September 10, 2003

9/11 CONSPIRACY CHIC
Suddenly, conspiracy theories are 'in'

by Justin Raimondo

The other day, I did something I don't do much anymore: I actually bought a magazine, feeling a twinge of nostalgia as I paid the clerk. With nearly everything important online, my natural stinginess impels me to foreswear periodicals printed on dead trees, for the most part, although certain exceptions are made. I buy The American Conservative wherever and whenever I encounter it on the newstands, as part of my own personal guerrilla operations staged on behalf of the Old Right Liberation Front. More rarely, I buy because there's something of special interest that is unavailable online, and, given my penurious nature, it has to be something really unusual, especially when we're talking about Vanity Fair magazine, which costs nearly five bucks.

That's a lot for a magazine, no matter how glossy, but I imagine dipping the thing in scent is an expensive procedure. I strongly suspect the lightheadedness induced by proximity to the fumes is an essential part of Vanity Fair's editorial strategy. The idea is to create a perfume-induced coma in the reader, who will be rendered too intoxicated to notice lapses in logic, grammar, and good taste. Added to this is the gimmick of soft porn disguised as advertisements interspersed between feature articles: it gets the blood moving, the heart pounding – and puts the reader in a state apt to make him more appreciative of Christopher Hitchens' clumsy glamorization of American viceroy Paul Bremer as Clint Eastwood playing Lawrence of Arabia.

I wouldn't have bought it for the Hitchens piece, however: the CPA's official press releases are readily available online. What caught my eye and my interest were two other articles: an investigative piece on the anthrax scare that coincided with the 9/11 attacks, and an editorial by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, which made me wonder if perhaps I had mistakenly picked up a copy of Conspiracy Digest. Carter writes:

"Imagine if, instead of invading Poland in 1939, Adolf Hitler had staged a surprise attack on the U.S. In a dawn raid, Nazi forces destroy the Empire State and Chrysler buildings in New York and cause serious damage to the War Department in Washington, D.C. Three thousand people die. The nation's airports are frozen. But because of a long-standing relationship between the Roosevelts and the German ambassador to the U.S., two dozen members of Hitler's direct family, along with more than a hundred wealthy Germans, are escorted to private planes and flown out of the country. They have not been interrogated by the FBI, or even interviewed. Indeed, the White House denies the existence of the flights entirely."

Okay. I've imagined it. Now what? "This," avers Carter, "in all its far-fetched lunacy, is not totally unlike what happened here in the days immediately following September 11."

Far-fetched doesn't even begin to describe the conspiracy theory Vanity Fair is pushing, nor does mere lunacy, because there is a particular method to this madness. According to Carter, the President of these United States, because of his family's longstanding connection to the Saudis the "Nazis" in this equation authorized the departure of "influential Saudis" out of the country at a time when all flights were grounded. He accusingly writes:

"In all, some 140 Saudis, including around two dozen bin Laden family members, made it out of the U.S. by the third week in September."

But so what? Normal flights had resumed by then. As Snopes.com, the website devoted to debunking urban myths put it:

"The key point is that the Saudis mentioned in these accounts were not flown out of the country – they were assembled at locations from which they could be conveniently flown out of the country once regular airline travel resumed. "

Should they have been kept in the U.S. as hostages jailed or even killed in retaliation for their blood kinship with OBL? We don't do that in this country yet. Carter's more serious allegations that the flights were "secret" in the sense of a guilty secret kept until now, and that the Bin Laden clan wasn't questioned by the authorities before their departure are effectively debunked by Snopes, and I'll just refer the reader there to circumnavigate the shoals of myth and half-truth on which this conspiracy theory runs aground. Suffice to quote their conclusion:

"Clearly bin Laden family members were allowed to leave the U.S. shortly after the September 11 attacks, and this was effected with the approval and assistance of the American government. Yet the Saudis didn't fly out during the ban, nor was the FBI denied access to them while they were here or prevented from knowing who was going to be on those flights. In preparation for the exodus, a number of Saudis were ferried to central locations where those outbound jets would eventually leave from, which means they were allowed to violate the ban on air travel within the U.S. Was it right that fear for their safety and/or favors owed abroad should have prompted their being treated as special circumstance exceptions to the ban? That question lies outside the scope of this page, but rest assured it will be hotly debated around many a dinner table."

