It was obvious to me at the time we were attacked on 9/11 that the perpetrators had become habituated to viewing the United States as impotent. Those of us of a certain age will recall the concerns expressed by Richard Nixon about the prospect that our enemies might come to see us in the event of a premature withdrawal from Vietnam as a “pitiful, helpless giant” and will likewise recall the mockery elite opinion accorded the concern, if we did not ourselves engage in the mockery.
But by 2001, as the recorded thoughts of Osama bin Laden reveal, that is precisely how he viewed the United States. He thought he could attack the United States with relative impunity, perhaps risking at most the firing of a wayward missile or the filing of an indictment in New York or the Hague.
This morning’s Washington Times reports on the transcripts of the interrogation of Khalid Shaik Mohammed. Although, as the article notes, Mohammed is not necessarily a credible source, the report sounds like the soul of truth to me:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.
Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization’s plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators…
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes…
“The original plan was for a two-pronged attack with five targets on the East Coast of America and five on the West Coast,” he told interrogators, according to the transcript. “We talked about hitting California as it was America’s richest state, and [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden had talked about economic targets.”
He is reported to have said that bin Laden, who like Mohammed had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that “it would be too difficult to synchronize.”
Mohammed then decided to conduct two waves of attacks, hitting the East Coast first and following up with a second series of attacks. “Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast,” he reportedly said. But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.
“Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run,” Mohammed is quoted as saying. Al Qaeda’s communications network was severely disrupted, he said. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they continued to use Internet chat rooms.
“Before September 11, we could dispatch operatives with the expectation of follow-up contact, but after October 7 [when U.S. bombing started in Afghanistan], that changed 180 degrees. There was no longer a war room … and operatives had more autonomy.”
Can there be any doubt where Osama bin Laden acquired the idea that he could attack the United States with impunity? Surely Barbra Streisand et al. will retract their critique of George Bush in response to these revelations; surely the revelations will be greeted by an outpouring of gratitude on the west coast and throughtout the United States for George Bush’s response to 9/11. It would be only natural, right? The Times story is “Chicago, L.A. towers were next.”