Sunday, December 29, 2002

Kean's conflict is at the very heart of what his commission is supposed to investigate. The commission is to examine whether the attacks could have been avoided and is to recommend steps to prevent future attacks. The reason the issue has become politicized - the reason why Bush was forced by public pressure by the families of the victims of September 11 to establish such a commission - is that there remains a lingering suspicion that the Bush Administration was somehow at fault for not stopping the terrorism. There are three levels of suspicion:

  1. The idea that the Bush Administration was behind the terrorist attacks, or at least that part of the U. S. military or intelligence apparatus close to the military industrial complex and members of the Bush Administration planned the terrorism to satisfy various goals. This makes a lot of sense, but is too conspiratorial for most Americans.

  2. The idea that the Bush Administration ignored the massive amounts of specific warnings of the attacks and arranged for the remarkably slow NORAD response in order to allow the terrorism to occur, again to satisfy various goals. This makes even more sense, and given the unbelievable sluggishness of NORAD seems to me to be practically a certainty, but is still too conspiratorial for most Americans.

  3. The idea that business ties of various members of the Bush Administration, particularly to the Bush family itself, led to improper restrictions in the investigations being conducted by U. S. counterterrorism agencies on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, restrictions which allowed the terrorism to occur. This in my mind is an absolute certainty, and is so suspicious that it appears to lie behind the concerns of the families of the victims.

We have to go back to John O'Neill, the the director of counterterrorism for the FBI's New York office, and the FBI's leading expert on bin Laden. He was a driven man, and was determined to catch bin Laden and stop his organization, but was thwarted by what he felt was political interference by the U. S. government. He was so frustrated at not being allowed to do his job that he quit in disgust, and took a job as head of security for the World Trade Center, only to die on his second day of work, probably when he heroically went back into one of the towers to try to save people. O'Neill felt that the answers to the terrorism question lay in Saudi Arabia, and in particular, in the relationship between U. S. corporate oil interests and the Saudi elites which were financing the terrorism. The U. S. policy of treating the terrorist threat as subordinate to corporate interests goes back at least to the Clinton Administration, but became even more exaggerated under Bush, possibly because Bush and his family had personal business connections with the Saudi elites, including the financiers of al-Qaeda (not to mention the amazing fact that Bush's father's company, Carlyle, had as an investor the bin Laden family itself - to quote myself: "it is as if during the Second World War the main American military supplier was partly owned by Roosevelt's father and partly owned by Hitler's brother"). O'Neill's problems peaked when his investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen was acrimoniously thwarted by the U. S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. O'Neill's exit from the FBI seems to have been hastened by some odd charges involving a missing briefcase, an issue which supposedly led to his understanding that he would no longer be considered for promotion. We have seen a number of examples where FBI agents attempted to investigate suspicious incidents, but were mysterously thwarted by the FBI bureaucracy (e. g., the Phoenix memorandum on Arabs attending U.S. flight schools, the story of FBI informant Aukai Collins, the failure to obtain a FISA warrant against Moussaoui - the man who heads the FBI's National Security Law Unit, the unit that blocked the Minneapolis agents from pursuing their suspicions about Moussaoui, recently received a reward for "exceptional performance", which carried with it a cash bonus of 20 to 35 percent of his salary and a framed certificate signed by the President!). All of these incidents, together with O'Neill's concerns, have to lead one to wonder whether corporate interests interfered with a proper investigation of al-Qaeda, an investigation which would have prevented 9-11. Kean's conflict fits squarely into this problem: he is a director of a U. S. oil corporation which is in partnership with a company owned by a family in the Saudi elites which is very closely associated with Khalid bin Mahfouz, a man who probably financed President Bush's oil business, a man closely associated with the debacle of BCCI, and a man who has been alleged to be a financier of al-Qaeda. Kean is supposed to investigate whether U. S. corporate oil interests, and in particular business interests and connections of the President of the United States, had any adverse effect on the proper counterterrorism investigations of the U. S. government, when Kean has much the same sort of corporate crony connections to exactly the same man.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

I was afraid that the conflict of interest of the new chairman of Bush's 9-11 whitewash commission, Thomas Kean, was going to go completely unnoticed, but Michel Chossudovsky, who writes excellent stuff which reminds me of the work of Peter Dale Scott (no higher praise is possible), has written a good article on the subject. I have a few comments:

  1. The family ties between Khalid bin Mahfouz and Osama bin Laden are still somewhat murky. I have seen reference to both bin Mahfouz being married to bin Laden's sister and bin Laden being married to bin Mahfouz's sister (I also recollect a letter to the editor of the National Post by a lawyer for bin Mahfouz denying at least one of these connections). In any event, it seems to me to be more important that bin Mahfouz may be linked to Islamic charities that have financed al-Qaeda. It's not that we know that bin Mahfouz is so linked - Kean's problem is that part of his mandate as chairman could lead him to uncover this connection, meaning that he would be forced to reveal a connection between al-Qaeda and a partner of a corporation of which he is a director.

  2. Kean's conflict problem is actually two conflict problems. As chairman of the commission, he will presumably have to swear some sort of oath to uphold the truth, an oath which he won't be able to swear because of Amerada Hess's connections, through the Delta Hess Alliance, to possible financiers of al-Qaeda. On the other hand, as a director of Amerada Hess, he also has a fiduciary duty to Amerada Hess and probably its shareholders, a duty which would preclude him putting himself in a position where his oath as chairman of the commission would force him to damage the corporate interests of Amerada Hess. This damage would occur if the commission were to discover that bin Mahfouz is a financier of al-Qaeda, a discovery which would presumably mean, due to U. S. anti-terrorism laws, that Amerada Hess would no longer be able to participate in the potentially very lucrative Delta Hess Alliance. Kean breaches his duty as a director of Amerada Hess just by putting himself in a position where information disadvantageous to Amerada Hess might be found, even if such information is only inadvertantly stumbled upon by a commission researcher (researchers are the most dangerous people, as they have the tendency to go looking for truths they're not supposed to find). In other words, he breaches his duty to Amerada Hess simply by assuming a duty to the commission which could force him to reveal truths about bin Mahfouz. Kean is putting himself in the position of looking for a gas leak with a lighted match.

  3. He might try to remove his conflict problem by resigning as a director of Amerada Hess, but that wouldn't stop his fiduciary duty to the corporation for acts taken while he was a director, nor would it erase his memory of whatever he happens to know about bin Mahfouz due to his position as a director. I suppose Amerada Hess might try to waive any duty Kean has to them, but the shareholders would probably have something to say about that.

