'No Sniggering Allowed'
In an interview on Hardball with Chris
Matthews McDermott tries to dismiss reports of the hijackers high-living
ways. But Matthews already knew otherwise. “It seems
like they (the hijackers) came to America and hung out in sort of the
underworld,” he said. “They hung out at the fast- food places,
the strip bars… the sleazy side of American life...”
“I don’t think it’s true to say that most
of these guys did that,” McDermott retorted. “I mean, Atta, for instance,
never went in a strip club in his life. This guy was so repressed that I
don’t think he ever had an impure thought.”
What's McDermott's explanation for the
widespread perception that Atta liked strippers?
“A couple of the Saudis on the night before
September 11, September 10," he told Chris Matthews, "tried to hire
prostitutes in their hotel room in Boston, but wouldn’t pay the price.”
For a reporter, McDermott’s a man of few
words. In" Here's his entire explanation from "Perfect Soldiers"—one oddly
argumentative paragraph—denying reports of Atta’s drinking and drug use:
“There were all sorts of retrospective
sightings of the group or individuals within it. Atta, in particular, with his
distinctive and later well-publicized face was seen everywhere. Or, at least
that is what people remembered afterwards. He was said to have inquired about
buying a crop-duster plane, to have been treated for anthrax poisoning, to
have flown reconnaissance missions over nuclear power plants, to have turned
into a two-fisted drinker in coastal taverns. Most notoriously, Atta was said
to have flown under an alias to Prague, in the Czech Republic, in mid-April
and to have met there with an Iraqi spymaster plotting to blow up a broadcast
tower of Radio Free America. Little of this seems likely; some of it is
demonstrably untrue; and none of it has been proved otherwise.”
It would take a Jesuit to explain
all of the logical inconsistencies in this paragraph. One
example: IF Atta didn’t go to Prague, does that mean he
didn’t rent crop dusters, either?
Moreover, the lack of specificity--what good
reporters are known for--in McDermott's explanation is shocking. Considering
that the subject is ultimately the murder of nearly 3000 people, it is
To recap: in re stories of Atta’s drinking and
drug use, McDermott offers these three choices: Unlikely. Untrue. Unproven.
Is he correct? Let’s take a look.
farewell bender gets the airbrush
In “Welcome to TerrorLand”
we visited one place
where Atta was reported to have gotten—not just drunk—but drunk and
Six nights before the attack, reported TIME,
NEWSWEEK, and the AP wire service, Mohamed Atta and two of his henchmen were
drinking heavily at Shuckum’s in Ft. Lauderdale, which we discovered was a
dive bar with a tired-looking nautical theme complete with life-sized shark
mounted on the wall.
“Atta and two of his buddies seem to have gone
out for a farewell bender at a seafood bar called Shuckum’s,” Newsweek
“Atta drank five Stoli-and-fruit-juices, while
one of the others drank rum and Coke. For once, Atta and his friends became
agitated, shouting curse words in Arabic, reportedly including a particularly
blasphemous one that roughly translates as “F—k God.”
“It was at Shuckum’s, on Sept. 8, that Mohamed
Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi did some pre-mass murder tippling,” reported TIME.
“Atta drank vodka and orange juice, while Al-Shehhi preferred rum and cokes,
five drinks apiece.”
FBI Agents had shown up at Shuckum’s just 12
hours after the attack, reported all three major networks. The agents showed
employees—especially manager Tony Amos and bartender Patricia Idrissi—photos
of two men.
“We were able to recognize both gentlemen,”
Amos told reporters. He identified a man in a photo bearing the name Mohamed
underneath, who, along with two other men, had each consumed at least several
The guy, Mohamed, was drunk, Amos said. The two
and another man “got wasted” in his place, he said, downing “chicken wings and
cranberry juice, Stolichnaya and orange juice, and Captain Morgan’s spiced rum
Bartender Idrissi said FBI agents told her
“they were on the plane and passed away.”
Wahabbi wannabees two nights from hell
“Atta drank Stoli vodka for three straight
hours,” she stated. “The guy, Mohamed, was drunk. They were wasted.”
Idrissi said the men told her they wanted to
eat but didn’t like what was on the menu, so she sent them to a Chinese
restaurant a few doors down. They were very rude, she said.
They didn’t want to pay the bill. When asked if
they could afford the $48 bar tab, Atta’s face had darkened. He pulled out a
thick roll. ‘You think I can’t pay? I’m a pilot for American Airlines. I can
pay my fucking bill.’”
