Who Is Osama? Where Did He Come From? How Did He Escape? What About
Those Anthrax Attacks?
The events of September 11, 2001 evoke painful memories, tinged with a powerful
nostalgia for the way of life before it happened. The immediate tragedy caused
a disorientation sufficient to distort the critical faculties in the direction
of retrospectively predictable responses: bureaucratic adaptation, opportunism,
profiteering, kitsch sentiment, and mindless sloganeering.
As 9/11, and the report of the commission charged to investigate it, fade into
history like the Warren Commission that preceded it, the questions, gaps, and
anomalies raised by the report have created an entire cottage industry of amateur
speculation--as did the omissions and distortions of the Warren Report four
decades ago. How could it not?
While initially received as definitive by a rapturous official press,
the 9/11 Report has been overtaken by reality, not only because of unsatisfying
content--like all "independent" government reports, it is fundamentally
an apology and a coverup masquerading as an exposé--but because we now
know more: more about the feckless invasion of Iraq, more about the occupation
of Afghanistan and the purported hunt for Osama bin Laden, more about the post-9/11
stampede to repeal elements of the Bill of Rights, more about the rush to create
the Department of Homeland Security, an agency to "prevent another 9/11,"
which, in retrospect, is plainly about cronyism, contracts, and Congressional
Many of the amateur sleuths of the 9/11 mystery have based their investigations
on microscopic forensics regarding the publicly released video footage, or speculations
into the physics of impacting aircraft or collapsing buildings. But staring
too closely at the recorded traces of subatomic phenomena involved in a one-time
event can deceive us into finding the answer we are looking for, as Professor
Heisenberg once postulated. Over 40 years on, the Magic Bullet is still the
Magic Bullet: improbable, yes, but not outside the realm of the possible.
But there is surprisingly little discussion of the basic higher-order political
factors surrounding 9/11, factors that do not require knowledge of the melting
point of girder steel or the unknowable piloting abilities of the presumed perpetrators.
Let us proceed, then, in a spirit of detached scientific inquiry, to ask questions
the 9/11 Commission was unprepared to ask.
1. Who is Osama bin Laden, and where did he come from?
On this point, the report retreats into obfuscation. While acknowledging that
he had something to do with resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,
the report suggests, without explicitly so stating, that the links between Osama
and the United States were practically nonexistent. This will not parse: until
the present Global War on Terrorism, the CIA's operation against the Red Army
in Afghanistan was the biggest and most expensive covert operation in the agency's
history. The 9/11 Report provides no convincing documented refutation of Osama's
links with the CIA, given that the agency was running a major war in which he
was a participant. Similarly, the report's authors did not plumb the
informal U.S. government connections with the same Saudi government whose links
with the bin Laden family could have provided a cut-out for any CIA-Osama relationship.
2. When were Osama's last non-hostile links with the U.S. government?
Consistent with its view of Osama's relationship with the CIA during
the anti-Soviet enterprise, the 9/11 Report ignores the possibility that he
may have had a continuing relationship with the U.S. government, particularly
with its intelligence services. The report brushes this hypothesis
aside with a footnote to the effect that both the CIA and purported second-ranking
al Qaeda figure Ayman al Zawahiri deny a relationship. 
One may doubt the veracity of Langley's denials of a relationship with
Osama bin Laden and his associates, given the lack of truthfulness of its earlier
statement to the Warren Commission about not having had a relationship with
Lee Harvey Oswald. Or in alleging that an employee named "Mr. George Bush"
whom the agency cited in its reporting of the events of 22 November 1963 was
a completely different person from the George Bush who subsequently
became the 41st U.S. president, after serving as Director of Central Intelligence.
