The War on Freedom:

How and Why America Was Attacked on Sept. 11, 2001

by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

(Tree of Life Publications, Joshua Tree , CA, USA) 384pp

Reviewed by Stash Luczkiw
(with a review of the review by the editor)

For those who have been following the “War on Terrorism” closely in the press and would like to fill in the gaps, this is definitely the book to read.

Also, for those who would like to have source materials to back up various conspiracy theories or accumulate fodder for new ones, this book is indispensable.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, a 23-year old Briton of Pakistani origins, has cut-and-pasted together an extraordinarily readable compendium of articles, think tank strategy reports, TV transcripts, pundits’ comments and sundry other bits of information culled from the recesses of cyberspace. The result is the most thoroughly documented book about “how and why America was attacked” to be found in the English language. It is as if a team of research assistants at the Institute for Policy Research & Development—where, incidentally, Ahmed is executive director—had scoured countless libraries and press archives to gather all the news that somehow managed to slip through unnoticed. He quotes mainstream “respected” press sources, such as the NY Times and BBC, as well as little known organizations like Judicial Watch, a Washington DC-based public interest law firm that investigates and prosecutes government corruption.

The sheer number of sources will probably intimidate, if not confuse, the reader who prefers a summary account of events. But for those who like the minutia of the geopolitical chess game, it’s a pleasure

Ahmed’s conclusions—e.g. that the Bush administration and intelligence officials were certainly expecting an attack on U.S. soil and were to some extent involved, if merely through negligence—are, of course, debatable. Fortunately the accusations throughout the beginning of the book are attenuated by diplomatic language: “The documentation collated in the previous pages demonstrates beyond doubt that innocent American civilians paid with their lives because high-level elements of the Bush administration engineered blocks on U.S. intelligence agencies in order to fulfill and protect another agenda.”  

The documentation does, however, make it clear that there were intricate ties between oil interests, the Bush family, influential Saudis—paramount among them the entire Bin Laden family—and the Pakistani intelligence services. These ties leave a great margin for all kinds of unsavory scenarios, which the author is obviously trying to inspire.

This is a book for those who appreciate relentless documentation—as opposed to naval-gazing analysis and/or flowery prose embroidered with ironic innuendoes. For example, the entire book has over 700 footnotes. One of the most striking is a three-page direct quote of Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter) who lays out American Central Asian Strategy in his book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives” (1997). Already in the 1990s, Ahmed argues, the U.S. was planning the tactical moves necessary to control Central Asia and its oil resources.

Another deft use of documentation is Ahmed’s quote of French daily Le Figaro when it claimed that Osama bin Laden had undergone surgery at the American Hospital in Dubai in July 2001. Not only does he quote Le Figaro, but he throws in the London Times, the New York Press, and the London Guardian to hedge against incredulous nay-sayers.

But often the documentation is two or three versions of the same secondhand information. There is little to no firsthand investigative journalism in this book. The source material is greatly appreciated, but at times the author is a bit presumptuous in that he assumes the reader will draw the same conclusions he does.

Case in point: the author quotes another Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who noted that “in 1998 Bin Laden himself pointed to continued support from some elements in the Pakistani intelligence services… The U.S. was Pakistan’s closest ally, with deep links to the military and the ISI.” From there, Ahmed clearly extrapolates from what Rashid wrote to conclude, “The suggestive implications are that bin Laden derived intensive support [in 2001] from a state intelligence organization.”

We assume Ahmed is referring to elements of Pakistan’s ISI, which wouldn’t be so farfetched, but he will elsewhere in the book try to implicate the CIA and Bush himself. This would be a very grave “suggestive implication” indeed—and a tantalizing one for conspiracy buffs. Unfortunately, despite the enormous amount of source material, the author proffers it as if the reader weren’t aware that one could include an equally long list of contradictory information and analyses. In other words, the author often describes the sound of a firecracker and presents it as a smoking gun. As a result, he loses much of the credibility his diligence has gained for him.

In the last chapter, Ahmed drops any pretense of objectivity and his language shifts from diplomatic and scholarly to outright incendiary. He includes a litany of civilian deaths in the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and explicitly accuses Bush of having orchestrated Sept. 11 with Pakistan’s ISI as a pretext for invading Afghanistan. What could be suspected in the beginning of this book—filled as it is with fascinating bits of information that may or may not be reliable—is now obvious: the author has an ideological axe to grind and has carried out his investigation in a way that would appear to substantiate a presupposition he probably entertained even before Sept. 11. This is fine if you share his presupposition, but a huge disappointment if you are expecting serious investigative journalism.

Despite this flaw, The War on Freedom remains a very important book—a must-read for anyone who feels there is something seriously lacking in the mainstream press coverage of recent events.

Dear Stash,
Thanks for sending the review. What I don't like about it are the contradictions. First you say that the author has done great research, then that his conclusions are tendentious, or not serious, that his opinions aren't necessarily correct, etc., then you end by saying the book is a must read. The only conclusion I can get from that is that's it's a book I definitely don't want to read.
Kind regards,

Often the most worthwhile books, I feel, are the contradictory ones. The review tried to get across the mixed feelings I had about it. While the author was presenting his case in the first half of the book, I was impressed, even edified, by the presentation. However, when he began to draw heavy-handed conclusions (about two thirds into the book), I didn't agree.

But that's only one reader's opinion. I'm sure there are a lot of  people out there who would agree entirely with his conclusions. Some would even say he's too pro-Bush. Yet I saw through a lot of holes in his research--probably because I work as a journalist, and distrust the power of "facts" lifted from newspapers. Still, I keep reading them.

I can understand why someone wouldn't want to read the book, and in the review I say it's not a book for those who "prefer summary accounts" (which usually eschew contradictions). For those, like myself, who've been following the press--and the contradictions therein--very closely and have been scratching their heads over the lack of behind-the-scenes information regarding the double-dealing and possible conspiracies one would suspect in such a political climate, this book satisfies a pressing intellectual need. Therefore it is a must-read--but I repeat, not for everyone. I just felt the kind of reader who reads the Southern Cross might want to know where to get more information about the events being discussed in the same issue.

Take care,