by Sue Reid
London Daily Mail
Thursday, Jun 24, 2004
At the Cannes Film Festival last week, a predominantly American audience gave maverick film director Michael Moore a standing ovation for his controversial film, Fahrenheit 9/11. The movie, which won the coveted Palme D’Or, is a blistering critique of the Bush administration’s motives for the “war on terror,” and even goes so far as to suggest that the Twin Tower atrocities provided a convenient mandate for America to invade Iraq.
Reaction to the film is one more sign of the growing cynicism over the President’s handling of the catastrophic events of 9/11. Yet the questions that Moore’s movie pose scratch only the surface. Now, an explosive book on the happenings of 9/11, which raises even more controversial issues, is about to be published. It will be damned in some quarters as nothing other than the irresponsible ramblings of conspiracy theorists or the wild rantings of anti-war activists. Much of what it says has been criticised, and flatly denied, by the White House and America’s intelligence services.
Yet its findings have garnered an enthusiastic response from sections of America’s intelligentsia and a former British Cabinet Minister, the MP Michael Meacher, wrote the foreword of the book. In it he says: “Never in modern history has an event of such cataclysmic significance been shrouded in such mystery. So many of the key facts remain unexplained on any plausible basis, and so many of the key actors have put forward contradictory accounts only to be forced to retract or cover up later.”
Whether he is right or not, the book is tellingly called The New Pearl Harbor, a pointed reference to the theory that President Roosevelt cynically allowed a Japanese assault on the U.S. fleet in 1941 to force America into World War II.
The book makes some deeply unpalatable – and frankly incredible – assertions, even querying if the Al Qaeda attacks would have happened without the complicity of America’s most powerful politicians and policy-makers. Written by the academic author and American theologian, Professor David Ray Griffin of Claremont School of Theology, California, it challenges almost every official account of the day and among the disturbing questions it asks are . . .
Why were no military fighters scrambled from the nearest air force bases after the terrorists first struck? How could a rookie pilot – one of the terrorists – fly a 757 aircraft so precisely into the American defence headquarters, the Pentagon? Was it really an aircraft that pierced this well-protected building or a military plane or missile? And who made ten million dollars out of betting before 9/11 that shares in the two airlines of the hijacked planes were about to plummet?
To start to unravel this extraordinary story one must go back to September 11, 2001 as President George Bush flew into Florida, on Air Force One for what was intended as the perfect photo opportunity. It was just after 9am and the world’s most powerful man was sitting among seven-year-olds at a school in Sarasota listening as they laboriously lisped from a favourite American school book, My Pet Goat. The President was in good humour, even cracking a corny joke and evoking laughter among the watching teachers, TV crews and his secret service men. Yet a terrorist maelstrom had already been unleashed.
A little over one hour earlier and 1,200 miles away on the Eastern seaboard, American Airlines Flight 11 had left Boston at 7.59. Fifteen minutes later its radio suddenly snapped off air. The first indication that it might have been hijacked. The time was precisely 8:14am. Flight 11 should have been immediately intercepted by fighter pilots sent up from nearby McGuire Air Force Base, in New Jersey, who could have made the journey to the World Trade Centre in three minutes.
Interception is a standard – and mandatory – emergency procedure in the U.S. in suspected hijacks and one that had been used routinely in 67 air scares over America in the nine months preceding 9/11. But, disturbingly, fighter jets were instead ordered out of an air base 180 miles away in Cape Cod. And they flew so slowly that they did not even arrive in time to stop the second hijack attack on the south tower of the Trade Centre. According to Griffin, “There are standard procedures for situations such as this . . . and if they had been followed American Airline Flight 11 would have been intercepted by fighter jets within ten minutes of any sign that it had been hijacked. Had the plane then failed to obey the standard signal to follow the fighter jets to an airport it would have been shot down.”
The two Cape Cod F-15 fighters, one piloted by a Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, set off at 8.52 when there were still 11 minutes to go before the second plane hit the World Trade Centre at 9:03am.
Lt-Col Duffy has since said that he was “on full blower all the way” – a top speed of more than 1850mph, which meant he could travel at 32 miles every minute. “Allowing the standard 2.5 minutes for them to get airborne and up to speed, the fighters should have reached Manhattan in about eight minutes, having a full three minutes left to shoot down the errant airline”, writes Professor Griffin. And yet as United Airlines Flight 175, the second Boeing, crashed into the South Tower, the F-15s were still 70 miles away. It took the fighter pilots not eight minutes to reach downtown New York but 19 minutes. It seems that instead of flying at “full blower” they were travelling at a comparatively leisurely 700mph. If this seems extraordinary, Professor Griffin raises some other tantalising questions about events that day.
