Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 18, 2016

The declassified 28 pages: connecting the dots on 9/11

Filed under: Saudi Arabia,September 11 — louisproyect @ 4:38 pm

George W. Bush and Prince Bandar bin Sultan: the two architects of 9/11?

On May 18th I wrote about the allegations that “the Saudis” were behind 9/11 that would supposedly be proved by a 28-page section of a report that remained classified. Even without having seen those pages, I was certain that nothing within them could support the notion that the Saudi monarchy would have conspired to attack the WTC and the Pentagon since a Marxist class analysis and a reading of Akbar Ahmad’s “The Thistle and the Drone” would reveal two major points against this claim:

  1. Although most of the hijackers were Saudi citizens, they were originally from Yemen and were as hostile to the monarchy as they were to the USA.
  2. Blamed for the attack, al Qaeda was hardly an instrument of Saudi royal ambitions since it had carried out terrorist attacks a number of times within Saudi Arabia itself.

Since writing this article, the 28 pages have finally been declassified and released to the press. There is nothing in them that would change my mind although the usual cast of characters has jumped at the opportunity to crow that they prove Saudi Arabia was “behind 9/11”, including Salon’s Ben Norton who wrote an article titled “28 pages” showing Saudi connection to 9/11 attacks finally released after 14 years. Norton notes that “FBI and CIA documents disclosed that, while some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the U.S., they likely had contact with Saudi intelligence officers, the pages reveal.” Actually, the hijackers also had contact with American intelligence operatives as well. Does that prove that the USA was “behind 9/11”? If you’ve had the intellectual deficit to believe “truther” material, you’ll nod your head in agreement of course.

You would think that someone like Ben Norton, who believes even if mistakenly that he is a serious reporter, would have taken the trouble to mention that these hijackers were also in touch with FBI informers. With superficial and propagandistic hacks such as him, you can never tell whether he is sweeping the facts under the rug or whether his ignorance is to blame. In a trial, they say that ignorance of the law is not a defense. The same thing can be said about journalism as well.

Back on July 25, 2003, the NY Times reported:

The F.B.I. may have missed its best chance to prevent the Sept. 11 plot when one of its informants developed close ties to two of the hijackers living in San Diego, yet never alerted the bureau to the impending attacks, according to a Congressional report released today.

The declassified report by a House-Senate committee focuses closely on the incidents in San Diego, where Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi settled soon after arriving in the country in early 2000. The informant told his F.B.I. handler they were “good Muslim Saudi youths” who had come to America to go to school.

It is likely the informant being referred to here is Abdussattar Shaikh, who rented rooms to al-Midhar and Alhazmi. One hardly knows what to make of an FBI snitch keeping the crime of the century a secret from his handlers, especially when the human beings drawn to the filthy job of informant are not especially known for their scruples.

That being said, the newly issued report is replete with references to suspicions about the men gleaned from informants. It appears that there was substantial evidence that they were up to no good but specific plans about a 9/11 attack did not appear on the FBI’s radar.

If the FBI was effectively turning a blind eye to the 9/11 terrorist attack, the CIA was even more complicit. The CIA had identified Alhamzi and Al-Midhar as al Qaeda operatives  but did not pass that information along to the FBI agents in San Diego. So naturally you can conclude that such negligence was no accident.

Indeed for the “truthers”, there was no intelligence failure. Everything pointed to 9/11 being an inside job with the hijackers, the CIA and the FBI being in cahoots. If the FBI kept the plot a secret from the American people, surely this must prove that it was the USA itself that sought a “false flag” excuse to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Any fool could have seen that the invasion and occupation of the two countries have been the best thing that happened to the USA since its birth in 1776. The expenditure of trillions of dollars has led to utter chaos in the region, after all, and very little of it of benefit to multinational corporations.

