The Silence about September 11
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 21 April 2003
They call it "The fog of war" for a reason. A lot of things get lost in the fire and the smoke that should not be forgotten, and yet they are, spent and cast aside like depleted uranium shell casings left to roast on a dusty desert roadside. In this relatively quiet space between war in Iraq and whatever battle zone the Bush administration will next come to conjure, it serves us to remember a few home facts that should never, ever be lost.
I have been giving a lot of talks lately at colleges and for organizations about the Iraq war. Always in my remarks I ask the same question. "It has been almost 20 months since the attacks of September 11. It has been over 570 days since the Towers fell. The 9/11 attacks are the principle reason, according to the Bush administration, which justifies the war. Can anyone tell me why those attacks happened? Has anyone in the Bush administration or the media come forth with a reasonable explanation besides 'Evildoers who hate our freedom?'"
Every time I get blank stares, and always a few sets of widened eyes, as if my question caused them to suddenly realize that no such explanation has ever been put forward.
The fact is that the Bush administration has labored mightily and long to make sure no such answers are coming. They fought the creation of an independent investigative body because they wanted to be able to choose the chairman. Once they were gifted this privilege, they abused it with the appalling nomination of Henry Kissinger. If you want a fair and open examination of facts, regardless of shadowy loyalties and compromising corporate connections, you do not choose Kissinger. If you want the master of the black bag and the black op, the undisputed heavyweight champion of Washington insiderdom, the gold standard for cover-up and cover-your-ass, you cannot do better than Henry. This choice told us everything we need to know about the Bush administration's desire to get to the bottom of 9/11.
When I ask my question at these talks, someone in the audience always demands an answer. More often than not, I tell them about Zbigniew Brzezinski and the Afghan Trap. In 1979, Brzezinski was serving as Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, and he decided the time had come to challenge the Soviet Union in their own back yard. At this time, Afghanistan was ruled by a communist puppet regime of the Soviets called the People's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, or PDPA. Brzezinski instituted a plan to train fundamentalist Islamic mujeheddin fighters in Pakistan, and sent those fighters to attack the PDPA. The idea was not to destroy the PDPA, but to make the Soviets so nervous about the stability of their puppet regime that they would invade Afghanistan to protect it. Brzezinski wanted, at bottom, to hand the Soviet Union their own debilitating Vietnam.
The plan worked. The Soviets invaded in 1979, and over the next ten years spent its blood and treasure trying to defeat the Afghan warriors who banded together to defend their country. By 1989 millions of Afghan civilians had been killed, millions more had been internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops had been killed or wounded. In the process, the nation of Afghanistan was torn to pieces. Worst of all, the United States which energetically worked to start the war, and which armed and funded the Afghan mujeheddin once the war was underway did absolutely nothing to aid ravaged Afghanistan once the Soviets withdrew. Brzezinski proudly described the Afghan Trap in an interview he gave to a French publication called Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998:
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
How innocent we were in 1998. How gravely we misjudged the dire ramifications of empowering the Taliban. How profoundly we underestimated the strength of the "stirred-up Moslems" we armed and trained with American tax dollars. What a price we have paid.
You see, the Afghan Trap led to the incredibly vicious civil war in Afghanistan that came once the Soviets withdrew. By 1996, the Taliban made up of our secret allies in the Soviet war - had won the civil war and controlled the nation. The Afghan Trap likewise gave birth to a man named Osama bin Laden, who became a demigod to the Taliban and the Afghan people for his service in the war against the Soviets we started in the first place. The combination of our efforts to begin that war, the social annihilation in Afghanistan caused by that war, the Taliban's rise, and the succor they gave bin Laden, led like an arrow to the attacks of September 11 and the dire estate we currently endure.
How ironic that Brzezinski's desire to end one Cold War gave birth to another. Actions, I tell the listeners at these talks, have consequences. You stir up a hornet's nest, best you expect to get stung. Boy, did we ever get stung.
The actions of a Carter administration official in 1979 can hardly be laid at the feet of George W. Bush and his administration, of course. It is telling, however, that no one in that administration has made an effort to put 9/11 into the historical context to which it belongs. Why such an oversight? Perhaps the folks in the administration believe Americans too dull-witted to comprehend the complex Cold War motivations that gave birth to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Perhaps they are afraid to speak of such things, because it suggests that we inadvertently bought the trouble that came two Septembers ago to find us.
