Seventeen years on, there is little that remains of 9/11 as physical evidence. The tragic site was quickly cleaned up, too quickly in the view of many. Was that to hide incriminating evidence that would have exposed the real perpetrators, or just the instinctual reaction to a messy scene of destruction that you prefer to forget about?
No smoking gun has been found, though there are lots of strange leads, most of which point the finger at:
• Israel (the “dancing Israelis,” Odogo text messages minutes before the planes hit the towers, Netanyahu’s “9/11 was good for Israel”);
• Saudi Arabia (the 15 of 19 Saudi hijackers were assisted by Saudi officials, Saudi funds financed al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and now ISIS; Saudi leaders make veiled threats of future terrorism); and
• Pakistan (conspirators Ahmed Omar Sheikh, Ramzi Yousef, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Mahmud Ahmed).
The US and world economy did not collapse; no more such major terrorist attacks occurred. But the world changed. It put the Saudis in both the US bad books (citizens who lost family in 9/11 are suing the Saudi government in US court, most Americans view Saudi Arabia negatively) and good books (US presidents continue to fawn over the Saudis, fearing what honesty might do to US hegemony).
The new, brash, young (32 years old) de facto Saudi ruler Muhammad bin Salman tours the world, insisting in meetings with Western leaders that they must work closely with the Saudis to fight terrorism, even predicting publicly that more terror attacks will happen if Saudi Arabia is not treated with respect and given the leading role in fighting terrorism. This sounds as much a threat as a genuine heartfelt offer. No one can take Saudi boasts as credible in any real fight against terrorism. But their experience in conducting terrorism is hard to ignore.
Bin Salman’s aggressive, erratic behaviour rivals that of Donald Trump. He abruptly cut all relations with Canada (though careful to leave the order for Canadian Light Armoured Vehicles — actually heavy assault vehicles — in place) over a timid tweet by the Canadian foreign minister protesting Saudi torture and incarceration of human rights activists. Saudi Arabia’s state media fired back by briefly posting a telling picture, hinting of more 9/11s if the Saudis are not happy.
His father, then leader and king, was told the same thing in person by Barack Obama in 2016 and, though angered, just insisted that Saudi law should be respected. Norway and Sweden have also protested in the past without any recriminations.
The message from the fiery Bin Salman to pipsqueak countries: do what we want or else (but we will still buy arms from you). Given that 15 of the 19 nominal hijackers were Saudis, that clandestine Saudi support for ISIS continues, both in Syria and in Afghanistan, and the crown prince circles the globe with veiled threats of more terrorism, this smacks more of blackmail than solidarity. It’s the same message for big guns (US, Britain, etc.) but it is the messenger, little Canada, that he chose to shoot.
Obama saw the threat the Saudis pose and worked to bring Iran into the peace equation in the Muslim East. In March 2016, he said the unsteady condition of the Muslim East “requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” Obama was no friend of Iran, but Trump makes him look like an angel.
Trump has reverted to the Bush-Cheney plan, putting all his chips on Saudi Arabia and Israel as the key to guaranteeing US hegemony in the Muslim East. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in 2001. Pakistan’s ISI and rogue Saudis were directly involved in planning and financing 9/11. The idea was/is a Saudi-led hegemony in the Muslim world, where Pakistan would preside in Central Asia.
The Pentagon, CIA, and FBI lied to the 9/11 Commission, not only to protect their links to their own duplicitous agents, but — more importantly — to prevent the whole Saudi/Israeli/Pakistani/US alliance from collapsing in a real Islamic revolution, à la Iran. In short, rely on the perpetrators of 9/11 to keep the US on top, with faithful allies Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Israel — one big happy family.
The US-Israel-Saudi-Pakistani pact dates from 1979, when the US started to pour money into jihadi coffers to undermine the Soviet Union, to the delight of the Saudi and Pakistani leaders. But it spun out of control by 2001. Al-Qaeda proved to be a wildcard. It had its own agenda that was to undermine the Saudi tribal rulers and create a world caliphate. That led to 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria. Jerusalem is an illusion of victory, recalling Hitler visiting occupied Paris in 1940.
But it is not the same world today, and the blockbuster Hollywood scenario has gone off-script. The US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq left a power vacuum in the region. Neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia is capable of filling it, and the US dare not. Pakistan has moved on, with the new Prime Minister Imran Khan no friend of the US, and Iraqi politics out of US control, with Shi‘is the dominant force, and little love lost for the US. Both countries are moving toward Iran as the only reliable ally, ironically, pushed by the US itself.
This reversion to reliance on the sponsors of 9/11 by Trump, and the gift of Jerusalem to the Israelis, cannot succeed. As Canadians learned when their ambassador was abruptly expelled from Riyadh, the portents are potentially another 9/11. And the world is not swallowing US hysteria about Iran as the real terrorist.
The desperation of Trump, who bullied his way into addressing the UN Security Council, on the 9/11 anniversary, over the threat of Iran to world peace might be laughable if it was not so fraught with the potential for calamity. It looks like an attempt to intimidate and trip Iran up just as it is moving into taking its rightful place in the Muslim East as the locus for Palestinian resistance and undermining the Saudi-Israeli-US axis. To try to pin 9/11 on the one country that has fought unceasingly against terrorism, and is the victim of it, thanks to the “axis,” beggars belief.
America’s sins can’t help but catch up with it, along with its allies-made-in-Hell — Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan (though the latter may already be moving away from the warmongers). As I concluded in an interview with Kayhan in 2015, “All the causes of the rise of terrorism from the 1970s on — extreme poverty and endemic unemployment, in the face of humiliation by US-Israeli hegemony in the region — are still in place. We are caught in the “intervention trap” (invasions and bombings merely give further cause to rebels), and the cycle of violence will continue.