Wednesday, May 25, 2005


A small point about a large conspiracy

Sitting in my email Inbox for a few days were some newsletters from "Unanswered Questions," which is devoted to, among other matters, questioning the government's role in 9/11.

Considering that the Iran-Contra scandal was never fully exposed, that many of the miscreants who were exposed were given Presidential pardons and that one of those unproven miscreants went on to become President, I am more than a little skeptical of the possibilities for the success of their project.

I suppose the theory is that if this or that conspiracy could be proved, it would bring down the government, presumably making room for something or someone more benign. Maybe. But I doubt it.

Just look at what the Congress, the media and the American public know right now about the origins and prosecution of the Iraq war. If the American government performed according to the civics books, were it as it exists in the minds of many of its citizens, George Bush and Dick Cheney would have been successively impeached and Dennis Hastert would be President.

But the American Leviathan is not so easily moved, and when it has been moved the movement does not occur so much out of the popular will as from a coup engineered by one set of oligarchs against a competing group.

I didn't need to say all that to make my little point, but it's just one of those days....

Anyway, Daniel Hopsicker, an investigative journalist who has devoted himself in recent years to the 9/11 conspiracy, has posted a review of a book on the 9/11 hijackers called "Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers, Who They Were, Why They Did It" written by L.A. Times reporter Terry McDermott.

Hopsicker is not kind to the book, nor should he have been. He writes,

With almost nothing new, McDermott's book is instructive only in what it leaves out: who Atta was and who recruited him. McDermott deals with the stickier facts, even ones reported by numerous sources, through the simple expedient of blithely ignoring them.

But the pebble that sticks in his craw is this—

... it's the book's assertions that Mohamed Atta was a teetotaler that may be its toughest sell.

Whether Mohamed Atta was a repressed teetotaler or a man with a weakness for Jack Daniels and infidel flesh is not the most burning question about the 9.11 attack… But its indicative of “Perfect Soldier’s”--and the official story it represents--even-more cavalier treatment of questions which are vital to our understanding of what happened. [emphasis in original]

Hopsicker reviews the piles of evidence to the contrary and one can hardly dispute his point. But he goes on to say—

The record may not tell us who Atta was, but it offers clear indications of who he wasn’t. He wasn’t Wahhabi fundamentalist. We think of Atta as Islamic Stolichnaya. [emphases in original]

And of course, if Atta is not a Wahhabi fundamentalist, he must be in league with other forces, which would be the true forces driving the conspiracy.

The problem is that Hopsicker seems to assume that believers in a religion are consistent followers of said religion. So if the "believer" does not follow the precepts of that religion down to the last jot and tittle, he must not in fact be a believer.

I recall a report shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan that said that it was discovered that Taliban soldiers had had cassettes in their cassette players that they listened to as they drove about in their jeeps—cassettes that were probably confiscated from the general population as forbidden. (I've looked for a link, but no luck. Maybe I have a false memory.)

And here's another example. Asra Q. Nomani writing in Salon reports an interview with a Taliban diplomat—

There is one type of music he allows in the house. Patriotic Afghan songs, "thahrahnah" in Pashto. He gets up to bring a cassette and presses the "play" button on a little red boom box. Deep incantations fill the room. Crows caw outside. He writes the phonetic translation and literal translation in neat English with curls starting his "m's" and "n's."

"Kari khidmat da waran wijar hewad abad kari. Khapal nikona yad kari." Serve your country. Build this destroyed country. Remember your ancestors' deeds.

The Taliban, in fact, had no exceptions to their ban on music, patriotic or otherwise. It's just that those in power or those serving those in power (in theocracies or otherwise) find that the rules don't apply to them—just as Pat Robertson had a stable of racehorses which were presumably to be used to make him piles of money in the horse-racing industry. (After some protests, Robertson got rid of all but one.)

As for the Wahhabis, it was told to me by a member of the diplomatic corps some years ago that one of the Saudi princes maintained the illegal alcohol concession in Saudi Arabia. I doubt anything is different today.

If Atta was indeed one of the hijackers, the question really is what group or ideology could motivate him to the point of suicide other than religion?

If you want to get yourself killed, religion is surely the best starting point. Not only do most religions promise you pie in the sky for your self-sacrifice, but you will be acknowledged as good and noble and strong and all those other characteristics that you wish you were but probably aren't.

It is surely no accident that the Air Force Academy has been whipping up Evangelical Christian fervor over the past few years. And if the cadets got drunk and committed a few rapes here and there, are we to believe that they weren't true-believers? Or are we to assume that all those rapes that were discovered were committed by the few Jews, Buddhists and atheists who can still be found at the Academy?

Now how did I get on that topic?

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