Monday, September 11, 2006

Four Jetliners Weren't the Only Things Hijacked on September 11

How a Nation's Unified Resolve to Defeat al-Qaida -- And the World's Goodwill -- Was Squandered By a President's Obsession to Take Down Saddam Hussein

By Skeeter Sanders

For the generations of Americans who were alive in 2001, the Eleventh of September will forever live as a day of infamy -- a far darker, more shocking day of infamy than the Seventh of December was for the generations of Americans who were alive in 1941.

It was on this day five years ago when nineteen men -- all of them on a mission of mass death and destruction for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network -- hijacked four fully-packed and fully-fueled passenger jets, crashing two of them into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and a third into the giant five-sided Arlington, Virginia headquarters of the most powerful military force on Earth.

The fourth hijacked jetliner, as we all now know, was heading toward a deadly rendezvous with either the White House or Capitol Hill, but ended up plowing into a Pennsylvania field when its passengers fought to wrest control of the plane from the hijackers.

September 11, 2001: A Day that Could Have Been Much Worse Than It Was

We all know what happened on that terrible day five years ago. But you may not know that the day could have been much, much worse than it turned out to be, for the United States wasn't the only country targeted by al-Qaida.

Mohammed Afroze, an al-Qaida operative captured, tried and convicted in India for his role in the 9/11 attacks, said there were plans for a simultaneous attack in London, with hijacked jetliners crashing into the Houses of Parliament and the landmark Tower Bridge, according to a July 2005 article in The Times of London.

The newspaper reported that Afroze, testifying at his trial, admitted that he and seven other al-Qaida operatives "planned to hijack aircraft" at Heathrow Airport and fly them into the two London landmarks. The suicide squad included men from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The would-be London hijackers booked seats on two Manchester-bound flights, The Times quoted Afroze as having testified at his trial. But as they were waiting at Heathrow to board the planes they were to hijack, the al-Qaida operatives watched the live TV images of the destruction of the twin towers and -- apparently horrified by the sight of the carnage -- panicked and fled.

Bush Declares a "War on Terror," But Five Years Later, It's a Disastrous Mess

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush declared a "war on terror," with the stated goal of bringing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida to justice and preventing the emergence of other terrorist networks.

Outraged by the attacks, Americans stood united in resolve to a degree not seen in this country since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that brought the United States into World War II.

The nation's 43rd president had -- as Franklin D. Roosevelt had before him -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly seize the moment and unite not just the nation, but the entire planet, in a determined effort to rid the world of terrorism.

But five years later, Bush has squandered that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by diverting the nation's military resources away from the war on terror and instead aimed them toward destroying the regime of a dictator who had nothing to do with 9/11 -- and, to make matters worse, he did so without any plan to deal with the aftermath.

As a result, respect and sympathy around the world for the United States has given way to suspicion, ridicule and outright hatred, especially in the Muslim world. Nations that had been longtime allies of this country are now openly contemptuous of us.

A growing number of Americans, including this blogger, are now openly challenging many of the Bush administration's tactics in the "war on terror" as a massive betrayal -- and a threat to the very survival -- of the principles of democracy and freedom laid forth by America's founders nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.

Indeed, just in the past few days, solid evidence has been uncovered that the invasion of Iraq was not only a diversion from the "war on terror," but that it was pursued by a president hell-bent on settling a personal score with Saddam Hussein.

Senate Report: Saddam Regarded al-Qaida, Taliban as His Enemies

In a report released Friday that sharply contradicts the Bush administration's rationale for going to war in Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee said it found no evidence that Saddam had any ties to al-Qaida. Nor did the committee find any evidence that the ousted Iraqi dictator provided a "safe harbor" for al-Qaida's most violent operative in that country, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In fact, the 356-page report said, Saddam regarded al-Qaida -- and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that sheltered it -- as threats to his continued rule, rather than as possible allies.

The report made public a newly-declassified October 2005 CIA assessment that before the war, Saddam's government repeatedly turned down requests by bin Laden for assistance -- and even sought to have Zarqawi captured in 2002 when he learned that the Jordanian-born terrorist had slipped into Baghdad.

Saddam told U.S. officials after his capture that he had not cooperated with bin Laden, even though he acknowledged that officials in his regime had met with the al-Qaida leader, according to FBI summaries cited in the Senate report. "Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden," Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi foreign minister, was quoted as having told the FBI.