He records that the Pentagon was hit by the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 at 9.38am, The aircraft, with 58 passengers on board, had left Dulles Airport, in Washington DC at 8.20am and suddenly disappeared from radio contact at 8.46am. Astonishingly, no fighter jets from Andrews Air Force Base, just ten miles from Washington D.C., were ever scrambled to intercept it. Instead fighters were ordered from 130 miles away at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. They finally arrived after the Pentagon crash had already happened. Thought to be flying towards Ohio, Flight 77 disappeared from radar screens for half an hour. But the plane astonishingly reappeared in airspace over Washington D.C. at 9:24am. It was then that the pilot executed a complex manoeuvre, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes to hit a wing of the Pentagon with perfect precision.
It was the sort of flying that you would expect only from a seasoned airman. Yet at the cockpit controls was a rookie, a terrorist named Hani Hanjour, who had been such a bad trainee pilot that managers at his flying school had reported him to aviation authorities five times.
“A pilot they want us to believe was trained at a puddle jumper school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas brings the plane in so low and flat that it clips the electrical wires across the street from the Pentagon and flies it with pinpoint accuracy into the side of this building at 460 miles per hour,” says Griffin.
It is a puzzle that may never be solved because, in another odd coincidence, no pictures exist of the moment the aircraft penetrated the building. Jose Velasquez, an employee at the petrol station opposite the Pentagon, has stated that security cameras there would have recorded the moment of impact. “But I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI were here within minutes and took the film away,” he told reporters.
But even more bizarre is the damning physical evidence which appears to show the Pentagon could never have been struck by a Boeing 757, with a wing span of 125ft. According to the White House, the Boeing penetrated the Pentagon with such ferocity that it went completely inside, disappearing from view before burning to almost nothing. Crucial photos taken just after the fire fighters arrived show a hole in the building’s facade of between 15ft and 18ft in diameter. It clearly reveals there was no damage above the hole or on either side of it.
So how did the giant Boeing aircraft fit into that hole? The official account claims that the wings folded back, or snapped, during the initial impact with the reinforced structure of the Pentagon. They were pushed inward towards the fuselage and then carried along with the plane into the building. But, insists Professor Griffin, this would be next to impossible. “For when the plane’s forward motion was suddenly reduced as the nose hit the Pentagon, the wings could not have folded back – unless the laws of kinetic energy were momentarily suspended.”
Instead the wings would have been propelled forward at great speed, damaging the building on either side of the main area of the point of contact of the plane. Even more bewildering is what happened to the Boeing’s 40ft-high tail. “Did it obligingly duck before entering the building?” asks Griffin. “Whatever did hit the Pentagon it did not cause nearly enough destruction for the official story to be true. A Boeing 757, besides being so tall and having such a wide wingspan, weighs over 100 tons. Travelling at a speed of 250 to 440 miles per hour, it would have caused tremendous devastation, far more than was evident at the crash site.”
But there is another intriguing element to this particular poser. If the official story is correct, if the hijacked aircraft did go right inside the Pentagon, where are the remains now? We know that fingerprints were taken from some of the dead passengers proving that some human remains at least had survived the resulting fire. Yet the fuselage, the tail, the wings and the engines of the enormous Boeing – made of heat-resistant aluminium and tempered steel – were all, according to the official version of events, destroyed. So, if the plane didn’t hit the Pentagon, what did?
In what is the wildest of all the theories of The New Pearl Harbour, the suggestion is that the Pentagon wasn’t hit by a plane at all but by a military missile or military aircraft. Certainly, several onlookers claim that it was a missile that so precisely pierced the Pentagon that day. One of them asserts it was making a shrill noise “like a fighter plane.” But sent by whom? And if indeed it was a missile, what on earth happened to Flight 77, last thought to be heading for Ohio? No one knows.
There are only unanswered questions, such as that posed by Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the World Trade Centre. She apparently told a television show: “I don’t understand how a plane could hit our defence department (The Pentagon) an hour after the first plane hit the Twin Towers. I don’t understand how that is possible. I’m a reasonable person. But when you look at the fact that we spend a half trillion dollars on national defence . . . I think there were procedures and protocols that were not followed on September 11.”