But it isn't just a case of special treatment: Vanity Fair is alleging that the Bin Laden family an entity comprised of hundreds if not thousands of Saudis along with prominent members of the Saudi royal family (an even more numerous lot) are involved in financing and otherwise giving aid and comfort to the 9/11 terrorists. So, where's the proof?

The campaign of half-baked hysterical propaganda ratcheted up against the Saudis doesn't require any proof: all that's required is the demonization of an entire nation. We've been down that road before. Oh, author Craig Unger goes through the motions: he cites the infamous 28 blank pages redacted from the congressional report on 9/11. That's about the best these conspiracy theorists can do: cite the absence of evidence as "proof" that they're right. Unger cites anonymous "terrorism experts." He recounts the Bush family ties with the Saudi royal family. But none of it amounts to a hill of beans.

The same goes for Gerald Posner's new book, Why America Slept, which claims that information given by Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, points to three Saudi princes and a high Pakistani official who had foreknowledge of 9/11 and were involved in the plot: unfortunately, all four are dead, and so they cannot defend themselves or confirm Posner's "theory." In one news account, Posner says:

"'My gut tells me that if Zubaydah's information was accurate, our error was telling the Saudis what we had,' he said in an interview. 'People did not want them to talk, and took them out. Can I prove it? No.'"

The anti-Saudi lobby wants people to rely on their guts, and leave their brains behind. The "evidence" against the Saudis everything from the Vanity Fair school of "investigative" journalism to the anti-Wahhabi jeremiads of Daniel Pipes and Stephen Schwartz is so fantastical, and downright sloppy, that one wonders how anyone could fall for it. I guess we're supposed to be so overwhelmed by hatred of all things Saudi that we can't think straight. That's why they continually note that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis, which at least one knowledgeable source claims was a deliberate ruse by Bin Laden to force a split between Washington and Riyadh.

The neoconservative project to "transform" the Middle East involves much more than merely conquering and occupying Iraq. Toppling nearly all of the regimes in the region, with the exceptions of Turkey and the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan, has always been their goal, and they have certainly not been shy about proclaiming it. As militant partisans of Israel, the neocons have the Kingdom in their sights because it is Israel's chief military and diplomatic rival in the region. Israel's partisans in the U.S. have taken full advantage of 9/11 as a means of wresting the role of Washington's chief regional deputy from Riyadh, where it had heretofore been assigned, to Tel Aviv. That is what all this huffing and puffing about a Saudi-Bush family "conspiracy" to shield the 9/11 terrorists is all about now there's a conspiracy theory for you!

I long ago predicted this sort of conspiracism would become endemic if and when the President showed any sign of backing down from implementing the neocon vision of a Middle East entirely subjugated by the U.S., and made properly safe for Israel. If Colin Powell and all those senior military officers who opposed the war make any more headway, and Bush makes a deal with the UN, then you'll be seeing a lot more from the purveyors of the latest in conspiracy chic.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

In my last column, I promised readers they would be getting the introduction to my book, The Terror Enigma, in today's edition of "Behind the Headlines," and the book itself on September 11, but, as they used to say back when paper and the dissemination of information were inextricably linked: Stop the presses! The good news is that the book has found a publisher: the bad news is that you won't get to read it for about a month or so. We'll let you know just as soon as the book is available.

Speaking of that book, I note that the Anti-Defamation League has issued a report on the "rumor" that Israeli agents were on the trail of the hijackers in the U.S., and had some degree of foreknowledge. Whoever wrote this report, however, ought to be fired forthwith, because, if the idea was to debunk this theory as an "urban myth," the authors didn't do a very good job. It is not enough to cite David Duke, and even more obscure bigots, as agreeing with this thesis it is either true, or false, regardless of who says what.

