by Eric Margolis
Two years after the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on the United States,
this earthshaking event remains clouded by mystery and
Was al-Qaida behind the operation? Most likely, but not for certain.
Secretary of State Colin Powell promised a white paper proving
al-Qaida's guilt. It never came.
A tape that surfaced in late 2001 purporting to show Osama bin Laden
gleefully chortling over the attacks, was seen by many in the Arab
and Muslim world as a crude fake.
The 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and Spain, not Afghanistan,
by young men, mostly Saudis, who were educated and westernized.
Afghanistan's Taliban regime, until four months before 9/11 a
recipient of U.S. aid, had nothing to do with the attacks, but did
provide a base for al-Qaida, which numbered only 300 members. Most
of the "terrorists" in Afghanistan cited by the U.S. were actually
independence fighters from neighbouring Central Asia. Taliban
refused to hand bin Laden, a national hero of the 1980s anti-Soviet
war, to the U.S. without proof of his guilt in 9/11, which the U.S.
declined to provide.
This allowed far right neo-conservatives to seize control of U.S.
national security policy. They immediately launched the invasion of
Afghanistan and began preparing war against Iraq. There's now
evidence both invasions, intended to seize major oil regions, were
being planned long before 9/11.
President George Bush was widely regarded pre-9/11 as a hapless,
rather comical figure enmeshed in the Enron scandal. The savage
assaults transformed him into a saviour on a white horse, bathed in
praise by the fawning U.S. media.
The Bush administration created a firestorm of jingoism, war fever,
and national hysteria that quickly obscured its failure to protect
the nation from an attack that Mideast observers, including this
column, had predicted was coming.
Disparate bands of extremists
Bush declared a war on terrorism and dispatched U.S. armed forces to
attack Muslim mischief-makers around the globe. This, however, was
not a real war, but rather a police action against disparate bands
of violent anti-American extremists determined to drive U.S.
political and economic influence from their lands, and aid the
struggle in Palestine.
Declaring "war on terrorism" made no more sense than declaring war
Few Americans understand their nation became a modern imperial power
after World War II, or that it had recreated in the Mideast a modern
version of the British Empire - the American Raj. Most were simply
unaware, or uncaring, that their governments had been overthrowing
regimes, assassinating foreign leaders, promoting dictatorships and
waging undeclared wars on foreign nations since the late 1940s.
Fewer understood the U.S. was de facto ruler of Morocco, Tunisia,
Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, and overlord of Saudi Arabia and
Turkey. Washington kept highly repressive feudal or military
dictatorships in power in all these nations that advanced
Washington's strategic interests and brutally crushed all opponents.
Most Americans were unaware that Israel was fighting Palestinians
with U.S.-supplied arms, financed by U.S. taxpayers, or that in the
eyes of most Mideasterners, and all extremists, Israel and the
United States had become indistinguishable.
Osama bin Laden kept tirelessly repeating this theme, calling for
revolution against the American Mideast Raj and its Arab vassal
rulers. That, far more than truck bombs, was bin Laden's real threat
to U.S. interests. Interestingly, bin Laden recently predicted he
will shortly die a martyr.
The ghastly 9/11 attacks were what Imperial Britain called the "cost
of empire." Angry, fanatical natives would strike back, using any
means to punish the high-tech empire seeking to rule them.
Britain had Maxim guns; America, terrifying B-52s
Bush's knee-jerk military response to essentially political
problems, an historic blunder, has left the U.S. mired in deepening
guerrilla wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, costing over $7 billion US
monthly and growing numbers of American casualties.
Heavy bombing of Afghanistan prior to 9/11, what ever-wrongheaded
neo-cons say should have been done, would not have prevented 9/11.
Having alert security guards at Boston airport would have. The
attacks of 9/11 might have been averted by proper coordination
between FBI and CIA, and if Bush's astoundingly inept national
security staff had done its job.
Instead, Attorney General John Ashcroft, today the self-appointed
scourge of Muslim malefactors, actually cut anti-terrorism spending
just before 9/11.
Nothing can excuse the sickening barbarity of the 9/11 attacks. But
nothing should excuse America's pre-attack delusions of Olympian
immunity from the ills of the outside world, some caused by U.S.
Nor America's casual indifference to the death of 500,000 Iraqi
children caused by a cruel U.S.-imposed embargo. Nor the bulldozing
of Palestinian shanty towns, without realizing that at some point
enraged recipients of U.S. geo-strategic discipline would bite back.
Nor the risk of aircraft attacks.
This writer was aboard a hijacked Lufthansa A310 in 1993 when the
air pirate warned the FBI he would crash the jumbo jet into New
York's Wall Street.
All the flag-waving and heart-rending survivor interviews that will
mark this week's 9/11 anniversary should not - but, of course, will
- obscure the painful truth: the faux-macho Bush administration was
asleep while on guard; it refuses to accept responsibility for its
dereliction of duty; and continues to mislead Americans about the
real causes of 9/11.
Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and
broadcaster, and author of War at the Top of the World - The Struggle for
Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in The
Economist, May 13, 2000
Enver Masud, "What Really
Happened on September 11 Remains a Mystery," The Wisdom Fund,
April 27, 2002
Julian Borger, "White House 'Lied About
Saddam Threat'," Guardian (UK), July 10, 2003
Denis Halliday, "'The UN Failed the
Iraqi People'," Socialist Worker Online, September 5, 2003
Michael Meacher, "'This War on Terrorism
is Bogus': The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use
force to secure its global domination," Guardian (UK), September
[Two years after 9/11, the United States has yet to confront the
roots of terrorism, has waged more war than peace and has
continually raised the stakes of international confrontation.--Noam
Chomsky, "Reasons to fear U.S.," Toronto Star, September
Charles J. Hanley (Pulitzer Prize winner), "AP Staffer Fact-Checks Powell's
UN Speech: Key Claims Didn't Hold Up," Editor & Publisher Online,
September 9, 2003
Willam A. Cook, "Failing
to Respond to 9/11," CounterPunch, January 3, 2004
Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights