|All Along the Watchtower|
Along the Watchtower
Thursday, 20 June, 2002
Stanley Hilton, a San Francisco attorney and former aide to Senator Bob Dole, filed a $7 billion lawsuit in U.S. District Court on June 3rd. The class-action suit names ten defendants, among whom are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Norman Mineta.
Hilton's suit charges Bush and his administration with allowing the September 11th attacks to take place so as to reap political benefits from the catastrophe. Hilton alleges that Osama bin Laden is being used as a scapegoat by an administration that ignored pressing warnings of the attack and refused to round up suspected terrorists beforehand. Hilton alleges the ultimate motivation behind these acts was achieved when the Taliban were replaced by American military forces with a regime friendly to America and its oil interests in the region.
Hilton's plaintiffs in this case are the families of 14 victims of 9/11, numbering 400 people nationwide. These are the same families that rallied in Washington recently to advocate for an independent investigation into the attacks. The current 9/11 hearings are being conducted by Congress behind closed doors, a situation these families find unacceptable.
Mr. Hilton, by filing his lawsuit, has joined the ranks of an ever-increasing body of Americans who subscribe to what they call the LIHOP Theory. LIHOP stands for Let It Happen On Purpose. The LIHOP Theory puts forward the accusation that Bush and his people allowed the September 11th attacks to take place, despite the fact that they had been repeatedly warned of an impending strike.
The LIHOP Theory is straightforward: In the months before 9/11, American intelligence agencies received ominous warnings from the intelligence services of nations like Israel, Russia, Egypt and Germany. These warnings were pointed - an attack involving hijacked aircraft and prominent American landmarks was imminent, our security forces were told. Bush himself was briefed of these warnings weeks before they happened. Instead of responding vigorously to these warnings, the Bush administration and its security apparatus did nothing.
LIHOP is, of course, the purest breed of conspiracy theory, involving high-ranking members of government from both parties, as well as the CIA, FBI and NSA. Like all good conspiracy theories, LIHOP is surrounded by disturbing facts and bits of evidence that are difficult to ignore.
The warnings from all those foreign intelligence services, after all, are quite real. Egypt, Germany, Russia and the Israelis were vociferous in their concerns. The German intelligence service BND told US and Israeli intelligence that Middle East terrorists were "planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture." The BND's information came through Echelon, the American-controlled network of 120 satellites that monitors all worldwide electronic communications.
Egypt voiced similar warnings that same month regarding aircraft attacks. Delivered just before the G-8 summit in Genoa, Egypt's alert carried such weight that anti-aircraft batteries were placed around Columbus Airport in Italy. The Russians warned the US that same summer of 25 pilots who had been trained for suicide missions, and Putin himself delivered the warning "in the strongest possible terms" to the US government. The Israeli intelligence service Mossad delivered a warning to both the FBI and the CIA detailing "a major assault on the United States" against "a large-scale target" that was "very vulnerable."
The Washington Post has reported that the NSA intercepted two messages on September 10, 2001, warning that something was going to happen the next day. "Tomorrow is zero hour," was one of the messages. The NSA's charter is to intercept, translate and pass on to FBI and CIA operatives important electronic signals from all across the globe. The Echelon satellite network which provided the German BND with their 9/11 information last June is part of that system.
According to the NSA, the September 10th data was not translated until September 12th, but it stands to reason that they were privy to the same electronic data the other foreign services were using as the basis for their warnings. One US intelligence source claims the data provided "no actionable intelligence," a fair claim given the vagueness of the messages and the volume of material NSA must deal with. Yet in combination with the strident foreign intelligence warnings, the words intercepted by our large electronic ears on September 10th add to the growing questions.
Then, there are the threads. A FEMA official told Dan Rather that the disaster agency had been at the World Trade Center on September 10th. Why? Governor Jeb Bush of Florida signed executive order #01-261 on September 7th, putting his state's National Guard on heightened alert status, essentially placing Florida under martial law for no demonstrable reason. Why? Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial aircraft in the weeks before 9/11, something he had commonly done since his entry into the administration. Why?
At the core of the LIHOP Theory lies motivation - what possible purpose could be served by the Bush administration allowing a terrorist attack to take place on American soil? It is flatly inconceivable to most Americans that Bush and his people could demonstrate such callous disregard for American lives, and accusations that they allowed an attack to happen reek of the worst kind of poisonous partisan politics.
LIHOP Theory, however, is not so easily dismissed. Two French intelligence analysts, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, have published an extensively-researched book entitled "Osama bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth." In it, they allege that the Bush administration put energy policy before national security concerns. According to Brisard and Dasquie, a foundering pipeline project aimed at exploiting natural gas reserves along the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan was revived by the Bush administration when it arrived in Washington in January of 2001.
