The right wing benefited so much from Sept. 11 that, if I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it. -- Norman Mailer
fterward Adeel Akhtar wondered why they let him on the plane. He should have known something was up when his passport was confiscated at the airport. "You'll get it back when you get to New York," he was told. Thinking nothing more of it, Akhtar, a young British Asian man, boarded the plane with a female friend and settled in for the long flight. He was going to New York for an acting audition. But something was wrong. As the plane approached New York it was met by Canadian F-18's and American F-15's. Escorts. And when the plane landed, it taxied to a remote corner of the tarmac, where it waited, for police to arrive. Akhtar watched as the police officers boarded the plane, wondering who they were going to arrest. The confiscated passport. His dark-skin. His name. He put two and two together. It was him.
Handcuffed, he and his companion were taken to a room, where they were questioned for several hours, and then released. A case of mistaken identity.
During the interrogation Akhtar was asked a question that struck him as odd. Hundreds of people of Asian and Middle Eastern origin must have been asked it since Sept. 11. "Do you know anyone who approved of the Sept. 11 attacks?"
I started thinking about that question, and about another that's been asked of Asian and Arab detainees: "Do you know where Osama bin Laden is?"
That's like asking a black person, "Do you know what O.J.'s golf handicap is?"
"Of course not. How would I know?"
"Well, you're black, aren't you?"
"Do you know if George Bush wears briefs or boxers?"
"How would I know?"
"Well, you're white aren't you? You white people all know each other."
So, do you know anyone who approved of the Sept. 11 attacks?
But that doesn't mean there aren't people who do. In a world as large as our own, you can bet somewhere there's someone who loathes the US government so much that he or she would do something as dumb and pointless and immoral as this. I mean, some people really do believe Brittany Spears is a virgin. You wouldn't expect that, would you? But there's nothing someone, somewhere doesn't believe, or wouldn't do.
So I tried to think this through. Other than the stupid people who would do something like this?
Someone who approved the attacks, might be someone who benefited from them, I reasoned. Someone who stood to gain.
I mentally rounded up the usual suspects.
OBL, himself. Has he gained? Since the al-Qaeda leader has either been crushed under a rain of bunker-busting bombs, or is on the lamb, his dialysis machine in tow, I'd guess not. Strike him off the list.
How about Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader? With his luxurious home destroyed (luxurious by Afghan standards, and certainly no match for the Bush ranch) and with the Cyclopean Taliban supremo on the run, the answer is clear: not him either. On the contrary, both Osama and the one-eyed Mullah are probably wishing the whole thing had never happened. Like Art Eggleton, wishing he'd listened the first time his generals told him Canadians had taken Taliban fighters prisoner.
Okay, what about the "Axis of Evil" states?
Washington, ever committed to democracy, has already handpicked a new leader to take over from Saddam Hussein, and thousands of Iraqi civilians will soon be piled atop the Alpine heap of bodies US enforced sanctions, and missiles and bombs from the Gulf War, have already built. That is if velociraptors like US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfwowitz and other assorted vampires on Capitol Hill get their way, and it looks like they will. Scratch Iraq off the list.
North Korea, much maligned and ridiculed in the Western press for its failings, most of which are entirely reactions to decades of hostility from successive US administrations, would just like to be left alone. Koreans, as a whole, both those who live in north and south, wish the 35,000 GI Joe's stationed on the peninsula would pack their bags and go away, but like cockroaches, once you've got ‘em, it's a bitch to get rid of ‘em. And these ones aren't leaving. Every time north and south get together for a confab on how to chase the uninvited guests out of the pantry, Pest Central puts the kibosh on the plan. It seems having a massive military presence on the peninsula, so close to China, is a strategic advantage the Pentagon isn't going to give up. So, far from profiting from 9/11, North Korea finds itself even more the object of US hostility, and all the more unlikely to be left alone.
Iran? And Russia and China? They don't benefit at all, either. On the contrary. Today all three find themselves increasingly encircled by a growing ring of US military bases. The Pentagon has bases in almost sixty countries, including new bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And US forces are being deployed to Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, right up against Russia's border.
Imagine 20 years ago every country in the Americas had joined the Warsaw Pact, leaving the United States encircled by the Soviet-led alliance. Do you think the generals at the Pentagon would be scheduling lazy fishing holidays? Do you think that whatever event had allowed the alliance to penetrate the Americas would be considered a boon in Washington?
So, who's benefited?
Look no further than the smiling visage pictured in the photograph in all those US government offices -- including the interrogation rooms.
George Bush started as a president under a cloud. Under many clouds, really. He's stupid. He "misunderestimates" things. He thinks Canada's prime minister is named Jean Poutine. He's a spoiled rich man's son who owes his place in the world to money and connections, which wouldn't be so bad were it not so apparent. And he's not the guy most Americans voted for.
Nothing like massive terrorist attacks to chase away the clouds. Today, Bush stands upon Mount Olympus. All those who lost friends and relatives on Sept. 11 may still find themselves under a cloud, but Bush's vistas are so sunny he's getting rub downs every morning with SPF 45 sun block. Talk about a makeover. Chalk one up for 9/11.
Let's look at Bush's elevate-the-rich, bludgeon-the-poor economic agenda. A king's ransom in proposed tax cuts to benefit the richest Americans aroused a good deal of skepticism pre-9/11, to say the least. Today, voting against massive tax cuts for the rich, or questioning the pitch forking of more money to defense contractors to build cluster bombs, space-based weapons and antiballistic missile systems that don't work to be used against a threat that doesn't exist, would seem, well, unpatriotic, if not recklessly dangerous. With the world teeming with terrorists (we're told), there's nothing like space-based lasers and cluster bombs as a palladium against box cutters. How could anyone doubt a harsh military crackdown would stop terrorism when Ariel Sharon's Israel provides such a bracing example of its merits? So, George, and all his rich friends, will get their way. Less to give up in taxes, more tax dollars from the poor and middle class to rush to their bottom lines. Chalk up another for 9/11.
What of geopolitics? That's making the United States the pre-eminent country in the world, a kind of Rome for the 21st century, or a new Third Reich -- a successful one -- with soldiers jackbooting around the world, with puppet regimes installed hither and yon, hatred of communists and Jews (which the Nazis said were one and the same) replaced by abhorrence of terrorists and Arabs (which Americans believe are one and the same. Hey, Tariz! Y'know where Osama is?") Before 9/11, who would dominate oil-rich Central Asia was still very much in question. Today, it's clear who the hegemon in the region is. And it ain't Russia. Chalk another up for 9/11.
So, here's what I'm thinking. If ever you get dragged into an interrogation room, and a cop or FBI or CSIS guy asks you, "Do you know anyone who approves of 9/11?" answer with the most likely answer of all.
"Yes, George Bush."