Reflections on the Origins of 9/11: Three Scenarios (2002)

 

Eric Thor Karlstrom, Ph.D. 

November 20, 2002

Dept. of Anthropology and Geography
CSUS, California


Cui prodest scelus, is fecit (the one who derives advantage from the crime is the one most likely to have committed it).                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Seneca (Roman playwright)

Hiding evil is the trademark of a totalitarian government.

                                            Senator Frank Church (Chair, Senate Intelligence Committee), 1975

It is critical that people understand the origins of 9-11.  The Bush administration has so far managed to block Congressional attempts to investigate these origins.  In the absence of meaningful national and international inquiries, unofficial investigations are emerging, such as “The People’s Investigation of 9-11”, launched on October 4, 2002.  Here, I would like to offer three possible explanations of the 9-11 tragedy for consideration and scrutiny.  

Scenario l is the explanation given by the government and most major media.  In this scenario, the attacks were carried out by a handful of Islamic fundamentalists under the aegis of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda networks.  Why?  According to New York Times columnist Ronald Steele, these people “hate us because we champion a new world order of capitalism, individualism, secularism, and democracy that should be the norm everywhere”.  This scenario is ostensibly supported by the fact that Islamic fundamentalists also carried out previous terrorist attacks, including an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.  However, despite weeks of the most intense international investigations in world history, involving the world’s largest intelligence agencies, essentially no evidence was produced that links the attacks to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.   And significantly, various INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and U.S. State Department officers, including Michael Springmann, have reported they had rejected immigration applications of many of these “terrorists” only to be overruled by the CIA.  

Immediately after 9-11, nearly all the world mourned with us.  Afghanistan’s Taliban government even offered to hand over Osama bin Laden if we would supply some evidence of his guilt.  President Bush dismissed this offer summarily and proceeded to declare an indefinite “war on terrorism” against the perpetrators.  This war is to be conducted in whatever country deemed appropriate by the administration and 60 have officially been listed as harboring terrorists.  The “long war” began with the unilateral bombing of the already impoverished civilians of Afghanistan (per capita income of $180, average life expectancy of 43), ostensibly in order to get Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.   Undoubtedly many more innocent civilians were killed than on 9-11, although we were never told how many, and many cities and towns were reduced to ruins.   Now, over a year later, the Taliban has been replaced by a puppet government comprised of a gang of warlords called the Northern Alliance, and the new leader of Afghanistan is a former consultant of Unocal oil.   Meanwhile, although the CIA  sees no connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, Bush’s sights now are exclusively set on waging war on Iraq, ostensibly in order to topple Saddam Hussein.  It is apparently of little consequence to the administration that the supposed mastermind of 9-11,Osama bin Laden, has recently re-surfaced and still roams free.  The U.S. government no longer appears to care about Osama, preferring to pre-emptively attack a country that has not attacked us.  There seem to be some logical flaws and inconsistencies in Scenario 1.  Logic demands we examine some alternative explanations.

Scenario 2 was inadvertently articulated in a Wall Street Journal piece after 9-11 in which Arab business leaders were asked why they hate us.   They answered, in effect, we hate you because you are blocking democracy, supporting brutal terrorist regimes, preventing economic development and enforcing poverty in Arab countries.  Wait!  The U.S. government is blocking democracy?   And supporting brutal terrorist regimes?  Don’t we stand for democracy, freedom and self-determination and opposed to terrorism?  Could this charge be true?  Let’s look at the record.  A cursory look reveals that since WWII, the C.I.A. has toppled over 20 democratically-elected governments and supported brutal tyrants all around the world.  For example, in 1953, the CIA deposed Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran after he expressed his intention to nationalize British Petroleum and suppress the opium trade. This initiated a 25-year period of repression and torture under the U.S.-sponsored Shah, with the U.S. and Britain now each reaping 40% of all oil profits.  In 1954, the CIA ousted the Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, a moderate social reformer, initiating a bloody 40-year civil war in which over 200,000 peasants were killed, tortured and/or disappeared by military forces trained at the School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.   In 1962, Iraq’s democratically-elected leader, Kassem, created a national oil company that began to share oil profits with the Iraqi people.  The next year he was overthrown and executed by the CIA and British Intelligence.  Thousands of communists were killed at this time.  Other equally and sometimes much bloodier CIA-sponsored coups occurred in Vietnam (1963), Dominican Republic (1964), Bolivia (1964 and 1970), Ghana (1966), Greece (1967), Cambodia (1970), Chile (1973), Portugal (1974), Honduras (1978), and Bulgaria (1990-91), to name a few.  

