Ray McGovern: My Take
Military Tribunal May Keep 9/11 Motives Hidden
Tribunal May Keep 9/11 Motives
By Ray McGovern
administration‚Äôs decision to use a military tribunal rather than a federal
criminal court to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four
others means the real motives behind the 9/11 attacks may remain obscure.
Lobby and their allied U.S. legislators can chalk up a significant victory for
substantially shrinking any opportunity for the accused planners of 9/11 to
tell their side of the story.
What? I sense some bristling. ‚ÄúTheir
side of the story?‚ÄĚ Indeed! We‚Äôve been told there is no ‚Äútheir side of the
For years, President George W. Bush got away with offering
up the risible explanation that they ‚Äúhate our freedoms.‚ÄĚ The stenographers of the White House press corps may
have had to suppress smiles but silently swallowed the
journalist I can recall stepping up and asking, in effect, ‚ÄúCome on; now
really; it‚Äôs important; why do they really hate us‚ÄĚ was the indomitable Helen Thomas.
In January 2010, two weeks after Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, the ‚Äúunderpants bomber,‚ÄĚ tried to down an airliner over Detroit,
President Barack Obama asked White House counter-terrorism guru, John Brennan,
to field questions from the White House press.
took the opportunity to ask why the would-be bomber did what he did. The exchange with Brennan is, hopefully, more
instructive than it is depressing ‚ÄĒ highlighting a limited mindset still bogged
down in bromides.
"Why do they want to do us harm? And what is the motivation? We never hear
what you find out on why."
"Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton
slaughter of innocents. ... They
attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of
attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately,
al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that
he's (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of
destruction and death."
"And you're saying it's because of religion?"
"I'm saying it's because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner
of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way."
"I think this is a long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry
out attacks here against the homeland."
"But you haven't explained why."
One should, I suppose, be grateful for small favors. At
least Brennan did not adduce the they-hate-our-freedoms rationale.
After the Obama administration announced on Nov. 13, 2009,
that it intended to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court for murder, I
wrote an article
which began by quoting ACLU attorney Denney LeBoeuf regarding some unpleasant
facts, such as torture, that the case was likely to reveal.
‚ÄúI think that we‚Äôre going to shine a light on something
that a lot of people don‚Äôt want to look at,‚ÄĚ LeBoeuf said.
Never much for political correctness, I also went into
some detail on the light that might be shed on more plausible reasons why ‚Äúthey
hate us‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ Exhibit A being U.S. support for Israel‚Äôs oppression of the
Palestinians. You will not find much on this in the Fawning Corporate Media
(FCM), but there is no lack of evidence.
I included, for example, the findings of a Sept. 23, 2004,
report of the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board, which I‚Äôd suggest
now has additional impact in light of the tumult in the Middle East and
do not ‚Äėhate our freedom,‚Äô but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to
what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian
rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims
collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Pakistan, and the Gulf States.‚ÄĚ
ignored the Defense Science Board report for two months. Finally, on Nov. 24, 2004,
the New York Times
published a story on the report ‚ÄĒ but with some revealing surgery in the above
paragraph. The Times quoted the first sentence, but
pressed the delete button for the one on what Muslims do object to ‚ÄĒ ‚Äúwhat they
see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
The Times story did include the sentence from
the original report that immediately followed the (excised) sentence about
Israel. So it was clearly a case of surgical removal of the offending
sentence, not merely a need to shorten the paragraph.
Even More Obvious Revisions
Back to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: As he was being
interrogated, the drafters of the 9/11 Commission Report found themselves
wondering why he would bear such hatred toward the U.S.
aware that he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of
North Carolina/Greensboro, and
speculated that he suffered some kind of gross indignity during his years
Not the case, the drafters were told by those with access
to the interrogation reports. Rather, the report concludes on page 147:
own account, KSM‚Äôs animus toward the United States stemmed not from his
experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with
U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.‚ÄĚ
among the considerations that prompted the authors to observe later in the
policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that
American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions
in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim
world. ‚Ä¶ Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist
terrorism grows stronger.‚ÄĚ
As for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed‚Äôs motivation, the neocon
editors of the Washington Post waited
a decent interval ‚ÄĒ five years ‚Äď apparently in hopes that few readers would get
as far as page 147 in the 9/11 Commission report, and/or that those who did
would have short memories.
