by Muzaffar Iqbal (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 7, Rajab, 1425)
This month, the third anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001, will be marked in the US. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that there is much more to be revealed about them, MUZAFFAR IQBAL argues.
The real story of the attacks on Washington and New York on September 11, 2001, is slowly emerging, shattering the myths propagated by the Bush administration. While establishment voices in the US continue to promote the official version of events, numerous independent investigators continue to find more and more evidence that exposes the lies crafted by the neo-conservatives, with the help of CNN and other media outlets, soon after the events of that fatal day. The whole truth is still not known, but one thing is already established: the official version no longer holds together. There is something terribly wrong with the version of events that has been used by the Bush administration to launch two invasions and numerous overt and secret aggressions against Muslims throughout the world.
Certain facts are worth remembering. Shortly after the attacks, most of the US press and media hugely exaggerated the number of deaths, claiming that up to fifty thousand people may have died; the total death count was gradually reduced to less than 3,000. Pointing this out is not to belittle the dead, but to draw attention to the fact that numbers were inflated to create an atmosphere of collective fear. Over the last three years, the Bush administration has continuously used this strategy to maintain a high level of anxiety and fear in America in order to pass draconian laws at home and justify an aggressive foreign policy abroad.
It is now widely accepted that September 11 has been used as a pretext for a tiny clique in the American ruling elite to push for a vast agenda of change in and outside America that could not have been justified or implemented without some massive catalyst. The details of this agenda, laid out in a policy document published by a right-wing think-tank called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in September 2000, are well established, and so are the close links between this think-tank and senior neo-conservatives in the Bush administration. So far, this event has been used to carry out sweeping changes in American laws, considerably reducing the legal security of its citizens; it has also generated tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars for a tiny corporate elite through military and other contracts in and outside America. The questions which arise, then, are about the relationship between the events of that day and this agenda, which has already led to two invasions, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Muslims and the occupation of two Muslim countries. What are the links between those who have crafted this blueprint for a century supposed to be dominated by America and the events that have been used as an excuse and justification for implementing it?
These questions are drawing the attention of independent thinkers and investigators, and the answers are unravelling a massive and far-reaching story of deceit. It is still too early to construct a coherent and complete understanding of the real story behind September 11, but from a large number of facts brought forward by independent investigators, it can be established without doubt that the attacks did not surprise the American security and intelligence agencies; in fact, they were widely anticipated, and there is evidence to suggest that something like them was in fact desired and needed by a small group of people who had a secret agenda of world dominance.
Michael Meacher, who until June 2003 was environment minister in Tony Blair’s cabinet, has suggested various links between September 11 and the New American Century Project. In an article called ‘This War on Terrorism is Bogus’, published in the Guardian newspaper, London, on September 6, 2003, Meacher wrote: “We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bush’s younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled ‘Rebuilding America’s Defences’, was written in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power.”
Meacher points out, as numerous other independent investigators have, that the first hijacking was suspected no later than 8.20 am, that a second plane hit the Pentagon at 9:38 am, and that the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06 am. During this interval of one hour and forty-six minutes, not a single fighter plane arrived at the scene, even though the US Andrews Air Force Base is just 10 miles from Washington DC. Why was the standard FAA intercept protocol ignored on that particular day, although the US air force launched fighter aircraft on sixty-seven different occasions between September 2000 and June 2001, to chase suspicious aircraft (AP,August 13 2002)? It is a US legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are immediately sent to investigate the matter. So why were these procedures ignored on September 11? Were orders given to suspend them, and if so who gave them, on what basis and on whose authority? So far, the US government has not offered any answers to these questions.
Such details begin to make sense when viewed against the PNAC blueprint. According to this plan,America had to be willing to change its foreign policy in order to secure its perceived interests in the Middle East and elsewhere. In April 2001 the Baker Institute of Public Policy had recommended an attack on Iraq because it was “a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East”.
As for Afghanistan, independent observers have pointed out that Afghanistan became a target after the Taliban refused to accept US conditions for the construction of pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which were supposed to pass throughAfghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. US representatives are reported to have threatened the Taliban, saying: “either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs” (Inter Press Service, November 15, 2001).
Of course, oil and gas are the most basic factors behind this global aggression. This overriding consideration can be understood in the light of the prediction that by 2010 the US will be able to produce only 39 percent of its petroleum needs, compared to 57 percent in 1990. The situation inBritain is no different. By 2020, 70 percent of electricity in UK will be produced from gas; 90 percent of this gas will have to be imported. Given these forecasts and the fact that Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its oil, it is not surprising that the US and Britain have invaded Iraq so impudently, ignoring the outrage of millions of people who took part in protest marches and rallies around the world.
