General Mahmoud Ahmad in Washington

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General Mahmoud Ahmad, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was in Washington on September 11th, on a trip where he was holding talks with the State Department, CIA and others. And so when it was later claimed that he had ordered $100,000 wired to Mohamed Atta, this caused many eyebrows to be raised. “It was rather a remarkable coincidence”, David Ray Griffin tells us in The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. Well, maybe, although he had been around since the 4th. And this was a return trip following a 3-day visit (27th to 29th or 28th to 30th of August) to Pakistan from Porter Goss, Jon Kyl and Bob Graham. And Christina Rocca, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs had been in Pakistan early in August. And General Ahmed had been in Washington less than three months previously. And Condoleeza Rice met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister in June. And CIA chief George Tenet had been in Islamabad in May. And Tommy Franks had met Musharraf in January. And there may well be many other trips we don’t know about, both of US officials going to Pakistan and their Pakistani opposite numbers heading for America. Presumably if the attacks had occurred during any of these visits, or perhaps immediately afterwards, then that would also be written about as a “remarkable coincidence”. But with the number of trips being made, it may not be so unlikely after all.

It might also be worth considering why it shouldn't be a coincidence. What would the point be of having Ahmad present in Washington when the attacks took place? It means he was available to face immediate US demands for cooperation, yes, but is anyone seriously suggesting they couldn't be made just as easily over a phone or video link?

Still, given the importance attached to this event, you might hope there's more substance here than simply playing up the "“it can’t just be a coincidence” angle. As Michel Chossudovsky covered this first, and has been extensively quoted by David Ray Griffin, Nafeez Ahmed and others, it might be interesting to see what he had to say about it.

Immediately Chossudovsky claims to have spotted some media duplicity, in giving the impression that Ahmed arrived after the attacks. Does he have a single example of such misleading copy, though? Uh, no: not one. Which is a shame, considering what comes next.

The sources he quotes here are Reuters (13 September 2001), The New York Times (13 September 2001) and Newsweek (14 September 2001), none of which seem to have suggested the visit came after the 9/11 attacks. Unconcerned by the way he’s just debunked himself, Chossudovsky later moves on to another topic.

Note the leading questions in the last paragraph, particularly on “the planning of war”. Shouldn’t Chossudovsky actually be providing answers, rather than asking questions? Of course that does require real evidence. Still, let’s divert to another article of his for a moment, where he quotes an article that points out what these “routine consultations” may have been about (our emphasis):

Afghanistan and bin Ladin? A remarkable coincidence indeed. Except, well, the quote has benefited from a little judicious “editing”. Which was a brave move, or perhaps foolish, as the original is on Chossudovsky’s own site. Here it is, and this time the bold text shows the bits Chossudovsky left out.

Interesting points left omitted from the original tell us that there are major things to be discussed, other than Afghanistan and bin Ladin: “relations between India and China, disarmament of civilian outfits, country’s nuclear and missiles programme”.

These are then fleshed out with talk of a meeting between Musharraf and Indian PM Vajpayee, clearly something they’d expect to be a major area of discussion. And then there are the specific issues raised in the two CIA reports mentioned, neither of which appear to relate to terrorism,.

The “remarkable coincidence” of Mahmood being in the US on September 11 is also lessened by the information that “this is not the first visit by Mahmood in the last three months”. An article in the Hindu tells us that he had been in Washington in March or April of 2000, too.

And that also makes the point that ISI visits are not always followed by the domestic politics turning “topsy-turvy within days”.

All in all, then, it looks like Mahmood had plenty of reasons to be in the US beyond Chossudovsky’s highly speculative “planning of war”. So does he have any real evidence? Back at the original article, it’s not looking promising. After complaining that the US supported Pakistan despite evidence that is supported terrorism, we’re told:

The substance here, if you can call it that, seems to be that “look, Armitage has done shady things before, so he’s probably doing them now”. Or in the final paragraph, definitely doing them now. Chossudovsky’s evidence is weak in the extreme, but he definitely appears to have convinced himself.

To be fair, Chossudovsky did write a second article on this topic, entitled “Political Deception: The Missing Link behind 9-11”. It was written in June 2002, so you might expect the content to be rather more solid. But you’d be disappointed. Take a look at this.

Read that last paragraph again. Rice denies meeting Ahmad, however Chossudovsky decides that “although there is no official confirmation, in all likelihood General Mahmoud Ahmad met Dr. Rice during the course of his official visit”. Not only is there “no official confirmation” of that, there’s no evidence whatsoever, but that doesn’t seem to bother Chossudovsky.

It’s much the same with the second claim, that “she must have been fully aware of the $100,000 transfer to Mohammed Atta, which had been confirmed by the FBI”. Actually if she never met him this issue wouldn’t arise, but let’s also keep in mind that stories of confirmation of this by the FBI are less than reliable.

Following this, Chossudovsky gives us an account of what he calls the “Mysterious 9-11 Breakfast Meeting on Capitol Hill”, although as we’ve seen above, there are plenty of reasons why the ISI chief might be in Washington. He doesn’t stop there, though, quoting a piece commenting on the ISI’s closeness to terrorists, and “asking questions” about the meeting again:

More leading questions, but no real evidence of anything at all. Still, who cares about that? Now he’s warmed up, Chossudovsky takes his speculation and confecture to a whole new level.

Here we’re told that “Dr. Rice's statement regarding the ISI chief at her May 16 press conference, is an obvious cover-up”. That’s pure opinion, nothing more. Chossudovsky presented no evidence for that previously, and he doesn’t now.

Then he moves on to suggest that because the General had been in contact with Atta through Saeed Sheikh, “key individuals within the U.S. military intelligence establishment” also knew about them. Even if it were proven that Mahmoud Ahmad had instigated the wire transfer, which it isn’t, isn’t it at least conceivable that he didn’t tell the Americans about it? Not to Chossudovsky: he is starting with the view that the US are hiding something here, not uncovering it with evidence.

Just in case you think that’s too much of a leap, Chossudovsky then tells us it’s an “understatement”, because “everything indicates that CIA Director George Tenet and ISI Chief General Mahmoud Ahmad, had established a close working relationship.” Everything? There’s not a single item here to support that at all.

Still, if Mahmoud Ahmad really did instigate the transfer of $100,000 to Atta (uncertain), and if he knew what it was for (entirely unproven), and if his US contacts knew about it in advance of the attacks (entirely unproven), and if George Tenet was one of those (entirely unproven), and if his having a “close personal relationship” with George Bush means that Bush knew about it, too, then Chossudovsky has indeed broken the case. But guess what? It’ll take more than misleadingly edited quotes, unsourced allegations and unsupported speculation to demonstrate that.

There’s no point pretending we were the first to take a critical look at the Chossudovsky article, though. Bill Herbert did it long ago, and you can still find his thoughts at