Saddam had reason to to distrust al-Qaida: After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden actually offered to send to Saudi Arabia 12,000 mujaheddin fighters -- battle-hardened from their decade-long jihad in Afghanistan against the occupying Soviet Red Army -- to defend his native land against the Iraqis, had Saddam decided to invade it.

Bin Laden's offer was rebuffed by the Saudi government, which turned instead to the United States. For bin Laden, the presence of American troops -- most of them Christian -- on the Islamic holy land was an unpardonable sin.

Iraq also refused to recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan when it came to power in 1998, the report said, citing the Taliban's -- and al-Qaida's -- extremist Wahhabi brand of Islam as a threat to Saddam's continued rule in Iraq.

The Wahhabi brand of Islam, when compared to mainstream Islam, is far more extreme than even the most puritanical Fundamentalist brand of Christianity.

Report Based on Captured Iraqi Government Documents Unknown to U.S. Intelligence

The Senate report, based largely on documents found in Iraqi government facilities in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad in 2003, also faults intelligence gathering in the lead-up to the invasion. In fact, much of the information cited in the report was unavailable to U.S. intelligence agencies and policymakers before the war.

Bush has repeatedly insisted that the invasion was necessary to destroy Saddam's ability to stockpile and use weapons of mass destruction. As recently as an August 21 news conference, the president said people should "imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein" with the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and "who had relations with Zarqawi."

Yet searches by United Nations-appointed weapons inspectors before the war and by U.S. troops since the invasion have turned up none of the purported WMD stockpiles.

General: Rumsfeld Pushed Pentagon for Iraq Invasion Plans Right After 9/11

But the revelations don't stop with the Senate report. It can now be told that the Bush administration put its plans to invade Iraq into "overdrive" within hours after the September 11 attacks -- even as Pentagon planners were racing to come up with a war strategy for Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pressured Pentagon strategists to develop plans for an invasion of Iraq as soon as possible, according to a soon-to-retire Army general.

On the day after the attacks, General Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, told U.S. military planners to "get ready to go to war," according to Brigadier General Mark Scheid in an interview published Friday in a Virginia newspaper.

Scheid, commander of Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia, told the Daily Press of nearby Hampton Roads that he was among the planners Franks spoke to. Scheid, who is also commander of the Army Transportation Corps, is scheduled to retire on September 29.

A "day or two" after Franks spoke, according to Scheid, "[Rumsfeld] was telling us we were going to war in Afghanistan and to start building the war plan. We were going to go in fast. Then, just as we were barely into [planning for] Afghanistan ... Rumsfeld came in and told us to get ready for Iraq."

Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, "My gosh, we're in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two [wars] at one time? How can we pull this off? It's just going to be too much."

"There [were] only a handful of people, maybe five or six, that were involved with that plan because it had to be kept very, very quiet," the Daily Press quoted Scheid as saying.

Rumsfeld Reportedly Threatened to Fire Anyone Who Came Up With a Postwar Plan for Iraq

There was already an offensive plan in place for Iraq, according to the general. "Whether we were going to execute it, we had no idea," he said.

"[Rumsfeld] continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."

Scheid told the newspaper that the planners continued to try "to write what was called 'Phase 4'," a part of the war plan that included post-invasion operations, including, if necessary, the occupation of Iraq. "Even if the troops didn't stay, at least we have to plan for it," he said.

But when told about the "Phase 4" postwar plan, Scheid said, Rumsfeld warned the planners that "he would fire the next person that said that." The general told the Daily Press that Rumsfeld instructed the planners to "not do planning for Phase 4 operations," because that would "require all those additional troops that people talk about today."

2004: Rumsfeld's Revealing Slips of the Tongue

That the administration was more concerned about Saddam than about bin Laden was inadvertently revealed by Rumsfeld himself two years ago. In a speech to the National Press Club on the eve of the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Rumsfeld began by saying, "the world just before the attacks was not as serene" as some people then suggested.

"The leader of the opposition Northern Alliance, Massoud, lay dead, his murder ordered by Saddam Hussein -- by Osama bin Laden -- the Taliban’s co-conspirator," Rumsfeld said.

He was referring to Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, who was assassinated by an al-Qaida suicide bomber posing as a TV news cameraman during a press conference in northern Afghanistan two days before the 9/11 attacks.

Later, in response to a reporter's question, Rumsfeld again let his tongue slip during a discourse about how U.S. and coalition actions had made it more difficult for terrorists to operate.

