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9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions

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  • 9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions

    Center for Research on Globalization, Canada
    July 29 2005

    9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions
    Deep Politics: Drugs, Oil, Covert Operations and Terrorism, A
    briefing for Congressional staff

    by Peter Dale Scott

    The American people have been seriously misled about the origins of
    the al Qaeda movement blamed for the 9/11 attacks, just as they have
    been seriously misled about the reasons for America's invasion of

    The truth is that for at least two decades the United States has
    engaged in energetic covert programs to secure U.S. control over the
    Persian Gulf, and also to open up Central Asia for development by
    U.S. oil companies. Americans were eager to gain access to the
    petroleum reserves of the Caspian Basin, which at that time were
    still estimated to be `the largest known reserves of unexploited fuel
    in the planet.'[1]

    To this end, time after time, U.S. covert operations in the region
    have used so-called `Arab Afghan' warriors as assets, the jihadis
    whom we loosely link with the name and leadership of al Qaeda.[2] In
    country after country these `Arab Afghans' have been involved in
    trafficking Afghan heroin.

    America's sponsorship of drug-trafficking Muslim warriors, including
    those now in Al Qaeda, dates back to the Afghan War of 1979-89,
    sponsored in part by the CIA's links to the drug-laundering Bank of
    Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).[3] It was part of CIA
    Director Casey's strategy for launching covert operations over and
    above those approved and financed by a Democratic-controlled

    The most conspicuous example of this alliance with drug-traffickers
    in the 1980s was the Contra support operation. Here again foreign
    money and drug profits filled the gap after Congress denied funds
    through the so-called Boland amendments; in this case government
    funds were used to lie about the Contras to the American people.[4]
    This was followed by a massive cover-up, in which a dubious role was
    played by then-Congressman Lee Hamilton, later of the 9/11

    The lying continues. The 9/11 Commission Report assures Americans
    that `Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and
    training, and they received little or no assistance from the United
    States.'[6] This misleading statement fails to consider that:

    1) Al Qaeda elements received considerable indirect U.S. Government
    assistance, first in Afghanistan until 1992, and thereafter in other
    countries such as Azerbaijan (1992-95).
    Before 1992, for example, the
    Afghan leader Jallaladin Haqqani organized and hosted the Arab Afghan
    volunteers known later as al Qaeda; and Haqqani `received bags of
    money each month from the [CIA] station in Islamabad.'
    [7] The Arab
    Afghans were also trained in urban terrorism, including car bombings,
    by Pakistani ISI operatives who were in turn trained by the CIA.[8]

    2) Key members of the network which became al Qaeda, such as Sheikh
    Omar Abdel Rahman, Ali Mohamed, Mohamed Jamal Khalifa, and lead
    hijacker Mohammed Atta, were granted visas to enter the United
    States, despite being suspected of terrorism.[9] Al Qaeda foot
    soldiers were also admitted to the United States for training under a
    special visa program.[10]

    3) At Fort Belvoir, Virginia, an al Qaeda operative was given a list
    of Muslim candidates for al Qaeda's jihad.[11]

    4) When al Qaeda personnel were trained in the United States by a key
    al Qaeda operative, Sergeant Ali Mohamed of the U.S. Army Special
    Forces, Mohamed was still on the U.S. Army payroll.[12]

    5) Repeatedly al Qaeda terrorists were protected by FBI officials
    from investigation and prosecution.[13]

    In part America's limited covert assistance to al Qaeda after 1989
    was in order not to offend al Qaeda's two primary supporters which
    America needed as allies: the intelligence networks of Saudi Arabia
    and Pakistan. But unquestionably the entry of United States oil
    companies into oil-rich Azerbaijan was achieved with the assistance
    of a U.S.-organized covert program using `Arab Afghan' operatives
    associated with bin Laden. Oil was the driving force of U.S.
    involvement in Central and South Asia, and oil led to U.S.
    coexistence with both al Qaeda and the world-dominating Afghan heroin

    This brings us to another extraordinary distortion in the 9/11

    While the drug trade was a source of income for the Taliban, it did
    not serve the same purpose for al Qaeda, and there is no reliable
    evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through
    drug trafficking.[14]

    That drug-trafficking does support al Qaeda-connected operations has
    been energetically asserted by the governments of Great Britain and
    many other European countries, as well as the head of the U.S.
    Congressional Task Force on Terrorism. Heroin-trafficking has been a
    source of income in particular for al Qaeda-related warriors in
    Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, and Kosovo. Most
    recently it has supported terrorist attacks in the Netherlands and

    U.S. support for al Qaeda elements, particularly in Azerbaijan and
    Kosovo, has increased dramatically the flow of heroin to Western
    Europe and the United States.

