May 21, 2007
The attempt by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas to discuss what happened and why—to account for the 9/11 terrorist attacks—is an enormous breakthrough on the American political landscape. The incident occurred during last week’s Republican “debate” among Presidential hopefuls and was aired live on Fox News from Columbia, South Carolina. This may be the first time that the subject has been broached in a serious, intelligent manner by any U.S. Presidential candidate. Rudy Giuliani saw his opportunity to grandstand, and he jumped on it. He chose to dodge, distort and demagogue the issue. As a result, Giuliani received almost a standing ovation. Not surprising. No politician on the national stage has gone, or wants to go, anywhere near the question of why New York and Washington were attacked on a clear day in September of 2001. Should some honest and frank answers be forthcoming, it would negatively impact their political careers, starting with funding. It is in their own interest, therefore, to keep the public confused and distracted. The easy option is simply to wave the flag. That is what Giuliani did, and that is what Cheney/Bush have done from the start.
As we know, in the years since the 9/11 attacks, Rudy Giuliani has made a fortune off the terrorism business, by consulting with governments and corporations about how to fight it. Well, I guess it’s a living. 9/11 also catapulted Giuliani into the national spotlight. As for Cheney and Bush, “the war on terrorism” has defined their unfortunate co-consulship. You see the results: Total disaster. Neither Cheney nor Bush—and none of the Democrats, who constantly kick Bush in the pants for the war, as if he alone were to blame—has ever given a credible explanation for why we were hit on September 11th, 2001. Aside from the nonsensical reason initially proffered by the White House that the bad guys hate our freedom and democracy, we have been handed next to nothing. To be fair, we have demanded next to nothing. When anyone with intellectual honesty (or simple human curiosity) like Dr. Paul raises questions about this important topic, he is ridiculed and dismissed out of hand by the establishment mountebanks who hold center stage.
Paul seemed to suggest that the 9/11 terrorists may have been motivated by the bombing of Iraq during and after “Operation Desert Storm.” These cruise missile attacks by Washington lasted over ten years, and would be followed in 2003 by a full-scale “pre-emptive” invasion which commenced with “shock and awe” in the skies over Baghdad. Paul did not touch upon the larger and more murderous event—the economic embargo championed by Washington (Bush I, Bill Clinton, and Bush II) and shamefully enforced by the UN Security Council, for which see The Scourging of Iraq by Geoff Simons. (We should never forget Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s infamous crack by way of response to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children directly caused by the Clinton sanctions: “It’s worth it.” Her remark speaks volumes.) By suggesting a possible connection between Washington’s bombing of Iraq and 9/11, Congressman Paul hit a nerve, but at the same time he ironically lent some credence to the Cheney/Bush/Neocon canard that Saddam was behind the 9/11 terrorist atrocities.
Which begs the question: Isn’t it likely that Dick Cheney and his cabal of “neocon” operatives felt confident that what Washington had done to Iraq in “Desert Storm”—the deliberate wrecking of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure by bombing power plants, factories, and water purification stations, and then in the Clinton years, the comprehensive embargo of vital food and medicines—amounted to a long-standing provocation for Saddam to strike back? Contrary to the befuddled and misinformed American public, as represented by the aforementioned South Carolina audience, the “neocons” knew perfectly well that Iraq had been eviscerated during and after “Desert Storm.” Wolfowitz in particular was obsessed with the idea that Osama bin Laden and his henchmen must have had financial and logistical support from Iraq to execute the 9/11 attacks. To Wolfowitz, knowing the inside story as he did, it made sense.
After all, there had to be motivation from somewhere, a framework of cause and effect. An earth-shattering event like 9/11 does not happen out of the blue. What was the motivation for these attacks on New York and Washington emanating from the Middle East, and what can we learn from the experience? Congressman Ron Paul was attempting to make that point. This is commonsensical stuff. Giuliani chose to feign amazement and outrage, pretending that Paul had said something over the top. It was an act.
