The Null Device

Caution: Compliance Professionals at Work

Saddam == Osama (part 2): A recent poll of 1,200 Americans asked a very simple question: "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" 44% said that most or some were Iraqis; only 17% knew that none of them were. 65% of Americans also believe that Iraq and al-Qaeda are in very close collaboration; of which there is scant convincing evidence (or at least that has been made public). It looks like the Whitehouse has succeeded in conditioning the American people to associate long-time Bush family foe Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks, all using psychological techniques: (via bOING bOING)

It is not at all unreasonable to conclude that the suspected national identities of the hijackers -- 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese, and two from the United Arab Emirates -- must have been heard or read by everybody on at least several occasions. From there the raw information must have made its way to innumerable lunch rooms, bars and family dinner tables across the country, where it was debated and discussed. Though it was somewhat subversive and unpatriotic to ask why, there was an insatiable national hunger to know who. Even the realpolitik diplomatic strategy of the Bush administration -- to play down the frequency of dots leading to Saudi Arabia -- should not have penetrated sufficiently to impede free access to information that was clearly in the public domain.

So most Americans knew that there weren't any Iraqis involved, but (if the polls are representative) were persuaded into revising this knowledge by emotional conditioning, and repeated association of Iraq with terror by authority figures; a textbook example of the effectiveness of persuasion techniques at editing the public memory; owing equal parts to Noam Chomsky and Robert Cialdini.

To the behavioral psychologist, the truth about the hijacker's nationalities might seem a victim of a chronic state of inattention. Conditioning has rendered Americans hyper-responsive to emotional and sensory dynamics triggered by the news media, and relatively uninterested in intellectual content. Nobody understands this better than Rupert Murdoch, who has created an empire out of punchy anti-intellectualism. And few understand better how to use it to their advantage than the Bush White House. George W. Bush is, after all, the anti-intellectual's president.
It was a case of psychological transference on a national scale. The transformation came not by cognitive argument, but by emotional association -- Iraq was described persistently in the emotionally charged post-9/11 vocabulary and context, most often by an association with fear, anxiety and alarm.

Meanwhile, the involvement of that staunch bulwark of Truth, Justice and the American Way, Saudi Arabia, has been deemphasised, to the point where most Americans, aware only that the Saudis are Our Allies, would subconsciously edit out any ecollection of cognitively dissonant facts (such as that 15 of the 19 hijackers hailed from the sternly fundamentalist desert kingdom).

(Oh, and remember that British Intelligence dossier which proved beyond doubt that Iraq is guilty? Well, it turns out that it was plagiarised from academic articles about the 1991 Gulf War.)

There are 7 comments on "Caution: Compliance Professionals at Work":

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Feb 7 06:51:09 2003

It's actually slightly worse than this; the survey says 6% believed that "just one" was Iraqi, so *half of all those polled* thought there were Iraqi hijackers.

But just on the subject of underplayed connections... so, the obvious role of Saudis is being ignored in favor of speculation about clandestine Iraqi involvement. What I want to know is why absolutely *no-one* mentions Egypt. Yes, Atta was Egyptian. Yes, Zawahiri is Egyptian. But what no-one seems to notice or care about is that September 11 is the Coptic New Year - the Copts being Egypt's Christians, and the living remnant of pre-Islamic Egyptian culture. (The very word 'Copt' derives from 'Aigyptos'.) ...

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Feb 7 06:51:51 2003

I also note that the current Egyptian constitution was approved by referendum on 11 September 1971, 30 years before 2001's attacks. This has to be evidence that Egypt's current regime - an apostate tyranny, in the eyes of the Islamists - attaches nationalistic value to pre- (and therefore un-) Islamic cultural icons like the Coptic calendar.

I've read that Atta chose the date for the attacks, and presumably he knew what he was doing. For me it's evidence that he was in Zawahiri's group, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which thinks that the key to Islamic revival lies in the establishment of a caliphate in Egypt, the Arab world's biggest state... I'd also note that there were Egyptians involved with the 1993 WTC bombing plot (along with Palestinians and two "Iraqis" - I put that in quotes because no-one knows who Ramzi Yousef really is).

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Feb 7 07:06:05 2003

The blindspot with respect to the Egyptian connection I find curious and can't explain. But I do draw one lesson. It's a little outlandish to think that agents of the Egyptian *state* were behind 9/11; obviously it was the exiled opposition, wanting to strike a blow against the apostates at home as well as against the Great Satan. And in exactly the same way, Osama's Saudis may (*may*) really have no connection to the Saudi state. It all remains consistent with the picture of 9/11 as an attack in which dissidents from 'moderate Arab' states provided the manpower, but in which operational assistance came from elsewhere, namely 'radical' states.

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Feb 7 07:11:43 2003

Okay, having made my little rant about Egypt... While that 44% or 50% displays a surprising level of ignorance, and certainly wouldn't have happened without Iraq becoming the center of attention, it is definitely not true that Americans have forgotten about the Saudi connection. Bush's friendly approach to Saudi Arabia is one of the things that *costs* him politically. It would be interesting to see a poll that asked "Do you think the Saudi government was involved in 9/11?" There would be a lot of "yes" votes.

Posted by: acb Fri Feb 7 09:01:34 2003

Isn't Bush still the most popular president of the past few decades? If it has cost him politically, there is little evidence of the "chickens coming home to roost", as it were.

Posted by: mark Fri Feb 7 09:46:53 2003

11/09 was also, IIRC, the date that Pinochet took over Chile with US support. So perhaps there's a Chilean connection...

Or, perhaps not.

Posted by: acb Fri Feb 7 09:52:23 2003

Well, Bush did look around for ways to implicate Fidel Castro, and the US government did back an abortive coup against Venezuela's Chavez, so a Latin connection could have been expedient; though after mopping up Iraq, they'll probably have weaselled as much mileage out of the 3,000 deaths in the WTC as is possible.

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