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Lessons from the 9/11 Commission
Last uploaded : Monday 12th Apr 2004 at 02:23
Contributed by : The Editor


I am becoming increasingly concerned as the 9/11 Commission in Washington takes testimony from American government officials on national television and in private.

We now have a situation in which a Presidential Briefing Memo has been declassified for public consumption; it reveals that the Administration was warned about possible hijackings in the summer before the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

MSNBC reports:

'...According to the memo, Bush was told more than a month before the Sept. 11 attacks that al-Qaida had reached America?s shores, had a support system in place for its operatives and that the FBI had detected suspicious activity that might involve a hijacking plot..'

Both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives are willing to concede that ?no specific threat? was described in the memo.

Can anyone reading these columns imagine Israeli officials being warned of potential hijacking threats, as well as threats from al Qaeda cells within Israel, and doing nothing?

I remember hearing an angry and agitated former State Department official telling a British television audience just after 9/11 that he had been aware of a story that Israelis had warned the Americans of a threat of this nature and that ?they had been sent packing.? He added that in future the various agencies of the US government must take seriously any intelligence of this nature provided by Israeli agents.

If warnings were given of potential hijackings why did the Federal Aviation Administration not receive immediate funding for air marshals and for additional Israeli-style security staff at airports? (Anyone who has tried to board a flight to Israel or to leave ben-Gurion Airport knows it is virtually impossible for anyone suspicious to slip through the ruthless net that is thrown at passengers. I say ?virtually? because shoe bomber Richard Reid did manage to get to Israel.)

I was not at all surprised by 9/11. For a year leading up to that atrocity against the United States the Intifadah had raged and the USS Cole had been bombed. Arafat had not been able to declare Palestinian statehood and the hate-fest known as ?Durban? (the UN conference on human rights and racism) had unfolded a few days before September 11th 2001. The terrible reports of Israel-bashing at Durban had been so disquieting that I began to think ?the next thing will be the resumption of PLO-style hijackings.? I was right. I don?t earn a big salary working at the Pentagon or at MI6 but all I needed to do was to walk out of my London flat and see the viciously-worded stickers and posters proliferating in Edgware Road, and be handed a leaflet from a radical group to know that a big attack on the West was imminent.

I get sick and tired of hearing people saying that ?America got what it deserved.? Bill Clinton tried for eight years to bring the Palestinians and Israelis together, only to see it dissipate into a bloody Intifadah. The world turned against Israel, portrayed as an apartheid and fascist state.

My fellow Americans can at times be painfully na?ve and slow on the uptake about imminent threats. In 2000 I felt something terrible was coming and by the time 9/11 came to pass I was not surprised, having seen Muslim rage first hand at my local London mosque even in the days when Rabin was making peace with Arafat(locals were told not to go there on a Friday or we would be ?killed.?)

The 9/11 families are justified in their ire; the American intelligence community must wake up and realise that their methods require vast revision. That it was revealed to worldwide television audiences this week that the FBI and CIA ?do not talk to each other? is a profound embarrassment and an appalling indictment of the intelligence community not to mention a gift to the terror networks they seek to disable.

Many Americans are disgusted by the Patriot Act and by the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Restrictions of rights are contrary to the tenets (sorry about the pun, George) of the Constitution. However, there is a mountain of hate out there and the American establishment needs to get to grips with it. At the same time the liberals who hate the Patriot Act must remember that after Pearl Harbour personal freedoms came under attack and here in Britain, posters abounded admonishing us that loose talk lost lives.

What Ben Franklin would have made of all this is a mystery. One suspects he would have loathed the very idea of a Patriot Act, but he would also have loathed the idea of aging 'spritual leaders' sending teenagers out to kill themselves and scores of innocent civilians.

We learn tonight that in this bloody week that ought to have been a peaceful Chritian Holy Week the Iraqi insurgents killed an El Salvadorean soldier by forcing a live grenade down his throat. When one reads the leaflets distributed in quaint old Church Street Market in Marylebone, London, it is not beyond the realms of imagination that these psychotic practices could soon be unfolding in the streets of Chicago, Paris and London. They have already become a frequent feature of life in Colombia.

Many feel that Muslim arge would be quelled with an end to the conflict and cycle of violence in the Middle East. That would be a blessing, but in the meantime America must improve its ability to grasp that there are cultures within and beyond her borders who want her eliminated from the earth.


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