On Aug. 30, 2009, the Post
cited an unspecified ‚Äúintelligence summary‚ÄĚ for a brand new explanation of his
limited and negative experience in the United States ‚ÄĒwhich included a brief
jail stay because of unpaid bills ‚ÄĒ almost certainly helped propel him on his
path to becoming a terrorist. ‚Ä¶ He stated that his contact with the Americans,
while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and
Let‚Äôs give the Post the
benefit of the doubt. It could be, I suppose, that the above did not come from
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed until his 183rd waterboarding session. In any case, the
revised explanation of his motives is surely politically more convenient to
those wishing to obscure Mohammed‚Äôs other explanation implicating ‚ÄúU.S. foreign
policy favoring Israel.‚ÄĚ
White House Gives Up
The New York Times
article on the Obama administration‚Äôs reversal of its earlier attempt to hold
key 9/11 trials in a federal court declared in a headline, ‚ÄúWhite House Gives
Up Civilian Court Plan.‚ÄĚ But what does the reversal mean?
For one thing, it means there is likely to be far less
reportage and publicity than would have been the case in federal criminal
court, which normally accommodates a far larger audience. Even plain folks like
you and me can go and watch. (In 2009, I attended a U.S. Court of Appeals
hearing in D.C. that reversed an earlier decision to release 17 innocent Uighur
detainees into the United States from Guantanamo.)
Reduced public access to statements made by the 9/11
defendants was one of the specific reasons cited by Sen. Joe Lieberman and
other members of Congress for blocking a federal criminal trial.
"Putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a public courtroom
in full view of the public gives him a better platform than any member of al
Qaeda has been given to recruit new members," Lieberman
said in February, successfully arguing that funds should be denied for holding
such a trial.
In other words, Lieberman wanted to prevent Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed and his co-defendants from having an opportunity to explain their
actions in a way that the U.S. and world public would get to hear.
With the case handled by a much more tightly controlled
military tribunal, the defendants are even surer to be denied that public
Even if Mohammed somehow could seize an opportunity,
before sentencing, to explain what drove him to conduct the attacks of 9/11,
his comments would likely fall like the proverbial tree in the forest. There
might actually be a few journalists within earshot able to listen and report. But willing?
Favored journalists in attendance would be unlikely to
provoke their military hosts or their editors back home by passing along to the
readers any inconvenient motives that the defendant might express.
Guantanamo locale affords the government other distinct advantages. In addition
to the fewer attendees, there can be even tighter handling of secrets and the
‚ÄúCLASSIFIED‚ÄĚ stamp can be used virtually at will. Transcripts
can be heavily censored ‚ÄĒ all with very little scrutiny.
government also can select the attendees. In the past, military officials at
Guantanamo have cherry-picked ‚ÄĒ and blacklisted ‚ÄĒ journalists, depending
largely on how obediently they have behaved during earlier cases.
restrictions ‚ÄĒ and the choice of Guantanamo ‚ÄĒ are abhorrent to human rights
advocates here and abroad. Neocons, though, can breathe easier, since they are
reasonably assured of protection against any loud complaints from Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed et al. about ‚ÄúU.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.‚ÄĚ
Still, the tribunal approach may further delay justice in
the 9/11 cases, since the untested tribunal rules will likely be subjected to
many more legal challenges than would be the case in the well-worn rules of
ACLU director Anthony Romero has noted that the military
commission system is ‚Äúrife with constitutional and procedural problems,‚ÄĚ adding
that the Attorney General‚Äôs ‚Äúflip-flop is devastating to the rule of
Constitution on Life Support
serious casualty appears to be the Constitution of the United States, given the
dubious fairness of the military commissions and the noxious precedent set by
the administration‚Äôs reversal. It is possible that some future president might
expand their coverage to apply to anyone who is deemed to lend any form of
support to ‚Äúterrorists,‚ÄĚ such as perhaps leaking U.S. government secrets.
Kristen Breitweiser, a 9/11 widow and an attorney, wrote
that she was given all of two hours ‚Äúadvance notice‚ÄĚ regarding the Justice
Department‚Äôs decision to not prosecute the remaining alleged 9/11 conspirators
in an open court of law.
She asked that we all ponder what this decision says about
President Barack Obama, the Justice Department, and the United States of
America. She provided her own thoughts:
the Department of Justice, it shows their inability to prosecute individuals
who are responsible for the death of 3,000 people on the morning of 9/11.
Apparently our Constitution and judicial system -- two of the very cornerstones
that make America so great and used to set such a shining example to the rest
of the world -- are not adequately set up to respond to or deal with the
aftermath of terrorism.
‚ÄúTo me, this is a startling and dismal acknowledgment
that perhaps Osama Bin Laden did, in fact, win on the morning of 9/11. And
chillingly, I wonder whether it wasn't just the steel towers that were brought
down and incinerated on 9/11, but the yellowed pages of our U.S. Constitution,
Ray McGovern works with Tell
the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in
inner-city Washington. He served as a CIA analyst for 27 years and is
co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
This article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.
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