Monday, September 09, 2002

As we approach the anniversary of September 11, some of the writing on it is becoming extremely sophisticated. This article by Chaim Kupferberg is a good example of what fine attention to detail can create (see also this article). I can't say that I agree with all his conclusions, but I like the type of analysis he is doing. I note the following:

  1. Trying to figure out the deep politics of 9-11 is both hampered and helped by the various agendas of various sources of information. We're getting a combination of information and disinformation from various parties, all trying to put their own spin on the facts. Besides the U. S. government, which itself speaks with many tongues, we have Pakistani, Indian and other sources. Of course, if one country can't keep the stories straight, many countries provide a good source of anomalies which we can exploit in trying to ferret out the truth. It is interesting to contemplate just how easy it is for intelligence agencies to manipulate press coverage by selective planting of various lies, leaving the general stupidity and laziness of journalists to do the rest. Journalists are so dependent on their 'sources' that they are easily manipulated by them, and of course often share the same ideological slant of the intelligence agencies anyway, not to mention the ones who are on intelligence agency payrolls.

  2. The identification of suspects by name provides a huge area for obfuscation. It is an old trick to use variations on a name, different spellings, mixing of first and last names, etc., to deliberately confuse anyone trying to discover the truth. The confusion is particularly useful for intelligence agencies, who want to keep a full set of files but be able to say semi-truthfully that their files don't contain a certain name (they keep the files on key people using a second name, a misspelling, or a nickname). This confusion is even easier when the name has to be transcribed from a language which doesn't use the Roman alphabet, particularly Arabic, where there are numerous methods of determining the English equivalent of a name originally in Arabic (think of all the English spellings for the leader of Libya). It is amusing that various identity problems, including the complete inability of either the CIA or the FBI to keep track of the terrorists or properly identify them, are blamed on the fact that so many Arabs have the same name, as if that wasn't also the case with 'normal' people in the United States (this is part of the general tendency of Americans to be completely boggled by furrin' names).

  3. I've long felt that the whole money flow from the ISI to Saeed to Atta is itself intended to confuse. If the ISI wanted to send money to Atta, why didn't it directly send money to Atta using a means that couldn't be traced back to the ISI? Why involve Saeed at all, and why make a big deal of how he used the 'untraceable' hawala system when the trail of money obviously was traced? How did all this get leaked to an Indian newspaper? Of course, if the whole point of the exercise was to connect Atta and thus the 9-11 terrorism to al-Qaeda and even back to 'rogue' Islamic fundamentalists in the ISI, 'rogues' who have now been cleaned out by America's new friend Musharraf (thus turning what seemed like a disaster for Pakistan into a public relations victory), the whole scheme makes perfect sense. In fact, in the absense of any real evidence tying Atta to al-Qaeda (the Americans were going to produce some to justify the war on Afghanistan, but found they didn't need to as the American desire for revenge made evidence unnecessary), the $100,000 payment to Atta, was, and remains, the only hard evidence to prove that 9-11 was an al-Qaeda operation. The essential connection between Atta and al-Qaeda was made using the payment, it was 'leaked' to the Indian press, and the Indians were only too glad to publish anything which seemed to implicate Pakistan in anything bad. Later, the Indians, perhaps realizing that they had been duped into publishing information that had actually improved Pakistan's position with the U. S., were no longer interested in emphasizing Saeed's connection to the ISI (an additional factor may have been manipulation of Indian reporting in an attempt by Indian 'doves' to diffuse tension with Pakistan at a time when nuclear war with Pakistan was likely). As Saeed was the busiest man in Pakistan, he could fulfil the triple role of funding Atta, being involved in terrorism in India and Kashmir, and killing Pearl. Depending on what propaganda point you wish to make, you can combine these roles as you like, and forget those combinations which you find inconvenient. Initially, the ISI/Saeed/Atta connection ties al-Qaeda and ISI to 9-11. Then, when the 'rogues' are removed from ISI and Pakistan is an ally in the 'war on terrorism', you can use the ties of Saeed to Islamic terrorism in India and Kashmir to further strengthen the ties between al-Qaeda and 9-11, and forget the ties of Saeed to the ISI. Finally, blaming Saeed for the spectacular death of Daniel Pearl: 1) further ties al-Qaeda to terrorism; 2) since Pearl was Jewish, allows Israel to depict itself as in the same victim status as the United States in the 'war on terrorism' (a point that played a major role in U. S. media coverage of the murder); and 3) gives Pakistan a good excuse to execute a possibly inconvenient witness.

  4. There is a familiar pattern in the case of Saeed. In many cases the person blamed for acts of terrorism is someone who came from a Western background (Saeed and Reid are British; Padilla, Lindh and Hamdi are American) who then plunged into a completely different context in Pakistan or Afghanistan. These people were completely unprepared to deal with the change, and were easily manipulated by those with complicated agendas.

  5. The last ten paragraphs of the article, on the creation of the legends of Atta and the other hijackers, expresses what I've been trying to say in many postings. Our built-in predisposition to see personal identities as immutable leaves us open to being deceived whenever an intelligence operative plays the role of someone with a pre-existing identity. We are so programmed to see personal identity as continuing unchanged and unchangeable that we ignore anomalies and combine even large changes in personality or characteristics into one composite identity. The hijackers were noticably unafraid of being conspicuous, tended to use their own names and favored leaving a paper identity trail, had numerous encounters with figures in authority, made sure they would be remembered by being loud or odd or rude, and made every effort to cement the actors playing the roles to the names assumed by the hijackers. The stolen identities were chosen to add the taint of Islamic fundamentalism, which is of course essential to the plan to create a new crusade.

  6. Writers are becoming increasingly bold in making connections concerning the events of September 11, what Chaim Kupferberg calls: "The Implication That Dare Not Speak Its Name - that General Ahmad's ISI were the operational commanders of the 9/11 hijackers, acting themselves as proxies for the U.S. government/U.K./EU (i.e., the coalition spearheading the War On Terrorism)." My version of it might replace "EU" by "Israel". I generally think that Kupferberg is too easy on Israel, which benefitted hugely from the events of September 11 and which probably played some sort of role in the 9-11 operation, if not the major role that many feel it played (in the cui bono sweepstakes, U. S. and Israeli extreme right-wingers, along with certain Pakistani elites, benefitted greatly from 9-11; most of the Arab world, including the Saudis, did not). I also find the idea that the ISI were the "operational commanders" of the terrorists unlikely, and the suspicion remains that ISI itself has been framed here, perhaps willingly. It is in fact almost as unlikely that the ISI would be running an American terrorist operation than that bin Laden was. In any event, we're well beyond the rather simplistic idea that a guy in a cave in Afghanistan directed a bunch of middle-class Arab losers to commit the most sophisticated and devastating terrorist act in recent history.