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Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe Muslims Did It?

By: Gordon Duff

"Information Clearing House-- When President Ahmadinejad announced, before the United Nations that most people in the world believe that the U.S. government was involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, he told the truth.  In America, groups have been popping up for years, not “fringe” types, but military and professional organizations, architects, engineers, pilots, intelligence officers.
There is a vast underground that is never reported, never spoken of in the news and continually threatened.  The FBI and Homeland Security have infiltrated these groups,  illegal surveillance has been on a massive scale and, as the groups have grown and their reach has touched millions of Americans, the government, in the usual whispers, is talking about mass arrests, “unplugging” the internet, all those things the militia movements of the 90′s said would happen.
Outside the United States, not in the Middle East, but Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Far East, finding people who accept the Bush and Obama administration’s “party line” about “box cutters and hijackers” is difficult.  No one wants to risk the public scorn of seeming like an imbecile.
However, back here in the “good ole’ USA,” even comedian Jon Stewart, normally an outspoken critic of government insanity, has agreed to lead a march on Washinton to quell “rumors” about 9/11, rumors of wrongdoing by people he despises.
What is the difference?  Why do those outside the United States see things do differently?  The answer is freedom of press, the first of the hasty additions to the constitution, a guarantee provided for in the 1st Amendment.  There had been assaults on freedom of the press before, particularly during wartime but never anything on the scale seen after 9/11.  Across the board, not just the news but even movies and television shows, fiction, censored, propaganda, peddling ignorance, fear and screaming “conspiracy theory” at anyone trying to get word out.
America is a dictatorship.
It isn’t just corporate lobbyists or two broken political parties.  Elections are rigged, government agencies meant to provide for national security are now doing little but spying on Americans,  our military is spread across the planet, tasked with everything but serving the United States.  All the while, the “news” is everything but.  Americans, to a one, know something is terribly wrong, totally out of control and, even their attempts to get at some semblance of truth are turned against them.  The news is censored.  With the country embroiled in two failed wars, obviously illegal, proof of war crimes piling up, financial collapse,  citizen’s rights trampled on, nary a word is said about any of it.
“The president is a Muslim.”  “Healthcare is socialism.”  “The rich need their tax breaks, the same ones that pushed the country into 13.5 trillion in debt.”
The real message is always the same if you listen carefully, “be afraid, trust in government.”  What are they really saying?  “Greed is good.”  How is that working out for you?
Ahmadinejad, as of the count yesterday, had 950 stories condemning his “outrageous” statements at the United Nations.  Please note that a total of 27 nations walked out, not the people of those nations but representatives of the governments.
What we fail to note is that 163 nations stayed.
A few years ago, Ahmadinejad had a conference to discuss the holocaust.  Scholars from around the world came, some openly hostile to Israel, some because they were scholars.  It was called “outrageous” and Israel threatened to break up the meeting with a nuclear attack.  What happened there, what were the findings?  We will never know.  Censorship in the American press, the same censorship that prevented evidence proving Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction from reaching the public, the same censorship that should have told Americans that Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with 9/11, was imposed.
The truth never benefits from censorship.  Censorship is dictatorship.  Dictatorship is when those in power no longer trust the people.   A government that doesn’t trust its own people can’t serve its people, its people serve it.  This is the America of today.
9 years of censorship now clouds 9/11.
When President Bush announced that he saw the first plane crash into the World Trade Center, live TV, it was shown once and hidden away.  TV never showed that, not real TV, not the kind the public sees.  Bush may have watched it, but if he is telling the truth, it means he knew in advance.  Does this explain why he simply sat there?  When Larry Silverstein said that he ordered one of the World Trade Center buildings, number 7, “pulled,” meaning “blown up” did it mean that explosives had been planted in all the buildings?  It sure looked like it to me.
How about when Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, said a missile hit the Pentagon?  Oh, did he say that?  Well, yes he did, live television, you can find the statement on video all over the internet, any normal person can.
The 9/11 Commission couldn’t, however.
Same with Rumsfeld telling us that Flight 93 was shot down.  Did he say that?  Yes he did, live TV, all over the internet.  They couldn’t find that either.
Nobody told the 9/11 Commission anything about Building 7.  It is as though it escaped into another dimension.
It isn’t just these statements or Vice President Cheney’s orders to allow the planes to go unhindered, testified to on the video above, that make Ahmadinejad much less than “outrageous.”  It is the hard science, the witness testimony and years of intelligence reports that prove conclusively that “no Muslims were involved in the making of this picture.”
What have we proven “conclusively?”  One thing for sure, one thing a vast majority of Americans will now consider, that America is a dictatorship.
What they don’t know is how it happened or who is running things.  The propaganda machine has 200 million people chasing their own tails, blaming each other.
Maybe Muslims did it.
(Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran, and Senior Editor at Veterans Today. His career has included extensive experience in international banking along with such diverse areas as consulting on counter insurgency, defense technologies or acting as diplomatic officer of UN humanitarian groups. Gordon Duff's articles are published around the world and translated into a number of languages. He is a regularly on radio and tv).

