Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: What Bush knew

An article sheds new light on the CIA's desperate efforts to warn about 9/11. Why didn't the White House listen?

9/11: What Bush knew 
 In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers into the ear of President George W. Bush to give him word of the plane crashes into the World Trade Center, during a visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. (Credit: AP/Doug Mills)

Last year Jonathan Kay, a Canadian journalist, published “Among the Truthers,” an interesting chronicle of, among other things, post-9/11 conspiracy theories. Many of these theories are outlandish on their face, such as claims that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition, that airplanes never struck them, that Flight 93 landed in Cleveland rather than crashing in a Pennsylvania field, and so forth.

Now if I were inclined toward a conspiratorial view of the world, I would speculate that the very outlandishness of these claims is itself part of a conspiracy to obscure what really happened on 9/11. This meta-conspiracy theory would go something like this: Over the past 11 years, it has slowly but inexorably become clear that the CIA uncovered key details of the 9/11 plot several months in advance, and tried on numerous occasions to get the Bush administration to take action to stop it.

In a New York Times op-ed, Kurt Eichenwald offers new evidence on this front. Throughout the spring and summer of 2001, Eichenwald claims the CIA presented the administration with compelling evidence that Al Qaeda operatives were in the United States, that they were planning a major terrorist attack intended to produce mass casualties, and that this attack was imminent. In response, the Bush administration did nothing.

Indeed, the administration’s level of inaction was so negligent that senior intelligence officials actually considered resigning, so as not to be in a position of responsibility when the attack took place:
Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.
For a long time, the administration successfully covered up this series of events, by employing the clever strategy of revealing a small and ultimately misleading part of the truth: In April 2004, it declassified a single daily briefing, that featured the startling headline “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” but on closer examination did not contain much in the way of specifics regarding the attack, which took place just 35 days after the memo’s printing.

Releasing this single briefing was deeply misleading, because it gave the impression that the administration had been given just one rather vague warning about the impending attack, rather than a series of much more concrete briefings, which ought to have put the government on high alert. The shocking truth, if Eichenwald is correct, is that the Bush administration was told enough in advance about the nature and timing of the 9/11 attacks that it could quite possibly have stopped them, but, for whatever reason, President Bush and his advisers chose to ignore those warnings. (According to Eichenwald, some White House neocons believed, “Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.”)

Note that to this point my meta-conspiracy narrative has the unusual virtue of being based on nothing but what are now the known facts of the matter. To go beyond this, we have to enter the realm of speculation, which is where things get “conspiratorial” in the dismissive sense of the word. We might, for example, speculate that certain neoconservatives in and around the White House were not wholly displeased with the failure to stop the attacks, since they provided an emotionally compelling, although completely irrational, basis for launching the invasion of Iraq these people were laboring to bring about.

We could take one more step, and note that, in the years after the attacks, neoconservatives played an active role in both publicizing and debunking the most extravagant 9/11 conspiracy theories, because nothing is more useful to a real conspiracy than directing attention to a series of absurd ones, which tend to discredit the very concept itself. (Note how former Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer, is already attacking Eichenwald as a “truther.”)

Now, do I believe in this meta-conspiracy theory? Of course not, because I am – or at least aspire to be – a Very Serious Person, and Very Serious People do not believe in conspiracies. They do, however, participate in them.
Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Five reasons why New Zealand is better than Australia

Newspapers in the southern hemisphere have recently been dominated by stories of Kiwis packing up and heading over the ditch to Australia in record numbers. For the Australian news media (gleefully referring to these Kiwis as ‘refugees’), this is yet another example of the eternal battle – how much better Australia is than New Zealand. Which got us thinking…
So here’s our top five completely-unofficial-and-gathered-from-extensive-office-research* reasons why New Zealand is better than Australia:


1. Rugby – might have been founded by an English school boy picking up a ball and legging it down the pitch, but New Zealand is the undisputed home of rugby. Heck, it’s practically a religion. And do you need reminding it’s also the home of the reigning world champions of rugby, the mighty All Blacks? Thought not. Take that Oz.

2. Animals – Australia has plenty of animals that seem to be designed with the express purpose of being terrifyingly deadly. Crocodiles, Great White sharks, Box jellyfish, snakes, spiders and scorpions all like to call Australia home. In comparison, New Zealand has the Kiwi bird. The flightless, fluffy, nocturnal bird beloved by all for its plucky nature.A Kiwi bird 
3. Pavlova – the creamy, crunchy, fruit-laden pav is the national dessert of New Zealand and Australia claiming it as its own doesn’t change that.

