By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Far from a last gasp of resistance, the intense fighting encountered by U.S. soldiers early this week in the eastern Afghan mountains may well suck us deeper into a Mideast trap. Our forces are now spread around the oil-rich Caspian Sea region and are being sent westward into Georgia, while administration war hawks promote their campaign to attack Iraq. Further afield, Americans are providing training in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, there are now signs that should the U.S. be lured into Iraq, a reinvigorated Taliban/ Al Qaeda would open a new offensive within Afghanistan, rising up in Kabul and Kandahar and attacking from strongholds on the Chinese and Pakistani borders. At that point, the U.S. would be in a two-front guerrilla war, with the possibility of any number of hot spots breaking out all across Central Asia.
Pakistani and Israeli intelligence reports have suggested from the very start that Osama bin Laden's troops hadn't been routed but were instead falling back in orderly fashion with few casualties. This force has been estimated to number as many as 60,000 fighters. Their plan was to slowly give up the major cities and towns, retreating into the impassable mountains where they would plot a spring attack.
Military sources tell Debka.com, a dependable Israeli site, that already Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are moving back into Kandahar and Kabul, while others have regrouped in western Pakistan, waiting to cross the mountains when the snow subsides.
In pressing Washington officials this week for a wider investigation into the structural failure of the World Trade Center towers, a group of victims' families can draw upon questions and theories put forward by fire and engineering experts. The towers were among the first buildings to use a lightweight spray-on fireproofing, rather than cladding beams in protective layers of concrete. The skyscrapers "were very unusual and very unorthodox," says Vincent Dunn, a former deputy chief with the Fire Department of New York. "There is no other building like these in New York City."
The public may be losing access to the very material that holds the answers. Bill Manning of Fire Engineering Magazine charges that by cutting up and selling the structural steel, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is going along with what amounts to the destruction of evidence in the WTC disaster. He puts forward a chilling theorythat had the skyscrapers been better fireproofed, they would have stood for several hours.
"Respected members of the fire protection engineering community are beginning to raise red flags, and a resonating theory has emerged," says Manning in the January issue. "The structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not enough to bring down the towers. Rather, theory has it, the subsequent contents fires attacking the questionably fireproofed lightweight trusses and load-bearing columns directly caused the collapses in an alarmingly short time."
Manning's suspicions are shared by Jim Malott, a San Francisco architect who has followed the building of the World Trade Center. In an interview for the November/December issue of Designer/ Builder, Malott argues that prior to the WTC, "high-rise buildings shared two vital characteristics: They were supported by a grid of steel columns, generally spaced about 30 feet apart, and each interior column was encased in a tough cladding of concrete to create a fireproof skin designed to withstand a four-hour inferno."
Malott thinks events on September 11 unfolded as follows: "The bodies of the planes crashed across the unobstructed floors, smashed into the central cores of the buildings, and blew the Sheetrock off the supporting columns and from around the stairwells, completely destroying the elevator shaft walls. Thus, in the first seconds, the four-hour rated fireproofing was stripped from the steel core structures, and with it went all hope that the buildings could survive a fire."
To read the reports, you would think you'd stumbled on some Mad Max film set. There stand the camels, all lined up in the starting gate, track stretching before them, tense crowds gathered round. Lashed atop the rear of each racing camel, just behind the hump, is the jockey, crop in hand.
The camera zooms in on the rider. Wait a moment! This is not an experienced athlete, but a small boy. He looks about five years old. Eyes wide with fright, he is fastened to the beast with Velcro.
Welcome to camel racing in the Persian Gulf, where wealthy sheikhs wager thousands in what for them is one big Kentucky Derby, all year long. Victory brings them money, new cars, and lavish adornments. As for the little camel jockeys, they're slaves, purchased in nations like Pakistana country newly allied with Americaby the camel owners for sums as paltry as $3 apiece and brought to the United Arab Emirates or Qatar.