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Kind Of Top-Secret Assassination Tech Does $58 Billion Buy?

Not since the end of the Cold War has the Pentagon spent so much to develop and deploy secret weapons. But now military researchers have turned their attention from mass destruction to a far more precise challenge: finding, tracking, and killing individuals
By Sharon Weinberger

Under Cover The Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, an unmanned reconnaissance drone, is the most recent aircraft to emerge from the military's "black" budget. Nick Kaloterakis

Every year, tens of billions of Pentagon dollars go missing. The money vanishes not because of fraud, waste or abuse, but because U.S. military planners have appropriated it to secretly develop advanced weapons and fund clandestine operations. Next year, this so-called black budget will be even larger than it was in the Cold War days of1987, when the leading black-budget watchdog, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), began gathering reliable estimates. The current total is staggering: $58 billion—enough to pay for two complete Manhattan Projects.
Where does the money go? Tracking the black budget has always been a challenge. Constantly shifting project names that seem to be randomly generated by computers—Tractor Cage, Tractor Card, Tractor Dirt, Tractor Hike and Tractor Hip are all real examples—make linking dollar amounts to technologies impossible for outsiders. But there are clues.
According to Todd Harrison, an analyst at the CSBA, the allocations for classified operations in the 2011 federal budget include $19.4 billion for research and development across all four branches of the military (funding for the CIA, including its drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is contained within the Defense Department black budget), another $16.9 billion for procurement, and $14.6 billion for “operations and maintenance.” This latter category, Harrison notes, has been expanding quickly. This may suggest that many classified technologies are now moving from the laboratory to the battlefield.
In fact, the rise in classified defense spending accompanies a fundamental change in American military strategy. After the attacks of September 11, the Pentagon began a shift away from its late Cold War–era “two-war strategy,” premised on maintaining the ability to conduct two major military operations simultaneously, and began to focus instead on irregular warfare against individuals and groups. That strategic shift most likely coincides with an investment shift, away from technology that enables large-scale, possibly nuclear, war against superpower states and toward technology that helps military planners hunt and kill individuals. Each branch of the military uses different language to describe this process. Pentagon officials have spoken openly about their desire to use advanced technology to “reduce sensor-to-shooter time” in situations involving “time-sensitive targets.” The head of U.S. Special Operations Command talks about “high-tech manhunting,” while Air Force officials describe plans to compress the “kill chain.”
Even inside the Pentagon, few people know the precise details of the black budget. But by combining what is known about Pentagon goals and what is known about the most recent advances in military technology, we can begin to sketch its general contours.

Satellites On Demand: The Pentagon’s desire for pervasive battlefield surveillance doesn’t end with drones. Another goal is reconnaissance satellites that can be launched within a few days of a request, a drastic abbreviation of a process that today takes one to two years. Satellites have at least two significant advantages over drones: They can stay in the air 365 days a year, and they’re exempt from concerns about international airspace. Conducting drone-quality surveillance from a satellite requires advanced imaging technology like that found on an experimental satellite the Air Force launched last year, TacSat-3. TacSat-3 is equipped with hyperspectral sensors, which capture electromagnetic radiation across such a wide spectrum that they can detect the disturbed earth covering a buried roadside bomb. It’s an early step toward satellites that could find and identify individual people.  Jon Proctor