During this same time period, U.S. and CIA-sponsored wars (secret and not-so secret) are responsible for the killing of about a million civilians in Korea, 2 to 3 million in Vietnam, a million in Cambodia, a million in Laos, a million in Afghanistan, over 22,000 in Nicaragua, 30,000 in Chile, 75,000 in El Salvador, about 500,000 each in Indonesia, Angola, and East Timor, 10’s of thousands in Chad, and 200,000 in Iraq (with over another million killed, including over half a million children under 5, by U.S.-supported sanctions since 1991).  In addition, the U.S. government, in violation of its own laws has subverted and perverted elections in the following countries: The Philippines (1950s), Italy (1948- the 1970s), Lebanon (1950s), Indonesia (1955), Vietnam (1955), British Guiana (1955-64), Japan (1958-1970s) Guatemala (1963), Bolivia (1966), Australia (1974-5), Jamaica (1976), Panama (1984-89), Nicaragua (1984 and 1990), Haiti (1987-8), Bulgaria (1990-1), Albania (1991-2), Russia (1996) Mongolia (1996) and Bosnia (1998

These facts, summarized in Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2000), certainly support the basic premise of Scenario 2.  Blum concludes that in our proxy conflicts during the Cold War, the U.S. government bombed 23 other countries and attempted the overthrow governments in 40 countries, commonly supporting brutal fascist dictators.  About 20 million died in this third bloodiest war in human history, behind World Wars I and II.  And although the Cold War was presented as an East-West conflict, the real conflict was always between the north and the south, that is, between the rich and the poor.  These conflicts always had the intent of insuring that the former colonies of the Third World remain as neo-colonies for the United States and its allies.  The victims of these conflicts have overwhelmingly been civilians.  As Edward Herman states:

There is a real system of terrorist states…. The real terror network- that has spread throughout Latin America and elsewhere over the past several decades, and which is deeply rooted in the corporate interest and sustaining political-military-financial propaganda mechanisms of the United States and its allies in the Free World… The operative principles dictating U.S. support and hostility in the Third World have been business criteria first, military convenience second, and any humanistic considerations third and thus effectively, irrelevant.  In fact, they are less than irrelevant- they are in conflict with the first two criteria, and therefore…. Humanizing forces become threats.”


Thus, it is understandable that many people throughout the world have cause to hate the United States.  Our own propagandists notwithstanding, the American empire has been the pre-eminent world power during most of the 20th century and is the only superpower as we enter the 21st.   The great historian Arnold Toynbee observed in 1961:

America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defense of vested interests.  She now stands for what Rome stood for.  Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.


Similarly, Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler observed the same dynamics of empire when he spoke these words to the American Legion in 1933:

The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6% over here, it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100%.  Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.  There are only two things we should fight for.  One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.  War for any other reason is simply a racket.  There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to.  It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss”, Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.  It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison.  Truthfulness compels me to.  I spent 33 years…. being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.  I helped make Mexico… safe for American oil interests in 1916.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (Bank) boys to collect revenue in.  I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.  In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.  I had… a swell racket.  I might have given Al Capone a few hints.  The best he could do was operate a racket in three cities.  I operated on three continents.  

   
Scenario 2 is the preferred scenario of thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn who conclude that the United States is by far the largest single purveyor of state terrorism in the world.  It is also the argument of many foreign leaders, including Osama bin Laden.  They stress that the best way to stop terrorism is to stop participating in it.  This argument certainly makes sense.  However, we still have not established a connection between the 9-11 atrocities and any specific group.  And many aspects of the 9-11 tragedy suggest that still another alternative explanation is required.

