God Turns on Repugs

10 Signs God Is Furious With the Right

By Paul Rosenberg, AlterNet, September 16, 2011

Editor’s note: the following is satire… for the most part.

Why is it that whenever disaster strikes, right-wing religious nuts seem to have all the fun? Some might say it’s just because they’re sadists, but they always seem to find the silver lining. 9/11? God’s calling on America to repent! (No, not for it’s foreign policy, you dummy!) Hurricane Katrina? It was that darned homosexual parade the organizers forgot to tell anyone about!

Whatever disaster strikes, there’s always an up-side in religious rightland, always somebody to point the finger at with glee. How come they get all the fun?

So when the East Coast got a one-two punch last month, earthquake-hurricane within a few days of one another, it got me thinking. When another hurricane followed up afterward, it was more than I could bear. And so, I offer you a list of God’s Top 10 Targets from a not-so-right-but-possibly-more-righteous point of view. 

There are at least three different ways to approach this subject, and we have examples of all three. First is to identify specific target groups for repeated offenses—sinners who just won’t mend their ways. Second is to identify geographic targets for specific offenses—sin city or state, as the case may be. Third is to identify specific individuals.

1. Republicans, for bearing false witness.

It’s not just one of the Ten Commandments — the Bible has repeated warnings against slander, false testimony and plain old lying. But Republicans apparently think that God was talking to somebody else—the exact opposite of their usual assumption—especially since Barack Obama arrived on the scene. Obama was born in Kenya, he is a Muslim, he’s a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, he hates white people (like his mom and his grandparents), he hangs out with terrorists. It goes on and on and on.

God has repeatedly told them not to act like this—yet they pay Him no mind. It’s not just Obama, either. When it comes to science, things get just as bad, be it evolution, global warming, reproductive health, or gender orientation; when the science isn’t on their side, the lying and slander take up the slack. It’s not just that the science is against them, you see. Scientists are fraudsters; they are always conspiring against God and his people, according to some of the more whacked out types—like GOP senators, for example. God may have a great deal of patience, but when folks start trying to drag Him into the mix, that’s when the earthquakes and hurricanes begin.

2. The Religious Right, for ignoring Jesus on the separation of church and state.

More than 1,600 years before John Locke and 1,700 years before Thomas Jefferson weighed in on the subject, Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God those things which are God’s.” (What’s more, he said that, in part, as a way of opting out of a tax revolt!) But the Religious Right defiantly continues to oppose Him. God’s been extremely patient with them over the years, but that patience has finally run out, as the most anti-separationist elements of the Religious Right—known as dominionists—have come increasingly to the fore. Some might say they’re embarrassing Him personally. Others will say it’s starting to get really dangerous. Whatever the reason, God’s had enough.

3. The nativist right and the GOP, for a rash of anti-immigrant laws.

“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21 could not be clearer—unless, of course, we switched from the King James Bible to the New International Version: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

But for some in the GOP, them’s fightin’ words. All they can think about is disobeying God. They are positively possessed with the Satanic spirit of disobedience. It began with Arizona’s SB-1070 last year. And while a number of states followed Arizona’s lead with anti-immigrant laws of their own, the most notorious was Alabama, which faced “a historic outbreak of severe weather” in April.

The same day the law was signed, Alabama’s Episcopal, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches filed a separate lawsuit, claiming the law unconstitutionally interferes with their right of religious freedom. Church leaders said the law “will make it a crime to follow God’s command.” Among other things, the suit said, “The bishops have reason to fear that administering of religious sacraments, which are central to the Christian faith, to known undocumented persons may be criminalized under this law.”  If criminalizing Christian sacraments isn’t inviting divine retribution, what is?

4. The predatory lending industry and all who enable them. 

There are numerous Bible passages condemning usury. Typical of these is Exodus 22:25: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Naturally, the whole of modern capitalism is built on ignoring a broad reading of this. But predatory lending is a particularly egregious form of defiance. It’s proved rather costly to our country as well.

A Wall Street Journal article on December 31, 2007 reported that Ameriquest Mortgage and Countrywide Financial, two of the largest U.S. mortgage lenders, spent $20.5 million and $8.7 million respectively in political donations, campaign contributions, and lobbying activities between 2002 and 2006 in order to defeat anti-predatory lending legislation. Such practices contributed significantly to the financial crisis that plunged us into the Great Recession. But it seems that wasn’t a clear enough lesson, especially since those who lobbied most intensely benefited most from the bailouts as well, according to an IMF study. So earthquakes and hurricanes are an old school, Old Testament way for God to make his point.

5. The GOP, for its contempt for the poor. 

For more than half a century, the GOP has attacked Democrats and liberals for their concern for the poor. At least since the 1980s, the neo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party has tried to distance themselves from the poor, and reposition the party as defenders of the middle class, instead. The GOP has responded with policies to impoverish the middle class as well, so that they can be safely demonized, too.

But the GOP’s venom for all but the wealthy has reached new heights during the Great Recession. Not only should those who caused the crisis be taken care of while all others suffer—far too many national Democratic politicians seem to agree on that one—but a renewed rhetoric of contempt for the poor has emerged, in direct contradiction to what Jesus said, in Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Increasingly, it seems, Republicans don’t think poor people are even human. In January 2010, South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Baurer (R) compared poor people to stray animals: He told an audience that his grandmother told him “as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.” He compared this to government assistance, which he said is “facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.” Then, in early August, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, the frontrunner for the GOP senate nomination, compared poor people to scavenging racoons. Talk like that is what causes earthquakes and hurricanes.

6. Privatized public utilities, for the worship of Mammon. 

Public utilities are natural monopolies, totally unsuited to private enterprise, since there is no competitive marketplace. This, of course, makes them perfect targets for monopoly capitalists—Mammon’s greatest worshipers.

Against them, God struck a mighty blow. In Mansfield, Massachusetts, which has had its own municipal power service since 1903, electrical service was restored for most customers within 24 hours after Irene hit, even though 4,000 out of 9,500 households had lost power—quite unlike what happened to nearby communities served by a commercial outfit. According to a local report, the storm “uprooted old trees and knocked down utility lines all over town.”

“Unlike homes and businesses in Easton, Norton and Foxboro, however, local customers did not have to wait for National Grid to respond with crews or listen to a recording on the telephone…. [M]uch of Easton waited three days for power to return and areas of communities such as Foxboro are still in the dark.” According to another report, about Foxborough, “The outrage expressed… is similar to the movie Network in the scene where people flung open their windows and said, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.’”

Then there are a couple of geographically specific targets:

7. Virginia. 

Virginia was the site of the earthquake’s epicenter and the second state where Irene made landfall, so the state is a target-rich environment.

There’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. On God’s bulls-eye scale, the epicenter near Mineral, Virginia is in Cantor’s district—a direct hit. And in budget negotiations this year, Cantor’s contempt for the poor came through loud and clear. He’s been the most aggressive congressional leader when it comes to budget-cutting and pushing the economy as hard as possible over the cliff. Then, after the earthquake hit, Cantor said any federal relief would have to be offset with spending cuts, and quipped, “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.” He reiterated his demand for offsetting cuts when Hurricane Irene hit shortly afterward—even though he voted against such a provision after Tropical Storm Gaston hit the Richmond area in 2004.

Then there’s Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. No way he escapes God’s wrath. Cuccinelli’s widely criticized witch-hunt against eminent climate scientist Michael Mann represents the most extreme right-wing attack on the mythical “climate-gate” scandal, which consisted primarily of scientists making snide remarks about ignoramuses like Cuccinelli. He’s all wrapped up in sin of bearing false witness. Which is where Hurricane Irene comes in—although it surely doesn’t help that Cuccinelli is suing to keep people sick, and has told Virginia’s colleges and universities that they can’t ban anti-gay discrimination.

And, of course, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has tried to have it both ways with God, as well as with the people of Virginia. On the one hand, all the way back in 1989, he wrote a Christian Reconstructionist M.A. thesis, “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade” at the College of Law at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. McDonnell’s authorship of the thesis came to light during his 2009 campaign for governor, but because the establishment is in deep denial about Dominionism in general, and Christian Reconstructionism in particular, the full weight of his thesis never really sunk in. On the other hand, McDonnell has tried very assiduously to walk away from that past, given that almost no one wants to admit to such extreme views. He’s wobbled back and forth on a number of issues, but generally tried to strike a reasonable demeanor—in sharp contrast to Cuccinelli. But God doesn’t like folks who run hot and cold, which is why McDonnell’s a target, too.

Finally, just to be a wee bit bipartisan about it, we need to include Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner in our list—though with a bit of twist. On the day of the earthquake, Warner was scheduled to speak at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpepper, Virginia. He arrived about 10 minutes after the quake, according to the local Star Exponent, which reported:

The building had been emptied of its staff and the approximate 75 people who came to hear Warner so the former governor talked from under a tree atop Mount Pony.

“I was not going to mention the fact that one of the last times I was in Culpeper there was a tornado,” he said of an appearance years ago at CulpeperFest marked by wild weather. “If you don’t want me to come back, there’s an easier way to do this. If we start seeing frogs, it may be a sign of things to come,” he said.

So it’s not that God is angry with Warner, exactly. He just targets Warner for amusement, to see what he’ll say next. And, of course, because he, too, represents Virginia, truly a state of sin.