Not only does the Times article refer to FBI failing to take action on the plotters, it also identifies the man who is key to the 28-page “revelations”:

Meanwhile, unresolved questions surround the strange relationship that developed in San Diego between the two hijackers and a man from Saudi Arabia, Omar al-Bayoumi. Mr. al-Bayoumi met the two soon after their arrival in the United States and helped them settle in San Diego, allowing them to stay at his apartment for several days and co-signing a lease on their apartment.

You can read the 28 pages at http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/declasspart4.pdf. They document a myriad of contacts between the hijackers and Saudi officials, most of all Omar al-Bayoumi. But they also point to Prince Bandar as a possible accomplice. It seems, for example, that his wife had been sending money on a regular basis to Osama Bassnan who was instrumental in helping hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi financially when they were in San Diego. So it is a simple matter, it would seem, to connect the dots: Khalid al-Midhar/Nawaq Alhazmi –> Osama Bassnan/Omar al-Bayoumi –> Prince Bandar. In fact this was the point that Michael Moore made in “Fahrenheit 9/11”, with a lot more panache than Ben Norton and about as much credibility.

What is missing from these calculations is a “smoking gun” that would prove that Prince Bandar directed Bassman and al-Bayoumi to render financial and logistical support knowing in advance that it would be for terrorists whose goal it was to fly passenger planes into the WTC and the Pentagon. In order to make such a case, you would have to confront the most counter-indicative datum, namely the true relationship between the House of Saud and Osama bin-Laden who is referenced extensively throughout the 28 pages as if they were joined at the hip:

The FBI has also developed additional information clearly indicating that Bassnan is an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin. In 1993, the FBI became aware that Bassnan had hosted a party for the Blind Shaykh at his house in Washington, DC in October 1992. Bassnan has made many laudatory remarks to FBI assets about Bin Ladin, referring to Bin Ladin as the official Khalifate and the ruler of the Islamic world. According to an FBI asset, Bassnan spoke of Bin Ladin “as if he were a god.” Bassnan also stated to an FBI asset that he heard that the Government had stopped approving visas for foreign students. He considered such measures to be insufficient as there are already enough Muslims in the United States to destroy the United States and make it an Islamic state within ten to fifteen years. According to FBI documents, Bassnan also knew Bin Ladin’s family in Saudi Arabia and speaks on his mobile telephone with members of the family who are living in the United States.

After reading this, you’d think that the families of 9/11 casualties would be as interested in suing the FBI and CIA as they were the Saudi government. If you look through the 28 pages, you will see repeated references to the “FBI assets” knowing about every single move of the hijackers and the assistance they were receiving from people like Bassnan. So why didn’t they put them all in jail before 9/11? Maybe it is because they had no idea that 9/11 was in the works.

For some, it is easy to connect the dots. Paul Sperry, a reporter for Murdoch’s NY Post, added the missing link (Khalid al-Midhar/Nawaq Alhazmi–>Osama Bassnan/Omar al-Bayoumi–>Prince Bandar–>George W. Bush) in an April 2016 article that anticipated the declassified material:

But Bandar held sway over the FBI.

After he met on Sept. 13, 2001, with President Bush in the White House, where the two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony, the FBI evacuated dozens of Saudi officials from multiple cities, including at least one Osama bin Laden family member on the terror watch list. Instead of interrogating the Saudis, FBI agents acted as security escorts for them, even though it was known at the time that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

“The FBI was thwarted from interviewing the Saudis we wanted to interview by the White House,” said former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was involved in the investigation of al Qaeda and the hijackers. The White House “let them off the hook.”

In other words, the political conclusion you are forced to draw if you are Ben Norton or any of the other hacks who believe that the Saudi royal family has ambitions indistinguishable from ISIS is the same as the 9/11 Truthers, namely that it was an “inside job”. We are forced to conclude that the CIA, the FBI, the White House and the Saudi monarchs sat down and devised a plot that would lead to the deaths of privileged stock brokers in the WTC and life-long employees of the Department of Defense in order to create a panic over al-Qaeda that would lead to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq that most policy-makers now view as a disaster to US interests.