  4. It sounds horrible, but it is not out of the question that Bush picked Kean because Kean was so completely conflicted in this matter that he would act to cover up the potentially extremely embarrassing connections between the Bush family and the bin Mahfouz and bin Laden families.

  5. The sweet, sweet irony of all this is that Kean's conflict problems may actually be worse than Kissinger's.

It seems to me that Kean is opening himself up to massive potential personal liability problems by chairing this commission, and he would be a fool to continue.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

There appear to be two countries called 'Venezuela'. In the Venezuela in the real world, an extremely tiny number of racist rich people, who, not coincidentally, happen to be of European rather than Indian descent, and who completely control the Venezuelan media and run the oil companies, are attempting to stage a coup by making it appear that the government of Hugo Chavez is unpopular, and by trying to force U. S. involvement in removing Chavez by threatening U. S. access to the Venezuelan oil supply (as an aside, the current relatively diplomatic American positions on Iraq probably relate to this uncertainty about the Venezuelan oil supply). The form the protest is taking is to call for early elections, which isn't what the rich really want, as they know that Chavez would probably win again. What they are really trying to do is to stall the implementation of some of Chavez's reforms which are to come into effect in the new year, and presumably use the time to replace Chavez in an unconstitutional way (presumably with the help of the United States). Their efforts are failing, and Chavez remains popular with the poor people who voted for him and in all ranks of the Venezuelan military. The 'strikes' of the workers that we keep hearing about are actually lock-outs and managerial sabotage with the aid of a corrupted union, and Chavez is gradually using the military to regain control of the oil supply lines (he's eventually going to have to fire much of the upper management involved in oil production and transport). The other Venezuela is the Venezuela reported on in the American press, where the coup supporters have rallies of hundreds of thousands of people, or even one million (or was it perhaps tens of thousands?). The plotters had to shift from rallies to attempting to stop oil production as the rallies were starting to peter out. One of the reasons that the plotters can't consistently get out the big crowds is that they fired on a large rally in the last coup attempt, in a failed attempt to create support for the coup by blaming Chavez for the killings. Similar killings have occurred in this attempt, again blamed on Chavez, but the issue is extremely murky and it makes no sense for Chavez to encourage the coup by firing on the plotters' mob. In this phony Venezuela created by the American press (no doubt with the aid of the U. S. government), Chavez is extremely unpopular, acts like a dictator, and is constantly on the brink of being deposed. It's funny that American commentators, even when they deplore the American support for the plotters, can't help but say nasty things about Chavez, when in actual fact he has been a very moderate leader and a model of restraint (as an example, not one of the April coup leaders is in jail, although the leader of the attempt is under house arrest). It is difficult not to think back to the last attempted coup, where the same group of rich people, aided by a few generals and much advice and money and probably actual military and intelligence assistance by the U. S. government, tried to perform the same sort of stunt. In that fiasco, the military and the majority of the population stayed loyal to Chavez, and the whole thing ended in embarrassment. The most striking thing about that attempted coup is that the American media reported that Chavez had resigned and the coup had succeeded, information that was utterly false but was fed back to the Venezuelans as being the truth being reported in the United States (I've already complained about this). This was an attempt to create a fait accompli in the minds of the supporters of Chavez, with the hopes that they would fall into despair and allow themselves to be ruled under a dictatorship of the rich (i. e., go back to the way things were before Chavez). It was completely obvious that the American media was allowing itself to be used by the U. S. State Department in this unsuccessful trick, and unfortunately exactly the same thing is happening now (as an example of how ridiculous it has become, read the last paragraph in this article!). Fortunately, the utter stupidity of the Bush Administration in calling for unconstitutional elections in Venezuela has actually helped Chavez's position (the Bush Administration's ineptitude at foreign relations has now helped anti-American politicians get elected in Brazil, Germany, and South Korea). The Bush Administration's stupidity may have also finally allowed the Organization of American States, which unanimously rejected Bush's call for elections, to act independently of the United States. Despite all these psy-ops in the American media, Chavez appears to be gradually gaining the upper hand, and has been greatly assisted by the support of his neighbors (but he's not out of the woods yet, especially as an actual covert military attack by the U. S. is always possible). The American journalists who have been used in these attempts to damage Venezuela by false reporting should be ashamed of themselves.
If Joe Strummer can die at 50, and Strom Thurmond is still going at 100, that must mean that God, if she exists, is one real malicious bitch. Now, more than ever, "It's up to you not to heed the call-up."

Monday, December 23, 2002

The United States, in an announced change in policy, is planning to set up eight to ten bases in Afghanistan in the next six months "in hopes of boosting reconstruction efforts and regional security". "In addition, the new bases will try 'to dampen regional tensions' and to project the power of the central government in Kabul into the provinces, Joe Collins, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, said at a Pentagon briefing." Collins said that this reconfiguration would not increase the size of the U. S. military presence in Afghanistan, which currently stands at about 9,000 troops. However, another official said the U. S. presence could increase if the Army Corps of Engineers is "tapped for a major construction project", which he said is being contemplated. A major construction project? Now, what could that possibly be? Well, (insane) Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, fresh from an assassination attempt, has announced a summit to be held on December 26-27 between himself, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and American stooge Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, to discuss the building of a gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. This is the infamous gas pipeline that crazed conspiracy theorists claimed was the real reason for the American attack on Afghanistan, especially given that Afghanistan seemed to have nothing to do with September 11, and since the Americans have been noticeably unsuccessful at capturing al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan or controlling the country. If a pipeline is to be built, bases will be needed to protect the contruction workers and the built pipeline. Attacks on workers, the pipeline, and these bases will keep the local warlords entertained for years, and may even lead to the vietnamization of Afghanistan for the American military. Of course, paying for these bases is in effect a direct subsidy from the American taxpayers to the oily friends of the Bush Administration who will benefit from the construction business and from the gas in the pipeline.
The Republicans have performed another bit of brilliant politics, neatly removing Lott, who was relatively politically friendless and and lacking the political skills to operate as an effective Senate majority leader. They managed to do this by having their friends in the media make a big thing out of Lott's remarks, although these remarks were merely part of the racist politics that Lott and other Republicans (including, most noteably, Ashcroft) have been using for years to appeal to their white constituents, and this coded racism has always been ignored or suppressed by the press. When black leaders have complained about these remarks in the past, they have received only token press coverage. Suddenly, when it is convenient for the Bush junta to replace Lott, his remarks are splashed over all the media. The Democrats didn't know how to respond as they were fearful that any attack on Lott would be turned around on them by the partisan press, and because some of them are attempting to play the same racist game the Republicans play (but not nearly so well), and feared that making a big thing out of Lott's remarks would insult the white voters that Lott was indeed pandering to. The Republicans nearly won the 2000 Presidential election and did win the midterm elections by delivering coded messages to their racist white supporters while appearing to be acceptably non-racist to normal voters (and, I must say, the nominally non-racist voters, who would be aghast if you were to accuse them of having racist sympathies, play along with this charade, having the 'advantages' of voting for racist politicians while feeling smugly liberal in their personal views on race). I was absolutely amazed to see Clinton actually point this out, as recognizing this essential fact of contemporary politics has been one of the great taboos in American political life (if you even try to raise the issue, you are called a 'race-baiter'). When the Democrats, to their great credit, decided to do the right thing and denounce racism, they set in play the factors in U. S. politics that the Republicans, to their great shame, have taken advantage of ever since. What I really want to know is how Rove forced Lott out. The Republicans could always have picked another majority leader, but Lott had apparently threatened to resign his Senate seat. He would then have been replaced by a Democrat (as the Democratic governor of Mississippi would make the selection of the replacement), thus endangering the Republican's majority position - Cheney would have had to cast the deciding vote, and one defection would have transferred control back to the Democrats - and possibly ruining the legislative and judicial appointment plans of the junta. You would therefore think that Lott had a tremendous amount of leverage. He could have resigned his Senate seat and gone back to Mississippi as king of the crackers, and become a university president (I'm making the crazy assumption there are universities in Mississippi) or, even more prestigious, a right-wing talk show host. So what convinced him to become a mere lowly Senator, and give up his long and difficult - just think of the indignity of having to apologize to nigras - fight to stay? His statements indicate that he is very unhappy about what happened and seems to have become a bit of a conspiracy theorist (he said: "A lot of people in Washington have been trying to nail me for a long time . . . . I fell into their trap and so I have only myself to blame."). Did they offer to pay him money? Or did they tell him if he didn't follow their agenda he'd be wellstoned?