8. North Carolina. 

Hurricane Irene could have barreled directly into South Carolina, but it delivered a stiff upper-cut to North Carolina instead. And why not? Governor Bev Perdue tried her darnedest to protect the state. She vetoed its draconian budget bill, only to see her veto over-ridden. It too was an attack on the poor — the bill didn’t just fail to balance spending cuts with tax increases, it actually let a temporary one-cent sales tax expire, along with some income taxes on high earners, while cutting $124 million in local education funding on top of $305 million cut in previous years. Perdue also vetoed a highly restrictive abortion law—one that, among other things, has a 24-hour waiting period, and force-feeds anti-abortion propaganda to women seeking an abortion—call it the “Bearing False Witness By Doctors Act.” But that veto was over-ridden as well—by a single vote in the state senate. So, really, God’s hand was forced on this one. He had no choice but to strike North Carolina, and strike it hard.

Finally, there are two individual targets to consider:

9. Rick Perry.

While the one-two punch of the Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene were far removed from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s stomping grounds, God had not forgotten Perry, but was merely preparing to toy with him. Perry, after all, had responded to a terrible drought in Texas not by implementing any long-term policy measures (which might make Texas better able to deal with the prospects of more severe droughts to come as global warming impacts increase), but by calling on Texans to pray.

Back in April, Perry proclaimed the “three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas.” Since then, however, things have only gotten worse, as Timothy Egan noted in the NY Times “Opinionator” blog, “[A] rainless spring was followed by a rainless summer. July was the hottest month in recorded Texas history….Nearly all of Texas  is now in ‘extreme or exceptional’ drought, as classified by federal meteorologists, the worst in Texas history. Lakes have disappeared. Creeks are phantoms, the caked bottoms littered with rotting, dead fish.”

Somehow, though, it seemed like most folks outside of Texas had no idea of Perry’s failed prayer initiative. That’s where God came in, following up Irene with the tantalizing prospect of a Gulf of Mexico storm that would finally bring relief to the Longhorn state. But alas no. First Tropical Storm Jose petered out entirely, then Tropical Storm Lee turned to Louisiana instead. If you pray with Perry, you obviously take the Lord’s name in vain. As one frustrated Texan wrote on Reddit, “Perry’s prayer has been answered. The answer was ‘No’.” God is making things perfectly clear, as Richard Nixon would say: If you want someone praying for America in the White House, Rick Perry is not your guy.

10 God.

Yes, it’s true, God Himself was one of the main targets of God’s wrath, particularly during the earthquake, which did remarkably little damage to the living. But, as Rob Kerby noted at BeliefNet, churches took some pretty hard hits:

“Churches seemed to bear the brunt of Tuesday’s 5.8 earthquake on the East Coast.

“Significant damage was reported to Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, historic St. Patrick’s Church near Baltimore, and two churches in Culpepper, Va., close to the epicenter — St. Stephen Episcopal Church and Culpepper Christian Assembly.”

Okay, so maybe God’s not self-flagellating. Maybe it’s the tenants who are being targeted. But who’s to say, really? And if the God’s wrath biz is all about appropriating authority to cast blame around, then why not think really big, and proclaim God Himself to be the target? Pat Robertson & company have monopolized this gig for far too long. If the rest of us are to have any hope of catching up, we’re got to make ourselves a splash. And what better way to make a splash than proclaiming that God is the target?

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A Cautionary Tale

Easter Island’s End

By Jared Diamond, in Discover MagazineAugust 1995

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?

Among the most riveting mysteries of human history are those posed by vanished civilizations. Everyone who has seen the abandoned buildings of the Khmer, the Maya, or the Anasazi is immediately moved to ask the same question: Why did the societies that erected those structures disappear?

Their vanishing touches us as the disappearance of other animals, even the dinosaurs, never can. No matter how exotic those lost civilizations seem, their framers were humans like us. Who is to say we won’t succumb to the same fate? Perhaps someday New York’s skyscrapers will stand derelict and overgrown with vegetation, like the temples at Angkor Wat and Tikal.

Among all such vanished civilizations, that of the former Polynesian society on Easter Islandremains unsurpassed in mystery and isolation. The mystery stems especially from the island’s gigantic stone statues and its impoverished landscape, but it is enhanced by our associations with the specific people involved: Polynesians represent for us the ultimate in exotic romance, the background for many a child’s, and an adult’s, vision of paradise. My own interest in Easter was kindled over 30 years ago when I read Thor Heyerdahl’s fabulous accounts of his Kon-Tiki voyage.

But my interest has been revived recently by a much more exciting account, one not of heroic voyages but of painstaking research and analysis. My friend David Steadman, a paleontologist, has been working with a number of other researchers who are carrying out the first systematic excavations on Easter intended to identify the animals and plants that once lived there. Their work is contributing to a new interpretation of the island’s history that makes it a tale not only of wonder but of warning as well.

Easter Island, with an area of only 64 square miles, is the world’s most isolated scrap of habitable land. It lies in the Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles west of the nearest continent (South America), 1,400 miles from even the nearest habitable island (Pitcairn). Its subtropical location and latitude-at 27 degrees south, it is approximately as far below the equator as Houston is north of it-help give it a rather mild climate, while its volcanic origins make its soil fertile. In theory, this combination of blessings should have made Easter a miniature paradise, remote from problems that beset the rest of the world.

The island derives its name from its “discovery” by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, on Easter (April 5) in 1722. Roggeveen’s first impression was not of a paradise but of a wasteland: “We originally, from a further distance, have considered the said Easter Island as sandy; the reason for that is this, that we counted as sand the withered grass, hay, or other scorched and burnt vegetation, because its wasted appearance could give no other impression than of a singular poverty and barrenness.”

The island Roggeveen saw was a grassland without a single tree or bush over ten feet high. Modern botanists have identified only 47 species of higher plants native to Easter, most of them grasses, sedges, and ferns. The list includes just two species of small trees and two of woody shrubs. With such flora, the islanders Roggeveen encountered had no source of real firewood to warm themselves during Easter’s cool, wet, windy winters. Their native animals included nothing larger than insects, not even a single species of native bat, land bird, land snail, or lizard. For domestic animals, they had only chickens. European visitors throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries estimated Easter’s human population at about 2,000, a modest number considering the island’s fertility. As Captain James Cook recognized during his brief visit in 1774, the islanders were Polynesians (a Tahitian man accompanying Cook was able to converse with them). Yet despite the Polynesians’ well-deserved fame as a great seafaring people, the Easter Islanders who came out to Roggeveen’s and Cook’s ships did so by swimming or paddling canoes that Roggeveen described as “bad and frail.” Their craft, he wrote, were “put together with manifold small planks and light inner timbers, which they cleverly stitched together with very fine twisted threads. . . . But as they lack the knowledge and particularly the materials for caulking and making tight the great number of seams of the canoes, these are accordingly very leaky, for which reason they are compelled to spend half the time in bailing.” The canoes, only ten feet long, held at most two people, and only three or four canoes were observed on the entire island.

With such flimsy craft, Polynesians could never have colonized Easter from even the nearest island, nor could they have traveled far offshore to fish. The islanders Roggeveen met were totally isolated, unaware that other people existed. Investigators in all the years since his visit have discovered no trace of the islanders’ having any outside contacts: not a single Easter Island rock or product has turned up elsewhere, nor has anything been found on the island that could have been brought by anyone other than the original settlers or the Europeans. Yet the people living on Easter claimed memories of visiting the uninhabited Sala y Gomez reef 260 miles away, far beyond the range of the leaky canoes seen by Roggeveen. How did the islanders’ ancestors reach that reef from Easter, or reach Easter from anywhere else?

Easter Island’s most famous feature is its huge stone statues, more than 200 of which once stood on massive stone platforms lining the coast. At least 700 more, in all stages of completion, were abandoned in quarries or on ancient roads between the quarries and the coast, as if the carvers and moving crews had thrown down their tools and walked off the job. Most of the erected statues were carved in a single quarry and then somehow transported as far as six miles-despite heights as great as 33 feet and weights up to 82 tons. The abandoned statues, meanwhile, were as much as 65 feet tall and weighed up to 270 tons. The stone platforms were equally gigantic: up to 500 feet long and 10 feet high, with facing slabs weighing up to 10 tons.

Roggeveen himself quickly recognized the problem the statues posed: “The stone images at first caused us to be struck with astonishment,” he wrote, “because we could not comprehend how it was possible that these people, who are devoid of heavy thick timber for making any machines, as well as strong ropes, nevertheless had been able to erect such images.” Roggeveen might have added that the islanders had no wheels, no draft animals, and no source of power except their own muscles. How did they transport the giant statues for miles, even before erecting them? To deepen the mystery, the statues were still standing in 1770, but by 1864 all of them had been pulled down, by the islanders themselves. Why then did they carve them in the first place? And why did they stop?

The statues imply a society very different from the one Roggeveen saw in 1722. Their sheer number and size suggest a population much larger than 2,000 people. What became of everyone? Furthermore, that society must have been highly organized. Easter’s resources were scattered across the island: the best stone for the statues was quarried at Rano Raraku near Easter’s northeast end; red stone, used for large crowns adorning some of the statues, was quarried at Puna Pau, inland in the southwest; stone carving tools came mostly from Aroi in the northwest. Meanwhile, the best farmland lay in the south and east, and the best fishing grounds on the north and west coasts. Extracting and redistributing all those goods required complex political organization. What happened to that organization, and how could it ever have arisen in such a barren landscape?