The first link in the kill chain: finding the person to hunt. Particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this type of intelligence gathering is increasingly done using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to the New America Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, the U.S. conducted 45 drone strikes in Pakistan in the first six months of this year. The centrality of unmanned aircraft to such missions suggests that the black budget is almost certainly already funding next-generation drones.
In April 2009, a French magazine published a photograph of one recent product of that funding—a slender-winged aircraft that had previously been spotted in southern Afghanistan and that aerospace experts had begun calling the Beast of Kandahar. After another photograph surfaced, this one a clear shot of the craft on the runway in Kandahar, the Air Force issued a statement that finally gave the Beast a formal identity: the RQ-170 Sentinel.
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the RQ-170 is a tailless flying wing with the telltale shape and surface contours of a stealth aircraft. Black-plane watchers immediately noticed similarities between the RQ-170 and Lockheed’s unmanned Polecat aircraft, which UAV observers had long speculated was being developed in secret and which was finally made public at the Farnborough International Airshow in England in 2006. The Air Force says that the Sentinel is a reconnaissance drone, a claim supported by the aircraft’s lack of visible armaments, by the sensors that appear to be embedded in its wings, and by its “RQ” designation.
But much about the RQ-170 is puzzling. Why would the Air Force need a stealth aircraft in Afghanistan, a country with no radar defense system? It wouldn’t, according to those familiar with the drone. The RQ-170 was developed with a more sophisticated enemy, perhaps China, in mind. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be adapted for current conflicts, however. Unlike the relatively easy-to-spot Predator and Reaper drones, the RQ-170’s stealth could allow it to conduct missions that those aircraft cannot, such as clandestine tracking, or slipping unnoticed across Afghanistan’s border into Iran or Pakistan to spy on their nuclear programs.
Aircraft like the RQ-170, the Predator and the Reaper can get only so close to their targets, of course, which is why the Pentagon is developing micro-drones designed to investigate dangerous terrain undetected. In April the Washington Post reported that the CIA was using pizza-platter-size micro-drones to find insurgents in Pakistan. And the 2010 Pentagon budget contains a brief unclassified reference to Project Anubis, a micro-drone developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The Air Force won’t talk about that specific vehicle, but a more general 2008 marketing video released by the lab did suggest that future micro-UAVs might be equipped with “incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads, or even explosives for precision targeting capability.” The video depicts an explosives-laden drone dive-bombing and killing a sniper. Budget documents indicate that Project Anubis (named for the ancient Egyptian god of the dead) is now complete, which means a lethal micro-drone could already be in the field.
The Pentagon is forging the next link in the kill chain—following an individual—with at least one high-priority research program. The Clandestine Tagging, Tracking and Locating initiative (abbreviated both as CTTL and TTL), which was conceived in 2003, is slated to get about $210 million in unclassified funding between 2008 and 2013 and may receive more than that from the black budget. “The global war on terrorism cannot be won without a Manhattan Project–like TTL program,” was how officials from the Defense Science Board, a civilian committee that advises the Pentagon, described the situation in a 2004 presentation, adding that “cost is not the issue.”
In a 2007 briefing, Doug Richardson, an official working in the Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Exploitation program in Special Operations Command, said that the Pentagon wanted to use 14 different technologies for tagging and tracking targets such as people and vehicles. Tagging could involve marking targets with invisible biological paints or micromechanical sensors; tracking would mean monitoring those markers from a distance. Other schemes entailed capturing a person’s “thermal fingerprint” and then tracking him or her, perhaps from aircraft equipped with infrared sensors.

Tagging and Tracking: The U.S. military may already be surreptitiously “tagging” enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan with chemicals, sensors or bioreactive agents and then tracking them from a distance. It may also be using wireless-enabled sensors smaller than a grain of rice, each complete with a minuscule computer chip, to do the same thing. Kris Pister, a researcher who conducted early work on “smart dust”—tiny tracking devices that can be showered onto people or vehicles—says that scattering sensors onto targets from drones is “straightforward.”  Jon Proctor

More details can be found in proposals from companies and scientists seeking Pentagon contracts. One such proposal, from a University of Florida researcher, uses insect pheromones encoded with unique identifiers that could be tracked from miles away. Other plans employ biodegradable fluorescent “taggants” that can be scattered by UAVs. Voxtel, a private firm in Oregon, has already made available a product called NightMarks, a nanocrystal that can be seen through night-vision goggles and can be hidden in anything from glass cleaner to petroleum jelly.
Perhaps the most advanced tagging concept is “smart dust,” clouds of “motes,” tiny micro-electromechanical sensors that can attach themselves to people or vehicles. Thousands of these sensors would be scattered at a time to increase the chance of at least one of them reaching its target. Kris Pister, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s R&D branch, more than a decade ago to work on smart dust and was able to create sensors the size of rice grains. In the beginning, he now says, he and his colleagues imagined “smart burrs” that could attach to a target’s clothing as he or she brushed by, or “smart fleas” that could jump onto their targets. Pister says that this kind of autonomous microsensor is probably still not feasible. In 2001, however, his group succeeded in scattering more-primitive smart-dust motes from a small aerial drone and using them to track vehicles. A single UAV could easily carry thousands of tags, he says.
Citing security concerns, the Pentagon declined to elaborate on its research on clandestine tracking. (When I asked Zachary Lemnios, the agency’s chief technology officer, about advances in tagging, tracking and locating, he mentioned only “recent successes” and “state-of-the-art results.”) Yet in the same 2007 briefing in which Richardson delivered the Pentagon’s wish list of tagging technologies, he said he expected some or all of them to go into service by 2009. Shortly before 2009 arrived, the Los Angeles Times reported that soldiers in Pakistan were using sensors mounted on Predator drones that could track individual combatants even inside buildings—a report that, if accurate, suggests that tagging technologies may now be deployed overseas.
It’s possible that intelligence officials were exaggerating capabilities in order to intimidate insurgents. But there are other clues that the Pentagon may have deployed more-advanced tracking technology than it has disclosed. Last year, the U.K. Guardian reported that the CIA had given Pakistani tribesmen “chips” to plant in the homes of insurgents, who would later be killed by CIA drone strikes. A subsequent report by NBC News revealed a videotaped confession of one tribesman who claimed to have placed the tiny chips in exchange for cash payments from the U.S.

