earlier column, I theorized that when the hijackers
rammed those planes into the World Trade Center, they
must've torn a hole in the space-time continuum, opening
the door to another dimension the Bizarro
World an alternate universe where everything is
grotesquely inverted. But now it seems that the Great
Inversion may have occurred far earlier, well before
the hijackers succeeded in their hellish plot. The news
that Mohamed Atta and friends paid a visit to the Department
of Agriculture in order to apply
for a government loan after all, terrorism on
the scale he imagined didn't come cheap goes waaaay
beyond bizarre, all the way to phantasmagoric.
How else can we describe Johnelle Bryant's story of
her close encounter with Atta, in which the terrorist
mastermind walked in demanding a $650,000 government
loan to fulfill his "immigrant's dream" and
start a crop-dusting business?
"He wanted to finance a twin-engine
and remove the seats. He said
he was an engineer, and he wanted to build a chemical
tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up
every available square inch of the aircraft except for
where the pilot would be sitting."
to Bryant, a 16-year veteran of the department, her
weird run-in with Atta occurred "sometime between
the end of April and the middle of May 2000," and
there were several aspects of the interview that made
it, uh, memorable although it's only now that she
decided to report it. Bryant tells us that, initially,
Atta refused to even speak with her, disdaining her
as "but a female." After she assured him that
she was, indeed, in charge, he relented, but still kept
insulting her. But that didn't stop the ever-helpful
Bryant from trying to help him in any way possible.
After he explained his "immigrant's dream,"
Bryant told him about the application process, and he
became "very agitated." It seems that Atta,
the devilishly clever ringleader of the most successful
terrorist plot in modern times, "thought the loan
would be in cash, and that he would have no trouble
obtaining it to purchase an aircraft." If this
expectation seems slightly puzzling, then Atta's crazed
behavior during the interview seems calculated to draw
attention to himself as a dangerous nutball. At one
point, he noted that the building seemed to lack security.
Bryant says he pointed at the safe behind her desk,
"He asked me what would prevent
him from going behind my desk and cutting my throat
and making off with the millions of dollars in that
As to why Bryant didn't call security
such as it was then and there is beyond me. Instead,
she explained that the safe contained no money, the
Department of Agriculture is not a bank oh, and by
the way, I'm "trained in karate." After this
little dust-up, however, all was forgiven, apparently,
and they got back down to business. Bryant tells us
he asked questions about how he could get training,
and whether his travel plans – "I think he said he
needed to go to Madrid, and somewhere in Germany, and
then there was a third country" would interfere
with the application process. Bryant turned down Atta's
application not because he said scary things, or because
he had "scary eyes," black and intense, but
on the grounds that, as a foreign national, he "didn't
meet the basic eligibility requirements." Which
just goes to show that you can appear to be a homicidal
maniac, and still get a government grant, provided
you're a citizen of this great country. Isn't America
wonderful? Don't let anybody tell you different.
Oh, but here's my favorite part of this
ABC News "exclusive":
"Being turned down for the loan
altered the hijackers' plans. According to law enforcement
officials, packing twin-engine planes with explosive
chemicals, making it a flying bomb, had been the terrorists'
plan since the mid-1990s. When Atta reported to his
group that he could not get a loan to buy smaller planes,
the plan was switched to hijacking passenger jets, according
to what Abu Zabaydah, a top lieutenant of Osama bin
Laden, has told American interrogators since his capture.
in the fall of 2000, the hijackers who had been learning
to fly small planes began to seek simulator training
in the large jets they would fly into the World Trade
Center and Pentagon."
Get outta here! So now they're
telling us that the fabulously wealthy Osama bin Laden,
with all the resources of a worldwide terrorist empire
at his disposal, was too cheap to put up a mere $650
thousand? Given all the long-range planning and additional
resources he poured into the preparations for the 9/11
attacks, this hardly seems possible. Even more unbelievable
is the idea that the hijackers had been counting
on that government loan to finance their plans, and,
when they didn't get it, had to radically shift course.
What a load of malarkey! If true, that would have to
mean that, on 9/11, myriad agencies of the US government
were outfoxed by terrorists who are total retards.
While we're on the subject of total
retards – Bryant also tells us how, before leaving,
Atta became "fixated" on a photo of Washington,
D.C., as seen from the air, hanging on the wall:
pulled out a wad of cash,' she said, 'and started throwing
money on my desk. He wanted that
picture really bad.'
indicated that the picture was not for sale, and he
threw more money down.
look on his face became very bitter at that point,'
Bryant remembers. 'I believe he said, 'How would America
like it if another country destroyed that city and some
of the monuments in it,' like the cities in his country
had been destroyed?'"
