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Another Great Book About What Happened on 9/11/01

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, in custody at Guantanamo.

Much has been said and written about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which even has its own feature film. But about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who actually planned and executed the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001? Not so much.

That’s what makes Terry McDermott and Josh Myer’s The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed> such a compelling read and major addition to 9/11 history. It tells the story of the loose terrorism network that finally hooked up KSM and bin Laden, and the decade-long search by a few intrepid FBI investigators to track down the man who conceived and carried out the attacks before they happened. KSM was finally apprehended in 2003 in Pakistan and, after being tortured by the U.S. on numerous occasions, is incarcerated in Guantanamo Prison in Cuba.

I’m not trying to lessen Osama bin Laden’s part of the story. He was the kingpin, providing money and logistical support to a plan brought to him about blowing up iconic American buildings, and his part of the story is told elsewhere, in Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower and several of Peter Bergen’s books about al Qaeda.

But KSM, whose nephew, Ramzi Yousef (aka Abdul Basit), planned the 1993 bombing of the WTC,  and then spent more than a decade crisscrossing the globe hatching plots of mayhem and death in far-flung places (thank him every time you remove your shoes because of the Robert Reid attempted footbomb, among other plots, including one to blow up several jets simultaneously over the Pacific in 1994.

KSM came to bin Laden and al Qaeda with the crazy idea of taking down the World Trade Centers using airliners as bombs. The book explains how they conspired to pull it off, but as it makes clear, KSM wasn’t actually an al Qaeda operative or member, just a like-minded terrorist whose interests coincided with al Qaeda’s at a critical moment.

The book provides plenty of evidence of the stupendous inefficiency the various agencies involved in American security displayed in the years leading up to the attacks. At one point, they came within a few minutes of apprehending KSM in 1996, and then he disappeared for seven years.

As always, I invite any of my friends who suspect or believe that 9/11 was an “inside job”  to read this book. We still don’t have all the answers, but books like this are beginning to provide a better understanding of what happened that day. More on my views about 9/11 Truth here.

January 21, 2013   No Comments

Among the Truthers: Life in Conspiracy World

In Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground, journalist Jonathan Kay, an editor at the National Post in Canada, examines the history of conspiracy theory in America and takes a long look at some of the people and ideas behind the 9/11 Truth movement.

I feel a lot like Kay in that I did an honest search of 9/11 theories. After reading the Truth material and the official Commission Report and many books, including The Looming Tower, and watching, ad infinitum, the videos of the event, like Kay, I concluded that it was much more likely that al Qaeda operatives hijacked four jets, of which three hit their targets than it is to believe that American neo-cons used passenger jets to hit three iconic, already explosive-rigged buildings, attacked the Pentagon with a missile and made several hundred people go away, presumably under hidden identities, never to be seen by their families again.

And like Kay, I don’t consider “truthers” to be, as he puts it, nutbags. If al Qaeda committed the crime, why do so many people believe that Cheney did it?

If you’re looking for more on thermite in WTC debris, or analyses of how Building 7 collapsed or what flying object hit the Pentagon, you won’t find it here. But if you want to better understand why so many people believe in things like this, it’s good background. Kay devotes chapters to conspiracism’s history and mythology, its psychological and religious roots and its advancement through media and academic and activist networks. Especially interesting are the sections on earlier alleged conspiracy plots – Ku Klux Klan, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Holocaust revisionism JFK etc. Kay does a great job of showing how many of the old themes and mythologies are woven into many of today’s conspiracy theories.

He also makes a good point that, though conspiracy theories have always been with us, it is the Internet that has accelerated and advanced the 9/11 Truthers’ cause and conspiracy theory in general. Virtually anyone with web access is free to check any of this out in the privacy of your own home. Gotta love it.

(More of my thoughts about 9/11 Truth.)

December 3, 2011   No Comments

Another Piece of the 9/11 Puzzle

Reporter Philip Shenon was assigned to cover the 9/11 Commission by The New York Times, which put him in a unique position to write a book that details the inner workings of that investigative body. It has been published as The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission (Twelve Books).

It’s a necessary addition to the 9/11 canon. The book got a lot of pre-publication press when a couple of the more provocative allegations – phone calls between the commission’s executive director Philip Zelikow and then White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove that alarmed Zelikow’s staff — were leaked to help build interest.

Zelikow is the central figure in Shenon’s account, and Shenon does an exhaustive job of detailing the day-to-day workings of his role, but the Rove phone calls are a pretty inconsequential part of the book, with the weakest sourcing.

Zelikow comes under particular scrutiny because he had co-authored a book with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and was part of the Bush transition team. That many people within and outside the commission questioned Zelikow’s objectivity, especially with regard to Sec. Rice, is true. But though Zelikow made his staff and some commission members anxious, the book offers no proof that he influenced the final report. As the book makes clear, the decision not to point fingers at individuals came from the body’s two leaders, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, not Zelikow.

Shenon has a weblog and site that includes news about the book, information about the author and links to Zelikow’s arguments and notes. If you want to really understand the importance of the 9/11 Commission Report and why it was published the way it was, you won’t find a better source than The Commission.

March 13, 2008   No Comments