July 29, 2003
16 Words and 28 Pages
by Maureen Farrell
"All of the answers, all of the clues allowing us to dismantle Osama Bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." - Former FBI deputy director, John O'Neill [LINK]
Each year, Project Censored lists the top 25 stories ignored by the mainstream media. Their 2003 release, which chronicled overlooked news items from 2001-2002, ranked the Bush administration's role in thwarting pre-Sept.11 terrorist investigations at No. 4. "Bush Administration Hampered FBI Investigation into Bin Laden Family Before 9/11," [LINK], they announced, using scattered news reports and former FBI deputy director John O'Neill's testimony to back claims that the government obstructed terrorism investigations and placed oil concerns above citizens' safety. "The main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it," O'Neill told French intelligence analysts Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie.
Though O'Neill died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, questions linger. If he hadn't spoken to Brisard and Dasquie in July, 2001, for example, would hyped tales of his latest sin have made national headlines a month later? [LINK] Or was this hype part of a larger campaign to smear him before his story could be told? And while O'Neill was discredited for his dogged determination to stop al-Qaeda [LINK], why was another FBI official awarded the "Presidential Rank of Meritorious Service" after hampering field agents' efforts to search Zaracarias Moussaoui's computer? In other words, why was one FBI official punished for trying to protect Americans, while those throwing cogs into an al-Qaeda investigation were rewarded? [LINK]
Greg Palast's reports into ways FBI and military intelligence officials were instructed to "back off" investigations involving members of the bin Laden and Saudi royal families were also noted, and he revisited this story on the eve of Gulf War II. Addressing both Clinton's and Bush's reluctance to unearth the Saudis' connections to terrorists, he wondered why Bush was even more skittish than his predecessor. "But what made this new president take particular care to protect the Saudis, even to the point of stymying his own intelligence agencies?" he wondered. "The answers kept coming back: 'Carlyle' and 'Arbusto.'" [LINK]
The convoluted ties that connect Poppy Bush's Carlyle Group and George W. Bush's Arbusto to the bin Ladens and the Saudis are ones this administration would probably prefer everyone just overlook. "When President Bush announced he is hot on the trail of the money used over the years to finance terrorism, he must realize that trail ultimately leads not only to Saudi Arabia, but to some of the same financiers who originally helped propel him into the oil business and later the White House," Wayne Madsen wrote. [LINK] The late James Hatfield, who committed suicide 15 days after the following article was published, was considerably less delicate. Exposing a "plot by Saudi master terrorist, Osama bin Laden, to assassinate Dubya during the July 20 economic [G-8] summit of world leaders," which could entail "a James Bond-like aerial strike in the form of remote-controlled airplanes packed with plastic explosives," he asked, "Why would Osama bin Laden want to kill Dubya, his former business partner?" [LINK] (This was only two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, mind you, and one month before the CIA warned that Osama would try to hijack U.S. planes. Didn't Condi Rice say that nobody imagined such a scenario?) Despite numerous attempts to explain these murky ties [LINK], however, Palast captured them best in a single sentence: "While some people have guardian angels, our president seems to have guardian sheiks."
Now that reports regarding the Sept. 11 attacks have been released (except for 28 pages that have been censored), lawmakers are saying that the Bush administration should level with the American public about Saudi Arabia's "complicity with terrorists." [LINK]. "I think [the 28 pages are] classified for the wrong reason," Sen. Richard Shelby, former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC's Meet the Press, alluding to potential embarrassment to the Saudi government. Sen. Bob Graham, also a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took things a step further and accused the administration of deliberately trying to "disguise and keep from the American people ineptitude and incompetence, which was a contributing factor toward Sept. 11."
On a recent appearance on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Graham admitted that "the parts that were blocked out have primarily a focus on a foreign government that was providing direct assistance to some of the hijackers." The Washington Post also stated that the report proves that: 1) "President Bush was warned in a more specific way than previously known about intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda terrorists were seeking to attack the United States" and 2) "There was 'incontrovertible evidence' that Saudi individuals provided financial assistance to al Qaeda operatives in the United States." [LINK] Once this is fully considered, Bush's ties to the Saudis become even more complicated -- especially since Carlyle Group honcho James A. Baker, Secretary of State during George H. W. Bush's presidency and a key Bush spokesman during the 2000 election fiasco, is a senior partner in Baker and Botts, the law firm representing the Saudis in a trillion-dollar lawsuit against the Sept. 11 victims' families. [LINK]
"We've been fighting for nearly 21 months -- fighting the administration, the White House," Monica Gabrielle, whose husband Richard was killed in the World Trade Center, told Salon. "As soon as we started looking for answers we were blocked, put off and ignored at every stop of the way." Report after report of the White House's stonewalling and use of 9/11 to promote their preplanned agenda are made all the more poignant by Families of September 11 advocacy group cofounder Carie Lemack's recent observation in Newsweek. "[T]he fact that President Bush has chosen to classify [a section of the report] for what he says is national security makes me question just whose security he is protecting: our nation's or the Saudis'? [LINK]
Though these connections have barely been considered until now, the American media wasn't entirely out to lunch. CNN addressed John O'Neill's allegations in 2002 [LINK] and as early as October, 2001, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh unearthed the Bush administration's Saudi charade. Commenting on the Saudi/American-arranged meeting between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and King Fahd, which took place in Saudi Arabia shortly before the bombing campaign in Afghanistan began, he uncovered the aircraft-carrier-sized propaganda value of photos from the meeting, which were transmitted worldwide. "The United States, however, has known that King Fahd has been incapacitated since suffering a severe stroke, in late 1995," Hersh wrote, on the administration's preference for semblance over substance. "A Saudi adviser told me last week that the King, with round-the-clock medical treatment, is able to sit in a chair and open his eyes, but is usually unable to recognize even his oldest friends." [LINK]
Hersh also noted that U.S. intelligence officials were "particularly angered by the refusal of the Saudis to help the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. run 'traces' -- that is, name checks and other background information -- on the nineteen men, more than half of them believed to be from Saudi Arabia, who took part in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." Uncle Sam takes care of friends, however. The Fahd regime was, according to Hersh, also "a major financial backer of the Reagan Administration's anti-Communist campaign in Latin America and of its successful proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union" and by the end of 2000, "Halliburton, the Texas-based oil-supply business formerly headed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, was operating a number of subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia."
