Shining Light on Roots of Terrorism

commentary on the upcoming 9/11 trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has
raised concern that state secrets may be divulged, including details
about how the Bush administration used torture to extract evidence
about al-Qaeda.

"I think that we're going to shine a light
on something that a lot of people don't want to look at" is how
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Denney LeBoeuf put it,
according to The New York Times on Saturday.

No problem, says Attorney General Eric
Holder, who claims to have "great confidence" that other evidence -
apart from what may have been gleaned from the 183 times Sheikh
Mohammed was waterboarded, for example - will suffice to convict him.

Maybe so, But what the Fawning Corporate
Media (or FCM) have so far neglected is the likelihood that the
testimony will be so public that they will have to break their studied
silence about why Sheikh Mohammed and his associates say they orchestrated the attacks of 9/11.

For reasons that are painfully obvious,
the FCM have done their best to ignore or bury the role that Israel's
repression of the Palestinians has played in motivating the 9/11
attacks and other anti-Western terrorism.

It is not like there is no evidence on
this key issue. Rather, it appears that the Israel-Palestine connection
is pretty much kept off limits for discussion.

Yet, as Sheikh Mohammed and the other
alleged 9/11 conspirators go to trial, the FCM's tacit but tight
embargo will be under great strain. Eyes will have to be averted from
the sensitive Israeli-Palestinian motive even more than from torture,
which most Americans know about (and, God help us, are willing to
explain away).

The Bromides

To refresh our memories, let's recall the
bromides we were fed by the likes of President George W. Bush about why
the terrorists attacked on 9/11.

Rather than mentioning long-held
grievances expressed by many Arabs - such as Western intrusion into
their region, Washington's propping up of autocrats who enrich
themselves in deals with multinational oil companies, and Israel's
military occupation of Palestinian territory - Bush told the American
people that "the terrorists hate our freedoms."

Former Vice President Dick Cheney reprised
that feel-good theme in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute
on May 21. Cheney said the terrorists hate "all the things that make us
a force for good in the world - for liberty, for human rights, for the
rational, peaceful resolution of differences."

Some observers might have found those
qualities strange for Cheney to cite given his role in violating
constitutional rights, torturing captives and spreading falsehoods to
justify an aggressive war against Iraq.

But Cheney also slipped up in the speech,
presumably because he had lost his best speechwriters upon leaving
office. He inadvertently acknowledged the Israeli albatross hanging
around the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

"They [terrorists] have never lacked for
grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech
and religion ... our belief in equal rights for women ... our support for
Israel... - these are the true sources of resentment," Cheney said.

Yet "our support for Israel" is hardly ever included in these formulations, but Cheney at least got that part right.

Rarely in the FCM - and not even often on
the Web - does one find Sheikh Mohammed's explanation for what
motivated him to "mastermind" 9/11. Apparently, few pundits have made
it as far as page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report.

The drafters were at work on the report
when they learned that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been captured. They
knew that he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from North
Carolina A&T in Greensboro in 1986, before going to Afghanistan to
fight the Russian occupier.

And it seems their first assumption was
that he suffered some major indignity at the hands of Americans in
Greensboro. Thus the strange wording of one major finding on page 147
of the 9/11 Commission Report:

"By his own account, KSM's animus toward
the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student,
but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy
favoring Israel."

Moreover, the footnote section reveals
that KSM was not the only "mastermind" terrorist motivated by "U.S.
foreign policy favoring Israel," although in the footnote the
Commission dances around a specific reference to Israel, leaving it to
the reader to infer that point from the context. Note the missing words
in the footnote on page 488:

"On KSM's rationale for attacking the
United States, see Intelligence report, interrogation of KSM, Sept. 5,
2003 (in this regard, KSM's statements echo those of Yousef, who
delivered an extensive polemic against U.S. foreign policy at his
January 1998 sentencing)," the footnote said.

Was Yousef, who happens to be Mohammed's
nephew, perhaps upset about U.S. foreign policy favoring NATO
expansion, or maybe toward Guam? Obviously, the unstated inference in
the footnote was about Israel.

The First Attack

The family connection between Yousef and
Mohammed was not incidental, either. "Yousef's instant notoriety as the
mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing inspired KSM to
become involved in planning attacks against the United States," the
9/11 Commission Report noted on page 147.

The 1993 World Trade Center bombing
occurred on Feb. 26, 1993, when a car bomb was detonated below Tower
One. The 1,500-pound urea nitrate-hydrogen gas-enhanced device was
intended to knock the North Tower (Tower One) into the South Tower,
bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people.

