UQ Wire: 9.11 Shuck n' Jive at Shuckum's
"9.11 Shuck n' Jive at Shuckum's
Mohamed Atta, 'Teetotaler'
May 19 2005 - Venice, FL.
by Daniel Hopsicker
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Mohamed Atta didn’t drink, do cocaine, or hang out in strip clubs, and the official FBI account of the terrorist conspiracy to take down the World Trade Center is pretty much right on the money, according to a new book, "Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers, Who They Were, Why They Did It," by Terry McDermott, a reporter for the L.A. Times.
Mini-review: 'Perfect Soldiers is perfect dreck... But dreck which speaks volumes about the state of the 9.11 cover-up."
With almost nothing new, McDermott's book is instructive only in what it leaves out: who Atta was and who recruited him. McDermott deals with the stickier facts, even ones reported by numerous sources, through the simple expedient of blithely ignoring them.
Dubious Claims Control
The book contains no mention at all, for example, of the huge heroin bust (biggest in Central Florida history) on the Lear jet of the flight school owner whose school Atta and Marwan had just arrived to attend, which would certainly seem germane to any discussion of who the hijackers really were, if one of the things they really were was drug smugglers.
But it would render invalid the book's central thesis: Mohamed Atta and the other terrorists, says "Perfect Soldiers," "were 'unexceptional men,' not much different from countless others."
Unexceptional men? We tested this dubious claim by conducting a quick survey of 'unexceptional men' in a bowling alley one recent night: none of the unexceptional men rolling games during our visit personally knew any arms dealers, or foreign military attaches, or confidential FBI informants.
But the hijackers did.
Also, none of our admittedly unscientific sampling of "unexceptional men" admitted to ever seeing suitcases bursting with heroin. And none knew anyone whose Lear jet ran 'milk runs' down and back to Columbia for thirty weeks in a row until. on Fateful Flight 31, DEA Agents busted it with 43 lbs of heroin stuffed in a suitcase.
This may explain why reporter
McDermott, in a curious oversight, doesn’t even mention
secretive flight school financier Wally Hilliard or sidekick
'Magic Dutch Boy' Rudi Dekkers.
But it's the book's assertions that Mohamed Atta was a teetotaler that may be its toughest sell.
'No Sniggering Allowed'
In an interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews McDermott tries to dismiss reports of the hijackers high-living ways. But Matthews already knew otherwise. “It seems like they (the hijackers) came to America and hung out in sort of the underworld,” he said. “They hung out at the fast- food places, the strip bars… the sleazy side of American life...”
“I don’t think it’s true to say that most of these guys did that,” McDermott retorted. “I mean, Atta, for instance, never went in a strip club in his life. This guy was so repressed that I don’t think he ever had an impure thought.”
What's McDermott's explanation for the widespread perception that Atta liked strippers?
“A couple of the Saudis on the night before September 11, September 10," he told Chris Matthews, "tried to hire prostitutes in their hotel room in Boston, but wouldn’t pay the price.”
For a reporter, McDermott’s a man of few words. In" Here's his entire explanation from "Perfect Soldiers"—one oddly argumentative paragraph—denying reports of Atta’s drinking and drug use:
“There were all sorts of retrospective sightings of the group or individuals within it. Atta, in particular, with his distinctive and later well-publicized face was seen everywhere. Or, at least that is what people remembered afterwards. He was said to have inquired about buying a crop-duster plane, to have been treated for anthrax poisoning, to have flown reconnaissance missions over nuclear power plants, to have turned into a two-fisted drinker in coastal taverns. Most notoriously, Atta was said to have flown under an alias to Prague, in the Czech Republic, in mid-April and to have met there with an Iraqi spymaster plotting to blow up a broadcast tower of Radio Free America. Little of this seems likely; some of it is demonstrably untrue; and none of it has been proved otherwise.”
It would take a Jesuit to explain all of the logical inconsistencies in this paragraph. One example: IF Atta didn’t go to Prague, does that mean he didn’t rent crop dusters, either?
Moreover, the lack of specificity--what good reporters are known for--in McDermott's explanation is shocking. Considering that the subject is ultimately the murder of nearly 3000 people, it is breathtakingly cavalier.
To recap: in re stories of Atta’s drinking and drug use, McDermott offers these three choices: Unlikely. Untrue. Unproven.
Is he correct? Let’s take a look.
A farewell bender gets the airbrush
In “Welcome to TerrorLand” we visited one place where Atta was reported to have gotten—not just drunk—but drunk and belligerent.
Six nights before the attack, reported TIME, NEWSWEEK, and the AP wire service, Mohamed Atta and two of his henchmen were drinking heavily at Shuckum’s in Ft. Lauderdale, which we discovered was a dive bar with a tired-looking nautical theme complete with life-sized shark mounted on the wall.
“Atta and two of his buddies seem to have gone out for a farewell bender at a seafood bar called Shuckum’s,” Newsweek reported.
“Atta drank five Stoli-and-fruit-juices, while one of the others drank rum and Coke. For once, Atta and his friends became agitated, shouting curse words in Arabic, reportedly including a particularly blasphemous one that roughly translates as “F—k God.”
“It was at Shuckum’s, on Sept. 8, that Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi did some pre-mass murder tippling,” reported TIME. “Atta drank vodka and orange juice, while Al-Shehhi preferred rum and cokes, five drinks apiece.”
FBI Agents had shown up at Shuckum’s just 12 hours after the attack, reported all three major networks. The agents showed employees—especially manager Tony Amos and bartender Patricia Idrissi—photos of two men.
