By William J. Furney
In just over a month, the families of the almost 3,000 people who perished in airplane attacks in the United States will commemorate the Al Qaeda suicide strikes that triggered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to even more gargantuan loss of life — but they don’t want President Biden anywhere near their memorial events.
They, still grieving, two decades on, want answers about what happened — vital information that, they believe, successive US governments have withheld from them, America and the wider world.
In particular, victims’ families want to know the role, if any, that Saudi Arabia had to play in the catastrophic events that shook the world, given that 15 of 19 members of the flying suicide squad were Saudis and that Al Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden — now scattered at the bottom of the sea — was also a Saudi national.
US presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all refused to declassify secret documents about the attacks, arguing that to do so might compromise national security. The families of the victims, who believe Saudia Arabia was aware of the 9/11 plot before it happened and didn’t raise the alarm, were hopeful new President Biden might do what they demand and let them see the classified material — but that’s not happening.
“Six months ago, the 9/11 community had great hopes that President Joe Biden would be the long-lost champion of those directly affected by this murderous attack on our nation, finally placing the values of truth, justice and accountability before the interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the victims’ families said in a joint statement released to the media this week.
They reminded Biden of his pre-election pledge to examine the classified 9/11 documents, if elected, and “to err on the side of disclosure”. But because the material is still locked away from public eyes, the families said, of this year’s memorial events, that they “cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment”.
They said: “Since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004, much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks. Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks.”
The strikes on the morning of September 11, 2001, saw the terrorists hijack four commercial aircraft after receiving rudimentary flight training in the United States and elsewhere, and plough two aircraft into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and one into the façade of the Pentagon in Washington. A passenger revolt during which the terrorist-controlled cockpit was stormed saw a fourth plane that was believed to be heading to the White House or Capitol Building brought down in a field in Pennsylvania.
Rich mastermind bin Laden blamed the strikes, in a Letter to America, on Western aggression in Muslim lands and vowed endless war. President Obama ordered a strike on the terrorist’s hideaway compound in Pakistan in 2011, and US Navy SEALs killed the militant and dumped his body in the sea, to avoid a land-based grave becoming a shrine to acolytes.
The 9/11 victims’ families want President Biden to:
“Authorize the release of all documents and information to the 9/11 community that our government has accrued in its investigation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (and which former FBI agents have sworn establishes the Kingdom’s role in 9/11) to allow us to rightfully obtain justice against the Kingdom.”
And they further demand that the US “[i]mplement a policy toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that makes clear it must acknowledge its role in terrorist attacks against our citizens and residents, which in the last 20 years include not just 9/11 but the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the murder of US service members in Pensacola, Florida; and, accordingly, immediately cease the Kingdom’s support for acts of terrorism.”
The White House’s response to the families’ request that Biden stay away from memorials this year was that the president “remains committed” to his pre-election promise to release the classified documents that may show a link to Saudi involvement in the attacks.
But for now, there’s no movement, leaving many to wonder if the US government will do the right thing, or remain cozied-up to Riyadh and its de-facto crown prince leader because of all the oil that’s needed to lubricate the biggest economy in the world.
- The photograph shows the moment a second hijacked airplane hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001.