This article was written to explain to organizers and activists the events, experiences, thoughts, actions that culminated in the screenings/events that took place on April 21st and 22nd at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, and at Spangenberg Theatre in Palo Alto where Aftermath- Unanswered Questions from 9-11 was shown and large questions about 9-11 were publicly raised and discussed.
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In July 2002, I organized a protest against General Myers who was speaking in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel. Five television stations, the Associated Press, the Contra Costa Times, and Guerrilla News Network (GNN) interviewed me, and they all received hefty press packets. The main points I tried to get across were-
#1- There was a military stand down on September 11th, and General Myers was most responsible for the failure of the U.S. government on that day.
#2- Myers was rewarded with the highest military post in the country rather than reprimanded for his “inactions” and the military’s failure on September 11th.
#3- Top U.S. government officials met with the “money man” behind September 11th from September 4th, until, at least the 13th, when Bush had him sent to Afghanistan to demand Bin Laden. The “Money Man” was the head of Pakistani’ Intelligence’s I.S.I., Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who had $100,000 wired to Mohamed Atta, identified by the F.B.I. as the lead pilot in the attacks against the World Trade Center.
#4- Bush didn’t really want Bin Laden, but wanted a war, and he needed the attacks to get public support for the wars he wanted to wage.
I held the book- The War on Freedom- How and Why America was Attacked, September 11, 2001, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, and a sign which said “U.S. Terrorist- General Myers- Guilty of 9-11.” The press also received copies of Michel Chossudovsky’s magazine- Global Outlook which documented my allegations. The interviews were never aired, and the story didn’t break in the mainstream press. GNN’s Stephen Marshall who interviewed me, gave me a copy of GNN’s DVD- Ammo for the Info Warrior, and told me that GNN was working on a short documentary on 9-11 with Kyle Hence, who had organized the Unanswered Questions Press Conference in DC, June, 2002, (which also failed to get coverage from the press).
I had organized a march/meeting on California legislators demanding a Congressional Investigation of 9-11 in January 2002. Immediately after we had raised a number of questions about 9-11, Bush and Cheney asked Daschle to limit the parameters of the inquiry. To allow Congress to turn their attention towards the “War on Terrorism”, the inquiry was to be overseen by the C.I.A. and the House and Senate Intelligence Oversight Committees. Those committees were headed by Senator Bob Graham (Democrat) and Representative Porter Goss, the very men who were having breakfast with the I.S.I.’s Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad on September 11th .
The so called “Inquiry” was an outrageous cover-up- run by men who should have been investigated for their role in September 11th, whose job was simply to find excuses for the “so called failure of intelligence agencies on September 11th” and to bolster their budgets to “prevent” future attacks. This was before Kissinger was appointed to head the “Independent Commission.” Kisssinger was hired by Unocal before September 11th, to negotiate an oil deal with Turkmenistan, and in the wake of September 11th was hired by a Chinese oil company; his role, as head of the Commission, would obviously be to cover-up the truth. His replacement, Thomas Kean, is hardly any better, only less infamous; he has links to Osama Bin Laden, oil interests, was director of two businesses located within the World Trade Center, and is an official champion/architect of Homeland Security.
As a longtime activist, what surprised me the most after the events of September 11th, was the silence of the “alternative press” and the “peace organizations” on the “defining moment” of the new millennium. From the Sierra Club’s memo to back off on criticism of Bush, to the utter acceptance of the official 9-11 narrative, the failure of the progressive movement to critically examine the pretext for a war upon the world, and civil liberties within the U.S. stunned me.
My mentor, Bill Moyer, author of Doing Democracy- The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, taught me that it just takes one person to begin a social movement, that all movements go through stages, and the first stage is to raise awareness that a problem exists- in the case of 9-11, that the official version of events is a fabrication without supporting evidence.
Besides the usual activist tools- flyers, magazines, a group of us thought we should make a film on 9-11. I was so impressed by GNN’s DVD that I let our own fledgling film-making efforts slide, and tried to work with GNN.
In September 2002, we organized two “Bush Did It!” marches and rallies, and three events where we showed “The Great Deception”(the first televised challenge to the mainstream version of events- produced by Barrie Zwicker and the only non-corporate, non-profit television network in Canada), and rough cuts of “Aftermath,”which GNN kindly provided to me.
At “The Ancient Wisdom New Sciences Conference in Berkeley November, 2002, GNN came and showed The War Conspiracy, The Most Dangerous Game, and the finished parts of Aftermath; to complement my talk on “The Truth About 9-11.” GNN let me include their work in a video which Ken Jenkins edited together with my talk. I gave away and sold copies of that video until Aftermath was finally finished, and available to the public.
