9/11: a Wilderness of Mirrors and the Prince of Darkness

By Mark H. Gaffney
January 29, 2016

Mark Gaffney is the author of Dimona, the Third Temple, a pioneering 1989 study of the Israeli nuclear program.

In the preface to his 2004 memoir, Center of the Storm, former CIA Director George Tenet describes an odd experience that occurred upon his arrival at the White House very early on the morning of September 12, 2001. It was the day after the worst terrorist attack in US history. Smoke was still rising from the Pentagon across the Potomac, and dust was still swirling over the ruins of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, a scene of total devastation.

No surprise that security was extremely tight at the White House. Former CIA Director Tenet says he passed through a cordon of secret service agents brandishing weapons; and fighters were visible high above patrolling the skies over Washington. As Tenet strolled under the portico that leads to the West Wing, he was surprised to encounter “one of the godfathers of the neoconservative movement,” Richard Perle, then exiting the White House, a man whose reputation preceded him.

Tenet writes that “as the doors closed behind him we made eye contact and nodded. I had just reached the door myself when Perle turned to me and said ‘Iraq has to pay a price for what happened, yesterday. They bear responsibility.’”

Tenet says he was “stunned,” as well he should have been. What was Perle talking about? And what was he doing at the White House, anyway, especially on this day? True, the man was head of the Defense Policy Board, a civilian advisory group, but the job conferred no official status. It was not a government post. Perle was not a US official, nor a member of the Bush administration. Yet, in this unprecedented moment of national trauma and sorrow, Perle had access to the White House. How come? Tenet had no answer.

The CIA chief had arrived to personally brief the president, as he had done nearly every morning during Bush’s first year in office. This was at Bush’s own request and was unusual. Seldom had past presidents requested CIA briefings from the director. In previous administrations, presidential intelligence briefings were generally conducted by CIA experts and qualified staffers.

Tenet’s reaction was to think, “What is he [Perle] talking about?….Over the months and years to follow,” Tenet writes “we would carefully examine the potential of a collaborative role for state sponsors. The intelligence then and now, however, showed no evidence of Iraqi complicity.” There was no evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.

Did Perle meet with Bush, that morning?

Tenet writes that he never learned the reason for Perle’s visit. Yet, the director of central intelligence deemed the encounter significant enough that he mentions it on page one of his memoirs. Tenet also goes on to write, “Although I didn’t realize it that day, I’ve since come to think of that brief encounter with Richard Perle as the moment when these two dominant themes in my professional life [i.e., the twin topics of terrorism and Iraq] first intersected.” [my emphasis]

I had to go back and reread Tenet’s obscure words.

It is no secret that George Tenet perjured himself during the 9/11 Commission hearings. By his third appearance before the commission on July 2, 2004, Tenet’s lying was so transparent, according to Philip Shenon, who covered the commission for the New York Times, that the commissioners simply stared at one another in disbelief.[i] A fellow 9/11 researcher, Robert Schopmeyer, who was also in attendance that day, had the same reaction. Schopmeyer was in the audience just a few seats behind Tenet, and he told me later that everyone in the room knew Tenet was lying. Kevin Fenton, still another 9/11 researcher, has concluded that Tenet also lied during his earlier testimony before the Joint House-Senate Inquiry in 2002, the first official 9/11 investigation.[ii]

Over the years, Tenet had cultivated close ties with top Saudi officials, including Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador. According to James Risen, “Tenet would slip away from CIA headquarters and travel to Bandar’s nearby estate in McLean, Virginia for quiet talks.” Yet, some CIA officers who handled Saudi issues complained that “Tenet would not tell them what he had discussed with Bandar, making it difficult for agency officials to know the nature of any deals their boss was arranging with the Saudis. They would usually find out what Tenet had said to Bandar only much later, and then only from the Saudis.”[iii]

In his memoirs Tenet makes no mention of these talks nor his close relationship with Bandar, nor does he mention the potentially incriminating evidence concerning Bandar that turned up during the 2002 Joint Inquiry. The Inquiry learned that Prince Bandar’s wife, princess Haifa, had funneled tens of thousands of dollars in charitable donations to a Saudi individual in San Diego who aided two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi.[iv] The two were part of the four-man hijack team that allegedly flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on 9/11.

As we know, President Bush later excised the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry’s final report that pertain to this funding issue, supposedly in the interest of national security.[v] But there is little doubt the real reason Bush ordered the material to remain classified was to shield his old friend prince Bandar (Bandar Bush) from further investigation. This blatant interference by the White House so outraged Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-chair of the 2002 Joint Inquiry, that Graham called for Bush’s impeachment.[vi] Not that anyone listened.

