Memories of 9/11

As of 9/11/2001, my company had recently celebrated its 25th anniversary (I’d founded it in 1976), and I had come in around 3AM to put the finishing touches on a new business plan. That plan was a multi-hundred-million-dollar casino to be located in Las Vegas; investors were already lined up and I had imagined a complex with sections devoted to parts of America from natural wonders to snapshots of the country’s cultural history.

A little before seven, my staff called upstairs: I needed to see something on the big TV we had. I came down, to learn that at 8:42 AM Eastern Time, a jet had crashed into one of the towers. As we watched the screen and talked about it, we knew that this was almost certainly not an accident, and I told my team about what had happened eight years before:

On February 26, 1993, al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and almost brought it down. This was coordinated through Iraq (more about that later), which I knew then. While we were talking about the possibilities, and suspecting that the world had changed, the second airliner plunged into the second tower.

The Muslim Brotherhood gang in 1993 had hoped to knock one of the towers down, and ideally both of them. (The hole they blue in the base of one tower was seven stories deep, and was intended to aim it at the other one. Happily, it held together, and the death toll was dozens and not the tens of thousands they were aiming for.) One of the al Qaeda attackers that we caught after 1993 swore that those towers would be knocked down yet.

Ten years ago today, we watched it happen.

And we watched and listened, in awe and dread, as the US began shutting down. All airline flights were canceled; we heard about airliners coming from overseas scrambling to find some place to land. Much other traffic was stopped; a lot of things became locked down in the emergency.

And Las Vegas saw their lifeblood evaporate; by the end of the day I heard that the investors had pulled out of the casino project. My own business venture became just one more casualty of the al Qaeda attacks. But those attacks did not begin in 2001; the first strike against US soil was in 1993.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Iraq and the 1993 World Trade Center attack

We didn’t know who in Iraq al Qaeda was communicating with. All we knew was that the people building the bomb made dozens of cell-phone calls to an Iraqi number. But six days after 9/11, an Iraqi government employee was caught and his apartment was raided; he had phone records that showed that he was the one being called in the 1993 attack, and he was also involved with the 1994 “Bojinka” plot involving bringing down a bunch of airliners at once. He had phone numbers of the 9/11 hijackers, and was at al Qaeda’s planning sessions in Malaysia in January 2000 for the 9/11 attack.

But a “friendly” government turned him loose; Ahmed Hikmat Shakir is still out there today. He’s not a “terrorist mastermind,” more of a “fixer and coordinator” type. No great threat, and the Iraqi government he worked for is gone now anyway.

Here’s a fair recap of his connection to events. And here, the roles of Shakir and other Iraqis are discussed.

I’ve been amused at recent attempts to downplay Shakir’s role. He was reinvented as a “gay terrorist” — in an article that is full of misleading statements.

For example, the article describes Shakir as working in “a dead-end job”:

Few knew much about him, except that he was an Iraqi Arab, in his late 30s, with a dead-end job as a VIP greeter for Malaysian Airlines.

What’s the problem with this? You’re supposed to envision a fellow who had been toiling for years in some menial task, never to accomplish anything. Also, you’re supposed to have the impression that he was hired by the airline. But Shakir was hired by the Iraqi embassy, just weeks before, by Iraqi intelligence service people. He met with the al Qaeda folks when they came in for their several-day planning session for the 9/11 attacks, then days later Shakir went back to Iraq.

Isn’t it odd to describe a job that you were brought in for, then left as soon as you completed your mission, as a “dead end job”? And the fact that he worked for Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government, at its embassy (an outpost of the Iraqi spy operations), puts rather a different spin on this.

There’s also the little matter of Shakir coordinating the truck-bomb attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and being part of the communications for the 1994 Bojinka plot to bring down the airliners, and that six days after 9/11 Shakir had the phone numbers of the hijackers in his pocket. None of that, which had been reported in Newsweek in 2002, was seen to be worthy of mention in this story focused on the role of that person!

Several times this article mentions that “neocons” were interested in Shakir — but they don’t give you the details that make him interesting.

Then there is a reference to the first attempt to bury him. He had the same name as another Iraqi, that article suggested, but it wasn’t the same guy, so (they seemed to imply) he isn’t an Iraqi! This one always intrigued me. How is it that the fact that his name is similar to someone else’s (who happened to be a military officer) changes what he did? Shakir either was at the January 2000 planning session (placed there by the Iraqi government) and involved in the 1993 and 1994 attack and plot, or he wasn’t. His name could have been Stephen Hawking” and the fact that he wasn’t really a cosmologist would not “discredit” his involvement with al Qaeda.

This is the sort of snow job that irritates me.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle