Who Did It?

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Who Did It?

By Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News Analyst. September 11, 2001 2:00 p.m. WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) Who ordered and planned the hijacking of the airliners to crash them into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon? The list of possible culprits is very long and encircles the entire world. But the most likely ones are only too obvious.

The attacks certainly appear to point to Islamic extremist groups in the Middle East for three obvious reasons.

First, they required an exceptionally high degree of intelligence preparation and planning. The $60 billion a year U.S. intelligence community was taken entirely by surprise a particularly bitter irony since the Central Intelligence Agency was expressly set up in 1947 to coordinate U.S. intelligence and thereby make sure that another devastating surprise attack like Pearl Harbor could never happen again.

Second, the techniques involved in the catastrophically successful attacks were those that have pioneered, developed and favored by Middle East-based Islamic terrorists for the past 30 years.

They involved a combination of the old terror technique of hijacking civilian airliners from the late 1960s that was pioneered by secular, leftist revolutionary Palestinian groups with the chilling abandon and ruthlessness of the suicide bomber.

Suicide bombing was pioneered to devastating effect by the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Hezbollah (Party of God) movement in Lebanon in the early 1980s. Hundreds of U.S. Marines and French peacekeepers were killed in almost simultaneous terror truck bomb assaults on their headquarters in Beirut in 1983. The entire top CIA analyst team on Middle East terrorism was wiped out in another such attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut around that time. But now, for the first time, these two techniques have been combined with staggering effectiveness.

Third, the attack on the World Trade Towers is the second of its kind. The earlier 1993 attack was far more limited, but equally audacious in scope. The plan of the terrorists then and they were indeed from the Middle East was to bring both towers crashing down and then unleash a cloud of cyanide gas to massacre the survivors. They hoped for a death toll of 100,000.

It is not yet clear what the death told of Wednesday's attacks will be but the Trade Towers have indeed been destroyed. The death toll is clearly going to be in the thousands at least. At least 50,000 people worked in those buildings. Hundreds of terrified, helpless, innocent passengers died in the hijacked airliners that flew into the Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The casualties look certain to be at least 10 or 20 times the total number of dead in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, until Wednesday the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history.

Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan has been named by successive U.S. administrations as the so-called "Godfather of Terror" over the past decade.

He continues to be based in Afghanistan and the Clinton administration has blamed him for the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed hundreds of people most them Kenyan and Tanzanian civilians a few years ago. He will be an obvious suspect.

However, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich has already called Wednesday's shocking attacks examples of "state-sponsored terrorism" and he could well prove to be right.

Many leading U.S. experts on terrorism in both the intelligence services and academia have long believed that Bin Laden by himself was never capable of being more than a middle man and a convenient 'cut out" for state sponsored terror attacks. In reality, they believe, many of the worst attacks attributed to him, were more likely financed and ordered by such nations as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Indeed, Laurie Mylroie, a biographer of Saddam Hussein, has even published a book arguing that Saddam ordered the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and that his intelligence organization played a major role in carrying it out.

But under the Clinton administration, the U.S. intelligence and security services were extremely reluctant to investigate such possibilities. And even if the Bush administration were to take such theories seriously now, proving them would certainly be very difficult.

The obvious willingness of the actual airliner hijackers to sacrifice their own lives certainly suggests that the planners of the attacks were able to draw on a cadre of reliable, fanatical, dedicated followers ready to sacrifice their own lives. There are only three such significant reservoirs of such groups currently active in international terrorism and all of them are in the Middle East and intensely hostile to the United States.

They are: Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, which is supported by Iran; Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which has launched a devastating wave of suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months; and Bin Laden's own group based in Afghanistan, where it is protected by the ruling Taliban regime.

Having said that, caution should be added. There was a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Iran anger across the United States after the Oklahoma City bombing. It quickly emerged, however, that that attack had been carried out by white American terrorists. Timothy MacVeigh was executed this year for carrying out that attack.

Rushes to judgement are easy, and the complexities of who was really behind such terrible outrages are often debated for years afterwards. But on the other hand, crimes of such an outrageous scale, with such devastating and tragic consequences demand rapid national retaliation and response. The popular pressure to do so is usually overwhelming.

The U.S. security and intelligence services were tragically inadequate to anticipate and prevent Wednesday's horrors. But the national surge of energy and rage that is certain to go into the investigation is likely to point decisively to the most likely culprits -whoever they are - far sooner than many talking heads taking refuge in their usual cliches think.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 11, 2001


URL: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-crash- tradecenter-claim.html

Headline: Palestinian Group Denies World Trade Center Crash

REUTERS, 9:58 a.m. ET, 11 Sept 2001

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A senior official from the radical Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine denied Tuesday the group had any connection to a double plane crash onto New York City's World Trade Center.

An anonymous caller had told Abu Dhabi television the DFLP was behind the crash.

``I emphasize that the story released on Abu Dhabi TV by an anonymous person is totally incorrect,'' Tayseer Khaled, a senior official from the DFLP politburo in the Palestinian territories, told Reuters.

``The DFLP is against hijacking planes and against endangering the lives of civilians who are not connected with the struggle of this region,'' he said.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), September 12, 2001.

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