There were rumours emanating from those with radios, but we really didn’t know anything about it until half-time, when there was no score given for the Liverpool–Forest semi-final, and even then nobody had any real idea of the sickening scale of it all. By the end of our game, a dull, distracted 1–0 win, everyone knew there had been deaths.1
These measured words are taken from Nick Hornby’s book Fever Pitch. They form the opening to his chapter entitled simply “Hillsborough”, in which he describes the moments when he, along with hundreds of thousands of others at different football grounds across Britain, were first waking up to the dreadful news of what had happened earlier in Sheffield.
At this same time, and like many millions of others, I’d been watching the tragedy unfold live on TV. Cameras were there because the game between Liverpool and Forest was meant to have featured later on Match of the Day, but the game itself had barely kicked off before it had been abandoned. Rather than the beautiful game, we had instead watched in sorrow and disbelief, finding it hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the disaster. 96 innocent people who had gone out to enjoy a football match had lost their lives instead, and every other football fan felt the same, had the same thought: that there but for the grace of god go I.
Now, 23 years later, we have access to a little more of the awful truth, and not only regarding the failures of the police and other emergency services that had both caused and exacerbated the catastrophic sequence of events at Hillsborough, but also to the cover up that immediately followed. A conspiracy of silence that has since been maintained by the police themselves, was assisted by the deliberately distorted coverage of the press, and that had also involved the complicity of politicians all the way up to members within the cabinet of the Thatcher government.
To understand more about the government’s role, I recommend reading Craig Murray’s carefully considered appraisal of the released documents.
All of the revelations disclosed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel can be read online at hillsborough.independent.gov.uk.
So after more than two decades of fighting for justice, the families of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster have won an important victory. The bigger truth is now officially admitted, and with those admissions, their loved ones have been formally exonerated of all blame. They can finally rest in peace.
Yet many of the admissions of failures actually come as little surprise. As long ago as 1992, Nick Hornby was writing:
It is easy to understand why bereaved families wish to see officers from the South Yorkshire police brought to trial: their errors of judgment were catastrophic.2
Hornby also goes on to say something that I imagine he must now, and in the light of this report, deeply regret:
Yet, though it is clear that the police messed up badly that afternoon, it would be terribly vengeful to accuse them of anything more than incompetence.3
Incompetence is a serious charge, of course, but what actually happened at Hillsborough appears to have involved nothing less than criminal negligence, and it doesn’t finish there. Criminal negligence, combined with deliberate alteration of evidence that we now know took place, means we are obviously dealing with matters of very serious criminality indeed. And so with the truth finally established, we may hope that the families will also succeed in bringing the guilty to justice.
Incidentally, I am not taking a swipe at Nick Hornby, since he was only reporting what we were all then given to believe. That we should draw a line at the level of incompetence and look no further. So if I had been writing about the Hillsborough Disaster twenty years ago, I may well have written something along similar lines. In any case, Hornby’s main point in the chapter is rather different, but an important one in other ways.
As a fellow football supporter, he could see – as many of us could also see – that the Hillsborough Disaster was an accident not simply waiting to happen, but a disaster of a kind that had already happened many times before: at Bolton in 1946 resulting in 33 fatalities; at Ibrox in 1902, 25 fatalities; and again in 1971, 66 fatalities; and then the Bradford Fire which killed 56 people almost exactly four years prior to the Hillsborough tragedy.
Another incident, and one that Hornby failed to mention, gives still more credence to his considered opinions. It had happened almost exactly eight years earlier in the 1981 FA Cup semi-final when Wolves played Tottenham at Hillsborough. On that occasion, it was the Tottenham fans who were nearly crushed to death at the same Leppings Lane end of the ground.
I’d been standing little more than a hundred yards away, watching it all from the Wolves’ end with my father, as fans has started spilling out on to the pitch. Assuming that it must have been some kind of deliberate pitch invasion, we had both thought little more about it. Yet the incident had in fact resulted in 38 injuries, including broken arms, legs and ribs, and it led to a decision to remove Hillsborough as a neutral venue for six years. So Hillsborough had only been reinstated as a semi-final venue in 1987, a mere two years before the worst disaster in British football’s woeful history.
As Hornby explains at length, nothing at all had been learned from these many earlier and sometimes tragic incidents. So the stadia, some of which had been built almost a hundred years before, were still inherently dangerous and dilapidated, whilst the perimeter fences, brought in under Thatcher’s government, and supposedly put up to protect the fans, turned the terraces into even more lethal deathtraps. His other point, however, is that we, the football fans, had let this happen to us, by being so caught up in the obsession of supporting our own teams to the extent that “nothing ever matters, apart from football”. What Hornby says then is painful but undeniably valid, and he may justifiably have gone further still.
For the sake of football we had allowed ourselves to be packed in like sardines and forced to stand inside what amounted to cages. We had submitted to being treated like prisoners, or worse. Back in 1985, the Chairman of Chelsea FC, Ken Bates, had even famously compared his own club’s supporters to animals, and suggested that the ordinary fences at Stamford Bridge were therefore inadequate – he thought they needed to be electrified! Fortunately, Bates was ignored.
Moving beyond the boundaries of football, and the timing of the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report on September 12th, has caused many, myself included, to feel a little renewed hope in another prolonged battle for truth and justice. For the long overdue re-opening of the investigation into the attacks of September 11th that has been sought by the families of the victims ever since the hopelessly misled and underfunded original 9/11 Commission report was released in July 2004.
