Ever since 9/11, readers keep asking me my views on these attacks. I have been barraged with emails until my head spins with engineering studies about melting steel, controlled explosions, claims about nefarious plots, and wreckage analysis.
One of the most colorful theories comes from Gen. Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. He insists that 9/11 was staged by Israel’s Mossad and a cabal of rightwing US Air Force generals.
I inspected the ruins of the New York’s Twin Towers, atop which I often dined, right after the attack. Downtown Manhattan was enveloped by a hideous, stinking miasma from the attack. I have never smelled anything so awful. It took me days to scrub the foul odor off my body. As a native New Yorker, I was shaken to the core by 9/11 – but hardly surprised, as I had predicted a major attack on the US nine days earlier.
While visiting the Pentagon to consult on the Mideast, I also inspected its outside wall hit by the third hijacked aircraft.
I saw photos of the impact site and could not understand what had happened to all the aircraft wreckage. There was almost none.
In 1993, I was hijacked over Germany on a Lufthansa flight bound for Cairo. The Ethiopian hijacker took us all the way back to New York City. The hijacker was threatening to crash our A310 jumbo jet into Wall Street.
Our flight was shadowed by US F-15 fighters that had orders to shoot, if necessary. Where, then, was US air defense on 11 Sept. 2001?
A day after 9/11, I was asked on CNN if Osama bin Laden was behind the attack. ‘We have yet to see the evidence,’ I replied. I maintain this position today.
Bin Laden denied he or al-Qaida was behind 9/11 and the death’s of nearly 3,000 people. The plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid, Spain, not in Afghanistan. A Pakistani, Khaled Sheik Mohammed, claimed he was the mastermind – after being tortured by near-drowning 183 times by the CIA.
While denying involvement, Osama bin Laden did say he believed the attack on New York was in part motivated by Israel’s destruction of downtown Beirut during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon that inflicted some 18,000 civilian deaths.
Tapes that appeared to confirm bin Laden’s guilt were clumsy fakes. They were supposedly “found” in Afghanistan by the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance, which was created and funded by Russian intelligence.
I had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told CNN viewers that he was not the man in the tapes.
After 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised Americans the State Department would issue a White Paper detailing bin Laden’s guilt. Afghanistan’s Taliban government asked for this document before it would extradite bin Laden, as the US was demanding. The White Paper was never produced, and the US ignored proper legal procedure and invaded Afghanistan. We still wait for evidence.
I remain uncertain that Osama bin Laden was really behind the attacks. Much circumstantial evidence points to him and al-Qaida, but conclusive proof still lacks. One thing is certain: the attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, not Afghanistan. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudis, two from the United Arab Emirates, one an Egyptian and a Lebanese.
By the way, I’ve said ever since 9/11 that the danger and size of al-Qaida has been vastly exaggerated – as an explosive report this week by the London’s esteemed International Institute for Strategic Studies has just confirmed. Al-Qaida, dedicated to fighting the Afghan Communists, never had more than 300 members at its peak.
Today, according to CIA chief Leon Panetta, there are no more than 50 al-Qaida men in Afghanistan. Yet President Barack Obama has tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 120,000 because of what to calls the al-Qaida threat. What is going on?
Many people abroad believe al-Qaida is an American invention used to justify foreign military operations. I do not share this view. Osama bin Laden was never a US agent, though his group indirectly received funds from CIA to fight the Communists.
Back to 9/11. I still cannot understand how amateur pilots could manage to maneuver in low to hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon. As a Pakistani intelligence agent told me, “if they were really amateur Arab pilots, they would have crashed into one another, not the World Trade Center!”
The arrest of Israeli “movers” filming the attack and dancing with joy, and the subsequent arrest of groups of Israeli “students” supposedly tracking the would-be hijackers remains a deep mystery. So does the immobilization of US air defenses.
The US 9/11 Commission was a whitewash, as are all such government commissions. They are designed to obscure, not reveal, the truth.
A 2006, a Scripps Howard/Washington Post poll found that 36% of the 1,000 Americans sampled believed the US government was behind 9/11. Many Americans still do not believe the official version of 9/11.
Neither do many Europeans. The entire Muslim world believes 9/11 was the work of Israel and far right American neocons, led by Dick Cheney.
