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CounterPunch Review of "The New Pearl Harbor"

May 25, 2004

September Song
A Review of "The New Pearl Harbor"

The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the
Administration and 9/11
David Ray Griffin
Olive Branch Press, 2004
Paper, 214 pp, $15.00

The official story goes something like this:

With no actionable warning from intelligence agencies,
four planes
were hijacked by terrorists on the morning of
September 11, 2001.
Two crashed into the Word Trade Center, which then
collapsed, and
shortly thereafter, the third into the Pentagon. The
last plane went
down in Pennsylvania after a struggle between
passengers and
hijackers. Air defense arrived too late to stop the
Responding to this attack on the homeland, the
president declared a
global war on terror which may last for generations
until evil is
finally eradicated, the security of America firmly
established, and
the world made safe for freedom and democracy.

In The New Pearl Harbor, David Ray Griffin compiles
the evidence
that every single assertion in the official story is
implausible or
impossible, and that something other must explain the
inconsistencies and contra-factual assertions.

The implications of the accumulated evidence is that
the Bush
administration was complicit in the events of
September 11th, and
not merely a victim of structural problems or
incompetence on the
part of the intelligence establishment. In a nuanced
of "complicity", Griffin distinguishes eight possible
levels, from
the lying about events to maximize political ends,
intentionally allowing expected attacks, to actual
involvement in
the planning of them.

Griffin does not make specific accusations, nor does
he hypothesize
a "true" version of what happened. But he does demand
investigations of all the contradictions, clear
reporting of the
results, and most difficult, a courageous drawing of
conclusions, no
matter how "unthinkable" or outrageous they may

In the months since the book was published, we have
been swamped
with news from the 9/11 Commission concerning both
domestic and
foreign intelligence which indicated a large and
imminent attack on
the United States. But the Commission, its members
appointed by
President Bush, is focussing on the future. According
to Vice-Chair
Lee Hamilton, "We're not interested in trying to
assess blame..."
Their goal is to understand what happened so as to
intelligence so that such "a breakdown" may not happen
again. Given
this limited mandate, almost none of the
contradictions Griffin
raises is likely to be discussed, or its ramifications
before the case is closed.

The first part of The New Pearl Harbor looks in detail
at the
timeline and events of 9/11 itself. How is it, Griffin
asks, that
even the first airplane was not intercepted -- given
procedures, operating normally many times a year, for
off-course or
otherwise anomalous aircraft? The FAA, NORAD, and the
NMCC (National
Military Command Center at the Pentagon) have a clear
and working
set of standard operating procedures which on
September 11th, and on
that day only, failed to operate. Griffin lays them
out, along with
the strange, and changing official excuses for their

The story becomes even more bizarre for the second
plane to hit the
WTC. By that time, it was known that three planes had
been hijacked,
and were heading back eastward (the fourth plane was
41 minutes late
in taking off, so at this point was not part of the
story). Still
there was no normal scrambling of protective aircraft.
By the time
of the Pentagon incident, the details become
grotesque. It was clear
to the entire nation, fixed to the TV, that America
was under a
coordinated attack, and that a third plane was headed
Washington. Yet though Cheney and Rice were evacuated
to the White
House bunker, still, no protection aircraft scrambled,
and when it
finally did, was sent from a base far from DC,
travelling at half-
maximum speed or less, arriving too late to prevent
the attack.

With official statements compared to a detailed
timeline of events,
the most likely conclusion is that on that day, the
air defense
system was ordered to stand down from its normal
procedures -- even after it was clear to all what was
happening. Who
could have ordered such a stand down?

Much of the material Griffin cites has been long
circulated on the
internet. What is less commonly understood are the
strange details
of the WTC collapse, implausibly explained as
"jet-fuel fire melting
structural steel." The pattern of destruction and fall
is more
consistent with the air attacks plus controlled
demolitions. Griffin
parses the material, with many notes from firefighting
architectural sources. Times, temperatures, visual and
evidence simply do not support the melting of steel as
the sole
cause of the observed failures. Further, what but
explosions can
account for reports of same from survivors, and for
concrete and building parts being ejected horizontally
three times
the width of the buildings? Steel in both towers was
broken at the
joints, and molten steel found at sub-basement levels
inconsistent with melting from top floor fires whose
debris crushed
the floors below. The WTC wreckage was spirited away
as quickly as
possible and no forensics permitted.

Even more curious was the collapse of WTC Building 7
-- 355 feet
away from the north tower, and further still from the
south -- which
was never hit by a plane or any significant amount of
debris ,and
sustained only small fires. It went down at 5:20PM,
collapsing from
the bottom (as in a typical controlled demolition),
with none of
the "official" explanations in play. The steel was
removed quickly
from this site as well, although having been
evacuated, there were
no survivors to be searched for. Relegated to a
footnote is the fact
that Marvin P. Bush, the president's younger brother,
was a director
for a security company involved in three of the four
Securacom covered the WTC, United Airlines, -- whose
flights hit the
WTC and crashed in Pennsylvania -- and Dulles Airport
-- from which
the Pentagon flight took off. What are we to make of
testimony from
WTC personnel that five days before 9/11, heightened
requiring 12-hour days and bomb-sniffing dogs was
abruptly called
off? What committee will chase that down?

