Well, it's that time of year again, when all of us who pontificate in public must offer up a comment on the momentous events of September 11, 2001. I don't have much to add beyond what I said on the subject two years ago -- or even what I said on the subject eight years ago, in a newspaper column written the day after the events, and published on September 14. Both of these pieces are excerpted below.
First, from September 11, 2007:
A commenter asked recently about my take on 9/11. In light of the anniversary ... I thought this might be a good time to set out, very briefly, what I think on the subject.This was written on September 12, 2001:
It's really quite simple and, to my mind, self-evident: the "official" story of what happened on September 11, 2001, is not a complete or accurate account. (We should of course speak of official stories, because there have been several shifting, contradictory scenarios offered by the great and the good in the six years since the attack. However, for clarity's sake, we'll stick with the singular for now, and will assume -- as the entire media and political establishment does -- that the report by the Hamilton-Kean 9/11 Commission is the final "official" version.)
To put it plainly, this official account is riddled with holes: unexplained inconsistencies, unprecedented occurrences, astounding coincidences, mysterious lacunae, and deliberate obfuscations. It is, in fact, a more improbable "conspiracy theory" than many of those suggested by the much-derided "9/11 truth movement."
What's more, the commission that was finally, grudgingly appointed to look into the attacks was obviously a whitewash from the word go. As I wrote in the Moscow Times when the panel was first formed, in January 2003:
When George W. Bush's first choice to head an "independent" probe into the Sept. 11 attacks – suspected war criminal Henry Kissinger – went down like a bad pretzel, he quickly plucked another warm body from the stagnant pool of Establishment worthies who are periodically called upon to roll out the whitewash when the big boys screw up.
Kissinger's replacement, retired New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was a "safe pair of hands," we were assured by the professional assurers in the mainstream media. The fact that he'd been out of public life for years – and that he hadn't collaborated in the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians, Chileans and East Timorese – certainly made him less controversial than his predecessor, although to be fair, Kissinger's expertise in mass murder surely would have given the panel some unique insights into the terrorist atrocity.
But now it seems that Kean might possess some unique insights of his own. Fortune Magazine reports this week that both Kean and Bush share an unusually well-placed business partner: one Khalid bin Mahfouz – a shadowy figure who looms large in the financial web that binds the Bushes, the bin Ladens and the Saudis.
Kean, like so many worthies, followed the revolving door out of public service into lucrative sweetheart deals and well-wadded sinecures on corporate boards. One of these, of course, is an oil company – pretty much a requirement for White House work these days. (Or as the sign says on the Oval Office door: "If your rigs ain't rockin', don't come a-knockin'!") Kean is a director of Amerada Hess, an oil giant married up to Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil in a venture to pump black gold in Azerbaijan. (The partnership is incorporated in a secretive offshore "tax haven," natch. You can't expect a worthy like Kean to pay taxes like some grubby wage slave.)
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Among Delta's biggest backers are close associates of the aforesaid Mahfouz, a Saudi wheeler-dealer who has helped bankroll some of most dubious players on the world scene: Abu Nidal, Manuel Noreiga, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. Mahfouz was also a front for the bin Laden family, funneling their vast wealth through American cut-outs in a bid to gain power and influence in the United States, reports Wayne Madsen of In These Times.
One of those cut-outs was Mahfouz factotum James Bath, a partner in George W.'s early oil venture, Arbusto (and a comrade in suspension from Bush's glory-less days as an AWOL National Guardsman). Bath has admitted serving as a pass-through for secret Saudi money. Years later, when Bush's maladroit business skills were about to sink another of his companies, Harken Energy, the firm was saved by a $25 million investment from a Swiss bank – a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BBCI), partly owned by the beneficent Mahfouz.
What was BCCI? Only "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history," according to the United States Senate. What did BCCI do? "It engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas," says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation. "It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution."
Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.[Note, 2009: For more on BCCI, see this post.]
This boatload of heavy Establishment lumber was piloted by the Commission's executive director, Phillip Zelikow, who determined just what got investigated, and what did not. As the world knows, Zelikow was a Bush Administration insider, a Condi Rice colleague who had helped pick many of the Administration figures he was now called upon to probe. After the Commission finally produced its report -- printed on sheets of Swiss cheese -- Zelikow went to work for Condi at the State Department.
The profound failures of the Commission report have been amply detailed elsewhere by many hands. For our purposes here it is enough to say that it was not a thorough, independent investigation in any way, and that such a probe is still needed: a genuinely independent, wide-ranging, in-depth investigation, with full subpoena powers and full access to all material, whatever its security classification -- and testimony under oath, and under pain of perjury, from every relevant official, including [George W. Bush and Dick Cheney].
Let us have such a probe, and let the chips fall where they may....
But you and I know that there will never be an investigation like that into 9/11. Regardless of what it might or might not reveal about the origin of the attacks, such a free-wheeling, fully-powered probe would inevitably uncover other vast swamps of bloody murk in the shadowlands where state power, criminal gangs, covert ops and financial interests mingle, merge, squabble and seethe. It would, in other words, open a window into the real way that the world works, into the bestial realm of raw power and savage greed that churns on behind the facade of public events and the trappings of state.