    The Example of Azerbaijan

    In the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, Arab Afghans clearly
    assisted this effort of U.S. oil companies to penetrate the region.
    In 1991-92, Richard Secord, Heinie Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn, three
    veterans of U.S. operations in Laos and Iran-Contra, turned up in
    Baku under the cover of an oil company, MEGA Oil.[15] MEGA never did
    find oil, but did contribute materially to the removal of Azerbaijan
    from the sphere of post-Soviet Russian influence.

    As MEGA operatives in Azerbaijan, Secord, Aderholt, Dearborn, and
    their men engaged in military training, passed `brown bags filled
    with cash' to members of the government, and above all set up an
    airline on the model of Air America which soon was picking up
    hundreds of Mujahideen mercenaries in Afghanistan.[16] (Secord and
    Aderholt claim to have left Baku before the Mujahideen arrived.)
    Meanwhile, Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan, who
    at the time was still allied with bin Laden, was `observed recruiting
    Afghan mercenaries [i.e. Arab Afghans] to fight in Azerbaijan against
    Armenia and its Russian allies.'
    [17] At this time, heroin flooded
    from Afghanistan through Baku into Chechnya, Russia, and even North
    America.[18] It is difficult to believe that MEGA's airline (so much
    like Air America) did not become involved.[19]

    The triple pattern of drugs, oil, and al Qaeda was seen again in
    Kosovo in 1998, where the Al-Qaeda-backed Islamist jihadis of the
    Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) received overt American assistance from
    the U.S. Government.[20] Though unmentioned in mainstream books on
    the war, both the al Qaeda and drug backgrounds of the KLA are
    recognized by experts and to my knowledge never contested by

    Though the origins of the Kosovo tragedy were rooted in local
    enmities, oil and drugs were prominent in the outcome. At the time
    critics charged that US oil interests were interested in building a
    trans-Balkan pipeline with US Army protection; although initially
    ridiculed, these critics were eventually proven correct.[22] BBC News
    announced in December 2004 that a $1.2 billion pipeline, south of a
    huge new U.S. Army base in Kosovo, has been given a go-ahead by the
    governments of Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.[23] Meanwhile by
    2000, according to DEA statistics, Afghan heroin accounted for almost
    20 percent of the heroin seized in the United States -- nearly double
    the percentage taken four years earlier. Much of it is now
    distributed by Kosovar Albanians.[24]

    Sergeant Ali Mohamed and U.S. Intelligence Links to the Al Qaeda

    The Report describes Ali Mohamed as `a former Egyptian army officer
    who had moved to the United States in the mid-1980s, enlisted in the
    U.S. Army, and become an instructor at Fort Bragg,' as well as
    helping to plan the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya (68). In
    fact Ali Mohamed was an important al Qaeda agent who, as the 9/11
    Commission was told, "trained most of al Qaeda's top leadership,"
    including "persons who would later carry out the 1993 World Trade
    Center bombing."[25] But the person telling the 9/11 Commission this,
    U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, misrepresented Ali Mohamed's FBI
    relationship. He told the Commission that, "From 1994 until his
    arrest in 1998, [Mohamed] lived as an American citizen in California,
    applying for jobs as an FBI translator and working as a security
    guard for a defense contractor."[26]

    Ali Mohamed was not just an FBI job applicant. Unquestionably he was
    an FBI informant, from at least 1993 and maybe 1989.[27] And almost
    certainly he was something more. A veteran of the CIA-trained
    bodyguards of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he was able, despite
    being on a State Department Watch List, to come to America around
    1984, on what an FBI consultant has called `a visa program controlled
    by the CIA', and obtain a job, first as a security officer, then with
    U.S. Special Forces.[28] In 1988 he took a lengthy leave of absence
    from the U.S. Army and went to fight in Afghanistan, where he met
    with Ayman al-Zawahiri (later bin Laden's chief deputy in al Qaeda)
    and the `Arab Afghan' leadership.[29] Despite this, he was able to
    receive an Honorable Discharge one year later, at which point he
    established close contact with bin Laden in Afghanistan.

