17 MAR 02: “WE’RE ALL

Sunday March 17, 2002

The Observer

Six months that changed
a year

Introducing an absolute atrocity special
by Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris

9/11: The planes strike –
as Martin Amis memorably describes them – ‘sleeking in

like harsh metal ducklings’.

Blair publicly drains every drop of blood from his wife to help the injured

of New York.

his time, George W. Bush formulates a measured response – which turns out

to be the most expensive
bollocking ever unleashed against shepherds.

    But are
we starting to forget?

show that even as the second tower fell, people were switching off their

televisions, complaining
they’d seen it all before.

in these pages, we help you make up your own mind about the absolute

necessity of fighting the
ongoing war that is Operation Improving Bloodbath.

Inside: Highlights of
our award-winning coverage:

Polly Toynbee: My 14 months
undercover in an al-Qaeda training camp

Peregrine Worsthorne: How
I parachuted with the Marines into Kabul and found a

bearded Polly Toynbee shouting
anti-American obscenities

Robert Fisk: How I smashed
my own face in shouting ‘Don’t help me, I deserve

this’ in front of thousands
of bewildered refugees

Christopher Hitchens: How
to drink Kabul dry in 72 hours and still keep your

forelock fetchingly draped
over your forehead

Decca Aitkenhead: How I got
spazzed off my baps on Afghan Spangles to the sounds

of DJ Smack Poppy’s bangin’
US Barrage

Arthur Smith: How I missed
the plane

Piers Morgan: How I became
the new Hugh Cudlipp by digging up James Cameron and

Malcolm Muggeridge and sitting
their corpses behind desks at the Mirror

Julie Burchill: How I liberated
Kandahar with the news that Tony Parsons is a



The resurgence of Kenneth
Branagh since 11 September: pure



Terror’s march backwards


11th: The attacks change
forever the British convention for placing the day

before the month in dates.

12th: Washington informs
Tony Blair of attack on US.

13th: The immediate aftermath
of the attacks generates fear and paranoia across

America. Angry shoppers
beat up a woman who’s put a towel on her head to dry her

hair, while people whose
faces look like aeroplanes are subject to 24-hour

curfew. Citizens for whom
this is ‘a bad time’ include Tiara Ryzst, Tray

Njinkampps, Mo Jardine,
Moss Lamb, the Twain-Towers family, and Will and Tray


14th: Airlines report no
one willing to fly. Bush insists this is a sign of

defiance and commissions
Hollywood to make films in which being scared to go on

an aeroplane is an act of
bravery. Filming immediately commences on an Arnold

Schwarzenegger movie called
Absolute Refusal about a businessman who cannot face

boarding a plane but heroically
makes a meeting in Cairo by crossing the

Atlantic on a pedalo.

16th: Speculation about US
retaliation grows. Expert opinion is divided over

whether the ‘medievalist’
regime of Afghanistan should be bombed back to the

Stone Age or forward into
the twenty-first century. The prevailing Hawk argument

runs: ‘There’s a big stone
at the back of the Stone Age and we’ll bomb them so

hard back into that, they’ll
bounce all the way forward to 2002.’

19th: The pop singer Michael
Jackson is refused permission to lie down and sing

songs from his new album
into the World Trade Centre rubble. Jackson is reported

to have been a ‘nuisance
presence’ at Ground Zero – foisting cheaply embroidered

MJ handkerchiefs on to grieving
relatives and incessantly moondancing into the

paths of rescue workers.

21st: Tony Blair declares
that Britain must share in America’s pain as Education

Secretary Estelle Morris
announces plans for children to drop French and instead

spend two hours a day chewing
gum. And as a mark of respect, all future Prom

concerts will feature orchestras
using baseball bats instead of bows.

26th: Bush cheers American
nation by launching Operation Death Unto Allah.

Concern from coalition partners
that this might constitute some sort of gaffe.

27th: There are delays in
sending American special forces to Afghanistan when

the entire air force refuse
to fly in a plane.

30th: Twelve days after the
collapse of the World Trade Centre, amazed rescue

workers uncover an entire
office floor that is still doing business. Despite

falling 890 feet and being
buried under 12,000 tons of rubble, all workers at

Leeman Sachs Trading Inc
are unharmed. They have remained at their desks since

the bank’s Tokyo HQ saw
television pictures of the burning towers, called them

up and ordered them to keep
working. ‘We were still sitting at our desks when we

landed in the rubble,’ said
one dealer. ‘I actually completed three transactions

on the way down.’ In fact
trading at the buried floor has been so good since 11

September, the bank may
sue the New York Fire Dept for digging them out.


