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Nov. 13 2009 - 12:47 pm | 17 views | 2 recommendations | 1 comment

Great to hear about the 9-11 trial. But still, Saudi Arabia, wtf?

Quick post today, as I’m traveling–leaving glorious Baghdad enroute to my current natural habitat in Vermont.

Happened to catch the news that they’re putting KSM and four others behind the 9-11 attack on trial. This seems long overdue. I’ve been reading lots of terrorism/9-11 related work lately, from Philip Shenon’s The Commission to James Bamford’s book on the NSA to Robert Baer’s must-reads. The sum total has brought up a level of indignation within me, reminding me that real justice, legal justice, has never really been served for 9-11. Sure we’ve attacked two countries, one of them that probably deserved it. But all of this behind closed doors/torture Gitmo stuff just seemed to keep dragging the 9-11 aftermath on, stuck in the existential gear of the war formerly known as terror, all slightly unsatisfactory. Hopefully a trial–and, if they’re found guilty, the punishment–can deliver justice, in a way that is sort of legal and much more emotionally fulfilling than some random drone strike.

That being said, I went over to The Daily Beast, sensing that Gerald Posner would have something very interesting to say. And sure enough, he does.  Mainly, that there’s a suspect who’s not going on trial–Abu Zubaydah. And the reason why? Zubaydah had made some very strong claims about the ties between high ranking members of the Saudi government and a high ranking Pakistani official, linking them to the September 11th attack. Even freakier, the three Saudis royal family members and the one Pakistani airforce official Zubaydah named are no longer, er, availible…

Unfortunately, the four men identified by Zubaydah cannot be investigated because they are now dead. As for the three Saudi princes, the king’s 43-year-old nephew, Prince Ahmed, died of either a heart attack or blood clot, depending on which report you believe, after having liposuction in a top Riyadh hospital. The second, 41-year-old Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, died the following day in a one-car accident, on his way to the funeral of Prince Ahmed. And a week later, the third Saudi prince named by Zubaydah, 25-year-old Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, died, according to the Saudi Royal Court, “of thirst.” He passed away outside the Saudi capital, in his Rolls Royce, of dehydration. The head of Pakistan’s air force, Mushaf Ali Mir, was the last to go. He died, together with his wife and 15 of his top aides, when his plane blew up—in a suspected act of sabotage—in February 2003. Pakistan’s investigation of the explosion—if one was even done—has never been made public. I have made more than a dozen requests to the Pakistani government for additional information; they have all been ignored.

Zubaydah is the only top al Qaeda operative who has linked two of America’s closest allies in the war on terror—Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—to the 9/11 attacks. George W. Bush protected the Saudi royal family and the Pakistani military from the implications of Zubaydah’s confessions. With the announcement this morning that Zubaydah will be left off Holder’s list—the only leading al Qaeda detainee absent from the tally of those to be tried in a federal courtroom—the Obama administration follows in the footsteps of its predecessor in burying the Zubaydah leads and ensuring they do not have a public hearing.

This is where I’m like, man, wouldn’t it have been great to have put those guys on trial? Or at least issue arrest warrants for them. Or use some sort of legal mechanism to deal with them, to seem them face actual justice, which probably could have been arranged before their untimely demise.

Not putting Zubadayh on trial gives conspiracy theorists more ammo, fogs up who else should really stand accused, while making relatively sane people like myself wonder, aloud, gee, that’s a lot of coincidences. It also makes the Saudis look even worse than usual in the role that members of their government played in the attacks, whether knowing or unkowning. Scratch the surface of 9-11, and  it always comes back to the Saudis–not Saddam, a little bit of the Taliban, some of Pakistan, not really Iran–but Saudi Arabia. Until we honestly confront this fact in our mainstream foreign policy, and in our discussion of 9-11, I really don’t feel that justice–at least on the karmic level!–will quite yet be served.
UPDATE: And Glenn Greenwald points out that rather problematic issue of just choosing folks for trial who you know you’re going to be able to convict. A show trial, I believe is the word.


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  1. collapse expand

    Micheal, this is very,very interesting info. I haven’t heard a word about this before. What is your opinion as to the reason for the hush,hush on this situation? I have my own opinion,which is of course very cinical,because I,like many Americans have absolutely NO trust in our politicians. One would think the MSM would be all over this. What’s up ???? No wonder there are so many “conspiracy” nuts out there. Can you really blame them ?? Of course I’m sure all the deaths were just a coincedence……RIGHT ??

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    I'm the author of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story" and a regular contributor to GQ. Previously, I was the Baghdad correspondent for Newsweek magazine. My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, the L.A. Times, and other publications of repute. This blog will focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other newsy foreign-ish things.

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