Tony Blairs bin Laden dossier: a pretext instead of proof
Tony Blairs bin Laden dossier: a pretext instead of proof
By Chris Marsden and Barry Grey
6 October 2001
The document presented to Britains parliament on October 4 by Prime
Minister Tony Blair has been hailed by the media as proof that Osama bin
Laden and his Al Qaeda network planned and carried out the September 11
hijack-bombings in New York and Washington. In fact, Blairs dossier is a
clumsy patchwork of assertions that provides no actual evidence
establishing the guilt of bin Laden or the complicity of his Taliban
A review of the document makes clear that it is an attempt to silence the
demand for proof of bin Ladens guilt, without actually providing it, and
thereby ease the path for the US and Britain to launch a war against
Last week the Bush administration reneged on a promise to make public the
evidence it claimed to possess proving bin Ladens guilt. Had everything
gone to according to plan, there is little doubt that this state of
affairs would have continued and bombs would have rained down on
Afghanistan without any pretence of having made the case against bin Laden
and the Taliban.
However, Bush faced opposition from Pakistan and the Arab regimes, which
feared an explosive reaction should the US begin bombing a Muslim country
without any concrete proof to justify such an action. The document
presented by Blair was part of an international effort to placate Americas
wavering allies and give them something to present before their own
The dossier begins with the following caveat: This document does not
purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama bin Laden in a court
of law. This acknowledgment is rationalized on the grounds that
Intelligence often cannot be used evidentially, due both to the strict
rules of admissibility and to the need to protect the safety of sources.
Three things can be said regarding this statement.
First, the premise that a lower standard of evidence is sufficient to
justify a war than would be the norm for establishing innocence or guilt
in a court of law is, at best, dubious. The incalculable consequences of a
military attack argue for a standard of proof no less strict than that
required in a legal case. In court what is at stake is the fate of the
defendants as individuals, whereas the US and Britain are about to launch
a military campaign in which the lives of an unknown number of innocent
civilians are threatened.
Second, the claim that intelligence considerations prohibit those about to
wage war from presenting evidence justifying such a course is a blanket
rationalization for any and all military action. Even if one grants the
legitimacy of withholding some evidence, it is not credible to assert that
on security grounds no concrete proof can be made public. Such a stance
amounts to an assertion of the right to play judge, jury and executioner.
Third, Blairs document is not a serious presentation of evidence that
falls somewhat short of the rigorous standards of a legal indictment. It
is devoid of any independently verifiable facts that establish the guilt
of either bin Laden, Al Qaeda or the Taliban in connection with the
September 11 terror attacks.
Most of what the document puts forward was previously reported in the
media. All of its allegations are unsubstantiated. The reader is expected
to accept its claims on faith.
The document is divided into three main headings. The most crucial is the
section purporting to deal with Al Qaedas role in the September 11 terror
attacks. This constitutes just nine points out of the seventy contained in
the 15-page dossier.
In an evident attempt to obscure the flimsy character of this pivotal
section, the authors have filled the bulk of the document with pages
purportedly outlining Al Qaedas previous involvement in terrorist attacks
against the US, together with a presentation of the historical origins of
bin Ladens Al Qaeda network and the Taliban regime.
In the section dealing with September 11, only one apparently concrete
connection between Al Qaeda and the hijack-bombings is made: the claim
that of the 19 identified hijackers, At least three of them have already
been positively identified as associates of Al Qaeda. One has been
identified as playing key roles in both the East African embassy attacks
and the USS Cole attack.
But this statement raises more questions than it answers. If the
identities of the three are known, why are they not named? What possible
harm could it do?
Secondly, the description of the three as associates of Al Qaeda is so
broad and amorphous as to render it almost meaningless. The document
acknowledges that Al Qaeda is a loose organization of many different
groupings. Even if the three were in some way identified with Al Qaeda,
this by itself would not prove that either Al Qaeda or bin Laden
personally planned or ordered the September 11 attacks. Finally, the
document merely asserts the existence of evidence linking the three to Al
Qaeda, without actually presenting factual proof.
The Bush administration, in particular, treads on thin ice when it speaks
loosely of links between bin Laden, bin Ladens associates and various
other individuals. None other than the Wall Street Journal reported in a
September 27 article of documented links between leading figures in the
Republican Party, including George W. Bushs father, the former president,
and the bin Laden family.
The Journal wrote: Among its far-flung business interests, the well-heeled
Saudi Arabian clanwhich says it is estranged from Osamais an investor in a
fund established by the Carlyle Group, a well-connected Washington
merchant bank specializing in buyouts of defense and aerospace companies.
Through this investment and its ties to Saudi royalty, the bin Laden
family has become acquainted with some of the biggest names in the
Republican Party. In recent years, former President Bush, ex-Secretary of
State James Baker and ex-Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci have made the
pilgrimage to the bin Laden familys headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Regarding the events of September 11, the document goes on to make further
assertions: that bin Laden himself declared shortly before September 11
that he was preparing a major attack on America and called close
associates to return to Afghanistan from other parts of the world by
September 10; and that Since 11 September we have learned that one of bin
Ladens closest and most senior associates was responsible for the detailed
planning of the attacks.