Oh, and which country is that? There
controversy over Atta's nationality, and the mystery
has yet to be cleared up as far as I can tell, but most
speculation places him somewhere in North Africa: possibly
Egyptian, or Algerian. We know he studied architecture
in Cairo. Only one North African country has had its
capital city "attacked" by the US, and that
is Libya, in 1986, when Tripoli was bombed – but the
city was hardly "destroyed." Atta's exit speech
is the kind of extravagant touch one might expect in
a cheap paperback thriller: indeed, this whole narrative
has a pulp-novelistic feel to it, like bad art imitating
life. Conveniently, Atta also launched into a rant about
Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and "boasted about
the role they would play one day." Of the latter,
according to Bryant, "he said this man would someday
be known as the world's greatest leader."
It's stories like this that make one
wonder if the Office
of Strategic Influence remember them? really
after all. Or was that just their way of strategically
influencing us? The only believable aspect of this tall
tale is Bryant's claim of complete ignorance:
"I didn't know who Osama bin
He could have been a character on Star Wars
for all I knew."
That I believe. As for the rest of it
The rest of it we have on the word of
Abu Zabaydah, who is supposed to be a "top lieutenant"
of bin Laden's and also
the source of the information that led to the capture
of the so-called "dirty bomber," Jose
Padilla, who calls himself "Abdullah al Muhajir".
According to government officials, Jose-Abdullah was
supposed to obtain weapons-grade uranium, somehow, from
a university, and then go out and rig up a "dirty
bomb." Gee, he must be some kind of scientific
genius, the Einstein of world terrorism but is he?
is a street punk whose knowledge of the scientific
method is limited to calculating the impact of a crowbar
on the back of somebody's skull. Citing court documents,
Kass of the Chicago Tribune describes the
young terrorist's early years:
"His career started with a knifing
in an alley. By then, he'd joined a gang with a threatening
name, something like the Maniac Latin Psychos or the
Psycho Latin Maniacs.
Padilla began his career as
a juvenile, with a knife and a baseball bat in an alley
off 16th Street and Kedvale Avenue in August 1985. The
victim, Elio Evangelista, had the misfortune to carry
some cash that Padilla and a friend wanted for themselves."
Here is what we know about the alleged
bomber": This is a Puerto Rican kid, born in
Brooklyn, who becomes a little gangbanger when the family
moves to Chicago. A series of arrests follows his release
from juvenile hall, and several confrontations with
authorities in South Florida, where he moved in 1990,
paint a portrait of an erratic nobody headed for oblivion.
His behavior leading up to his arrest and imprisonment
in Florida can only be described as psychopathic: he
fired a revolver at another driver in what is being
called an incident of "road rage," and then
reached for his gun as the officers came to his house
to arrest him. He spent a year in the Broward county
jail, and supposedly converted to Islam only after
being released, according to the Miami Herald.
Then, suddenly, he disappeared only
to turn up in the terrorist training camp of Osama bin
Laden somewhere in the wilds of Pakistan and/or Afghanistan.
to deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz:
"He researched nuclear weapons and
received training in wiring explosives while in Pakistan,
and he was instructed to return to the United States
to conduct reconnaissance operations for al Qaeda."
Jose-Abdullah even graduate from high school? Somehow,
I doubt it. But we're expected to believe that he "researched
nuclear weapons"? Yeah, right. So a baseball-wielding
street punk is suddenly transformed into the terrorist
equivalent of Robert
Oppenheimer and Edward
Teller all rolled into one? Okay, so you don't have
to be a genius to detonate a "dirty" nuclear
bomb – but surely it takes something a little
above the level of street smarts. So Jose-Abdullah was
just supposed to walk into a university, somewhere,
and cop some weapons-grade uranium no doubt they'd
be real impressed with his credentials. Hey,
the Psycho Latin Maniacs it sure beats the heck out
of Harvard. Naturally,
it's a complete coincidence that this great triumph
of interagency cooperation comes at a time when our
besieged law enforcement agencies not just discredited
since 9/11, but utterly disgraced -- most needs
a "victory." As USA Today put
U.S. officials described Al Muhajir as a relatively
minor would-be terrorist. They suggested that the FBI
and CIA, which have come under criticism in recent weeks
for failing to uncover the Sept. 11 plot, were trumpeting
a success story to fend off criticism."
And of course, Attorney General John
Ashcroft's dramatic announcement had nothing to do with
the commencement of the much-heralded congressional
investigation into 9/11, and the new focus on the events
leading up to that fateful day.
We are living in the Age of Malarkey,
an era where no tale is considered too tall but that
the authorities won't try it out on the American people.
The government has become like that mildly sadistic
camp counselor who gets a charge out of scaring his
young charges half to death with gruesome "ghost
stories" told around a campfire – or, more accurately,
like some prison guard who tries to whip his charges
into line by threatening them with being put in "the
hole." Things could get worse. That's the
core message we're supposed to heed, with this addendum:
and they will, if you don't shut up and do
as you're told.
Reading about the Dirty Bomber and Atta's
visit to the Department of Agriculture, I keep hearing
voice of Rod Serling somewhere in the background:
"There is a fifth dimension
beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension
as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is
the middle ground between light and shadow, between
science and superstition, and it lies between the pit
of man's fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This
is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which
The Malarkey Zone!
As for me, I don't believe a word of
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