Likewise, Mr. Zawahiri's assertion of not having received a penny of CIA funds
deserves the searchlight of skeptical scrutiny. What the report describes as
Zawahiri's "memoir" is actually a broadside published in a London-based
newspaper in December 2001, i.e., after the events of 9/11. It was obviously
intended as a call to the Muslim faithful for a holy war against the infidel
desecrator of the holy places; would such a person, conscious of the
need to gain recruits in a war of pure faith against the Great Satan, have confirmed
having been on the payroll of his principal enemy? It is no more likely than
for the current President of the United States, in drawing parallels between
the war in Iraq and World War II, to advert to the fact that his grandfather's
bank was seized by the U.S. government in 1942 for illicit trading with the
Indeed, U.S. intelligence agencies have had, purely as a function of
their charters, relationships with most of the world's scoundrels, con-men,
and psychopaths of the last 70 years: from Lucky Luciano and the Gambino Mob,
to Reinhard Gehlen and Timothy Leary, to the perpetrators of the massacre of
500,000 people in Indonesia in 1965, to the Cuban exiles who blew up an airliner
in 1976 , to such shady characters as Ahmed
Chalabi and his friend "Curveball." Among such a gallery of murderous
kooks, bin Laden and his cohorts do not especially stand out.
More dispositive than these speculations, however, are the very real connections
between Washington and Islamic jihadists in the Balkans throughout the 1990s.
The report hints at this relationship by mentioning the presence of charity
fronts of bin Laden's "network" in Zagreb and Sarajevo. In fact, the
U.S. government engaged in a massive covert operation to infiltrate Islamic
fighters, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, into the Balkans for the
purpose of undermining the Milosevic government. The "arms embargo,"
enforced by the U.S. military, was a cover for this activity (i.e., using military
force to keep prying eyes from seeing what was going on).
A key Washington fixer for the Muslim government of Bosnia was the
law firm of Feith and Zell. Yes, Douglas Feith, one of the principal conspirators
involved in launching the Iraq war under the banner of opposing Islamic terrorism,
was a proponent of introducing Islamic terrorists into South Eastern Europe.
Do the "Islamofascists" of pseudo-conservative demonology accordingly
seem less like satanic enemies and more like puppets dangling from an unseen
hand? Or perhaps the analogy is incorrect: more like a Frankenstein's Monster
that has slipped the control of its creator.
3. How did the President of United States React to the August 6 2001
Presidential Daily Brief?
Although the August 6 PBD had been mentioned in the foreign press since 2002,
it did not come to the attention of official Washington until then-National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice impaled herself upon the hook of 9/11 Commission
member Richard Ben Veniste's artful line of questioning in mid-2004. Blurting
out the title of the PBD, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,"
she let the cat out of the bag--or perhaps not. Having opened Pandora's Box,
the commissioners displayed no troublesome curiosity about its contents.
What concrete measures did the president take after receiving perhaps the most
significant strategic warning that any head of state could have hoped to receive
about an impending attack on his country? Did he alert the intelligence agencies,
law enforcement, the Border patrol, the Federal Aviation Administration, to
comb through their current information and increase their alert rates? Did the
threat warning of the PBD (granted that it did not reveal the tail numbers of
the aircraft to be hijacked), in combination with the numerous threat warnings
from other sources  elicit feverish activity to "protect
the American people?" Not that we can observe.
So what was the actual response of the U.S. government? Here the 9/11 Report
exhibits autism. As nearly as we can determine from contemporaneous bulletins,
the president massacred whole hecatombs of mesquite bushes and large-mouthed
bass, perfected his golf swing, and hosted various captains of industry in the
rustic repose of Crawford, Texas. In other words, he presided
over the most egregious example of Constitutional nonfeasance since the administration
of James Buchanan allowed Southern secessionists to take possession of the arms
in several federal arsenals. The 9/11 Commission's silence on this point
is an abundant demonstration of its role as an apologist, rather than a dispassionate
The testimony of federal officials about what they did up to and during the
attacks is telling, in so far as the false and misleading statements of witnesses
provide clues. Ms. Rice, her tremulous voice betraying nervousness, averred,
against the plain evidence of the public record and common sense, that a PBD
stating that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike within the borders of
the United States was too ambiguous to take any action.
Likewise, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft may have perjured himself when
he denied under oath that acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard came to him on
July 5, 2001 with information of terrorist plots--information that the Attorney
General "did not want to hear about anymore," as NBC News reported
on June 22, 2004. It might be considered a matter of Ashcroft's word against
Pickering's, except for the fact that Pickering had a corroborating witness.
