September 6, 2002

Flood of lies preceding Iraq attack threatens to drown us in bullsh*t

As the War Party revs up its propaganda machine – the War Street Journal, the New York Post, Andrew "Bareback" Sullivan – we are awash in such a flood of b*llsh*t that the stench, let alone the sheer quantity, is enough to induce spasms of retching. In these dark days, the job of any truth-seeker is akin to cleaning the Augean Stables on a daily basis, and, heck, I'm no Hercules, but here goes….

My all-time favorite wartime fib is the one told by the lawyers for unnamed "victims of 9/11" who are suing the Saudis – and now the Iraqis – for $1 trillion in damages. The New York Post, which infamously ran the front-page headline "BUSH KNEW" after news of some vague pre-9/11 warning came out, has apparently decided to make this into a series: "IRAQ KNEW" screams the Post headline:

"A $1 trillion lawsuit, filed here yesterday, claims Iraq knew that Osama bin Laden was targeting New York prior to Sept. 11 – and that Saddam Hussein encouraged terrorists because he wanted revenge for losing the Gulf War…. Court documents filed in the suit say Saddam knew at least six weeks before the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and the presumed attempt to hit the White House, that bin Laden was plotting to strike high-profile U.S. targets."

The Saudis, and a long list of Middle Eastern countries, are being targeted by the War Party's legal division on the grounds that a murky conspiracy of Saudi princes, Middle Eastern intelligence agencies, oil interests, and others financed a terrorist plot against the U.S. There was no mention of the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, or the Knights of Malta – this latter, I hear, was a fun buncha guyz – but we'll just have to see what the discovery process reveals. This is going to be fun…

Ah, but the fun has already begun with the "evidence" put out there by Kreindler and Kreindler, a law firm that specializes in litigating airline disasters – and is now determined to cause and cash in on a looming foreign policy disaster for the United States. The whole phony suit is based on an off-the-cuff remark by an Iraqi newspaper columnist, one Naeem Abd Muhalhal, who supposedly wrote, on July 21, 2001, that Bin Laden was contemplating "seriously, with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert, about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House." The plaintiffs also claim Muhalhal had inside information when he wrote that Bin Laden was "insisting very convincingly that he will strike America on the arm that is already hurting," which allegedly means the twice-bombed WTC. An unnamed "associate" of Muhalhal's avers that his former friend is indeed an Iraqi intelligence agent, and the clincher is that this oracular columnist was singled out by Saddam himself for special praise.

Arab bluster—of which there is plenty, just waiting to be translated – a few vague sentences from an obscure Iraqi newspaper, plus the conspiracy theories of Laurie Mylroie, equals a bonanza for the legal and political vultures who shamelessly feed off the horror of 9/11. But two can play that game….

Here's one variation on the "who knew?" theme that you'll never read in the New York Post, although there's a lot more evidence to back it up: what if Israeli intelligence had foreknowledge of 9/11, as Carl Cameron of Fox News averred in a famous series of broadcasts last year? What if all the many news stories, the careful investigative work done by Christopher Ketcham, in Salon, the articles by John Sugg, Intelligence Online, Le Monde, Paul Rodriguez of Insight magazine, and the U.S. government's own posted warnings, have some basis in fact? What if the Israelis knew, in advance, that a major terrorist attack was in the offing, and failed to tell us everything they knew? Can I mount a lawsuit of my own?

Of course, I wouldn't ask for anything close to $1 trillion. Just the $90 billion-plus we've flushed down the Israeli toilet since its founding (forget the interest), the economic costs of 9/11, and a penalty for sheer chutzpah.