If the official story about 9/11 is true, the attacks caught the Bush administration asleep on guard duty. Bush’s incompetent national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, brushed off serious warnings of the impending attack and actually cut spending on anti-terrorism just before 9/11.
The White House and media were quick to blame Muslims who hated America’s lifestyle and values, launching the concept of “Islamic terrorism” – i.e. that the Muslim faith, not political issues, prompted the attacks.
This dangerous canard has infected America, leading to a rising tide of Islamophobia. This week’s continued uproar over a Muslim community center in downtown New York, and a Florida preacher’s threat to burn Korans, are the latest doleful example of cultivated religious hatred.
The suicide team that attacked New York and Washington made clear its aim was: a. to punish the US for backing Israel’s repression of Palestinians; and b. what they called US “occupation” of Saudi Arabia. Though they were all Muslims, religion was not the motivating factor.
As the CIA’s former bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer rightly observed, the Muslim world was furious at the US for what it was doing in their region, not because of America’s values, liberties or religion.
These motives for the 9/11 attack have been largely obscured by the whipping up hysteria over “Islamic terrorism.” The planting of anthrax in New York, Florida and Washington soon after 9/11 was clearly designed to promote further anti-Muslim furor. The perpetrators of this red herring remain unknown. But the anthrax attack hastened passage of the semi-totalitarian Patriot Act that sharply limited the personal freedoms of Americans and imposed draconian new laws.
Faked bin Laden videos and audio tapes. Planted anthrax. An intact Koran implausibly found at ground zero. Evidence in a hijacker’s bag that had somehow failed to make his ill-fated flight. Immediate claims that al-Qaida was behind the attacks. Those amateur kamikaze pilots and collapsing towers.
Perhaps most damning, tapes taken in London of meetings between President George Bush and PM Tony Blair revealed a sinister proposal by the US president to provoke war with Iraq by painting US aircraft in UN colors, then buzzing Iraqi air defenses until they fired on them, thus providing a “casus belli.” Bush also reportedly told Blair that after Iraq, he would “go on” to attack Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.
In 1939, Nazi Germany dressed up soldiers in Polish uniforms to provoke a border fire-fight to justify Berlin’s ensuing invasion of Poland. Bush’s plan was of the same ilk. A president who would contemplate such a criminal operation might go a lot further to achieve his imperial dreams.
As a veteran journalist, to me, all this smells to high heaven. There are just too many unanswered questions, too many suspicions, and that old Roman legal question, “cui bono” – “to whose benefit?”
On 28 February, 1933, fire, set by a Dutch Jew, ravaged the Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag. While the Reichstag’s ruins were still smoking, Adolf Hitler’s government declared a war against “terrorism.” A “Decree for the Protection of People and State” was promulgated suspending all legal protections of speech, assembly, property, and personal liberties. The Reichstag fire allowed the government to round up “terrorism” suspects without due process of law and made police powers near absolute.
Sound familiar? Here’s another startling coincidence. Two years before 9/11, a series of mysterious apartment building bombings in Russia killed over 200 people. “Islamic terrorists” from Chechnya were blamed.
Panic swept Russia and boosted former KGB agent Vladimir Putin into full power. Russian security agents of FSB were caught red-handed planting explosives in another building, but the story was hushed up. A former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who tried to reveal this story, was murdered in London by radioactive polonium.
Similarly, the Bush administration’s neocons shamelessly used 9/11 to promote the invasion of Iraq. Just before the attack, polls showed 80% of Americans erroneously believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.
So what, in the end, can we conclude? 1. We still do not know the real story about 9/11. 2. The official version is not credible. 3. 9/11 was used to justify invading strategic Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq. 4. The attacks plunged America into wars against the Muslim world and enriched the US arms industry. 5. 9/11 boosted pro-Israel neoconservatives, formerly a fringe group, into power, and with them America’s totalitarian far right. 6. Bush’s unprovoked war against Iraq destroyed one of Israel’s two main enemies. 7. 9/11 put America in what may turn out to be a permanent state of war with the Muslim world – a key goal of the neoconservatives.
But I’ve seen no hard evidence to date that 9/11 was a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up. Just, perhaps, the Mother of All Coincidences. In the end, it may just have been 19 angry Arabs and a bumbling Bush administration looking for someone else to blame.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website