Scenario 3, then, is indicated by the fact that 400 family members of 9-11 victims have filed a lawsuit against members of the Bush administration for “complicity” in 9-11, allowing it to happen for political gain.  Likewise, the BBC and Canadian TV have done documentaries indicting Bush for likely complicity in allowing 9-11 to happen.  And Gore Vidal recently wrote a scathing article in the London Observer also indicting Bush for 9-11 complicity.  All of these stories have been completely censored by the mainstream American media.   

Pertinent facts to consider:

1) U.S. intelligence agencies were amply forewarned of the attacks by foreign intelligence agencies.  In June, 2001, German Intelligence (the BND) warned the CIA and Israel that Middle Eastern terrorists are “planning to hijack commercial aircraft as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sept., 14, 2001).  Also in the summer of 2001, Russian intelligence notified the CIA that 25 terrorist pilots have been specifically trained for suicide missions (the Russian Press).  In August, Russian President Putin told Russian intelligence to warn the U.S. government “in the strongest possible terms” of an immanent attack on airports and government buildings” (MS-NBC interview, Sept., 15, 2001).  In addition, Egyptian President Mubarak, the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, and even elements within our own FBI warned of impending attacks.  An Iranian man phoned U.S. law enforcement agencies and warned them of an immanent attack on the World Trade Center in the week of Sept. 9th. (German news agency “online. ie.”, Sept., 14).   French and Arab intelligence agencies also warned the CIA concerning immanent terrorist attacks.   Interestingly, CIA Director George Tenet met with the President every day for a month prior to 9-11 for one half hour oral briefings.  They are reportedly good friends.  

The May 16, 2002 New York Post article, headlined “Bush Knew”, revealed the nature of top secret documents made available to Bush before 9-11.  
 
2) Someone very high up in the command chain must have overruled the National Command Authority and instructed them not to scramble Air Force planes to intercept the hijacked airliners.  On Sept. 11, for 78 minutes, between 7:45 and 9:03 a.m., with it widely known by the FAA and the military that four commercial planes had been hijacked, we are asked to believe that nobody notified President Bush.  And it was not until 9:30 a.m. that Air Force planes were finally scrambled to intercept the hijacked planes.  Thus, scrambling of military fighters is normally done, by law and standard procedure, within minutes of a commercial airliner irregularity, in this case, the National Command Authority waited for 78 minutes before scrambling aircraft (CNN, ABC, MS-NBC, L.A. Times, the New York Times).  Meanwhile, President Bush was at a photo-op, talking to elementary students in Florida at 8:45 am when American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the North Tower.  And although he certainly could and should have been notified by his secret service entourage, he continued to listen to a student talk about her pet goat for another 25 minutes, that is, until 7 minutes after the second tower was hit by Flight 175.  Meanwhile, the third hijacked plane was bee-lining toward Washington, D.C., certainly being tracked by military radar, and still no Air Force Interceptors were scrambled.  Finally, at 9:35 am, Flight 77, supposedly piloted by Arab graduates of a puddle-jumper flight school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas, turned 360 ˚ over the Pentagon, conducted a well-controlled downward spiral, descending the last 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes; coming in so low it clipped electrical wires on the street, and smashed into the Pentagon with pin-point accuracy at 460 knots.  (Incidentally, into a wing of the building that had just recently undergone major structural  re-enforcement)  In an article entitled “The So-called Evidence is a Farce”, retired U.S. Army veteran and West Point instructor Stan Goff states,  “When the theory about learning to fly this well at the puddle-jumper school began to lose ground, it was added that they received further training on a flight simulator.  This is like saying you prepared your daughter for her first drive on the freeway at rush hour by buying her a video driving game… There is a story being constructed about these events”.   

3) In July 2001, three American officials, Tom Simmons (former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assist. Secretary of State for South Asian affairs) and Lee Coldren (former State Dept. expert on South Asia) told Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers that the U.S. is planning military strikes against Afghanistan in October, 2001.  Taliban representatives sat in on the meetings. (The Guardian, Sept. 22, 2001; the BBC, Sept., 18, 2001, The Inter Press Service, Nov. 16, 2001).

