9/11 has been the rationale for a policy of perpetual war, the radical abridgement of our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties, and the barking chorus of television screamers who shout down all dissent as “treason.” Yet Americans have no right to know how or why it happened. During ten months of probing by a joint House-Senate investigation headed by former prosecutor and Pentagon inspector general Eleanor Hill, staff members reviewed classified documents made available by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They also interviewed field agents, spooks, and senior government officials. The Senate and House intelligence committees approved the report, but the White House insisted that it be “scrubbed” before being released that is, cleansed of any hint that the attack might have been prevented.
As if to underscore the profound guilt at the core of their adamant obstructionism, administration officials are insisting that portions of the report detailing what is already widely known be “reclassified.” The infamous “Phoenix memo” written by an FBI investigator warning of Al Qaeda-linked operatives enrolling in flight schools is now an official “secret,” although it has been published and cited in media all over the world. In explaining this Orwellian maneuver, an administration spokesman summed up the neo-imperialist theory of “democratic” governance to a tee:
“Just because something had been inadvertently released, doesn’t make it unclassified.”
A few weeks ago, a federal goon squad invaded an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square, held everyone at gunpoint, and burst into the kitchen like Reno’s Raiders at Waco. One of the restaurant’s customers, Jason Halperin, an American citizen like everyone in the place was on his way to see a play with a friend. They had stopped for a quick bite to eat but, as it turned out, they would miss curtain time. “You have no right to hold us,” his friend said. The response of the goons, as reported by Halperin, was that they were being held under the authority granted by the “Patriot Act.” When Halperin demanded to see a lawyer, the masks really came off:
“As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. ‘We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety,’ she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself: ‘We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this.'”
We are at war, but what was the provenance of the catalytic attack that launched it? How is it that the mightiest nation on earth, a country that spends tens of billions per year on intelligence-gathering, was taken so completely by surprise? In the period leading up to the attack, after all, numerous commissions had issued well-publicized reports warning of the terrorist threat even naming Osama Bin Laden as the potential perpetrator. Even if we accept the official line that they attacked us because we’re so wonderful, we have McDonald’s and free elections and MTV, the nagging question remains: how did they manage to pull it off? The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, charged with coming up with the definitive report on 9/11, is having trouble getting the documents it needs. What does the Bush administration have to hide?
There has been “a cover-up,” charges Senator Bob Graham, Florida Democrat. Sure, he’s a presidential wannabe, but even before his somewhat quixotic bid for the White House was announced, Graham chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was hinting at the dark secrets of 9/11. In an interview with Gwen Ifill of PBS about the content of this secret report, Graham said:
“Going back to your question about what was the greatest surprise. I agree with what Senator Shelby said the degree to which agencies were not communicating was certainly a surprise but also I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States. I am stunned that we have not done a better job of pursuing that to determine if other terrorists received similar support and, even more important, if the infrastructure of a foreign government assisting terrorists still exists for the current generation of terrorists who are here planning the next plots.”
This isn’t some wacko who stands on a street corner handing out crudely printed pamphlets, but a U.S. Senator who is in a position to know so why isn’t attention being paid? It isn’t the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News but the respected German weekly Die Zeit that reports the story of how Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was tracking the 9/11 hijackers around the clock in the weeks and days prior to the attacks:
“Everything indicates that the terrorists were constantly observed by the Israelis.”
Two years ago this September, Fox News investigative reporter Carl Cameron told his audience:
“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 ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.'”
That’s what they’re telling us today when skeptics of the official story wonder how it could have happened: “Sorry, but that’s classified information.” The people of Iraq rifle through the files of the infamous Mukhabarat, yet we are denied access to vital government documents relating to the most important event of our times. Who is freer? In a curious inversion of the historical process, it looks like we’re exporting “democracy” to Iraq and importing totalitarianism to our own shores.
Senator Graham avers that foreign intelligence agencies are implicated not only in the financing but also in the execution of the hijackers’ plans. Add to this the Isikoff-Hosenball revelations that our presidential helmsman was asleep at the wheel, and the political implications of the growing scandal are explosive. As Newsweek reports:
“One such CIA briefing, in July 2001, was particularly chilling and prophetic. It predicted that Osama bin Laden was about to launch a terrorist strike ‘in the coming weeks,’ the congressional investigators found. The intelligence briefing went on to say: ‘The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.'”
This sounds very much like the warning the Israelis claim to have issued in the summer of 2001, when an Israeli delegation of intelligence officials traveled to Washington. However, U.S. officials maintain that their warning was non-specific, except that the target was supposed to have been overseas. As to whether the Israelis, or the Americans, are covering up, is an open question. The answer is quite possibly both.
In any event, the President and other senior officials received that report, according to Newsweek, but since the list of recipients has been classified as “Top Secret,” the Bushies are off the hook for now. Another classified report given to Condoleezza Rice predicted attacks by Al Qaeda utilizing hijacked airliners, but it apparently only gathered dust on her desk.