Friday, December 20, 2002

I have already gone over some of the - cough - peculiar aspects of the relationship between the United States government and al-Qaeda. Considering that al-Qaeda is supposed to be the greatest possible enemy of the United States, and is the excuse for foreign and domestic wars on terror which have already destroyed civil liberties in the United States and will no doubt kill many thousands of people in the Middle East and elsewhere, there are just too many instances of what looks like cooperation between al-Qaeda and the
Americans. This is especially true where the U. S. military appeared to allow Taliban or al-Qaeda members to escape. The latest example is that the U. S. military 'inadvertently' let one of the six most wanted Taliban leaders go this past summer. Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a top Taliban general, was caught in late July as he left his compound west of Kandahar. He was brought to a detention centre for questioning but was released a few weeks later, supposedly on the basis of 'flawed intelligence', after a U. S. intelligence report placed him in a different location following his detention. In other words, we are supposed to believe that he was released because they misfiled one of the six most wanted Taliban leaders, thought that someone else had him, and just decided to release the guy they had been questioning. The Official Story is to deny this, and try to obfuscate matters by claiming he may not have been who they thought he was, but the soldiers who supplied the information insist that their story is true. Here's another good quote in the Washington Times article:

"The soldiers said in interviews that they gained information on several occasions last summer on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar.

But, they said, commanders turned down the missions, citing extreme risk."

So they couldn't catch the second most wanted man in al-Qaeda because of 'extreme risk'? Were they afraid of getting their uniforms dirty? Let's face facts: they never wanted to catch Mullah Omar; they never wanted to catch bin Laden; and they did everything in their power to allow the Arab al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan to escape. Had they stopped al-Qaeda in its tracks, the friends of the Bush Administration would have lost billions of dollars in military sales, and the Bush junta would have not had an excuse to take over the oil of the Middle East and Central Asia while turning the United States into a theocratic neo-fascist security state. Without a plausible threat of al-Qaeda to stimulate the natural racism of the American voters (and thanks for the reminder, Trent), the Republicans would have severely lost the midterm elections and people would be counting the days to the next election when the obviously incompetent Bush could be replaced. After the fact of who his father is, al-Qaeda and bin Laden are the best luck that George Bush ever had.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Henry Kissinger has resigned as chairman of the 9-11 whitewash commission, only to be replaced by former governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean. I am disappointed that Henry the K has resigned, as I had hoped that his attempts to deal with his conflicts of interest would have provided a great deal of entertainment. Can Thomas Kean provide us with similar fun? Kean is a director of Amerada Hess Corporation. Amongst other things (including, through its 25% ownership in a company called Premier Oil, having had the same sort of Burma problem that Unocal has, a problem that, to its great credit, Amerada Hess has fixed by getting out of Burma), Amerada Hess has operations in two oil fields in Azerbaijan. Its interest is in the form of a joint venture called Delta Hess Alliance with Delta Oil (!), the same Saudi oil company that caused part of the conflict problems of Henry the K! Delta Hess Alliance has interests in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli Production Sharing Agreement (2.72% - a small percentage but this is believed to be one of the largest undeveloped oil fields in the world, which has the added advantage of producing amongst the lightest crudes in the world) and the Garabaghli-Kursangi Production Sharing Agreement (20%). The Delta Hess Alliance is also part of the group to build the $3 billion oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey (the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route). All these joint venture interests are still not a significant part of the operations of Amerada Hess, but have great potential. I quote myself:

". . . Delta Oil is partly owned by the al-Amoudi family of Saudi Arabia (headed by Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi), a family closely related through business interests to the family of Khalid bin Mahfouz, a probable investor in George Bush's company, Harken Energy. It was also supported by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi allegedly have had ties to Islamic charities and companies linked financially to al-Qaeda."

There is plenty of information available on the bin Mahfouz and al-Amoudi families. So Kean, through being a director of Amerada Hess, is tied in to the same Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi problem that would have plagued Henry the K. It is possible that a proper investigation of 9-11 will uncover information that will implicate in the financing of bin Laden the owners of a partner of a company of which Kean is a director, possibly making it impossible, due to American laws against the funding of terrorism, for the joint ventures to continue. How can Kean possibly head this commission?