Easter Island’s mysteries have spawned volumes of speculation for more than two and a half centuries. Many Europeans were incredulous that Polynesians-commonly characterized as “mere savages”-could have created the statues or the beautifully constructed stone platforms. In the 1950s, Heyerdahl argued that Polynesia must have been settled by advanced societies of American Indians, who in turn must have received civilization across the Atlantic from more advanced societies of the Old World. Heyerdahl’s raft voyages aimed to prove the feasibility of such prehistoric transoceanic contacts. In the 1960s the Swiss writer Erich von Daeniken, an ardent believer in Earth visits by extraterrestrial astronauts, went further, claiming that Easter’s statues were the work of intelligent beings who owned ultramodern tools, became stranded on Easter, and were finally rescued.

Heyerdahl and Von Daeniken both brushed aside overwhelming evidence that the Easter Islanders were typical Polynesians derived from Asia rather than from the Americas and that their culture (including their statues) grew out of Polynesian culture. Their language was Polynesian, as Cook had already concluded. Specifically, they spoke an eastern Polynesian dialect related to Hawaiian and Marquesan, a dialect isolated since about A.D. 400, as estimated from slight differences in vocabulary. Their fishhooks and stone adzes resembled early Marquesan models. Last year DNA extracted from 12 Easter Island skeletons was also shown to be Polynesian. The islanders grew bananas, taro, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and paper mulberry-typical Polynesian crops, mostly of Southeast Asian origin. Their sole domestic animal, the chicken, was also typically Polynesian and ultimately Asian, as were the rats that arrived as stowaways in the canoes of the first settlers.

What happened to those settlers? The fanciful theories of the past must give way to evidence gathered by hardworking practitioners in three fields: archeology, pollen analysis, and paleontology. Modern archeological excavations on Easter have continued since Heyerdahl’s 1955 expedition. The earliest radiocarbon dates associated with human activities are around A.D. 400 to 700, in reasonable agreement with the approximate settlement date of 400 estimated by linguists. The period of statue construction peaked around 1200 to 1500, with few if any statues erected thereafter. Densities of archeological sites suggest a large population; an estimate of 7,000 people is widely quoted by archeologists, but other estimates range up to 20,000, which does not seem implausible for an island of Easter’s area and fertility.

Archeologists have also enlisted surviving islanders in experiments aimed at figuring out how the statues might have been carved and erected. Twenty people, using only stone chisels, could have carved even the largest completed statue within a year. Given enough timber and fiber for making ropes, teams of at most a few hundred people could have loaded the statues onto wooden sleds, dragged them over lubricated wooden tracks or rollers, and used logs as levers to maneuver them into a standing position. Rope could have been made from the fiber of a small native tree, related to the linden, called the hauhau. However, that tree is now extremely scarce on Easter, and hauling one statue would have required hundreds of yards of rope. Did Easter’s now barren landscape once support the necessary trees? That question can be answered by the technique of pollen analysis, which involves boring out a column of sediment from a swamp or pond, with the most recent deposits at the top and relatively more ancient deposits at the bottom. The absolute age of each layer can be dated by radiocarbon methods. Then begins the hard work: examining tens of thousands of pollen grains under a microscope, counting them, and identifying the plant species that produced each one by comparing the grains with modern pollen from known plant species. For Easter Island, the bleary-eyed scientists who performed that task were John Flenley, now at Massey University in New Zealand, and Sarah King of the University of Hull in England.

Flenley and King’s heroic efforts were rewarded by the striking new picture that emerged of Easter’s prehistoric landscape. For at least 30,000 years before human arrival and during the early years of Polynesian settlement, Easter was not a wasteland at all. Instead, a subtropical forest of trees and woody bushes towered over a ground layer of shrubs, herbs, ferns, and grasses. In the forest grew tree daisies, the rope-yielding hauhau tree, and the toromiro tree, which furnishes a dense, mesquite-like firewood. The most common tree in the forest was a species of palm now absent on Easter but formerly so abundant that the bottom strata of the sediment column were packed with its pollen. The Easter Island palm was closely related to the still-surviving Chilean wine palm, which grows up to 82 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. The tall, unbranched trunks of theEaster Island palm would have been ideal for transporting and erecting statues and constructing large canoes. The palm would also have been a valuable food source, since its Chilean relative yields edible nuts as well as sap from which Chileans make sugar, syrup, honey, and wine.

What did the first settlers of Easter Island eat when they were not glutting themselves on the local equivalent of maple syrup? Recent excavations by David Steadman, of the New York StateMuseum at Albany, have yielded a picture of Easter’s original animal world as surprising as Flenley and King’s picture of its plant world. Steadman’s expectations for Easter were conditioned by his experiences elsewhere in Polynesia, where fish are overwhelmingly the main food at archeological sites, typically accounting for more than 90 percent of the bones in ancient Polynesian garbage heaps. Easter, though, is too cool for the coral reefs beloved by fish, and its cliff-girded coastline permits shallow-water fishing in only a few places. Less than a quarter of the bones in its early garbage heaps (from the period 900 to 1300) belonged to fish; instead, nearly one-third of all bones came from porpoises.

Nowhere else in Polynesia do porpoises account for even 1 percent of discarded food bones. But most other Polynesian islands offered animal food in the form of birds and mammals, such as New Zealand’s now extinct giant moas and Hawaii’s now extinct flightless geese. Most other islanders also had domestic pigs and dogs. On Easter, porpoises would have been the largest animal available-other than humans. The porpoise species identified at Easter, the common dolphin, weighs up to 165 pounds. It generally lives out at sea, so it could not have been hunted by line fishing or spearfishing from shore. Instead, it must have been harpooned far offshore, in big seaworthy canoes built from the extinct palm tree.

In addition to porpoise meat, Steadman found, the early Polynesian settlers were feasting on seabirds. For those birds, Easter’s remoteness and lack of predators made it an ideal haven as a breeding site, at least until humans arrived. Among the prodigious numbers of seabirds that bred on Easter were albatross, boobies, frigate birds, fulmars, petrels, prions, shearwaters, storm petrels, terns, and tropic birds. With at least 25 nesting species, Easter was the richest seabird breeding site in Polynesia and probably in the whole Pacific. Land birds as well went into early Easter Islandcooking pots.

Steadman identified bones of at least six species, including barn owls, herons, parrots, and rail. Bird stew would have been seasoned with meat from large numbers of rats, which the Polynesian colonists inadvertently brought with them; Easter Island is the sole known Polynesian island where rat bones outnumber fish bones at archeological sites. (In case you’re squeamish and consider rats inedible, I still recall recipes for creamed laboratory rat that my British biologist friends used to supplement their diet during their years of wartime food rationing.)

Porpoises, seabirds, land birds, and rats did not complete the list of meat sources formerly available on Easter. A few bones hint at the possibility of breeding seal colonies as well. All these delicacies were cooked in ovens fired by wood from the island’s forests.

Such evidence lets us imagine the island onto which Easter’s first Polynesian colonists stepped ashore some 1,600 years ago, after a long canoe voyage from eastern Polynesia. They found themselves in a pristine paradise. What then happened to it? The pollen grains and the bones yield a grim answer.

Pollen records show that destruction of Easter’s forests was well under way by the year 800, just a few centuries after the start of human settlement. Then charcoal from wood fires came to fill the sediment cores, while pollen of palms and other trees and woody shrubs decreased or disappeared, and pollen of the grasses that replaced the forest became more abundant. Not long after 1400 the palm finally became extinct, not only as a result of being chopped down but also because the now ubiquitous rats prevented its regeneration: of the dozens of preserved palm nuts discovered in caves on Easter, all had been chewed by rats and could no longer germinate. While the hauhau tree did not become extinct in Polynesian times, its numbers declined drastically until there weren’t enough left to make ropes from. By the time Heyerdahl visited Easter, only a single, nearly dead toromiro tree remained on the island, and even that lone survivor has now disappeared. (Fortunately, the toromiro still grows in botanical gardens elsewhere.)

The fifteenth century marked the end not only for Easter’s palm but for the forest itself. Its doom had been approaching as people cleared land to plant gardens; as they felled trees to build canoes, to transport and erect statues, and to burn; as rats devoured seeds; and probably as the native birds died out that had pollinated the trees’ flowers and dispersed their fruit. The overall picture is among the most extreme examples of forest destruction anywhere in the world: the whole forest gone, and most of its tree species extinct.

The destruction of the island’s animals was as extreme as that of the forest: without exception, every species of native land bird became extinct. Even shellfish were overexploited, until people had to settle for small sea snails instead of larger cowries. Porpoise bones disappeared abruptly from garbage heaps around 1500; no one could harpoon porpoises anymore, since the trees used for constructing the big seagoing canoes no longer existed. The colonies of more than half of the seabird species breeding on Easter or on its offshore islets were wiped out.