Speaking of which: Eric Alterman, MSNBC's left-liberal "blogger," had what he called "a late-summer scuffle" with Nation columnist and occasional contributor Alex Cockburn over precisely this issue. Alterman cites a smear of Cockburn by Franklin Foer, in The New Republic, as "evidence" that Cockburn is an anti-Semite: I dealt with hatchet-man Foer's smear here, and once was enough. Alterman's feeble attempt at character assassination is even less successful, citing a piece by Cockburn in the New York Press and Counterpunch as follows:

"Certainly, there are a number of stories sloshing around the news now that have raised discussions of Israel and of the posture of American Jews to an acrid level. The purveyor of anthrax may have been a former government scientist, Jewish, with a record of baiting a colleague of Arab origins, and with the intent to blame the anthrax on Muslim terrorists. Rocketing around the web and spilling into the press are many stories about Israeli spies in America at the time of 9/11. On various accounts, they were trailing Atta and his associates, knew what was going to happen but did nothing about it, or were simply spying on US facilities…."

For this relatively mild recounting of stories that have been reported elsewhere – the story of Dr. Philip Zack and his anti-Arab cabal was thoroughly researched and exposed in a series of articles in the Hartford Courant last year – Alterman slimes Cockburn with a completely unsupported charge of anti-Semitism. Quite apart from the ugly personal tone, Alterman seems not to care about facts – or about the carelessness that his more intelligent readers are sure to catch. He writes:

"Perhaps 'anti-Semite' is not the best word for someone who moves from musing on Jewish control of the media to entertaining the possibility that the Mossad was behind the 9/11 attacks, or of Jewish scientists plotting anthrax attacks in order to blame them on Muslims. Perhaps 'nuts' would be a better word. After all, one usually has to consult people who self-fertilize their vegetables in backwoods Montana cabins to approach the quality of such analysis."

It is outrageous that Alterman would deliberately twist what Cockburn was clearly saying, and right in front of our noses! Cockburn never said that the Mossad was "behind the 9/11 attacks," nor did he even entertain the possibility: he merely cites "various accounts" that claim the Israelis "knew what was going to happen but did nothing about it." Quite a difference—and if Alterman thinks we don't notice, then his contempt for his few readers must be truly bottomless.

The anthrax question is a lot more complicated, and involves information that Alterman seems entirely ignorant of (perhaps willfully so), and that Cockburn only hints at. In view of the continued martyrdom of poor Steven Hatfill, who seems to be getting it worse than Richard Jewell, one would think that alternative theories would garner some interest. Indeed, it seems logical for liberal journalists like Alterman to eagerly take up this line of inquiry, which involves a group of anti-Arab bigots working at Ft. Detrick's bioterror lab, who mercilessly harassed an Egyptian scientist, Dr. Ayaad Assaad – and later tried to set him up as the author of the anthrax missives that killed 5 and terrorized the nation. The first letters sent with the anthrax, clearly and crudely meant to implicate Arabs, were in transit to their targets as the authorities received an anonymous "tip" implicating Dr. Assaad as planning bio-terrorism. Assaad was cleared by the FBI just as the anthrax terror campaign commenced. It hardly requires an imaginative leap of any length to surmise that whomever tried to frame Assaad is connected to the anthrax plot.

Knowing what a big-deal liberal he is, one would think that Alterman would take an interest in such a case, and at least do a little research before he opens his mouth. But, oh no, he's much more interested in scoring points off his rival Cockburn, and smearing him in exactly the same way America's Likudniks defame each and every critic of Israel, even the mildest.

For the record, Cockburn's alleged "musing on Jewish control of the media" was actually a side-comment noting that so many of Hollywood's pioneers in the movie business all came from the same village in (Polish) Galicia. So what? This is "anti-Semitic" in the same way it is "Italo-phobic" to say that all the best opera singers come from Italy, i.e. not in the least. Al Sharpton doesn't get away with this kind of victimological nonsense anymore – and neither should anyone else.

The evidence of an extensive and hyperactive Israeli spy operation in the U.S. prior to 9/11 is incontrovertible. Even Baba Wawa's wecent white-wash of the 5 Israeli spooks caught laughing and "celebrating" while the World Trade Center burned – a 20/20 report entitled "The White Van"—had to admit the reality of the spy operation. The only remaining question is: what were they up to? Were they watching Al Qaeda in America, and, if so, what did they know – and when did they know it?