    Ali Mohamed clearly enjoyed U.S. protection: in 1993, when detained
    by the RCMP in Canada, a single phone call to the U.S. secured his
    release. This enabled him to play a role, in the same year, in
    planning the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998.[30]

    Congress should determine the true relationship of the U.S.
    Government to Ali Mohamed, who was close to bin Laden and above all
    Zawahiri, who has been called the `main player' in 9/11.[31]
    (Al-Zawahiri is often described as the more sophisticated mentor of
    the younger bin Laden.)[32] In particular Congress should determine
    why Patrick Fitzgerald chose to mislead the American people about
    Mohamed's FBI status.

    In short, the al Qaeda terror network accused of the 9/11 attacks was
    supported and expanded by U.S. intelligence programs and covert
    operations, both during and after the Soviet Afghan War. Congress
    should rethink their decision to grant still greater powers and
    budget to the agencies responsible for fostering this enemy in the
    first place.

    Sane voices clamor from the Muslim world that the best answer to
    terrorism is not war but justice. We should listen to them. By using
    its energies to reduce the injustices tormenting Islam, the United
    States will do more to diminish terrorism than by creating any number
    of new directorates in Washington.



    [1] Michael Griffin, Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in
    Afghanistan (London: Pluto Press, 2001), 115. Exploration in the
    1990s has considerably downgraded these estimates.

    [2] Western governments and media apply the term `al Qaeda' to the
    whole `network of co-opted groups' who have at some point accepted
    leadership, training and financing from bin Laden (Jason Burke,
    Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam [London: I.B. Tauris,
    2004], 7-8). From a Muslim perceptive, the term `Al Qaeda' is clumsy,
    and has led to the targeting of a number of Islamist groups opposed
    to bin Laden's tactics. See Montasser al-Zayyat, The Road to
    Al-Qaeda: The Story of Bin Lden's Right-Hand Man [London: Pluto
    Press, 2004], 100, etc.).

    [3] Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin, False Profits: The Inside Story of
    BCCI, the World's Most Corrupt Financial Empire (Boston: Houghton
    Mifflin, 1992), 132; Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War (Lanham,
    MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 42.

    [4] Robert Parry, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
    Watergate to Iraq (Arlington, VA: Media Consortium, 2004), 213-28,
    235-39, 245-47.

    [5] For Hamilton's role on the conspiratorial whitewashing of contra
    drug activities, see Jonathan Marshall, Peter Dale Scott, and Jane
    Hunter, The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert
    Operations in the Reagan Era (Boston: South End Press, 1987), 179-81.
    At least eight men in the current Bush Administration were criticized
    for their roles in Iran-Contra, including two (Poindexter and
    Abrams)who were convicted.

    [6] 9/11 Commission Report, 56.

    [7] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA,
    Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10,
    2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 157 (hosted); George Crile,
    Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert
    Operation in History (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003), 521

    [8] George Crile, Charlie Wilson's War (New York: Atlantic Monthly
    Press, 2003), 335 (car bombings); Steve Coll, Washington Post,
    7/19/92 (ISI/CIA).

    [9] Rahman was issued two visas, one of them `by a CIA officer
    working undercover in the consular section of the American embassy in
    Sudan' (Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of
    Osama bin Laden [New York: Free Press, 2001], 67; cf. 218 (Khalifa).
    FBI consultant Paul Williams writes that Mohamed `settled in America
    on a visa program controlled by the CIA' ((Paul L. Williams, Al
    Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror [[Upper Saddle River, NJ]: Alpha/
    Pearson Education, 2002], 117). Others allegedly admitted despite
    being on the State Department watch list include Mohammed Atta and
    possibly Ayman al-Zawahiri (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth:
    9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism [Northampton, MA:
    Olive Branch Press, 2005], 205, 46).

    [10] Former State Department officer Michael Springmann, BBC 2,
    11/6/01; Ahmed, War on Truth, 10.

    [11] US v.. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman et al, Federal Court, SDNY,
    Testimony of Rodney Hampton-El, 8/3/95.

