Doubtful Conviction

Surfing the Net one evening this week, for the first time I had to wonder whether bin Laden is all he is cracked up to be. An article from Pakistan [1] makes this compelling argument: Anonymous members of the highly educated, international Muslim elite, with an entree both in the West and in their own countries, were much better placed to deliver such a logistically sophisticated blow against America than either bin Laden or the Taliban.

America’s spymasters have been decrying the reluctance of field agents to get out of their carpeted offices into the “sewers”, while the top brass fret about the difficulty of lobbing bombs into the right “holes.” But anyone who saw the attack on TV might wonder if the attackers were not operating in the gutter, but somewhere over our heads.

If our spooks abroad never get out of the office, then it figures that the only suspect they come up with for every attack in the last decade is the CIA’s old subcontractor, Osama bin Laden. For every ex-protege like “OBL”, there must be thousands of zealots whom the CIA has never heard of, simply because they were never on our payroll.

Bin Laden coyly denies the attacks, yet no one else claims responsibility. Could bin Laden be decoy and cover boy for the real McCoys?

Lots of commentators say there must have been some kind of state support. Yet it wouldn’t have to be official support, especially in the world of undercover operations. Government employees can use their offices to arrange things after office hours, too. [2]

Then there are the “links”. All the evidence Washington talks about seems to be of the link or “associate” variety. Such and such a suspect knew or met somebody who knew OBL, or had been to Afghanistan for training, etc.

Multi-millionaires (like OBL) normally know a lot of people, thousands, even, though they generally do not talk about it. Do you remember the law of large numbers from math class – how quickly and astronomically permutations and combinations multiply? If you know one well-connected person – and you certainly know at least one – you are only two or three links away from anyone on this planet!

All human beings are closely linked one way or another. That is the mathematical grounds for rejecting of guilt by association in jurisprudence and ethics.

The US refusal to release “confidential evidence” is very suspect, too. When the argument about protecting secret information has been overthrown in immigration cases, courts have found the mysterious evidence was useless. America even reneged on data promised to NATO heads of state! Perhaps they would have leaked it to bin Laden in his hideout? Or would the evidence show the FBI is regularly exceeding its brief to trample on citizens’ privacy? Obviously, our government doesn’t want an international trial, where the enemy’s defense would be that the US is a terrorist state! [3]. They want a witch hunt.

It is true that to prepare an attack like this, there must be close links within the attacking group [4], but do intelligence agencies know which outer “links” were operational? To keep the plan secret, information will be tightly restricted to the items, persons and times needed. Associates without the need to know will not know. To rein in the law of large numbers, the triad cell structure is used, to compartmentalize and limit information to the smallest feasible number of people.

This lends some plausibility to bin Laden’s assertion that the Sept. 11 attack was carried out by other individuals with their own motivation. To his biographer, he has only admitted to responsibility for a single action in Somalia..

Individual motivation is a key here. In war, a government pays or pushes its soldiers to fight (“soldi” is the Italian word for money or pay), and part of the deal is that the soldiers also expect to return alive. The greatest responsibility for their killing lies with their leaders, because they create the conditions to overcome the natural human reluctance of recruits to fight.

Although extremist cells also have senior and junior members, their “supply and demand” equation is very different. The demand to die in battle comes from the volunteers, and there are far more volunteers for suicide attacks than any facilitator could ever equip. A greater part of the responsibility remains with the martyrs in the trenches, especially if those who help them on their way are not fully informed. Most often, the only ones we can be sure were guilty parties are dead on arrival, their punishment self-inflicted. The real bomber is the mastermind who assembles the bomb and places it on target. In a suicide bombing, he is gone.

With a triad structure, trainers or donors do not need to know exactly where and how the skills or funds they share will eventually be used. Of course, OBL’s camps play a role on the supply side, in training, but when there is an oversupply anyway, is that the main problem?