4) Pakistan’s chief spy since 1999, U.S.-approved appointee Lt. General Mahmood Ahmad, was in direct contact with the CIA, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and the Pentagon.  The FBI and Indian Intelligence proved that Ahmed had ordered Ahmad Umar Sheikh of Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) to wire $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, a week before 9-11.  Indeed, Ahmed met with CIA officials including CIA Director Tenet between Sept. 4 and 9.  At the time of the WTC attacks, he was having breakfast with Senator Bob Graham and Representative Peter Goss, Chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively, and Senator John Kyl and Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Maleeha Lodhi.  On Sept. 12 and 13, Ahmed met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Secretary of State Colin Powell.  On Sept. 13, he met with Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Ironically, Goss and Graham, the men who dined with Ahmed during the 9-11 atrocity, were placed in charge of the Congressional committee charged with investigating “intelligence failures” leading to 9-11.

5) In July, 2001, Osama bin Laden, was visited by a top CIA official (presumably the Chief of Station) while he was recovering from a chronic kidney infection at the American hospital in Dubai, France.  At this time, Osama was officially wanted for bombing two U.S. embassies and for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.  Nevertheless, he was allowed to leave Dubai on his private jet (French newspaper, Le Figaro, Oct. 31, 2001).    

6) Several of the hijackers were given flight training and language instruction at U.S. military installations. The “puddle-jumper” flight training schools in Venice, Florida, at which the hijackers trained have CIA ties and were established in the year 2000, possibly with CIA money.  
         
7)  The Anthrax attacks on leading democratic Senators occurred directly following the 9-11 attacks, exacerbating the atmosphere of fear and confusion in Washington, D.C.  After more than a year of intense FBI investigation no one has been indicted, although the strains of anthrax used have been shown to be of the highest quality and most resemble those manufactured at American military installations.  

8)  Members of the U.S. House of Representatives had to vote on the Anti-terrorism bill (USA Patriot Act) within days of the 9-11 attacks without ever having the time to review or read the bill.  Clearly, this lengthy and confusing bill was prepared by someone on behalf of the administration, prior to 9-11 and was brought when the time was ripe.  Critics now say it does little to prevent terrorism but does increase the ability of the government to conduct surveillance of all of us without proper search warrants, thus effectively nullifying three Bill of Rights amendments and taking away part of another.  Republican Congressman and Constitutional expert said this about the “Patriot Act”: “Our forefathers would think it is time for a revolution.  This is why they revolted in the first place.

9) It is was widely reported in the Arab world after 9-11 that about 3,000 Jewish workers at the World Trade Center did not report for work on the morning of 9-11.  Could this be because Odigo, Inc. in Israel, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, with offices in New York City, received warnings of an immanent attack on the WTC less than two hours before the first plane hit the WTC (CNN’s Daniel Sieberg, 9/28/01).    

10) People high in the banking and intelligence world had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks.  On Sept. 6 and 7, 4744 put options (a speculation that stock will go down) were purchased on United Air lInes (as opposed to only 396 call options) and 4,516 put options were placed on American Airlines as compared with only 748 call options.  Many of these were purchased through Deutschebank/AB Brown, a firm managed until 1998 by A.B. Buzzy Krongard, now is third in command at the CIA .  (The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Herzliyya International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism).  No other airlines show similar trading patterns and the put option purchases were 600% above normal.  Likewise, between Sept. 6 and 10, 2001, highly abnormal levels of put options were purchased in Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, AXA Re (insurance) which owns 25% of American Airlines- all of these were also impacted by 9-11. The San Francisco chronicle reported on Sept. 29, 2001, that $2.5 million in profits from the put options were still unclaimed.  

11) The proposed Unocal oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean port of Karachi, which was abandoned under the Taliban’s chaotic regime, is a go-project.  Now Unocal (Union Oil of California) employee is now U.S. envoy to the new Afgani democracy and the new president, Hamid Karzai, is a former Unocal employee.

12) In November and December, of 2001, opium planting resumed in Afghanistan under the U.S.- approved Northern Alliance.  The newly appointed Afghani Prime Minister Hamid Karzai is revealed as a former paid consultant for Unocal. (Le Monde).