Then again, perhaps the administration was engaged in similar gamesmanship before 9/11. Perhaps they are afraid to address the issue at all. The nomination of Kissinger to the 9/11 committee certainly suggests a desire on the administration's part to never, ever, ever have the facts of that attack come fully to light. They do not want people to know that Brzezinski's actions in 1979, and the naivet regarding the potential blowback from his decisions he displayed in 1998, was compounded by the actions of the Bush administration in 2001. Brzezinski asked in his interview what was more important in 1979: Ending the Cold War or creating the Taliban? In the early days of the Bush administration, a similar question was certainly asked - what is more important in 2001: Gaining access to an incredibly lucrative energy supply, or the dangers of threatening the Taliban?
A pipeline project, aimed at exploiting massive natural gas reserves along the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan, was revived by the Bush administration when it arrived in Washington in January of 2001. The pipeline project, which sought to bring oil and natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to a warm water port, had been the brainchild of American petroleum giant Unocal for much of the 1990s. After the destruction of two American embassies in Africa in 1998 by Osama bin Laden, the Clinton administration forbade any American companies from doing business with the Taliban, which had been sheltering bin Laden in Afghanistan. Unocal's pipeline project was frozen.
After the Bush administration came to power, reinvigorating the pipeline project became a high-priority matter of policy. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was dispatched to Pakistan to discuss the pipeline with Taliban officials in August of 2001. Rocca, a career officer with the CIA, had been deeply involved in Agency activities within Afghanistan. A Pakistani foreign minister was present at the meeting, and witnessed the exchange.
How does this pipeline relate to September 11th? The main obstacle to the completion of the pipeline was the fact that it had to pass through Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The project would receive no international support unless the Afghan government somehow became legitimized. In bargaining for the pipeline, the Bush administration demanded that the Taliban reinstate deposed King Mohammad Zahir Shah as ruler of Afghanistan, and demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden for arrest. In return, the Taliban would reap untold billions in profit from the pipeline. A central part of the Bush administration's bargaining tactics involved threats of war if these conditions for the legitimization of Afghanistan were not met.
The BBC of London reported on September 18th, 2001 of the existence of war plans on Bush's desk aimed at Afghanistan. Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, stated that the war plans were slated for October of 2001. Conditions set by the Bush administration to avoid war involved the Taliban's handing over of bin Laden and the acceptance of King Zahir Shah. Naik went so far as to doubt that America would hold off on war even if these conditions were met.
The result was total disaster. The Bush administration fundamentally misunderstood the Taliban regime, much the way Brzezinski did in 1998. To bring back the King and hand bin Laden over to the West would have been tantamount to suicide for the Taliban. The arrival of Shah would shove them out of power, and handing bin Laden over to the West would have been seen as a high crime to the Islamic world. Instead of acquiescing to the hard-sell tactics of the Bush administration, the Taliban unleashed Osama bin Laden upon America. They were going to lose everything, and chose to attack first in the hope that all-out war would break out in Central Asia and rally other Muslim nations to their cause.
Actions do indeed have consequences. The motivations behind 20 months of silence regarding the cause of 9/11, along with the appalling nomination of Kissinger as chief investigator, become far more clear.
The families of those slain on 9/11 have not taken all of this lying down. They have sued the government of Saudi Arabia for civil damages totaling $1 trillion, accusing them of harboring and aiding the terrorists who took down the Towers. There is profound merit to their claim, as 15 of the 19 terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, as does Osama bin Laden and the Wahabbi sect of Islam that motivates their jihad. The suit seems logical and reasonable. It is disturbing, then, to consider the legal team hired by the Saudi government to defend against the charges. Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister, is being represented in court by the prestigious Houston law firm Baker Botts.
The 'Baker' in Baker Botts is James Baker III, Secretary of State to George Bush Sr. and prime fighter for Bush Jr. in the Florida election brawl. Baker also shares another employer with Bush Sr.: Massive multinational corporation The Carlyle Group, owner of the arms manufacturer United Defense, which is making a gold-plated mint off the war in Iraq.
I'd be gratified if someone could explain all this away. I could sleep at night.
The war we have waged against Iraq was justified to the American people as being a necessary response to September 11. We were told Iraq had terrible weapons that could kill us all, that Iraq was a major threat, and that the country will be safer once the Hussein regime was fired. The fact that we have found exactly zero weapons of mass destruction, and the relative ease with which we destroyed Iraq's army, proves they were no threat whatsoever. We went anyway, however, to make the world safer at the point of our incredibly sharp sword.