As we approach the first anniversary of 9/11, the relentless beat of war propaganda is reaching a raucous crescendo: Saddam was behind 9/11, he has The Bomb—and he's going to detonate it "in Long Beach," as Congressman Duncan Hunter cluelessly opined the other day. But the War Party is unable to take full advantage of what would otherwise be a golden opportunity for warmongering, because this anniversary brings up the ghosts of demons past, official un-persons such as Osama bin Laden – remember him?

They want you to forget him. He's probably dead, government officials claim: and, if not, he's in deep hiding, and irrelevant by now. In any case, he's not really the mastermind behind all the bad things that have happened to America in the past year. As we were informed by Sixty Minutes the other night, in the Arab "street, the verdict is practically unanimous: a devout Muslim was not behind the 9/11 attacks. Isn't it odd that the War Party agrees, pinning the blame on the secular Saddam?

Evidence, shmedivence – the War Party doesn't give a damn about such niceties. They'll use any pretext, no matter how transparent or flat-out nonexistent, to launch the first war of conquest in modern American history. If we were capable of being shocked anymore, certainly the news that Warlord Rumsfeld was ready to launch an attack on Iraq hours after the 9/11 terrorists struck would be somewhat, uh, unsettling:

"CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks."

According to notes taken by aides and leaked to CBS, Rummy played down the importance of an intercepted message that indicated Bin Laden's hand in all this, because "it might not mean something." Yet when it did turn out to mean something, the Warlord's enmity was still not entirely redirected.:

"With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted 'best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H.' – meaning Saddam Hussein – 'at same time. Not only UBL' – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden. Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld. 'Go massive,' the notes quote him as saying. 'Sweep it all up. Things related and not.'"

Sweep it all up, and mix it all together: the result is war propaganda – the hybrid of a half-truth and a lie. "Go massive" with a Big Lie, the bigger the better. To those of you old enough to remember Gulf War I, remember the incubator babies who turned out not to exist – and all the Iraqi nukes of yesteryear that never materialized, and never will? Every war has a founding myth – in the case of unjust wars, a founding lie. This is what the War Party is asking for when they beg the President to "make his case" and defend the policy of "pre-emptive" imperialism against his own generals and his father's advisors. The President's September 12 speech to the United Nations may be thought of as a dress rehearsal. The out-of-town road-show is bound to go on for weeks, but when it comes down to a vote in Congress the outcome is going to be very close, in spite of the War Party's confidence that victory is certain. To them I say, don't underestimate the American people – and don't count your chickenhawks before they hatch.


Our sister site,, is giving a Private Gold Conference, and the speakers list makes this a must for anti-interventionists of all stripes as well as conservatives, libertarians, and, of course, gold bugs. To begin with, Lew Rockwell, the President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a great friend of Murray Rothbard's, and the moving force behind the rapid growth of the radical free-market Austrian school of economics in America, is invariably fascinating, and I would go just to hear him, except that there's plenty of other reasons to go, too, namely Peter Brimelow, a writer for Forbes and the brilliant and brave author of Alien Nation, the always delightfully witty Joe Sobran, and Dr. Thomas diLorenzo, whose book, The Real Lincoln, is the definitive take-down of this statist icon.

Of particular interest to opponents of interventionism abroad is the scheduled speech by Rep. Ron Paul (Republican, Texas), one of the staunchest opponents of the war drive in Congress. Libertarians will also want to hear what the best friend of liberty in the hallowed halls of government will have to say. To us here at, Ron Paul is a hero, an ally, and a top leader of the movement for peace and freedom nationwide.

Mark your calendar: September 13-14, at the Villa Hotel – the home of liberty! – in San Mateo. Go here and scroll down for information and registration details.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.