It failed to accomplish that, but the bombing did kill six people and injured 1,042.

Motive? Ramzi Yousef spelled out his motive in a letter to The New York Times after the bombing:

"We declare our responsibility for the
explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response
for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel,
the state of terrorism, and to the rest of the dictator countries in
the region."

Yousef was captured in Pakistan in 1995,
imprisoned in New York City, and held there until his trial. On Nov.
12, 1997, he was convicted of "seditious conspiracy" and was sentenced
the following January to life without parole. He is held at the
high-security Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Regarding the touchy Israel connection,
the 9/11 Commission stepped up to the plate in the "Recommendations"
section of its final report, which was issued on July 22, 2004, but
then bunted:

"America's policy choices have
consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy
regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq
are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim
world. ... Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide
Islamist terrorism grows stronger." (pp 376-377)

A more convincing swing at this issue was
taken in an unclassified study published by the Pentagon-appointed U.S.
Defense Science Board on Sept. 23, 2004, just two months later. The
board stated:

"Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but
rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their
objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and
against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing
support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.

"Thus, when American public diplomacy
talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no
more than self-serving hypocrisy."

The report directly contradicted what Bush
had been saying about "why they hate us," letting the elephant out of
the bag and into the room, so to speak.

But, you say, you didn't hear much about
that report either, despite 24-hour cable "news" networks and the
"change-everything" importance of 9/11 in justifying U.S. invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq?

Creative Editing

If you've read down this far, you will not
be surprised that the FCM ignored the Defense Science Board findings
for two months. On Nov. 24, 2004, The New York Times, erstwhile "newspaper of record," finally published a story on the report - but only after some highly instructive surgery.

Thom Shanker of the Times quoted
the paragraph beginning with "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom'" (see
above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following
sentence about what Muslims do object to, i.e., "what they see as
one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights"
and support for tyrannical regimes.

The Times did include the
sentence that immediately followed the omitted one. In other words, it
was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the
offending middle sentence fell victim to the "delete" key.

Similarly creative editing showed through the Times' reporting
in late October 2004 on a videotaped speech by Osama bin Laden. Almost
six paragraphs of the story made it onto page one, but the Times
saw to it that the key point bin Laden made at the beginning of his
speech was relegated to paragraphs 23 to 25 at the very bottom of page

Buried there was bin Laden's assertion
that the idea for 9/11 first germinated after "we witnessed the
oppression and tyranny of the American-Israeli coalition against our
people in Palestine and Lebanon."

There is other evidence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian motive behind 9/11.

Though Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not
allowed to talk to the attorneys in the 2006 trial of 9/11
co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, the judge did allow into the
official record a statement by Mohammed on the "Purpose of the 9/11
Attacks," which was drawn from "numerous written summaries of Sheikh
Mohammed's oral statements in response to extensive questioning."

The following statement from Sheikh
Mohammed appears on page 11 of Defense Trial Exhibit 941 from "United
States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Criminal No. 01-455-A":

"Sheikh Mohammed said that the purpose of
the attack on the Twin Towers was to 'wake the American people up.'
Sheikh Mohammed said that if the target would have been strictly
military or government, the American people would not focus on the
atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the
Palestinian people and America's self-serving foreign policy that
corrupts Arab governments and leads to further exploitation of the
Arab/Muslim peoples."

Some recent articles about Mohammed's
upcoming trial also have mentioned the Israel-Palestine motive behind
9/11, though usually in passing and deep inside the stories. For
instance, Sunday's New York Times carries a front-page article giving a "portrait of 9/11 'Jackal,'" Mohammed.

But one has to read deep into the jump on
page 26 to learn that the original plan for the 9/11 attacks envisioned
Mohammed flying on one of 10 planes that were to be hijacked and that
"he would be on the one plane not to crash, and after the plane landed
would emerge and deliver a speech condemning American policy on Israel."

Revisionist View

Yet, the Fawning Corporate Media won't
stop performing its creative editing - or creative composition - to
obscure this motive. Never mind what the 9/11 Commission Report said
about Mohammed not being driven by resentments from his college days in
North Carolina, the Washington Post offered a revisionist view on that point on Aug. 30:

"KSM's limited and negative experience in
the United States - which included a brief jail stay because of unpaid
bills - almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a
terrorist," according to an intelligence summary, the Post
reported. "He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal,
confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist

A telling revision perhaps extracted from
one of Mohammed's 183 waterboarding sessions - and certainly
politically more convenient in that it obscured Mohammed's other
explanation implicating "U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel."