Microwave Weapons: The Pentagon has spent billions of dollars developing directed-energy weapons that can disarm or disable individuals, including the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), an effort (unclassified but based on research conducted in secret) to develop a UAV-mounted microwave weapon to fry enemy electronics. Another example is the Active Denial System, a truck-mounted less-than-lethal weapon that uses microwaves to heat the top layer of a person’s skin. These programs are almost certainly just the beginning. In late spring, Pentagon officials told USA Today that the U.S. was attempting to deploy an energy-beam weapon in Afghanistan that could detonate hidden explosives from a distance. An industry source who has worked for years on counter-IED technology says it’s probably a system called Max Power, which blasts microwaves to mimic the electromagnetic pulse released by a nuclear explosion.  Jon Proctor

In 1998, U.S. Navy ships in the Arabian Sea fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at a number of training camps in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding. The missiles travel at about 550 mph, roughly the same speed as a commercial jetliner. They took more than an hour to reach their targets. If bin Laden had been in one of those camps, he had left by the time the missiles hit.
Such failures have inspired Pentagon planners to examine options that would allow them to strike precisely anywhere in the world in less than an hour, even if no drones, bombers, ships or troops were anywhere near the target. The Pentagon calls the initiative Prompt Global Strike, and in an April interview on Meet the Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates may have admitted that the U.S. already possessed this capability. “We have, in addition to the nuclear deterrent today, a couple of things we didn’t have in the Soviet days,” he said. In addition to missile defense, he continued, “we have Prompt Global Strike, affording us some conventional alternatives on long-range missiles that we didn’t have before.” The Pentagon answered follow-up questions with silence.

                                                                       Prompt Global Strike: The intercontinental ballistic missile is the only publicly acknowledged weapon capable of striking any point on the planet in less than an hour. Yet because Russia possesses defenses that would perceive the launch of an ICBM as the beginning of a nuclear war, launching even a non-nuclear ICBM is inadvisable. An alternative: hypersonic cruise missiles, which could travel at several times the speed of sound without appearing on radar as an existential threat. The Pentagon has at least five active hypersonic programs today. One of them, the rocket-launched HTV-2, is designed to break Mach 20; it was test-launched in April.  Jon Proctor

Technologically, the precise, one-hour capability is not inconceivable. By leaving the Earth’s atmosphere and traveling at 15,000 mph, an intercontinental ballistic missile can reach any point in the world within 30 minutes. Take the nuclear warhead off, and it becomes a conventionally armed Prompt Global Strike weapon. But it’s not that simple. This solution places the Pentagon’s current emphasis on killing individuals in direct conflict with its previous emphasis on fighting large military powers: Russian defense systems are designed to immediately detect the launch of an ICBM anywhere in the world; the government must then decide within minutes whether to retaliate. As a result, until Washington and Moscow find a way to distinguish conventionally armed ICBMs from nuclear ones, firing an ICBM at Afghanistan with the intention of killing even just one person could trigger a nuclear war.
To counter concerns that such an ICBM is heading for Russia, Pentagon officials have said that these weapons could be launched from California, where there are no nuclear-tipped missiles. (Since the placement of ICBMs is regulated by treaty and subject to inspection and verification, this system would, in theory, ensure that Moscow knows whether a missile is armed with a conventional warhead or a nuclear one. But this plan relies on Russia’s trust.)
An alternative to the conventionally armed land-based ICBM is a hypersonic weapon, essentially a cruise missile capable of traveling at many times the speed of sound—faster than anything in today’s conventional arsenal. These missiles would not have to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and would have very different trajectories from ICBMs, so Russia would be less likely to mistake them for nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon has mentioned two non-ICBM candidates for Prompt Global Strike, one from the Army and one from Darpa. Both of these weapons would be boosted into the atmosphere by rockets and then glide back to Earth at hypersonic speeds. In addition to these official Prompt Global Strike options, the Pentagon is conducting at least three other hypersonic or near-hypersonic research efforts: the Air Force’s X-51 WaveRider, which used a scramjet engine to accelerate to Mach 6 in May; the Navy’s Revolutionary Approach to Time-Critical Long-Range Strike project, known as RATTLRS; and the Darpa-sponsored HyFly, a dual-combustion ramjet. (Ramjets and scramjets achieve rocket-like speeds without the heavy burden of liquid oxygen by mixing jet fuel with compressed air that enters the engine from the atmosphere.)
The proliferation of hypersonic research may mean that the Pentagon has faith in the technology. But it also makes black-budget watchers like John Pike, the director of the military information Web site, suspicious. Pike believes the military’s hypersonic programs may just be a cover for yet another black project. What kind, though, he has no idea.
“Have you ever tried to get to the bottom of the American hypersonics program?” Pike asked me rhetorically. “You know, I tried to about five years ago, and it made no sense. There were just too many programs.” Although this could just be typical Pentagon duplication, Pike sees something more suspicious. “If I was building a cover for something, I would either reduce the signal or increase the noise,” he says. “I think they’re increasing the noise.”