The triad structure makes it possible for any agency, even anti-Muslim provocateurs, to recruit zealots. The hermetically sealed triad cells will act like a trained weapon that anyone can point at the US or Israel. This makes it difficult to rule out the various conspiracy theories.

Another element of doubt is America’s gross display of partisanship. Bin Laden was accused within minutes of the event, while links to American allies like Saudi Arabia or Egypt are ignored. The unit that carried out the attack was reported to be the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is styled the brain behind bin Laden. Yet Egypt is being left out of this, perhaps not to endanger Israel. [5]

The US has been seeking a pretext to intervene militarily against the Taliban, as reported in the Guardian. The suicide bombing against Shah Ahmed Mahsoud could have been retaliation for a CIA attempt to get him to assassinate bin Laden. Washington does not want to negotiate with the Taliban, they just want them out.

The US would also like to bomb Iraq some more, and when Afghanistan began to look like a thorny target, the Bushhawks starting pushing for this. Hard-line Washington Post columnist Hoagland advocates attacking Iraq even if it is not involved!

Of course, such punishments cannot be retaliation for the attack on the US, because the US has already been beating these countries to a pulp, as part of the perimeter defense of its Zionist beachhead in the Middle East. The US could cut off the taproot of terrorism simply by removing support for Israeli apartheid, and supporting pluralist democracy, with equal rights regardless of religion or ethnic origin, for all the people of that state.

If the US wants to fight terrorism, it should be consistent and stand against all forms of intimidation. Professional armies defend by frightening enemies, too. Instead, the strong nations control the flow of technology and even the media, which they use to proclaim that guerrilla tactics of weaker states, exclusively labeled as terror, are morally inferior.

This attack shows how much America is blinded by its one-sided dependence on technology. Absolute superiority in technology is not the only kind of military or moral superiority. No nation has ever had the moral authority to hold onto all its military conquests. It reminds me how, when I was a kid, we used to wonder what would happen if you had all the money in the world? It is an interesting thought experiment. Obviously, you have to share some to get people to do things for you, and then you don’t have all of it any more. And if you are too mean to do that, they will all turn their backs on you. The point is, we don’t have a monopoly on wits and fighting ability. We should have learned that from the Viet Cong.

America is ruled by the fallacy that we have to keep “them” poor so we can be rich. [6] We do not try to export our values or our standard of living. We preach them, but we intervene to trip up any nation that really wants to be independent or to get its fair share. This, and not whether Afghan girls can go to school, is America’s quarrel with the Taliban. The Pax Americana severely punishes any state that won’t respond to American leverage.

Islam’s inherent independence from Western materialism, and its social, non-elitist character of great potential worldwide appeal, is a threat to every empire, just as Christianity menaced Rome in its day. American hegemony does not need to be directly anti-Islamic, since it is basically a color-blind, dollar-based system for plutocratic elites everywhere, but co-opting “moderate” Islam is a top priority for US policy.

The attack was not on Americans as a people, but on our foreign policy: imperialism, Zionist apartheid, materialism, and exported decadence. However, when 90% of our public ratify a mindless, bloodthirsty reaction, one has to ask, is the American people signing off on its own collective guilt? Americans have not even thought to ask if it is alright to yearn for a life of quiet luxury while ruling the Middle East with a web of corruption and a reign of techno-terror.

America has gotten to be 200 years old without anyone attacking us. Partly because we are insulated by two oceans, partly because of our power, and partly people don’t want to hate us, because America is a conglomerate of all nationalities, a chance for the world to transcend ethnic strife. We would never have been attacked until this day had we not started to take sides in foreign conflicts. When you take sides, inevitably you sometimes take the wrong one, and this has created the Mideast Crisis. It is our government and business elites that are enthused with the idea of world dominance. Americans don’t really need all that. Isolationism was the American Way, which our elites weaned us away from by a series of provocations.[7]