3rd: While donations pour
into New York, a suppressed report reveals that a huge

benefit concert held last
month for victims of the Pentagon attack raised just

$21. The show, featuring
REM, Bon Jovi, Beck and the Rolling Stones, took place

in a purpose-built, 50,000-seat
arena on the Pentagon lawn but despite

saturation advertising only
attracted 74 fans. Sources say that the Pentagon

attack, already notorious
as ‘a TV dud’, is now badly in need of a relaunch.

4th: The US public is still
so sensitive to images of New York that Woody Allen

is forced to remake Manhattan
shot for shot but with all views of the city taken

out. Furious that the new
version, Quebec, will lack resonance, the director

comforts himself by giving
the part of Diane Keaton to eight 17-year-old girls.

6th: American Airlines launches
a controversial emergency campaign to persuade

Americans to fly again.
Posters put up in every major American city show a

fearful businessman reading
a newspaper over the words ‘Get the hell out while

you can! Australia from

7th: Bush announces the start
of Operation Bomb Islamics. He tells the US that

coalition members agree
this title is not offensive to ‘good Muslims’. This is

confirmed in a hastily written
episode of The West Wing in which a good Muslim

is played by Jeff Goldblum.

8th: World shown new US weaponry
including the XMB0181 foaming missile designed

to flush out enemy hiding
in caves. The device, known as the ‘Condeleezza

Cappuccino’, is designed
to deliver a sarcastic sprinkling of cocoa powder on

the routed enemy.

9th: US bombs hit a Red Cross
emergency centre on the outskirts of Kabul, but

the Pentagon refuses to
apologise, blaming the Red Cross logo for ‘looking like

the crosshairs on a viewfinder’.
Spokesman Paul Wolfowitz says: ‘I’d ask this

clearly self-loathing organisation
to change its suicidal insignia before they

kill us all.’ The Red Cross
complies immediately and changes its logo to a blue

baseball hat.

16th: Less than two weeks
into the bombing campaign, the US admits its new range

of smart weapons may be
too intelligent. Sources say the $7m Supersophic

missiles have a range of
only 50 metres because less than a second after launch

the onboard computer has
worked out that violence only leads to more violence

and that all war is futile.
Realising there’s no point any more, the weapon

either deliberately crashes
itself into a beautiful woman or flies back home to

America to spend the rest
of its days buzzing round a farm. The Pentagon orders

that, from now on, missiles
must be ‘no more intelligent than a steelworker’.

18th: Rising concern over
humanitarian crisis in Afganistan. Henry Belt,

renowned as the most mordant
scurgist in Fleet Street, produces a cartoon which

is said to have made Alistair
Campbell ‘weep like a bereaved child’.

19th: Blair announces support
for the US intention to bomb during Ramadan but

confirms that out of respect
for Islam, all food parcels dropped during this

period will be empty.

20th: The Pentagon denies
reports of civilian casualties and adds that even if

there were some, they couldn’t
be shown in case they ‘died in shapes that could

be code’.

24th: Bush announces: ‘It
may take another 98 years to find bin Laden unless

we’ve got him already.’
In a TV address, standing next to a large veiled object,

the President continues:
‘For security reasons I cannot reveal whether this

titanium steel canister
does or does not contain the terror atrocity, Mr bin

Laden. But I give the American
people my word: bin Laden has definitely been or

will be captured. I have
ordered that this box be placed, with its contents

either full or empty, at
the foot of the Lincoln memorial, and opened in 2099.

In the meantime, I would
ask you to remember that any future video statements by

Mr bin Laden could well
have been recorded before we put him in this

containment. Unless he isn’t
in there.’

26th: Anthrax scare in Britain
– BBC advises staff


This email is being issued
to all staff.

Be alert about your handling
your mail, particularly if it:

· is mailed from a
foreign country

· has protruding wires

· is lopsided or uneven

· has a strange odour·
has discolourations, oily stains or crystallisation on

the wrapper · is

· appears to contain
powder or other unusual contents

· is covered in bin
Laden’s piss or something that smells like it

· has a couple of
miniature AK47’s sticking out of it and the muffled sound of

jibbering muslim midgets·
the envelope keeps spinning and pointing to Mecca when

you put it on a table ·
the envelope bears a stamp advising you not to read the

letter so much as lick it
all over and eat it

· the letter inside
claims that the white matter in the envelope is ‘the first

instalment of some free
salt you’ve won’ or ‘some sugar for your morning


NB: If you are unsure about
your regular postal consignment of cocaine (or speed

if you are black and a cleaner)
the BBC will for a limited period only, check

the powder for anthrobacillus.
We regret we cannot be legally responsible for

any errors in this analysis
and staff will be required to sign a waiver. In the

event of a long queue for
this service, priority will be given to those whose

drugs are supplied by Cocaine
Direct or similar who ensure the coca harvesters

are part of a profit sharing
initiative based on end user purchase receipts.