4. Who wrote the script for the rhetorical response to 9/11?
The smoke was still rising from the rubble of the World Trade Center
complex and the Pentagon when the unanimous and universal cry erupted in government
circles, and was relentlessly amplified by the media, that this was "war,"
not a criminal act of terrorism. How very convenient that this war, declared
against a diffuse and stateless entity, would trigger long-sought legal authorities
and constitutional loopholes which would not apply in the case of a criminal
act.  Torture, domestic spying, selective suspension of habeas corpus, all
the unconstitutional monsters whose implications are only clear four years after
the event, all slipped into immediate usage with the rhetorical invocation of
This was not merely war, it was unlimited war, both in the
sense of total war meant by General Ludendorff (civilian rights being trivial),
and in the sense of lacking a comprehensible time span. "A war that will
not end in our lifetimes," said Vice President Cheney on Meet the Press
on the very Sunday following the attacks. How could he be so sure during
the fog of uncertainty following the strike?
If bin Laden and his followers were merely a limited number of fanatics
living in Afghan caves, as we were assured at the time, why did the Bush administration
relentlessly advance the meme that a decades-long war was inevitable?
Could not a concerted intelligence, law-enforcement, and diplomatic campaign,
embracing all sovereign countries, have effectively shut down "al Qaeda"
within a reasonable period of time--say, within the period it took to fight
World War II between Pearl Harbor and the Japanese surrender?
Four years on, Vice President Cheney, doing a plausible imitation of the radio
voice of The Shadow, continues to publicly mutter, in menacing tones
of the lower octaves, that the war on terrorism  is a conflict
that will last for decades.  This at the same time as the
junior partner of the ruling dyarchy, the sitting president, is giving upbeat
speeches promising victory in the war on terrorism (i.e., Iraq, the Central
Front on the War on Terrorism) against a papier maché backdrop
containing the printed slogan "Strategy for Victory."
It is curious that no one--not the watchdogs of the supposedly adversary
media, nor the nominal opposition party in Washington, nor otherwise intelligent
observers--has remarked on this seeming contradiction: victory is just around
the corner, yet the war will last for decades. Quite in the manner of the war
between Eastasia and Oceania in 1984.
In earlier times, this contradiction would have seemed newsworthy, if not scandalous.
Suppose President Roosevelt had opined at the Teheran Conference that the Axis
would be defeated in two years. Then suppose his vice president had at the same
time traveled about the United States telling his audiences that the Axis would
not be defeated for decades. An American public not yet conditioned by television
would at least have noticed, and demanded some explanation.
So question number 4 concludes with a question: why does the U.S. government
hive so firmly to the notion of a long, drawn-out, indeterminate war, when Occam's
Razor would suggest the desirability of presenting a clear-cut victory within
the span of imagination of the average impatient American--a couple of years
at most? Or is endless war the point?
5. Why did the mysterious anthrax attacks come and go like a wraith?
For those in immediate proximity to the events, the September 11attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were frightening in the extreme, but
they had not the slow accumulation of dread that the anthrax scare of October
2001 presented. Far more than any anomaly concerning 9/11 itself, the anthrax
mystery is the undecoded Rosetta Stone of recent years.
The anthrax attacks were the most anomalous terrorist attacks in history:
clever, successful, unpunished, causing five deaths and a billion dollars' damage.
Yet never repeated. This alone makes them remarkable in the annals of criminal
activity, but there is more--the intended victims (at least those with an official
position) were warned in writing of their peril in sufficient detail that they
could take steps to administer an antidote. Is this characteristic of terrorist
attacks by "al Qaeda," or by any known Middle Eastern terrorist group?
Except for the ambiguous first attack (which killed a National Enquirer photo
editor), all the deaths resulting from the anthrax plot were incidental--mail
handlers and innocent recipients of mail which had been contaminated by proximity
to the threat letters. Evidently the West Jefferson anthrax strain was more
powerful and had greater accidental effects than the plotters had intended.
But what did the plotters intend, if they did not will the deaths of
the addressees of their anthrax letters? It was pure coincidence, perhaps, that
the anthrax scare was at its height, producing psychosomatic illness symptoms
among members of Congress and staffers, just as the USA PATRIOT Act was wending
its way through the legislative process. This measure, which originated
among the same Justice Department lawyers who legally opined that torture was
wholesome, was rammed through the Congress after enactment of the authorization
of the use of force in Afghanistan. Why is this sequence significant?
The then-majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle, wrote a curious op-ed
in the Washington Post four years after the events just described.