13) The U.S. Congress found that Al Qaeda was linked with U.S. intelligence agencies in the war in Kosovo and in Bosnia in 1998.  Indeed, to this day, Al Qaeda continues to be an “intelligence asset” of the CIA and continues to conduct covert operations around the world on the CIA’s behalf. And so, too Osama bin Laden.  

Geopolitical and Economic Background:

To better understand the origins of 9-11, some geopolitical and economic background is useful:  

1) As former Secretary of State Zbignew Bzrezinski makes clear in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, Eurasia has 3/4 of all known energy resources.  The Caspian Basin, in particular, has an estimated $5 trillion (U.S.) in gas and oil reserves.  Countries here include Tajiksistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Krgyzstan, and Azerbaijan.  All of these former Soviet states share a border with Afghanistan.  Brzezinski underscores that with worldwide energy consumption increasing worldwide, who controls the Caspian Basin oil/gas will control the world economy.  In fact, his “Grand Chessboard” is a plan for strategic global dominance which this administration seems to be following.  Hence, the U.S. already had established military bases in Uzebekistan and Khzakstan prior to 9-11.  However, getting these fossil fuels to port for shipment to other regions is a geographic problem.  Afghanistan, which has very little oil, is the best route to transport the oil to Asia.  In 1994, Vice President Cheney helped broker a deal between Chevron and the state of Kazakhstan when he sat on the country’s Oil Advisory Board.  Likewise, many former Reagan, Bush and Clinton advisors have personal investments in development and extraction of fossil fuels from the region.  The real objective of American military presence there is to secure U.S. access to fossil fuel resources in Eurasia and make sure that other regional powers, such as China and Russia, do not threaten U.S. hegemony in the region.  

2)  Between 1991 and 1997, major U.S. oil companies, including Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, and Shell invested almost $3 billion in cash bribing the heads of state in Kazakhistan to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves of this region.  And they committed another $35 billion to future investment.  (Testimony before House International Relations committee, 2/12/98).

3) The CIA poured over $3 billion into the training of the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist networks (including Al Qaeda) of the Mujahadeen in order to stage a proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Osama bin Laden, wealthy Saudi Arabian merchant, was a prize CIA recruit in this endeavor.  One essential conduit of CIA influence was their training and funding of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-services Intelligence Agency).  It was ISI that has funded and kept the Taliban in power since 1996.  The Northern Alliance and U.S. Congressional transcripts and intelligence reports confirm a “Pakistanii ISI- Osama- Taliban” axis).    
                                                                                                                                
4)  On December 4, 1997, representatives of the Taliban were invited to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support of the  pipeline across Afghanistan which would transport oil and gas from Kazakhstan to India. (The BBC, Dec. 4, 1997).

5)  After 10 years of CIA covert operations and involvement with the war and drug lords of Afghanistan during the 1980s, Afghanistan was the number one exporter of opium in the world.  In 1999, the 4,600 metric tons of opium produced there made up 75% of the world’s opium production and was mainly and smuggled through the Balkans  and sold to Europe.  The ban placed on opium production by the Taliban in 2000 had the effect of shifting production to Columbia and to the Caucasus under the Kurds.  Now the opium would be smuggled through shorter routes through Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbasijan.  (Both Vice President Cheney and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage are members of the U.S.- Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce).  The Taliban action of banning opium production was made at the prodding of Pakistan’s foreign Secretary Inam Ul-Haq.  Sec. of State Colin Powell rewarded the Taliban for this action by giving them $43 million to replace the income lost to Afghani farmers.                

6)  The trade in illegal drugs is a  $500 to 600 billion/year business and provides the world’s banking and financial systems with needed liquid cash.  A German intelligence expert states that: “Seventy percent of the drug trade is licensed by the intelligence agencies”.

7)  In Jan, 2001, The Bush Administration ordered the FBI to “back off” investigations involving the bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia, including two of Osama’s relatives (BBC Newsnight, Nov. 7, 2001).  Could this be connected with the fact that in 1998 and 2000, George H.W. Bush, now a consultant for the Carlyle Group, the U.S.’s 11th largest defense contractor, met with the Saudi Royal family and the extremely wealthy bin Laden family (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 27, 2001)?    