In place of these meat supplies, the Easter Islanders intensified their production of chickens, which had been only an occasional food item. They also turned to the largest remaining meat source available: humans, whose bones became common in late Easter Island garbage heaps. Oral traditions of the islanders are rife with cannibalism; the most inflammatory taunt that could be snarled at an enemy was “The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth.” With no wood available to cook these new goodies, the islanders resorted to sugarcane scraps, grass, and sedges to fuel their fires.

All these strands of evidence can be wound into a coherent narrative of a society’s decline and fall. The first Polynesian colonists found themselves on an island with fertile soil, abundant food, bountiful building materials, ample lebensraum, and all the prerequisites for comfortable living. They prospered and multiplied.

After a few centuries, they began erecting stone statues on platforms, like the ones their Polynesian forebears had carved. With passing years, the statues and platforms became larger and larger, and the statues began sporting ten-ton red crowns-probably in an escalating spiral of one-upmanship, as rival clans tried to surpass each other with shows of wealth and power. (In the same way, successive Egyptian pharaohs built ever-larger pyramids. Today Hollywood movie moguls near my home in Los Angeles are displaying their wealth and power by building ever more ostentatious mansions. Tycoon Marvin Davis topped previous moguls with plans for a 50,000-square-foot house, so now Aaron Spelling has topped Davis with a 56,000-square-foot house. All that those buildings lack to make the message explicit are ten-ton red crowns.) On Easter, as in modern America, society was held together by a complex political system to redistribute locally available resources and to integrate the economies of different areas.

Eventually Easter’s growing population was cutting the forest more rapidly than the forest was regenerating. The people used the land for gardens and the wood for fuel, canoes, and houses — and, of course, for lugging statues. As forest disappeared, the islanders ran out of timber and rope to transport and erect their statues. Life became more uncomfortable — springs and streams dried up, and wood was no longer available for fires.

People also found it harder to fill their stomachs, as land birds, large sea snails, and many seabirds disappeared. Because timber for building seagoing canoes vanished, fish catches declined and porpoises disappeared from the table. Crop yields also declined, since deforestation allowed the soil to be eroded by rain and wind, dried by the sun, and its nutrients to be leeched from it. Intensified chicken production and cannibalism replaced only part of all those lost foods. Preserved statuettes with sunken cheeks and visible ribs suggest that people were starving.

With the disappearance of food surpluses, Easter Island could no longer feed the chiefs, bureaucrats, and priests who had kept a complex society running. Surviving islanders described to early European visitors how local chaos replaced centralized government and a warrior class took over from the hereditary chiefs. The stone points of spears and daggers, made by the warriors during their heyday in the 1600s and 1700s, still litter the ground of Easter today. By around 1700, the population began to crash toward between one-quarter and one-tenth of its former number. People took to living in caves for protection against their enemies. Around 1770 rival clans started to topple each other’s statues, breaking the heads off. By 1864 the last statue had been thrown down and desecrated.

As we try to imagine the decline of Easter’s civilization, we ask ourselves, “Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?”

I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn’t simply disappear one day — it vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation. Our Pacific Northwest loggers are only the latest in a long line of loggers to cry, “Jobs over trees!” The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect: yes, this year we cleared those woods over there, but trees are starting to grow back again on this abandoned garden site here. Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Their children could no more have comprehended their parents’ tales than my eight-year-old sons today can comprehend my wife’s and my tales of what Los Angeles was like 30 years ago.

Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

By now the meaning of Easter Island for us should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today, again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources. We too have no emigration valve, because all human societies are linked by international transport, and we can no more escape into space than the Easter Islanders could flee into the ocean. If we continue to follow our present course, we shall have exhausted the world’s major fisheries, tropical rain forests, fossil fuels, and much of our soil by the time my sons reach my current age.

Every day newspapers report details of famished countries — Afghanistan, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Zaire — where soldiers have appropriated the wealth or where central government is yielding to local gangs of thugs. With the risk of nuclear war receding, the threat of our ending with a bang no longer has a chance of galvanizing us to halt our course. Our risk now is of winding down, slowly, in a whimper. Corrective action is blocked by vested interests, by well-intentioned political and business leaders, and by their electorates, all of whom are perfectly correct in not noticing big changes from year to year. Instead, each year there are just somewhat more people, and somewhat fewer resources, on Earth. It would be easy to close our eyes or to give up in despair. If mere thousands of Easter Islanders with only stone tools and their own muscle power sufficed to destroy their society, how can billions of people with metal tools and machine power fail to do worse? But there is one crucial difference. The Easter Islanders had no books and no histories of other doomed societies. Unlike the Easter Islanders, we have histories of the past — information that can save us. My main hope for my sons’ generation is that we may now choose to learn from the fates of societies like Easter’s.

This scenario of collapse has been repeated in Africa—though gradually.  Tanzania, for example, has hyper inflation.  Its economy has collapsed.  Increasing woe has been repeated in Sudan, Ethiopia, Republic of the Congo, Zambia, and throughout most of Southern Africa.  In the Republic of the Congo, with the failure of the maintenance of the roads that supported lumbering, the communities which grew up in that region have crumbled and its peoples vanished.  The developed nations are not immune.  Population rather than resources pose the greatest risk.

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9-11 Coverup?

The Bin Laden Cover-Up: Pentagon Scrubs Documents to Hide Truth About Tracking bin Laden

By Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold, TruthOut.org, September 12, 2011 

Senior Pentagon officials scrubbed key details about a top-secret military intelligence unit’s efforts in tracking Osama bin Laden and suspected al-Qaeda terrorists from official reports they prepared for a Congressional committee probing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, new documents obtained by Truthout reveal.

Moreover, in what appears to be an attempt to cover up the military unit’s intelligence work, a September 2008 Defense Department (DoD) Inspector General’s (IG) report that probed complaints lodged by the former deputy chief of the military unit in question, the Asymmetrical Threats Division of Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC), also known as DO5, about the crucial information withheld from Congress, claimed “the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin did not fall within JFIC’s mission.”

But the IG’s assertion is untrue, according to the documents obtained by Truthout, undercutting the official narrative about who knew what and when in the months leading up to 9/11.

Much of JFIC’s work on al-Qaeda and Bin Laden remains shrouded in secrecy and has not been cited in media reports revolving around pre-9/11 intelligence, which has focused heavily over the past decade on CIA and FBI “intelligence failures.” Only a few details about the military intelligence unit have surfaced since then, notably in two previous reports published recently by Truthout.

JFIC was the intelligence component of United States Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). In 2005, it was renamed the Joint Intelligence Command for Intelligence. Last month, JFCOM was shuttered, reportedly due to Pentagon budget cuts, and as a subcommand, JFIC was believed to have been disbanded along with it.

Truthout had previously reported that the deputy chief of JFIC’s Asymmetrical Threats Division, who is identified in government documents by the code name “Iron Man,” had produced “numerous original reports, with original imagery, measurements & signatures intelligence, or electronic intelligence, identifying probably [sic] and possible movements and locations of Usama bin Ladin and [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar.” The intelligence included “bin Ladin’s likely residence in Qandahar … evidently the house in which Khalid Shaykh Muhammed planned the 9/11 attacks.”

However, Iron Man, whose unit also developed original intelligence on al-Qaeda targets, which determined that the “most likely buildings to be attacked in the U.S.” were the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, claimed JFIC was told to stop tracking Bin Laden, suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, and members of the Taliban some months prior to 9/11.

Iron Man further alleged that the orders his unit received, as well as the work it conducted, was knowingly withheld from investigators working for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who were tasked with probing the circumstances behind the 9/11 attacks.

When the DoD’s watchdog prepared its report following an investigation into Iron Man’s complaints, the IG concluded Iron Man’s most explosive allegations related to the withholding of intelligence from Congress was  unfounded. But a close look at the report reveals it is rife with numerous factual errors.

The appendices in the IG’s report shows significant changes were made to JFIC’s original responses to Congressional investigators about its pre-9/11 intelligence work on al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Bin Laden. The information regarding the military unit’s work turned over to Congress described a substantially attenuated picture of JFIC’s operations.

The report determined “operational information in response to the 9/11 Commission” about Asymmetrical Threats Division had not been withheld. Yet, Iron Man had charged the information was withheld from Congressional investigators probing the 9/11 attacks, not the independent 9/11 commission. The IG’s report repeatedly confused the two investigative bodies.

Additionally, while the IG did confirm that Asymmetrical Threats Division analysts were told to stop tracking Bin Laden, suspected al-Qaeda terrorists and members of the Taliban, the watchdog determined that the Asymmetrical Threat Division had “not completed original intelligence reporting” and that “JFIC did not” specifically have a “mission to track Usama bin Ladin or predict imminent US targets.” (Emphasis added.)

In attempting to refute Iron Man’s claims about JFIC’s work, the IG’s report stated, “the 9/11 Commission questions were very specific and asked for information which involved the ‘imminent attack’ or ‘hijackers involved.’ Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11 or specific 9/11 hijacker operations.”

But Truthout has learned that the definition of “hijackers,” as perceived by the Joint Forces Command and Joint Forces Intelligence Command, was overly restrictive. The definition of “hijackers” only referred to the hijackers in the planes and not the alleged planners, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or Bin Laden, which the intelligence unit considered to be part of the team of hijackers.

Messages left for Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the Inspector General, were not returned. Officials who helped prepare the report referred questions to Comerford’s office.

