Eight years have passed since the fateful bombings took place on 11th of September, 2001 in New York and nearby states. Every year thousands of people gather in downtown Manhattan to commemorate the terrorist atrocities. Every year the President of the United States of America addresses the nation and renews his pledge to track down the terrorists and defeat them. The newspapers publish special supplements that weigh tons and media outlets fill hours of airtime to recall the incidents that took place eight years ago.
Since then, two wars have been waged, unknown number of terrorists have been nabbed, several inquiries have been launched and several regimes have been uprooted across the world. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives on 9/11 of 2001. Hundreds of thousands of more innocent civilians since then have lost their lives in events related to the 9/11 attacks. The worst thing – the end of bloodshed is no where in sight.
A lot has been debated about the events that took place as a result of 9/11 attacks. But, how much do we actually know about the incidents that took place on 11th of September, 2001 itself? Have we ever tried to understand the pattern of the events and debated them? Most of you would say a big NO. So, in order to get a clearer picture, let’s strip to 5 W’s, the ‘basics of journalism’, which is the key formula for getting the full story of any incident.
WHAT? What happened? What is the story?
According to the official account, four commercial airplanes were hijacked. Three of them were crashed into the buildings while the fourth one came down in a field in Pennsylvania. Following is the list of incidents that occurred on the morning of 9/11. Please note that the death toll and number of casualties is quoted from the official accounts:
Incident: Airline hijacking and terrorist attack
Location: North & South Towers, World Trade Centre, downtown Manhattan, New York City
Fatalities/Casualties: 3,017 (including 19 hijackers and 24 presumed dead); 6,300 approx.
Summary: Two Boeing airliners crashed into WTC towers kamikaze style to inflict maximum casualties on civilians. Buildings do not sustain the impact of the attacks and collapse within hours causing immense damage to thousands of human lives and property worth billions of dollars.
Incident: Airline hijacking and terrorist attack
Location: Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia
Fatalities/Casualties: 189 (64 people on the airliner and 125 in the Pentagon); 106 approx.
Summary: A hijacked Boeing airliner crashed into The Pentagon building in an apparent attempt to inflict damage on US military infrastructure. The building, recently renovated and empty at that time did sustain some impact, causing a few floors to collapse as a result of the crash and subsequent fire.
Incident: Airline hijacking and terrorist attack
Location: Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Fatalities/Casualties: 44 dead (including 4 hijackers)
Summary: A hijacked Boeing airliner crashed in a field in Somerset country, Pennsylvania state. The airliner was apparently heading to Washington D.C. before it crashed 240 km northeast of the capital. Remains of all the people on board the aircraft were identified. Official reports say there was an on board uprising staged by the passengers who tried to overpower the hijackers before the plane crashed.
What happened to the following unknown victims of the hijacked planes?
- Only 87 out of the 92 people on board Flight 11 named. Fate of five people still remains unknown.
- Only 59 out of the 65 people on board Flight 175 named. Six people yet to be named.
- Only 59 out of the 64 people on board Flight 77 named. Five people remain missing.
- Only 40 out of the 44 victims on board Flight 93 named. Four people yet to be named.
- What happened to the remains of thousands of people who lost their lives following the crashing of the airliners into the towers?
- What did officials knew about the terrorist plans? How did they find out and why was preemptive action not taken?
- What about the other people who were arrested soon after the attacks on suspicion of aiding the hijackers and planning to stage more terrorist attacks on US soil? Were they charged or released?
- What happened to the black boxes of the aircraft that became the target of terrorist attacks?
- What happened to the flight control recordings of the four hijacked flights that were recorded by air traffic controllers?
WHEN? When did it take place? When did they come to know?
The whole drama on 11th of September started early in the morning when the alleged ’19 hijackers’ boarded their respective planes at around 8 o’clock. Here is the timeline of the incidents based on official sources:
Tuesday, 11th of September, 2001
08:46 – American Airlines Flight 11 is flown into the north tower of the World Trade Centre with a speed of around 800 km/h between the floors 94 and 98 of the 110 storey building. The flight took off from Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts at 07:59 and was bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
09:02 – United Airlines Flight 175 is crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Centre with a speed of around 950 km/h between the floors 78 and 84. The flight lifted off from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, at 08:14 and was bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
09:37 – American Airlines Flight 77 is flown into the newly refurbished and unoccupied western flank of Pentagon. The aircraft left the runway of Dulles International Airport, about 50 km from Washington D.C. at 08:20 and was bound for LA International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
09:54 – The south tower of WTC collapses after standing the impact of the Flight 175 for 56 minutes and 10 seconds.
10:03 – United Airlines Flight 93 ploughs into the fields in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Boeing 757 airliner left Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey at 08:42 for San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California.
10:28 – The north tower of WTC follows the suit and crumbles after standing the impact of Flight 11 for 1 hour 42 minutes and 5 seconds.
- When did President Bush come to know about the hijackings?
- Did the US air force fighter planes try to intercept the hijacked airliners? If they did so, when did they scramble? If not, why was there a major defense collapse?
WHERE? Where did it take place?
The terrorist attacks took place on the 11th of September, 2001 in World Trade Centre in New York, Pentagon in Virginia and Shanksville in Pennsylvania. The hijackings took place in the busiest airspace on the planet which is the north-eastern corner of the United States of America.
Manhattan in New York, where the attacks took place, is within striking range from Otis Air base which is located in Massachusetts state. There is an Air Defense Intercept Zone just off shore for the entire Atlantic Coast which is constantly patrolled. Some reports suggest US military was involved in war games on the east coast that day.