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Pim Fortuyn was murdered, supposedly by an animal-rights activist, a theory that has never made any sense to me. Now someone has come up with the ultimate conspiracy theory (main website here, mirrored website here, list of 'press releases' here, and the main chronology here), with Fortuyn murdered by a hit man 'close to Syrian Intelligence', who was hired by infamous drug/gun dealer Monzer al Kassar, who in turn was acting on behalf of a group including Dutch intelligence, the CIA, the BVD, and prominent Dutch politicians, with the assassination filmed by the Mossad (who, however, had nothing to do with the assassination!). This assassination was to prevent the proper investigation by the elected Fortuyn of the importation of drugs into Europe using corrupt Dutch drug police, something called the 'IRT affair'. The creator of the site likes Yukio Mishima (!) and Japanese nationalism, and doesn't like the Hague Tribunal's investigations of Serb war criminals. The English in which it is written (e. g.: "Time now has arrived for karmic retributions of exposures casting memory of you evil rule to the deepst regions of hell existence. Warriors of the free word and truth will rain down from Shamballah.") is great fun.
In just the past few weeks the Israelis have been involved in a number of atrocities which show a disturbingly similar pattern:

  1. They shot Iain Hook, an employee of the United Nations who was trying to rebuild the houses destroyed by the Israelis in the Jenin massacre, and then delayed his travelling to the hospital sufficiently so that he died. They've come up with a whole series of lies to try to explain how this was possible, not one of which is even slightly credible. Hook was a known figure in the neighborhood, would have been known to the soldiers, and in fact was in the process of trying to negotiate an evacuation of the UN compound with the IDF. He was shot inside the UN compound, and with a cell phone in his hand, in the back. There is no possible conclusion other than that he was targeted for murder because he was working for the UN and specifically working on the rebuilding of Jenin.

  2. They demolished a marked United Nations storehouse containing more than 500 tons of food that was to be distributed to Palestinian refugees. This was enough food to feed 38,000 people for a month.

  3. They have treated United Nations workers so badly that the workers have issued a petition demanding the Israeli army stop their "harassment, beating and killing".

  4. On November 22, an IDF combat unit of 20 to 30 heavily armed troops surrounded the Bethlehem home of Allegra Pacheco, the Field Legal Officer of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who "was held at gunpoint in the open air for two hours while her house was searched, her mobile phone was taken from her". In addition, her husband was made to partially strip and was taken into IDF custody. As of November 26, the date of the report, twenty-three of the Palestinian staff of UNRWA were being held by the Israelis, all but three without charge.

  5. Maher Aqallah, an UNRWA school attendant, was killed by an Israeli soldier on December 3 when he opened the door to his house.

  6. On December 6, two UN employees, Ahlam Kandil, a Palestinian teacher who worked in a United Nations school, and Osama Tahrawi, who worked as a school attendant in the refugee camp, were killed by the IDF. This was part of the killing of ten Palestinians, eight of whom the UN has determined were unarmed civilians, and some of whom were on the streets celebrating Eid. Ahlam Kandil was shot and killed while in her house. Israel actually has the audacity to claim that the UN is harboring terrorists, and that these workers were members of Hamas, a claim the UN dismisses as 'rubbish'.

All this is on top of the daily assassinations of Palestinians, a list that is almost unbelievable in its stark brutality. Can there be any doubt that these attacks targeted against the United Nations workers and UN operations to assist the starving Palestinian refugees are part of a concerted effort by the IDF to complete the ethnic cleansing by removing all international assistance to the Palestinians? If so, wouldn't this have to be a specific plan approved by the Israeli cabinet? Deosn't that make each and every Israeli cabinet member guilty of crimes against humanity, and therefore from now on subject to immediate arrest and trial should any of them enter any country which considers itself bound by international law?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

I think it is fair to say that George Bush has had a rough week or so:

  1. The vice chairman of his 9-11 whitewash commission resigned, presumably because he did not want to be associated with the kind of report that the chairman would have produced, and the chairman resigned, presumably as continuing as chairman would have clearly revealed the kind of sleazy corruption that contitutes his 'consulting' business and, for that matter, his whole life.

  2. Through unbelievable bungling he managed to single-handedly restart the North Korean nuclear program (Clinton's failure to visit North Korea at the end of his Presidency now looks even more regrettable).

  3. He started the smallpox vaccination disaster which will lead to many deaths and disfigurements in the U. S. population and is being done just to help his pharmaceutical pals (and if you think Bush is actually going to be vaccinated with this poison I have a bridge I'd like to sell you!).

  4. Bush has been forced to somehow pander to the many southern segregationist friends of Trent Lott and the Republican Party, segregationists which have put the party in power, while appearing to the normal people who voted for him that he and his party are not fundamentally racist. Bush appears to be incapable of walking this fine line, and is acting as if he is afraid of Lott.

  5. Saddam Hussein managed to fit in enough embarrassing information about where he actually got all those weapons of mass destruction that Bush had to arrange to steal the report from the U. N. so it could be 'photocopied'. Of course, the old joke is that the Americans can prove that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction because they kept the receipts.

  6. Saddam also has managed to comply with the U. N. demands, meaning that the U. S. attempt to obtain U. N. sanction for his attack on Iraq has backfired, and his attack now will appear to be all the more unjust and immoral.

  7. He removed Paul O'Neil because O'Neil wouldn't shut up about the stupidity of Bush's tax cuts for the rich as a substitute for proper economic policy. He then replaced O'Neil, who for all his faults actually ran a real business and was honest, with another crony capitalist in the Cheney mold, another man who has never made an honest buck in his life but can call himself an 'entrepreneur' only because of his ability to be a parasite on government money. The sad fact is that Bush has to appoint these losers as they are the only type of people he and his crowd know.

None of these things will bother him in the slightest, as the lapdog press treats each massive failure as a massive victory.
It remains a bit of a mystery what the Bush Administration intends to do with the Middle East. Eric Margolis sets out the possible extreme plan (or here), which is basically 'regime change' in Iraq, shortly followed by Syria and Iran, with Libya to receive a similar treatment in due time. The spoils would get divvied up between the U. S. and Britain (the idea that Iraqi oil isn't considered important in the American calculations, a view that is actually propounded by some 'experts', is ridiculous). All the other Middle Eastern states would then be cowed by this into becoming complaisant vassals of U. S. interests. The Palestinians would have to settle for some sort of bantustan in the form that has already been suggested by Israel. You would like to think that there are still some people of influence in the United States who are not completely insane, and that the extreme plan would be somewhat modified. However, when you see all the thugs like Cheney and the whole Iran-Contra crowd circling around, there is not much room for hope. It is sad to think that the only thing that could save the Middle East from disaster is a series of terrorist attacks on U. S. soil of such magnitude and ferocity that they force a regime change in the United States. This is not likely to happen as the attacks we have already seen (WTC I, OKC, WTC II) have all required inside help, help which presumably would not be forthcoming if the attacks actually threatened the interests of the U. S. oligarchs.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Trent Lott recently made remarks that seemed to endorse Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential race. This appears to have landed him, in what almost looks like slow motion, in a heap of political trouble. Some comments:

  1. The Democrats were very confused in their criticism of the remarks. Daschle, following his usual tin ear for politics, practically apologized for Lott, and most of the Democrats appeared to be laying low hoping the whole thing would blow over. Some of the Republican-controlled press has even managed to make the Democrats' reaction to Lott more of an issue than Lott's remarks! The sad fact is that if the Democrats had tried to make a big issue of the matter the press would have criticized them unmercifully for spoiling the 100th birthday celebrations of a great man with their petty partisan politics.