Tenet’s relationship with prince Bandar and his conspicuous silence about Bandar’s possible role as a financier of 9/11 terrorism is suspicious. But Tenet’s own role is even more so. Kevin Ryan concluded that even while hyping the likelihood of an impending Al Qaeda attack, Tenet withheld key intelligence from the FBI that would have prevented it.[vii] The suppressed intelligence included the whereabouts of these same two men, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, whom Tenet had reason to know were already inside the US preparing for a major terrorist attack that would kill thousands of Americans.

Whatever role Tenet may have played as facilitator, it is shocking that on page 162 of his memoirs Tenet confuses the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, indicating that, even years after the event, he remained clueless about what happened there. This suggests that, whatever Tenet’s role, he remained largely in the dark, what we would expect of a highly compartmentalized and complex false flag operation involving need-to-know and plausible deniability. In his memoirs Tenet aptly refers to his CIA experience as the “wilderness of mirrors.”

The fact that former CIA director Tenet was still confused in 2007 when his memoirs were published about what happened at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 is worth pondering.

I suspect that Richard Perle was more in the loop than Tenet when the two men met by chance at the White House, that morning. In 1996, Perle (otherwise known as the “prince of darkness”) and a small group of fellow neoconservatives had produced a policy paper for the recently-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. The title of the paper was, “A Clean Break, A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”[viii] Given Netanyahu’s far-right views, he was no doubt pleased by its contents.

The Clean Break paper did not attract a great deal of attention, at the time, but it is a scary document in retrospect because of what it portended for the Mideast. The paper called for Israel to “transcend the Arab-Israeli conflict” not through diplomacy, by negotiating a long overdue peace settlement with its Arab neighbors, but by “rolling them back.” The paper explicitly called for regime change in the case of Iraq, but the rest was couched in language sufficiently vague that it did not set off alarm bells here in the US, though it should have, and probably did in the Arab world.

The following year, in 1997, another group of neoconservatives organized the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and in 2000 posted a lengthier and much more detailed policy paper, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which has been archived on line.[ix] Richard Perle was not one of the authors but he was closely associated with PNAC. The paper called for new US missile defenses, control of space and cyberspace, and in general for a major modernization and expansion of US military force structure. It noted that “new technologies and operational concepts” were bringing about a “revolution in military affairs.” These proposals were anything but defensive. After all, the Cold War was long over. But the authors insisted that a steep investment in the US military was necessary to preserve US Superpower status long into the future. Others coined an expression for the same basket of ideas, “full spectrum dominance.”[x]

Given the subsequent US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and relentless US attempts to bring about regime change in Syria, attempts that continue as I write, one has to wonder if PNAC’s intent, all along, was to establish the means for accomplishing the “rollback” described in the Clean Break document. A much-expanded US military would thus become the vehicle for “transcending” a number of troublesome (meaning: independent) secular Arab states and also Persian Iran, states that just happened to be Israel’s neighbors and its main adversaries.

At the time, the big problem for the neoconservatives was that the American people would not support such a foreign policy, which amounted to a major expansion of US imperialism. The authors of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” acknowledge the problem in their 2000 paper and are quite explicit that “the process of [US military] transformation….is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor.”[xi]

After the 9/11 attacks, of course, everything became possible.

A new set of gangsters

The final solution envisaged for Palestine is also painfully evident with hindsight. The neoconservative plan to fight Israel’s wars gave Israel a free hand with the Palestinians. The Israeli government proceeded to erect a 30-foot high security fence around the West Bank, and transformed the Gaza Strip into the world’s largest concentration camp, after first withdrawing a small number of Israeli settlers. It is no coincidence that such treatment, i.e., herding the Palestinians into the enclosure of Gaza, resembled the treatment of cattle.

Credit for the approach, which Zionists refer to as the “Iron Wall,” goes back to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the ideological father of Likud. During the 1930s Jabotinsky, an enthusiastic supporter of Benito Mussolini, gave birth to what is known today as Zionist Revisionism. It’s a maximalist ideology, with a fanatical commitment to Greater Israel, and a stark, even apocalyptic, view of human affairs. Revisionists have no concept of win-win, and almost no patience with compromise or reconciliation. They scorn democracy and view history as a charnel house. In their view it’s us against them. The victor, at the end of the day, is whoever is left standing atop the pile of bodies.