This story was run by dozens of news organizations, none of them neo-Nazi in orientation, yet the only non-kook source cited by the ADL is Fox News (yes, I know many of my readers would disagree with this designation): investigative reporter Carl Cameron's four-part series, broadcast in December 2001, exposing a gigantic Israeli spy operation in the U.S. It was Cameron who told a traumatized nation:

"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are – quote 'tie-ins.' But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, quote 'evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified.'"

Instead of refuting Cameron's charges that the Israelis were on to the 9/11 hijackers, in addition to running an extensive attempt to penetrate U.S. government facilities – the ADL report simply reiterates what Cameron said. Apparently we are supposed to believe that the Fox News report must be classified as "hate speech," and therefore immediately dismissed without further discussion, whether or not it's true.

As I relate in The Terror Enigma, the evolution of this story is a story in itself. How and why did it come to be so pointedly ignored, in spite of the abundant evidence, while other "conspiracy" theories, such as the "Bush knew" school of thought and the Bush-Bin Laden thesis, are given all sorts of publicity – in spite of the paucity of supporting facts? If that's not enough to make us lose faith in the American news media, then it is at least enough to make us throw away our copies of Vanity Fair with a snort of disgust, and not just due to the over-perfuming.

But wait! There's hope after all! The same issue of Vanity Fair also features "The Message in the Anthrax," a riveting account by literary detective and Vassar professor Don Foster on the hunt for the anthrax killer. Our memories of the post-9/11 period are inevitably colored by the prolonged mass terror that accompanied the attacks on the World Center and the Pentagon, and Professor Foster does a great service in giving publicity to the case of Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian-born scientist who formerly worked for the USAMRIID biowar facility at Ft. Detrick, New Jersey.

Foster explains that Dr. Assaad was the victim of a virulently anti-Arab clique at Ft. Detrick, who called themselves "the Camel Club." Making use of the top-notch investigative reporting done by the Hartford Courant – which uncovered a weird series of events at Ft. Detrick, detailing how Assaad was effectively driven out of his job Foster points to a key piece of evidence that has been completely overlooked in the "mainstream" media. In the period after the anthrax letters were mailed, but before they were discovered to contain anthrax, the Quantico military police headquarters received an anonymous letter accusing Dr. Assaad of plotting a campaign of biological warfare against the U.S. He was questioned by the FBI, and then released after the letter was determined to be a hoax.

The idea that this hoax letter may be a key piece of evidence which is being totally ignored by the so-called "Amerithrax" task force has been the theme of a series of past columns, written by me in the last year, but Foster puts the extent of the cover-up in a new light when he reveals:

"Hoping that the Quantico letter might lead, if not to the killer, at least to a suspect, I offered to examine the document. My photocopy arrived by FedEx not from the task force but from FBI headquarters. Searching through documents by some 40 USAMRIID employees, I found writings by a female officer that looked like a perfect match. I wrote a detailed report on the evidence, but the anthrax task force declined to follow through."

Readers of the Courant articles will recognize this female as likely to be the one female member of "the Camel club," whose members took such delight in harassing their colleagues of Arabic descent. They will also recall the following paragraph from a January 20, 2002 piece in the Courant, describing the results of an investigation into loose security practices at Ft. Detrick:

"Documents from the inquiry show that one unauthorized person who was observed entering the lab building at night was Langford's predecessor, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, who at the time no longer worked at Fort Detrick. A surveillance camera recorded Zack being let in at 8:40 p.m. on Jan. 23, 1992, apparently by Dr. Marian Rippy, a lab pathologist and close friend of Zack's, according to a report filed by a security guard."

Why won't the "Amerithrax" clowns investigate the Quantico letter, and the implications surrounding it? Why are certain folks exempt, while others, such as the long-suffering Dr. Steven Hatfill, are subjected to relentless harassment and demonization by law enforcement officials who haven't got enough evidence to fill a thimble?

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. 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 U.S. 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.

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