[ 17:34 sunday 14 october – piscita, isola di stromboli ]
a lot of people have written to me in response to what i wrote about september 11. i shall return to some of these responses in future despatches.
>> allegation 1 – financial links between bush and bin laden families >>
this appears to be true. james bath, a friend of gwb, disclosed under oath that he represented four saudi businessmen, one of whom was salem bin laden (father of osama) and invested money on their behalf under his own name. bath is listed as in investor in two of george w bush’s businesses from the late 70s and early 80s. the us treasury department was called on to investigate claims that saudi interests were thus illegally seeking to influence us policy during the reagan and papa bush administrations. i am not aware of the verdict of these investigations. thanks to stef in melbourne and alex in new york for pointing me to the relevant documents.
however it has been pointed out that the bin laden family is one of the most prominent and highly respected in saudi arabia and that it is not surprising that they should seek influence with a leading political dynasty in the us. it is further observed that the bin laden family severed all links with osama some years ago and that he is officially exiled from saudi arabia. therefore this allegation, though seemingly true, is perhaps not so very startling. dodgy financial-political bonds like this are commonplace, though they mostly remain invisible. thanks to olivia and ian in london for their comments.
>> allegation 2 – fore-knowledge of the attack in the us stock market >>
again this seems to be true. morgan stanley in new york reported a 30% pick-up in trading of stock-put options on airline and insurance firms prior to 11 september. the us treasury department has launched an investigation. its conclusions would make interesting reading but they’re unlikely to be made public. thanks to christian and roberto in london for the inside info.
>> allegation 3 – global media fabrication of islamic jubilation >>
this allegation is entirely false. several documents promoting it are in circulation, purporting to emanate from individuals in reputable broadcasting organisations, but it seems they are phoney. thanks to my namesake charles armstrong in london who established that the cnn footage came from associated press and is kosher. yuval in israel also reports that friends of his in the israeli army confirm that such celebrations did indeed occur (though these might not be the most objective sources). a nice comment too from olivia, who points out that anyone wanting to dupe public opinion would probably concoct something more impressive.
i don’t believe the events of september 11 were orchestrated by some kind of cabal of security forces and big business. but neither will i accept the official narratives without question. strange things are afoot in the world, things which may affect us all. in such a situation it is appropriate to take nothing for granted, to question all information and consider all possible interpretations, however distasteful. i notice already a subtle pressure against certain kinds of speculation, an implication that to voice “unpatriotic” thoughts is to support terrorists. this sets alarm bells ringing in my head. historically it is not a good sign.
mainly i am concerned about the way this event has changed the status quo. in retrospect it is possible this will be identifiable as the moment when an era of financial paramountcy gave way to an era of military paramountcy. the two sets of interests are very much interwoven but i do sense a distinct shift. and i think i prefered things with the financiers on top.
suddenly the initiative is with those who promote authoritarian solutions. as someone whose convictions are solidly liberal this bothers me a whole lot. what’s more i believe a shift towards greater authoritarianism is directly contrary to the economic interests of our societies. we don’t know much about the century ahead but it seems certain that imagination, adaptability and diversity will be crucial to continuing prosperity. these qualities are not exactly the strong suits of authoritarian societies.
for me there’s also a more personal concern. my efforts are largely devoted to the cause of social change. i am committed to working for a world where opportunity, well-being and liberty are more evenly distributed. the more authoritarian our societies become, the more my efforts (and those of others working for change) are likely to meet with resistance. this is not a prospect to be relished.