Griffin turns next to the strange story of the flight
that struck
the Pentagon. The physical evidence is simply
inconsistent with the
claim that the building was struck by a Boeing 757
travelling at
300+ mph. The hole in the fašade is far too small to
accommodate the
wings and tail -- which were supposed to have
disappeared within the
hole. The penetration is far too shallow for the mass
and momentum
involved. Yet there is no scorching of the grass on
the lawn
outside. There is not the slightest sign of a
burnt-out wreck in any
photograph, nor were there any fuselage fragments
recovered within
the building. In the initial story, other then a
beacon and the two
black boxes -- these "discovered" at four the next
morning -- every
part of the plane, including the stainless steel
engines, were
melted, and vaporized. Nevertheless, in one version of
the original
tale, authorities were able to identify victims from
fingerprints. But six months later the story had
changed and enough
of the plane had been recovered to make possible "an
almost complete
reconstitution." The parts are supposedly stocked in a

According to experienced pilots, the complex final
maneuver of the
huge aircraft could not have been accomplished by an
amateur. The
choice of a difficult low flying attack on a side
wall, rather than
crashing more easily into the roof -- for maximum
damage -- was most
curious. The plane's being "lost" from all radar
contact for 29
minutes, while flying toward Washington is most
improbable, given
the network of radar and other resources covering the
area. These
contradictions, along with the failure to scramble in
the most
protected area of the world, make the official story
of the Pentagon
attack profoundly suspicious. And though Cheney and
Rice were safely
stowed in the White House bunker, and a plane was
known to be
heading in its direction, the Pentagon was never

The last of the airplanes to go down was UA Flight 93,
scene of the
now famous passenger revolt: "Let's roll!" Here, the
question is no
longer "Why were the planes not shot down?" but rather
"Why might it
be the case that this one was?" CBS reported two F16s
tailing the
flight. Phone calls made from the plane during its
last minutes
reported possible success in overcoming the hijackers.
One call
reported, "I think they're going to do it. They're
forcing their way
into the cockpit...They're doing it! They're doing it!
They're doing
it!" Next, screaming in the background, followed by a
sound, a sound like wind." Then contact lost. The
scenario is
consistent with a plane being shot down. A half-ton
piece of engine
was found over a mile from the fuselage -- a likely
target for a
heat-seeking missile. Burning debris and human body
parts were
reported eight miles away, and confetti-like debris
rained down
minutes afterwards. One theory that would explain
these departures
from the official story is that Flight 93,
unexpectedly late for
departure, and unexpectedly rescued by its passengers,
was destroyed
by a competent military, in this case ordered to
complete a bungled
task. The risk of people left alive to be questioned
may have been
too great.

Griffin goes on to examine material that has been more
covered -- at least in the left press and on many
websites: the
President's odd behavior on 9/11 given the timeline,
and the
evolving stories from the White House Press Office. He
looks at the
larger context of the event: the probable knowledge of
attacks; the obstruction of investigations before and
the "anti-hunt" for bin Laden and al-Queda; the
connections between
Bush and the Saudi royal family; the flying of bin
Ladens out of the
country when no other aircraft was allowed to fly. We
are familiar
with much of this, though the details and citations
are helpful. By
now we are familiar, too, with the neo-con plans,
pre-9/11, for
projecting US power across the middle east and
throughout central
Asia. Asking the normal forensic question "Who
benefits?", we can
see that the Project For A New American Century"
(2000) was well
served by the "new Pearl Harbor" it called for.

After all the suspicious incongruities collected, we
are left with
two huge problems. Griffin leads us through them in a
entitled "Is Complicity by US Officials the Best
Explanation for

1.Beyond showing that official explanations are
implausible or
impossible, how shall we construct a meaningful,
narrative which will contain and explain the known
facts? For
example, if it was not a Boeing 757 which crashed into
the Pentagon,
but a smaller military missile, where did the 757 go,
and what
happened to its passengers?

2. Most difficult of all, perhaps, is the question of
how the
administration -- if indeed it was complicit in 9/11
at some or
several levels -- could be so incompetent at scripting
a plausible
story. Why not punish a few scapegoats in the
community, instead of promoting those responsible for
"lapses"? Why
the needless, obvious lies, and continuingly changing
Why such massiveness to the conspiracy, requiring
silence from many
individuals in the White House, Justice Department,
and the Pentagon, as well as in civilian security
operations? Why
risk demolition of buildings beyond the flight
attacks? Why bring
down WTC 7? Why order interceptor planes to stand
down, and deny SOP
readiness? Why have the president play unconcern for
half an hour?
So as not to upset second-graders? Why claim that
human flesh could
withstand temperatures which would vaporize stainless
steel? There
are better minds than Bush's who have been concocting
operations for many years. Where were they? Or was it
just this
confounding of critics that was intended?

My one quibble with Griffin's most valuable compendium
of unanswered
questions is that the author nowhere examines and
brings his
judgement to bear on the many stories concerning
Israeli and Mossad
participation in the 9/11 events. But the book is a
progress, necessarily incomplete.

Griffin can't put the pieces together. In this, he is
honest, and
calls on us to be the same. All he can do is call for
more authentic
investigations -- not the cover-ups currently underway
-- to
confront these crucial issues. And this, too, we must

Marc Estrin can be reached at: mestrin1@e...

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