Incompetence? If so, it’s of the criminal variety. Complicity? Please don’t tell me that “Bush knew” that is the onanistic fantasy of the tinfoil hat brigade. But somebody knew, apart from Mohammed Atta & Co., or should have known. There is no question that the terrorists, in pulling off the 9/11 attacks, had access to some of this nation’s most important secrets. New York Times columnist Bill Safire reported that, as the WTC went down in flames, the terrorists made it clear they had penetrated the inner defenses of White House security:
“A threatening message received by the Secret Service was relayed to the agents with the president that ‘Air Force One is next.’ According to the high official, American code words were used showing a knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.”
Safire swears this was told to him by Karl Rove, who said the President was going to go back to Washington until the Secret Service “informed him that the threat contained language that was evidence that the terrorists had knowledge of his procedures and whereabouts.” As Safire put it:
“That knowledge of code words and presidential whereabouts and possession of secret procedures indicates that the terrorists may have a mole in the White House that, or informants in the Secret Service, F.B.I., F.A.A. or C.I.A.”
The deeper we get into what is already known, the more it seems like some formulaic thriller, with agents and double-agents operating in a clandestine world parallel to our own where the rules are repealed and everyone is a potential enemy. How can we possibly get through this dizzying maze of deliberate disinformation and tantalizing leaks without access to the intelligence gathered by our own officials, who supposedly serve at our behest? The answer is, we can’t so we’ll just have to take the government’s word for it, and accept the Official Story.
The lies that is the worst aspect of the cursed age we are living in. The same government that lied us into war is now trying to stop us from getting at the truth about 9/11. Desperately, furiously, intransigently, they are fighting congressional investigators every step of the way before giving up even material that is already entered into the public record. That’s how frightened they are. No doubt, they have good reason for their fear.
But just what are they afraid of? What is the final secret of 9/11? Will we really hate our rulers that much when we find out how they messed up? If so, then no wonder the Bushies are pulling out all the stops in covering up their tracks.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I turn, out of a sense of duty, to the final issue of Partisan Review, the journal that in an important sense spawned the neoconservatives, and traced their evolution from New York City’s Bolshevik Bohemia to post-Trotskyite orphans of the ideological storm to their current role as the influential (and well-heeled) vanguard of the War Party. Not just to celebrate the demise of a magazine that was the brand name for pretentious prose, but to point out the idiocy of Irving Louis Horowitz‘s piece, entitled “The American Consensus and The American Conservative.” This low-grade error-filled smear is a fitting epitaph for a periodical that was wrong about the Soviets (it was founded as a high-toned version of the New Masses), wrong about Trotsky (its editors were briefly enamored of the founder of the Red Army), and mistaken about practically everything else in its long history of accumulated wrongness.
To begin with, Horowitz gets basic facts wrong. In order to “prove” Buchanan’s affinity for “revolutionary socialism,” he states that Lenora Fulani was Pat Buchanan’s running mate “on his 1996 Reform Party ticket.” Not even close. Fulani was never Buchanan’s running mate, not in 1996 when he ran in the Republican primaries, instead of as the Reform party candidate and not in 2000, when Buchanan ran as the Reform standard-bearer. Within the Reform Party, Fulani at first reconciled herself to Buchanan’s takeover of the party, but then turned against him at the convention and bolted. Pat’s running mate was another woman of color, Ezola Foster, a conservative activist but to Horowitz, apparently, all those black ladies look alike.
Let us not harry the befuddled Horowitz with too many facts, however, since they might get in the way of his thesis: that Buchanan and his followers are a manifestation of “left fascism.” The supposed recruitment of Fulani, you see, was explained by Horowitz as the result of a “red-brown alliance” against capitalism:
“As with Nazis and communists, linking capitalism with the Jewish impulse to aggrandize the wealth of the nation helped to cement this otherwise inexplicable alliance in seamless fashion.”
Except that there was no “alliance.” The ditzy old fool can’t even get the simplest facts straight: e.g., he misspells my name. Entire sentences of his screed make no sense whatsoever, and one can only interpret them as the literary expression of hardened arteries in the brain. But through the vague fog that characterizes Horowitz’s thought processes, the one emotion that comes through loud and clear is hate. God, does Horowitz hate The American Conservative! Buchanan is a “demagogue” for reminding us of the wisdom of the Founding Father’s warning against foreign entanglements, a “conspiracy theorist” akin to Lyndon LaRouche and Father Coughlin who “embody many of the causes espoused by Buchanan” (although we are never told which “causes”). This farrago of lies brings to mind a passage from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead:
“Ask anything of men. Ask them to achieve wealth, fame, love , brutality, murder, self-sacrifice. But don’t ask them to achieve self-respect. They will hate your soul. Well, they know best. They must have their reasons. They won’t say, of course, that they hate you. They will say that you hate them. It’s near enough, I suppose. They know the emotion involved.”
Horowitz is a senile old hater, who respects his readers even less than his subject or the facts. But to a neocon in a rage, facts are not stubborn things: they are infinitely malleable, raw material to be moulded to suit his pet hates.
Screw you, Horowitz. You babble on about how “there is a growing liberal-conservative alliance in general ideological terms,” and how those nasty old paleoconservatives are just ruining this emergent “consensus.” Tough, buster. Your “consensus” isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and is headed for the trash-can just as surely as the final number of the Partisan Review. So get used to having The American Conservative around, Irving old boy and I hope every issue is like an arrow through your shriveled up heart. Long live TAC! Long may it publish and prosper!