. In attempting to refute the administration's allegation
that it had been granted plenary wiretap powers in the Afghanistan authorization,
he stated that he and his Senatorial confreres explicitly rejected an administration
proposal to authorize an effective state of war within the borders of the United
Given the administration's repeatedly demonstrated refusal to accept any limitation
on its powers, it is logical that the rebuff on the war powers authorization
was followed by the prompt submittal of the Justice Department's draft of the
PATRIOT Act, containing many of the domestic authorities the Bush White House
had sought in the use of force legislation. How doubly coincidental that two
of the limited number of addressees of the threat letters should have been the
offices of Daschle himself, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, then-chairman of the committee
of jurisdiction over the PATRIOT Act.
Needless to say, the measure was passed by an even more comfortable margin
than that enjoyed by the 1933 Enabling Law in the Reichstag. 
Notwithstanding buyer's remorse exhibited by many members of Congress, and current
efforts to amend its more onerous provisions, it appears we are saddled with
the main burdens of its edicts in perpetuity.
How the government placed this perpetual burden on its citizens is
bound up with the mysterious anthrax scare of October 2001, an outrage that,
unlike 9/11, does not even merit an official explanation. No one has been charged.
6. Why did Osama bin Laden escape?
"Wanted, dead or alive!" "We'll smoke 'em out of their caves!"
All Americans know the feeling of righteous retribution that attended the hunt
for Osama bin Laden in the autumn and winter of 2001. Yet, suddenly, it fizzled
out and became subsumed in attacking Iraq and its oilfields.
We know the explanation. Somehow, bin Laden escaped in the battle of Tora Bora,
because "the back door was open." Only after the invasion of Iraq,
more than a year later, was there general acknowledgement that resources intended
for Afghanistan had been diverted to the buildup for Iraq. The public was lead
to believe that supplemental appropriations for Afghanistan were siphoned into
the Iraq project beginning about mid-2002.
But the strange apathy about Osama's whereabouts began sooner than that. In
a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, then-Senate Intelligence Committee
Bob Graham states the following:
"I was asked by one of the senior commanders of Central Command to go
into his office [this presumably means the CENTCOM Commander, GEN Tommy Franks.
Underlings do not summon senior Senators into their offices]. We did, the
door was closed, and he turned to me, and he said, 'Senator, we have stopped
fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence
personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in
Iraq.' This is February of 2002 [emphasis added]. 'Senator, what
we are engaged in now is a manhunt not a war, and we are not trained to conduct
Senator Graham elaborates on this matter in his book, Intelligence
Matters, on page 125:
"At that point, General Franks asked for an additional word with me
in his office. When I walked in, he closed the door. Looking troubled, he
said, 'Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan.'
"'Excuse me?" I asked.
"'Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare
for an action in Iraq,' he continued. 'The Predators are being relocated.
What we are doing is a manhunt. We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing
Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. We're better at being a meat axe than finding
a needle in a haystack. That's not our mission, and that's not what we are
trained or prepared to do.'"
In the first excerpt, the military officer might be ambivalent about the change
in mission, merely saying that the U.S. military is supposedly not trained for
conducting manhunts. The second excerpt provides more substance, suggesting
that Franks himself agrees that looking for Osama bin Laden is a mug's game
("We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing Osama bin Laden and Mullah
There we have it: as early as February 2002, the U.S. government was
pulling the plug. Or was it even earlier? Gary Berntsen, a former CIA
officer, says in his book Jawbreaker that his paramilitary team tracked
bin Laden to the Tora Bora region late in 2001 and could have killed
or captured him if his superiors had agreed to his request for an additional
force of about 800 U.S. troops. But the administration was already gearing up
for war with Iraq and troops were never sent, allowing bin Laden to escape.
Now, Berntsen is a typical Langley boy scout who buys into most of the flummery
about the war on terrorism; but it is precisely for that reason that his testimony
is worthwhile. Here is no ideological critic of the Bush administration and
its foreign policies--on the contrary, he shares many of its assumptions. Like
fellow Agency alumnus Michael Scheuer, he has experienced the cognitive dissonance
of dealing with the administration's policies at first hand, and wishes to report
on his findings.
Is it plausible that the United States Military, disposing of 1.4 million
active duty troops and a million reservists, could not scare up 800 additional
troops to capture what was then characterized as a fiend in human form?
