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.
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
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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
Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.[Note, 2009: For more on BCCI, see this post.]
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.
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.
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.
said, I certainly applaud any and all efforts to force something like a
more real investigation into events of that portentous day.
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.
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.
This was written on September 12, 2001:
…. 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.