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Reviews Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2008 - 00:33:42

9/11 truth goes pop culture?
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Apr 21, 2008, 00:12

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The Shell Game
By Steve Alten
Sweetwater Books
512 pages, $26.95

It seems a Herculean task to write a �best-selling author� novel about the �next 9/11, the end of oil, and deception of a nation,� and make it double as a Hollywood doomsday blockbuster. But Steve Alten, who has written eight fiction thrillers and has Tinsel Town experience, has tried to do both with The Shell Game. I guess it�s laudable for a successful novelist to take a crack at raising consciousness, perhaps risk a career. Though Alten gives us a rasher of truth, I found an unsettling number of missing pieces in his novel.

One major missing piece is that there is no specific mention of Israel and the Mossad as serious players in 9/11, not necessarily in the good guy�s corner. That is, from dual citizen government neocons to WTC lessee Larry Silverstein to the dancing Israelis. Also, there is no mention of Israel�s whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, nuclear technician, who exposed Israel�s nuclear installation at Dimona, where he worked from 1976 to 1985. The facility, by the way, contained an underground plutonium separation plant that operated in complete secrecy.

Also missing is that Israel was and is a nuclear player, first in secret, then post October 5, 1986, when the London Times revealed Vanunu�s story. The story was that his nation was in possession of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads of advanced design. (PS: Vanunu did 18 years in solitary for that and is now under house arrest. See Israel�s double nuclear standard is no standard at all.) It would seem to me that anyone writing a highly detailed, 512-page novel about the next 9/11, et al, which includes a nuclear conflagration on America and Iran, might mention these facts to give a more balanced picture.

Alten might also have mentioned in his detailed history of Iran�s rocky dealings with the West that Iran�s anger was fueled by the overthrow of its first democratically elected president, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in the early '50s. Mosaddeq�s government suffered a coup d�etat in 1953 led by Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA. Mosaddeq had the audacity to want to nationalize his nation�s oil and redistribute the land and wealth from the Shah�s ruling class to the poor and working classes. This fact is the clincher that oil was at the root of Mosaddeq�s removal.

John Foster Dulles labeled him �that madman Mosaddeq,� who consequently spent the rest of his days in prison. This as the young Shah was brought back to rule. The return of the Shah led inevitably to revolution in Iran, ultimately to his departure, and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini who had been exiled in Paris. This revolt led to the famous, 444-day, Iran hostage crisis at the American Embassy in 1979.

This release of those hostages led eventually to the Iran-Contra Affair, with the Reagan/Bush presidential team bargaining with Iran behind the back of the standing president, Jimmy Carter, (an act of treason) to withhold the release of the hostages until after their election. This in exchange for more money, guns, and plane parts than Carter was willing to part with. It�s amazing that none of this comes up in The Shell Game, because Iran-Contra was one of America�s most amazing shell games ever in pursuit of oil.

As Wikipedia reportsThe affair links quite disparate matters: on one hand were the arms sales to Iran, and on the other, funding of Contra militants in Nicaragua. Direct funding of the Nicaraguan rebels had been made illegal through the Boland Amendment. The affair emerged when a Lebanese newspaper reported that the U.S. sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages by Hezbollah.

�Letters sent by Oliver North to John Poindexter support this. However, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. claims that the reason was to establish links with elements of the military in Iran. It is also noteworthy that the Contras did not receive all of their finances from arms sales, but also through drug trafficking of which the US was found to be aware. This is delineated in the 'Drug money' section below.�

Given the enormity of the scandal and the players, including Hezbollah, it might warrant a discussion in a sprawling novel genuinely concerned with oil and recent Middle Eastern history, especially that which led to the present Iran-American tensions which are so key to The Shell Game�s story.Absent this information to round out Iran�s history, a reader or audience might have an incomplete notion of Iran�s actions, including the edgy outpourings of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinijad.

That said, The Shell Game is a very well written piece, ready for screenplay transformation, generally well researched, with the exception of those major holes in key information. Again, it poses Israel unqualifiedly as our right-hand ally uber alles, with not a question of doubt that there was any double-crossing going on, or wrong-doing on its part against the people of the US. Here�s another for-instance . . .

Shorting the backstoryon PROMIS

As I wrote in The PROMIS of 9/11 and beyond, �PROMIS software (originally Prosecutor Management Intelligence System) appeared in the early 1980s. It was developed by a small Washington, DC, company, Inslaw Inc., and proved to be the perfect intelligence tool.

�Though designed for the Department of Justice to help prosecutors in case management, it hooked the attention of corrupt officials and Israeli intelligence. Subsequently stolen from Inslaw, the software was hacked and given a �trap door.� [Italics mine]This Trojan gave it the power to retrieve info for the US and Israel from the very foreign intelligence services and banks it had been sold to in some 40 countries.� That theft was major. Israel was involved.