Revealing New Documents

Iron Man, who requested anonymity in order to protect his family’s privacy, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2006 seeking a copy of the complaint he filed with the IG, which was marked classified, and other secret documents pertaining to JFIC’s duties. He received a copy of his complaint in April, just a few weeks prior to the death of Bin Laden. That document, as well as the IG’s findings, formed the basis of Truthout’s two previous reports on JFIC’s activities.

Over the past month, Iron Man provided Truthout with other documents he received in response to his FOIA request, which shed additional light on JFIC’s work and calls into question the veracity of the IG’s investigation and conclusions into the charges Iron Man had leveled.

Iron Man provided Truthout with copies of a slide presentation that was used for a briefing held for the head of counterintelligence and counterterrorism at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). The date of the meeting could not be confirmed.

Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement. He works clinically with torture victims at Survivors International in San Francisco, CA. His blog is Invictus; as “Valtin,” he also regularly blogs at Daily Kos, Docudharma, American Torture, Progressive Historians, and elsewhere.

Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout

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9-11 Truthers Defended

The Critics of 9/11 Truth: Do They Have A Case?

By Paul Craig Roberts, September 13, 2011 “Information Clearing House

The short answer to the question in the title is no.

The 9/11 truth critics have nothing but ad hominem arguments.

Let’s examine the case against the truthers presented by Ted Rall, Ann Barnhardt, and Alexander Cockburn.

But first let’s define who the truthers are.

The Internet has made it possible for anyone to have a web site and to rant and speculate to their heart’s content. There are a large number of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Many on both sides of the issue are equally ignorant. Neither side has any shame about demonstrating ignorance.

Both sides of the issue have conspiracy theories. 9/11 was a conspiracy whether a person believes that it was an inside job or that a handful of Arabs outwitted the entire intelligence apparatus of the Western world and the operational response of NORAD and the US Air Force.

For one side to call the other conspiracy theorists is the pot calling the kettle black.

The question turns not on name-calling but on evidence.

The 9/11 Truth movement was not created by bloggers ranting on their web sites. It was created by professional architects and engineers some of whom are known for having designed steel high rise buildings. It was created by distinguished scientists, such as University of Copenhagen nano-Chemist Niels Harrit who has 60 scientific papers to his credit and physicist Steven Jones. It was created by US Air Force pilots and commercial airline pilots who are expert at flying airplanes. It was created by firefighters who were in the twin towers and who personally heard and experienced numerous explosions including explosions in the sub-basements. It was created by members of 9/11 families who desire to know how such an improbable event as 9/11 could possibly occur.

The professionals and the scientists are speaking from the basis of years of experience and expert knowledge. Moreover, the scientists are speaking from the basis of careful research into the evidence that exists. When an international research team of scientists spends 18 months studying the components in the dust from the towers and the fused pieces of concrete and steel, they know what they are doing. When they announce that they have definite evidence of incendiaries and explosives, you can bet your life that that have the evidence.

When a physicist proves that Building 7 (the stories not obscured by other buildings) fell at free fall speed and NIST has to acknowledge that he is correct, you can bet your life that the physicist is correct.

When fire department captains and clean-up teams report molten steel–and their testimony is backed up with photographs–in the debris of the ruins weeks and months after the buildings’ destruction, you can bet your life the molten steel was there. When the same authorities report pumping fire suppressants and huge quantities of water with no effect on the molten steel, you can bet your life that the temperature long after the buildings’ destruction remained extremely high, far higher than any building fire can reach.

When the architects, engineers, and scientists speak, they offer no theory of who is responsible for 9/11. They state that the known evidence supports neither the NIST reports nor the 9/11 Commission Report. They say that the explanation that the government has provided is demonstrably wrong and that an investigation is required if we are to discover the truth about the event.

It is not a conspiracy theory to examine the evidence and to state that the evidence does not support the explanation that has been given.

That is the position of the 9/11 Truth movement.

What is the position of the movement’s critics? Ted Rall says: “Everything I’ve read and watched on Truther sites is easily dismissed by anyone with a basic knowledge of physics and architecture. (I spent three years in engineering school.) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29113.htm

Wow! What powerful credentials. Has Rall ever designed a high rise steel building? Could Rall engage in a debate with a professor of nano-chemistry? Could he refute Newton’s laws in a debate with university physicists? Does Rall know anything about maneuvering airplanes? Does he have an explanation why 100 firefighters, janitors, and police report hearing and experiencing explosions that they did not hear or experience?

Clearly, Ted Rall has no qualifications whatsoever to make any judgment about the judgments of experts whose knowledge exceeds his meager understanding by a large amount.

Ann Barnhardt writes: “I gotta tell you, I’ve just about had it with these 9/11 truthers. If there is one phenomenon in our sick, sick culture that sums up how far gone and utterly damaged we are as a people, it is 9/11 trutherism. It pretty much covers everything: self-loathing, antisemitism, zero knowledge of rudimentary physics and a general inability to think logically.” She goes down hill from here. http://barnhardt.biz/

Amazing, isn’t she? Physics professors have “zero knowledge of rudimentary physics.” Internationally recognized logicians have “a general inability to think logically.” People trained in the scientific method who use it to seek truth are “self-loathing.” If you doubt the government’s account you are antisemitic. Barnhardt then provides her readers with a lesson in physics, structural architecture and engineering, and the behavior of steel under heat and stress that is the most absolute nonsense imaginable.

Obviously, Barnhardt knows nothing whatsoever about what she is talking about, but overflowing with hubris she dismisses real scientists and professionals with ad hominem arguments. She adds to her luster with a video of herself tearing out pages of the Koran, which she has marked with slices of bacon, and burning the pages.

Now we come to Alex Cockburn. He is certainly not stupid. I know him. He is pleasant company. He provides interesting intellectual conversation. I like him. Yet, he also arrogantly dismisses highly qualified experts who provide evidence contrary to the official government story of 9/11.

Alex avoids evidence presented by credentialed experts and relies on parody. He writes that the conspiracists claim that the twin towers “pancaked because Dick Cheney’s agents–scores of them–methodically planted demolition charges.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/02/the-911-conspiracists-vindicated-after-all-these-years/

Little doubt but there are bloggers somewhere in the vast Internet world who say this. But this is not what the professionals are saying who have provided evidence that the official account is not correct. The experts are simply saying that the evidence does not support the official explanation. More recently, an international team of scientists has reported finding unequivocal evidence of incendiaries and explosives. They have not said anything about who planted them. Indeed, they have said that other scientists should test their conclusions by repeating the research. After calling experts “conspiracy kooks,” Alex then damns them for not putting forward “a scenario of the alleged conspiracy.”

Moreover, not a single one of the experts believes the towers “pancaked.” This was an early explanation that, I believe, was tentatively put forward by NIST, but it had to be abandoned because of the speed with which the buildings came down and due to other problems.

Unlike Rall and Barnhardt, Alex does refer to evidence, but it is second or third-hand hearsay evidence that is nonsensical on its face. For example, Alex writes that Chuck Spinney “tells me that ‘there ARE pictures taken of the 757 plane hitting Pentagon–they were taken by the surveillance cameras at Pentagon’s heliport, which was right next to impact point. I have seen them both–stills and moving pictures. I just missed seeing it personally, but the driver of the van I just got out of in South Parking saw it so closely that he could see the terrified faces of passengers in windows.’”

If there were pictures or videos of an airliner hitting the Pentagon, they would have been released years ago. They would have been supplied to the 9/11 Commission. Why would the government refuse for 10 years to release pictures that prove its case? The FBI confiscated all film from all surveillance cameras. No one has seen them, much less a Pentagon critic such as Spinney.

I have to say that the van driver must have better eyes than an eagle if he could see expressions on passenger faces through those small airliner portholes in a plane traveling around 500 mph. Try it sometimes. Sit on your front steps and try to discern the expressions of automobile passengers through much larger and clearer windows traveling down your street in a vehicle moving 30 mph. Then kick the speed up 16.7 times to 500 mph and report if you see anything but a blur.

Alex’s other evidence that 9/11 truthers are kooks is a letter that Herman Soifer, who claims to be a retired structural engineer, wrote to him summarizing “the collapse of Buildings 1 and 2 succinctly.” This is what Soifer, who “had followed the plans and engineering of the Towers during construction” wrote to Alex: “The towers were basically tubes, essentially hollow.” This canard was disposed of years ago. If Alex had merely googled the plans of the buildings, he would have discovered that there were no thin-walled hollow tubes, but a very large number of massively thick steel beams.

Alex’s willingness to dismiss as kooks numerous acknowledged experts on the basis of a claim that a van driver saw terrified faces of passengers moving at 500 mph and a totally erroneous description in a letter from a person who knew nothing whatsoever about the structural integrity of the buildings means that he is a much braver person than I.

Before I call architects kooks whose careers were spent building steel high rises, I would want to know a lot more about the subject than I do. Before I poke fun at nano-chemists and physicists, I would want to at least be able to read their papers and find the scientific flaws in their arguments.

Yet, none of the people who ridicule 9/11 skeptics are capable of this. How, for example, can Rall, Barnhardt, or Cockburn pass judgment on a nano-chemist with 40 years of experience and 60 scientific publications to his credit?

They cannot, but nevertheless do. They don’t hesitate to pass judgment on issues about which they have no knowledge or understanding. This is an interesting psychological phenomenon worthy of study and analysis.

