May 22, 2002
We are now hearing calls for a national "blue ribbon" commission to investigate what really happened on 9/11, and answer the question "what went wrong?" Don't fall for it. An investigation is the prerogative and responsibility of our elected representatives, and Congress must not shirk its duty. No body, other than Congress, has the legal standing to demand the information "classified" or otherwise that such an inquiry will entail.
And don't tell me a "bought off" Congress will unanimously whitewash the truth there's always one or two "loose cannons" who can't be bought, and would rather make political gain out of it. That's why they call it democracy if the official "commissions" and the bureaucracy are intent on burying the truth, a dissident member of Congress can always take it to the demos.
We can only look askance at those, like Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who raise the cry to "investigate!" at this late date. Where were they before CBS revealed the existence of the August 6 memo? In Kristol's case, he was too busy calling for the eradication of the Arab world to notice that something was seriously amiss. As for the Congress, the pundits, and the political class they were all too easily intimidated by the President's men, particularly Dick Cheney, who pressured Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle into postponing the 9/11 inquiry. Now, they mean to sandbag it completely .
The fix, it seems, is already in: Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain introduced legislation last December to have a "nonpartisan" commission set up. In his press release, Loserman piously intones:
"It must be a hunt for the truth, not a witch hunt. The initial weeks and months after September 11 were understandably and appropriately preoccupied with mourning and healing, and then with the war on terrorism. But since the first stage of the war is now drawing to a close with the defeat of the Taliban and with many perplexing questions left unanswered this is the right time to begin in earnest the process of finding answers to our questions."
Ah, but who is "us" who, among the perplexed, will get to ask questions? Not you, not me, and reading further on in Lieberman's missive certainly not our elected representatives:
"The bill would establish the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, composed of 14 appointed members. Four members, including the Commission's chairperson, will be named by the President, and ten members will be selected by Congressional committee chairs. No more than seven members may be of the same political party."
A panel of political appointees, representing all wings of the national security bureaucracy, will be mandated to bloviate on the "lessons learned from the recent terrorist attacks." Gathering in solemn conclave, these "experts" will deliver a final report, a year or so from now, that few will read. But that won't stop the keepers of the conventional wisdom from citing it as proof that alternative views are irresponsible "conspiracy theories" unworthy of serous attention. We have the Official Story: what more do we need to know?
While Loserman and the McCainiacs are pursuing this diversion strategy hoping that one of the "lessons" to be learned turns out to be the need for new leadership in the White House the Bushies are manning the barricades, denouncing the prospect of an inquiry as "a mistake" and refusing to hand over the crucial August 6 memo. Sunday morning, on "Meet the Press," Cheney was adamant:
"That presidential daily brief is developed from some of our most secret operations and it has to be treated that way. It's never been provided to the Congress before, to my knowledge."
Yes, well, we live in precedent-setting times: "everything's changed," don'tcha know. Except, of course, for the politicians' penchant for secrecy .
HE'S GOT A SECRET
What strikes me, however, is that here is a hint, however oblique, that more is involved with this brief than meets the eye. For what sort of "secret operations" are we talking about here? In the context of 9/11, Cheney is almost certainly referring to covert operations carried out on American soil. This can only mean counterintelligence activities carried out pre-9/11. Who were we watching, and why? For some reason, the Vice President doesn't want to go into that, at least not in public, but we aren't entirely in the dark. What we do know is that, in August, the Israelis made a special trip to Washington to brief the Americans on a threat specifically emanating from Bin Laden. According to the [UK] Telegraph:
"Two senior experts with Mossad, the Israeli military intelligence service, were sent to Washington in August to alert the CIA and FBI to the existence of a cell of as many of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation."
Two hundred Al Qaeda operatives in the US, eh? That's about the same number of Israelis who were arrested and deported on "immigration charges" in the period immediately before and after 9/11. We also know that, for at least a year, US officials had been receiving reports from all around the country of unusual activity on the part of the Israelis. Last March, the congressionally-mandated National Counterintelligence Excutive (NCIX) put out an all-points bulletin:
"In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings.
"If challenged, the individuals state that they are delivering artwork from a studio in Miami, Florida, called Universal Art, Inc, or that they are art students and are looking for opinions regarding their work. These individuals have been described as aggressive. They attempt to engage employees in conversation rather than giving a sales pitch.