In an outstanding article at the indispensable Antiwar.com, Scott Horton has picked up and run with a remark by Wolfowitz contained in the May 9, 2003 issue of Vanity Fair about how everything is going to be wonderful (according to Wolfowitz) in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
“There are a lot of things that are different now… we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It’s been a huge recruiting device for al-Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.”
Come again? Offhand, can anybody name just one positive thing which has blown through the door left ajar by Wolfowitz’s War? Just one. I’m waiting.
Still, Wolfowitz had a point. The stationing of U.S. ground forces in Saudi Arabia was indeed a “huge recruiting device for al-Qaeda”—just like the American intervention in Iraq is today! How did it come about? When did American troops arrive in Saudi Arabia, and who was responsible for placing them there? This involves the build-up for Gulf War I, “Operation Desert Storm” in 1990-91 under George Bush I. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia had his two arms twisted out of their sockets, figuratively speaking, before he would allow the entry of American soldiers into the Kingdom. Prior to that, Saudi Arabia was a sacrosanct entity, a closed system, and relatively serene.
But then, due to Saddam Hussein’s misperception that he had been given, in effect, a “green light” on July 25th, 1990 by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, to deal with Kuwait as he saw fit, Saddam invaded and annexed Kuwait on August 2nd. The toppling of the Emir of Kuwait, a fellow petroleum plutocrat and fellow absolute monarch, sent a bad signal to King Fahd. It was a wake-up call that made him nervous. The Saudi King wanted the Iraqi dictator smacked. For whatever contrived reason or cover story, the White House was of the same mind. Fahd was cornered. Secretary of State James A. Baker III stated at the time that Washington’s military and diplomatic response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had something to do with “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
In any event, at the end of the day, U.S. combat troops—“crusader forces”—found themselves encamped on the Arabian peninsula for the stated purpose of protecting the custodian of Mecca and Medina, King Fahd, from the alleged Iraqi threat. It is a strange world. To bin Laden, this was an affront to Islam and demeaning both to Saudi Arabia and to the Arab world at large. Did this horrible miscalculation by George Bush I in 1990 ultimately lead to the 9/11 attacks during the reign of his inexperienced, ill-prepared and ill-equipped son, George Bush II, in 2001? There are experts, foremost of whom is Michael Scheuer, the man in charge of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who put the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia at the top of the list of what sent bin Laden and his acolytes over the edge. For my part, as a non-expert, I wrote in The Unauthorized World Situation Report, published in 2005:
“At the start of this process it probably never occurred to George Bush Sr., and his foreign policy team that they were creating a monster by the way they handled the Kuwait annexation brouhaha. The monster they created was a maniac named Osama bin Laden. This came about due to bin Laden’s close connections with the Saudi royal family and bin Laden’s adverse reaction to King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz’s decision—forced upon him by Washington—to allow the U.S. Army and Air Force to install themselves inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and then stay there indefinitely after Operation Desert Storm had concluded.
“It was apparent to bin Laden—a wealthy young Saudi Islamist just back from fighting with the Mujaheddin volunteers against the Soviets in Afghanistan—and to many other Saudis as well that the House of Saud had devolved into a handy straw man for Washington’s “Superpower” agenda. Thanks to petroleum, corruption, plutocracy and extravagance, King Fahd was a captive ruler. The Kingdom, home to the sacred Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, was revealed by the crisis in Kuwait to be incapable of acting on its own and of defending itself, even though it had purchased a hecatomb of modern American weapons. The Kingdom had allowed itself to become a vassal state for the American “infidels”—the same infidels who were in bed with the Zionists occupying Palestine and Jerusalem, wherein was located Islam’s third holiest shrine, Haram al-Sharif.”
In addition to (1) the ongoing immiserization of Iraq caused by U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and the gratuitous destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure during “Operation Desert Storm”, and (2) the perceived insult of “infidel” troops encamped near the Moslem sacred cities of Mecca and Medina during and after “Desert Storm”, there was still more substantial gist for al-Qaeda’s mill, pre-9/11. There was (3) the obvious plight of the Palestinians, with refugees in camps all over the Middle East, to complete the picture, for which Washington was deemed equally responsible.