By any standards the events of September 11, 2001, are a crime. Every crime has a motive and one or more beneficiaries. While some motives in this case remain hidden, it is abundantly clear that the main beneficiaries are the Bush administration, the Pentagon, the CIA, FBI, Israel and theUS weapons and oil industries. It is reasonable, therefore, to ask about their involvement and/or complicity in the crime. In other words, did any of these beneficiaries of the tragic crime of September 11 play any role in its success?
The possible involvement of Israel in the making of this tragedy certainly cannot be ruled out. On the day of the attacks, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked what they 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]”. There is also the case of the five Israelis who were seen taking pictures and dancing joyfully in Liberty State Park while the twin towers of the WorldTrade Center were collapsing. Police received several calls from angry New Jersey residents who reported that middle-eastern men were videotaping the disaster with shouts of joy and mockery. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me,” said a witness. According to ABC’s 20/20 programme, when the van belonging to the cheering Israelis was stopped by the police, the driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the officers: “We are Israelis. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are your problem.” The FBI seized their equipment and developed their photographs, one of which shows Sivan Kurzberg flicking a cigarette lighter in front of the smoldering ruins in an apparently celebratory gesture.
Later Steven Gordon, the attorney for the five Israeli detainees, acknowledged that his clients’ actions on September 11 would easily have aroused suspicions. “You got a group of guys that are taking pictures, on top of a roof, of the World Trade Center. They’re speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on ‘em. One’s got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that’s a scary situation.” But Gordon insisted that his clients were just five young men who had come to America for a vacation, ended up working for a moving company, and were taking pictures of the event. The five Israelis were held at the Metropolitan Detention Center inBrooklyn, ostensibly for overstaying their tourist visas and working in the US illegally. Two weeks after their arrest, an immigration judge ordered them to be deported. But sources told ABC News that FBI and CIA officials in Washington put a hold on the case, and the five men were held in detention for more than two months. Some of them were placed in solitary confinement for 40 days, and several were given as many as seven lie-detector tests.
At least two detainees discussed their experience in America on an Israeli talk-show after their return to Israel. “The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event.” This may be so, but how did they know there would be an event to document on September 11? Of course, the mainstream US media do not ask such questions. Instead, within an hour of the events, all mainstream channels were discussing Arab and Bin Laden trails after George Tenet, the former director of the CIA, had said “you know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.”
This linking of Bin Laden with the events was then extended to include all Muslims, who were said to hate American “freedom” and “democracy”: Muslims who were “medieval” in their thoughts and actions and wanted to destroy the US because they envy its wealth and power and are still bitter about the Crusades. Usama bin Laden is generally held responsible for the attacks by a vast majority of Americans and even by some Muslims. However, he denied any involvement in a statement first aired by the BBC and subsequently ignored by most analysts. Bin Laden said: “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.”
This statement was totally ignored and the attention of the US media directed instead to a phantom called “al-Qaeda”, allegedly led by a man living in caves in Afghanistan. Ignoring all international and moral standards of justice and legality, the Bush administration acted as the prosecutor, judge and executioner, and, after the Taliban refused to hand Osama Bin Laden over to the US, they decided to bomb Afghanistan “back to stone age”. Some weeks after the invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA claimed to have discovered, lying in a cave in Afghanistan, the only shred of concrete evidence against Usama Bin Laden: a fuzzy, barely-audible amateur video tape. Since then, analysts and commentators of every hue have taken it for granted that the September 11 attacks were planned and carried out by a man living in the remote regions of Afghanistan; and a gullible American public has accepted this assumption as a fact.