"Federal police officers have arrested two of these individuals for trespassing and discovered that the suspects possessed counterfeit work visas and green cards. These individuals have also gone to the private residences of senior federal officials under the guise of selling art. Other reporting indicates that there may be two groups involved, and they refer to themselves as 'Israeli art students.' One group has an apparently legitimate money-making goal while the second, perhaps a non-Israeli group, may have ties to a Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalist group.
"Federal employees observing any activity similar to that described above should report their observations to appropriate security officials."
The reports poured in, and were compiled in a 60-page document that was subsequently leaked. The story hit the media, and was strenuously denied by government officials, who denounced it as an "urban myth." We were told to move along there's nothing to see here. But isn't there?
WATCHING THE WATCHERS
A group of phony "art students" sporting forged identification and claiming to be from a nonexistent "art school" in Israel "may have ties to a Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalist group." In retrospect, it sounds positively eerie. What sort of "ties"? In a four-part report on the Israeli spy operation, Carl Cameron of Fox News had this to say:
"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.'"
This evidence could only have been compiled if the Americans were watching the Israelis, who were, in turn, watching Al Qaeda but at what point, and via what source, did the US become aware of an immediate terrorist threat? The Telegraph reported an Israeli visit to the US to warn in general terms that bin Laden was planning to strike. But that's the Mossad's story: it could just as easily have been that they were summoned to Washington because we felt they had some explaining to do like, why had they launched a major covert offensive directed at US government facilities? And why, pray tell, was so much of this activity centered in south Florida where Mohammed Atta and his fellow fiends lived and schemed? As LeMonde noted, a large proportion of these Israeli "art students" were swarming all over this same terrain:
"More than a third of these 'students,' who, according to the report, moved in at least 42 American cities, stated they resided in Florida. Five at least were intercepted in Hollywood, and two in Fort Lauderdale. Hollywood is a town of 25,000 inhabitants to the north of Miami, close to Fort Lauderdale. At least 10 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 were residing in Florida."Four of the five members of the group that diverted American Airlines flight number 11 Mohammed Atta, Abdulaziz Al-Omari, Walid and Waοl Al-Shehri, as well as one of the five terrorists of United flight 175, Marwan Al-Shehhi resided all at various times in... Hollywood, Florida. As for Ahmed Fayez, Ahmed and Hamza Al-Ghamdi and Mohand Al-Shehri, who took over United flight 75, like Saοd Al-Ghamdi, Ahmed Al-Haznawi and Ahmed Al-Nami, of United flight 93 which crashed September 11 in Pennsylvania, and Nawaq Al-Hamzi, of AA flight 77 (crashed into the Pentagon), they all at one time resided at Delray Beach, in the north of Fort Lauderdale.
As US (un)intelligence agencies snapped out of their usual daze long enough to notice the Israelis, did they also stumble on something else? We don't know. Just like we don't know what's in that mysterious August 6 presidential briefing memo. But if Lieberman and McCain have their way, we'll never find out. Aside from coming up with all sorts of reasons why our "intelligence" services need yet more tax dollars, a "blue ribbon" commission will bury all this deeper than Jimmy Hoffa's corpse.
Why bother convening even a single session of this commission, since their report practically writes itself? Not only that, but it can be radically condensed into two sentences. First and foremost: Give us more money! That, no doubt, will be one of the chief "lessons" of 9/11, according to the distinguished commissioners along with the by now familiar mantra that we can no longer afford the "luxury" of our Constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties. In short: Give us more power! Why do we need to shell out a few million and wait a year or longer to hear that tired old tune?
The Senate intelligence committee needs to take up its responsibilities, and pronto. Pay no attention to the headlines telling us that "Strife, Dissent Beset Hill's Sept. 11 Panel," as the Washington Post [May 20] put it. But if we are truly hearing voices of dissent in the halls of Congress, it'll be the first occassion since 9/11 and it's about time. Oh dearie me, we are told, the intelligence committee members have "not agreed whether its central mission is to figure out if federal agencies failed to do their job, or the less politically-charged question of how the nation's intelligence system should be reorganized." Are these people for real? If we need a congressional investigation to find out whether our federal agencies failed to do their job on 9/11, then all is lost, in any event, and we may as well throw in the towel.