The pipeline project, which sought to bring oil and natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to a warm water port, had been the brainchild of American petroleum giant Unocal for much of the 1990s. After the destruction of two American embassies in Africa in 1998 by Osama bin Laden, the Clinton administration forbade any American companies from doing business with the Taliban, which had been sheltering bin Laden in Afghanistan. Unocal's pipeline project was frozen.
After the Bush administration came to power, Brisard and Dasquie allege that reinvigorating the pipeline project became a high-priority matter of policy. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was dispatched to Pakistan to discuss the pipeline with Taliban officials in August of 2001. Rocca, a career officer with the CIA, had been deeply involved in Agency activities within Afghanistan. According to documents Brisard and Dasquie claim to hold, the main subject of their discussion was oil. A Pakistani foreign minister was also present at the meeting, and witnessed the exchange.
How does this pipeline relate to September 11th? According to Brisard and Dasquie, the main obstacle to the completion of the pipeline was the fact that it had to pass through Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The project would receive no international support unless the Afghan government somehow became legitimized. In bargaining for the pipeline, the Bush administration demanded that the Taliban reinstate deposed King Mohammad Zahir Shah as ruler of Afghanistan, and demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden for arrest. In return, the Taliban would reap untold billions in profit from the pipeline. According to Brisard and Dasquie, part of the Bush administration's bargaining tactics involved threats of war if these conditions for the legitimization of Afghanistan were not met.
The BBC of London reported on September 18th, 2001 of the existence of war plans on Bush's desk aimed at Afghanistan. Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, stated that the war plans were slated for October of 2001. Conditions set by the Bush administration to avoid war involved the Taliban's handing over of bin Laden and the acceptance of King Zahir Shah. Naik went so far as to doubt that America would hold off on war even if these conditions were met.
The result, according to the French analysts, was total disaster. The Bush administration fundamentally misunderstood the Taliban regime - to bring back the King and hand bin Laden over to the West would have been tantamount to suicide for the Taliban. Instead of acquiescing to the hard-sell tactics of the Bush administration, the Taliban unleashed their pet attack dog, Osama, upon America. They were going to lose everything, and chose to attack first in the hope that all-out war would break out in Central Asia and rally other Muslim nations to their cause.
Motive suddenly becomes far more clear. The Bush administration very much wanted the Unocal pipeline to go through, and put intense pressure on the Taliban to see it happen. As this was happening, American intelligence services were flooded with warnings of an impending attack upon American targets by bin Laden and Al Qaida. The decision was made - let the attack come, and in the ensuing outrage American forces can carve out the guts of the Taliban government like a ripe gourd, replacing them with a 'legitimate' regime more receptive to the pipeline plan.
Did the Bush administration have an inkling of the massive death and destruction that would come on September 11th? Those who espouse the LIHOP Theory disagree on this point. Some believe that FEMAs presence at Ground Zero on the day before the attack, coupled with specific language within the international intelligence warnings pertaining to aircraft and high-profile targets, are prima facie evidence of specific prior knowledge. Others believe that the Bush administration only knew vaguely that an attack would come, but not where or when. They did not foresee the level of destruction, and were caught flat-footed when those planes appeared along the New York skyline.
In the end, LIHOP Theory can encompass either view. Whether they had specific knowledge beforehand, or merely decided to let some attack happen somewhere, the final results were the same. The Taliban were routed and replaced by an interim government headed by a man named Harmid Karzai. Karzai was recently elected President of Afghanistan in his own right, legitimizing the Afghanistan government. Soon after this, Karzai announced the impending construction of a pipeline that would exploit Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves He named Unocal as the lead company for the project. Before becoming President, Karzai was an advisor to Unocal.
For LIHOP Theorists, the evidence is clear. The Bush administration got the pipeline it wanted. Along the way, they used the horrors of 9/11 to place themselves above reproach. In the patriotic fervor that resulted from the attacks, both the press and the Democratic opposition were bracketed by the administration-espoused idea that any questions or criticism were tantamount to treason.
The passage of the PATRIOT Anti-Terror Act has given the US government sweeping abilities to snuff dissent by defining it as terrorism, thanks to the loosely-defined wording of the bill. Bush enjoyed stratospheric approval ratings that persist to this day, and American citizens were given new enemies to hate. The Defense Department, and the weapons contractors who cater to them, received billions from the federal budget to do with as they pleased in order to address the objects of that hate.
Even the most hardened political observer must admit the dismal truth - September 11th was the greatest thing ever to happen to the Bush administration. Attorney Stanley Hilton has brought LIHOP Theory into the federal court system with his class-action suit, and with the families of 9/11 victims he represents. It will be interesting to see what transpires when these two facts collide in an American courtroom. Given the current climate, it does not seem likely that much will come of it. After all, these conspiracy theorists are just a bunch of nuts.
William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. His new book, 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence,' will be published soon by Pluto Press.