The story threw a long shadow of doubt across
the emerging picture of the hijackers as fanatic Wahhabi fundamentalists.
So, like Newsweek’s story about Korans flushed down
the toilet more recently, it would have to “disappear.” Thus one week later, a strange retraction came to the rescue of the official story. Night manager Amos now said Mohamed
Atta drank nothing stronger than cranberry juice that evening at Shuckum’s
Bar. He was sitting quietly by himself. It had been Atta’s companion Marwan
and a third man that did all the drinking.
We've all seen Atta’s brooding ‘mug shot,’ his
unnerving icy stare. Does anyone truly believe that night manager mistook him
for someone else... without a lot of prodding?
"A one-way ticket to the Island of Lost
We wanted to ask Tony Amos. But when we stopped
at Shuckum’s we discovered that neither he nor bartender Idrissi were there
any longer. No one knew where they’d gone. The current bartender indicated
their leave-taking had been somehow 9/11 related.
Like numerous other eyewitnesses with
inconvenient knowledge, Amos and Idrissi had purchased a ticket to the Island
of Lost Witnesses. For their sake we hoped it was round trip.
One week after reports of Atta's heavy
drinking, a story on the terrorist’s final days appeared in McDermott’s L.A. Times.
“That same night (Sept 7) down the coast in
Florida, Atta and Al- Shehhi went to Shuckum’s sports bar in Hollywood along
with a still unidentified third man. The owner, Tony Amos, says Atta sat
quietly by himself and drank cranberry juice and played a video game, while
Al-Shehhi and the other customer tossed back mixed, drinks and argued.”
Why had the restaurant manager changed his
story? A lapse of memory? A case of mistaken identity?
When we read carefully through the detailed
early accounts of the incident, it became clear the manager’s
retraction must have been coerced, for the simple reason that both he and the
bartender's accounts were too full of vivid detail to be phony. In other
words, their recollection of events which had occurred
just a week earlier had the quality of verisimilitude:
• Amos says they had chicken wings and Stoli.
Capt. Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Coke.
• Bartender Idrissi recalled exactly how many
drinks (5) each downed, and that Atta paid her with a $100 bill from a thick
wad, but left only a $3 tip.
Bartenders remember things like that.
"When someone lies, its usually for a reason."
So their story had—and still has—the absolute ring
of truth. But its not as if this was the
only report of the terrorist ringleader’s two-fisted drinking habits that
McDermott was forced to ignore. There
were numerous credible reports.
The LONDON SUNDAY MAIL reported Atta and
Al-Shehhi spent $1000 on Krug and Perrier-Jouet champagne in just
45 minutes at a bar in Palm Beach, Florida called “251 Sunrise.”
Marwan was with a short blonde, the paper
reported. Atta’s date was tall and busty. This made sense...Sidekicks never get first pick of girls.
Both women, the paper said, were known locally
as “regular companions of high-rollers.”
Whether Mohamed Atta was a repressed teetotaler
or a man with a weakness for Jack Daniels and infidel flesh is not the most
burning question about the 9.11 attack… But its indicative of “Perfect
Soldier’s”--and the official story it represents--even-more cavalier treatment of questions which are vital
to our understanding of what happened.
Who recruited Atta in the first place?
How did a mediocre student—whose grades weren’t even good enough to get him
into graduate school in Cairo—end up being sponsored by an anonymous German
couple and brought to Hamburg, Germany? And the, once he got there…who paid
for him to
hang out for more than six years in a graduate program?
Shameless Plug: For answers to these questions,
you could do worse than to read "Welcome to Terrorland" and the MadCowMorningNews.)
We'll look at the "think tank" which Atta was
undoubtedly using as cover while in Hamburg in another story.
The record may not tell us who Atta was, but it
offers clear indications of who he wasn’t. He wasn’t Wahhabi fundamentalist.
We think of Atta as Islamic Stolichnaya.
Ironically, reporter McDermott appeared in
a discussion forum put on by the L.A. Times’ in the aftermath of its
widely-discredited reporting leading up to the war in Iraq. Many of the questions from the audience
centered on the belief that the American media were not telling the whole
truth about the war in Iraq, either from collusion with the government or at
the government's order.
Panelist McDermott sought to calm the waters,
joking "You couldn't get six journalists to conspire about lunch."
That's as may be. But careerist shills a little too willing to go along to get along, looking the other way while pretending to bring us
real news, will probably do pretty much anything you tell them to.