Even Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton who had jointly led the 9/11 Commission, promptly and publicly admitted to the failures of the inquiry. Published in August 2006, their book Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, offers some insight into the many ways in which the Commission’s attempts to reach the truth had been frustrated and undermined by multiple lies and countless deceptions. Here’s an important example:
The biggest battle came over access to the White House morning intelligence report, the President’s Daily Brief, especially the one dated Aug. 6, 2001, barely a month before the attack. Titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the document noted that the F.B.I. was investigating suspicious Qaeda activity on American soil “consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” When finally asked to provide the commission with his own testimony, the president [Bush] said at first that he could spare only an hour of his time — and then with just the two chairmen. Later it was made clear that no recordings or transcripts would be permitted.4
The above extract is taken from James Bamford’s review of Without Precedent, published in the New York Times.
It has since been established beyond all reasonable doubt that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the impending attacks of September 11th 2001, and it now transpires that document singled out by Kean and Hamilton was just one of many similar warnings.
Here are the words of Kurt Eichenwald, award-winning journalist, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and author of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars:
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission hearings were coming down and saying, “We want to see these presidential daily briefs.” And the Bush administration fought releasing them. They finally released the August 6th one, which had the now-infamous headline, “Bin Laden determined to strike U.S.” And in her testimony, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said this was merely a historical document.
It was a review of, you know, bin Laden and al-Qaeda and their intents and what they’ve done. And actually, when you read it, that is what it was. And it was also a red herring, because—I can’t say that’s why they released it, but it certainly was convenient, because that document was the only one of the many that had gone out over the previous few months that was historical. All the others were: “There is an attack coming,” “There’s an attack coming that’s going to be devastating. There are going to be mass casualties,” “There is a terrorist cell in the United States that is plotting to strike,” I mean, with a great deal of table pounding. And there was—and I don’t want to keep picking on Secretary Rice, but she did—in that, she did testify, “If we had been made aware that there was an attack coming, we would have done something.”
Well, they were made aware. And, you know, in the end, what these documents show is that the Bush administration was not at that point prepared to consider al-Qaeda and these kind of non-state terrorist organizations as being a significant threat.
Eichenwald was speaking on Democracy Now! on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 and you can read more of the transcript or listen to what else he had to say here.
That the 9/11 Commission was hampered by a massive cover up is no longer even debatable, and at the very least, we now know that the Bush administration were fully forewarned of the attacks. If this oversight were the only flaw in the Commission’s investigation, then this failure alone provides more than enough reason to demand a re-opening of the inquiry.
As the latest Hillsborough Disaster inquiry illustrates, however, there can be no legitimate excuse for drawing the line at questions of incompetence only. The families of the 9/11 victims are just as entitled to know the whole truth, whatever that may turn out to be, as the families of the victims at Hillsborough. So any re-opened inquiry must be allowed to get to the bottom of all of the many outstanding issues.
Click here to read an earlier post that delves more deeply into some of those issues.
Click here to read a different post about key 9/11 whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds.
The personification of Justice is blindfolded for a very good reason: she does not presume to know the truth, determining it impartially and only on the basis of the balance of evidence. Therefore, when it comes to matters of criminality, as in the case of the crimes of September 11th, the place for any inquiry ought properly to have been a court of law. And had the attacks not been conducted as a suicide mission, such a court of law hearing would most likely have taken place already. It follows however, that the 9/11 Commission hearings could and should have been conducted in accordance with the same strict protocols and procedures as those applied in any court of law, but evidently this did not happen. Instead, the 9/11 Commission was a travesty of justice and a betrayal of truth.
No discrimination can be made when it comes to justice – not our governments, nor those individuals holding positions of high office, can ever be allowed to operate above the law, but must always be held to account in every case when criminality is suspected. For if we do not insist upon “justice for all”, then, one day, we will surely wake up to discover that there is no longer any justice at all.
I leave you to reflect on a short speech given in January 2008 by Bob McIlvaine, whose son Bobby was one of the nearly 3,000 who were murdered in the 9/11 attacks:
Earlier this month, Ferdinando Imposimato, who is the honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy, former Senior Investigative Judge, author or co-author of seven books on international terrorism, state corruption, and related matters, a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, and who also served on the Anti-Mafia Commission in three administrations, stated publicly that there is overwhelming evidence that 9/11 was a “false flag” attack. In the same statement, he also drew a direct comparison to the kinds of terrorist attack carried out as part of the strategia della tensione (“Strategy of Tension”) in Italy, which is otherwise known as Operation Gladio.
Judge Imposimato writes:
The 9/11 attacks were a global state terror operation permitted by the administration of the USA, which had foreknowledge of the operation yet remained intentionally unresponsive in order to make war against Afghanistan and Iraq. To put it briefly, the 9/11 events were an instance of the strategy of tension enacted by political and economic powers in the USA to seek advantages for the oil and arms industries.5
Operation Gladio had involved a clandestine state-sponsored terrorist network operating throughout Europe. A secret right-wing army that was controlled by the CIA and MI6 through NATO, and which killed hundreds of innocent Europeans and attempted to blame the deaths on Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades and other left wing groups.
Known as stay-behinds these armies were given access to military equipment which was supposed to have been used for sabotage in the event of a Soviet invasion. Instead it was used in massacres across mainland Europe as part of a CIA “Strategy of Tension”.
To learn more about how “false flag” killing sprees were used to shape European (and most especially Italian) public opinion during the 1970s and early 1980s, I strongly advice watching the three part BBC Timewatch investigation that was originally aired on BBC2 in 1992:
1 From Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, published by Penguin in 1992. p 209
4 From a book review entitled “Intelligence Test” written by James Bamford, published in the New York Times on August 20, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/books/review/20Bamford.html
5 From a letter published in the Journal of 9/11 Studies” published September 2012. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:NTloCpiQCa8J:www.journalof911studies.com/resources/2012-September—Imposimato-letter.pdf+&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a