The real question remains: who was really behind the crimes of September 11, 2001? Did the “government within the government” do it? Was it really the work of a well-organized and well-funded organization, or was it the work of a group of individuals especially trained to carry out the evil deed? Nothing can be ruled out. It is undeniable that the US has been in the habit of fabricating casus belli for its aggressions. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, for instance, was the result of the Wilson administration’s decision to allow passenger liners to carry arms shipments for the British-French side in World War I; when a German submarine torpedoed the ship, killing 1,200 passengers, the resulting public outrage helped to bring the US into the war. The attack onPearl Harbor in December 1941 has been repeatedly invoked in connection with 9/11; but few have noted that Japan had little option but to resort to war with the US once the US had cut off its metal and oil shipments in the summer of 1941. Likewise, in 1964, the US concocted the Gulf ofTonkin incident in order to ease the passage of a congressional resolution authorizing massive USintervention in Vietnam. The case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 is the most obvious example of the invention of excuses by the US to attack other nations; April Glaspie, the US ambassador to Baghdad, informed Saddam Hussein a month before his invasion of Kuwait that the US would stay out of his dispute with Kuwait, even as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Norman Schwarzkopf, was drawing up plans for a massive US military intervention in the Persian Gulf, aimed against Iraq. In addition to this circumstantial evidence, there are ample reasons to believe that the US tacitly encouraged an Iraqi attack in order to realize a long-desired goal of US foreign policy: the establishment of a dominant US military presence in the oil-richPersian Gulf.
It is reasonable to believe that it will take a long time and fundamental changes in the USgovernment before the whole truth about September 11, 2001, is revealed. The 9/11 Commission, whose formation Bush initially opposed and only reluctantly authorized in November 2002, has been an exercise in futility as far as the real culprits are concerned, but these public hearings have exposed scattered pieces of telling information. For instance, public statements of certain ex-Bush administration officials, such as former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill and former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, have confirmed that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Bush himself immediately seized on the tragedy to set in motion their plans for the invasion of Iraq. For them, the invasion of Afghanistan was, from the beginning, only a waystation on the road to Baghdad. The idea of a “war on terror” was not new, but after September 11 its ramifications have been global, invasive and widely accepted. Those who allowed the hijackings to take place, expecting to use them to their advantage, may not have understood what the full consequences would be. Be that as it may, one thing is beyond dispute: the least plausible explanation is the official version of the Bush administration, propounded endlessly by the American media: that 19 so-called al-Qaeda operatives entered the US, learnt to fly small aircraft at American flight schools, hijacked four commercial airplanes, and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon without any US government agency having the slightest idea what was happening.
Despite the failure of the 9/11 Commission to reveal the truth, its hearings have provided a clear indication of the self-interest and opportunism that pervade the US administration. In the course of the two days of public hearings, televised by various cable news channels, leading figures in the current Bush administration and the preceding Clinton administration gave testimony and answered questions. These included Colin Powell, the current secretary of state, and Madeleine Albright, his Democratic predecessor; Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, his deputy secretary, and William Cohen, the head of the Pentagon under Clinton; Samuel Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser (Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, refused to appear); and Richard Clarke, the top White House counter-terrorism adviser to both Clinton and Bush, who resigned shortly before the invasion of Iraq and has published a book denouncing Bush for ignoring the al-Qaeda threat before 9/11 and then using the attacks as a pretext for the invasion.
Constrained by an inadequate framework, based on the assumption that 9/11 was merely the result of failures of US intelligence, diplomacy or military policy, or some combination of all three, the Commission still witnessed numerous exchanges that clearly establish that the so-called “stand-down of security apparatus” could not have occurred without the US government’s permission at some level for the attacks to proceed. Almost everyone who appeared before the commission agreed that public opposition would have made the neo-conservatives’ proposed foreign policy programme impossible to pursue had it not been for the September 11 attacks. It is equally well proven that the Bush administration was already planning an invasion of Iraq long before September 11, and that Rumsfeld and other warmongers hoped to use Iraqi self-defense actions, such as anti-aircraft fire at US warplanes patrolling the “no-fly” zones in northern and southern Iraq, as an excuse for invasion. But this excuse proved to have little impact on public opinion; hence the need for a bigger event that could be used to generate public consent for the invasion. Clarke alluded to this need during his testimony. “You know,” he said, “unfortunately, this country takes body bags and it requires body bags sometimes to make really tough decisions about money and about governmental arrangements.”
It may take several more years but ultimately the complete truth about September 11 will emerge. When the world finds out who the real culprits are, it will probably be too late: the discovery will not help to reverse the numerous changes which have occurred in the wake of the attacks, both in the US and elsewhere.
No matter when the full truth becomes public, the attacks of September 11, 2001, have already served those who wish to see a world dominated by America. But such domination is against the flow of human history; the time of direct empires has passed. Iraq and Afghanistan will not become submissive dominions of an American Raj; in fact, they may well become the places where the US meets its match in the form of a long-drawn-out conflict that will drain America’s resources to a point of no return.