One fact is certain about 9/11 and that concerns the stock market dealings before the tragedy. An extremely high volume of “put options” – a bet on the price of shares falling – were purchased for the stock of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the international financiers which occupied 22 storeys of the World Trade Centre. Even more telling were the volume of “put options” on American and United Airlines, which owned the four aircraft hijacked by the terrorists. On these two airlines, and only these two, the level of share trade went up by 1,200 per cent in the three days prior to the catastrophe. As the shares dropped in response to the terrorism, the value of these options multiplied a hundred fold. Someone – and it may have been Bin Laden himself – had made ten million dollars in profit. So why weren’t these dealings spotted?
“Any American intelligence officer looking at the stock market put option purchases in the early September of 2001 would easily have concluded that in the near future American and United aircraft were going to be involved in some disaster. And that the target was quite likely to be the World Trade Centre where Morgan Stanley Dean Witter had their offices,” speculates Professor Griffin.
And then we must turn to the behaviour of George Bush junior himself. America’s CNN network broke into its programming at 8:48 to report the first collision and Flight 11’s demise. But the President, says the White House, was told of the horror at 9am when he arrived at the Sarasota school. By then, 12 minutes after the television announcement, millions of Americans knew of the crash and much of the world, too. Strangely, according to this official account, the President appeared to be one of the last to hear this shocking news. He reportedly told the principal of the school, “A commercial plane has hit the World Trade Centre and we’re going ahead to do the reading thing anyway.”
Then the Commander-in-Chief of the American military settled down to hear pupils recite My Pet Goat, only interrupted a few minutes later by a whispered message in his ear from an aide that a second aircraft had hit the World Trade Centre.
“He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protest the country from further attacks. In the middle of a modern day Pearl Harbor he simply turned back to the matter in hand, the day’s photo opportunity,” claims Griffin. So why was the President not informed that something was possibly dreadfully amiss by his secret service personnel riding in his car and among his motorcade before he got to the school? Why, when learning of the second crash into the South Twin Tower – which transformed the events into a terror attack rather than a terrible accident – did he not leave the school immediately? He was on a pre-scheduled and well-publicised photocall. The school and the President, it might be assumed, were now Al Qaeda’s targets, too.
Instead Bush and his people dawdled at the school before leaving in their scheduled motorcade on their scheduled route to the airport. It was during that journey that they reportedly were informed that the Pentagon had been struck. Yet, mysteriously, still no military escort was ordered for the President. Air Force One took off without fighter jets to protect it.
“The implied question is, of course, a disturbing one,” says Griffin. “Did the President, and at least the head of his secret service, know that he was not a terrorist target?” That is, of course, a theory that will rightly come in for the most heated criticism when the book is published here next month. But there is one more twist to the strange tale. It rests on a statement made by Bush himself about what he knew on the day of 9/11. He says that he was sitting outside the Sarasota classroom waiting for the start of the Pet Goat reading when he saw the first plane crash into the Twin Towers on a television monitor. “I saw the airplane hit the tower – the TV was obviously on and I used to fly myself,” he was to explain later. The President recalls that he turned to his security men, joking: “There’s one terrible pilot.”
He repeated the story more than once in the months after 9/11. Yet the footage of the first plane crashing into the Twin Tower did not emerge for another 13 hours (what millions of us saw was live footage of the second plane). Shots of the first plane, taken accidentally by a French documentary maker filming in Manhattan, were only released publicly for television the following day.
So, according to Professor Griffin, President Bush simply could not have seen that Flight 11 crash picture on television. Nor could he have seen the second plane crash, as he was in the classroom when it happened. But did something else happen? Did the President, sitting in the secure communications room set up by secret services at the school, view secret images of the crash; images transmitted by American intelligence onto the monitor in that room as the attack actually occurred?
It is an explosive theory, one that understandably will be dismissed as risible nonsense. For alarmingly, if U.S. intelligence did film the last moments of Flight 11 live, as it actually happened, it can only mean one thing: that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the Al Qaeda terror assaults. This, of all the theories propounded by Professor Griffin in The New Pearl Harbor, is the one that will be condemned most aggressively by those who wield power in America today.
Yet we should not forget the words President Bush penned in his diary on the night of 9/11. Before going to bed he wrote: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” Will we ever know just what he meant?