Our favorite method has been the Roman and British one of divide and conquer, to set one regional group against another, committing our own troops sparingly just to make the deciding balance. In 1942 we waited for Hitler and Stalin to slug it out. Same with the Afghan war – we stopped the Evil Empire of the Soviets with Afghan blood. Gulf war, Vietnam war, ditto. So now we’ll see America rearming the Northern Alliance. I don’t like the Taliban, but these are the classic, textbook contra tactics mentioned by Mosaddeq (3). If you apply his theory, Israel was created by Britain and the US exactly to destabilize and weaken the Muslim world. And it is our illegal colony in Palestine that has finally got us onto the front line of fire of Old World hatreds, against the most implacable of enemies – Muslim suicide bombers.

A revealing remark was made by Sec. Rumsfeld about our involvement in Afghanistan: “We’re not going to get into nation-building, we’re going to get justice”. What ignorance of statecraft – and of justice. Heaven forbid we should do a free and unsubservient people a good turn, after using them as grist to the grinder of Soviet occupation.

Conspiracy candidates

Spengler, Chalmers Johnson, and the Washington Post seem to agree on a middle interpretation: that the attackers worked mainly on their own initiative, with backing from somewhere in the Muslim world, and perhaps some loose link to veterans of the Afghan war; but the US we have created this supply of eager martyrs that anyone with an agenda of intrigue can plug into. But one writer in the Jordan Times believes Arabs have been framed by other groups that stand to benefit.

Who would benefit? Anyone who wants to see a huge military reaction: the US military-industrial complex, or an invisible clique of plutocrats behind the scenes and not answerable to any government? How would they do it? Either by actively supporting a commando group, or passively seeing to it that they are not stopped.

Who would like to see Muslims attack Christians? Could be edifying for Zionists, Hindus or atheists, i.e. Russians. How would they recruit? Using “agents of influence”, Muslims who don’t see the whole picture of what they are being led to do. Even bin Laden could be in that category.

Russia is known as the home of chess players, and this attack was a stunning move that realigned the geopolitical chessboard in Russia’s favor. A free hand in “terrorist” Chechnya, further admission to the club of “civilized” nations. The Russia theory fits in best with an Orwellian triangular model of three blocks in constant struggle: Russia, the West, and Islam, the Great Game that has been played around the Khyber pass for going on two centuries. Putin is of course a KGB officer, who got his political start with the second Chechen war, which he started in reaction to the bombing of apartment blocks in Moscow. It was widely reported that these atrocities were engineered by the secret security services, and the defendants currently being secretly tried are none of them Chechens. Why shouldn’t Russia get Western acquiescence on Chechnya with a similar trick? And in the bargain, take the other two sides of the triangle, the USA and the Muslims down a notch.

It is objected that Russians wouldn’t commit suicide. But of course, the fingers that pull the strings don’t get burned, only the martyr fodder.

Concerning a possible Israeli plot, the FBI made a strange arrest of Israelis near the WTC after bombing. According to some sources, Mossad was implicated in the 1993 WTC bombing. Israeli’s undercover services include many agents who can pass perfectly for Arabs, and Hamas was allegedly founded by Israel under Sharon as competition to the PLO. The motive – for Sharon to obtain a freer hand in crushing occupied Palestine, and to destabilize the only Islamic nuclear power, Pakistan – hopefully to get the US or India to make a strike at its weapons capacity. Perhaps that is why the ex-director of Pakistani intelligence, Hamid Gul, told he believes in an Israeli plot.

As for the US, apparently, when it comes to containing militant Islam, any ally is good, even if hitherto unloved – Russians, Jews, Hindus.

Important is that almost anyone, having a modest capacity to finance, infiltrate, and organize, can get hold of the “enriched Muslim isotopes” in the heads of millions of youths. This dangerous material is for “hire” for negative wages, for the right to die. Here we depart from the realm of rational calculation and feasible defense.

