Perhaps Senator Fritz Hollings cannot claim to have first connected Iraq to 9/11, but he did point out for the record an odd literary coincidence in a speech on the Senate floor on September 12, 2002, the day after the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Hollings entered an editorial into the Congressional record from the Iraqi newspaper Al-Nasiriyah, which he noted appears curious for its eerily prescient language:
America says, admitting just like a bird in the midst of a tornado, that Bin Ladin is behind the bombing of its destroyer in Aden. The fearful series of events continues for America and the terror within America gets to the point that the Governor of Texas increases the amount of the award, just as the stubbornness of the other man and his challenge increases. This challenge makes it such that one of his grandchildren comes from Jeddah traveling on the official Saudi Arabia airlines and celebrates with him the marriage of one of the daughters of his companions. Bin Ladin has become a puzzle and a proof also, of the inability of the American federalism and the C.I.A. to uncover the man and uncover his nest. The most advanced organizations of the world cannot find the man and continues to go in cycles in illusion and presuppositions. They still hope that he could come out from his nest one day, they hope that he would come out from his hiding hole and one day they will point at him their missiles and he will join Guevara, Hassan Abu Salama, Kamal Nasser, Kanafani and others. The man responds with a thin smile and replies to the correspondent from Al Jazeera that he will continue to be the obsession and worry of America and the Jews, and that even that night he will practice and work on an exercise called “How Do You Bomb the White House.” And because they know that he can get there, they have started to go through their nightmares on their beds and the leaders have had to wear their bulletproof vests.
Meanwhile America has started to pressure the Taliban movement so that it would hand them Bin Ladin, while he continues to smile and still thinks seriously, with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House …..
The phenomenon of Bin Ladin is a healthy phenomenon in the Arab spirit. It is a decision and a determination that the stolen Arab self has come to realize after it got bored with promises of its rulers: After it disgusted itself from their abomination and their corruption, the man had to carry the book of God and the Kalashnikov and write on some off white paper “If you are unable to drive off the Marines from the Kaaba, I will do so.” It seems that they will be going away because the revolutionary Bin Ladin is insisting very convincingly that he will strike America on the arm that is already hurting. That the man will not be swayed by the plant leaves of Whitman nor by the “Adventures of Indiana Jones” and will curse the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs.
In one editorial, two months before the attack, al-Nasiriyah — a state-run newspaper for the Saddam regime — managed to name all three attack targets for 9/11. They said that bin Laden had spent his time trying to work out how to bomb the White House, which would happen shortly before destroying the Pentagon. Then, in typically flowery Arabic fashion, the author claims that Americans will “curse the memory of Frank Sinatra”, an odd reference — unless one remembers that “New York, New York” remains Sinatra’s signature song. In the event, the attack followed precisely this plan, except in reverse order: the World Trade Center went first, then the Pentagon, and the White House would likely have followed if the heroes of Flight 93 had not caused the terrorists to down the plane in Pennsylvania.
Even beyond that, the fawning tone and obvious support for Osama bin Laden in one of Saddam’s newspapers belies any suggestion that the two could not find common ground for operations against their common enemy. Saddam wanted Iraqis to stand behind Osama and al-Qaeda and cheer on their attacks on the US. The author states: “This new awareness of the image that Bin Ladin has become gives shape to the resting areas and stops for every Arab revolutionary. It is the subject of our admiration here in Iraq because it shares with us in a unified manner our resisting stand, and just as he fixes his gaze on the Al Aqsa we greet him.”
Let’s take another look at the timeline to see where July 21, 2001 fits into it. At that point, Mohammed Atta has just met with Ramzi Binalshibh in Madrid, discussing the need to set a date for the attacks. Binalshibh claims that Atta did not do so at that meeting, but Binalshibh provides the only evidence of Atta’s demurral. Five days later, Hamid Zakeri would walk into an American embassy and tell the CIA that Osama bin Laden would launch a massive attack the US on September 11, and that the attack would involve six pilots — an attack about which he learned through his Iranian contacts.
It certainly seems that Binalshibh has created quite a disinformation campaign, and that American officials appeared determined to swallow it. In case you wondered, the 9/11 Commission makes no mention of the Iraqi predictions in its final report, to no one’s great surprise.
UPDATE: The Hollings link came from a Thomas search, which apparently didn’t deliver a permanent URL. I didn’t notice it at the time. It han also be found here. I’ll try to find a permanent Thomas URL.
UPDATE II: The relevant pages of the Congressional Record can be found in these two PDF files.