THE SMOKING GUN
Part 2: A real smoking
By Pepe Escobar
1: 'Independent' commission
the 9-11 Commission is really looking for a smoking gun,
it should look no further than at Lieutenant-General
Mahmoud Ahmad, the director of the Pakistani
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at the time.
In early October 2001, Indian intelligence
learned that Mahmoud had ordered flamboyant Saeed Sheikh
- the convicted mastermind of the kidnapping and killing
of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl - to wire
US$100,000 from Dubai to one of hijacker Mohamed Atta's
two bank accounts in Florida.
direct connection was also
established between Mahmoud and Republican Congressman Porter
Gross and Democratic Senator Bob Graham.
They were all in Washington together discussing Osama bin
Laden over breakfast when the attacks of September
11, 2001, happened.
Mahmoud's involvement in
September 11 might be dismissed as only Indian propaganda.
But Indian intelligence swears by it, and the US
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed the
whole story: Indian intelligence even supplied
Saeed's cellular-phone numbers. Nobody has bothered to check
what really happened. The 9-11 Commission should pose
very specific questions about it to FBI director
Robert Mueller when he testifies this month.
December 2002, Graham said he was "surprised at the
evidence that there were foreign governments involved in
facilitating the activities of at least some of the
[September 11] terrorists in the United States ... It
will become public at some point when it's turned over
to the archives, but that's 20 or 30 years from now." He
could not but be referring to Pakistan and Mahmoud. If
Mahmoud was really involved in September 11, this means
the Pakistani ISI -"the state within the state" - knew
all about it. And if the intelligence elite in Pakistan
knew it, an intelligence elite in Saudi Arabia knew it,
as well as an intelligence elite in the US.
Get Osama bin Laden
On August 22, 2001, Asia Times
Online reported Get Osama! Now! Or else
A few days
later, on September 4, Mahmoud was in Washington.
The date was extraordinary: according to the
book of former chief US counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke,
All Enemies (page
237), this was the day the "meeting on al-Qaeda that
I had called for 'urgently' on January 25"
finally happened. Before the meeting, Clarke had e-mailed
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice urging her "to put
herself in her own shoes when in the very near future
al-Qaeda had killed hundreds of Americans". Exactly a
week later, the September 11 attacks happened.
On September 9, the legendary "Lion of
the Panjshir", Ahmed Shah Masoud, the key Northern Alliance
commander, was assassinated by two suicide bombers
posing as journalists in his base in northern Afghanistan.
The Northern Alliance tells Washington that the
ISI may be involved. Masoud himself had told this correspondent,
two weeks before he was killed, of the incestuous
link between bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the Taliban
and the ISI. A 2002 Asia Times Online investigation
would later establish that Masoud was killed as
a gift from al-Qaeda to the Taliban, with heavy
involvement by Abdul Sayyaf, an Afghan mujahideen
commander very close to the ISI and the Saudis. From
Washington's perspective, this was also a gift. Masoud
was the crucial Afghan nationalist leader, supported by
Russia and Iran; after the Taliban being smashed he
would never have accepted a feeble, US-sponsored,
Hamid Karzai-style government.
On September 10, the Pakistani
daily The News reported that the Mahmoud visit to
the United States "triggered speculation about the agenda of
his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security
Council". If he'd been to the National Security Council,
he had certainly met Rice. Mahmoud did meet with
his counterpart, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
director George Tenet. Tenet and Deputy Secretary of
State Richard Armitage had been in Islamabad in May,
when Tenet had "unusually long" meetings with Musharraf.
Armitage for his part has countless friends in the
Pakistani military and the ISI. Mahmoud also met a
number of high officials at the White House and the
Pentagon and had a crucial meeting with Marc Grossman,
the under secretary of state for political affairs. Rice
maintains she did not meet Mahmoud then.
On the morning
of September 11, Mahmoud was having a breakfast meeting
at the Capitol with Graham and Goss. Goss spent as
many as 10 years working on numerous CIA clandestine operations.
He is very close to Vice President Dick Cheney.
It's interesting to note that two weeks ago Goss suggested
to the Justice Department to bring perjury charges
against the new Cheney nemesis, Clarke. As it is widely
known, Graham and Goss were co-heads of the joint House-Senate
investigation that proclaimed there was "no smoking
gun" as far as President George W Bush having any advance
knowledge of September 11.
According to the
Washington Post, and also to sources in Islamabad, the
Mahmoud-Graham-Goss meeting lasted until the second
plane hit Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. Graham
later said they were talking about terrorism coming from
Afghanistan, which means they were talking about bin
Pakistani intelligence sources told Asia
Times Online that on the afternoon of September 11
itself, as well as on September 12 and 13, Armitage met
with Mahmoud with a stark choice: either Pakistan would help
the US against al-Qaeda, or it would be bombed back to
the Stone Age. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented
an ultimatum in the form of seven US demands. Pakistan
accepted all of them. One of the demands was for Musharraf
to send Mahmoud to Kandahar again and force the Taliban
to extradite bin Laden. Mahmoud knew in advance Mullah
Omar would refuse. But when he went to Kandahar the
Taliban leader said he would accept, as long as the
Americans proved bin Laden was responsible for September
11. There was no proof, and Afghanistan was bombed
anyway, a policy already decided well in advance.
