9/11 Terrorism World Trade Centre

Terrorists attacks on the United States: My initial response to 9/11

Terrorists attacks on the United States: My initial response to 9/11

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

The following was written by me on the night of September 11, 2001 in my apartment (The Corinthian) at 330 E 38th St. (corner of 1st Avenue and 38th St.) in New York City, some 30+ blocks from the World Trade Centre.

The day, 11 September 2001, for me began with attending the Sixteenth Annual International Prayer Breakfast, marking the opening of the Fifty-Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  As stated in the programme, the objectives of the Prayer Breakfast were:

To acknowledge the sovereignty of God over all peoples and nations;

To invoke God’s wisdom and blessing on those involved in the work of the United Nations.

Also on the programme was a solo rendition by South Korean Sookyung Ahn of “The Peacemaker’s Prayer” (Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi).  The words of the first stanza impacted me deeply,

“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

WTC under Attack (Phot by Helene Seligman)

WTC under attack (Photo by Helene Seligman)

No sooner had I left the Prayer Breakfast and approached the Security Council Consultations Room that I was met by the DPR of Colombia, Ambassador Andrés Franco, who alerted me to the crash of the first plane in the NY World Trade Centre. He and others of my colleagues were standing in front of the TV in the SC Consultation Lounge watching the events as they were unfolding at the WTC.  I was just in time to see the attack on the Second Tower, as the airplane flew through the building and a burst of flame erupted.  This was followed by collapse of the buildings.   There was pandemonium as people ran in panic in efforts to escape the conflagration and collapsing buildings.

My thoughts then: Was this for real or a scene out of Hollywood?  Could terrorism hit home in the heart of America with such devastation?  Could all of this planning and execution escape the sophistication of US intelligence apparatus?  These are questions which no doubt crowded the thinking of millions around the world.  I also wondered if members of the human race could be so cruel to one another; as to take the lives of so many innocent people to further a political objective, or to avenge an act or perceived wrong.

I thought about the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which had just a few moments before blessed my spirit and inspired me to do more for the cause of peace.  I remembered the words of the main speaker at the Prayer Breakfast that there can be “no justice with reconciliation.” This statement raised the question whether the principle of reconciliation and justice were mutually exclusive of each other.  I had some doubt and said to colleague ambassadors of Nigeria and Ghana, sitting with me at the table, “There can be no peace without justice.”

Security Council Visit to the World Trade Center - 2001

Amb. Ward and Security Council colleagues visiting Ground Zero – 10/2001

There was stunned silence in the small group standing there in the SC Consultation Lounge watching, what undoubtedly were the most outrageous terrorist acts of our time.  Those who commented could only speculate on the tragedy unfolding before us in disbelief that such a terrorist act was taking place in the great city in which we lived and worked.  I began to wonder what it would mean for America, the Security Council, the United Nations, indeed for humanity.

Ironically, the Caucus of the Non-Aligned Movement was scheduled to meet that morning to discuss a resolution lifting sanctions against Sudan.  The draft resolution was to be introduced in the Security Council consultations immediately thereafter, with a view to be voted on in a few days. The sanctions regime had been imposed on Sudan for harbouring terrorist groups in that country.  Several years ago terrorists operating from Sudanese territory had botched an attempted assassination of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (The terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania on August 7, 1998 were believed to have been planned and executed from Sudan.

The sanctions regime was intended to coerce a change of behaviour, not to punish Sudan.  The United States had for quite some time blocked the lifting of the sanctions despite the fact that it was agreed Sudan no longer harboured terrorists.  Other issues, including reports of slavery being practiced in the Sudan, as well as other bi-lateral issues between the United States and Sudan, prevented action in the Security Council.  Less than a week earlier, there was a change of strategy in Washington and we were told the United States would no longer oppose the lifting of the sanctions.  The timing of the terrorist attacks on the United States could not have been more politically untimely for the lifting of sanctions against Sudan.

Ground Zero - WTC after towers collapsed

Ground Zero – WTC after towers collapsed

After watching television reports for a short while, I left the area to call my family members in Maryland and my daughter who was in New York.  The cell phone didn’t work.  I was reminded of the Verizon advertisement on television that “the call goes through when you need it most.”  Not this time; cell phone services were severely interrupted.