WHO? Who did it? Who was involved?
This is the most frequently asked question regarding the 9/11 attacks. We all have some idea about the people who were involved in this outrageous act of terrorism. Most of the people believe that 19 hijackers affiliated to al-Qaeda carried out these attacks that claimed the lives of around 3,000 civilians and left thousands of others injured. The economic damage these attacks wrecked stands in billions of dollars. Some people, and I must point out here that this is a substantial minority, believe that these attacks were not carried out single-handedly by al-Qaeda but also had some ‘inside’ support that led to the incidents that took place on 11th of September 2001.
Let’s contrast the official and conspiracy theorist versions of ‘WHO’ was involved in the attacks. First, let’s read an excerpt from the 9/11 Commission Report that highlights the perpetrators of the attacks. On page 2 of the executive summary it says: “This immeasurable pain was inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists headquartered in distant Afghanistan. Some had been in the United States for more than a year, mixing with the rest of the population. Though four had training as pilots, most were not well-educated. Most spoke English poorly, some hardly at all. In groups of four or five, carrying with them only small knives, box cutters, and cans of Mace or pepper spray, they had hijacked the four planes and turned them into deadly guided missiles.”
Now, let’s try to understand the concerns raised by many people who question the official version of events and are duly dubbed as ‘conspiracy theorists’. However, these people argue that the official story is itself a conspiracy theory involving bands of hijackers led by the elusive cave-dwelling Osama bin Laden.
Some of the points raised by the so-called conspiracy theorists are as follows:
- There are inconsistencies between the behavior, skills and discipline of the alleged hijackers necessary to carry out such a coordinated attack.
- Mohammed Atta, leader of the hijackers, barely knew how to fly even though he was supposedly planning for years.
- Despite labeled as fundamentalist Muslims, the alleged hijackers frequented night clubs and strip bars. These acts are contrary to any fundamentalist Muslim’s belief or deeds and can only be seen with surprise, to say the least.
- No hard evidence including CCTV footage of any of the alleged hijackers of any of the doomed flights has been released since the last 8 years.
- At least six of the alleged hijackers have turned up alive since the attacks.
- None of the flight recording between the flight crews and Air Traffic Control authorities about hijackings has ever been made public.
- None of the four flight crews punched in the four-digit hijacking code.
- None of the contents of any of the black boxes have been made public.
- The pilots of these four fateful flights, despite being Vietnam war veterans, were overpowered by knife-wielding hijackers
WHY? Why did it happen?
This is certainly the most overlooked aspect of the whole catastrophe. Why was America, for the first time since World War II, attacked by a handful of terrorists who wrecked havoc on a grand scale. The Bush administration always insisted that Muslim extremists attacked the United States “because they hate our freedoms”.
However, the official 9/11 Commission report, on page 3 of the Executive summary, goes a bit deep to mention the following reasons:
“The history, culture, and body of beliefs from which Bin Laden shapes and spreads his message are largely unknown to many Americans. Seizing on symbols of Islam’s past greatness, he promises to restore pride to people who consider themselves the victims of successive foreign masters. He uses cultural and religious allusions to the Holy Quran and some of its interpreters. He appeals to people disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization. His rhetoric selectively draws from multiple sources—Islam, history, and the region’s political and economic malaise.
Bin Laden also stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia,which is the home of Islam’s holiest sites, and against other US policies in the Middle East.”
The naysayers however refuse to accept that Al-Qaeda’s hatred towards the West in general and the US in particular was the only motive behind these attacks. Not only they say that US unflinching support for Israel is to blame, they add that the real beneficiaries of this catastrophe cashed on the atrocities to multiply their authority, wealth and fame. Let’s check some of the arguments posed by the so-called conspiracy theorists:
- Why did the US government under President Bush draft a plan to invade Afghanistan well before the 9/11 attacks took place?
- Why did Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle, who served as policy makers in Bush administration, advocate the “Project for a New American Century” plan that urged the need for a “New Pearl Harbour”.
- Why was the USA PATRIOT Act written well before 9/11? Why was the department of Homeland security and a ‘shadow’ government formed before the terrorist attacks took place?
- Why did Halliburton, with which many Bush administration senior members had close contacts, win the rebuilding contracts of the destruction caused in Afghanistan and Iraq?
- Why was the Israeli secret service tracking the terrorist activity in the USA while CIA and FBI are supposedly in charge of investigations and surveillance on American soil? Why was the Israeli spy scandal covered up instead of being thoroughly investigated by the American Congress?
- Why was the WTC’s structural steel any forensic evidence destroyed instead of preserved for investigation?
- Why doesn’t the government of the USA produce Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged masterminds of 9/11 arrested back in 2003, in courts and put them on trial?
- Why did the government not investigate the alleged links between Bush and Bin Laden families? Why were Osama Bin Laden’s family members, including his brothers, allowed to leave the USA while a strict no-fly embargo was enforced in the country’s airspace?
- Why were the FBI and CIA officials granted promotions when they failed their jobs miserably and did almost nothing to stop the worst ever atrocities on US soil?
- Why was the tip-off received from foreign intelligence agencies alerting an imminent terrorist attack in the US completely disregarded by CIA and FBI?
Unanswered questions mentioned above and countless others continue to loom over the authenticity of the 9/11 incidents. Will the wheat ever be separated from the chaff and justice will be provided to hundreds of thousands of victims that suffered and are still suffering from the tragic events? If truth comes out, there will be a reconciliation between the civilizations and relations are bound to get better. But what can be done to the people in power in America whose priorities seem to be different at the moment…