If any group under the sun can harness these janissaries against the US for their goals, whose fault is it? The responsibility is clearly with those who created the isotopes and set them loose in the world. It is the rape of Palestine over a century and 53 years of lies, manipulation, and aborted peace and democracy that have created this cancer. Who did that – we did (the very same folks who brought you that other isotope, U235). From there, the buck stops with the American Zionist lobby. Address your grievances and damages suits to AIPAC.

How high Bush piled it on that night when he intoned about an attack on freedom – The Great Lie of the Year. On the contrary, it is disloyalty to freedom, our duplicity, our double standards,  [8] our insistent support for oppression and racism, for an apartheid, ethnic cleansing regime, that is under attack. Defend our airports as we may, how will we defend ourselves from our own consciences?

The USA has proclaimed again that Might makes Right. And by the very same token, the attack on the USA was a thunderous success. In American politics, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we rebuild the countries we go to war with. That is the cruel truth: Crime does pay – just as Menachem Begin ‘s massacre of hundreds of Britons in the King David Hotel bombing successfully brought the Palestine Mandate to an end.

And yes, it is the Crusades again. Nevertheless, that clash of civilizations was also a meeting of minds, a time when Islamic learning poured into Europe. Some good may come of this yet.


Resume of evidence:

We noted the following elements of doubt:

Triad structure insulating one layer from another

Links are a weak form of evidence, which the US is unwilling to release

Bin Laden’s visibility as an ex-CIA client – looking for the key under the lamppost, not in the house.

US motivations to move against Taliban or Iraq, regardless.

Volunteerism. Willingness of mujahideen to die for their cause is a problem not only in stopping them, but also in uncovering them: if bin Laden is not afraid, he would certainly not be afraid to cover for others, to frustrate the USA.

Other possible suspects: An international Muslim elite, possible conspiracy by provocateurs such as the secret services of Russia or Israel, or complicity of an American militarist ultra-establishment.

Ultimate responsibility lies in every case with America’s double standard, supporting democracy at home, dictatorship abroad.


[1] The author points out how educated Arabs and Muslims are conspicuously underwhelmed by American culture. “Indeed, the experience of living in the West often turns indifferent Muslims into Islamists,” who are “just the sort of Western-educated government official that the local CIA case officer (who speaks no Arabic or Urdu) is likely to cultivate… Instead of confronting the truth, that an important section of the Islamic world elite has encountered America and rejected it, America hallucinates instead a Fu Manchu character, a pulp-novel super-villain with the capacity to reach out of a cave in the Khyber Pass and send aircraft hurtling into buildings.” ‘Spengler’ in Pakistan’s Asia Times Online,

[2] “This widely spread out association of ‘compartmentalized cells’ make investigation and retaliation against a specific government a most difficult task. Worse, it makes it practically impossible for any government to prove that any other government is the sponsor or financial backer of violent acts carried out as the policy of the country of origin.”

[3]See “American State Terrorism,” , with case studies of destabilization and overthrow of non-aligned governments by CIA-supported terror squads.

[4]According to the Washington Post “The 19 hijackers who carried out the worst act of terror ever to occur on U.S. soil worked with little outside help”.

[5]A historian of American empire writes in the LA Times (Chalmers Johnson, ) : not one of the hijackers was an Afghan; the evidence linking the attack to bin Laden is purely circumstantial; Washington is blundering into the terrorist trap by over-reacting and fueling anti-Americanism and further terrorism; the attack was not on America, but aimed at American foreign policy; if the US does not repent its militarism and support of corrupt Arab and apartheid Israeli regimes, it will become a rogue state.

[6]George Kennan, 1948 (quoted in ) : “We have about 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population… we will have to deal in straight power concepts.”

[7]Public support for the wars of 1848, 1898, 1917, and 1941, which progressively got us involved to the hilt in foreign affairs, was fostered in each case by fabricated provocations and media manipulation. The aim was empire, not to make the world safe for anyone. See my “Memorial Day Tutorial”,

[8 ]See the CS Monitor, Sept. 27, “Why do they hate us?” (

Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)