It's important to remember than on September 13
Islamabad airport was shut down - allegedly because of
threats against Pakistan's strategic assets. On
September 14, Islamabad declared total support for the
US: the airport was immediately reopened. Mahmoud remained
in Washington until September 16 - when the war on
Afghanistan was more than programmed, and Pakistan was
firmly in the "with us" and not the "against us" column.
Million-dollar questions remain. Did Mahmoud know when and
how the attacks of September 11 would happen? Did
Musharraf know? Could the Bush administration have
prevented September 11? It's hard to believe high
echelons of the CIA and FBI were not aware of the direct
link between the ISI and alleged chief hijacker Mohammed
On October 7, Mahmoud was demoted from
the ISI. By that time, Washington obviously knew of
the connection between Mahmoud, Saeed Sheikh and
Mohamed Atta: the FBI knew it. The official version is
that Mahmoud was sacrificed because he was too close to
the Taliban - which, it is never enough to remind, are
a cherished creature of the ISI. Two other ISI big
shots, Lieutenant-General Mohammed Aziz Khan and Chief of
General Staff Mohammed Yousouf, are also demoted along
with Mahmoud. Saeed Sheikh was under orders to Khan.
The fact remains that even with
this Musharraf-conducted purge of the ISI elite, the bulk
of ISI officers remained, and still are, pro-Taliban.
Other former ISI directors living in Pakistan, such as the
colorful, outspoken Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, did
not "disappear" and always renew their support for the
Taliban. But as Asia Times Online has reported, Mahmoud
did disappear. He lives in near seclusion in Rawalpindi.
And he is definitely not talking. Graham and Goss may
not be interested in talking to him either. Because he
may be the ultimate September 11 smoking gun.
The Karl Rove-designed
campaign to re-elect Bush is in essence anchored on
September 11. The Republican convention in New York will
happen in the first week of September. Bush's speech
will be on September 2 - to force the connection with
the three-year commemoration of September 11.
This whole affair is not about whether
Clarke committed "perjury"; whether Rice was really up to
her job; or whether George W Bush knew something and
then "forgot" about it. The families of September 11
victims, US public opinion, the demonized Islamic world,
the whole world for that matter, all everybody wants to
know is what really happened on September 11. The only
party that does not seem interested in getting to the
bottom of it is the Bush administration. The official
fable of 19 kamikaze Arabs turning Boeings into missiles
with military precision, armed only with box cutters and
a few flight lessons and directed from an Afghan cave by
a satellite phone-shy bin Laden simply does not hold.
The commission is not asking the really hard questions.
Here are just a few - and they are far from being the
1) The "stand down" order: Why, despite more than an
hour's warning that an attack was happening, were no F-16s
protecting US airspace? Documents easily available online reveal
why the Pentagon could not act: because
of bureaucracy. Why did the North American Aerospace Defense
Command (NORAD) claim it took 25 minutes after the transponder was
shut down to learn that Flight 11 - which hit World
Trade Center Tower 1 - was hijacked? Why did fighters
not take off from Andrews Air Force base just outside
Washington to protect the Pentagon?
pre-September 11 suspicious stock option trades in
American Airlines and United Airlines were never fully
investigated. Who profited?
3) What happened
to the FBI investigation into flight schools - when it
was proved that at least five of the 19 hijackers
were trained in US military schools?
Why did Bush keep reading a pet-goat story for more than half an hour
after the first WTC hit, and 15 minutes after Chief of
Staff Andrew Card told him there had been an attack?
5) What really happened to Flight 93?
An Associated Press story last August quoting a
congressional report said the FBI suspected the plane
was crashed on purpose. The FBI has a flight-simulation
video of what happened: the video - as well as the black
box - remain top secret. And as far as four
"indestructible" black boxes are concerned, how come
none were found, unlike Mohammed Atta's intact passport
lying in the WTC rubble?
6) Why have no scientific
experts examined the physical and mathematical
evidence that a Boeing 757 could not have possibly
"disappeared" without a trace after hitting the Pentagon?
For the most exhaustive and practically incontrovertible
analysis available on the net, see this report.
7) What remains
of the very tight 1980s bin Laden-ISI-CIA connection?
How much did the CIA know about what the ISI was up to?
And how much did the ISI know about what al-Qaeda was up
8) What does Rice really know about the very
close relations between Mahmoud and the top echelons of
the Bush administration?
The genie - the crucial
information - is still in the bottle.
2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please
contact [email protected] for
information on our sales and syndication policies.)