What we still don't know about 9/11 could kill us. By "we" I mean the public that has been kept in the dark for five years by a president who may know the truth but has chosen to ignore it. Instead of grappling with the thorny origins of that disaster, George Bush willfully turned the nation's attention and resources to a totally unrelated and disastrous imperial adventure in Iraq.
Just how unrelated was definitively established last Friday with the belated release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's second report, which concluded that there not only was zero connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but that Iraq was the one country in the region where Osama bin Laden could not operate.
Unfortunately, that was not true of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two countries that had recognized and otherwise supported the Taliban government that hosted bin Laden during the run-up to 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and yet there has been no serious investigation of the extended Royal family's roll in the recruitment of bin Laden's "soldiers" and the ease with which they secured legal visas to enter the United States.
While funds for Al Qaeda emanated from the Saudi kingdom, the essential logistical support for Al Qaeda came from Pakistan. Now, five years later, bin Laden and the remnants of his organization are assumed by the United States to have found refuge in Pakistan's unruly tribal region, where the Pakistan government recently has reduced its forces, conceding that it could not defeat local tribesmen sympathetic to the Taliban.
Nor has there been any credible accounting of the role of Pakistan's intelligence community, then and now, in support of Islamic terrorists on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Or in the passage of Pakistan's nuclear secrets to what Bush refers to as "rogue nations."
Recall that the predominant excuse for invading Iraq was the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would be willing to pass them on to rogue regimes and terrorists. Not only were such weapons not found, but the evidence from the accounts of former Administration insiders and the Senate Intelligence Committee makes clear that the Administration was consciously cherry picking the evidence to shore up its fraudulent case.
There were weapons of mass destruction being shipped to "rogue nations," but they were coming from Pakistan in an extensive program headed by Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan, the father of the "Islamic bomb." The Pakistan government has admitted that Khan passed on to North Korea, Libya and Iran technical know-how and vital materials for the creation of nuclear weapons. But Khan was pardoned of any crimes by Pakistan's dictator general, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Khan is restricted only by a loose form of house arrest and has never been made available to U.S. investigators. Yet the Bush Administration dropped the sanctions originally imposed on Pakistan in reprisal for its development of nuclear weapons in return for Pakistan's support in the "war on terror."
As for Afghanistan, the Taliban is on the rise. NATO commanders last week urgently requested more troops, and the country is now torn by the anarchy of a narco-state that is supplying 92% of the world's heroin market and generating massive profits for gangsters and terrorists alike. The country is now as dangerous for American soldiers as is Iraq.
Despite this sorry record of neglect in Southwest Asia and the creation of a quagmire and recruiting poster for terrorism in Iraq, Bush once again arrogantly asserts that his policies have made us safer, even as he has undermined our domestic freedoms and mocked the U.S. commitment to international law, particularly concerning the treatment of prisoners.
Last week, Bush conceded that there were indeed secret CIA prisons, when finally announcing that the group of "key witnesses" to the 9/11 disaster would be moved to Guantanamo and for once afforded visits form the Red Cross and minimal legal representation. Some of them have been interrogated in secret for up to five years, with the Bush Administration left as the sole interpreter of what they revealed.
After five years of official deceit, it is not too difficult to believe that the isolation of those prisoners was done less for reasons of learning the truth about 9/11 and more in an effort to politically manage the narrative released to the public.
There is glaring evidence that the latter was the case. The 9/11 Commission report contains a disclaimer box on page 146, in which it is stated that the report's account of what happened on 9/11 was in considerable measure based on what those key witnesses allegedly told interrogators, and that the commissioners were not allowed to meet the witnesses or their interrogators.
"We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting."
In short, the most cited source that we have on what happened on 9/11, the much celebrated 9/11 Commission Report, was stage-managed by the Bush administration, just as it has controlled and distorted so much other information.
In light of that sorry record of the propagandistic exploitation of the 9/11 tragedy for partisan political purpose, is it any wonder that large numbers of Americans have doubts about all of it and that a considerable industry of documentaries and investigative reports has sprung up with alternative theories ranging from the plausible to the absurd.