9/11: Ten Years After


9/11: Ten Years After

by Michael Liebig


The shock and the emotional excitement in the United States and worldwide on Sept. 11, 2001, and during the months thereafter, have faded away with time passing. Ten years later, a sober assessment will conclude that 9/11 has not decisively changed the basic trends in world politics: The most important consequences of 9/11 – the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – have exacerbated America’s military-strategic overstretch and its indebtedness – and thus accelerated the emergence of a multipolar world system. But there is a paradox. As the historical distance to 9/11 grows, the debate, what 9/11 really was, has not become silent.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush told the UN General Assembly, that his administration would not tolerate “conspiracy theories” about 9/11. While opinion surveys in the United States and in other countries vary significantly, a solid majority of people polled do mistrust the US government’s version of 9/11. Even ten years later, a large section of public opinion seems not to view 9/11 as a “case closed”.

If you go to a perfectly normal bookshop in Germany, you will be surprised how many books are on sale (and prominently displayed) which question or reject the official version of 9/11. Are the readers of these books “conspiracy theorists”? Some surely are. Typically, people obsessed conspiracies have a closed mind-set and believe in a mono-causal “explanation for everything” – in the past, presence and future. They simply insert 9/11 into their preexisting, closed belief structure. In contrast, most people buying these books or visiting websites on 9/11 rather seem to be skeptics who are suspicious of what the US government and the mainstream media have been telling them on 9/11.

Arguing with genuine conspiracy theorists is futile, because they not interested in a specific case – like 9/11 – as such. They are only interested in using 9/11 to prove their belief structure. Therefore, we will not deal here with those who claim to know “what really happened” on 9/11: Who did it, how it was done and why it was done.

A Historical Researcher Looks at 9/11

What does deserve public attention, however, is a position of “reasonable doubt” on the official version of 9/11. Its proponents do not claim to know who did it, how it was done and why it was done. But they raise questions and point to unresolved issues and contradictions in the official version of 9/11. Further investigations are demanded, hypotheses may be raised, but conclusions are being kept open. This position is shared by a significant number of – mostly American – scientists, technical experts, former intelligence and military officials – in spite of being falsely labeled “conspiracy theorists” by the US government and the mainstream media.

I had the opportunity to talk to one of the “9/11 skeptics”: Dr. Daniele Ganser, a Swiss historian and lecturer at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Ganser has special scientific qualifications for critically analyzing 9/11. He is the author of the study (his doctoral dissertation) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. The Gladio network was an ultra-secret “stay behind” structure within NATO for conducting irregular warfare in case of a war in Europe. In 1990, the existence of Gladio was revealed by Italian Prime Minster Giulio Andreotti. Each NATO country – and also neutral Switzerland and Sweden – had Gladio branches, which were directed by sealed-off cells within the respective national intelligence services. Ganser’s study contains evidence that, during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, elements of Gladio were involved in terrorist acts which were attributed to left terrorists, notably in Italy.

Three Hypotheses

On 9/11, Ganser has published a number of research papers and given several interviews. His research methodology is clear and open to scrutiny. He has analyzed particularly the findings of the official US investigation led by former Senator Thomas Kean. The findings are contained in the “9/11 Commission Report”, edited by Philip Zelikow, the commission’s executive director with close ties to the Bush administration. Out of the available data on 9/11, Ganser derives three basic theories about what might explain 9/11:

  1. The “Surprise Theory”: The American security agencies were completely caught off guard by the 9/11 attacks. Such terror attacks were plainly unimaginable (before they happened) and there was no forewarning. Osama Bin Laden planned the attack hiding in Afghanistan and sent a group of 19 Al-Qaida terrorists, led by Mohammed Atta, to the United States. Their preparations there remained undetected until they flew three airliners into the New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon (the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania). The “Surprise Theory” is the official position of the US government.
  2. The “Let It Happen On Purpose Theory” (LIHOP): Bin Laden and the Al-Qaida terrorist network planned and carried out the 9/11 attack. However, elements in the US government and the security services found out about the planned attacks, but decided not to act in averting the attacks. Their calculation was that such an horrendous terror act could be exploited to justify the (already planned) wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and possibly against Iran). The purpose of these wars was the consolidation America’s global-strategic hegemony and global control of energy and raw material resources.
  3. The “Make It Happen On Purpose Theory” (MIHOP): Elements within the US government, the security services and the military actively organized the 9/11 attacks. In doing that, the Atta group may or may not have been used as “patsies”. The MIHOP theory follows the “strategy of tension” model: Staging terrorist attacks to have a pretext for subsequent political and military actions which would otherwise be impossible. An often cited reference by MIHOP theorists is “Operation Northwood”: A plan by US intelligence agencies in the early 1960 to stage terrorist acts, including blowing up a passenger aircraft, and to blame them on Castro’s Cuba in order to have a pretext for an military invasion of communist Cuba. (The plan was vetoed by President John F. Kennedy)

As to the LIHOP and MIHOP theories, they don’t necessarily mean that “the” government or “the” CIA might have criminally acted in respect to 9/11. There are enough examples in history when “rogue” elements within governments and security agencies acted without prior knowledge of their superiors, but forced them to go along after their actions had materialized. Ganser’s own research on the Gladio network is an illustration of such an scenario.