"Saddam Hussein, if he’s alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught. And we’ve not seen him on a video since 2001," Rumsfeld said. "Now, he’s got to be busy. Why is he busy? It’s because of the pressure that’s being put on him."

Saddam Hussein not seen on video since 2001?? What the hell was Rumsfeld talking about? The now-deposed Iraqi dictator has been a fixture on both Iraqi and global TV since the 1991 Gulf War.

Bush Used 9/11 As a Pretext to Go After His Real Target: Saddam

Forget about all that rhetoric by the Bush administration about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Forget about all that rhetoric by the administration about Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, having met with Iraqi intelligence officers. All that has been effectively debunked by the Senate report.

It is quite apparent to this blogger, based on the Senate report and on General Scheid's statements, that Bush had Saddam Hussein in his cross-hairs from the day the president was sworn in at his inauguration in January 2001. Bush apparently was planning to invade Iraq long before the September 11 attacks.

Bush's self-declared "war on terror" was and is, as far as this blogger's concerned, a pretext to justify an invasion of Iraq -- and the Bush White House was determined to employ every scrap of intelligence, no matter how faulty, to build a case to topple Saddam.

That Bush sent troops to Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida and its Taliban sponsors was more out of necessity to respond to overwhelming public pressure to act after the 9/11 attacks than for anything else. Remember that Bush sent fewer than 15,000 troops to Afghanistan -- a little over 10 percent of the 140,000 troops now in Iraq.

This blogger has come to the conclusion that the war in Afghanistan was a "dress rehearsal" for Bush to go after his real target -- Saddam Hussein.


Bush's Motivation for Iraq Invasion: Avenging Saddam's 1993 Attempt to Kill His Father

The White House will never admit it publicly -- indeed, the administration will vehemently deny it -- but it can no longer be dismissed as mere speculation that Bush had a deeply personal motivation to take out Saddam: Lest we forget, Saddam tried to kill Bush's father.

In April 1993, just three months after leaving office, the elder Bush was visiting U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait when agents of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, on direct orders from Saddam, attempted to assassinate the former president via a suicide car bombing.

However, the would-be assassins never got a chance to carry out their deadly mission; they were seized by Kuwaiti security agents.

The firestorm of American public outrage to the news that Saddam would dare try to kill their president -- even a president they voted out of office only five months before -- led President Bill Clinton to order a retaliatory Tomahawk cruise missile attack that destroyed the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi spy agency.

While the missile attack satisfied American public opinion -- albeit briefly -- it apparently didn't satisfy the former president's son. In other words, "Dubyah" wanted revenge. And when the younger Bush was sworn into office, Saddam knew from the outset that he was a marked man -- which is why the Iraqi dictator went into hiding after the fall of Baghdad.

The current president has made only one public reference to the assassination attempt against his father -- and even then, only incidentally -- during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2002, in which he accused Saddam of violating both the commitments he had made at the end of the Gulf War and a host of prior anti-Iraq U.N. resolutions.

But if anyone thinks that Bush wasn't motivated by a desire to take revenge for Saddam's attempt to kill his father -- and at the same time, "one-up" his father for not taking out Saddam in the Gulf War when he had the chance -- this blogger has a certain bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell you.

September 11 Attacks Forced Bush to Postpone Iraq Invasion

For as long as humanity has walked on Earth, fear has been -- and continues to be -- a powerful motivating factor. Depending on the circumstances, fear can be a necessary tool for survival. But if left unchecked, fear can degenerate into paranoia, which, in turn, can drive people -- even nations -- to do terrible things that, under any other circumstances, they wouldn't dream of doing and even condemn as barbaric.

It was the collective fear of the American public of another massive terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- one far worse than that which happened on 9/11 -- that doubtless drove the Bush administration's initial response. The president really had no choice but to act against al-Qaida and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan. The evidence that bin Laden's terrorist network was behind 9/11 was too overwhelming for Bush to ignore.

Yet even as he declared the war on terror and sent U.S. forces to Afghanistan to go after al-Qaida and the Taliban, Bush was far more interested in going after Saddam. By this time, his plans to invade Iraq were already well under way. The 9/11 attacks forced Bush to postpone his Iraq invasion -- but they also gave the president a tailor-made justification for it.