“We were able to recognize both gentlemen,” Amos told reporters. He identified a man in a photo bearing the name Mohamed underneath, who, along with two other men, had each consumed at least several drinks.
The guy, Mohamed, was drunk, Amos said. The two and another man “got wasted” in his place, he said, downing “chicken wings and cranberry juice, Stolichnaya and orange juice, and Captain Morgan’s spiced rum and Coke.”
Bartender Idrissi said FBI agents told her “they were on the plane and passed away.”
Wahabbi wannabees two nights from hell
“Atta drank Stoli vodka for three straight hours,” she stated. “The guy, Mohamed, was drunk. They were wasted.”
Idrissi said the men told her they wanted to eat but didn’t like what was on the menu, so she sent them to a Chinese restaurant a few doors down. They were very rude, she said.
They didn’t want to pay the bill. When asked if they could afford the $48 bar tab, Atta’s face had darkened. He pulled out a thick roll. ‘You think I can’t pay? I’m a pilot for American Airlines. I can pay my fucking bill.’”
The story threw a long shadow of doubt across the emerging picture of the hijackers as fanatic Wahhabi fundamentalists.
So, like Newsweek’s story about Korans flushed down the toilet more recently, it would have to “disappear.” Thus one week later, a strange retraction came to the rescue of the official story. Night manager Amos now said Mohamed Atta drank nothing stronger than cranberry juice that evening at Shuckum’s Bar. He was sitting quietly by himself. It had been Atta’s companion Marwan and a third man that did all the drinking.
We've all seen Atta’s brooding ‘mug shot,’ his unnerving icy stare. Does anyone truly believe that night manager mistook him for someone else... without a lot of prodding?
"A one-way ticket to the Island of Lost Luggage"
We wanted to ask Tony Amos. But when we stopped at Shuckum’s we discovered that neither he nor bartender Idrissi were there any longer. No one knew where they’d gone. The current bartender indicated their leave-taking had been somehow 9/11 related.
other eyewitnesses with inconvenient knowledge, Amos and
Idrissi had purchased a ticket to the Island of Lost
Witnesses. For their sake we hoped it was round trip.
One week after reports of Atta's heavy drinking, a story on the terrorist’s final days appeared in McDermott’s L.A. Times.
“That same night (Sept 7) down the coast in Florida, Atta and Al- Shehhi went to Shuckum’s sports bar in Hollywood along with a still unidentified third man. The owner, Tony Amos, says Atta sat quietly by himself and drank cranberry juice and played a video game, while Al-Shehhi and the other customer tossed back mixed, drinks and argued.”
Why had the restaurant manager changed his story? A lapse of memory? A case of mistaken identity?
When we read carefully through the detailed early accounts of the incident, it became clear the manager’s retraction must have been coerced, for the simple reason that both he and the bartender's accounts were too full of vivid detail to be phony. In other words, their recollection of events which had occurred just a week earlier had the quality of verisimilitude:
- Amos says they had chicken wings and Stoli. Capt. Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Coke.
- Bartender Idrissi recalled exactly how many drinks (5) each downed, and that Atta paid her with a $100 bill from a thick wad, but left only a $3 tip.
Bartenders remember things like that.
"When someone lies, its usually for a reason."
So their story had—and still
has—the absolute ring of truth. But its not as if this was
the only report of the terrorist ringleader’s two-fisted
drinking habits that McDermott was forced to ignore. There
were numerous credible reports.
The LONDON SUNDAY MAIL reported Atta and Al-Shehhi spent $1000 on Krug and Perrier-Jouet champagne in just 45 minutes at a bar in Palm Beach, Florida called “251 Sunrise.”
Marwan was with a short blonde, the paper reported. Atta’s date was tall and busty. This made sense... Sidekicks never get first pick of girls.
Both women, the paper said,
were known locally as “regular companions of
Whether Mohamed Atta was a repressed teetotaler or a man with a weakness for Jack Daniels and infidel flesh is not the most burning question about the 9.11 attack… But its indicative of “Perfect Soldier’s”--and the official story it represents--even-more cavalier treatment of questions which are vital to our understanding of what happened.
Who recruited Atta in the first place?
How did a mediocre student—whose grades weren’t even good enough to get him into graduate school in Cairo—end up being sponsored by an anonymous German couple and brought to Hamburg, Germany? And the, once he got there… who paid for him to hang out for more than six years in a graduate program?
Shameless Plug: For answers to these questions, you could do worse than to read "Welcome to Terrorland" and the MadCowMorningNews.)
We'll look at the "think tank" which Atta was undoubtedly using as cover while in Hamburg in another story.
The record may not tell us who Atta was, but it offers clear indications of who he wasn’t. He wasn’t Wahhabi fundamentalist. We think of Atta as Islamic Stolichnaya.
Ironically, reporter McDermott appeared in a discussion forum put on by the L.A. Times’ in the aftermath of its widely-discredited reporting leading up to the war in Iraq. Many of the questions from the audience centered on the belief that the American media were not telling the whole truth about the war in Iraq, either from collusion with the government or at the government's order.
Panelist McDermott sought to calm the waters, joking "You couldn't get six journalists to conspire about lunch."
That's as may be. But careerist shills a little too willing to go along to get along, looking the other way while pretending to bring us real news, will probably do pretty much anything you tell them to.
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- Daniel Hopsicker is the author of Barry & 'the boys: The CIA, the Mob and America's Secret History. About the author. - Email the author.
Welcome To Terrorland - A NEW BOOK BY DANIEL HOPSICKER
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