Shadow and Swamp: A Brief Discursion on 9/11


A commenter asked recently about my take on 9/11. In light of the anniversary (which I noted here; see also Jon Schwarz's piece here), I thought this might be a good time to set out, very briefly, what I think on the subject.

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.)

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.

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 the president and the vice president.

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, hadalt 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 genuinely estimable George Monbiot, Greg Palast and others, that doesn't seem like an outrageous idea to me.

But as I said, I don't believe we will ever see such an investigation.