�The software helped the US win the Cold War against the Soviets, but also helped the Russian mafia, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden & Company and any number of spies and crooks.

�In 1985 Mossad spy and British media tycoon Robert Maxwell [Itaicls mine] opened the �trap door� secret to Chinese Military Intelligence (PLA-2), at the same time selling them a copy of PROMIS for $9 million, turning it against the US. Unfortunately, in the mid-1990s, PLA-2 hacked the databases of Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories to cop US nuclear secrets.� This seems like an unseemly thing for an ally to do.

�The KGB also bought PROMIS from Maxwell, and also received the back door Trojan to plant in a tender part of the FBI. Yes there is no honor among thieves. We also provided PROMIS to Russia and China to backdoor their intelligence, figuring the 64 federal agencies they could expose did not outweigh the many other look-sees PROMIS provided the US.

�Actually, using the same PROMIS bought from Russia, Saddam and his regime shifted major money through the banking system. Some of these funds still feed Iraqi anti-coalition and resistance fighters.�

To hear Alten tell it, the hero of his novel, Ace Futrell is handed PROMIS like a chart-busting CD from Britney Spears, with the added capacity to move all illegal monies from bad guy accounts and shift them to good guy accounts by insertion in a computer in a few minutes.

This is Hollywood oversimplification, to say the least. It reduces the real complexity of the actual 9/11 event, PROMIS, and the skill of its perpetrators, to a somewhat contrived scene in The Shell Game that takes place in the Saudi National Commercial Bank in Riyadh.

In this scene, Futrell puts a bank exec he�s meeting with to sleep with some drug-laced chewing gum. Ouch. That�s so Ace can insert the PROMIS CD in the bank exec�s computer and turn the financial world around in a matter of minutes. That seems a bit reductive, especially given what Michael Ruppert went through just to report the truth about PROMIS. It seems to me that a hefty chunk of the real technical information that formed the basis of the 9/11 Truth movement is passed over in monkey business like this.

Also we have the theatrics of the next (2012) President McKuen (sounds like McCain) and his dastardly administration preparing to create a nuclear conflagration on American soil in order to nuke Iran. This story plays more like a standard Hollywood disaster movie than painful historical fact. What end does this serve? Including the blockbuster explosion scene, the kind that movie execs salivate over, or the aftermath scene of the dead in Iran? Another classic.

9/11 is not the stuff of pop culture

Are we parsing 9/11 Truth now with popcorn clich�s to make a fast-read airport novel and/or another Escape From New York,Aliens,28 Days Later, doomsday flick? Sorry, guys, in the name of expanding our audience and raising consciousness, is that educating the populace or is it hypnotizing them, which is where we find them now, looking at Flight 93, the movie, on an HBO loop.

For what education The Shell Game provides, background data on the FBI, abdication of its duties, conflicting statements and outright lies by Bush and Cheney, copious political quotes and many other facts, I laud Alten. Truly, hats off to him! Nevertheless, even in its revelation of the two Middle East patsies involved in the 2012 �American nuclear disaster,� I find the portrayal of them falls short of illuminating the debauchery and US training of the 19 patsies of the first 9/11. Does a �made-up story� really reflect the depth of what really happened?

Though Alten seems brave and well-intentioned, his instincts as a writer of pop fiction and fantasy seem to get in the way of laying down a consistently hard-edged, believable story. Alten comes closest to that kind of truth in a book manuscript of Ace�s wife, Kelli Doyle, which Ace Futrell discovers after her death at an assassin�s hand. Its narrative speaks with a certain authenticity missing in much Alten's book.

Also, Ace Futrell reminds me more of an aging Bruce Willis doing his thing (including meeting a slinky, sympathetic, semi-clad Saudi beauty as he�s being tortured) than a heroic, mild-mannered David Ray Griffin who happened to turn the 9/11 myth on its ear with his theologian�s power of logic -- clear and fearless logic -- in his 200-page The New Pearl Harbor.

In all fairness, I know that Michael Ruppert, author of the voluminous and amazing Crossing the Rubicon, had his From the Wilderness quarters broken into by US thugs, his computers destroyed, and he forced to disappear fast for awhile. But then the brave Ruppert spent a lifetime challenging the LAPD, the CIA, and even 9/11 conspiracy deniers.

Bottom line, if I sound like too harsh a critic of Alten or his boosters, it�s only because 9/11 was an incredibly harsh, brutal thing for �you know who� to do to America, to New York, New Yorkers, and to the people of the world. Our response to that has to as honed, as fearsome, as terrifyingly true, and relentlessly real as the event itself. We owe the victims and ourselves nothing less.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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