  2. The Republican commentators and their press lackeys are going after Lott because they feel he is a liability to them as Senate Majority Leader, and would be only too pleased to see him replaced. As a bonus, they get to appear to be racially progressive.

  3. There is a long tradition of right-wing leaders making racist remarks which are then criticized and immediately withdrawn with apologies, usually stating that the remarks were 'misunderstood', or the speaker 'misspoke', or was tired, etc., etc. This is not just an American phenomenon, as we have seen it in recent years in Australia (various remarks about immigrants and Aborigines), Austria (Haider's speeches), and Canada (various remarks by Reform/Canadian Alliance politicians). The point of all these 'mistakes' is to get the real message out to their racist supporters, supporters who will then forgive the politicians for having to apologize as they have been forced to do so by the evil liberals. Lott has a long history of playing this game, and may very well get away with it again.

  4. As I have recently written, the only possible explanation for the recent Republican electoral victories is a combination of a fake crisis or threat (terrorism), coupled with the essential racism which underlies all of American politics. The Republicans have found the formula to successfully have people vote for what they perceive as their race interests rather than their class interests. Lott's remarks are just more proof of how the Civil War is still being fought.

  5. This is the funniest thing I have read on the subject. It's not quite so funny when you consider it probably accurately reflects the views of Lott and many, many of the people who vote for him and Republicans like him.

It is instructive that a criminal trial in Germany is the only place where any new revelations about September 11 are appearing. Testimony by an FBI agent at the trial of Mounir El Motassadeq concerned: 1) the fact that gas or mace was used on the flights to disable the passengers; and 2) the fact that the hijackers wired back some of the money they had received to fund the terrorist operation. We in fact already knew that at least three of the hijackers (Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Waleed Alshehri) returned $5,000 or so each by wire transfer to someone in the United Arab Emirates named Mustapha Ahmad Al-Hawsawi (which may be an alias for Shayk Saiid, a man who has sometimes been confused with the alleged murderer of Daniel Pearl, Omar Saeed Sheikh), a man who may be an associate of bin Laden. The money was picked up in Sharjah at a branch of the Al Ansari Exchange. My comments:

  • The admission that gas was used means that the hijackers were able to smuggle weapons onto the planes, weapons which should have been caught by aiport screeners, the negligence of which is the responsibility of the airlines (who have successfully lobbied for the bare minimum in screening, as proper screening costs them money). We have seen the boxcutter story foisted on the American public presumably to save the airlines from liability claims on the basis that the hijackings were committed using implements that were legally taken aboard the planes (I've already written about the silliness of the boxcutter story). Now that the U. S. airline industry is going bankrupt (which seems to be an intentional ploy by the Bush Administration and the airline executives to force down the wages of airline employees), the unsecured claims of the relatives of the victims of 9-11 are becoming irrelevant, and the truth can start to come out.

  • The payments made by the hijackers back to their presumed funding source is very odd. I assume the theory is that the hijackers who were going to die in the mission had no more need for the money, and sent it back to be used to fund more terrorism. I also assume the money was divided into three separate payments in order to keep each transfer under $10,000, a number that can generate scrutiny. Why then was it sent by a completely traceable method? We've heard about the halawa system of money transfer, which has been banned, at the cost of considerable suffering to people who relied on funds transferred from immigrants in first world countries to places like Somalia where there is no other practical way to transfer money. This system would allow for untraceable money transfers. There are other ways that the money could have been returned. Instead, the hijackers used easily traceable transfers. The hijackers had to know that the American authorities would have tracked these transfers back to their recipient. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the hijjackers wanted these transfers to be tracked in order to ensure that the terrorism was financially tied to a known al-Qaeda financier. Presumably they divided the amount into payments of less that $10,000 to ensure that the transfers would not raise suspicions before September 11 that could have interfered with the success of the terrorist attacks. Considering the total amount of money involved in the 9-11 operation, this $15,000 was hardly worth returning, but is a big enough sum to be noticeable. Just as with the $100,000 sent to Atta from Pakistan, it provides some of the little evidence there is to tie the 9-11 attacks to al-Qaeda.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

George Mitchell has stepped down as vice chairman of the independent commission investigating the September 11 terrorists attacks. His ostensible reasons are that:

  • he does not want to sever ties with his law firm, which he said he had been urged to do to avoid a potential conflict of interest (but the conflict of interest angle is also expressly denied); and

  • the commission's work will take too much time (although he apparently has lots of time for high-profile peace missions).

At the time he accepted the appointment he would have known about conflict of interest problems and the fact that such a position is essentially a full-time job. He must have honestly felt that there was some chance that the commission was intended to find the truth, and has been convinced by events subsequent to his appointment that the commission is going to be a whitewash. It will be highly embarrassing for the vice chairman of the committee to have to sign its report with its fulsome praises of the perfection of the Bush junta's handling of all the warnings it ignored of the impending disaster.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

