Media’s attempts to plug holes in Washington’s stories reveal how absurd stories really are

That grunting you hear is the sound of journalists struggling to fit facts to a theory . The last time guttural explosions like this were heard, Marlon Brando was trying to squeeze his ample bottom into a pair of 36 inch-waist jeans. The result wasn’t pretty — and neither is the fact fitting of journalists.

The latest labored exertion in the newsroom concerns the discrepancy between the claim that the September 11th hijackers were Islamist holy warriors, but that they cavorted in strip bars the night before the attack. Since fundamentalist Muslims could hardly be expected to frequent strip clubs, let alone get drunk in them, the question arises, How do you reconcile these patently contradictory claims? Not very convincingly, it turns out.

The first attempt at reconciliation I heard was from a friend who explained that the suspects, “were drinking so they could fit in. That way no one would suspect them.”

Suspect them of what — of being Muslim? While at times one might be forgiven for thinking that in the aftermath of September 11th being Muslim is now a crime, it certainly wasn’t thought of that way before September 11th. So exactly what were the accused trying to evade suspicion of?

And in an October 4th, Ask the Globe feature, the Toronto Globe and Mail explains, “those hijackers believed to have been drinking in bars or sitting in a strip club the night before the attacks may have been seeking cover.” It’s the Islamic principle of “taqyya” the Globe says, which “permits Muslims to use all necessary subterfuge to throw suspicion off their real goals.”

Are we supposed to believe that some equally inebriated strip-club patrons were sitting on bar stools eyeing the swarthy men sitting in the corner, thinking , “I wonder if these guys are bin Laden operatives planning to crash a jetliner into a skyscraper tomorrow? Nah, they’re drinking and ogling the strippers. Couldn’t be”?

But absurd as the claim is, it’s made, and worst, believed. The underlying thinking goes, “These were the bad guys, no question, so if they were doing something that’s inconsistent with what the bad guys are supposed to do, there must be some reason.”

The alternative, and I daresay more parsimonious possibility — that they weren’t the bad guys, or were, but weren’t fundamentalist Muslims  — is never considered. Instead, we’re treated to something that makes Ptlomy’s model of the solar system — an over-elaborate model developed to validate the assumption that the earth is the centre of the universe — look spare and economical.

Ask yourself a few questions: Exactly what were the suspects seeking cover from? The entire premise of the argument is that an Islamic man, practising his faith, would have aroused suspicion prior to September 11th, so he acts as a fundamentalist Muslim wouldn’t. Imagine this. The perpetrators of a crime are said to be orthodox Jews. But it’s also claimed the night before the crime is committed, our suspects are seen at a pig roast, hoovering down huge slabs of greasy pork, while drinking glass after glass of milk. When it’s pointed out that orthodox Jews wouldn’t eat pork, the reply is, They were just trying to fit in so no one would suspect they were Jews.

Why would anyone care? And isn’t it more reasonable to grant as a very strong possibility that they weren’t orthodox Jews?

Before September 11th, seeing a Muslim man eschew strip clubs and alcohol would hardly arouse suspicion. On the contrary, carrying on loudly and drunkenly in a strip club is more likely to have attracted attention, if not arouse suspicion. Indeed, it did. This might be the first time ever the utter failure of a strategy is advanced as evidence that it was being pursued.

Exactly what is meant by cover, anyway? Pretending you’re not a fundamentalist Muslim, so the terror attacks can’t be pinned on an fundamentalist Islamic group later? But why would anyone, sitting in a strip club on September 10th, have any reason to believe that the swarthy  drunks sitting at the next table were going to crash a plane into the World Trade Centre the next day? If you wanted to stay under cover, wouldn’t it have made more sense to stay out of sight — and pray?

And if the perpetrators were bin Laden operatives, why would they want to conceal their identities after the fact? Isn’t that the point of terrorist attacks — to make plain who’s carrying them out, and why? When the IRA set off bombs in London, did it take pains to ensure that the British authorities wouldn’t know the IRA was responsible?

If you believe this folderol, you believe the accused were crafty people, brilliant really, but then enormously stupid, too. They’re smart enough to pull off a brilliantly executed and co-ordinated terrorist attack, but can’t remember to take responsibility for it, or to explain their motivation and goals — the whole point of a terror attack. In fact, for some reason, they’re trying to cover up their responsibility, though — and here their brilliance leaves them — with little success. They’re brilliant enough to evade the notice of the considerable US intelligence establishment, but stupid enough to draw attention to themselves the night before the attack, so they’ll be remembered. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to keep a low profile, evade notice, and not be remembered, I wouldn’t be drinking boilermakers in a strip-joint while making loud and boisterous remarks to the staff and patrons. On the contrary — that’s what I’d do if I wanted to be remembered.

The same characteristic of being at once both brilliant and crafty but stupid and blundering was attributed to Washington’s last hobgoblins — the Serbs. The Serbs were said to be crafty and cunning enough to hide the bodies of the ethnic Albanian Kosovars alleged to have been murdered in the tens of thousands — a story that began circulating when forensic pathologists couldn’t  find the bodies Washington warned were strewn across Kosovo. At that point, the media, and public, might have said, If the pathologists can’t find the bodies maybe there aren’t any. Maybe Washington lied. It’s not as if Washington hasn’t lied before, to provide a pretext for war. But that’s not what the media said. Instead, it started grunting, trying to pull size 36 inch waist jeans, over a 60 inch waist theory. It said, instead, the reason the bodies couldn’t be found is because the Serbs hid them.

The “crafty Serbs hid the bodies” cover-up recalls other tortured — and tortuous — explanations. When it was pointed out that the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians wasn’t happening, and therefore bombing couldn’t put an end to something that hadn’t happened, it was said, “Ah, but it would have happened, had we not bombed.”

In other words, every time one of Washington’s stories starts to fall apart, another story is crafted to prop up the first.

So, to prop up the story that bodies couldn’t be found in Kosovo because the cunning Serbs had hidden them, (again, evading the massive US intelligence apparatus, including its spy satellites that surely would have noticed the disinterment and subsequent reinterment of mass graves), another story had to be told — that the hidden bodies had finally been found. But how were we to know they were actually the bodies of ethnic Albanians? Because the Serbs, crafty and cunning in so many ways, weren’t crafty enough to remove tell-tales signs that the corpses belonged to ethnic Albanians — like their identity papers!

Repeatedly, Washington issues stories that make no sense. Rather than calling a spade a spade, and pointing out the contradictions, the media, latter day Ptolemy’s and ever the faithful enabler of Washington’s mendacity, bend over backwards to explain away the inconsistencies.

But not without  a lot of grunting.

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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