Once again a man considered to be at the very top of bin Ladens
organization, who is allegedly directly responsible for the terror
outrage, is not named. Why?
There follows this significant statement: There is evidence of a very
specific nature relating to the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that
is too sensitive to release.
Whether or not the authors of the document are aware of it, this sentence
amounts to a tacit admission that they have produced nothing of a specific
nature proving a connection between bin Laden and the September 11
The evidence regarding previous terror attacks is hardly more substantial.
Names and incidents are cited in connection with a number of high-profile
attacks, but these are garnered from the trial testimony of a few
individual defendants made under extreme duress.
To fill in the obvious gaps, the following assertion is made in an
extended preamble dealing with the history of the Al Qaeda: Osama bin
Laden has claimed credit for the attack on US soldiers in Somalia in
October 1993, which killed 18; for the attack on the US Embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania in August 1998 which killed 224 and injured nearly 5000; and
were linked [sic] to the attack on the USS Cole on 12 October 2000, in
which 17 crew members were killed and 40 others injured.
No such admission has ever been made, and none is cited in the document.
Instead the reader is directed toward various anti-American statements and
comments from bin Laden supportive of anti-US terrorist attacks.
(The inclusion of the attack on American soldiers in Somalia is entirely
out of place. That incident cannot legitimately be considered a terrorist
attack, since the Somalis involved were opposing US soldiers, not
civilians, and their resistance was part of a struggle against a US
military occupation of their country. The US troops, moreover, were
involved in an aggressive action to capture Somali officials who had run
afoul of American designs.)
The actual material presented in the document argues against the assertion
that bin Laden claimed responsibility for the named terrorist attacks.
When bin Laden was questioned by Time magazine regarding the August 1998
bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania, he refused to either confirm or deny any responsibility. His
quoted reply is simply a restatement of his fatwa, followed by the
declaration, Our job is to instigate and, by the grace of God, we did
that, and certain people responded to this instigation. When asked if he
knew the attackers, bin Laden simply called them real men. As deplorable
as such statements are, they do not constitute an admission of
In point 51, the document notes the existence of documents in which an
unrelated group, the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places,
claims responsibility for the East African embassy bombings. The document
simply dismisses this inconvenient information with the claim that the
organization is fictitious.
One statement in the document undermines its own invocation of security
needs as the justification for omitting specific evidence. In point 14,
the dossier asserts that the US government well before September 11 2001
handed over evidence of Al Qaedas guilt in orchestrating the East African
embassy attacks to the Taliban.
If the US government felt it could provide secret intelligence to the
Taliban, whom it now accuses of sponsoring a global anti-American murder
incorporated, how can it cite the need for secrecy and the protection of
sources to justify concealing crucial evidence from its own people and the
rest of the world today?
Politically, the most significant part of Blairs dossier is the section
that purports to outline the historical origins of Al Qaeda and the
Taliban regime. This potted history, by way of omission, points to
critical facts that both the US and Britain are intent on obscuring
because they reveal the political responsibility of successive governments
in Washington and London for the rise of bin Laden and the Taliban, and
the spread throughout Central Asia and the Middle East of the reactionary
brand of nationalism and religious obscurantism which they embody.
The document takes as its starting point the year 1989, when, it claims,
bin Laden and others founded Al Qaeda. The authors conveniently omit any
reference to the previous decade, during which the American CIA, with the
assistance of the British Special Air Service (SAS), funded, trained and
armed the Mujahedin as part of the Cold War struggle against the Soviet
Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrew 10 years later.
Among those with whom the Americans worked to undermine Soviet influence
was Osama bin Laden.
This is the real history, without knowledge of which it is impossible to
understand the destruction of secular political forces in Afghanistan and
the sudden rise to prominence of the Taliban, whose ideological and
political roots lie in the Mujahedin groups that were nurtured by the US.
(The US-Taliban connection was evidenced by the initial tacit support of
Washington for the Taliban regime when it took power in 1996.)
If, after three-and-a-half weeks, this crude admixture of unsubstantiated
assertions and historical falsifications is all that can be presented to
the public, there can be only two possible explanations:
Either the US government has no proof of a direct connection between Osama
bin Laden, the Taliban and the September 11 attacks, or it cannot release
the evidence it has because the information would in some way implicate
individuals or organizations connected to American intelligence or that of
an allied state.
In exposing the fraudulent character of this document, the World Socialist
Web Site is in no way motivated by a desire to protect bin Laden or the
Taliban, or maintain their innocence in regard to last months attacks.
They may very well be complicit in the hijack-bombings. Their politics and
methods are deeply reactionary and hostile to the interests of the working
class and oppressed masses in the Middle East, Central Asia and every
other part of the world.
But our rejection of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism does not in the
slightest lessen our opposition to the US and British governments and
their militaristic agenda. The fact that they have failed to make public
any serious evidence establishing the culpability of those singled out for
retaliation is of enormous significance. It shows that they have seized on
the September 11 tragedy as an opportunity to pursue an international
agenda long in the making. They are seeking to whip up a war fever so they
can pursue geo-strategic aims in the oil-rich Middle East and Central
Asian regions in a manner that would have been politically unthinkable
prior to September 11.
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