Three years after 911, we still have no real clarity about "whodunit" let alone "whatdunit" - and if history is any indication, it could be decades before the truth is finally revealed.
But the Armageddon dreams of our nation's leaders mandate a more urgent timeframe.
Were 19 hijackers armed with box cutters really responsible for the WTC/Pentagon carnage? Seems increasingly implausible, as does the administration's claim of no prior knowledge. Remember Bush's comment about watching the first airplane hit the WTC before the second airplane even made impact? What video feed does he have anyway? The rest of us sure didn't see that live on our TVs.
As sick as it seems, it wouldn't be the first time a US administration has furthered its own political ambitions through attacks on American citizens.
Take Pearl Harbor. The official story (long ago discredited, yet still touted in Hollywood B-movies) was that Japanese forces caught the US totally off guard when they brutally attacked on December 7, 1941.
It was probably a lie. Many historians believe that members of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration actually knew about the impending assault, and just let the carnage roll in order to get the US public primed for war with Japan.
In his 1982 book 'Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath', Pulitzer-prize winner John Toland reveals that almost everything the Japanese were planning to do "was known to the United States" on the morning of the attack, via intercepted messages never communicated to commanders at Pearl Harbor. He cites the case of US counterintelligence translator Dorothy Edgers who uncovered critical Japanese messages days before the assault, including "a scheme of signals regarding the movement and exact position of warships and carriers in Pearl Harbor." But Edgers' boss, Alwin Kramer, seemed "more annoyed than electrified" at the discovery and ordered her to "run along home." Unbeknownst to Edgers, Kramer was part of the subterfuge.
We all know what happened next. Japanese bombs rained down on the US naval vessels and aircraft poised like sitting ducks at Pearl Harbor, and the ensuing bloodbath left over 2,400 US service members and civilians dead. The following day, Congress voted overwhelmingly to give FDR all of the resources he wanted to wage war with Japan.
The parallels with 911 are stunning.
Today's Edgers is Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was fired in March 2002 after exposing corruption at a critical FBI counterintelligence unit. Among Edmonds' charges: supervisors covered for a colleague who was smuggling sensitive documents out of FBI headquarters in order to protect contacts in "semi-legit" organizations. When Edmonds started speaking out about this stunning breach of national security, Attorney General John Ashcroft slapped her with a gag order.
Even worse, Bush's 911 Commission didn't address any of Edmonds' accusations, including her closed-door testimony that in April 2001, a long-term FBI informant had revealed "Osama Bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States, targeting 4-5 major cities," and that "the attack was going to involve airplanes."
You've got to wonder - if the 911 Commission left out that crucial tidbit, then what else did it fail to mention?
But the whole inquiry was a farce from the start. Appointing Henry Kissinger (notorious for covering up US involvement with murderous South American dictatorships) as chairman was the first clue. Replacing him with former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean was the second.
According to Fortune magazine (Jan. 22 2003), "Kean appears to have a bizarre link to the very terror network he's investigating - al Qaeda . Kean is a director of petroleum giant Amerada Hess, which in 1998 formed a joint venture - known as Delta Hess - with Delta Oil, a Saudi Arabian company, to develop oil fields in Azerbaijan. One of Delta's backers is Khalid bin Mahfouz, a shadowy Saudi patriarch married to one of Osama bin Laden's sisters. Mahfouz, who is suspected of funding charities linked to al Qaeda, is even named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by families of Sept. 11 victims."
For the record, bin Mahfouz denies bin Laden is his brother-in-law and also denies ever having had ownership interest in Delta Oil. Interesting coincidence though that Hess severed ties with Delta just three weeks before Kean was appointed to the 911 Commission.
Another interesting coincidence: 28 pages of the inquiry's final report, covering "specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers," were blanked out. According to an official quoted in The New Republic (Aug. 1 2003), "There's a lot more in the 28 pages than money . We're talking about a coordinated network that reaches right from the hijackers to multiple places in the Saudi government."
Very murky indeed. And a third interesting coincidence surrounds the deadly anthrax-laced letters that hit the nation within weeks of 911. While "shocked" administration members were quick to blame Osama bin Laden and/or Saddam Hussein, they failed to mention one intriguing point: claims that Bush's staff had started taking Cipro, an anthrax-treatment drug, weeks before the attacks occurred.
According to the public-interest group Judicial Watch: "In October 2001, press reports revealed that White House staff had been on a regimen of the powerful antibiotic Cipro since the September 11th terrorist attacks." Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman notes, "One doesn't simply start taking a powerful antibiotic for no good reason. The American people are entitled to know what the White House staffers knew."
While the anthrax attacks have never been solved, the Bush administration has had some clear results: increased justification to reduce civil liberties, to rev up biodefense spending and to create more hysteria around the need to invade Iraq.
The idea of using civilian casualties for political gain was codified in Operation Northwoods, a 1960's plan by top US military brass to orchestrate terrorism in American cities and blame it on Castro, thereby creating public support for a war with Cuba. More recently, the September 2000 neocon guidebook, Rebuilding America's Defenses, claims "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor" would help speed up the process of transforming the US into "tomorrow's dominant force."
So it's no surprise that over the past four years, we've learned to pay attention when the Bush administration and its minions in the press start dropping hints about the next big attack. They've most recently floated the idea of a catastrophic October Surprise assault, which they suggest could necessitate postponing the election. One official warned, "I can tell you one thing, we won't be like Spain," in an apparent reference to the conservative ruling party's having lost power days after the Madrid train bombings.
But Spain's election was a high-turnout, democratic contest in which voters fair and square booted an unpopular, lying, war-mongering administration. Why can't US voters have the same chance?
Another apparent option is a strike on Iran, maybe preceded by a stateside assault blamed on Tehran. A raving Washington Post column (July 23 2004) summed it up with:
"Did we invade the wrong country? One of the lessons being drawn from the Sept. 11 report is that Iran was the real threat. It had links to al Qaeda, allowed some of the Sept. 11 hijackers to transit and is today harboring al Qaeda leaders . If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the 'Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or preemptive strike."
Of course, the recent Pentagon spy scandal (in which top-secret presidential policy papers on Iran were reportedly leaked to Israeli
officials) may put a damper on this alternative. The scandal highlights the neocons' power struggle with other administration members, and until that battle is decided, there won't be consensus enough to invade Iran. But if Israel does decide to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, then chances are strong Bush will jump in too, and we could be looking at WWIII.
As a sidelight, there's an interesting connection between the Pentagon spy scandal and September 11th: allegations that Israeli intelligence may have known about the 911 attacks in advance and not told the United States. In December 2001, Fox News ran a four-part series suggesting that Israeli intelligence may have had prior knowledge of the attack, through its spying on Arabs in the United States.
So where does all of this leave us as the third anniversary of 911 approaches? With more questions than answers. Whodunnit? Should we blame Osama and the hijackers, Saudi funders, Israeli intelligence agents, the Bush administration or some combination? And Whatdunnit? Was it airplanes, bombs, missiles, or some combination? And when will we ever learn the truth?
Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the ensuing cover-up, President Roosevelt's Chief of Staff reportedly told other officers, "Gentlemen, this goes to the grave with us."
Unfortunately, today it seems that the president and his staff are busily digging our graves in order to satisfy their own grandiose power grabs.
This outrage must stop.
Heather Wokusch can be reached at www.heatherwokusch.com. She is the author of "The Progressive Woman's Political Primer: 100 Easy Ways to Make a Difference Now" to be released in the fall.