8)  According to a Wall Street Journal article, Sept. 19, 2001, one of the oil pipeline projects running through the new war zone in Afghanistan is a joint venture of the bin Laden family and the construction firm H.C. Price.  This company is now owned by a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation, Dresser Industries. It was Dresser Industries that gave George W. Bush his first post-war job in 1948.  Vice President Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense under Desert Storm, was Halliburton’s CEO until becoming Vice President in 2001.  

Conclusions

Most of these facts support Scenario 3:  Stated briefly:  9/11 was a carefully planned intelligence operation.  Elements within our own government were involved in the planning and cover-up of the 9/11 tragedy.  And the ultimate objective of the war on terrorism is securing U.S. hegemony over the remaining fossil fuel resources in the world.  In “the War on Freedom, Causes and Consequences of 9/11” Nafeez Ahmed concludes that bin Laden is merely a piece in a chess game.  The stakes of that game are the last of world’s oil reserves and “the Bush administration’s (consolidation of power) to pursue a dramatic unlimited militarization of foreign policy on a massive and unprecedented scale required by long-standing elite planning, while crushing dissent and criminalizing legitimate protest.”

Why would our own government perpetrate a hideous act of aggression against its own people?  Perhaps a statement by the Nazi, Hermann Goering, will illuminate the issue:

Why of course the people don’t want war.  Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?  Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter, in Germany.  That is understood.  But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country.


Some Historic Precedents, Pretexts, and “Triggers”

It is instructive to examine some historic pretexts and “triggers” which U.S. leaders have used to involve American citizens in previous wars.  

1)  During WWII, U.S. admirals knew that FDR had foreknowledge of the impending attacks on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese but did not warn the admirals in command at Pearl Harbor.  Further, FDR actually helped provoke Japan’s murderous attack when he cut off Japan’s oil supplies.  As planned, the Pearl Harbor attacks became the “trigger” which insured American involvement in WWII.

2) In 1962, after the CIA had failed in its illegal Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, JFK was reluctant to topple Castro or wage war with Cuba.  But the military and CIA desperately wanted war and needed a way to mobilize American public opinion for such a war.  They came up with “Operation North Woods”, designed to trick the American and world public opinion into a war.  Several possible strategies were developed to create this “trigger”: 1) Blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.  2) Develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington, and 3) Blow up John Glenn’s rocket at Cape Canaveral and blame it on Cuba.  And most interestingly, as a possible parallel with 9-11, 4)  Create an exact duplicate of a civil-registered aircraft, load the plane with selected passengers with carefully prepared aliases, and through remote control, blow the plane up by radio signal.  And, of course, blame the Cubans, 5) faking Soviet MIG aircraft to harass civil aircraft, or attack surface shipping, 6) hijacking civil air and surface craft, 7) simulating the shooting down of a chartered civil airliner in Cuban airspace.  President Kennedy rejected the plan.    

In his book, Body of Secrets, James Bamford concludes from documentary evidence that the Joint Chiefs of Staff “proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba”.  Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer wrote a memo stating that that the Joint Chiefs “have considered” an attached memo, which is a “description of pretexts which would provide justification for military intervention in Cuba”.

3) It is now well known that the government similarly utilized the cooked-up Gulf of Tonkin incident to  “trigger” a full-scale war with Vietnam.  On July 30, 1964, CIA crews aboard Norwegian-built SWIFTS (ships) attacked a radar station in North Vietnam on Hon Me Island, with the U.S.S. Maddox patrolling nearby inside North Vietnamese waters to provide cover for the CIA attackers.  The North Vietnamese issued a formal protest to the U.S. and North Vietnamese sailors pursued the CIA marauders and confronted the Maddox.  The Maddox then fired upon the North Vietnamese, who returned fire with torpedoes- that missed.

4)  But this tactic goes back much further.  In 1846, the U.S. government wanted a pretext to take large parts of Mexico.  First it offered money and then land to any soldier willing to fight the Mexicans.  When this failed to produce a sufficient force of volunteers, the government sent General Zachary Taylor with a small force to raid Mexican border towns.  When Mexicans fired back, the headlines read: “Mexicans killing our boys in Texas”.  Then, and only then, did enough men enlist that we were able to embark upon a war that resulted in the U.S. taking what is now New Mexico, Arizona, southern Colorado and California.