Albert Einstein, arguably the most brilliant human being ever to draw breath on planet Earth, defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." America instigated a horrible war in Afghanistan 24 years ago to make the world safer. We have attacked and destroyed another Muslim nation purportedly for the same purpose. One of these days we are going to realize that such actions never serve the cause of peace, but only serve to perpetuate and augment the horrors of this terrifying world. We will learn, for all time, that actions have consequences.
In the meantime, though, we have silence about September. We have evildoers who hate our freedom, and we have war after war after war, instigated by an administration that has so very much to answer for. I tell the people at my talks about all this, and they leave the room quivering with rage. They have the answers, as do I, and God help the administration because of it. Secrets love to whisper.
is a New York Times best-selling author of two books - "War On Iraq" available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," now available from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA.
Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.
(*Editors Note | From day one the families of those killed on September 11th. have questioned the events leading up the attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. They have sought a just, fair and thorough investigation, they have been denied at every turn. Moreover the entire issue has been utterly ignored by the US commercial press and likewise by the American people. -- ma.)
Statement of Mindy Kleinberg to the National Commission
on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
t r u t h o u t | Statement
March 31, 2003
My name is Mindy Kleinberg. My husband Alan Kleinberg, 39 yrs old, was killed in the WTC on September 11, 2001. As I testify here today about the 9/11 attacks, I will begin by saying that my thoughts are very much with the men and women who are involved in armed conflict overseas and their families who wait patiently for them to return.
This war is being fought on two fronts, overseas as well as here on our shores; this means that we are all soldiers in this fight against terrorism. As the threat of terrorism mounts here in the United States, the need to address the failures of September 11 is more important than ever. It is an essential part of "lessons learned".
As such, this commission has an extremely important task before it. I am here today to ask you, the commissioners, to help us understand how this could have happened; help us understand where the breakdown was in our nation's defense capabilities.
Where were we on the morning of September 11th?
On the morning of September 11th my three-year-old son, Sam, and I walked Jacob 10, and Lauren, 7 to the bus stop at about 8:40 a.m. It was the fourth day of a new school year and you could still feel everyone's excitement. It was such a beautiful day that Sam and I literally skipped home oblivious to what was happening in NYC.
At around 8:55 I was confirming play date plans for Sam with a friend when she said, "I can't believe what I am watching on TV, a plane has just hit the World Trade Center." For some reason it did not register with me until a few minutes later when I calmly asked, "what building did you say?" "Oh that's Alan's building I have to call you back."
There was no answer when I tried to reach him at the office. By now my house started filling with people--his mother, my parents, our sisters and friends. The seriousness of the situation was beginning to register. We spent the rest of the day calling hospitals, and the Red Cross and any place else we could think of to see if we could find him.
I'll never forget thinking all day long, "how am I going to tell Jacob and Lauren that their father was missing?"
They came home to a house filled with people but no Daddy. How were they going to be able to wait calmly for his return? What if he was really hurt? This was their hero, their king their best friend, their father. The thoughts of that day replay over and over in our heads always wishing for a different outcome.
We are trying to learn to live with the pain. We will never forget where we were or how we felt on September 11th. But where was our government, its agencies, and institutions prior to and on the morning of September 11th?
The Theory of Luck
With regard to the 9/11 attacks, it has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100% of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once. This explanation for the devastating attacks of September 11th, simple on its face, is wrong in its value. Because the 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once: they were lucky over and over again. Allow me to illustrate.
The terrorist's lucky streak began the week before September 11th with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. The SEC, in concert with the United States intelligence agencies, has sophisticated software programs that are used in "real-time" to watch both domestic and overseas markets to seek out trends that may indicate a present or future crime. In the week prior to September 11th both the SEC and U.S. intelligence agencies ignored one major stock market indicator, one that could have yielded valuable information with regard to the September 11th attacks.
On the Chicago Board Options Exchange during the week before September 11th, put options were purchased on American and United Airlines, the two airlines involved in the attacks. The investors who placed these orders were gambling that in the short term the stock prices of both Airlines would plummet. Never before on the Chicago Exchange were such large amounts of United and American Airlines options traded. These investors netted a profit of at least $5 million after the September 11th attacks.
Interestingly, the names of the investors remain undisclosed and the $5 million remains unclaimed in the Chicago Exchange account.
Why these aberrant trades were not discovered prior to 9/11? Who were the individuals who placed these trades? Have they been investigated? Who was responsible for monitoring these activities? Have those individuals been held responsible for their inaction?