'Waleed Alshehri' is the name used by one of the September 11 hijackers (here is an earlier posting on him). His name and photo were published all over the world. Almost immediately, a Saudi man named Waleed Alshehri, who was a pilot with Saudi Arabian Airlines, complained that it was his name and photograph that were published, but that he had nothing to do with the hijackings (he had a brother named Wail, and the head of the Saudi embassy's information center in Washington said, in September 2001, that he personally talked to both Wail and the father of both Wail and Waleed). The father of this Waleed and Wail is a Saudi diplomat named Ahmed Alshehri who had been posted to India (with two daughters besides his son Waleed - note there is no mention of Wail) and had confirmed that the details of the hijacker matched those of his son Waleed. It has now generally been acknowledged that the Saudi pilot Waleed Alshehri was identified in error. His identity was presumably stolen and used by the hijacker (here are copies of the visa applications for 'Wail Alshehri', date of birth July 31, 1973, and 'Waleed Alshehri', date of birth December 20, 1978, presumably documents used by the actual hijackers and not the Saudi pilot; it is interesting that both applications appear to have been filled out by the same hand). Waleed Alshehri had been a flying student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. His identity was probably stolen while he was in the United States (a man calling himself Waleed Alshehri shared an apartment with Mohammed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in Hamburg, an issue which may raise some of our typical bilocation problems - see also here and here). Waleed Alshehri claimed he would sue CNN for publishing his photo as that of the hijacker. This all seems relatively simple. The problem arises in that the press has identified another family in Saudi Arabia, the father of which, Mohammed Alshehri, a real estate developer from the province of Asir, claims to be the father of Waleed and Wail Alshehri, both of whom have disappeared. The father hoped that his sons were not involved in September 11, but seemed resigned to the fact that they probably were. They had left home and had not been heard from, and he only claimed to have become aware of the fact that they were alleged to be hijackers when he saw their pictures in the newspaper (i. e., presumably the same picture that the pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines claims to be of him! - the photos provided by the Mohammed Alshehri family resembled the photos of the hijackers which were printed in Saudi newspapers!). To give credence to the fact that it is these Alshehri's who were involved in September 11 is the fact that they had as boyhood friends Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi, the names used by another two of the hijackers (all four of them are said to have sworn an oath committing themselves to jihad and gone to Afghanistan, and Wail was one of the first to have been said to have trained in Afghanistan), and the area is said to be a hotbed of al-Qaeda supporters. So now we have two parallel families in Saudi Arabia, both having a Waleed Alshehri and a Wail Alshehri, and both identified as being the 9-11 hijackers. This is positively bizarre (does Saudi culture have the concept of the doppelganger?). The pilot Waleed was the man originally identified as the hijacker, he had been in the United States at a flight training school in Florida where his identity may have been stolen, and it was his picture that was circulated by the FBI. The Waleed who has disappeared apparently had as friends two boys whose names was used by another two of the hijackers, and his father seems resigned to the fact that he and his brother Wail may have been involved in the hijackings (especially as they haven't been heard from since). So what is going on here?:

  1. Somehow the FBI made a mistake and pulled from government files information on a man named 'Waleed Alshehri' (the U. S. government would have had such a file as he was studying in the U. S. on a student visa) who was in a flying school, and used the picture in this file to identify the hijacker. This would be the most likely explanation except for the fact that it does not explain how the Saudi pilot just happens to have a brother named Wail. Since they had determined that the pilot of the plane that Waleed was on, Flight 11, was Atta, why would the FBI be looking for the names of the hijackers in flight schools? Why would they have been so sure that the photograph they found was that of the hijacker? What did the pictures in the visa files for Waleed and Wail look like?

  2. By extreme coincidence, there were two parallel families in Saudi Arabia each with two sons named Waleed and Wail, and the two families got mixed up. The Waleed in one family just happens to look like the Waleed in the other family. This isn't completely impossible, but is extremely unlikely.

  3. The story of the second family (sons of Mohammed) has been made up to provide a patsy family of the two brothers who have conveniently disappeared, brothers who were needed to provide two Saudi hijackers when the original Waleed made it clear that one of them wasn't him. It is not impossible that Wail (son of Ahmed) was involved in the hijackings, supplied the name of his brother, and the whole story of the second family (sons of Mohammed) has been created to protect the reputation of Wail and the family of Ahmed (all this could be answered if the original Wail were to make an appearence). The story of the sons of Mohammed family is a little odd, as it made its original appearance as the story of a Saudi middle-class family of strict religious beliefs, with an uncle, Major General Faez Alshehri, who is the logistical director of the Saudi Arabia's armed forces (you have to wonder about the importance of the fact that this family was connected both to the Saudi army and, by construction business dealings, to the bin Laden family). The father Mohammed is described as being uncooperative and unwilling to talk to a reporter. When the story reappears, the father is very cooperative and as much as admits that it was probably his sons who were involved. Just to show how weird this has gotten, contrast that to this quote from the Boston Globe of September 15, 2001:

    "And a Saudi newspaper editor yesterday said two of the hijackers, brothers Waleed and Wail al Shehri, were the sons of a Saudi diplomat, Ahmed al-Shehri.

    Reached by the Globe in New Delhi, where he is third secretary of the Saudi embassy, Ahmed al-Shehri equivocated when asked if the two hijackers were his sons.

    'I have no idea. Maybe,' said al-Shehri, who worked as an attache at the Saudi embassy in Washington until 1996. 'How do I know? We have a half-million Shehris in Saudi Arabia.'"

    Or a good quote from a Washington Post article:

    "In India, Saudi diplomat Ahmed Alshehri, based in Bombay, denied he was the father of hijacker Waleed M. Alshehri or that he had ever served in the United States. Diplomatic lists, however, show an Ahmed Alshehri as second secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, and property records, law enforcement sources and witnesses have linked him with Waleed. Reports from a Saudi newspaper editor said Saturday that both Waleed and Wail Alshehri, another hijacker, were Ahmed's sons."

    Another time he is quoted as complaining of an "obvious American haphazardness in throwing accusations at innocent people" and said "many of those mentioned as suspects appeared to be still around and there was no truth in what was spread about them." For a diplomat, this guy is not very diplomatic. Yet another time, he stated that the boy was still alive and well and was not involved. So the diplomat father confirms the details of the hijacker match those of one of his sons, then equivocates, or not, while the son himself claims that his identity was stolen and threatens to sue CNN for publishing his picture as a hijacker, and a whole new family appears to take credit for the terrorism. We end up with the statement: "Previous reports that Waleed Alshehri was the son of a Saudi diplomat have been denied." The story comes full circle when the Saudi embassy claims the photos of Waleed and Wail are not those of the diplomat's sons (note that it says 'sons'). So I wonder what Waleed was so mad at CNN about?.

  4. It is possible that the first pilot who identified himself as being misidentified as the hijacker was a fraud established to protect the second family, but this seems very unlikely given that the father of the Saudi pilot is a Saudi diplomat, and even more unlikely as the father of the second family has identified himself. Some articles note that the diplomat admits to having one son, Waleed, who is innocent, but the businessman father admits to having two missing sons, Waleed and Wail. This of course doesn't explain how the head of the Saudi embassy's information center in Washington personally talked to both Wail (particularly difficult if Wail is dead) and the father of both Wail and Waleed, or how the Saudi newspaper editor confirmed that both Waleed and Wail Alshehri were the diplomat's sons.

I suppose the most likely scenario is that:

  • the FBI determined, based solely on the name and lists of students in American flight schools, that the hijacker was the same guy as the Saudi pilot who studied in Florida, and published a photograph of the Saudi pilot in error; and

  • the head of the Saudi embassy's information center in Washington made a mistake when he said he personally talked to both Wail and the father of both Wail and Waleed; and

  • the Saudi newspaper which said both Waleed and Wail were the diplomat's sons was also mistaken.

