Bin Ladens Intentions In His Taped

Bin Laden’s Intentions

In his taped interview with Sheikh al-Harbi (or whoever it was), which was probably secretly taped without Usama’s knowledge by one of al-Harbi’s associates, Bin Ladin says that he was the most optimistic of the al-Qaida high command about the impact of the planes. However, he only thought that the floors above the impact would collapse. There is evidence that the hijackers had engaged in some sophisticated engineering calculations about the amount of fuel on the planes and their likely kinetic impact. The hijackers deliberately took planes heading from the East Coast to California so as to maximize the amount of fuel, which acts as a bomb.

Sheikh Omar `Abdel Rahman, the blind leader of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyah who was implicated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Towers has admitted in interviews that the truck bomb used then was a poor substitute. What they had wanted to do was put explosives on an airplane, but they could not figure out a way to get the explosives on without tipping security. With an engineer at the head of al-Qaida and with several engineers recruited for the job in Europe, they figured out that the jet fuel itself would act as an explosive.

Ramzi Yousef, who was among the bombers at the World Trade Center in 1993, fled to the Philippines thereafter. He continued to plot there, and worked on a plan to fly an hijacked jet liner into the CIA headquarters. His kitchen accidentally caught on fire in Manila and he fled downstairs. The Philippine police found the plans in his personal effects in the apartment and handed them over to the CIA, which appears to have misplaced them. The Filipino intelligence, afraid it would be blamed for the fiasco, then leaked them to the press.

Ramzi Yousef then went to meet up with his al-Qaida handlers in Pakistan, but was captured by the Pakistani ISI in 1996 and handed over to the Americans.

There is not any doubt that Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri, Abu Zubaydah and others sat down in a room and planned out the attack on the WTC, down to the details, and speculated as to how much damage it would do. They may have been inspired by Ramzi Yousef’s plans. Having been disappointed in 1993, most of them did not expect any sort of collapse. Only Bin Ladin, a trained engineer, believed some floors would collapse, at least above the impact.

The response at al-Jazeera through videotapes by Bin Ladin to the US was thoroughly orchestrated beforehand. He knew what the likely US response would be, and had thought several steps ahead, as in chess. I don’t know how to prove this to anyone if they can’t see what I think is fairly obvious in the pattern of quick and pertinent response, which dominated the news cycles rather as the Clinton team did via email in the 1992 presidential campaign.

I am a little surprised that the question of Bin Ladin’s intentionality, and that of his associates, is any longer being broached.


Juan Cole

U of Michigan

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