Another interesting phenomenon is the strong emotional reactions that many have to 9/11, an event about which they have little information. Even the lead members of the 9/11 Commission itself have said that information was withheld from them and the commission was set up to fail. People who rush to the defense of NIST do not even know what they are defending as NIST refuses to release the details of the simulation upon which NIST bases its conclusion.

There is no 9/11 debate. On the one hand there are credentialed experts who demonstrate problems in the official account, and on the other hand there are non-experts who denounce the experts as conspiracy kooks. The experts are cautious and careful about what they say, and their detractors have thrown caution and care to the wind. That is the state of the debate.

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Graham Demands Investigation of New Saudi Link to 9-11

New evidence links Saudi Arabia to 9/11 hijackers: Graham

By Stephen Nohlgren and Susan Taylor Martin, TampaBay.com, September 10, 2011

Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, his wife and twins lived in this home in the Prestancia community of Sarasota. They left everything behind.
Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, his wife and twins lived in this home in the Prestancia community of Sarasota. They left everything behind.

The couple and their two children abandoned their home abruptly, just a week or so before Sept. 11, leaving behind cars, furniture and food on countertops.

SARASOTA — Weeks after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, FBI agents swarmed into a Sarasota gated community to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy young Saudi couple who apparently had ties to some of the hijackers.

According to one published report, the FBI discovered phone calls between the house and at least two of the hijackers and several other terrorism suspects stretching back a year.

Yet until a Fort Lauderdale website reported the news this week, no mention of the couple has ever appeared publicly — not in the Sept. 11 commission report, nor in FBI briefings to congressional investigators, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Friday.

Graham called on President Barack Obama to reopen the case.

“This is the most important thing about 9/11 to surface in the last seven or eight years,” Graham told the St. Petersburg Times. “It’s very important for the White House to take control of this situation. The key umbrella question is: What was the full extent of Saudi involvement prior to 9/11 and why did the U.S. administration cover this up?”

The Sarasota revelations parallel earlier information about a Saudi government employee who had lived in California for years, Graham said. That man, Omar al-Bayoumi, had paid for a San Diego apartment for two of the hijackers, funneled them money and then left the United States in July 2011.

Graham thinks Bayoumi and the Sarasota husband and wife, as well as her wealthy father could have helped form a shadow support system for the hijackers.

“These 19 people did not play out this plot as lone wolves,” Graham said. “The chances that 19 people, most of whom had never been in the U.S., who did not speak English, and most of whom did not know each other, could have completed training, practiced and executed such a complicated plot defies common sense.”

The current administration should re-examine whether hijackers who stayed in New Jersey, Virginia and other U.S. cities also had secret Saudi supporters.

One Saudi living in America before Sept. 11 was Esam Ghazzawi, a financier and interior designer, who had built “a gigantic house” on two waterfront lots on Longboat Key, according to former neighbor Betty Blair.

“I think he sent his kids to camp here, and that’s why he’d come in the summers,” she recalled on Friday.

In 1995, Ghazzawi and his American wife, Debra, paid $350,000 for a home in Prestancia, a lush gated community in south Sarasota.

Their daughter Anoud moved in, along with her husband, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, and their twin babies, neighbors said.

Abdulazzi appeared to be in his 20s, Anoud even younger, said neighbor Tom DiBello, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale. Abdulazzi said he was a student. Anoud was very religious.

“He would come over for a cigarette and a drink and to get away from that praying every two hours,” DiBello said

The couple’s house was elaborately furnished, with Persian rugs, statues and over-sized furniture. The wife’s family supposedly had royal connections.

“He said his wife’s father was friends with the prince or king or something,” DiBello said.

Another neighbor, Patrick Gallagher, said he never saw Anoud in three years. Gallagher had only one contact with Abdulazzi — when he helped the Arab man fix his sprinkler system.

Then on Labor Day weekend 2001, Gallagher noticed “an incredible amount of trash” piled in front of the al-Hiijjii home.

He asked one of the association directors, “What the hell is that trash doing there? There won’t be any pickup until Tuesday or Wednesday.

“She said, ‘They went back to Saudi Arabia and said they weren’t ever coming back.’ ”

Gallagher found it strange that a car was left in the driveway and that the house was not for sale.

He grew more suspicious a few days after Sept. 11 when it turned out that two of the hijackers had trained at a Venice flight school just 14 miles away. So Gallagher went on the FBI’s website to report what he had seen.

What happened next comes from BrowardBulldog.org, a nonprofit investigative website in Fort Lauderdale that broke the Sarasota story this week, along with Irish journalist Anthony Summers, whose book The Eleventh Day: The full story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, is due out next month.

Several weeks after Gallagher’s tip, FBI agents arrived at Prestancia and discovered that guard gate logs of vehicle tags showed the al-Hiijjiis had received important visitors. A car owned by Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had gone through. Driver’s license information indicated that Atta and fellow hijacker Ziad Jarrah were in the car.

Phone records from the al-Hiijjiis’ home contained calls to Atta, hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi and other terrorist suspects.

BrowardBulldog.org attributed this information to Larry Berberich, then a consultant for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office who also oversaw security at Prestancia, and an unnamed “counterterrorism agent” who had worked the case.

Both entered the abandoned al-Hiijjii house. “There was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms and all the toiletries still in place . . . all their clothes hanging in the closet,” BrowardBulldog.org reported.

Berberich could not be reached for comment Friday.

The counterterrorism agent said the FBI tracked the couple’s departure. They left the United States along with her father, Esam Ghazzawi, and ended up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

According to BrowardBulldog.org, the counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and Abdulazzi Hiijii were both on the FBI’s watch list before Sept. 11.

The house stayed vacant until it was sold in 2003.

Summers, the Irish author, recently stumbled across the Sarasota story while researching his book, said Graham, who has known Summers for years. Summers joined forces with BrowardBulldog.org because he is friends with editor Dan Christensen, Christensen said.

Graham, who co-chaired the joint congressional committee that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, noted that the FBI heavily redacted portions of the committee’s report that dealt with the extent of Saudi involvement.

Graham said he did not know why the FBI kept information about the Sarasota couple close to the vest. But he has a theory:

“The administration was so focused on avoiding a second attack that they decided they could not run the risk of irritating the Saudis and this was the results of that.”

Neither the FBI nor Justice Department responded Friday to a request for comment.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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9-11 Files Still Sealed

National Archive keeps bulk of 9/11 Commission report sealed

By Reuters, September 8, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ten years after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission’s investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington, even though the commission had directed the archives to make most of the material public in 2009, Reuters has learned.

The National Archives’ failure to release the material presents a hurdle for historians and others seeking to plumb one of the most dramatic events in modern American history.

The 575 cubic feet of records were in large part the basis for the commission’s public report, issued July 22, 2004. The commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was established by Congress in late 2002 to investigate the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the pre-attack effectiveness of intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the government’s emergency response.

In a Reuters interview this week, Matt Fulgham, assistant director of the archives’ center for legislative affairs which has oversight of the commission documents, said that more than a third of the material has been reviewed for possible release. But many of those documents have been withheld or heavily redacted, and the released material includes documents that already were in the public domain, such as press articles.

Commission items still not public include a 30-page summary of an April 29, 2004 interview by all 10 commissioners with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, conducted in the White House’s Oval Office. This was the only time the two were formally questioned about the events surrounding the attacks. The information could shed light on public accounts the two men have given in recent weeks of their actions around the time of the attacks.

Several former commission staff members said that because there is no comprehensive effort to unseal the remaining material, portions of the records the commission had hoped would be available by now to scholars and the public instead will remain sealed indefinitely.

In 2004 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean said publicly that he was eager for most of the records to be released as quickly as possible. In a Reuters interview last week, Kean said he was not aware until told by Reuters that only a small portion of the records have since been unsealed, and he saw no justification for withholding most of the unreleased material.

But he added: “It should all be available now… We (commissioners) all felt that there’s nothing in the records that that shouldn’t be available” once the election had passed.


The still-sealed documents contain source material on subjects ranging from actions by President Bush on the day of the attacks to the Clinton White House’s earlier response to growing threats from al Qaeda – information that in some instances was omitted from the 2004 report because of partisan battles among the commissioners.

The sealed material also includes vast amounts of information on al Qaeda and U.S. intelligence efforts in the years preceding the attacks.

Shortly before the commission ceased to exist in August 2004, it turned over all of its records to the archives. In a letter dated August 20, 2004, the commission’s chairman and vice chairman instructed the archives to make the material public “to the greatest extent possible” on January 2, 2009, “or as soon thereafter as possible.”

Philip Zelikow, who was the commission’s staff director, said the summary “could be declassified in full without any harm to national security.” Zelikow, a historian at the University of Virginia who for a time also was a top adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the same is true for a 7,000-word summary he helped prepare for the commission of daily presidential intelligence briefings from 1998 through the attack. He said the summary would be a boon to scholars studying the history of U.S. intelligence work.

Stephanie Kaplan, a former commission staff member who is now working on a Ph.D. dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on al Qaeda, said she has had to rely heavily on other sources because so little of the commission data is public.