And this infernal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood. The rubes are never to know what their betters are getting up to, and how they are getting up to it, and the true cost -- in blood, so much blood, so much suffering and sorrow -- of their goings-on.
That said, I certainly applaud any and all efforts to force something like a more real investigation into events of that portentous day.
Speaking of portents, it happens that I was one of the first people who reported, in print, in a mainstream publication, how the Cheney-Rumsfeld group, the Project for a New American Century, had declared -- back in September 2000 -- that it would take a "new Pearl Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into supporting the militarist agenda the group had laid out. I first wrote of this in The Moscow Times in September 2002 (following on from the excellent work by Neil Mackay in Scotland's Sunday Herald). I also wrote more extensively about it in a mainstream U.S. paper, the Bergen Record, in February 2003, when PNAC had rated only a very few mentions in the American press. In both of these articles, I also noted that after 9/11 -- which was duly described as a "new Pearl Harbor" by Bush and his officials -- almost the entire PNAC agenda became official U.S. government policy.
These are just indisputable facts: The Bushists admitted they needed a "new Pearl Harbor" to enact their program. They got a "new Pearl Harbor." Then they enacted their program.
It seems to me that any genuine investigation into 9/11 would include, among many other avenues and areas of exploration, a look into whether these facts represent one of the most astonishing pieces of political luck in history, or something else. Pace the estimable George Monbiot, Alex Cockburn, Greg Palast and others, that doesn't seem like an outrageous idea to me.
.... And so the unimaginable has come, at last, to America. Unimaginable, that the innocent could lie dead in their thousands, buried beneath the ruins of ordinary life. Unimaginable, that the destruction that has swept back and forth across the world in great waves, leaving the innocent lying dead in their millions, should have at last spilled over the strong sea-walls that preserved the nation's wealth and tranquility. Unimaginable, that Americans should know what so many, too many, have known before: the sudden, gutting horror of mass-murdering injustice.
How did it happen? America spends $30 billion a year, year after year after year, on "intelligence." Untold trillions have been spent on "defense." The nation bristles with powerful ordnance, it "projects dominance" (as the strategists like to say) all over the globe. And yet its leaders are like blind men, raging like Oedipus, unable to see their attackers or defend their people or understand what is happening to them.
Struck and wounded, they fall back on empty rhetoric: "an attack on democracy" – as if the suspected plotters, who spent years in a war to the death with the Soviet Union, give a damn what America's political system might be. Then come the metaphysical explanations: "A new evil has come upon us." "This is a war between good and evil."
Well yes, it's evil – as the killing of every innocent person is – but it isn't new. It's as old as the hills, as old as any chipped flint dug up from the ground. It's religious arrogance, tribalism, lust for power and – let's be honest about it – a falling-out among former allies, old comrades in undercover war. Each one of these is a powerful engine of hatred – churning in the dirt of the real world, in the mixed matter of the human brain, in the murk and folly of human history.
Religious arrogance: the implacable, impenetrable conviction that absolute truth is in your sole possession. You are good, favored by God; your enemies are evil, demonic. Tribalism (or in "civilized" terms, nationalism, patriotism): the belief that your country, your people, your grievances, your interests are above all others, that your values are so important that innocent people must sometimes be sacrificed to them. Lust for power: the burning desire to impose your will on the whole world – or failing that, to bring the whole world crumbling down around you.
And a falling-out. The White House points the finger of blame at Osama Bin Laden – a demon made to order, right out of central casting, remorseless, demented, crafty, rich. Like Saddam Hussein – another sinister figure suspected of collusion in the attack – Bin Laden was once empowered by America itself. The same intelligence services that now stand blind, struck and wounded, cynically embraced these brutal renegades as pawns in the Great Game of geopolitics; embraced them, armed them, paid them, built them up into autonomous powers – then, like Dr. Frankenstein, lost control of their creatures. The used became the users, and in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan – and now, New York and Washington – they have killed their thousands, and their tens of thousands.
In the name of religion. In the service of patriotism. In the lust for power – to project their dominance.
This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and is with us always.
But atrocity tends to raze the ground of history. In the aftermath, with the cries of lamentation rising over fresh graves, it is always Zero Hour. "That which happened" – to borrow the poet Paul Celan's phrase for the Nazis' unspeakable crimes – buries what came before, effaces the paths that led us to this place, strips away the cloak of reason (a thin rag in the best of times), and leaves nothing but the bare, anguished call for revenge.
... Blood will have blood; that's certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations? Past folly undoes us, but who, in the Zero Hour, can ignore the lamentations? Who can deny the ghosts, these loved ones gone, the red food demanded by the dead?
There is no answer. It will not stop. They say the world has now changed irreversibly, that nothing will ever be the same. But it will be the same. The same engines of hatred, the same murk, the same dirt, the same mixed matter in human brains.
This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and it is with us always.
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