The cumulative total of all these mistakes, especially if we ignore the various things said by the Saudi diplomat father of Saudi pilot Waleed Alshehri and don't assume that his various stories mean he is trying to cover something up, leads me to conclude that it is possible that Waleed the pilot need not have had his identity stolen. It may have been simply a coincidence that there was a hijacker with the same name as the Saudi pilot who had studied in Florida, and the two men could have been completely unaware of each other. The FBI somehow found the picture of the Saudi pilot when searching U. S. government files for the name 'Waleed Alshehri', saw he was a pilot and assumed he was the hijacker, and published this photo as the photo of the hijacker (I wonder if the photograph in the visa application file of Waleed Alshehri matches the published photograph of the hijacker). This would explain why the Saudi pilot was able to recognize his photo so quickly and complain about it, but does not explain how the Saudi businessman father recognized his son from the photo published in a Saudi newspaper and does not explain the fact that the Saudi embassy claimed the photos of Waleed and Wail are not those of the diplomat's sons, for at least the one of Waleed probably was (and we still don't know whether the diplomat even had a son named Wail). Given the number of identities that were stolen as part of this operation, and given the fact that Waleed the Saudi pilot was a flight student in Florida, exactly where other identities had been stolen, and with all the confusion, it is not unlikely that Waleed's identity was stolen. In fact, the hijacker who called himself 'Waleed Alshehri' might even have been using the pilot's stolen identity. But why would you use a stolen identity of someone with exactly the same name as you? It is senseless, as, just as happened here, the authorities will eventually be able to track the identity back to you (which will cause some confusion, as they will also be able to track the identity back to the guy whose identity was stolen). Therefore, if a stolen identity was used, it is likely that the person using it wasn't either of the Waleed's, but a third person who planned to benefit from the utter confusion caused by this giant mess of identities (twist your mind around how someone knew that he could obtain the identity of Waleed the pilot studying in the United States when there was a Waleed who was a religious extremist who could be confused with the pilot).
The hijacker Waleed Alshehri is one of the more suspicious characters in the story of September 11, and is one of the two (along with the equally suspicious Ahmed Alghamdi) who lived in a house in Vienna, Virginia that had such activities around it that the neighbors thought its residents were involved in drug selling, and reported it to the FBI and the CIA. The neighbors "observed a van parked outside the home at all hours of the day and night. A Middle-Eastern man appeared to be monitoring a scanner or radio inside the van . . . ." Do you think he was listening to Rush Limbaugh? Or perhaps radio traffic from Dulles? Or maybe he was listening to some instructions from someone in the neighborhood. It's odd that of all the places they could pick to live in, these terrorists would pick Vienna, Virginia.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Joe Conason has written an outstandingly evocative little column on the peculiar relationship of Henry Kissinger, the new chairman of Bush's phony investigation on the intelligence failures that led to September 11, and some of the entities he is supposed to investigate. Kissinger thinks that he can somehow avoid being in any conflicts of interest with his corporate clients through some magical process whereby he'll temporarily ignore the interests of those who are paying him. Just to add to the outrage, he'll also not disclose just who these corporate clients are, so the facts won't distract the public into thinking the commission is some sort of elaborate con game (presumably at least some of his clients want their names hidden as they want to have the benefit of his peculiar 'expertise' while not having any public connection to such a person). Kissinger apparently doesn't understand the concept of 'conflict of interest'. Kissinger was acting for Unocal at a time that Unocal was attempting to arrange a pipeline through Afghanistan and hired Kissinger to polish up the Taliban's reputation in Washington (here is the Washington Post article that Conason refers to) and to deal with Turkmenistan. Unocal's main partner in the pipeline deal was Delta Oil. As I've already stated (see item 13), Delta Oil is partly owned by the al-Amoudi family of Saudi Arabia (headed by Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi), a family closely related through business interests to the family of Khalid bin Mahfouz, a probable investor in George Bush's company, Harken Energy. It was also supported by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi allegedly have had ties to Islamic charities and companies linked financially to al-Qaeda. So we have Kissinger in the 1990's representing a consortium of Unocal and Delta Oil trying to get U. S. government recognition for the Taliban, who have just been bombed to the stone age in Bush's war on terrorism for 'harboring' al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, with one of the pipeline partners, Delta Oil, having possible connections to George Bush, al-Qaeda, and the King of Saudi Arabia, when the current U. S. position seems to be that funding for al-Qaeda is all the fault of the Saudi Royal Family! You could even make the argument that the Taliban was actually created by the Pakistani ISI at the behest of the CIA in order to create a form of stable government in Afghanistan so the pipeline from Central Asia could go south through Afghanistan rather than through Iran (that is the type of big thinking that Kissinger's clients pay such big money for). Another lobbyist for Unocal was Robert Oakley, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan (not to mention a man who had a minor role in the Iran-Contra shenanigans). What Conason doesn't mention is that Oakley was involved in the 1980's with the CIA in aiding Afghan mujahideen, of course the same group out of which Osama bin Laden first rose to prominence. Yet another Unocal consultant was Zalmay Khalilzad, who has now been appointed as Bush's envoy to the post-Taliban U. S. puppet state now pretending to run Afghanistan. On October 21, 1995, when it was first announced that Unocal had won the right to build the Afghan pipeline, Unocal's consultant, Henry Kissinger, said the deal looked like "the triumph of hope over experience." Our experience of the life of Henry Kissinger gives us little hope that he will be able to keep his amazing number of conflicts of interest from influencing his chairmanship of the phony commission.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The latest excitement over September 11 is the allegation that the Saudi Arabian government, using Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi envoy in Washington, was involved in funding two of the 9-11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, while they lived in San Diego. The story goes that Princess Haifa sent a series of monthly cheques to Majida Ibrahim Ahmad, a woman who supposedly needed medical treatment (there was also a lump sum of $15,000 paid from the Ambassador). The husband of this woman, Osama Basnan, took this money and gave it to a friend of his, Omar al-Bayoumi, who then passed it on to the two hijackers (or alternatively, as the details are still in some doubt, Majida Ibrahim Ahmad may have signed the cheques over to al-Bayoumi's wife until al-Bayoumi left the country, at which point the money flowed through Basman). The husband, Osama Basnan, also knew the two hijackers. There are some obvious problems with this story:

  1. There is absolutely no indication that Princess Haifa knew anything about the flow of money (her statements).

  2. If the Saudis wanted to fund some terrorism, they wouldn't use the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of the Saudi Ambassador to do it.

  3. If the Saudis wanted to fund terrorism, they wouldn't do it by using traceable cheques and bank accounts (Prince Bandar noted that the two terrorists in question were on U. S. and Saudi "watch lists" during 2000 and 2001, making it especially illogical for this type of funding to have been attempted).

