Friday, February 13, 2009

You Said You'd Never Forget Part II: Lost in Afghanistan

In George Orwell’s classic, 1984, there is a terribly unsettling scene in which the workers and members of the Party take part in what is known as Two Minute Hate. This fairly simple event is a part of the lifestyle these people have come to known. The face of Emmanuel Goldstein is projected in front of an audience while propaganda is being tossed around loosely. Goldstein is a character that is only mentioned and never actually seen in the novel, and he probably didn’t exist except as more propaganda. According to the story, he was once a party member but broke away and started the Brotherhood, whose sole goal was to take down the party. At the Two Minute Hate, the audience yells and screams and shakes their angry fists at the man and his revolutionary ideas. After the allotted time, they quiet down and go back to work. Bizarre!

Or is it? I read that book many years ago. But when I saw Osama bin Laden’s face on CNN and Fox News on a consistent basis, Orwell’s book was resurrected in from my memory. He was immediately pointed out as the brains and/or the money behind 9/11. He was handed the blame, but no one could find him for him to accept or reject the blame. But his image appeared everywhere. How the United States wanted us to hate this man! Had Emmanuel Goldstein come back to us in a turban and a long scraggly beard? At the time (remember, I was merely sixteen-years-old), I took for granted that what our government and media was telling us was true. There was evidence that Osama bin Laden had planned the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and, if the plane hadn’t crashed in Shanksville, Capitol Hill. And yet, after reading through 200 pages of Griffin’s book, I became aware that NO hard evidence had ever been presented that proved bin Laden’s guilt.

The Commission Report is built on the assumption that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on 9/11, but there was never a single piece of paper presented by the government that showed beyond a reasonable doubt that our new Emmanuel was at the helm. Powell had promised a white paper with the evidence. When asked about the paper, Bush and Ari Fleisher avoided answering any questions. Eventually, the answer became, “we have evidence, but it is classified.” A skeptic reporter put in very good terms. When told that there was proof but that no one could see it, he replied, “So, you are telling there is evidence, but you cannot show us. We just have to trust that you are telling the truth.” Trust the Bush administration? As I’ve said before, I do not think that he is an evil man. But how could we possibly put our trust in those fiends of his? I guess it’s easy in retrospect to see how foolish we were. Maybe at the time, since his time in office had been so brief, we thought that he meant no harm. Maybe.

The press pushed and pushed the Bush administration for answers. They tried. Nothing. The United States demanded that Osama bin Laden be turned over. The Taliban and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all agreed to do their part if evidence was provided that he had indeed had a hand in the attacks. President Bush said that there were going to be no discussions. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sound like the way things work. In our society, you are innocent until proven guilty. Across the country, bin Laden’s face was being air brushed on t-shirts that said things like, “Wanted: Dead of Alive.” Now, of course, bin Laden was wanted for other things, most significant was his U.S. embassy bombing in east Africa. He had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for a long time. But something interesting happened, or, rather, didn’t happen: After our government placed the blame of 9/11 on bin Laden, the offense did not show up on his FBI profile. So the FBI reports said that he was wanted for his older offenses but not 9/11. When government officials were asked why the attacks were not on his file, they said childishly, that they don’t need to be because he is already wanted for those previous offenses. That doesn’t make any sense. If bin Laden was blamed for 9/11 in public, why wasn’t he blamed on paper? The Commission report said he did. The government said he did it. The FBI said he did it. But still to this day, he is wanted for the attacks on the American Embassy in 1998. OFFICIALLY.

What does the Commission have to go off of, anyway? The testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM). According to KSM, he had taken his idea for 9/11 to bin Laden and together they picked the men and planned the attacks. KSM seemed to be the brains and bin Laden was more of an organizer, a respected terrorist who knew the ropes. Yet, how do we know what KSM’s testimony really was? The same government who tells us that bin Laden was involved is the same government who interrogated KSM. In 2006, some journalists tried to question KSM and the other detainees whose testimonies were what pointed out Osama bin Laden. No one was allowed to contact them. No one witnessed the interrogation. No one can say for sure that KSM actually said those things. Again, we have to trust our government.

What about the confession video? Not long after the attacks, a video was discovered of Osama bin Laden talking about his part in 9/11 and taking responsibility. This video, however, is of extremely poor quality. And if you look closely, you’ll see a few things that don’t quite add up. He looks much thicker, almost chubby. All other images of bin Laden, he is extremely thin. In the video, he is eating with his right hand. Bin Laden is left-handed. And on that right hand, there gleams a silver ring, something that bin Laden would not wear due to his extreme religious beliefs. Granted, these are small discrepancies, but so are all of the other contradictions surrounded the truth of 9/11.

To this day, no real, actual, hard evidence has been provided to the press or the public that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Osama bin Laden was the man behind 9/11. I could also same the same thing about Dick Cheney. But we needed, much like the people in Orwell's book, someone to hate, someone to focus on to distract us from the truth. I think at this point, I don’t care who is at fault, I just want to uncover the truth. It feels like it is pretty widely accepted that our government knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor with enough advanced noticed that they could stop it. But they didn’t. And we packed our bags and went to war. What would stop us from doing the same thing a second time? I think we did. But I don’t want to let it slip by into some weird schism in history. I want to remember 9/11 as an attack on my country, and I want whoever is responsible to be tried fairly by jury of their peers. We’re a long way from that. I will keep digging.

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