one has apparently scrambled [sent aloft] Air Force interceptors either. At 9:03, Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower. At 9:05 Andrew Card, the Chief of Staff whispers to Bush [who] "briefly turns somber" according to reporters. Does he cancel the school visit and convene an emergency meeting? No. He resumes listening to second-graders ... and continues the banality even as American Airlines Flight 77 conducts an unscheduled point turn over Ohio and heads in the direction of Washington DC.

    'Has he instructed Card to scramble the Air Force? No. An excruciating 25 minutes later, he finally deigns to give a public statement telling the United States what they have already figured out - that there's been an attack on the World Trade Centre. There's a hijacked plane bee-lining to Washington, but has the Air Force been scrambled to defend anything yet? No.

    'At 9:35, this plane conducts another turn, 360 [degrees] over the Pentagon, all the while being tracked by radar, and the Pentagon is not evacuated, and there are still no fast-movers from the Air Force in the sky over Alexandria and DC. Now the real kicker: a pilot they want us to believe was trained at a Florida puddle-jumper school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas, conducts a well-controlled downward spiral descending the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes, brings the plane in so low and flat that it clips the electrical wires across the street from the Pentagon, and flies it with pinpoint accuracy into the side of the building at 460 knots.

    'When the theory about learning to fly this well at the puddle-jumper school began to lose ground, it was added that they received further training on a flight simulator. This is like saying you prepared your teenager for her first drive on the freeway at rush hour by buying her a video driving game ... There is a story being constructed about these events.'

    There is indeed, and the more it is added to the darker it becomes. The nonchalance of General Richard B. Myers, acting Joint Chief of Staff, is as puzzling as the President's campaigning-as-usual act. Myers was at the Capitol chatting with Senator Max Cleland. A sergeant, writing later in the AFPS (American Forces Press Service) describes Myers at the Capitol. 'While in an outer office, he said, he saw a television report that a plane had hit the World Trade Centre. "They thought it was a small plane or something like that," Myers said. So the two men went ahead with the office call.'

    Whatever Myers and Cleland had to say to each other (more funds for the military?) must have been riveting because, during their chat, the AFPS reports, 'the second tower was hit by another jet. "Nobody informed us of that," Myers said. "But when we came out, that was obvious. Then, right at that time, somebody said the Pentagon had been hit."' Finally, somebody 'thrust a cellphone in Myers' hand' and, as if by magic, the commanding general of Norad - our Airspace Command - was on the line just as the hijackers mission had been successfully completed except for the failed one in Pennsylvania. In later testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Myers said he thinks that, as of his cellphone talk with Norad, 'the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft'. It was 9:40am. One hour and 20 minutes after air controllers knew that Flight 11 had been hijacked; 50 minutes after the North Tower was struck.

    This statement would have been quite enough in our old serious army/air force to launch a number of courts martial with an impeachment or two thrown in. First, Myers claims to be uninformed until the third strike. But the Pentagon had been overseeing the hijacked planes from at least the moment of the strike at the first tower: yet not until the third strike, at the Pentagon, was the decision made to get the fighter planes up. Finally, this one is the dog that did not bark. By law, the fighters should have been up at around 8:15. If they had, all the hijacked planes might have been diverted or shot down. I don't think that Goff is being unduly picky when he wonders who and what kept the Air Force from following its normal procedure instead of waiting an hour and 20 minutes until the damage was done and only then launching the fighters. Obviously, somebody had ordered the Air Force to make no move to intercept those hijackings until ... what?

    On 21 January 2002, the Canadian media analyst Barry Zwicker summed up on CBC-TV: 'That morning no interceptors responded in a timely fashion to the highest alert situation. This includes the Andrews squadrons which ... are 12 miles from the White House ... Whatever the explanation for the huge failure, there have been no reports, to my knowledge, of reprimands. This further weakens the "Incompetence Theory". Incompetence usually earns reprimands. This causes me to ask whether there were "stand down" orders.'?? On 29 August 2002, the BBC reports that on 9/11 there were 'only four fighters on ready status in the north-eastern US'. Conspiracy? Coincidence? Error?

    It is interesting how often in our history, when disaster strikes, incompetence is considered a better alibi than ... well, yes, there are worse things. After Pearl Harbor, Congress moved to find out why Hawaii's two military commanders, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, had not anticipated the Japanese attack. But President Roosevelt pre-empted that investigation with one of his own. Short and Kimmel were broken for incompetence. The 'truth' is still obscure to this day.
 
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