View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Life in post-war Iraq

My favorite thing to read on-line is Riverbend's blog. Riverbend is a 24-year-old woman in Baghdad, who worked as a computer programmer until the war. Now, her former company no longer employs women. The previous manager was killed in the bombing, and the new guy is a fundamentalist.

In her latest posting she talks about life for women before and after the US invasion:
I spent last month trying to talk a neighbor's mother into letting her 19-year-old daughter take her retests in a leading pharmaceutical college. Her mother was adamant and demanded to know what she was supposed to do with her daughter's college degree if anything happened to her daughter, "Hang it on her tombstone with the consolation that my daughter died for a pharmaceutical degree??? She can sit this year out."
In a previous posting she described what it's like to simply drive across town:
The ride that took 20 minutes pre-war Iraq, took 45 minutes today. There were major roads completely cut off by tanks. Angry troops stood cutting off access to the roads around the palaces (which were once Saddam’s but are now America’s palaces). The cousin and E. debated alternative routes at every checkpoint or roadblock. I stayed silent because I don’t even know the city anymore. Now, areas are identified as “the one with the crater where the missile exploded”, or “the street with the ravaged houses”, or “the little house next to that one where that family was killed”.
You can also read her descriptions of the fall of Baghdad, unemployment (including her own), and living with sporadic electricity and water. If you're feeling brave you can also read my favorite posting, about a neighbor who went missing, which is very well written; or this, about the first Gulf War and sanctions.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Removing my tinfoil hat...

Recently, former British MP Michael Meacher wrote in the Guardian that the US government may have intentionally allowed 9/11 to occur. Sounds crazy, but this theory seems to be emerging from black helicopter territory. Check out the list of pre-9/11 warnings below, for example. Most of these are taken from an exhaustively researched website on 9/11 called Unanswered Questions, where you can find links to newspaper articles for almost all of the warnings below.


1993: Pentagon panel theorizes that planes may be used as missiles to bomb national landmarks.

1993: bin Laden buys commercial jet from US military, in a deal approved by the Pentagon. He hires a Texas flight instructor as his pilot.

January 1995: Philippine police uncover al-Qaeda plans to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. The World Trade Center, CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, and the Sears Tower are specifically mentioned as targets.

July/August 1996: US officials identify suicide flights as possible risk to the Olympics and prepare helicopters and jets to intercept any suspicious aircraft flying too close to the games. [So why couldn't they do that in NYC and Washington in early September 2001?]

1999: MI6 warns of al-Qaeda plans to use “commercial aircraft” in “unconventional ways,” “possibly as flying bombs.”

June 2001: German intelligence warns the CIA, MI6, and the Mossad that Middle Eastern terrorists plan to hijack commercial planes and crash them into “American and Israeli symbols, which stand out.”

June 2001: Cayman Islands and British investigators, who have 3 Afghani or Pakistani men under surveillance, overhear them discussing hijacking attacks in New York City. The men are arrested, questioned, and released; the information is forwarded to US intelligence.

July 2001: An FBI agent in Arizona sends a memo to headquarters noting the presence of Islamic fundamentalist students at a local flight training school, and urging a nationwide check for similar activity. [This is known as “the Phoenix memo”.] It goes unheeded.

July 16, 2001: British intelligence report that al-Qaeda is in “the final stages” of preparing a major terrorist attack. The information is “based on intelligence gleaned not only from MI6 and GCHQ but also from US agencies, including the CIA and the NSA.” The British Defence Ministry confirms that the report was passed to the Americans.

Late July 2001: Egyptian intelligence informs US that 20 al-Qaeda members are in US, of whom 4 have received flight training.

Late July 2001: The Taliban Foreign Minister learns of an imminent “huge attack” planned against the US, expected to kill thousands. Fearing reprisals against Afghanistan, he passes the warning to the US consul general, a US intelligence agent, and the UN office in Kabul.

Early August 2001: Britain again warns the US about an al-Qaeda attack, specifying multiple airplane hijackings.

August 8-15, 2001: Two high-ranking Mossad agents travel to Washington and warn the FBI and CIA that 50 to 200 al-Qaeda terrorists inside the US are planning an imminent “major assault on the US” against a “large scale target.”

August 2001: According to French and Moroccan media, Moroccan intelligence learns that bin Laden is “very disappointed” that the 1993 WTC bombing did not bring down the towers, and plans “large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001.” The undercover agent involved is called to Washington to report directly to US intelligence.

August 2001: A federal informant tells Florida Senator Bob Graham and others that a Pakistani working for the Taliban, with whom he had dealings, made three allusions to an attack on the WTC. At one meeting in lower Manhattan, which was audio-taped, the Pakistani pointed to the WTC and said, “Those towers are coming down.”

August 2001: Ex-CIA spy Robert Baer, while in the Gulf region, is warned of a “spectacular terrorist operation” to take place shortly and is given a computerized list of roughly 600 Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda operatives. He passes this on to the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center.

August 2001: Putin warns the US that suicide pilots are training for attacks inside the US “on important buildings like the Pentagon.” After 9/11 several media sources quote Russian intelligence officials who claim that Russia warned the US several times and even knew the specific terrorists involved.

August 2001: An anonymous letter is forwarded to the Cayman Islands government, claiming that the 3 Afghani/Pakistani men mentioned above work for bin Laden and are “organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines.” It is thought this letter was then passed on to the US.

August 2001: FBI agents in Minneapolis ask for permission to investigate Zaccarias Moussaoui, an Islamic fundamentalist they believe might be planning to hijack a 747 jet on a suicide mission. FBI headquarters refuses.

August 23, 2001: According to German newspapers, on this date the Mossad provides the CIA with a list of 19 terrorists inside the US who are planning an imminent attack. Of the 4 names known to be on this list, all are among the 19 hijackers.

Late August 2001: Egyptian intelligence warns American officials that al-Qaeda is about to execute a significant attack against an American target within the US.

Late August 2001: French intelligence warns US of general terrorist threat.

Late summer 2001: Jordanian intelligence alerts the US, through two channels (CIA and via German intelligence), of a major terrorist attack inside the US, code-named The Big Wedding. (This actually turns out to be the name used by al-Qaeda to refer to the 9.11 attacks.) They specify that aircraft will be used.

September 6, 7, and 10, 2001: United Airlines and American Airlines "put options" (basically, wagers that the stock price will fall) trade at 6 to 100 times the usual volume, baffling stock analysts. No other airlines were affected.

More info on insider trading can be found here.

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