Jabotinsky’s disciples, men like Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, led terrorist raids against the Palestinians and in June 1946 blew up a wing of the King David Hotel, the Jerusalem headquarters of the British Mandate. They also assassinated UN and British officials, including the British Secretary of State Lord Moyne. When news of Moyne’s murder by Shamir’s gunmen reached Prime Minister Winston Churchill, himself a long-time Zionist, Churchill made an emotional statement before the House of Commons. “If our dreams for Zionism,” he told the House, “are to end up in the smoke of assassins’ pistols and our labors for its future are to produce a new set of gangsters worthy of the Nazis, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained…”[xii]

The Zionist attacks against Palestinians were not reprisals, nor were they random. The raids always served a purpose. So it was in the case of the April 1948 attack on Der Yasin, a Palestinian village located a few miles west of Jerusalem. The Arabs of Der Yasin had worked out a truce with a nearby orthodox Jewish community, Givat Shaul, but this did not save them. Begin’s Irgun and additional men from a splinter group known as the Stern gang, led by Shamir, entered the town from opposite ends and began shooting everyone they met with submachine guns. According to various reports, the attackers were surprised to meet fierce resistance as the Arabs defended their homes. The Irgun and Stern gang advanced street by street, tossing grenades into houses where villagers had taken refuge. They also demolished buildings with dynamite. When the fighting ended, the Zionist soldiers looted the town. They also rounded up survivors, women, children and elderly residents, and simply massacred them. Women and girls were raped before being killed. Other villagers were paraded at gunpoint through Jerusalem before being shot.

The various estimates of dead ranged to well over 200. However, to this day, we do not know the actual number because the Irgun, while bragging about their deeds, may have inflated the fatality figure to frighten the Palestinians in surrounding villages into fleeing for their lives. Thus, Begin and Shamir used terror in a calculated way, as a tool to traumatize Arabs, in order to implement their political agenda, which was to “cleanse” Palestine of its native people, paving the way for Jewish settlement.[xiii] The same pattern was repeated across the length and breadth of the country. By war’s end, close to 800,000 Palestinians had been driven out, or killed, or had fled, from some 531 villages and eleven urban neighborhoods.[xiv] The Palestinian refugees were not allowed to return to their homes or reclaim their property. Those who attempted to do so were often shot. The vacated villages were subsequently razed to make way for new Jewish settlements, though in some cases Arab homes were reoccupied by Jews.

The Zionist-friendly US press has made much of Palestinian suicide attacks, but the Zionists’ own violent policy of dispossession at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is never mentioned. Begin and Shamir not only escaped justice for their crimes, over the years, as Israel moved to the right and both men took small steps toward the center, they gained political respectability and both eventually rose to become prime minister (Begin in 1977 and Shamir in 1983 and 1986).[xv]

In subsequent years, the only departure from Israel’s continuing shift to the right occurred in the 1990s when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin briefly flirted with peace. I say “briefly” because on November 4, 1995 Rabin was assassinated by a hard-line Zionist after addressing a large peace rally. Today, the western media often portrays Yitzhak Rabin as a martyr for peace, but this is too generous. Over most of his long career, the military officer and Labor Coalition leader was anything but a moderate. During the 1948 war Rabin played a key role himself in the violent “cleansing” of Palestine. His troops cleared some 50,000 Palestinians (by Rabin’s own estimate) from the Arab town of Ramla and drove them into the West Bank.[xvi]

Once, Rabin proposed “to wipe out all Egyptian cities located close to the [Suez] canal from the earth’s surface.”[xvii] As a general Rabin encouraged the most extreme Israeli settlers, the Gush Emunim, even as he cultivated the growth of radical Hamas to undermine Arafat’s PLO.[xviii] As a Knesset member, Rabin supported Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and during the first Intifada, while serving as defense minister, he ordered his soldiers to “break the bones” of Palestinian detainees.[xix] On some issues Rabin was even more extreme than Begin. For instance, although Begin had allowed a Palestinian autonomy council to meet in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem, Rabin insisted on moving the council to Jericho, the smallest and most backward of Palestinian towns.[xx] Thus, he is responsible for the extremely inconvenient current site of the Palestinian Authority’s administrative offices. Finally, it was during Rabin’s tenure as defense minister in the 1980s that Israel became deeply involved with drug trafficking in Lebanon. The Israeli military adopted a policy of looking the other way, in return for useful intelligence.[xxi] But the policy went beyond simply tolerating the drug trade. Drug addiction was encouraged to weaken Arab society and promote political apathy. Rabin coddled Palestinian drug traffickers for similar reasons. Israeli officers were also directly involved in the transshipment of drugs into Israel.[xxii] Ironically, in 1996 Richard Perle and his fellow neoconservatives were apparently unaware of the extent of Israel’s involvement in the drug trade, because in their Clean Break paper they cite Lebanese drug trafficking as a justification for “rolling back” Syria.