And though the President insists he's been "very satisfied" with the level of Saudi cooperation, a senior intelligence official told Hersh that the Saudis "have only one constant -- and it's keeping themselves in power." After Bill Maher recently reiterated Sen. Chuck Schumer's question, "Why is there a constant coddling and cover-up of the Saudis?" Sen. Graham explained the connection this way: "The Saudis and the United States have had a relationship that goes back to World War II and the essential agreement was that the United States would supply security and defense for the Saudi regime and the Saudi regime would assure that we had an open spigot for all the petroleum that we wanted. That's been the deal for better than 50 years."
"I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian," Dick Cheney told fellow oil industry executives in 1998, back when the free-flow of oil was assured in Saudi Arabia, but posed concerns in both Afghanistan and Iraq. [LINK] As Project Censored pointed out, the U.S. had already decided to invade Afghanistan "in the interest of oil" before Sept. 11, with Jane's Defense News reporting that an invasion of Afghanistan was in the works as early as March, 2001 (six months before the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks) and the Times of India spilling war talk beans in June, 2001. And thanks to newly released documents, we now that we know that the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy recommended that Cheney's task force consider "a 'military' option in dealing with Iraq," five months before the Sept. 11 attacks. [LINK]
Aside from the Onion's eerily accurate January, 2001 spoof on George W. Bush's inauguration [LINK], the highest honors for prescient reporting go to the Chicago Tribune, which as early as August 2000 reported that, given Dick Cheney and Halliburton's "financial interests in the Persian Gulf, the Caspian region and the Balkans," Americans could "expect a Republic administration to increase U.S. intervention in regions when it suits Dick Cheney's oil and other corporate concerns." [LINK] But Donald Rumsfeld was also particularly prescient. On the morning of Sept. 11, just hours before the attacks, he told selected members of Congress that "sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 months, there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people, again, how important it is to have a strong, healthy Defense Department. . . ." [LINK] and was reportedly discussing attacking Iraq, even without evidence, that very afternoon. "Sweep it all up, things related and not," Rumsfeld reportedly said, five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
Moreover, in Feb. 2002, Colin Powell admitted (months before George Bush made his case before the UN) that even if weapons inspectors returned to Iraq, the United States would still pursue "regime change" with or without allies' support. [LINK] -- and it would seem, from but these few examples, that members of this administration are either the biggest opportunists or the greatest prophets the world has ever seen. Because throughout it all, Rummy, Cheney and the other folks at the Project for a New American Century, who lobbied for President Clinton to take out Saddam in 1998 and said we'd need another Pearl Harbor type attack to "Rebuild America's Defenses" have largely gotten whatever they have wanted.
Given this, does anyone outside La La Land honestly believe that Bush's stonewalling and heavy censorship of the Sept. 11 report is a matter of national security? The cascade of lies [LINK], hype [LINK] and deliberate manipulation of information [LINK] are conveniently reduced to "16 words," and "28 pages" as symbols of this administration's secrecy and deceit. There is no "leveling with the American people," as lawmakers have requested or "owning up to mistakes," as USA Today would like [LINK], but a series of frustrating, systematic and calculated means of pulling the wool over our collective eyes.
"The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse," Hunter S. Thompson recently wrote, bemoaning various troubles (and the return of "the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world"). "The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives," he predicted. "The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it." [LINK]
Not to rain on anyone's parade -- especially those who still believe that George Bush is looking out for them and that America ventured into Iraq to bring liberation, democracy and dancing in the streets -- but Thompson's "Big Darkness" captures the essence of Bush's 16 words and 28 pages. And honestly, those who consider a billion dollars a week and a solider a day a small price to pay (while comparing the situation in Iraq to the one aggressor nations like Germany and Japan faced following W.W.II) are probably too deluded for redemption. But then again, those of us who cling to the notion that if enough Americans care and fight to revive the fading embers of Truth, Justice and the American Way, we might fend off the Big Darkness, may also be deluded. At this point, darkness may fall no matter what. We could very well be at the apex of George Bush's runaway roller coaster ride through the next worst chapter in American history. Time, as always, will tell.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2003, Maureen Farrell
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