3rd: US on maximum alert
as the FBI announces ‘credible’ intelligence suggesting

al-Qaeda are planning to
trample thousands of Americans to death under rampaging

hippos. Bureau chiefs believe
a build-up of four million mother hippos could be

hidden north of the Canadian
border and say a mother hippopotamus will charge at

anything that comes between
it and its calf. The alert follows the recent

discovery of a baby hippo
in a White House cupboard. Meanwhile, seven young

hippos are said to have
walked into a Chicago department store yesterday while

an eighth was mysteriously
presented as a gift to the actor Ben Affleck.

Hardware shops in most states
report they’ve now run out of anti-hippo suits.

7th: Described as ‘ill-conceived’,
a Broadway production in which New York

firemen perform The Vagina
Monologues closes after just three days.

12th: New figures reveal
that the number of people who perished in the attacks

on 11 September may be as
low as three. Counsellors are on standby to help New

Yorkers deal with the trauma
of being more upset than they needed to be.

Pressure mounts on Mayor
Giuliani – already criticised for his insistence that

Ground Zero be kept shrouded
in smoke – after the dust cleared briefly last week

to reveal that the South
Tower was still standing. Psychologists say original

estimates of 6,000 were
probably much larger due to ‘all kinds of shit’.

18th: US confidently announces
the ‘further complete death’ of Osama bin Laden.

Defence chiefs credit the
new Fairhunter talking missile which pays local Afghan

shepherds to report the
location of enemy forces. If leads turn out to be false,

Fairhunter returns to the
shepherd and blows him up.

21st Success of 9/11 attacks
giving al-Qaeda acute ‘second album’ difficulty.

FBI sources say the poor
quality of follow-up activities reveals al-Qaeda’s

dreadful fear that they
will never top the impact of the 11 September

atrocities. In a recent
attack described as ‘a shoddy and lame retread’, one man

attempted to crash 100,000
paper darts into Chicago’s Sears Tower. He was

arrested without a struggle
after throwing just seven darts through the fire

escape window of a nearby
office block. Similar plots in Washington and Los

Angeles were also foiled
although a visiting Egyptian did successfully hurl a

lobster at Jimmy Connors.

23rd: Western capitals are
disrupted by a wave of hoaxers claiming to have sent

anthrax through the post.
The police report particular difficulties with people

claiming to be hoaxers who
turn out not to be hoaxers at all. Says an angry NYPD

spokesman: ‘False hoaxers
are blocking the lines so the real hoaxers can’t get

through… How can we catch
genuine hoaxers if false hoaxers prevent them from

making their hoax in the
first place?’

26th: Tony Blair triumphantly
announces his UK delegation has persuaded the UN

Afghan Conference that the
broadcaster John Peel should be the new leader of

Afghanistan. Says the Foreign
Office: ‘John will appeal both to the conservative

Pashtun south – who prefer
men to wear beards – as well as to the northern

tribes who like music.’
Blair says The Americans give their approval after he

told them Peel is ‘the British
Tom Hanks’. Peel will be required to repair

Afghanistan’s shattered
infrastructure, restore relations with Iran and

Uzbekistan, unify the volatile
stand-off between rival factions in the

south-west, and continue
with his Radio 4 series Home Truths on Saturday

mornings, against his will
if necessary. On the BBC’s Newsnight, the US

ambassador allows Jack Straw
to confirm the news and then announces that Hamid

Karzai has been installed
in Kabul.


1st: An email print-out dated
10 September and signed by Jo Moore is discovered

in a house in Kandahar.
It reads: ‘Need to bury story about local councillors’

expenses… Fly two airliners
into World Trade Centre?’

2nd: Media sources suggest
the number of Afghan civilians killed in US bombing

raids is 1,800. The Pentagon
protests that, with the correct counting methods,

the figure is actually 29.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says: ‘If you just

find a head, that’s not
a whole person. To increase the death toll by one,

you’re talking seven or
heads at least.’ Experts on US network Fox news

explain that Islamic numbers
are smaller than they look and agree that ‘in their

tradition, 120 usually means

4th: Defence Department announces
that a bearded US missile has been captured

and imprisoned near the
Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The missile, which

disappeared last March,
told CIA interrogators it wanted to ‘blow up women and

gays and kites’.