The Role of the “9/11 Commission”

Ganser argues that an honest and thorough investigation by the 9/11 Commission would have had to examine all three theories on 9/11. In order to reach truthful findings, two of three theories would have to be proven false “beyond reasonable doubt”. Instead, the 9/11 Commission axiomatically excluded the LIHOP and MIHOP theories from its investigations. Indications which might have substantiated these alternative theories were systematically ignored. The “9/11 Commission Report” essentially upholds the official “Surprise Theory”, even though it admits that there were substantial warnings about an upcoming major terrorist attack against the United States. The puzzling non-action was said to have been exclusively caused by dysfunctional bureaucratic structures within and between US security services, the military and other government agencies.

In 2006, two years after the release of its final report, commission chairman Kean and his deputy Congressman Lee Hamilton, wrote that the 9/11 Commission was “set up to fail.” And the commission’s senior counsel, John Farmer, Jr., wrote that the Bush administration made “a decision not to tell the truth about what happened.” One member of the commission, Senator Max Cleland, resigned in protest, stating that „the White House has played cover-up”. For over a year after 9/11, the Bush administration had rejected any investigation by a non-governmental body. When public pressure became too strong, the nine-member commission was set up in November 2002. Originally, Senator George Mitchell and Henry Kissinger were to chair the commission, but both resigned almost immediately after their appointment.

In Ganser’s view, the 9/11 commission violated the essential principles of a competent criminal investigation: First asking: Who has the capability for the crime, who has a motive, who would benefit from crime (Cui Bono)? Never get fixated on just one investigative lead. Always look for contradictions in your favorite hypothesis and always test it through alternative hypotheses. The evident lack of basic investigative methodology means that the 9/11 Commission’s findings cannot be viewed as reliable and conclusive. Ganser emphasizes that he himself does not support any one of the three theories because, sofar, none has been proven or disproven “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Unresolved Issues

Indications which collide with or contradict the official “Surprise Theory” on 9/11 do certainly exist. The list of unresolved issues includes:

  • As even the 9/11 Commission stated: there were substantial forewarnings of a major attack against the United States by American and foreign security agencies, including from Israel, France and Egypt.
  • Members of the Atta group, including Atta himself, were being tracked by US (“Operation Able Danger”) and foreign security agencies.
  • US security agencies were well aware of the possibility that terrorists might hijack airliners and use them as a weapon to attack ground targets.
  • Before the 9/11 Commission, it emerged that the US Air Force and the Federal Aviation Agency (responsible for civilian air control) had conducted an exercise on 9/11 which simulated a multiple hijacking of civilian airliners by terrorists – almost exactly what happened in reality that day – but the four airliners were not intercepted by the available “quick reaction” fighter aircraft.
  • If so many actors in the US security and government agencies failed so massively in respect to 9/11, why were they not reprimanded?
  • Whoever has looked at the pictures of the 5-meter hole in the Pentagon wall, can only wonder how a Boeing 757 should have caused it.
  • The Boeing 757’s flight approach to the Pentagon required skills comparable to landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier, while the “pilots” of Atta group possessed only minimal flight skills.
  • Why did 47-storeyed WTC 7 skyscraper, next to Twin Towers, collapse in on itself in seven seconds even though it wasn’t hit by a airplane.

And there are other unresolved issues of 9/11. However, laymen and amateurs are well advised not to try to “play the expert” in analyzing these indications in detail and then constructing a “chain of evidence” out of them. That should be a task for experienced experts and seasoned investigators. Such experts of integrity are on hand in the United States. The leading actors of the 9/11 Commission themselves have conceded that their investigation was flawed and obstructed by the Bush administration. So, why not launching a new investigation? And why not releasing the many classified government documents pertaining to 9/11 which were withheld in 2002-2004 for reasons of “national security”.

Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. He cannot talk anymore. Some of his (alleged) collaborators were caught, but they were tortured – so their testimonies are not reliable. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the debate on 9/11 – first of all in the United States themselves – will come to an end any time soon. And surprising turns on 9/11 should not be ruled out.

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