Book Review: The War on Freedom: How and Why America Was Attacked, September 11th, 2001, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Tree of Life Publications, Joshua Tree, California, 2002., 398 pages, with a backward perspective by John Leonard. (Available at

By John Spritzler
October 5, 2003

In defense of a difficult-to-believe conclusion, Sherlock Holmes once remarked,  "Improbable as it is, all other explanations are more improbable still." The conclusion drawn by Nafeez Ahmed in The War On Freedom is, for many people, including the sharpest critics of the Bush administration, a difficult-to-believe one indeed. Ahmed concludes that President Bush knew in advance about the attack on September 11 and even gave orders to ensure it would succeed. But as improbable as Mr. Ahmed's inference may at first appear, he unquestionably has assembled a multitude of facts from reputable sources and applied logic to them in a way that would have made Mr. Holmes smile.

The book hinges on Chapter 5, which, based on major network news reports and official government documents, establishes the following facts:

1. There are standard operating procedures that state exactly who should do what whenever a commercial airliner either loses radio contact with the tower or deviates only two or more miles from its specified flight path. The procedure is that the flight controller immediately calls the appropriate military authorities and they in turn immediately send one or more fighter aircraft to the deviant airliner to assess the situation. This means the fighter jet pilot flies close enough to eyeball the commercial airliner pilot and, in most cases, then flies in front of the airliner, tips his wings as the standard signal for the airliner to follow him, and leads it back onto its proper flight path. This is called an "interception." An interception does not mean shooting down the airliner, although this can be one outcome if and only if the President of the United States orders it. The authority to intercept an airliner comes from the flight controller, based on the standard procedures. Interception does not require authorization from higher up, and certainly does not require authorization from the President of the United States.

2. Fighter jet interceptions of commercial aircraft are a common occurrence, for reasons that seldom turn out to be a hijacking or anything that would ever call for shooting down the aircraft.

3. In 1999, for example, the golf pro, Payne Stuart was killed when his Lear Jet crashed. Before it crashed, a fighter jet was scrambled. The entire time lapse from the first moment when the Lear Jet failed to respond to the tower's radio instruction until the moment when the fighter jet arrived at Stuart's plane 46,000 feet in the air was only 21 minutes.

4. The scrambling of fighter jets to intercept airliners in accordance with the standard operating procedure has never failed to be promptly carried out in the many times it was called for leading up to September 11, 2001; but on that date, for the first time, none of the standard operating procedures were carried out.

5. On September 11, 2001, the time lapse from the moment when Flight 11, bound for Los Angeles, had made an unexpected hard turn left and begun heading toward New York with its transponder disconnected, until the first fighter jet was scrambled, was an unprecedented 80 minutes. No jet was scrambled until after the last of the four hijacked planes hit its target B the Pentagon.

6. On September 11 there was a complete failure to carry out the standard procedures -- a failure that involved the independent failure by numerous individuals in different cities and at different levels of the chain of command to follow strictly defined procedures. And yet this extensive, gross and unprecedented incompetence has not resulted in any disciplinary actions. Nor has there been an explanation for this.

7. There is a strict hierarchy of command from the airport flight controller to the military to the President of the United States. Anybody in this hierarchy who failed to act according to the explicit standard procedures would be in flagrant violation of their duty and would ordinarily be severely disciplined by the authorities at the next higher level. The least improbable explanation for the simultaneous failure of so many individuals at so many levels of the hierarchy to carry out their duties on September 11 is that there were "stand down" orders (i.e. orders to do nothing) from the very top of the chain of command, which is the President.

Chapter 4 demonstrates in a similar manner that American intelligence agencies had mounting evidence, that rose far above the threshold required to be taken very seriously, that terrorists intended to use commercial airliners as weapons to attack targets in lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C. sometime between early and mid-September, 2001. And yet no steps were taken to protect American airline passengers or in any other way to prevent the attack. Lower level FBI agents who tried to make arrests of suspected terrorists were prevented from doing so by high level authorities. Surprisingly, one of the sources for this information is none other than David P. Schippers, the Chief Counsel to the United States House of Representatives for its impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton! In an interview with WorldNetDaily on October 21, 2001 Schippers said, "I [had] information indicating there was going to be a massive attack in lower Manhattan [from FBI sources]. I couldn't get anybody to listen to me ... about a month-and-a-half before Sept. 11."

The other chapters of the book establish a host of background facts which make the book's controversial conclusion seem much less difficult to believe. Two of the most telling facts are these:

American government leaders going back to the Carter administration sought to gain control of Afghanistan because of its strategic relation to Caspian Basin oil and to the entire central Asian region. In pursuit of this goal, the U.S., with help from the Pakistani intelligence agency, created and backed the Taliban to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, and the George Bush, Jr. administration initially intended to rely on the Taliban regime to provide security for U.S. oil pipelines in Afghanistan. But when it became clear that the Taliban was incapable of providing sufficient security in the whole nation, Bush laid plans -- before September 11, 2001 -- to carry out a military operation in Afghanistan during the month of October, 2001. It only required a pretext of some kind to get the American public to back the military action. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, expressed it in a 1997 book, "The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America= s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

Just prior to September 11, 2001, the popular-vote-challenged Bush administration confronted a crisis of legitimacy. The corporate class he was identified with was under increasing attack world wide from a chain of ever-larger and increasingly anti-capitalist demonstrations against the WTO from Seattle to Genoa Italy. At the same time general strikes from Italy to Argentina were challenging their own leaders for going along with the world financial elite's "neo-liberal" attacks on people carried out in the name of "free trade." In the U.S., strong support for Senator John McCain and Ralph Nader (and Al Gore's last-minute adoption of a populist campaign theme) revealed that all sorts of Americans were coming to see that the problem in the United States was that it was run by a corporate plutocracy, not the people.

September 11 did wonders to help George Bush overcome these obstacles. It enabled him to assume the role of "Commander in Chief of a nation at war" and to bait as unpatriotic any opponents of his outrageous rob-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich domestic policies or his foreign military adventures. How improbable is it that Bush's "Pearl Harbor" was more than just a lucky break?


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