The Untold 9/11 Story
VIEW FROM THE RIGHT
Adam Sparks, Special to SF Gate Monday, June 28, 2004
"Stay quiet, and you'll be OK."
-- Mohammad Atta, 9/11 terrorist, speaking to the passengers and crew of the airplane that was flown into the first of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Atta's admonition to the ill-fated people aboard the doomed airliner sounds as though it applies equally to the American press as it communicates to its readers. Don't ask questions, and listen calmly to us, and everything will be all right. Not!
A draft report from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, was released two weeks ago, and the media declared, in near unison, that the commission found no al Qaeda connection with Iraq and 9/11. The media had already been doggedly pursuing the "Bush misled the American people" theme this year. Call me cynical, but isn't this an election year?
A New York Times headline blared, "Panel Finds No al Qaeda-Iraq Tie," and the Washington Post was equally emphatic: "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed." The panel, however, determined just the opposite, and it is these breathless headline writers who should have been dismissed, for embellishing the truth.
The main problem is that these headlines are simply not true. The 9/11 Commission essentially agreed with the analysis of the president and his administration. Part of the problem feeding this media hysteria is that much of the media is lazy and carries an ideological bias. Rather than follow up on their own leads and conduct their own independent investigation, journalists rely on draft reports written by government sources. Bad idea.
New Evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda Link
One problem is there's a reason they're not final reports: Not all the pertinent information is included. "There's new intelligence, and this has come since our [most recent] staff report has been written," former U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman announced on "Meet the Press."
Lehman explained that the newly captured documents "indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda. One striking bit of new evidence is that the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir appears on three captured rosters of officers in Saddam Fedayeen, the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam's son Uday and entrusted with doing much of the regime's dirty work. Our government sources, who have seen translations of the documents, say Shakir is listed with the rank of lieutenant colonel."
Where©ˆs the Major News Coverage?
Typically, newspapers independently investigate stories far less significant than 9/11. Yet we see not much in the way of original coverage on 9/11-related topics. There's more original coverage about the Laci Peterson murder. Perhaps resources are invested in the media in direct proportion to the people's interest. Americans are apparently bored to tears by issues such as following up on the deadliest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, beefing up the country's national security and repairing intelligence-gathering problems that led to 9/11.
The little 9/11 coverage that does exist is designed to avoid offending any politically protected groups by never advocating reforming our loose immigration and driver's-license laws. The media would never write a story that casts blame or hurts some politically protected group's feelings. The media seek to portray a story line that it wants to get out, the most prevalent goal being, "Let's embarrass Bush." The public has been led to believe there was no 9/11 and no al Qaeda connection to Iraq. After all, the president has already allegedly lied about WMDs, and this is merely more of the same. That's by far the single biggest story to come out of the 9/11 Commission. But was it really what the commission said? No.
Bush acted only after an uncooperative Saddam Hussein threw out U.N. weapons inspectors, who were in Iraq trying to find WMDs, which Saddam had confessed to the United Nations he once had. His lack of cooperation with the inspectors triggered the regime change. The world, with the exception of a few Saddam sympathizers, now agrees that the planet is far better off with a liberated Iraq and with its brutal tyrant in an orange jumpsuit.
The facts actually show that it's the Bush haters who are the liars. Don't forget that there were chemical weapons in Iraq, some of which are being located now. Saddam and his gang of thugs were a threat to the Iraqi people, to Kuwait, to Israel, to America and to the rest of the civilized world. Saddam did harbor terrorists, and, as the commission shows, clear links exist between al Qaeda and the deposed dictator.
There are several problems with the rat-pack mentality that consumes the media. Bush never said Saddam was behind 9/11. He did say there were significant links and meetings between Iraq and al Qaeda operatives, and that's precisely what the commission found, too.
"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," Bush said following the release of the draft commission report. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with [Osama] bin Laden in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two."
And, remarkably, the leadership of the 9/11 Commission concurred with the president's assessment, yet the media overlooked this minor detail. Commission Chairman Tom Keane asked, "Were there contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq. Yes -- no question."
Also responding to a barrage of erroneous press reports was Lee Hamilton, the commission©ˆs vice chair and a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, who took to the airwaves and excoriated the media for its misleading stories. He said the commission's findings supported the president. But you didn't seem to find many stories that actually said that. Curious, isn't it?
"The sharp differences that the press has drawn [between the White House and the commission] are not that apparent to me," Hamilton told the Associated Press one day after revealing that the commission's probe uncovered "all kinds" of connections between bin Laden's terror network and Iraq. His commission, widespread press reports to the contrary, actually supported the president on the latter's assertion of an Iraq/bin Laden link.
"There are all kinds of ties," Lee told PBS's "The News Hour" in remarks that didn't receive much press coverage. "There are all kinds of connections."
Russian President Vladimir Putin made some remarkable comments that the U.S. media also buried. Chances are you haven't heard about them, either.
According to Putin, sometime after the Sept. 11 attacks and before the start of the Iraq war, Russia's intelligence service "received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests."
This news is significant for several reasons: Russia was a close ally of Saddam and was vehemently opposed to the American-led war of liberation of Iraq. This major story should have been front-page news, triggering a flurry of press inquiries, a media frenzy complete with investigations and follow-up stories, but, apparently, the major media had more important stories to chase. Not only was it not a front-page story, much of the media virtually ignored it.
The day the story broke, according to the Media Research Center, a journalism watchdog organization, "The CBS Evening News" didn't even mention it. Dan Rather thought it was more important to flack Bill Clinton's new book and even focused on a chapter in which the former president warned Bush, then president-elect, about bin Laden, but Bush allegedly didn't care. It's both smooth and very Clinton-esque for the ex-president to cleverly shift the blame of his own failure to control al Qaeda to a Republican. And that spin more nicely fits in with the national media obsession to oust Bush.
Putin's intelligence revelations about Iraq's plans to attack America on our own shores should be independently verified. If they prove true, then the media and the left would have no altenative but to then say that Bush's actions to remove Saddam was "prophetic and timely." But don't hold your breath.
Al Qaeda-Iran Connection
OK, so the 9/11 Commission didn't find a conclusive connection between Iraq and 9/11. Why all the hoopla? No one ever alleged it in the first place. But why is the media ignoring the more significant stories of what the commission actually did find, rather than wasting ink cutting down straw dogs?
The commission report concluded that al Qaeda operatives trained in Iran and that the terrorist group helped Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists obtain explosives. Al Qaeda was also probably involved in two attacks on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, including the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, which killed 19 Americans and injured 372.
And, while America has been in a funk of self-criticism and navel gazing for the past few years as it focuses its venom on its president, rather then the enemy, al Qaeda has been steadily growing like the virus it is.
The 9/11 Commission report found that al Qaeda has been busy building a productive terrorist network throughout the Middle East.
"Bin Laden sought to build a broader Islamic army that also included terrorist groups from Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, [emphasis added] Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia and Eritrea," the report concluded. "This Islamic force represented a new level of cooperation among diverse terrorist groups."
But don't expect to read about this in the paper. If it doesn't help John Kerry, it doesn't fit the prevailing media spin.
Adam Sparks is a San Francisco writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.