(Sharon Weinberger is a national-security reporter in Washington, D.C.)
NOTE:This is a cross post


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Eric Margolis   

“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in Palestine, which inevitably invites terrorist attacks against US citizens and property.” Eric Margolis. Sun Media. 2 September, 2001. Ever since 9/11, readers keep asking me my views on these attacks. I have been barraged with emails until my head spins with engineering studi.

One of the most colorful theories comes from Gen. Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. He insists that 9/11 was staged by Israel’s Mossad and a cabal of rightwing US Air Force generals.

I inspected the ruins of the New York’s Twin Towers, atop which I often dined, right after the attack. Downtown Manhattan was enveloped by a hideous, stinking miasma from the attack. I have never smelled anything so awful. It took me days to scrub the foul odor off my body. As a native New Yorker, I was shaken to the core by 9/11 – but hardly surprised, as I had predicted a major attack on the US nine days earlier.

While visiting the Pentagon to consult on the Mideast, I also inspected its outside wall hit by the third hijacked aircraft.  
I saw photos of the impact site and could not understand what had happened to all the aircraft wreckage. There was almost none.

In 1993, I was hijacked over Germany on a Lufthansa flight bound for Cairo. The Ethiopian hijacker took us all the way back to New York City. The hijacker was threatening to crash our A310 jumbo jet into Wall Street.

Our flight was shadowed by US F-15 fighters that had orders to shoot, if necessary. Where, then, was US air defense on 11 Sept. 2001? 

A day after 9/11, I was asked on CNN if Osama bin Laden was behind the attack. `We have yet to see the evidence,’ I replied. I maintain this position today.  

Bin Laden denied he or al-Qaida was behind 9/11 and the death’s of nearly 3,000 people. The plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid, Spain, not in Afghanistan. A Pakistani, Khaled Sheik Mohammed, claimed he was the mastermind – after being tortured by near-drowning 183 times by the CIA. 

While denying involvement, Osama bin Laden did say he believed the attack on New York was in part motivated by Israel’s destruction of downtown Beirut during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon that inflicted some 18,000 civilian deaths.

Tapes that appeared to confirm bin Laden’s guilt were clumsy fakes.   They were supposedly “found” in Afghanistan by the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance, which was created and funded by Russian intelligence. 

I had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told CNN viewers that he was not the man in the tapes. 

After 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised Americans the State Department would issue a White Paper detailing bin Laden’s guilt. Afghanistan’s Taliban government asked for this document before it would extradite bin Laden, as the US was demanding. The White Paper was never produced, and the US ignored proper legal procedure and invaded Afghanistan. We still wait for evidence.

I remain uncertain that Osama bin Laden was really behind the attacks. Much circumstantial evidence points to him and al-Qaida, but conclusive proof still lacks. One thing is certain: the attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, not Afghanistan. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudis, two from the United Arab Emirates, one an Egyptian and a Lebanese.

By the way, I’ve said ever since 9/11 that the danger and size of al-Qaida has been vastly exaggerated – as an explosive report this week by the London’s esteemed International Institute for Strategic Studies has just confirmed.   Al-Qaida, dedicated to fighting the Afghan Communists, never had more than 300 members at its peak. 

Today, according to CIA chief Leon Panetta, there are no more than 50 al-Qaida men in Afghanistan. Yet President Barack Obama has tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 120,000 because of what to calls the al-Qaida threat. What is going on?  

Many people abroad believe al-Qaida is an American invention used to justify foreign military operations. I do not share this view. Osama bin Laden was never a US agent, though his group indirectly received funds from CIA to fight the Communists.  

Back to 9/11. I still cannot understand how amateur pilots could manage to maneuver in low to hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon.   As a Pakistani intelligence agent told me, “if they were really amateur Arab pilots, they would have crashed into one another, not the World Trade Center!”

The arrest of Israeli “movers” filming the attack and dancing with joy, and the subsequent arrest of groups of Israeli “students” supposedly tracking the would-be hijackers remains a deep mystery. So does the immobilization of US air defenses.  

The US 9/11 Commission was a whitewash, as are all such government commissions. They are designed to obscure, not reveal, the truth.  

A 2006, a Scripps Howard/Washington Post poll found that 36% of the 1,000 Americans sampled believed the US government was behind 9/11. Many Americans still do not believe the official version of 9/11.

Neither do many Europeans.   The entire Muslim world believes 9/11 was the work of Israel and far right American neocons, led by Dick Cheney.  

If the official story about 9/11 is true, the attacks caught the Bush administration asleep on guard duty. Bush’s incompetent national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, brushed off serious warnings of the impending attack and actually cut spending on anti-terrorism just before 9/11.

The White House and media were quick to blame Muslims who hated America’s lifestyle and values, launching the concept of “Islamic terrorism” – i.e. that the Muslim faith, not political issues, prompted the attacks. 

This dangerous canard has infected America, leading to a rising tide of Islamophobia. This week’s continued uproar over a Muslim community center in downtown New York, and a Florida preacher’s threat to burn Korans, are the latest doleful example of cultivated religious hatred.

The suicide team that attacked New York and Washington made clear its aim was: a. to punish the US for backing Israel’s repression of Palestinians; and b. what they called US “occupation” of Saudi Arabia.   Though they were all Muslims, religion was not the motivating factor.

As the CIA’s former bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer rightly observed, the Muslim world was furious at the US for what it was doing in their region, not because of America’s  values, liberties or religion.  

These motives for the 9/11 attack have been largely obscured by the whipping up hysteria over “Islamic terrorism.” The planting of anthrax in New York, Florida and Washington soon after 9/11 was clearly designed to promote further anti-Muslim furor. The perpetrators of this red herring remain unknown. But the anthrax attack hastened passage of the semi-totalitarian Patriot Act that sharply limited the personal freedoms of Americans and imposed draconian new laws.

Faked bin Laden videos and audio tapes. Planted anthrax. An intact Koran implausibly found at ground zero. Evidence in a hijacker’s bag that had somehow failed to make his ill-fated flight. Immediate claims that al-Qaida was behind the attacks. Those amateur kamikaze pilots and collapsing towers. 

Perhaps most damning, tapes taken in London of meetings between President George Bush and PM Tony Blair revealed a sinister proposal by the US president to provoke war with Iraq by painting US aircraft in UN colors, then buzzing Iraqi air defenses until they fired on them, thus providing a “casus belli.” Bush also reportedly told Blair that after Iraq, he would “go on” to attack Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.

In 1939, Nazi Germany dressed up soldiers in Polish uniforms to provoke a border fire-fight to justify Berlin’s ensuing invasion of Poland. Bush’s plan was of the same ilk. A president who would contemplate such a criminal operation might go a lot further to achieve his imperial dreams.   

As a veteran journalist, to me, all this smells to high heaven. There are just too many unanswered questions, too many suspicions, and that old Roman legal question, “cui bono” – “to whose benefit?”

On 28 February, 1933, fire, set by a Dutch Jew, ravaged the Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag.  While the Reichstag’s ruins were still smoking, Adolf Hitler’s government declared a war against “terrorism.” A “Decree for the Protection of People and State” was promulgated suspending all legal protections of speech, assembly, property, and personal liberties. The Reichstag fire allowed the government to round up “terrorism” suspects without due process of law and made police powers near absolute.

Sound familiar?   Here’s another startling coincidence. Two years before 9/11, a series of mysterious apartment building bombings in Russia killed over 200 people. “Islamic terrorists” from Chechnya were blamed. 

Panic swept Russia and boosted former KGB agent Vladimir Putin into full power.   Russian security agents of FSB were caught red-handed planting explosives in another building, but the story was hushed up. A former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who tried to reveal this story, was murdered in London by radioactive polonium.

Similarly, the Bush administration’s neocons shamelessly used 9/11 to promote the invasion of Iraq. Just before the attack, polls showed 80% of Americans erroneously believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.   Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.