  4. The amounts involved are too small for the risk involved.

The crazed elements in the United States who seem to want to take over the whole of the Arab oil fields and are looking for an excuse to do so are all over this story. It is even being spun as an attack on Bush, who is supposedly protecting his Saudi oil friends (as if the lapdog press would ever attack King Bush unless they were specifically told to do so). All this seems to be an elaborate game played by the Bush Administration to put pressure on the Saudis. Using the wife of the Ambassador, who is himself the son of Prince Sultan, allows the pressure to reach deep into the Saudi Royal Family. This is probably part of an elaborate warning to the Saudi Royals that they will have to cooperate with the Bush Administration's plans for Iraq (and perhaps Iran, etc.) or they will face a similar fate as they can easily be framed in the eyes of the U. S. public for September 11, thus providing a perfect excuse for Saudi Arabia to follow Iraq's fate. The Bush Administration may want access to Saudi territory for its war plans, or at least permission to fly over Saudi territory, and may even want a less aggressive negotiating stance from the Saudis with respect to U. S. oil companies. The whole set of transactions doesn't look like terrorist funding. It looks like a set up by an intelligence agency to make sure that there was a paper trail back to Princess Haifa. If that agency knew that something like September 11 was going to happen, that paper trail could then be used to put pressure on the Saudis, much as we are seeing here. The money involved is sufficient to be noticeable, but not sufficient to put much of a dent in the requirements of the September 11 operation. The whole medical story may have been part of the set up, with the recipients fooling the Princess into the charity in order to get her name at the end of the paper trail (the parties involved are suspicious - both Majida Ibrahim Ahmad and the wife of al-Bayoumi were convicted of shoplifting, and Majida Ibrahim Ahmad was convicted of marriage fraud to obtain immigration papers). The U. S. government let both Basman (who was only deported in November!) and al-Bayoumi leave the United States after the FBI questioned them, and al-Bayoumi was allowed to leave Britain after being questioned again (although they now claim they couldn't hold al-Bayoumi as he was only charged with visa fraud), all of which should raise some flags. The story of al-Bayoumi is particularly suspicious, as he was traced to Britain a few days after September 11, the floorboards in his house were torn up revealing records of phone calls to two diplomats in the Saudi Embassy in Washington (I keep all my phone records hidden under the floorboards, but I don't imagine it is normal British police procedure to go looking there unless the FBI tells them to!), but he was eventually allowed to go. The crazed elements in the U. S. would have us believe that these two men are some sort of Wahabist agents, but their true allegiances may be more complicated than that. I have no doubt that much of the funding for Islamic fundamentalists comes from members of the Saudi Royal Family. Most of that funding is probably given to religious institutions and misdirected to terrorist operations, with the possibility that some Saudis are aware of this misdirected funding and are willing to turn a blind eye to it. Some of that funding is probably given in the possibly misplaced belief that paying off the fundamentalists will convince them to turn their attention away from the corrupt Saudi Royal Family, and some of it probably represents the true political convictions of some of the members of the family (there are thousands of Princes, and some of them probably have radical views). But it is a long way from the funding of fundamentalists by some obscure Saudi Princes to the ridiculous story that Princess Haifa would be funding some of the September 11 hijackers. It is much more likely that she has been set up to put pressure on the Saudi government. Someone who was aware of the upcoming terrorist attacks and the identities of the two terrorists in San Diego might have been clever enough to provide a link to the Saudi Royal Family in case such a link might later prove useful in putting pressure on the Saudis.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Snopes is a site that considers and debunks urban legends. One of the questions they have considered is the story that the members of the bin Laden family were allowed to fly out of the United States home to Saudi Arabia before they were interrogated by the FBI, and at a time in the few days after September 11 that no other plane was allowed to fly in U. S. airspace. Snopes points out that this story is not true, as the bin Laden family members living in the United States were interrogated by the FBI, and their planes only left after the ban on flying in U. S. airspace was lifted. What bothers me about this is that this debunking is highly selective, as it ignores: 1) the basis for the original rumor, the fact that a plane did leave the United States carrying important Saudis at a time when U. S. airspace was closed; and 2) the fact that the bin Laden family interrogation was amazingly superficial considering the importance of learning as much as possible about bin Laden. Consider the following:

  1. An airplane carrying the son of Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan and the son of a Saudi army commander did leave the United States on September 13, at a time when U. S. airspace was still closed to new flights. This plane apparently took a route from a private hangar at Tampa International Airport run by Raytheon Corporation (Prince Sultan is a very good customer for military hardware) to Kentucky, where it met a privately-owned Saudi 747 which took the passengers to Saudi Arabia.

  2. The bin Laden family left the United States after U. S. airspace had been opened. Before they left, the members of the family were interrogated by the FBI, but, considering the months (even years) of detention and interrogation given to innocent Arabs who aren't rich and aren't personal friends of the President (and aren't closely related to the most important terrorist in the world), it is amazing that all the family members of the person held to be most responsible for the September attacks were allowed to leave with what must have been only a perfuntory interrogation (an interrogation only sufficient to be able to say that one was done). Abdullah, the only bin Laden family member who had temporarily remained in the United States, said that he was never questioned in person by the FBI, but just by a brief telephone call. Here is an interesting quote from the same article on the bin Laden family and their complicated allegiances: "United States officials apparently needed little persuasion from the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, that the extended bin Laden family included no material witnesses. The Saudi Embassy says that the family cooperated with the F.B.I." Another good line: "When I asked a senior United States intelligence officer whether anyone had considered detaining members of the family, he replied, 'That's called taking hostages. We don't do that.'" The whole article is worth reading to get the flavor of the bin Laden family's relationships to bin Laden and the U. S. government.

Snopes criticizes Michael Moore for using the rumors about the bin Laden family as part of his general criticism of the double standards of the Bush Administration towards its Saudi friends. Thousands of ordinary Arabs were starting to be rounded up, but Bush's pals were treated differently. While the details of the Moore comments are incorrect, the gist of his criticism is accurate. The relatives of some of Bush's oily pals did receive treatment better than that afforded to anyone else in the country, including any American citizens. It is extremely telling that a supposedly iron-clad rule against flying would be lifted for anybody. While the members of the bin Laden family were interviewed by the FBI, they were still allowed to leave relatively quickly, and considering the importance of any information they might have had, at a time when the authorities were still doing their preliminary investigation and would not have been in a position to ask all the necessary questions. The one member of the family who stayed behind was merely given a quick telephone interview. Sometimes debunking can be technically accurate but still be highly misleading (to see the clear Snopes bias, read the tone of their last paragraph on this matter). I wonder who funds Snopes (they claim they have no sponsors)?