We were told the UN Headquarters could be a target of the terrorists and the building was evacuated. Back at the office I used the landline phone to contact family members who were relieved that I was safe, and I relieved that they too were safe.

As I thought about the events that were being reported – the hijackings of a number of commercial aircraft, the crashing of these planes on the WTC and the Pentagon, early reports of a car bomb explosion in the vicinity of the State Department, a hijacked plane crashing outside of Pittsburgh – I began to wonder and speculate as to the possible source of these terrorist acts.  My thoughts wandered to the well-known international terrorist, Usama bin Laden, who had vowed to destroy America.  His hatred of America was well documented.  We had been dealing with this issue in the Security Council with imposition of sanctions on the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan for harbouring bin Laden.  From his terrorist camps in Afghanistan, bin Laden controlled an international network of terrorists with the United States as the main target.

AMb. Ward speaking in United Nations Security Council debate ( 2001)

Amb. Ward speaking during UN Security Council debate ( 2001)

I recalled my own statement in the Security Council during a debate on terrorism in which I denounced terrorism in all its forms and condemned those who would take innocent lives so wantonly. As recently as 20 August 2001, also speaking in the Security Council on the Middle East, including the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I had denounced all forms of terrorism, implicitly including state terrorism.

This attack against the United States was despicable.  It was an attack against the civilized world, against all of humanity.  My heartfelt sympathy was with the families who lost loved ones in these attacks.  Indeed, man’s inhumanity to man could not have been more manifest.  There is no justification for acts of terrorism, and all forms of terrorism should be condemned. I felt strongly that the international community must now marshal all necessary resources to put an end to terrorism. I intended to do my part.

But, as I considered the sophistication involved, and speculated on the difficulties that it would entail for a terrorist organization to plan and execute these terrorist acts, I began to wonder how much, if any, of the planning might have occurred on American soil.  I could not help but to remember the circumstances immediately following the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City just a few years earlier.  I remembered that the initial suspects were targeted because of their ethnicity and religious background.  I did not want to fall into that trap.  At this point of my thinking I decided to wait on the facts before forming a conclusion as to culpability.

© 2017 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post

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About the author

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward is a former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations with Special Responsibility for Security Council Affairs (1999-2002) serving on the UN Security Council for two years. He served three years as Expert Adviser to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee. He is an Attorney-at-Law and International Consultant with extensive knowledge and experience in national and international legal and policy frameworks for effective implementation of United Nations (UN) and other international anti-terrorism mandates; the legal and administrative requirements to effectively implement and enforce anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); extensive knowledge of the legal and regulatory requirements for effective implementation and enforcement of United Nations multilateral and U.S.-imposed unilateral sanctions; and the imperatives for Rule of Law and governance.

3 Comments

  • Thanks for reposting Ambassador.
    A reminder how cold the heart of man can be.
    While I watched in shock the first tower in flames I became numb with Co workers as we saw the 2nd tower been hit.
    One of the image I still hold on to this day is when the towers collapsed and the dust.
    I saw how everyone looked the same, could not tell who is what colored skin. A perfect reminder that of all the Catogaries ascribed to us, skin color, orientation, financial status or where we are from / in the end we are all human beings. All running away or towards something’s in this case for cover/safety.
    Why can’t we realize this 😨
    Blessings and to those who are still mourning prayers of comfort
    🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🌹🌹🌹♥️♥️♥️

  • It’s interesting how there was a very positive energy through prayer of the powerful Peace Maker’s Prayer. God and San Francisco de Assis( Spanish) were indeed listening because some people were meant to go to heaven and others were meant to stay. Both God and prayer work in mysterious ways. I myself was then deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq but God and prayer helped me through such hardship journey. I was injured in Iraq but I as I mentioned before God and prayer full of powerful faith, still has me breathing and living life for a purpose.

