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Reopen the 9/11 investigation

ToraBoraMedThe news these last days of summer contains at least one story which—because key elements of it remain unspoken, in other words, taboo—doesn't make sense.

In the current furor over the Justice Department’s opening of an investigation into the torture of prisoners under the Bush Administration, during the same week that a federal court found that John Ashcroft, then-attorney general, violated the rights of U.S. citizens by ordering arrests when the government lacked probable cause,

Dick Cheney vociferously claimed that that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were “absolutely essential” in stopping another terrorist attack on the United States after Sept. 11, 2001.

 If it is true, then perhaps Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush, and especially U.S. General Tommy Franks can tell us why they let Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora two months after the 9/11 attack?

No tin foil hats needed

tin-foil-hat-3A front page article in the New York Times (reprinted here under fair use) reported that people who were on the ground in Afghanistan during the siege of Tora Bora believe that American commanders did not act with anything like the zeal you'd expect from people whose mission was hunting down America's Most Wanted Man.

"American forces in Afghanistan have not been helped by the suspicion here at Tora Bora, where bin Laden was all but trapped, that Indecisiveness on the part of American commanders, or perhaps reluctance to risk casualties, may have helped him (bin Laden) escape."

"If (bin Laden) fled to Pakistan he did so over snow-choked mountain trails that were not blocked by American or other allied troops until after the bombing—an oversight that some of the allies point to as having squandered the best opportunity of the war to snare America's most wanted man."

"Within weeks high-ranking British officers were saying privately that American commanders had vetoed a proposal to guard the high-altitude trails, arguing that the risks of a firefight, in deep snow, gusting winds and low-slung clouds, were too high," said the article.

Low-slung clouds? The snow was too deep?

donald_rumsfeld_tommy_franks"Similar accounts abound among Afghan commanders who provided the troops stationed on the Tora Bora foothills—on the north side of the mountains, facing the Afghan city of Jalalabad," continued the Times. One Afghan commander told of pleading with Special Forces officers to block the trails to Pakistan. "Their attitude was, 'we must kill the enemy, but we must remain absolutely safe," said warlord Hajji Zaher.

"This is crazy."

In a fight to capture the leader of the forces that attacked America on Sept 11 and took 3000 innocent lives, it is inconceivable that American Special Forces would back down or insist on remaining absolutely safe. So an order to 'stand down,' if one was given, must have come from above.

Yet bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, we thought, had been the U.S. objective in Afghanistan. Apparently, we were mistaken.

President Bush's bravado over catching bin Laden "dead or alive" was just words, and Bin laden was inexplicably allowed to escape during the Battle of Tora Bora had largely been forgotten.

The response from Gen. Tommy Franks was to deny everything.

“President Bush never "took his eye off the ball" when it came to Osama bin Laden,” Gen. Tommy Franks wrote. “The war on terrorism has a global focus. It cannot be divided into separate and unrelated wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. Both are part of the same effort to capture and kill terrorists before they are able to strike America again.”

Gen. Tommy Franks rationale, that the war on terrorism’s global focus offered the rationale for why Bush could not be said to have taken his eye off the “bin Laden ball,” isn’t true.

And you didn't need to put on your "tin foil hats" to find it. 

Proof to the contrary could be found in the New York Times.

 No zeal, No zest, no soap

When we first read of this we were dumbfounded. 

No explanation of this may ever be forthcoming. But we think warlord Hajjii Zaher got one thing right at least…

It was crazy.

There will never be a better time than now for the craziness to end.

If the Obama Administration, with Democratic control of both Houses of Congress, cannot found its way clear to re-opening the 9/11 investigation, then we will never know the truth.  


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Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.