Beyond the Blasts

MotherJones.com's guide to undercovered news, commentary and resources to help put the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftershocks into context. Updated throughout the day.

Fri Oct. 12, 2001 2:00 AM EDT

Oct. 12, 2001

Iran: Maybe it was Usama -- International Herald Tribune
Iranian newspapers and official announcements have blamed the twin terror attacks on everyone from American militia groups to Israeli intelligence agents. But high ranking aides to President Mohammad Khatami quietly admitted to a group of Western diplomats recently that they are convinced Usama bin Ladin is the real culprit. "They will never say that openly," says a diplomat familiar with the meeting.

Why aren't the Saudis helping? -- The New Republic
Only a decade ago, Saudi Arabia was one of the mainstays of President George Bush's coalition against Iraq. But in the current crisis, the desert kingdom is keeping a noticeably low profile. Why? Because "Saudi Arabia's role in the Islamic world has changed, and so has Islam's role within Saudi Arabia," writes Joshua Teitelbaum. "And, as a result, the partner that depended on the United States to remove an expansionist Saddam from its doorstep ten years ago is unlikely to be much help in America's hour of need. "

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Pakistani officials implicated? -- The Times of India
Indian government sources say that the former director of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency lost his job because of evidence that he had links to one of the suicide hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center, reports The Times of India.

White House urges ban on bin Ladin's words -- Various
Hot on the heels of a promise by major TV networks to delay and edit any video statement from Usama bin Ladin, the Bush administration is now asking newspapers not to print complete transcripts of such statements, on the grounds that they may contain coded messages to other terrorists. But as Reason magazine and others argue, "the only likely result would be that Americans ... would be the only people in the world unable to examine their enemy's statements. The White House has no chance whatsoever of preventing the rest of the world's news organizations from playing these tapes, and a great many foreign news broadcasts are regularly available here. The White House cannot keep the tapes off the Internet. It cannot prevent transcripts of the tapes from appearing in print. If there are in fact persons seeking information from the tapes, they will have little trouble gaining access to them."

Oct. 11, 2001

Democrats seek fundraising favors after attacks -- Roll Call
It's not just the travel and tourism industries that have taken a financial hit from the Sept. 11 terror strikes -- political fundraisers say it's been bad for their business, too. Having suspended fundraising efforts in the days after the attacks, the Democratic National Committee is now seeking "emergency" permission from the Federal Election Commission to extend a window during which it can shift "soft" money into a "hard" money account to cover the shortfall.

Next stop: Kyrgyzstan? -- Stratfor.com
The US-led military campaign in Afghanistan may well spill over into nearby Kyrgyzstan, reports Stratfor.com, a military intelligence site. Afghan fighters fleeing the Western assault could join with Kyrgyzstan-based groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to create a new threat. "Without a follow-on ground campaign running deep into Central Asia, US ground forces will contain Afghanistan only to be flanked by militant networks in neighboring Kyrgyzstan," the report concludes.

Oct. 10, 2001

Traders versus traitors? -- The Nation
Free-trade fans in Congress are trying to leverage the fear of terrorism into support for their previously stalled attempt to give the president "Fast Track" authority to negotiate trade agreements. They're "arguing that, in some vague way, passing corporate-sponsored free-trade legislation will help the US to lead the war against terrorism," reports The Nation. "US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has even seemed to suggest ... that support for Fast Track should be seen as a test of patriotism."

"Bikini babe" performance too spicy for Muslim sensibilities -- Globalvision News Network
The anti-Afghanistan alliance may be trying to convince the world that they're sensitive to innocent Muslims needs -- witness the food they're dropping along with bombs in Afghanistan -- but at least one British regiment doesn't seem to get what it takes to show respect for Muslim culture. The soldiers, stationed in Oman, were recently treated to a dance performance by Geri Halliwell, better known as Ginger Spice. Nice for them, but the skimpy halter top and hot pants Halliwell wore were as offensive to observant local Omanis as would be walking into their homes with dirty shoes, writes Ali Asadullah.

The Internet's self-governing lie detector -- About.com
Ever since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rumours have spread like shrapnel across the Internet, some unbelievable yet true, some plausible but false. About.com offers this handy page to seperate some of the truths from fiction. Turns out, for instance, that Dubya did say he wouldn't "fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt." But there was no person who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center towers by surfing the rubble to safety.

Bush's man from Afghanistan -- Slate
Believe it or not, the Bush Administration is getting info on Afghanistan from a real live Afghan, one Zalmay Khalilzad -- but that unique advisor's political leanings have more in common with Bush's administration than the average Afghan. "According to academic colleagues, Khalilzad held pro-Palestinian views in his student days. By the end of the 1970s, however, his foreign policy views had taken on a clear hawkish cast, distinguishing him as perhaps the first and only Afghan-American neoconservative," writes Jacob Weisberg.