Prior to 9/11, our US intelligence agencies should have stopped the 19 terrorists from entering this country for intelligence reasons, alone. However, their failure to do so in 19 instances does not negate the luck involved for the terrorists when it comes to their visa applications and our Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS.
With regard to the INS, the terrorists got lucky 15 individual times, because 15 of the 19 hijackers' visas should have been unquestionably denied.
Most of the 19 hijackers were young, unmarried, and un-employed males. They were, in short, the "classic over-stay candidates". A seasoned former Consular officer stated in National Review magazine, "Single, idle young adults with no specific destination in the United States rarely get visas absent compelling circumstances."
Yet these 19 young single, unemployed, "classic overstay candidates still received their visas." I am holding in my hand the applications of the terrorists who killed my husband. All of these forms are incomplete and incorrect.
Some of the terrorists listed their means of support as simply "student" failing to then list the name and address of any school or institution. Others, when asked about their means of support for their stay in the US wrote "myself" and provided no further documentation. Some of the terrorists listed their destination in the US as simply "hotel" or "California" or "New York". One even listed his destination as "no".
Had the INS or State Department followed the law, at least 15 of the hijackers would have been denied visas and would not have been in the United States on September 11th, 2001.
Help us to understand how something as simple as reviewing forms for completeness could have been missed at least 15 times. How many more lucky terrorists gained unfettered access into this country? With no one being held accountable, how do know this still isn't happening?
Airline and Airport Security
On the morning of September 11th, the terrorists' luck commenced with airline and airport security. When the 19 hijackers went to purchase their tickets (with cash and/or credit cards) and to receive their boarding passes, nine were singled out and questioned through a screening process. Luckily for those nine terrorists, they passed the screening process and were allowed to continue on with their mission.
But, the terrorist's luck didn't end at the ticket counter; it also accompanied them through airport security, as well. Because how else would the hijackers get specifically contraband items such as box-cutters, pepper spray or, according to one FAA executive summary, a gun on those planes?
Finally, sadly for us, years of GAO recommendations to secure cockpit doors were ignored making it all too easy for the hijackers to gain access to the flight controls and carryout their suicide mission.
FAA and NORAD
Prior to 9/11, FAA and Department of Defense Manuals gave clear, comprehensive instructions on how to handle everything from minor emergencies to full blown hijackings.
These "protocols" were in place and were practiced regularly for a good reason--with heavily trafficked air space; airliners without radio and transponder contact are collisions and/or calamities waiting to happen.
Those protocols dictate that in the event of an emergency, the FAA is to notify NORAD. Once that notification takes place, it is then the responsibility of NORAD to scramble fighter-jets to intercept the errant plane(s). It is a matter of routine procedure for fighter-jets to "intercept" commercial airliners in order to regain contact with the pilot.
If that weren't protection enough, on September 11th, NEADS (or the North East Air Defense System dept of NORAD) was several days into a semiannual exercise known as "Vigilant Guardian". This meant that our North East Air Defense system was fully staffed. In short, key officers were manning the operation battle center, "fighter jets were cocked, loaded, and carrying extra gas on board."
Lucky for the terrorists none of this mattered on the morning of September 11th.
Let me illustrate using just flight 11 as an example.
American Airline Flight 11 departed from Boston Logan Airport at 7:45 a.m. The last routine communication between ground control and the plane occurred at 8:13 a.m. Between 8:13 and 8:20 a.m. Flight 11 became unresponsive to ground control. Additionally, radar indicated that the plane had deviated from its assigned path of flight. Soon thereafter, transponder contact was lost - (although planes can still be seen on radar - even without their transponders).
Two Flight 11 airline attendants had separately called American Airlines reporting a hijacking, the presence of weapons, and the infliction of injuries on passengers and crew. At this point, it would seem abundantly clear that Flight 11 was an emergency. Yet, according to NORAD's official timeline, NORAD was not contacted until 20 minutes later at 8:40 a.m. Tragically the fighter jets were not deployed until 8:52 a.m. -- a full 32 minutes after the loss of contact with flight 11.
Why was there a delay in the FAA notifying NORAD? Why was there a delay in NORAD scrambling fighter jets? How is this possible when NEADS was fully staffed with planes at the ready and monitoring our Northeast airspace?