I had become an activist after seeing the film,J.F.K.and doing research on the C.I.A. and the media. I saw 9-11 as an event which could wake-up the country, a catalyst to transform the world from the path of war/fear/destruction towards peace/cooperation/respect for life/healing. While books, ideas, information have had dramatic effects upon me and my life; film still seems to be the most accessible, powerful means of communication.
In December, I organized a meeting in San Francisco to “build support for a People’s Truth Commission” and we showed the unfinished “Aftermath” as an outreach tool to bring other groups on board, with the idea that when it was finished, we could, also help to organize a major public showing, and raise our issue’s visibility.
Our meetings were lively and brought together 9-11 activists from all over the Bay Area, we worked together, over many months, on a number of different levels, including tabling, demonstrations, marching, carrying banners at anti-war rallies, passing out flyers, disseminating a range of 9-11 educational materials, learning from one another. Attendance at the meetings varied from 30 to 50 people, and we usually started with a round of introductions and shared food. Meetings, plus the socializing that followed, usually lasted over three hours.
In January, GNN finally finished “Aftermath.” I had hoped that the film would break the “9-11 issue” into the mainstream press, utterly discredit Bush’s pretext for war, unify the country’s support for “Pre-Emptive Impeachment,” and prevent the war against Iraq. I felt we were in a race to see who could organize faster- the forces of repression or the forces of resistance.
An activist contacted me about another film- “Brothers and Others- The Impact of 9-11 on Arabs, Muslims and South-East Asians in America” and I spoke with the director about possibility of doing a premiere of both films, together, in the Bay Area, possibly on February 21,st which was the International Day of Solidarity with Arabs, Muslims and South-East Asians, but I didn’t get a timely, or positive responses from the directors.
In February, we printed 500,000 Deception Dollars, just in time for the biggest anti-war rally in history. There was also a personal crisis in my family, which I had to deal with, in addition to the looming threat of war. Early March, we printed a million Deception Dollars, and I was the main distributor, responsible for shipping cases all over the country, and delivering them, as well, in the Bay Area. More anti-war rallies were held, but to no avail. When the war escalated against Iraq into a full invasion, I felt terrible that I had not done more, we had failed to stop the war. Ignoring, to some degree, the family crisis, under my roof, I decided to try to break the 9-11 issue into the mainstream press, to try to put a halt on the American Regime.
(Grassroots activists are generally broke, and for the past few years what I could do as an activist has been limited by my imagination, and how I’ve been able to stretch my “grocery money” into copies and flyers. As of September 2002 that situation suddenly changed for me; the resource materials on 9-11, books, magazines, and videos that gradually appeared, we tabled at my weekly demos, anti-war rallies, and events. People were hungry for the information and the donations came in fast. The first several hundred dollars that I raised went into the first batch of Deception Dollars- ten thousand of them, all in green which we just gave away. In December I had more money and we decided to print one hundred thousand in black and green, and Global Outlook discovered that people liked them so much that they were willing to buy them! By the time of the big January rally, we had run out of them! I raised as much as I could for the February printing, even borrowing money on my “March household allowance” to cover the printing costs. Deception Dollars became one of the most successful political flyers of all time; people were donating $300 a case for 8000 Deception Dollars, and orders for them were coming from all over the country. In March, we were running out and printed our first million dollar run. The orders, plus our tabling efforts raised over $8000. The artist of the Deception Dollars, a Canadian 9-11 activist, Blaine Machan, agreed that we could use all the money we raised to do a big 9-11 event in San Francisco to try to break the story. Michael Ruppert agreed to come for an event; I hoped Nafeez Ahmed would also come. The Herbst and Spangenberg were both available on the 21st and the 22nd of April, so I went ahead and booked the theatres and pushed forward.)
I called an emergency meeting in San Francisco, to ask for help from our 9-11 activist community to pull off two major events. We had some difficulties- a very short lead time, less than three weeks, no non-profit organization willing to move forward and act as a fiscal sponsor, no organizational infrastructure. We had some advantages- Blaine could design the flyers, posters, and ads (He had already done the art for the Aftermath video), GNN was supportive and had their networks of communication/publicity, we did have a lot of people willing to help spread the word, get out flyers, posters, and help with the physical work involved with the events.
I had thought of asking Michael Krasney of KQED’s Forum to act as moderator of the panel, in hopes of making the topic acceptable to the press. This was soon vetoed by 9-11 activists who saw Krasney as a prime Gatekeeper who continued to push the “Magic Bullet” theory behind the assassination of JFK and wasn’t touching 9-11. At the San Francisco meeting, excellent suggestions for moderator were offered, and I learned that Peter Dale Scott had come back from Thailand. Within a couple days, Barrie Zwicker enthusiastically agreed to be moderator and Peter Dale Scott, Riva Enteen and Richard Heinberg agreed to be panelists. The program’s basic format was agreed upon by GNN, Barrie, the panelists and I; ticket prices were settled with City Box Office; the work on posters and flyers begun. I was surprised at the flak and opposition to the event that came from some quarters of the 9-11 activist community, who felt left out of the decision making process, but as I had so much work to do, in an incredibly short amount of time, I ignored it. Miraculously the big posters and flyers were done by April 4th, when Aftermath was shown in Oakland at the California College of Arts and Crafts to a full house. Enthusiastic 9-11 activists grabbed posters and flyers and the word of our big events began to spread.