Since we will never be able to get our hands on “the smoking gun” until after a successful socialist revolution in the USA that will allow us to open up the safes of the CIA and FBI, we will be forced instead to rely on a class analysis no matter how boring that is. In my view, for what it is worth, the Saudi ruling class has zero interest in apocalyptic plots to create a worldwide Wahhabist empire even if that was something close to the heart of Osama Bassnan. Like capitalist ruling classes everywhere, its main interest is in stability so that its investments and future investment possibilities can be safeguarded.

Furthermore, the Wahhabism of the Saudi state cannot be interpreted as a medieval version of the kind of ambitions we associate with a globally transformative movement like Socialism. Instead it is a commitment to very conservative personal behavior that in most cases leads to passive acceptance of the status quo. In Pakistan, where the Saudi state has arguably devoted more resources to spreading its religious and political values than anywhere, graduates of the Saudi-funded madrassas offer no challenge to the status quo. Like most devout people, their focus is on the afterlife rather than social transformation even of a reactionary type.

On the other hand, al-Qaeda does challenge the status quo. The 9/11 attacks were consistent with its terrorist strategy that had been unleashed all across the world, including inside Saudi Arabia. There is little question that the men who took part in the 9/11 attacks were seeking to drive a wedge between the West and the Ummah. Instead of seeing them as acting on the behalf of the Saudi state or the CIA, it makes much more sense to put them into the context of a movement that emerged after the collapse of the USSR. When there was a Soviet Union, young men and women from traditional Muslim families could see Marxism, even in its distorted forms, as an alternative to the rotten systems that the West had imposed on the Middle East and North Africa in its pursuit of oil profits. Once it vanished, new hopes were placed in political Islam—something we are still paying for now as the Arab Spring has been caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Islamic fundamentalism and the decrepit neoliberal ‘socialist’ states of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria that people like Ben Norton stepped forward to justify.

 

 

May 17, 2016

Was Saudi Arabia behind 9/11?

Filed under: Saudi Arabia,September 11 — louisproyect @ 6:09 pm

Last month there was extensive media coverage about the still classified 28 pages of an intelligence report that reputedly establishes Saudi support for the 9/11 attack. One of the report’s co-authors is a retired Democratic Party Senator from Florida named Bob Graham who has been fighting to get the pages released. His efforts dovetail with the legal action mounted by the families of 9/11 victims to force Saudi Arabia to pay damages.

The FBI has denied any such connection, something that Graham views as a virtual cover-up since according to him the agency suppressed the results of an investigation of a Saudi family in Sarasota, Florida that revealed multiple contacts between it and the hijackers training nearby until the family fled just before 9/11.

For a number of years, this type of claim has been made by Zacarias Moussaoui, a self-described but unlikely member of the 9/11 conspiracy who is serving 6 concurrent life sentences. In an article on Graham, the NY Times refers to Moussaoui’s concurrence with Graham but without providing crucial background that might shed light on his credibility—or incredibility more accurately. In his trial, he claimed that he and shoe-bomber Richard Reid were supposed to fly an airliner into the White House on 9/11 but then later testified that he had no role in the 9/11 attacks. He said that he was being held in reserve for a future attack. Since he flunked out of flight school and was regarded by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as unreliable, it doubtful that he ever had any role to play. Psychiatrists testifying for the defense concluded that he was paranoid schizophrenic, a diagnosis that jibes with his complaint that his lawyers were plotting to kill him.

In a story about the 28 pages on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, Tim Roemer, a former Democratic Congressman from Indiana, took part in a joint interview with Graham. For the two ex-pols, the connections between Saudi government officials living in the USA and 9/11 hijackers was undeniable:

During their first days in L.A., witnesses place the two future hijackers at the King Fahd mosque in the company of Fahad al-Thumairy, a diplomat at the Saudi consulate known to hold extremist views. Later, 9/11 investigators would find him deceptive and suspicious and in 2003, he would be denied reentry to the United States for having suspected ties to terrorist activity.