So what, in the end, can we conclude? 1. We still do not know the real story about 9/11. 2. The official version is not credible. 3. 9/11 was used to justify invading strategic Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq. 4. The attacks plunged America into wars against the Muslim world and enriched the US arms industry. 5. 9/11 boosted pro-Israel neoconservatives, formerly a fringe group, into power, and with them America’s totalitarian far right. 6. Bush’s unprovoked war against Iraq destroyed one of Israel’s two main enemies. 7. 9/11 put America in what may turn out to be a permanent state of war with the Muslim world – a key goal of the neoconservatives .

But I’ve seen no hard evidence to date that 9/11 was a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up. Just, perhaps, the Mother of All Coincidences.  In the end, it may just have been 19 angry Arabs and a bumbling Bush administration looking for someone else to blame.  

 (Eric Margolis is a senior journalist and also writes for the Toronto Sun).
NOTE: This is a cross post.

The Bravest Nation in the World

In an unending crisis, there is hope and salvation yet for Pakistan.

Paula Bronstein

In Pakistan there is the anguished introspection and self-comforting, posturing, and handholding that only natural disasters on the scale of the recent floods can inspire. In makeshift camps that have come up in the middle of roadway medians, at air bases flying impossible rescue missions, at corner shops, and on television, God seems to be on everyone’s mind.
While the country’s volatility, militancy, and nuclear capacity certainly pose a geopolitical risk, a lot has changed since NEWSWEEK called Pakistan the world’s most dangerous nation three years ago. The qualities of mercy, forgiveness, and grit—those staples of the God-fearing—have risen above other longstanding, even pathological, problems and come to define the nation of late. The seemingly inexhaustible capacity of Pakistanis to forgive themselves, and each other, gives them the sense of purpose and selflessness to journey on—and provides the country with its little-understood strength.
No one knows forgiveness quite like President Asif Ali Zardari. After the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he shouted down angry supporters who demanded the secession of Sindh province, Zardari and Bhutto’s home, from Pakistan. He has kept intact his rancorous but ultimately peaceful relationship with Nawaz Sharif, another twice-elected prime minister, who in the 1990s had ordered Zardari’s arrest and torture. For a brief period two years ago, Zardari was the country’s most popular man, and he was overwhelmingly elected president. He has now returned to being one of the country’s most reviled, especially after his tone-deaf tour of France and England while Pakistan was being devastated by floodwaters. Zardari is now compensating with aggressive compassion, touring affected areas dressed in a dark shalwar kameez with a Sindhi cap and somber expression, instead of the suit and smile he normally wears.
Because of their numbers and capacity for withstanding abuse, Zardari and his Pakistan Peoples Party are in alliance with every major political party—including Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz—in all elected assemblies in the country. This big-tent approach has helped calm tensions in the smaller provinces, where alienation often manifests as violence toward the state. The rancorous coalition predicated on forgiveness has yielded some big wins for Pakistan’s democracy. In April the near-unanimous passage by Parliament of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which weakened the president’s powers—notably, nullifying that office’s right to dissolve Parliament—coupled with an unexpected national revenue-sharing agreement among the country’s four provinces, led Zardari to remark, “There is acceptance of everybody’s political position and rights, and it shows a great maturity that I feel the democratic forces in Pakistan have achieved.”
More than two years after their return to greater national relevance, Zardari’s and Sharif’s parties seem to have broken the claw-and-kill cycle that once marked their relations. The old tensions still simmer just below the surface, but the parties have come together when it’s mattered most, like they did for passage of the 18th Amendment. Neither Zardari nor Sharif has ever been accused of caring too much for the country or being unimpeachably honest. Sharif has come close on several occasions but always stopped short of calling for the ouster of the ruling party. Last year Zardari dismissed Sharif’s government in the Punjab, and Sharif was also briefly detained.
The overthrow of any government is impossible without the endorsement of the Army, which continues to call the shots on foreign policy and national security. The Army runs Pakistan’s largest corporate empire. It is in every line of business, including hairdressing. And while it is the country’s only truly egalitarian organization, where pluck ensures social advancement and the fulfillment of the Pakistani dream, its growth has come entirely at the expense of other institutions and has starved public-sector development. Each time it has assumed power, the country has lost ground—literally and metaphorically—starting with the handing over to China of a part of Kashmir in 1963. The petrodollar- and U.S.-funded Afghan jihad brought down the Soviet Union but left Pakistan awash with the militancy the Army once fostered, and is battling today partly as atonement.