While I was disappointed by some people whom I had considered allies, who showed surprising animosity and threatened to boycott or protest the event; I was also delighted by the enthusiasm and help proffered from unexpected strangers, including Lisa Geduldig, a comedian who helped with press outreach, and collectives of anarchists who volunteered to wheatpaste posters in San Francisco for Deception Dollars. The reluctance of the established Peace Organizations to be associated with the 9-11 issue eventually broke down, and I was overjoyed that Veteran’s for Peace and Not in Our Name decided to become sponsors. Even the Peninsula Peace and Justice Organization mentioned it on their alert, and posted it on their website.
Except for my wedding over ten years ago, I never had any dealings with caterers and that proved to be one of the most trying of the “nuts and bolts” challenges of the event. I was stunned at how expensive the caterers were. The overhead at the Herbst was enormous, and the ticket prices were deliberately low, but even with a sellout, I realized that we would be losing money, unless we had a full house in Palo Alto, too. I greatly underestimated the costs, which turned out to be over $15,000. (I had thought it would be around $10,000).
On the Thursday before the event, we had our usual meeting in San Francisco, and tried to get various tasks covered. The experience of working together, getting to know one another, developing trust was invaluable, and empowering for all of us. On Saturday April 19th, Barrie Zwicker and Blaine Machan arrived from Canada, I picked them up from the airport, we finally got to actually meet, talk, after many email and phone conversations. We met up with a large group of 9-11 activists that evening at a restaurant in San Francisco, which helped forged the vital international relationships of a budding movement. Blaine and Barrie shared a room, and they shared their hotel with Michael Ruppert and other 9-11 activists who had come down from Oregon, and up from Southern California for the event. Kyle Hence, who had introduced GNN to me and started the whole Aftermath project, also flew out from the East Coast, and stayed with Sue Supriano, the main 9-11 organizer, in Berkeley. Over the course of several days, all sorts of new bonds were forged, and strengthened, between and within the expanding 9-11 activist community.
Despite all my efforts, the mainstream press failed to show up or acknowledge the event. There were a few notices in the calendar sections of some papers. The Bay Area Guardian wrote a succinct, but very favorable review. KPFA announced the event, which undoubtedly helped tremendously. Even if we didn’t break into the mainstream, we broke into the alternative press which was a major accomplishment.
While, we hoped for a good turnout, we weren’t expecting to have to turn away hundreds of people who couldn’t fit into the Herbst Theatre. It was great to have a full house, and an enthusiastic audience. I was so busy with the various nuts and bolts stuff that I needed to do, that I just hoped all the volunteers/activists/participants/staff would do what needed to be done. Even if an event is “planned,” we really didn’t know “when it would actually start” or how to transition between the Reception and the “Program” and when to encourage people to choose between being observers, and being participants in the big conversation we were trying to publicly raise. With two pre and a post-reception, the Program, and the tabling that took place in the lobbies; the events were like three ringed circuses for me, and I missed out on a great deal as I had to move from one place to another.
Even now, over two weeks after the event, I have unanswered questions about what happened. With the box office receipts finally cleared, I had a better idea about the financial picture, but realize that is a small part of the equation. Lots of people signed up to stay in touch with us. We received over $10,000 from sponsors and ticket sales, as well as $6000 in donations for books, videos, magazines, 9-11 educational materials, that hopefully will have an effect upon growing circles of people. People who couldn’t get into the Herbst that night have called and want to come to our next meeting. We’ve inspired other activists to organize showings/events in their communities. I need to find shipping tubes for the large Aftermath posters people are beginning to ask for, and get those to the Post Office. We created a ripple, how do we turn it into a wave?
That will be on the agenda of our next organizing meeting, May 22nd, third floor, 3220 Sacramento St., San Francisco, 7- 10 p.m.. What will we do if hundreds of people come to the meeting? Blaine Machan will be coming from Canada to help us table at the Conspiracy Conference in San Jose the following weekend when Ken Jenkins and I will be speaking on “9-11 The Highjacking of America.” So much depends upon who comes to the next meeting, a realistic understanding of what our resources, talents, time, energy, are, and what magical synergies we can employ to carry us beyond what we’ve collectively and individually done before, to how we can work together better to advance our growing movement.