Tim Roemer: This is a very interesting person in the whole 9/11 episode of who might’ve helped whom– in Los Angeles and San Diego, with two terrorists who didn’t know their way around.

Phone records show that Thumairy was also in regular contact with this man: Omar al-Bayoumi, a mysterious Saudi who became the hijackers biggest benefactor. He was a ghost employee with a no-show job at a Saudi aviation contractor outside Los Angeles while drawing a paycheck from the Saudi government.

Steve Kroft: You believe Bayoumi was a Saudi agent?

Bob Graham: Yes, and–

Steve Kroft: What makes you believe that?

Bob Graham: –well, for one thing, he’d been listed even before 9/11 in FBI files as being a Saudi agent.

On the morning of February 1, 2000, Bayoumi went to the office of the Saudi consulate where Thumairy worked. He then proceeded to have lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Venice Boulevard where he later claimed he just happened to make the acquaintance of the two future hijackers.

Tim Roemer: Hazmi and Mihdhar magically run into Bayoumi in a restaurant that Bayoumi claims is a coincidence and in one of the biggest cities in the United States.

Steve Kroft: And he decides to befriend them.

Tim Roemer: He decides to not only befriend them but then to help them move to San Diego and get residence.

In San Diego, Bayoumi found them a place to live in his own apartment complex, advanced them the security deposit and cosigned the lease. He even threw them a party and introduced them to other Muslims who would help the hijackers obtain government IDs and enroll in English classes and flight schools. There’s no evidence that Bayoumi or Thumairy knew what the future hijackers were up to, and it is possible that they were just trying to help fellow Muslims.

For some on the left, allegations of Saudi state-level participation in 9/11 serves as another brick in the foundation to support the notion not only of Saudi Arabia being bent on the destruction of the cornerstones of American imperialism—the WTC and the Pentagon—but American complicity in what amounts to a willful act of self-immolation. You can count on the WSWS.org to make such an argument in an article on Bob Graham:

Graham’s language is significant, since it could suggest not only official Saudi support to the hijackers during their months in the US—the focus of the “60 Minutes” report—but support to the hijackers by other individuals or other agencies, including the US government itself. It was reported after 9/11 that the lead hijacker, Mohammed Atta, was well known to the US government, and had been under surveillance during his residence in Germany before he came to the United States to get flight training.

Two other hijackers, the San Diego-based Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, were also known to the US government. The CIA had observed them participating in an al Qaeda planning meeting in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and placed them on a “watch list” for FBI monitoring if they came to the United States. Nonetheless, under circumstances that have never been clarified, the two men were allowed to enter the United States on January 15, 2000, landing at Los Angeles International Airport, eventually going to San Diego where they attended flight training school, preparing for their role as pilots of hijacked planes on September 11, 2001.

The distance between this analysis and that of the 9/11 Truther movement can be measured in millimeters. If the USA connived to open doors for men bent on its destruction, why wouldn’t it send in operatives to prepare a planned detonation of the twin towers or fire a missile at the Pentagon? If the ruling class was so desperate to launch a new war in the Middle East based on a “false flag”, why not?

The guilt of the Saudi government has been accepted by much of the conspiracy-minded left for obvious reasons. Osama bin-Laden admitted he was behind it and 15 out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia just like him. Isn’t that proof enough? As so many guests on the Bill Maher or Jon Stewart show used to put it, we should have invaded Saudi Arabia rather than Iraq.

If you buy into this, it is probably a good idea to gloss over the long-standing relationship between the ruling class of the USA and the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia has been staunchly opposed to radical movements in the Middle East and supportive of stability in the West, where much of its oil wealth was invested. It supported the first Gulf War and has provided an open door to the construction of American military bases. In 2010 the USA signed a 60 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, not exactly consistent with reports that they might be used to destroy American assets both economic and personal.