    [12] Peter Lance, Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding
    about the War on Terror [New York: Regan Books/ HarperCollins, 2004],
    25); Andrew Marshall, Independent, 11/1/98, "Mr.
    Mohamed, it is clear from his record, was working for the U.S.
    government at the time he provided the training: he was a Green
    Beret, part of America's Special Forces.... A confidential CIA internal
    survey concluded that it was 'partly culpable' for the World Trade
    Centre bomb, according to reports at the time." Williams writes that
    Mohamed's `primary task as a U.S. soldier was to train Muslims to
    fight the Soviets in Afghanistan' (Williams, Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of
    Terror. 117). Cf. 9/11 Commission Report, 68.

    [13] The most prominent example was the blocking by David Frasca at
    FBI HQ of the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui under the Foreign
    Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Frasca also failed to act on
    the July 2001 request from the Phoenix FBI office urging a systematic
    review of Muslim students at U.S. flight schools (Ahmed, War on
    Truth, 251-57).

    [14] 9/11 Commission Report, 171. This statement is one-sided and
    misleading. But so is the opposite claim of Yossef Bodansky: `The
    annual income of the Taliban from the drug trade is estimated at $8
    billion. Bin Laden administers and manages these funds - laundering
    them through the Russian mafia...' (Bodansky, Bin Laden, 315).

    [15] Thomas Goltz, Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter's Adventures in
    an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic (Armonk, NY: M. E.
    Sharpe, 1999), 272-75. A fourth operative in MEGA Oil, Gary Best, was
    also a veteran of North's Contra support effort. For more on General
    Secord's and Major Aderholt's role as part of Ted Shackley's team of
    off-loaded CIA assets and capabilities, see Marshall, Scott, and
    Hunter, The Iran-Contra Connection, 26-30, 36-42, 197-98.

    [16] Goltz, Azerbaijan Diary, 272-75; Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil,
    and War (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 7. As part of the
    airline operation, Azeri pilots were trained in Texas. Dearborn had
    previously helped Secord advise and train the fledgling Contra air
    force (Marshall, Scott, and Hunter, The Iran-Contra Connection, 197).
    Richard Secord was allegedly attempting also to sell Israeli arms,
    with the assistance of Israeli agent David Kimche, another associate
    of Oliver North. See Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, 7, 8, 20. Whether
    the Americans were aware of it or not, the al Qaeda presence in Baku
    soon expanded to include assistance for moving jihadis onwards into
    Dagestan and Chechnya.

    [17] Cooley, Unholy Wars, 180; Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, 7. These
    important developments were barely noticed in the U.S. press, but a
    Washington Post article did belatedly note that a group of American
    men who wore "big cowboy hats and big cowboy boots" had arrived in
    Azerbaijan as military trainers for its army, followed in 1993 by
    `more than 1,000 guerrilla fighters from Afghanistan's radical prime
    minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.' (Washington Post, 4/21/94). The Azeri
    `Afghan Brigade' was formally dissolved in 1994, after which it
    focused more on sabotage and terrorism (Cooley, Unholy Wars, 181).

    [18] Cooley, Unholy Wars, 176.

    [19] As the 9/11Commission Report notes (58), the bin Laden
    organization established an NGO in Baku, which became a base for
    terrorism elsewhere. It also became a transshipment point for Afghan
    heroin to the Chechen mafia, whose branches `extended not only to the
    London arms market, but also throughout continental Europe and North
    America (Cooley, Unholy Wars, 176).

    [20] See Lewis Mackenzie (former UN commander in Bosnia), `We Bombed
    the Wrong Side?' National Post, 4/6/04: `Those of us who warned that
    the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant,
    Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers.
    The fact that the lead organization spearheading the fight for
    independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was universally
    designated a terrorist organization and known to be receiving support
    from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored....The Kosovar
    Albanians played us like a Stradivarius violin. We have subsidized
    and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically
    pure Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of
    the violence in the early 1990s, and we continue to portray them as
    the designated victim today, in spite of evidence to the contrary.
    When they achieve independence with the help of our tax dollars
    combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, just consider the
    message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported
    independence movements around the world." Cf. John Pilger, New
    Statesman, 12/13/04.