In the end, it seems that the old warrior Rabin grew tired of breaking the bones of children and resolved to try a new approach. Rabin would attempt to negotiate a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Yet, even though he campaigned and won the 1992 election on a peace platform, many Israelis felt betrayed and refused to support the initiative. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI/Secret Service, either arranged Rabin’s murder or allowed it to happen.[xxiii]

In any event, the message was clear enough. Not even a standing prime minister with impeccable credentials would be spared once he deviated from the ideology of Greater Israel. Here, it must be emphasized, Rabin’s commitment to Israel’s security was never in question. A lifelong Zionist, Rabin had fought in Israel’s war of independence, served as defense minister for nine years, and was twice prime minister. He had also served as Israel’s US ambassador, and even commanded the army during the 1967 Six Day War, the time of Israel’s greatest military victory. But not even this lifetime of service nor Rabin’s war hero status was enough to save him. That such a man would be sacrificed at the apex of his career, when he most needed the support of his people, should give us serious pause about the nature of Zionism, and the chances for a genuine Mideast peace settlement.

In this context it is noteworthy that current prime minister and leader of Likud Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s father once served as Jabotinsky’s personal secretary (in 1940), which, unless I am mistaken, makes Bibi the present-day heir to Zionist Revisionism. Although the US-educated and smooth-talking Bibi hides it well, they say he shares his father’s view of history. Like father like son.

On September 11, 2001 we Americans witnessed what I suggest was the calculated use of terror to traumatize our nation in order to impose a neoconservative political agenda that has been a disaster for the whole world, especially the Mideast. In 2016, all of this is clear, or should be with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. But any Americans who read the neoconservative policy papers in the 1990s, understood the extreme ideas that were being expressed, saw the future, and tried to warn the rest of us about what was coming, were no doubt either dismissed as kooks or smeared as anti-semitic.

An updated and expanded second edition of Mark H. Gaffney’s 2012 book, Black 9/11: Money, Motive and Technology, will be released this year. Mark can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net


[i] Philip Shenon, The Commission (New York, Grand Central Publishing, 2008), p. 360.

[ii] Kevin Fenton, Disconnecting the Dots (Walterville, Trineday, 2011), p. 121-2

[iii] James Risen, State of War (New York, Free Press, 2006), p. 188-9.

[iv] State of War, p. 189; also see Lawrence Wright, “The Twenty-Eight Pages,” The New Yorker, September 9, 2014.

[v] Final Report of the Joint Inquiry, December 2002, see pages 396-422, posted at http://fas.org/irp/congress/2002_rpt/911rept.pdf

[vi] Senator Bob Graham, Intelligence Matters (New York, Random House, 2004), p. 230,

[vii] Kevin Ryan, “CIA Director George Tenet Facilitated 9/11,” 9/11 Blogger, July 27, 2014. Posted at http://911blogger.com/news/2014-07-27/cia-director-george-tenet-facilitated-911

[viii] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1438.htm

[ix] Thomas Donnelly et al, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” PNAC, 1997, posted at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/pdf/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

[x] For a thorough discussion see F. William Engdahl, Full Spectrum Dominance (Wiesbaden, edition.Engdahl, 2009).

[xi] “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” p. 51.

[xii] Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest (New York, Olive Branch Press, 1989), pp. 59-60.

[xiii] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, One World, 2006), p.90.

[xiv] The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p. xiii.

[xv] For a good primer see Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall (London, Zed Books, 1984).

[xvi] The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p.169.

[xvii] Israel Shahak, Open Secrets (London, Pluto Press, 1997), pp. 127,162-3 and 120-1.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Israel Shahak, “The Real Israeli Interest in Lebanon,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1996, posted at http://www.wrmea.org/1996-july/the-real-israeli-interest-in-lebanon.html

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] For a short but excellent discussion see Michael Collins Piper, Final Judgement (American Free Press, 1994), Appendix Ten, pp.417-420; also see “A Mother’s Defense,” Guela Amir, George Magazine, March 1997.

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