Fulgham said that in preparation for the 2009 deadline, the archives assigned additional employees for some months to help prepare disclosure of an initial batch of records. But since then the effort has ground to a halt, in part because of a shortage of personnel and the difficulty of dealing with classified material, Fulgham said.

He said another big problem is that roughly two-thirds of the commission material remains classified by the agencies that gave it to the commission.

In its 2004 letter, the commission had asked the archives to submit all classified material to the agencies that created the documents to review them for declassification. But Fulgham said the archives has not done so. He said there was little point in asking agencies such as the CIA and State Department to declassify the material because they already are swamped evaluating other, much older material for release, in part in response to a presidential order to declassify as many records as possible that are at least 25 years old.

Scholars and public-interest organizations that focus on foreign policy and national security have long complained that the government classifies far more material than necessary.

Kean said when he headed the commission, “Most of what I read that was classified shouldn’t have been.” He said. “Easily 60 percent of the classified documents have no reason to be classified – none.”

Kristen Wilhelm, the sole archives official now assigned to review the commission documents, said in an interview that the records agency has focused on releasing material created by the commission itself, such as “memoranda for the record” in which commission staff summarized research and interviews. She said the archives decided to emphasize releasing that material because it is the only possible source for it.

Wilhelm said she now mainly just responds to individual requests for information, and in most instances refers applicants to the agencies that created the documents rather than working to unseal the material herself. She said researchers could file Freedom of Information Act requests with individual federal agencies for documents they had turned over to the commission.

Commission records held by the Archives itself are exempt from FOIA because the commission was established by Congress and the legislative branch records are exempt from FOIA.

Some of the material now public is posted on the archives website, particularly the staff-written memoranda and transcripts of some commission interviews. But Wilhelm said most of the released material can be viewed only at the archives’ headquarters.

John Berger, an author who maintains a website of terrorism and 9/11-related documents, said the failure to release more material is bad for the country because scholars and journalists are often able to analyze such material in depth, producing valuable insights.

“You can point to things produced from declassified documents that help our understanding and the government’s understanding of urgent problems,” he said.

(Editing by Michael Williams and Claudia Parsons)

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Operation Northwoods

Northwoods to 9/11

Was 9/11 the resurfacing of Operation Northwoods?

By David Cogswell, DavidCogswell.com, June 23, 2004

The following appeared in an abridged form as the introduction to Ambushed by Toby Rogers.

Operation Northwoods

Operation Northwoods was an early ’60s plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to create a pretext for an invasion of Cuba by carrying out terror attacks against Americans in US cities.

The plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), by investigative reporter James Bamford (see “U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba” atABC News.) According to the ABC report, “The plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban ÈmigrÈs, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities. The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.”

The plan laid out a design for attacks on Americans by the US government. “The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government . . . and to develop an image of a threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere,” the document said matter-of-factly. “We could develop a Cuban terror campaign . . . in Washington . . . Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft should appear to continue . . . It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate that a Cuban aircraft has shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the US to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela . . . It is possible to create an incident which will make it appear that Communist Cuban MIGs have destroyed a USAF aircraft over international waters in an unprovoked attack.”

According to ABC, “The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.”

Three days after the presentation of the plan to McNamara, Kennedy personally told the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer that “there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba.”

And there it lay.

JFK rejected Northwoods. After being tricked by the CIA into the Bay of Pigs invasion/catastrophe, he vowed to tear the CIA apart and scatter it to the winds. He also ordered withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. Soon after that Kennedy was assassinated. Within a week of his death his order to withdraw from Vietnam was rescinded and replaced with orders to build up troops in Vietnam. The next year a phony incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was used as a pretext to escalate the Vietnam War. But nothing as outrageous as Operation Northwoods was attempted at that time.

The Bay of Pigs

There is evidence that George Bush’s involvement with the CIA dates back at least as far back as the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, which was given the CIA code name Operation Zapata. The names of the ships used for the invasion were Houston, Zapata and Barbara. Bush’s oil company at the time was Zapata Oil, based in Houston. Bush had named his plane in World War II “Barbara.”

On November 29, 1963, a week after the assassination of JFK, a memo was issued by J. Edgar Hoover saying “Mr. George Bush of the CIA had been briefed on November 23rd, 1963 about the reaction of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami to the assassination of President Kennedy.” (Originally published in The Nation, 8/1/88. See Paul Kangas in The Realist: )

October Surprise

Bush claims not to have been a member of the CIA until he became director under the previous unelected president, Gerald Ford. Bush maintained his contacts in secret meetings with the agency during the Carter years, and Bush and William Casey were central figures in the shadowy negotiations that came to be known as “The October Surprise.” The Reagan-Bush campaign secretly negotiated with the Iranians who were holding the U.S. hostages. The apparent result of the negotiations was that the hostages were not released before the 1980 election, which would have greatly boosted Carter’s chances of re-election. (See Gary Sick’s October Surprise for the whole story.)

The incident had a precedent in 1968 when presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the regime of South Vietnam urging its President Thieu to hold off on making the peace settlement President Johnson was desperately trying to pressure him into before the 1968 election.

Nixon used his contacts from his term as Eisenhower’s vice president to contact South Vietnam’s president Thieu. The message was simple: Hold out. You’ll get a better deal under a Nixon presidency. And Thieu did, but American soldiers dying in Vietnam as the war dragged on for four more years didn’t. (See The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers)

Bush Under Reagan

In the early days of Reagan’s presidency, Bush established himself as a powerful operator behind the scenes, arguably more powerful than Reagan himself. From the moment of the shooting of Ronald Reagan in March 1981 — only two months after Reagan’s inauguration — George Bush took advantage of the power vacuum created by Reagan’s removal to put structures of power in place that he would use during the rest of Reagan’s term to run various covert operations. During the first critical months of the new administration, when its foundations were being built, Bush essentially took power.

While Reagan convalesced from the shooting, Bush took a command position over new offices created by the new administration with names like the Special Situation Group, the Crisis Management Center, the Terrorist Incident Working Group, the Task Force on Combating Terrorism and the Operations Sub Group. When Reagan returned from his convalescence, he took on the formal appearance of the presidency, but he was largely disengaged. In a very real sense, the first Bush presidency was a 12-year term.

Iran Contra

The criminal adventures of the Bush syndicate continued in the ’80s with the funding of a death squad terrorist militia to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua through terrorizing and slaughtering the population. When Congress explicitly outlawed the use of U.S. tax money to arm and sustain the Contras, as the death squads were called (or “Freedom Fighters” as Ronald Reagan called them), the Reagan-Bush administration kept the money flowing to the Contras from sales of weapons to Iran. While they continued the scam, they pretended in public that “we will never negotiate with terrorists.” “Terrorists” at that time, after the Iranians had “brought the American giant to its knees” by taking of hostages, meant Iran.

The secret arms-for-hostages deals with the Iranians (the Iran Contra affair), were a logical extension of the kinds of negotiations that were undertaken by Bush and Casey with Iranian officials in the October Surprise when Carter was president.

According to retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Al Martin, a former officer in the Office of Naval Intelligence, a plan was hatched in the 1980s by the Reagan-Bush administration to provoke a limited nuclear war with the Soviet Union to cover up Iran-Contra crimes and install a military dictatorship in the U.S. Under the scenario, George Bush Sr. would have been president of the military government. Also involved in the alleged scheme were Iran-Contra criminal Oliver North and CIA Director William Casey.

Bush On Top

The kinds of wars perpetrated under Reagan, including the invasion of Grenada and the covert war against Nicaragua and countless covert operations, continued under Bush Senior, who invaded Panama, aided in the overthrow of Haiti’s president Aristide and attacked Iraq. But Bush did not handle the public role of president as well as Reagan. The more people got to know him, the more they smelled something fishy. When he was defeated by Clinton in ’92, he only received 37% of the votes cast, which are typically only about half the number of eligible voters.

Bush, like his mentor Nixon, was frustrated by the people, who distrusted both of them instinctively. Both shared a hunger for war that was constantly stifled by popular resistance. The population had to be frightened to get them to back a war, to give up their lives for the cause. It’s traditional for rulers to create pretexts for war.

Less than two years before the election of 1992, Bush was riding on approval ratings in the 80s as a result of the staging of the Gulf War, and he looked untouchable. He seemed so formidable at the time that few credible opposition candidates even bothered to put themselves through the humiliation of getting trounced by him.

The Accidental President

By a quirk of history, one unlikely young governor from Arkansas did put his hat in the ring. The public’s enthusiasm for Bush’s war, which had artificially boosted his ratings, quickly dissipated, and as the economy continued to deteriorate, the population soured on him and Clinton beat him.

Clinton broke the momentum of the 12-year Bush reign, and the far right detested him for it. He managed to take a couple of steps to stop the hemorrhaging of money under Reagan and Bush that had created by far the largest deficit in history, and which was dragging down economic activity. Then he turned to his next big project, which was to be his legacy: the creation of a national health care system that would administer affordable health coverage for all Americans.

Clinton’s plan was simple: cut the insurance companies – and their huge profits — from the system, and use the money saved to operate the system. Under the plan healthcare would be administered by a civil organization that was created to provide healthcare, not to maximize profit. Instead of making some shareholders rich, it would provide healthcare for the population, the way it is done in most other modern countries.