5)  And Brzenzki may have been calling for just this scenario when he states in The Great Chessboard: “As America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat”.           

And as outlined in Vice President Cheney’s “Defense Planning Guidance for 1994-1999 and 2004 –1009, “The Plan” is for the U.S. to rule the world by the unilateral use of force.  We are to demonstrate our overwhelming military superiority by conducting multiple-theatre wars, pre-emptive military strikes, including the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, and by using weapons from space.  All this, of course, will necessitate significant increases in military budgets and further decreases in spending on social programs at home such as Social Security.  For this cause, the American’s themselves must be kept in fear and terror.  Vice President Cheney is doing his best to accomplish this, with statements such as:

I think that the prospects of a future attack on the U.S. are almost a certainty… It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year, but they will keep trying.  And we have to be prepared….    

The second major objective of the “War on Terrorism” is to repress internal dissent via the Patriot Act and the new $40 billion/year Homeland Security Agency.  In a perpetual environment of fear and war, the label of “terrorist” can be applied by the government to any “enemies” of the American empire, whether they be environmentalists trying to stop the clear cutting of forests, unions protesting the actions of the World Trade Organization, or citizens of conscience protesting the terrorist curriculum of the School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Welcome, alas, to the “Brave New World Order” predicted by Huxley and Orwell.  Ben Franklin’s words resonate now more than ever:  “Those who would sacrifice civil liberties for national security deserve neither.”  

This is where we stand today: The wars we are asked to fight are orchestrated by our leaders for the benefit of the oil profiteers, the gun profiteers, the drug profiteers, etc.  We pay for it; in blood, in money, in lost relatives, and in the accumulation of bad karma.  Unless the American people reclaim their country, this pattern will continue until the American empire, and perhaps the entire world, goes bankrupt and is destroyed.  We will are now squandering our strength and led the world, not toward a peaceful future but toward war and destruction.  The five-headed monster that now runs the world consists of corporations, the stock market, the intelligence community, organized crime and the government.  It fuels the military-industrial complex and owns the press.  It maintains its power by casting a net of disinformation, fear and greed across the land.  As these wars continue apace, we the sovereign people of the United States, have been manipulated into making a true devil’s bargain, our relative safety and plenty for their poverty and misery.  Alexander Cockburn sums it up in Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press:

One half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day… Ultimately, the “war on terrorism” is about global control by US corporations and the World Trade Organization.  It wants to strike down public ownership, social organizations and institutions, and substitute control by the strong and rich over the weak and poor….. The “drug war” is a code word for social control and repression.


Carolyn Forche puts it more poetically in The Country Between Us:

There is a cyclone fence between ourselves and the slaughter and behind it we hover in a calm protected world like netted fish, exactly like netted fish.  It is either the beginning or the end of the world, and the choice is ourselves or nothing.  


Moving Forward

However, we, the people are waking up and still can reclaim our sovereign rights in this constitutional democracy.  It is not inevitable that the American experiment end in a fascist, totalitarian empire that subjugates most of the world’s people to a state of economic slavery and reduces the natural environment to ruin.  We still have democratic institutions, a Constitution that guarantees rule by the people, and a diverse populace that isn’t entirely asleep.  We still have the inspiring words and examples of politicians such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln, and of modern prophets like John Muir, Wendell Berry, and Noam Chomsky.  We can still share information openly.  We still have our brains and the internet and each other and consumer power and the power of the vote.  And we have the courage of past successes.  When the American people lead in the past, the government followed.  The labor union movement, women’s sufferage, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, ending the Vietnam War, the cold war, and halting nuclear escalation; all of these occurred because people opposed and changed government policies.

People are becoming informed and involved in communities all across America and throughout the world.  We may legitimately hope that this present crisis will precipitate a resurgence of respect and recognition for the rights of people and workers in all countries.   We, the people, may have been lulled to sleep by the media, by our fears, by our comforts, and by our busyness.  But we are waking up, getting informed, connected, and organized- so that we can return this country and the world to the principles and practices of genuine democracy, honesty, and justice for all.