It is an impossible state of affairs which American foreign policy commentator William Pfaffof International Herald Tribune fame, has termed the “permanent provocation” of the unresolved conflict over Palestine. Pfaff has written that this conflict constitutes for the Arab masses “their chief motive for detesting the United States.” It is the same problem we face today, post 9/11, only it has gotten worse, if that is possible. Thanks to the White House and Capitol Hill, and thanks especially to the Israel Lobby,which has a hammerlock on both, the occupation of Palestine remains ongoing and the ruination of the Palestinians continues unabated. The status quo is enforced by Ariel Sharon’s determined successors, enabled by the “Superpower” co-Consulship of Cheney and Bush, as assisted by their “neocon”, pro-Likud advisors. A strange world, indeed.
During the days, weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks, the focus in America was on the lack of warning and the failure of the U.S. intelligence community to uncover the plot. The entire affair was viewed solely as a colossal intelligence failure, rather than a foreign policy consequence. The question as to why such dramatic attacks had happened in the first place was not addressed. But on the day of the attacks, where I was, at a roadside tavern in Glencar, Ireland, the subdued talk—aside from shock, bewilderment and sympathy for the innocent victims—centered upon that very question: Why had it happened? And everybody there instinctively knew why—as did every other adult European on the Continent with whom I conversed in the days immediately following. It was only the American public and especially the American news media, who appeared to be in the dark and who studiously avoided the subject.
Perhaps you have heard of an American CIA agent by the name of Robert Baer. He worked for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations for 25 years, with assignments mostly in the Middle East and Europe. He appears on American television from time to time, as a terrorism and Middle East expert. He has written articles for Vanity Fair. He is highly critical of the Saudi Royal family and of its cozy relationship with Washington. He has written two best selling books, See No Evil and Sleeping with the Devil, about his experiences. Some six months after 9/11, I found myself reading an article about Baer in the Sunday Observer of London, dated March 3rd, 2002, and entitled “Bombing Saddam is Ignorance.”
Here was another eccentric character—in the same boat with Marine Colonel Scott Ritter, British Diplomat Carne Ross, U.S. Ambassador John Brady Kiesling, and Senator Robert Byrd—all of whom were very much in the minority, paddling against the tide, in opposition to the Cheney/Bush private-agenda war in the Middle East, and finding it wildly incomprehensible. Baer had been there, on assignment behind the lines, in 1995. To quote the article:
“Robert Baer, the ex-CIA man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995, says the U.S. is not in a position to strike against Iraq because it does not understand anything about the country…. Robert Baer’s objections to an attack on Iraq could hardly be principled. As the CIA’s point man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995, he encouraged dissident groups to believe that the United State s wanted the overthrow and death of Saddam Hussein. Yet Baer, whose memoir of life in the CIA, See No Evil, is published in Britain tomorrow, is appalled at the idea of a US strike against Iraq today. ‘If the U.S. is to bomb Saddam and his army until there is no army, what comes after that? No one is discussing the ethnic composition of Iraq or what Iran is likely to do…. ‘The US is in no position to rejigger [Iraq] because we don’t understand anything about the country.’”
All perfectly true, as we have learned to our bitter regret.
On the subject of the 9/11 atrocities, it was even more surprising and illuminating to read the following: “After a quarter of century abroad, Baer hardly recognises the States and is appalled at the level of public ignorance. [My emphasis.] ‘There is no debate,’ he says. ‘People will not address the question of Palestine in the context of the World Trade Centre attacks. It’s not in the terms of the discussion. They simply believe that Israel has the right to defend its democracy like the U.S. does. They don’t understand that Israel gives no democratic rights to the Palestinians whatsoever. They don’t see that it’s not a democracy.’” Such was the third pillar of Washington’s Middle East foreign policy, which provided the impetus for the terrorists who targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. In CIA parlance, it was “blowback”—the most gigantic and undeniable example to date. Rien n’arrive par hasard.
Patrick Foy is author of The Unauthorized World Situation Report.
Book cover photo courtesy of New American Library