In fact, it makes no sense at all, especially in light of al Qaeda’s hostility to the monarchy. Indeed, one of the reasons bin-Laden gave for the 9/11 attack was the presence of American troops on the land where Muhammad was born.

But an alternative interpretation begins to make sense if you look beneath the surface. Bin-Laden and the 15 hijackers might have been Saudi but their roots were in the Yemeni tribe that has been brutally oppressed by the Saudi monarchy since the early 20th century.

The Arabian Peninsula was home to two major tribes historically, the Adnan who lived in the north and became the rulers of contemporary Saudi Arabia, and the Qahtani who dwelled in the south and are now referred to as Yemenis. Bin-Laden was a Qahtani descendant as were every single one of the Saudi hijackers. Furthermore, most of the initial cadre of al Qaeda were Yemenis from the Asir region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen and was Qahtani homeland. Like Texas, this was a piece of foreign territory that a more powerful nationality was able to conquer and absorb.

If you have trouble with the word tribe, it is simply a synonym for the more anthropologically precise “segmentary lineage” term that is defined in Wikipedia as:

A simple, non-anthropologist’s explanation is that the close family is the smallest and closest segment, and will generally stand with each other. That family is also a part of a larger segment of more distant cousins and their families, who will stand with each other when attacked by outsiders. They are then part of larger segments with the same characteristics. Basically, if there is a conflict between brothers, it will be settled among all the brothers, and cousins will not take sides. If the conflict is between cousins, then brothers on one side will align against brothers on the other side. However, if the conflict is between a member of a tribe and a non-member, then the entire tribe including distant cousins could mobilize against the outsider and his or her allies. This tiered mobilization is traditionally expressed e.g. in the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brothers against my cousins, me and my cousins against the world.”

In 1906 the Asiris formed a state under the leadership of Muhammad al-Idrisi, the great-grandson of a revered Sufi scholar known for his skillful debates against Wahhabists from the north. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI, al-Idrisi cast his lot with the British who he hoped could guarantee the sovereignty of his people. Instead the British chose alignment with Saudi Arabia that had became a state in 1932. Did this have something to do with the fact that the north had oil and the south virtually none? Do I have to ask?

Deciding that Asir must become part of Saudi Arabia, its monarch Ibn Saud went to war and was victorious. Some historians believe that as many as 400,000 Asiris and other tribesmen died as a result of Ibn Saud’s onslaught.

Once the Asiris were brought under Riyadh’s thumb, a process of forced assimilation took place with Wahhabi beliefs being forced down the throats of people whose customs could not be more remote from the austere but mammon-worshipping norms of the north. Qahtani tribesmen wore garments that amounted to skirts, revealing much of their legs. They were known as the “flower men” and frankly could pass for people walking around Haight-Ashbury in 1969.

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As for the women, they liked to dress in colorful clothes and shunned the veil. Their elaborate headdresses were customarily bedecked with coins and jewelry.

To consolidate its grip on a people that obviously resented being forced into the Wahhabist mold, the Saudis constructed Highway 15 that would be the backbone of an economic-military presence in its newly acquired territory. It would have air bases, missile sites and garrison outposts just like the Alamo. Guess who got the job of building Highway 15. Osama bin-Laden’s father. That project and others in Saudi Arabia generated billions for the family but did little to mollify his son. Even though the Asiris appeared to have been reengineered as Wahhabi robots, they harbored resentment against American presence in the region as well as the ostentation of the Saudi ruling class. From its inception, the Qahtani tribe had preferred a simple life and tribal camaraderie. Bin-Laden might not have had flowers in his hair but there were aspects of Saudi society he found deeply objectionable, in fact far more irritating than the reputed “Western” values like Madonna videos he supposedly reviled.