Flight's 175, 77 and 93 all had this same repeat pattern of delays in notification and delays in scrambling fighter jets. Delays that are unimaginable considering a plane had, by this time, already hit the WTC
Even more baffling for us is the fact that the fighter jets were not scrambled from the closest air force bases. For example, for the flight that hit the Pentagon, the jets were scrambled from Langley Air Force in Hampton, Virginia rather than Andrews Air Force Base right outside D.C. As a result, Washington skies remained wholly unprotected on the morning of September 11th. At 9:41 a.m. one hour and 11 minutes after the first plane was hijack confirmed by NORAD, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The fighter jets were still miles away. Why?
So the hijackers luck had continued. On September 11th both the FAA and NORAD deviated from standard emergency operating procedures .Who were the people that delayed the notification? Have they been questioned? In addition, the interceptor planes or fighter jets did not fly at their maximum speed.
Had the belatedly scrambled fighter jets flown at their maximum speed of engagement, MACH-12, they would have reached NYC and the Pentagon within moments of their deployment, intercepted the hijacked airliners before they could have hit their targets, and undoubtedly saved lives.
Joint Chief Of Staff
The acting Joint Chief of staff on Sept 11th was on the morning of September 11th, he was having a routine meeting . Acting Joint Chief of staff Myers stated that he saw a TV. report about a plane hitting the WTC but thought it was a small plane or something like that. So, he went ahead with his meeting. "Meanwhile the second World Trade Center was hit by another jet. Nobody informed us of that," Myers said. By the time he came out of the meeting the Pentagon had been hit.
Whose responsibility was it to relay this emergency to the Joint Chief of Staff? Have they been held accountable for their error? Surely this represents a breakdown of protocol.
Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense, was at his desk doing paperwork when AA77 crashed into the Pentagon.
As reported, Secretary Rumsfeld felt the building shake, went outside, saw the damage and started helping the injured onto stretchers. After aiding the victims, the Secretary then went into the 'War Room'.
How is it possible that the National Military Command Center, located in the Pentagon and in contact with law enforcement and air traffic controllers from 8:46 a.m. did not communicate to the Secretary of Defense also at the Pentagon about the other hijacked planes especially the one headed to Washington? How is that Secretary of Defense could have remained at this desk until the crash? Whose responsibility is it to relay emergency situations to him? Is he then supposed to go to the war room?
At 6:15 a.m. on the morning of 9/11, my husband Alan left for work; he drove into New York City, and was at his desk and working at his NASDAQ Security Trading position with Cantor Fitzgerald, in Tower One of the WTC by 7:30 a.m. In contrast, on the morning of September 11, President Bush was scheduled to listen to elementary school children read. Before the President walked into the classroom NORAD had sufficient information that the plane that hit the WTC was hijacked. At that time, they also had knowledge that two other commercial airliners, in the air, were also hijacked. It would seem that a national emergency was in progress.
Yet President Bush was allowed to enter a classroom full of young children and listen to the students read.
Why didn't the Secret Service inform him of this national emergency? When is a President supposed to be notified of everything the agencies know? Why was the President permitted by the Secret Service to remain in the Sarasota elementary school? Was this Secret Service protocol?
In the case of a national emergency, seconds of indecision could cost thousands of lives; and it's precisely for this reason that our government has a whole network of adjuncts and advisors to insure that these top officials are among the first to be informed--not the last. Where were these individuals who did not properly inform these top officials? Where was the breakdown in communication?
Was it luck or No Fault Government
Is it luck that aberrant stock trades were not monitored? Is it luck when 15 visas are awarded based on incomplete forms? Is it luck when Airline Security screenings allow hijackers to board planes with box cutters and pepper spray? Is it luck when Emergency FAA and NORAD protocols are not followed? Is it luck when a national emergency is not reported to top government officials on a timely basis?
To me luck is something that happens once. When you have this repeated pattern of broken protocols, broken laws, broken communication, one cannot still call it luck.
If at some point we don't look to hold the individuals accountable for not doing their jobs properly then how can we ever expect for terrorists not to get lucky again?
And, that is why I am here with all of you today. Because, we must find the answers as to what happened that day so as to ensure that another September 11th can never happen again.
Commissioners, I implore you to answer our questions. You are the Generals in the terrorism fight on our shores. In answering our questions, you have the ability to make this nation a safer place and in turn, minimize the damage if there is another terrorist attack. And, if there is another attack, the next time, our systems will be in place and working and luck will not be an issue.
Mindy Kleinberg is a founding member of September 11th Advocates, a family advocacy group that spearheaded the grassroots effort for the establishment of the independent commission on September 11th. Her husband Alan Kleinberg was a NASDAQ security trader with Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower of the WTC on the 104th Floor. He was 39 and had been a NASDAQ security trader for 15 years.
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