Perhaps the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers,
explained it best in a CNN interview on 6 April 2002, well after the hunt for
bin Laden had apparently been concluded:
"Well, if you remember, if we go back to the beginning of this segment,
the goal has never been to get bin Laden." 
What can one conclude from this series of questions? If the 9/11 mystery is
like other great, mysterious events--such as the Kennedy assassination--the
course is probable. For a year or two, raw emotion over the event forecloses
inquiry; for the next several years after that, the public's attention wanes,
and the desire to forget the painful memory predominates.
In a decade or so, though, some debunker will bring new facts into the public
arena for the edification of those Americans, then in late middle age, who will
view 9/11 as an intellectual puzzle: far from the urgent concerns of their daily
Many people may, by that time, accept that the official explanation is bunk,
and suspect that the government had once again tricked the American public,
those ever-willing foils in the eternal Punch-and-Judy show. But the majority
will neither know nor care about obscure international relationships during
a bygone era.
In 1939, the English author Eric Ambler wrote a brilliant and now-disregarded
novel whose theme was that the political events culminating in World War II
were indistinguishable from the squalid doings of ordinary criminals. Let us
quote from that novel, The Mask of Dimitrios:
"A writer of plays said that there are some situations that one cannot
use on the stage; situations in which the audience can feel neither approval,
sympathy, nor antipathy; situations out of which there is no possible way
that is not humiliating or distressing and from which there is no truth, however
bitter, to be extracted. . . . All I know is that while might is right, while
chaos and anarchy masquerade as order and enlightenment, these conditions
Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense
analyst. Werther can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Bob Woodward's 1987 book Veil describes the informal connections
between personages in the U.S. government and the Saudi government, including
the ubiquitous Prince Bandar. A tête á tête between CIA director
William Casey and the Prince supposedly resulted in a false-flag "terrorist"
bombing in Beirut to retaliate against the bombing of the Marine barracks there
in 1983. Regrettably, the dead were mainly civilians.
 9/11 Commission Report, 23rd footnote to chapter
two, page 467.
 This is the case of Cuban "freedom fighter"
Luis Posada Carriles, who is suspected of sending the jet-borne Cuban Olympic
fencing team to Valhalla in order to express his opposition to Fidel Castro.
The incumbent administration, otherwise so steadfastly opposed to international
terrorism, has been resistant to extraditing Mr. Posada --no doubt the administration
is casting an eye on Florida's electoral votes.
 To include the Phoenix Memo, FBI agent Colleen Rowley's
urgent bulletins from Minnesota, tips from foreign intelligence agencies, warnings
from the Federal government to its high-ranking government placemen not to fly
by commercial airliner, the contemporaneously noted presence of art students-cum-Mossad
agents within two blocks of 9/11 operative Mohammed Atta, and other indicators.
 Long sought by Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose formative
and traumatic experiences in the executive branch were shaped by their revulsion
against attempts by Congress, the federal bench, and the American people, to
restrain Richard M. Nixon's assertion that the Constitution does not apply to
a sitting president.
 The phrase "war on terrorism" is, as many people
have commented, a somewhat hazy conception, being a war on a tactic, much as
if FDR had declared war on naval aviation after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Significantly, the popular mind has contracted this phrase into "the war
on terror," an even more illogical coinage. If the U.S. government is truly
at war against a mental state that gives rise to ill-defined dread, it should
disestablish itself forthwith, to the benefit of our rights, our bank balances,
and our physical safety.
Warns of Decades of War," BBC, 6 October 2005.
We Didn't Grant," by Sen. Tom Daschle, Washington Post, 23 December
 The Enabling Law passed the Reichstag by a vote of 444-94,
whereas the PATRIOT Act passed the House by a margin of 357-66, and the Senate
by a vote of 98-1. Curiously, the Enabling Law was supposed to sunset in four
years: on April Fool's Day, 1937, precisely paralleling the four-year expiration
of many of the PATRIOT Act's provisions. Perhaps the eerie similarity reflects
the influence of Nazi legal scholar Carl Schmitt on neoconservative lawyers
of the Bush administration like David S. Addington, John Yoo, and Viet Dinh.
 News transcript: Gen. Myers Interview with CNN TV, http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2002/t04082002_t407genm.html