9/11 remains one of the most misunderstood events in modern history. The first myth is that it came out of the blue on an unsuspecting America. In fact it is known that 11 countries provided advance warnings to the US about the 9/11 attacks, including Russia and Israel which sent 2 senior Mossad experts to Washington in August 2001 with a list of terrorist suspects that included 4 of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom was arrested. Moussaoui, now thought to be the 20th hijacker, was arrested in August 2001 after an instructor reported he showed a suspicious interest in learning how to steer large airliners, and Newsweek later revealed (20 May 2002) that an agent had written that month that Moussaoui might be planning to crash into the Twin Towers. Richard Clarke, counter-terrorism chief in the White House, has since said that “50 CIA personnel knew that al-Hamzi and al-Mihdhar (2 of the hijackers) were in the US in July-August 2001, including the Director”, but never passed the information to the FBI. And the former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has stated that “the information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence”.
Second, 9/11 is portrayed as acts of unprovoked aggression perpetrated without cause other than wilful violence. In fact Osama bin Laden repeatedly demanded in the 1990s that the US should end its occupation of Saudi Arabia containing the two holy cities of Islam, should stop retaining in power Arab tyrannies in order to preserve Western interests in the Middle East particularly oil, and should cease its indiscriminate support for Israel against the Arab world – all of which demands were ignored by the US. Of course that does not conceivably condone or justify an appalling atrocity like 9/11 which killed nearly 3,000 people, including 67 Britons. But nor does it justify the following decade-long wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan which the US Brown University estimates ‘very conservatively’ cost the deaths of 137,000 civilians (which the Lancet calculated at a million) and created more than 7.8 million refugees.
Third, 9/11 was the pretext to invade Iraq. We know from the memoirs of O’Neill, Bush’s first Treasury secretary, that Bush had been committed from the very outset of his presidency in January 2001 to attack Iraq, only ‘show me a way to do it’. Rumsfeld on the very day of 9/11 repeatedly demanded evidence from the CIA that Iraq was responsible. When none could be produced, Bush was forced to fall back on the WMD excuse, despite knowing that no firm evidence had been produced of that either. However vile was the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, the attack on Iraq was an unprovoked (and illegal) war driven by the US determination to get control of the Iraqi oilfields and to establish a US military platform in the heart of the Middle East.
Fourth, the line is already being spun that in the end the US prevailed. Killing bin Laden is a rhetorical victory, but the reality is quite different. Iraq is slipping under Iranian influence, the pro-Western Kabul government will not survive the US withdrawal in 2014, and with continued drone attacks Pakistan could well implode. It has all cost the US £4 trillions, equal to the cumulative US budget deficits during 2005-10, taken the lives of 6,000 US soldiers, and weakened US power further when it was already haemorrhaging steadily towards Asia on finance, trade and economic grounds. If that is victory, what counts as defeat?