In order to understand the clash between the Asiris and the royal family, as well as to help debunk the outlandish claim that top Saudi government officials were involved with 9/11, you have to read Akbar Ahmad’s “The Thistle and the Drone” that I reviewed for Critical Muslim two years ago. Ahmad lays out the social divide between the descendants of the Adnan and the Qahtani:

Muhammad [bin-Laden] had come to feel at home in Asir. He loved its tribes, its ways, its history, and its cultural ambiance. One of his favorite wives was from Asir. In turn, the tribes of Asir accepted Muhammad as one of their own. Not only was he a fellow Yemeni, but they were won over by his easy charm as he held court sitting in a large white canvas tent with brightly colored cushions and carpets covering the floor. Muhammad received tribesmen who would petition him to settle disputes or for other assistance. He had become more than a mere construction worker. He had become their sheikh. The tribes would respond with loyalty when Muhammad’s son Osama would come to them for support. Twelve of the 9/11 hijackers were from towns along Highway 15.

While the oil boom made the Saudi royal family and its supporters very rich, little was done for the people of Asir. The large, extravagantly built holiday villas owned by the Saudi elite in Asir seemed to add nothing but salt to their wounds. In 1980 the poverty-stricken province had only 535 hospital beds for a population of about 700,000. Besides, given their religious background and its emphasis on austerity, the Yemenis disapproved of the Saudis’ arrogance and vulgar displays of wealth. Poor Yemeni tribesmen desperate for work looked for jobs in the Saudi cities. Typically, they could only find employment in the military or as cooks, gardeners, or drivers. After the kingdom began to invite immigrant workers from the Philippines and India, the Yemenis could not even obtain those menial positions. Their resentment against the Saudi centers of power remained a constant undercurrent of Asir society.

Eventually the grievances against the ruling family reached a critical mass and led to open revolts. A cleric from Asir named Juhayman al-Otaybi led the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in December-January 1979 that was directed both against infidelity to Islam and the worship of riches in the country’s top echelons.

Finally, despite the emphasis on radical Islam versus the civilized world, a more plausible explanation for the violent clashes taking place around the world is not that different from that between tribes and civilization more generally. Indeed, Islam does not have to enter the picture as the British conquest of Ireland might indicate.

For Osama bin-Laden, the loyalty to Qahtani values might trump his Wahhabi beliefs. Indeed, if you take a close look at his statements around 9/11, there is a tribal element that stands out as Murad Batal al-Shishani pointed out in a March 4, 2010 Jamestown Foundation article:

A focus on tribes in Yemen has been a main reason behind al-Qaeda’s success in finding a safe haven there.  Abu Musab al-Suri, the first to see Yemen’s potential as a safe haven for the jihadist movement, has said that the main reason for considering Yemen a stronghold for jihadis is the tribal nature of its people and the solidarity between tribes. [3]. It was for similar reasons that Osama bin Laden addressed the southern tribes of Saudi Arabia in 2004, specifically in Asir province (which borders Yemen), naming the tribes and encouraging them to fight in Iraq. “Oh heroes of Asir and champions of Hashed, Madhaj, and Bakeel, do not stop your supplies to assist your brothers in the land of Mesopotamia [i.e. Iraq]. The war there is still raging and its fire spreading.” [4]

Abdul-Ilah al-Sha’e, a Yemeni journalist, confirms that al-Qaeda has succeeded in building an alliance with the tribal system in Yemen because the country has not been “tamed” or “civilized” like other countries.  Tribes are still in control and thus it was easy to build alliances with them. [5] Abdul-Illah said that al-Qaeda wanted to recruit young people who were not afraid of death and found these young people in Yemen’s tribal and Bedouin societies, where acts of revenge and battles between tribes are still dominant, given the absence of state institutions (al-Jazeera.net, January 21).

 

September 12, 2011

The Unrepentant Marxist visits the WTC site

Filed under: September 11 — louisproyect @ 4:07 pm

Also: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/reflections-on-the-stalled-wtc-rebuilding-project/

 

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