The result was the promulgation of the doctrine of pre-emptive war: Strike out at the enemy first before it had a chance to strike out at you. Israel employed that tactic in the Six-Day War of 1967, launching pre-emptive strikes at Egypt and Syria when it became apparent that they were preparing to attack the Jewish state.

If a pre-emptive war worked for Israel, it should work for the U.S. as well, Bush reasoned. Never mind the fact that Israel was caught off-guard in 1973 when Egypt and Syria attacked it on Yom Kippur -- Judaism's holiest day -- when Israel was effectively shut down for the holiday.

Nevertheless, the war in Afghanistan was, for a time, a great success. It overthrew the Taliban regime which gave sanctuary to al-Qaida. That, in turn, robbed bin Laden's terror network of its training bases that made it possible for al-Qaida to plan for and launch its attacks. It did decimate much of al-Qaida's leadership.

And it did liberate the people of Afghanistan from five years of oppression under the most brutally totalitarian theocratic dictatorship in the world -- a regime so brutal, even the mullahs of Iran feared and loathed it. And the war in Afghanistan had the solid backing of the American people and of nations around the world.

A Dangerous Diversion of Resources Away From the War on Terror

But then, flush with the sense of victory -- as he demonstrated in his now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" address aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Pacific on May 1, 2003 -- Bush turned his attention back toward his number-one target: Saddam Hussein -- who, as we now know, not only had nothing to do with 9/11, but considered bin Laden an enemy.

Now, five years after 9/11, Iraq hangs like a millstone around Bush's neck. Many nations around the world -- and now a solid majority of the American people, according to opinion polls -- do not see the war in Iraq as part of the larger war on terror.

To the contrary, they now see Iraq as a dangerous distraction from the war on terror that has not only diverted much-needed anti-terror resources, but has actually exacerbated the terrorist threat by enabling al-Qaida and other extremists to recruit a new generation of jihadists.

Not to mention also enabling al-Qaida to spend its still-formidable wealth on acquiring new caches of weapons. It's no secret that al-Qaida has made the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction -- especially nuclear arms -- a top priority.

Iraq is now the greatest single factor in what by now should be quite evident: The war on terror is going to last much longer than any of us had anticipated and will be much harder to win.

Bush vehemently insists that Iraq must be won or the war on terror will be lost. Opponents, including this blogger, insist with equal vehemence that the war on terror would have been much easier to win had Bush not invaded Iraq -- and now have solid evidence to back up their argument.

And while the debate rages on, Iraq sinks deeper and deeper into chaos and all-out sectarian warfare. To make matters worse, the daily orgy of suicide bombings that have been commonplace in Iraq for the last two years now threatens to engulf Afghanistan, as the Taliban, with the help of al-Qaida, is waging a rapidly-escalating guerrilla war against foreign troops and the Afghan government.

Restating the (By Now) Obvious: Iraq Is Bush's Vietnam

This blogger has said it before, and will say it again: Iraq has become George W. Bush's Vietnam. And while the administration will adamantly deny it, its rhetoric on Iraq today is sounding increasingly like the Johnson administration's rhetoric on Vietnam four decades earlier.

Bush is putting forth his own "domino theory" of Iraq and its Muslim neighbors falling like dominoes to "Islamic fascism" if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq now. That's almost word for word the same rhetoric President Lyndon Johnson used about the whole of Southeast Asia falling like dominoes to communism if the U.S. pulled out of South Vietnam.

South Vietnam did fall to the communists in 1975, two years after the last U.S. forces withdrew. But history would ultimately prove Johnson wrong about the rest of Southeast Asia. And history will likewise prove Bush wrong about the Muslim world falling like dominoes to "Islamic fascism" as well.

The thousands of people who lost their lives on 9/11 have been betrayed. Their loved ones have been betrayed. Their country has been betrayed. Indeed, the world has been betrayed. The war in Iraq has become a massive drain on the war on terror.

We have all been betrayed by a man who used the power of this nation's highest office to settle a personal score with a tinpot Middle Eastern dictator. And as a result, our country -- and the world -- is a much more dangerous place in which to live.

On this fifth anniversary of the worst single act of mass murder in the lifetimes of every living American, I am saying publicly and with deep conviction that our country has been betrayed by this president.

And for their "high crimes and misdemeanors," as defined by the Constitution, George W. Bush, his administration and their Republican allies who control the Congress have no legitimacy whatsoever to remain in office.

# # #

Volume I, Number 41
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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