But let's look for a moment at the
"debauched and racist" part. Could Mohammed be speaking some truth here
- and not just about his college days of the 1980s?

Would the Washington Post's
editors be so supportive of the "war on terror" if captives from a more
favored ethnic or religious group were stripped naked before members of
the opposite sex, put in diapers, immobilized with shackles in stress
positions for long periods, denied sleep and made to soil themselves?

In my view, racism comes very much into
play here. If Mohammed and other detainees looked more like us, would
it be so easy to demonize and waterboard them? [See, for example,'s "Bush's Interrogators Stressed Nudity."]

Unguarded Moments

At rare moments, however, hard truths
about the 9/11 motivations slip out - although not in high-profile
presidential speeches nor in Washington Post op-eds. For
instance, at a public hearing in June 2004, 9/11 Commissioner Lee
Hamilton asked a panel of government experts, "What motivated them [the
hijackers] to do it?"

The CIA analyst in the group is seen in
some panic, directing his eyes toward the other panelists in the
all-too-obvious hope that someone else will answer the politically
loaded question. FBI Supervisory Special Agent James Fitzgerald rose to
the occasion, saying:

"I believe they feel a sense of outrage
against the United States. They identify with the Palestinian problem;
they identify with people who oppose oppressive regimes, and I believe
they tend to focus their anger on the United States."

For Hamilton and his colleagues that
proved to be a politically incorrect answer. Ergo, you will not find
that testimony in the 9/11 Commission Report. And notably absent from
the report's recommendations is any suggestion as to how one might
address the question of Israeli treatment of Palestinians and U.S.
support for it.

In their book Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission,
Chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton are unusually candid in admitting
that this issue was so sensitive and contentious that they chose the
course of least resistance.

Despite the findings of the Commission staff - and FBI Agent Fitzgerald - that the hijackers were not
motivated by religious ideology, many of the Commissioners much
preferred attributing the attacks to Islam than to U.S. policy toward

Kean and Hamilton explain that those
commissioners were dead set against identifying Israel as a major
factor motivating the terrorists, because someone might get the idea
that Washington should reassess its policy.

But it's a legitimate and urgent question:
Would a more determined commitment by the U.S. government to secure an
independent state for the Palestinians and to alleviate their suffering
undercut the appeal of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups to young
people in the Muslim world?

Or put differently, why should ardent
supporters of Israel in the U.S. Congress behave in such a way as to
make the Muslim world view the United States as disinterested in the
plight of the Palestinians and thus increase the danger of future
attacks against the United States, as well as against Israel?

The Goldstone Report

The rest of the world and most Americans
opposed the Israeli strikes on Gaza last December and January that
resulted in the killing of 1,400 Palestinians, with 13 Israelis also
killed. And there was wide criticism of the silence not only of the
Bush/Cheney administration, but also of President-elect Barack Obama.

The UN-authorized investigation by the
widely respected South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, himself a
Jew, pointed to war crimes by both Israel and Hamas, although the
inquiry's harshest criticism landed on Israel for the staggering
civilian death toll.

This finding led Israel's Likud government
to activate its powerful U.S. lobby, which pressed the House of
Representatives to denounce the Goldstone report, which the House did
on a 344-36 vote.

In a wondrous display of pot-and-kettle,
House members branded the Goldstone report "irredeemably biased."
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the report
"unbalanced and unfair and inaccurate."

These so-called "friends of Israel" either
don't know or don't care that this sort of resolution only makes
matters worse regarding American attempts to defuse the explosive anger
building across the Middle East. It is a gift to al-Qaeda.

This U.S. pandering to the Likud Lobby -
and the implicit suggestion that the lives of 1,400 Palestinians don't
much matter - also is bad for the people of Israel. Indeed, it may
prove suicidal, by delaying the geopolitical imperative for Israel to
make peace with its Arab neighbors and thus avert some future

Closer to home, by further identifying
itself with - and justifying - Israeli repression of the Palestinians,
the United States helps breed more Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds and Ramzi
Yousefs, more young terrorists determined to make Washington and the
American people pay a price.

It requires no logical leap to conclude
that Likud-friendly lawmakers - the Steny Hoyers, the Howard Bermans,
the Ileana Ros-Lehtinens of this world - could scarcely think up a
better way to raise the threat level from terrorists who feed on
festering sores like the calamity in Gaza.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.