Under Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Army has consciously been working to redeem itself by overt displays of professional, apolitical conduct. It’s been given a fillip by its operations against the Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan, its handling of the refugee crisis from Swat, and the rescue and relief efforts after the floods. But by its outrĂ© patriotic outrage last year over U.S. aid—and the behind-the-scenes pressure on the Zardari’s government to restore the unconstitutionally dismissed Iftikhar Chaudhry as the country’s chief justice—it remains engaged in politics, if only to protect its own interests (which it sees as interchangeable with national interests).
Military and civilian autocrats have always been able to bend the judiciary to suit their wishes. This changed in 2007 when Pervez Musharraf, the last of the country’s four military rulers, tried to fire Chaudhry because of his growing independence. When Chaudhry, who had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Musharraf administration in 2000, refused to back down, the lawyers’ movement was born. The movement—an unprecedented, largely peaceful nationwide mobilization of lawyers, civil-society activists, and political parties—was fueled by Chaudhry’s everyman heroism and permanently weakened Musharraf. Chaudhry was reinstated by his Supreme Court peers in July 2007 but put under house arrest four months later when Musharraf imposed emergency rule. The chief justice was restored to office again in March 2009. Today the Supreme Court under Chaudhry is an equal-opportunity offender, and in reclaiming its jurisdiction, its zeal has sometimes been misplaced. (For instance, the court struck down the amnesty order issued by Musharraf that led to the return of both Bhutto and Sharif. In the detailed judgment, the court excoriates corrupt, self-loathing elites as well as the Army. The court is currently hearing cases that could bring down Zardari. But Chaudhry knows that removing Zardari will be messy and that the ensuing confusion could destroy the court.)
The lawyers’ movement inspired by Chaudhry’s defiance would not have been possible without the activism of the press. Pakistan has more than 60 cable channels and, despite an occasional kerfuffle with the government, the fiercely vocal media remain sufficiently powerful to prevent any meaningful defamation laws from being legislated. Absent such laws, claims of freedom of expression by the media will continue to be an excuse for their excesses. Even if they are sometimes selective and hysterical, the media’s scrutiny of politicians—who were previously accountable only to the Army—is good for Pakistani democracy. A television commentator excoriated Sharif’s government in Punjab for providing taxpayer money to the philanthropic arm of the local Qaeda affiliate Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistani TV channels are not perfect—until recently, many networks glorified terrorists, even referring to killed militants with honorifics—but they are helping to modernize the nation’s politics.
What’s more, tolerance for violence is abating. National revulsion at the assassination of Bhutto; the Taliban’s overreach in the Swat Valley and their merciless public flogging of a 16-year-old girl (caught on video); and the spate of suicide bombings in urban centers turned 80 percent of Pakistanis strongly against suicide attacks, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. The limited aid work being done by front organizations for militant groups in flood-affected areas will, at least temporarily, help restore their public image, but the poll is a clear sign that Pakistanis are fed up with militancy.
Pakistanis have a been-there, done-that wariness of political experimentation, and they’ve settled on representative democracy as the solution. Citizens have repeatedly rejected the artificial strictures placed by military rulers on political figures like Bhutto and Sharif by voting them in. The political resurrections of Zardari and Sharif are not for lack of options; these are just who the people want to govern them.
Tensions among the government, Army, judiciary, and media are new and healthy for Pakistan. Each institution tests boundaries now and then, but they tend to back down when overstepping might cause civil strife. Each institution sometimes commits overreach in order to achieve the acceptable middle ground that it had quietly and actually always sought. (For instance, allies of the Army first said Pakistan should reject all American aid conditioned on civilian control of the military, but once politicians had promised the generals considerable autonomy, they backed down and Pakistan got its cash.) From these tensions, an uneasy equilibrium of tolerance and forgiveness has emerged. This equilibrium should last, and be preserved, at least until 2013, when Zardari, Chaudhry, and Kayani all complete their terms in office.
Social and political activism, discouraged under military rule, is back, fueled by modern platforms like Facebook. Unlike protests in the U.S. and Europe against the Iraq War, street demonstrations in Pakistan tend to yield results, as they did with Judge Chaudhry’s restoration. This sense of empowerment is amplified and assisted by the press—and it is not limited to politics: students and civil-society activists undertook one of the largest humanitarian relief operations in Pakistan’s history after the 2005 earthquake. Similar fervor is on display as Pakistan faces the aftermath of the floods.
Politicians will make mistakes. But regret, says Zardari, is an indulgence. “Life has so many regrets, you can’t even start,” he told NEWSWEEK PAKISTAN. “But then you forgive yourself, accept the fact that you were wrong, and go on.” That’s a lesson Pakistan knows well.
 NOTE: Ahmed is the editor of NEWSWEEK PAKISTAN. This is adapted from his cover story for the magazine’s first issue.