Oct. 9, 2001

Food drops mostly for political consumption? -- Various
The American airdrops of food in Afghanistan may sound good, but relief workers say they don't even come close to feeding the estimated 6 million Afghans in need of nourishment. Only a land-based operation could really stave off famine, most agree, but the UN says that the bombing has made it all but impossible to truck food into Afghanistan. In addition, warns columnist Laura Flanders, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, meaning that people could actually die trying to get their food packages. All of which has some humanitarian organizations grumbling that the drops are aimed more at pleasing TV viewers in the US than feeding Afghans.

Too many bombs, not enough targets -- Associated Press
After just a couple of days of bombing, there are so few targets worth hitting in Afghanistan that American warplanes are returning to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise with leftover bombs, says the ship's captain.

First crack in Congressional consensus -- Seattle Times
Move over, Rep. Barbara Lee -- another member of Congress has staked out a lonely position criticizing America's response to the twin terror attacks. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) yesterday became the first on Capitol HIll to criticize the US-led attacks on Afghanistan, questioning whether President Bush had "thought this action out completely or fully examined America's cause." "The destruction of the infrastructure did not work in Iraq a decade ago," McDermott said in a statement. "This sounds an awful lot like Iraq."

Oct. 8, 2001

Central Asia's powderkeg -- Foreign Affairs
Almost two years ago, this seminal essay by Ahmad Rashid -- considered by many the most knowledgeable journalist writing about Afghanistan -- warned that Western policymakers were setting themselves up for trouble by ignoring Afghanistan. "The United States dealt with issues as they came up in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion," Rashid writes, "pursuing constantly changing single-issue agendas that were driven more by domestic American politics than the goal of ending the civil war. Afghanistan's neighbors took note of U.S. reluctance to get involved and stepped up arms supplies to their Afghan proxies." Civil war + arms supplies + proxy fighting... sound familiar?

It won't end with Afghanistan -- Cursor
Whatever the outcome of US military action in Afghanistan, writes commentator Steve Perry, one thing is clear: More conflicts in the region are almost guaranteed. "Consider: If the US prevails at little immediate cost versus the Taliban, it will bolster calls for carrying the war to other states that 'harbor terrorists.' Conversely, if the Taliban proves capable of staying and fighting for a long period, the ensuing conflict will mean more civilian casualties in Afghanistan and inflame public sentiments in other countries of the region, which likewise will augur for further US military engagements on other fronts."

Al-Qaida's US Guns -- Violence Policy Center
Among the more effective weapons in the arsenal of Usama bin Ladin's fighters is the Barrett M82A1 50-caliber sniper rifle -- a US-made gun capable of blasting holes in walls, airplane fuselage, and armor from more than 1,000 yards away. The gun-control organization Violence Policy Center reports that al-Qaida has bought at least 25 of the guns, and possibly many more, from US gunmakers. As far back as 1995, the organization notes, a RAND Corporation report warned that the 50-caliber "superguns" could pose a threat to US Air Force planes.

Nuclear Terrorism? -- Center for Defense Information
By turns disconcerting (yes, there is lots of plutonium the Russian nuclear industry can't account for) and reassuring (most of it was probably lost or buried, not stolen), this analysis examines the possibilities for a terrorist network like al-Qaida to acquire and deploy a nuclear weapon. In addition to a sober assessment of Pakistan's nuclear capability and the ease of transporting "suitcase bombs," you'll learn that in the late 1970s, the US designed a bomb the size of an attache case: "In fact, a replica -- with proxy nuclear material and conventional explosives in place of the real stuff -- was disguised as a briefcase and actually hand-carried on commercial airline flights from California to Washington in the early 1980s."

Student-visa database almost ready -- Wired
Thought all the talk about keeping track of people who come to the United States on student visas was just wishful thinking on legislators' part? Turns out the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been working on such a database since 1996 and plans to start using the system at a dozen Boston-area schools this month; full implementation is planned by 2003. Some educators remain critical of the project, which they say is costly and rife with potential for abuse, but public opposition to the database has all but evaporated since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sorry, document is unavailable -- San Francisco Chronicle
Looking to find out how your local government has planned for a terrorist attack at the local fertilizer factory? Curious whether there's an oil or gas pipeline -- like the one that spilled thousands of gallons of oil in Alaska this weekend -- near your house? Want to know whether the Federal Aviation Administration has fined your favorite airline for security lapses? Don't expect to do it from where you're sitting: Dozens of government documents have been pulled from the Web in the name of security, reports Sabin Russell, and are now available in paper format only. Whether this will thwart terrorists -- who, judging by the habits of the Sept. 11 hijackers, make a point of spending time at libraries -- remains to be seen.

 

Compiled by MotherJones.com staff.