4. Ingenuity – fancy rolling around in a giant inflatable hamster ball? Come and try Zorbing in New Zealand then. Got a hankering to throw yourself off a staggeringly high structure with a glorified elastic band around your ankles? Try the home of bungee jumping (that’ll be New Zealand). Kiwis are an ingenious bunch and if there’s some potential for pant-wettingly exciting adventure, they’ll find it.

5. Lord of the Rings – enough said.
*Based on the opinions of roughly four people sat around me.

Over to you


What do you reckon? Which is better – Australia or New Zealand – and why?

American public’s baffling silence

When the US is drowning in debt and losing its global military and economic hegemony one wonders why its presidential candidates are grovelling before Israel
  • By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News
  • Image Credit: NiƱo Jose Heredia/©Gulf New
It never ceases to amaze just how willing the American public is to be duped by their politicians and media that never stop grovelling before a tiny Middle Eastern country with a population of less than eight million — often in detriment to their own national interests. On issues unconnected with Israel, American people are generally fair-minded. So it is difficult not to conclude that the masses are victims of state indoctrination when the majority has no clue that Israel is an illegal occupier of Palestinian land.
A survey conducted by the Arab American Institute shows that up to 58 per cent of Americans are either unsure or have no opinion on the topic. “Americans across all demographics express growing ambiguity or unfamiliarity with the issues: Half have no opinion on the Right of Return, the final status of [occupied] Jerusalem or the appropriate US response to settlements [colonies]” — double the 2010 figures for some questions — goes the pollster’s summing-up.
Despite an educated population with unimpeded access to the Internet, most Americans are unaware that 1,476 Palestinian children and 6,568 Palestinian adults have been killed by Israel or that 59,575 have been wounded by Israelis since September 2000. They don’t know that there are currently 236 Jewish-only colonies and outposts on Palestinian land or that in 2011, the US gave Israel $8.2 million (Dh30.15 million) per day in military aid. And they are blissfully ignorant that they may be dragged into yet another major war, this time with Iran — on Israel’s behalf.
Whereas, UK polls — including a 2011 BBC poll — show most Britons support the UN recognition of a Palestinian state, US Gallop polls consistently prove overwhelming and unconditional American backing for the Jewish state, which is contrary to the world opinion.
Why is this? Are Americans naturally incurious or has there been a decades-long loose conspiracy between the government and media to pull the wool over their eyes, similar to that which had Americans blindly cheering George W. Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq?
In a recent column headlined ‘The message from both parties is that Americans are disposable’, former assistant secretary of the US Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts, asks: “Have any people in human history ever been less represented by their government and political parties than Americans? He maintains that “the US government represents Israel and the one to ten per cent” while “everyone else is disposable.” “Neither party asked why the US is at wars with Muslims for Israel,” he writes, asking: “Why should Americans be losing lives and limbs for Israel, while going broke and running up enormous war debts for our children and grandchildren?” “Regardless of the political party whose lever is pulled in November, every American who votes will be voting for Israel…” he ominously notes. Is he right?
When the US is drowning in debt and losing its global military and economic hegemony to competitors such as China, India, Brazil and a resurgent Russia, one must wonder why US presidential candidates and parties are so keen to prostrate themselves before Israel rather than firm-up relationships with post-Arab Spring allies, as yet undecided on which side they should jump.
Israel has rarely been as globally isolated in its history, yet, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s fraught relations with President Barack Obama over the impasse in the peace process and Israel’s chest-thumping on Iran, it still enjoys a Congressional love-fest. For example, you have probably never heard about H.R. 4133, designating the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 which passed virtually unreported by the mainstream media. It was stealthily pushed through the House of Representatives under a provision called “Suspension of the Rules”, allowing for minimum debate by a vote of 411-2.
Said to have been drafted in cooperation with AIPAC, H.R. 4133’s provisions include the reaffirmation of the “enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”, the provision to Israel “of the military capabilities necessary to deter and defend itself by itself against any threats”, the vetoing of “any one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations Security Council” and to ensure that Israel has a “qualitative military edge”.
Republican sycophancy towards Israel is well-known and was reflected by the Republican candidate’s messages to Israelis during his recent tour of the country when he raised eyebrows by characterising the Palestinians’ poor economy as a result of their “inferior culture” and controversially vowed to move the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem. For that, he was broadly criticised by the international community, but notwithstanding, the Democrats have leapt on the same bandwagon.
Reportedly, with President Obama’s blessings, the Democratic Party has amended its platform to include recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. How that move — that would no doubt be interpreted as a poke in the eye by America’s Arab and Muslim allies — could benefit the great American public is a mystery to anyone with an iota of intelligence. I certainly don’t know the answer and I suspect that’s a question Americans should start loudly asking.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com