It seems that Senator Bob Graham (D-Florida), the intelligence committee chairman, gets a real kick out of frightening the American people half to death with a new scare story every day. First it was a tale of some 100 Al Qaeda terrorists roaming the shopping malls of America, then it was a completely unfounded alarum about the threat of Hezbollah bombings in the U.S. What's up with Boogeyman Bob? Does he aspire to be the Freddy Krueger of American politics? But if he really wants to put a scare into the American people, then let him hold open hearings starting with an inquiry into the strange goings-on in his home state of Florida in the months and weeks prior to 9/11.
The response of the Bushies and their amen corner to the "revisionist" assault has been ferocious. Cheney warned critics that it would be most unwise to "seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions" at a time when it is "almost certain" that a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 is "not a matter of if, but when." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined in the fun, averring that "we should just face that reality," while FBI Director Robert Mueller tried to top that with a flat out prediction that suicide bombings, as have occurred in Israel, were "inevitable" in the U.S. Not to be upstaged, Senator Graham took the opportunity to reiterate the alleged threat posed by Hezbollah. The message: shut up, sit down, and be afraid be very afraid.
We were then treated to the news that a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 58 percent opposed to a full-scale investigation of 9/11, with 36 percent in favor. I'd like to see the way the question was worded, but, in any event, those 36-percenters want to know the facts much more than the 58 percent who supposedly don't. Let those who don't want to know the truth tune it out, and get back to watching the latest sitcom. The rest of us have serious business to attend to: getting to the bottom of the dark mystery of 9/11. As the truth comes out, watch those poll numbers turn around at which time they'll stop taking them, and/or reporting them.
In the competition to see which public official can generate the most panic in the populace, Rumsfeld has suddenly pulled out ahead of the pack. You'll remember that Cheney, when asked about Warren Buffet's wild speculation over the "certainty" of a nuclearized terror attack on the US, said:
"I can't say that. I would not go that far, because I think we still have the opportunity to prevent the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, for example, by a terrorist organization."
It was a relief to see that our public officials have some sense of responsibility left. But I should've known that Rumsfeld would see his chance and take it, and it didn't take him long.
This morning (May 21], Rummy opines that Buffet is right about terrorists getting their hands on nukes:
"They inevitably will get their hands on them and they will not hesitate to use them."
There's that word again: it's "inevitable," they tell us. The Marxists once touted the inevitability of a Communist victory, but isn't it strange that the last superpower left standing trumpets the inevitability of a terrible defeat?
Rumsfeld told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea would be the terrorists' source of supply. I suppose that, too, is "inevitable" as long as Rummy and Company make sure to threaten them on a daily basis. After all, if we're going to strike them anyway, then why shouldn't this expanded "axis of evil" get in the first punch and go down fighting? One could easily imagine, say, the North Koreans coming to this conclusion: you might even say it's inevitable.
Oh, but not to worry. Because Homeland Defense czar Tom Ridge has declared that we're still on yellow alert. In the brave new color-coded world where terror is a constant, like weather, we need the post-9/11 equivalent of a weather report a terror report in order to plan our lives. And yellow is, basically, ho-hum, mid-range panic. So, you can relax: or, at least, come down off the ceiling.
According to Ridge, it isn't enough that there has been a warning to apartment managers to keep an eye out for terrorists who want to rent apartments only to blow them up. It isn't even enough that the Evil One is sure to strike us with a nuclear thunderbolt from out of the blue, and probably sooner rather than later, as Rummy assures us. But, then, what would it take to upgrade from yellow to, say, orange, or even red? Ridge didn't say. But I have the sinking feeling that we're going to find out. After all, it's inevitable .
I don't want to be in the position of telling the warmongering idiots who have seized control of our country how to conduct their permanent "war on terrorism." But isn't their rhetoric what we used to call "defeatist"? During the last world war once America got dragged in it seems to me that any American citizen, let alone a public official, who said that Hitler's air force would soon pulverize New York City would be taken out and shot. As well they ought to be.
What is the point of demoralizing the American people, having them so frightened, so ready to believe the worst that they can hardly think? Think (if you still can) of the power-mad fools who rule us vainglorious demagogues who have overthrown the republic, and proclaimed Washington the capital of a world empire and the question answers itself.
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