  • 9/11’s Sentinel and Truth Recorder

    As an Intelligence Analyst circa September 2001, I recall working within the NR Division of the US most eminent Intelligence Agency. The domestic arm of the Directorate of Operations (DO) – the National Resources (NR) Division. I monitored vital events happening in the Caribbean and Latin American region and was unimpressed with the often-faulty reporting and indexing by fellow employees, many of whom were never tourists in the Caribbean. They could not understand the demographics or politics. Our Caribbean leaders are even more corrupt than ever and often fall prey to manipulation from all sides.
    On 9/11, we all felt immediate anger while viewing the television reports. We watched helplessly as people in a panic leaped to their deaths from the World Trade Center (WTC) upper floors. My first thoughts were, “this was so avoidable, and where do we go from here?” A threatened Bin Laden had struck in retaliation to the Afghan abandonment and intense arm twisting!

    My knowledge of Pre 9/11 and post 9/11 was detailed and even more involved than any of my fellow Analysts (Junior or Senior). One of the best ways to analyze or cross-check your work was to read about the big picture presented in Congress or leaked, and summaries written by the news media. For our Shadow Intel unit in the Pentagon, it was always important to get a perspective out there or to create confusion with a Cheney version, but never the truth. It has been 20 years, and many versions of what happened are in books, the media, and peoples’ minds. However, what is in my mind was the fact that there was a gross dereliction of duties and ignoring actionable intelligence that led to several major F__k ups. To this day, the Agency has more than adequate proof to Court Martial some responsible or to have fired or charged others whose failures led to 9/11 events. Perhaps, I should state that as an Intel Analyst, I was associated with a Special “Surge Team” and was a Data Management Specialist with Global access to all 17 Intelligence Agencies records. So yes – I could tell when the President was given BS by his Vice President, a fixture at our Headquarters, and a world-class manipulator who could sell ice to the Eskimos.

    Ambassador Ward’s words ring true, “This attack against the United States was despicable. It was an attack against the civilized world, against all of humanity. My heartfelt sympathy was with the families who lost loved ones in these attacks. Indeed, man’s inhumanity to man could not have been more manifest. There is no justification for acts of terrorism. All forms of terrorism should be condemned. I felt strongly that the international community must now marshal all necessary resources to end terrorism. I intended to do my part.” However, listening to both FBI Agents on NYC’s 93.5 with Ras Clem (now retired) Gamal, an Egyptian-American, and Rattigan, JAmerican, brought on many memories.

    The questions that came to mind were the following:

    1. Why was the hierarchy of the FBI trying to paint their two dedicated Agents who were successful in investigating the Khobar Tower and Cole incidents, and now the identification of the 9/11 hijackers as untrustworthy Muslim Agents?
    2. I recognized the tactic because it is regularly used against those who speak up and do NOT follow the SCRIPT! But in this case, it was preemptive. To what end?
    3. Amazingly, I had learned Countermeasures in the US Army and, after 24 years, had my anti-BS antennae up. If a City Police department had the inside knowledge, the CIA Director, the Chief Intelligence Officer over all the Intelligence Community had; they would have the cases solved and alerted the right people. We did not share, and everything was stove-piped.

    It was clear that George Tenet had failed America. He was NOT assertive enough presenting a lame CIA summary aka PDB, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.” Something the two FBI Agents themselves could have written. They wanted to control the narrative, and it appears these two men had stories to tell inconsistent with all others.

    TRUTH BE TOLD:

    We in the then Directorate of Operation (DO), now called National Clandestine Service (NCS), had long begun the job of tracking Al Qaida and Affiliates, and the fact that these two men backed by the deceased former antiterror Crusader from the NYC FBI Office, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) John O’Neil, did investigations that seem to piggy-back what Gamal and Rattigan had begun. O’Neil was kicked out of Yemen by the worst US Ambassador in the Middle East because he got too close to the truth and would have stopped the “scenario” planning that brought us the Patriot Act and Trillions of dollars in wealth transfers later, with now concluded Afghan and Iraqi wars. Something a President Biden must now recover via raising taxes on the Rich and Corporations.

