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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

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

Doubts About 9/11 Truth

About a year ago, prodded by a couple of good friends, I decided to look into the 9/11 Truth Movement, a sizable, loosely organized segment of the populace that questions the official version of the events of September 11, 2001.

I had my own questions and decided to educate myself. I was intrigued why so many people dispute the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report and why some of those have concluded that a shadow conspiracy within the government or members of the current administration either orchestrated, staged or otherwise allowed the events of 9/11 to transpire.

I found RSS feeds for 9/11 Blogger and 9/11 Truth, two clearinghouses for the 9/11 Truth updates and information. I have also been following Prison Planet, which covers the latest news about 9/11 Truth. Also popular in Truther circles is the work of author David Ray Griffin.

I read the 9/11 Commission Report, streamed several YouTube films and visited a host of websites devoted to questions about the “official theory” as outlined by the report, which concluded that the attacks were carried out by agents of Al Qaeda, a jihadist Muslim organization led by Osama bin Laden.

Since then, I have read extensively the posts and comments of thousands of Americans, professionals and laypeople, who question the official theory of what transpired that day. The crux of the argument is whether the three World Trade Center buildings that fell that day were controlled demolitions. If they were, that would be reason enough to look into other questions such as what hit the Pentagon and whether a fourth plane went down in Pennsylvania. If they weren’t intentionally demolished, those other questions just go away.

Say what you will about the 9/11 Commission Report, at least it offers a theory of the crime, establishes a motive, shows means and presented a case based on gathered information and testimony.

I had hoped that somewhere in the Truth literature there might be a plausible, alternative explanation of what happened that day if it were planned by what we’ll call Shadow Plotters instead of al Qaeda.

Many Truthers feel an alternate scenario is unnecessary. When a doubter asked this very question on an Amazon forum, Truthers lined up to defend their right to question the official account but not come up with an alternative sequence of events. Questions, they say, are enough. But that no Truther can explain the crime if insiders detonated those buildings significantly weakens their case.

Like anyone else, I noticed the similarities of the fall of the Twin Towers to controlled demolition. But after watching the collapses dozens of times from the many films provided on Truther websites, the descent of the Twin Towers doesn’t look controlled at all. But many Truthers, like this recent post on 9/11 Blogger, consider the theory of controlled demolition as absolute, irrefutable fact.

I am certainly no more or less an expert in building construction than anybody else, so I read the available expert opinions on the fall of the Twin Towers. Unfortunately, I find the theories of former BYU Professor Stephen Jones, the principal proponent of the controlled-demolition theory, more provocative than convincing, more speculation than science.

Much more compelling and plausible for me are these two reports, from ImplosionWorld magazine and The Skeptic.

More intriguing is the fall of 7 World Trade Center, the smoking gun for many Truthers, who argue that this was an obvious controlled demo. For evidence, they use the various news videos of the collapse, and this one that shows building owner Larry Silverstein in what some interpret as an admission that he had the building “pulled” down. By all means, look at the above footage. But also consider this before you make up your mind.

I recently watched version two of Loose Change, a popular documentary that many adherents believe blows the lid right off the top of the 9/11 Commission. It was good to see that the filmmakers had taken out the section about the bombs loaded below the planes’ wings and detonated upon impact that made me laugh out loud when I watched the first version. But beyond smirking his way through some dazzling leaps of logic and even weirder suggestions, narrator Dylan Avery never once offers a glimpse of an explanation of what happened that day if the Shadow Plotters of his imagination were behind it.

Avery belittles al Qaeda as “Osama bin Laden and his ragtag group of Arabs with box cutters.” Does he, or any other Truther, really believe that it was impossible for jihadists to break through the air defenses of the great and mighty superpower without inside help? Anybody who flew on commercial airliners before 9/11 knows better than that.

If you find Loose Change absorbing – and many do — you should also watch Screw Loose Change, a rebuttal video that responds to each of Avery’s points.

I really fail to comprehend Truther doubts about the existence of Osama bin Laden or the motives of al Qaeda. They insist that bin Laden denies being behind the attacks, though there is a considerable body of evidence that says otherwise. Completely ignored, for instance, is research like Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which meticulously documents bin Laden’s life and al Qaeda’s rise from its humble beginnings to the American attacks.

I don’t read anything about Osama bin Laden’s expulsion from Saudi Arabia, his life in Sudan, the growth of al Qaeda or his stated plans to attack the U.S., all part of the public record. And there is little mention of the first 1993 assault on the WTC, the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, or the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. The arguments for collusion between the Bush and bin Laden families are as fascinating as they are vaporous.

I can only conclude that it makes more sense that the Shadow Plotters (and in Loose Change the fingers are pointed at George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld et al) had explosives planted in the three WTC buildings and then hit two of them with some kind of aircraft and took down the third, fired a missile into the Pentagon but said it was a jet and shot down (or shuttled to a secret location) another aircraft over Pennsylvania? And made several hundred people go poof.

I have disliked the Bush administration from the moment it took control of the country, and I believe that it took advantage of 9/11 in ways that will have serious ramifications for the country for years to come. But sometimes I seriously wonder whether Truthers have actually read the report of the 9/11 Commission or whether they just go to each other’s websites ad infinitum until finally, by repetition, their words become Truth.

Another thing that puzzles me is the ongoing meme that the “mainstream” media are somehow complicit in the cover-up of these crimes. Never mind how many more people this brings into the conspiracy, and think what you will about the media and their many faults, but do Truthers really believe that dogged reporters like the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh or any other journalist with Bush and Cheney in their sights the last six years won’t write about this because they are being silenced?

The tendency in the movement to label any critical report, newspaper article or television program as somehow complicit because said media outlets are owned by corporations doesn’t do the movement much good, either. An article and book from Popular Mechanics is dismissed, for instance, because the magazine is owned the Hearst Corporation, but no evidence is offered to that effect. Reviews of a recent History Channel program like to mention that the History Channel is owned by GE – wink, wink. It’s much easier to dismiss criticism as somehow always unreliable than it is to confront it.

So all legitimate criticism is dubbed an “attack” or a hit job. Perhaps even more disturbing are the comparisons some make to Nazi Germany and suggestions that the rest of us are “good Germans,” in my book a particularly tasteless way to feel superior to those of us unfortunate enough to disagree with you.

And it is interesting that nobody in the movement seems willing to consider the possibility that reporters have looked at Truther websites and arguments and come to the conclusion that they just don’t add up to much.

A more recent meme posits another 9/11-like, false-flag event in the near future that will allow the Bush administration to establish martial law, table the 2008 elections, crown themselves Kings Forever and, for all I know, transport us good Germans to Gitmo, bleating meekly that we’ll do whatever they ask as long as we get to keep our iPods.

Truthers like to push poll numbers, which show that many Americans don’t necessarily believe the whole story, and they often tout celebrity Doubters as further evidence of their own credibility. Just because Charlie Sheen publicly questions the official reckoning doesn’t make the story any more or less credible. Let’s not forget that polls also tell us that more than 50 percent of the American public believe that Iraq and al Qaeda were partners in 9/11, even though there is not a shred of evidence to back up that assertion.

What’s cool about this is that the 9/11 evidence is all out there on the Web for anyone with broadband access to consider with little more effort than a Google search and a patience for repetition. I might come to the conclusion that 9/11 Truth doesn’t add up to much. But the same films, testimony, newspaper articles, television programs, photos, charts and diagrams I have pored over and over are available to everybody. So if you’re curious about what the fuss is all about, consider the evidence and draw your own conclusions.

August 24, 2007   2 Comments