But the major corporations that own the insurance companies could never allow Clinton to take away the easy money they made off insurance, so they used their enormous financial clout to mount an all-out campaign to destroy him by any means necessary. With the takeover of Congress by the Republican party, and the takeover of both parties by big money, the corporate fascist faction had the powers of government at its disposal for its partisan agenda.

The right wing never accepted Clinton as a legitimate president, and fought him every step of the way, using any force it had at its command. A campaign was launched to smear him, and bring him down with some kind of scandal (as well documented in The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason, now made into a film). The Paula Jones lawsuit was financed privately by the Clinton hunters. The nearly endless and fruitless Whitewater Investigation cost well over $70 million of taxpayers hard-earned money to investigate and re-investigate every aspect of Clinton’s life, and especially every detail of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, for whom the Republican hound dogs in the House Judiciary Committee seemed swelteringly hot. Other than the illicit sex act, the investigation turned up nothing that could be used against Clinton.

Clinton, for all his faults, was brilliant in eluding the hounds, but his effectiveness as president became a non-issue. It took a nearly a superman just to hold onto his office while under an endless onslaught. He would never ever again attempt anything so disobedient to the corporate powers-that-be as trying to provide the American people a functioning healthcare system. Instead he will be remembered for his success in passing the kinds of bills George Bush himself would have passed if he’d had a Republican legislature, such as the gutting of the welfare system and the establishment of the misnamed North American Free Trade Agreement, which is for all practical purposes a constitution for a global corporate dictatorship.

The Coup of 2000

Although Clinton’s presidency was an interruption of the right wing agenda, the attacks of the right, culminating in Clinton’s impeachment, crippled his agenda and made sure he didn’t follow any of his poor-boy impulses to serve the people rather than the corporate masters. Then came the son of Bush to put the right wing agenda back on track.

The Bush presidency was established through the coup of Dec. 12, 2000, in which thousands of voters in Florida were prevented from voting, and when it looked like Bush was going to lose anyway, his daddy’s friends on the Supreme Court stopped the vote counting and declared Bush the winner arbitrarily, based on a rapidly plummeting 525-vote lead.

Like any of the incidents in this brief outline, volumes could be written on the ways the Bush machine corrupted the democratic process in the election of 2000, and this broad survey is not the place to go into detail. (For a more comprehensive report, see The Best Election Money Can Buy by Greg Palast, a good description of the massive program of voter fraud that was carried out by the Bush machine under Jeb Bush in Florida.)

The Project for a New American Century

That brings us to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the neo-conservative Washington-based organization funded by three foundations closely tied to Persian Gulf oil, weapons and defense industries, whose plan “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” was completed in Septemer 2000. It outlined a plan for world military domination, which we now see beginning to play out. The plan called for an attack on Iraq, whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power, in order to solidify a power base in the Middle East.

The plan was drawn up for Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis “Scooter” Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff).

“Rebuilding America’s Defenses” said that the desired military build-up needed an attack on America to kick it off. “The process of transformation,” the plan said almost wistfully, “is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor.”

The American Free Press asked Christopher Maletz, assistant director of the PNAC about what they meant by the need for “a new Pearl Harbor.”

Maletz answered, “They needed more money to up the defense budget for raises, new arms, and future capabilities. Without some disaster or catastrophic event” neither the politicians nor the military would have gone along.

As George W. Bush’s former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill recently revealed in The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind, attacking Iraq was the administration’s raison d’etre “from Day One.” The PNAC document makes it clear that the real meaning of Iraq to the elites of the PNAC was to use it as a base for its planned domination of the Middle East and its oil.

“Rebuilding America’s Defenses” makes it clear: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The National Security Strategy

In September 2002, the plan of the Project for a New American Century became the official policy of the United States when the Bush administration presented its paper “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” to Congress. The presentation of an annual statement of foreign strategy is mandated by a law passed in 1986.

The plan stated that the U.S. will not allow any other country to build up a military capability that could threaten U.S. superiority. It proclaimed that the U.S. has the right to strike pre-emptively at any country it deems a threat. (See the Washington Post. See also “Exposing the PNAC”)

Finally we come to 9/11, a catastrophe in which literally hundreds of normal security procedures had to fail in order for it to happen. There was a period of 35 minutes between the second attack on the World Trade Center — when it was clear to millions of people around the world that the U.S. was under attack — and the attack on the Pentagon. And not only was the commander in chief sitting doing nothing in a 6th grade classroom after hearing of the two attacks in New York, the U.S. defense establishment was nowhere in sight, as if the $400 billion-a-year behemoth did not exist.

George W. Bush himself — no matter which of the several conflicting stories he tells about his own behavior that day — failed utterly to defend the country or to respond to the crisis when it was ongoing. Somehow his behavior was spun into that of a hero by the mythmaking machinery of the corporate media.

The Bush administration has aggressively exploited 9/11 from the moment it took place to further its agenda and the plan laid out in the papers of the Project for a New American Century: to dominate the world militarily and squelch civil liberties domestically.

The administration’s vigorous attempts to block any investigation of the attacks of 9/11 make it hard to know to what degree the Bush regime is responsible, to what degree it was a lapse, and to what degree was it intentional. But the inescapable bottom line is, Bush was presiding over the country, was commander in chief of the armed forces and was responsible for the country’s defense.

There is a massive body of evidence that indicates that the official story of 9/11 is not true, and that something else was going on besides a handful of Saudi Arabians with box cutters. A number of websites catalog the discrepancies well, including Fromthewilderness.commakethemaccountable.com, and Unansweredquestions.org.

The possibility that the president of the United States would either allow an attack on Americans to further a political agenda is so horrifying that many reject the possibility out of hand. David Corn of The Nation stated a common reaction when he said “the notion that the U.S. government either detected the attacks but allowed them to occur, or, worse, conspired to kill thousands of Americans to launch a war-for-oil in Afghanistan is absurd.”

Corn writes that “to execute the simultaneous destruction of the two towers, a piece of the Pentagon, and four airplanes and make it appear as if it all was done by another party — is far beyond the skill level of U.S. intelligence.” Beyond the capability of the military-intelligence establishment with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend every year, but the operation was not, according to the official story, beyond the powers of a Muslim extremist operating in a cave in Afghanistan.

Obviously someone did it and it was a very impressive operation. We are told it was Osama bin Laden, and perhaps it was. Corn, like most Americans, is more comfortable believing his government would never be capable of failing to act to protect its own people. History clearly shows otherwise.

What fact eliminates the possibility that the 911 attack was a version of Operation Northwoods that was not rejected? The horror that the possibility evokes causes many to reject the possibility out of hand. But setting that reluctance aside and looking at the evidence coldly, the evidence seems to lead us directly to the possibility that this administration dusted off the old Northwoods and put it into action.

Technology for the remote control piloting of aircraft has existed since the 1940s, and is installed in many passenger aircraft like the ones used on 9/11. The CIA uses drone planes to carry out assassinations, (see “Drones of Death” in the Guardian at The Guardian), yet Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney’s claimed that “no one” ever thought of using planes as weapons before.

Elaborate measures were taken to protect Bush from attack by hijacked planes that it was feared might be used as weapons in the summer of ’01 at the G8 economic summit in Genoa.

Why did the administration go through such acrobatics to pretend no one in the defense establishment had ever thought of using hijacked planes as weapons, when it is so obviously untrue? Why does the administration struggle so hard to keep investigations into 9/11 from proceeding? And why do Americans not see a great crime in the coverup itself, even if the administration committed no crime related to 9/11?

All of these outrages stare us in the face – so close we can’t see them. We can’t focus. They maintain a moving target. They keep so much stuff flying around no one can keep up with them. But focus for a minute on any one aspect of it – how can they get away with suppressing an investigation into 9/11? – how could they get away with stopping an election and delivering a bogus, illogical ruling just to get a political ally into power? – how can they pass a budget that doesn’t stand up to basic arithmetic? – and the magnitude of the outrage becomes clear.

In Ambushed Toby Rogers presents the underside of the Bush administration, the side that is too scary to look at by establishment media. He provides us with a compelling view of the sleuth working on the crime of the millennium. It is a mystery worth solving.

One of Rogers’ most intriguing discoveries was a piece of news reported on the morning of September 11 by CBS correspondent John Slattery. Slattery reported that he had encountered someone at Ground Zero who identified himself as a member of the White House Advance Office. The man claimed he had informatioin that a third plane was on its way. It is striking that that was the same piece of erroneous information the U.S. military was telling the Port Authority at the time.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the Slattery story was the reaction of the White House to anyone who asked about it. For some reason, any questions to the White House press office about 9/11 throw the place into a panic. The staff are rendered dysfunctional. They can’t answer. They can’t say they can’t answer. They just put it off, push it away. It’s an agency in denial.

Obviously the administration has a big problem with 9/11. It has spun it into a great triumph of leadership for George W. Bush, but there is little to support it. Bush took a month-long vacation the month before the attack. Warnings during that summer were numerous, and in many cases quite specific. Bush did nothing at all. Ashcroft stopped flying commercial aircraft, but no official warning was given to the people, or even to the relevant agencies that may have prevented the attacks.

Somehow all of Rogers’ delving into the seamy side of American politics has not made him cynical. Go figure. He hangs onto an old-fashioned faith: that the truth will out. I hope he is right.