    We should note a retired SAC O’Neil drummed out of the FBI died assisting people as they tried to escape the World Trade Center buildings. O’Neil was a tough leader who fought for the Intelligence Community to recognize the threat from al-Qaeda and specifically Osama bin Laden. The massive “Scenario execution” that he failed to stop was because of activities going back to a 1997 trip to Houston, Texas by the Taliban sponsored by the Bushes, Oil Barons, including Hamid Karzai, then an Advisor to UNOCAL, another big energy company wanting to build the oil Pipeline from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and into Pakistan, (the petroleum-rich Caspian Basin in Central Asia). UNOCAL was being exposed for giving the five-star treatment to Taliban Mullahs in the Lone Star State in 1997. They were never on any Designated Terrorist Group designation and avoided an untrustworthy group.

    According to a very accurate article in “Counter-Punch,” the “evil-ones” were also invited to meet with US government officials in Washington, DC. Additionally, while the Soviet Union fought the war in Afghanistan, the US cemented relations with Bin Ladin and the Mujahedeen (Al Qaida). We helped to expel the Soviets and left Afghanistan destitute. However, we never lived up to any promises to assist them, making Bin Laden angry. Interestingly, while courting the Taliban, they harbored Osama bin Laden as their “guest” since June 1996. By then, Bin Laden had been expelled by Sudan in early 1996 in response to US insistence and the threat of UN sanctions; he publicly declared war against the US on or about August 23, 1996; pronounced the bombings in Riyadh and at Khobar in Saudi Arabia killing 19 US servicemen as ‘praiseworthy terrorism,’ promising that other attacks would follow in November 1996 and further admitted carrying out attacks on US military personnel in Somalia in 1993 and Yemen in 1992, declaring that “we used to hunt them down in Mogadishu”; stated in an interview broadcast in February 1997 that “if someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters.” Evidence was also developing which linked Bin Laden to the 1995 bombing of a US military barracks in Riyadh which killed five; Ramzi Yousef, who led the 1993 World Trade Center attacks; and a 1994 assassination plot against President Clinton in the Philippines.

    Upon US insistence, Bin Ladin’s father and the Royal family in his native Saudi Arabia gave him hundreds of millions of USD. They pushed him and his Wahabi religious group out. They developed various “Holyland Funding” sources to maintain the violent and radical group outside of Saudi Arabia. In July 2001, once we had adequate warnings of the impending attack, the Attorney General and other high-ranking Republican officials began utilizing Charter flights and US Government Air taxis. Not one government source warned the Public. How else was the long-planned (by George H.W. Bush and the Dark Overlord Cheney) Patriot Act could be enacted? We had it all and did NOT need any other validation from the FBI, who had their vital information too. However, their failure was based on their infrastructure, which was NOT intelligence-driven but looking for patterns of evidence to make arrests; and while suppressing key evidence at the Leadership levels and John O’Neil’s abilities in their Antiterrorists NYC unit. The FBI’s other nightmare was US Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Ali Muhammad, an Egyptian-American soldier who was considered an asset of the Western LA office and the NYC office. During that time, he trained the attackers of the Kenyan and Tanzanian US embassies and others associated with the Blind Sheik. The FBI missed it!

    I’m not too fond of the idea of a fired-up President G.W. Bush standing with his arm around the NYC Fire Chief announcing what he would do to the people who brought these buildings down. Bush forgot to mention how Lloyds of London fully reimbursed the owners of all downed buildings and that Governor Christine Todd Whitman withheld vital info about the site that would have saved lives due to contamination revealed by a Department of Commerce scientist. That parallels restrictions of liquids on all flights based on stops ordered of the 9/11 hijackers in Boston and the testing of the Construction Tubes they transported and were allowed onto the flight. Those ingredients were powerful enough to weaken both World Trade Center building structures leading to collapses. They forced the Agency to abandon and destroy their tower – the infamous Building 7 collapse.

    Time has been kind to G.W. Bush and introduced us to another disaster, Donald Trump. Like Presidents who lack proper education, our ranks were filled with Moronic people who never were able to perform analysis of their bank accounts. At Trump’s behest, the same persons who had to be kicked out from the intelligence communities and replaced with generations of foreign-born or first-generation Americans showed up on 6 January. The haters of our multi-Racial society now may realize we all have a role to play in loving and defending the United States of America.

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