5th: Bin Laden seen ‘dead
on a dead horse on top of a dead hill that had been

absolutely blown up with
bombs’, confirms Afghan villager pleased to see he has

given the right answer.

6th: Sheaves of terrorist
plans found in Kabul reveal that al-Qaeda terrorists

were behind a string of
atrocities including the Heisel stadium disaster in

1986. A Biro drawing of
a squashed football with a brick on top of it shows how

the Muslim extremists planned
every detail of the horrifying crush of spectators

– believed at the time to
be the work of hooligans. The documents are just part

of a huge cache of terror
tools shown to blindfolded Western reporters. One

describes how he also ‘felt
a system of levers which control all major volcanoes

and tectonic faultlines
on earth’. A White House spokesman said: ‘We have no

reason to doubt that these
apocalyptic savages conceived their children to

recordings of passengers
screaming in the Lockerbie air crash.’ The discoveries

come just days after looters
offered a Wall St Journal reporter ‘a tidal wave in

a suitcase’ big enough to
destroy the entire US eastern seaboard.

8th: Blair triumphantly announces
that the soothing voice of Fergal Keane is now

being broadcast 24 hours
a day from refugee camp loudspeakers.

9th: An outcry in Harpenden
when a branch of the al-Qaeda network opens a shop

in the town’s high street.
The store sells dirty nuclear devices and videos of

clerics demonstrating how
to make soup out of women. Home Secretary David

Blunkett confesses: ‘Our
draconian anti-terrorism legislation doesn’t cover

actual shops.’

22nd: Man arrested with network
of caves in shoe. Taken to the Nevada desert and

told to stand still while
his shoes are attacked with thermobaric bombs.

23rd: US strategists now
admit bin Laden is still at large claiming he is

‘probably a lot smaller
than we thought… and may be only six inches tall’.

29th: Shock scientific survey
proves that America really did have it coming. The

results of a new study show
that at the time of the 11 September attacks,

America was unequivocally
asking for it. American researchers at the highly

respected Massachusetts
Institute of Technology who collated the DNA profiles,

conversational attitudes
and facial disposition of more than 8,000 Americans are

said to be ‘devastated’
by the results. Test supervisor Bill Porman said: ‘I’m

sorry to say but spend any
time with these people and you start to think, sure,

I’d do it, they’re absolutely
fucking insufferable.’ Security Chief John

Ashcroft is said to be demanding
that, from now on, objective scientific

research be classified as
an act of terrorism.


3rd: There are calls for
immediate review of UK airport security after two

journalists from the Daily
Mail board a British Airways 737 jet at Manchester

airport with two knives
and a fork concealed in their hand luggage. The

reporters force their way
into the cockpit, overpower the pilot, take control of

the plane, and crash it
into a tall building, killing over 2,000 people and

injuring hundreds more.
An incandescent editorial by Mail editor Paul Dacre

describes airport security
standards as ‘inexcusably laxative’. This latest

exposure recalls events
last September, when Mohamed Atta of the Daily Express,

along with a colleague from
the Evening Standard, crashed two jets into the

World Trade Centre in New
York, greatly embarrassing security officers in the


4th: A chaotic war of recrimination
breaks out between the CIA and MI5 when it

is disclosed that Osama
bin Laden attended a waxwork sitting at London’s Madame

Tussaud’s on 1 September.
A Tussaud’s spokesman says: ‘He was extremely polite

and bought all the ladies
tea. We just assumed someone would pop in and arrest

him when we’d finished.’
It is believed that bin Laden returned for follow-up

sittings on 4 December and
shortly after Christmas.

17th: State of the Nation
address: Bush declares that countries with which

America has ‘unfinished
business’ constitute a ‘spindle of atrocity’. These

include Libya, Vietnam,
Japan, Colin Powell, Germany and the northern

anti-slavery states of the

24th: There is worldwide
outrage that prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay in

Cuba are regularly being
dropped out of aircraft over 5,000 feet above the

ground. Tony Blair is later
reassured by Donald Rumsfeld’s guarantee that

jettisoned British prisoners
will be allowed to fight over a parachute. Downing

Street remains tight-lipped
over the restriction of parachute diameter to two

inches but sources say Geoff
Hoon is persuaded that larger chutes would allow

prisoners to strangle themselves.
The US practice of nailing detainees to their

seats during transportation
from Afghanistan is justified as a precaution

‘against them building a
terrorist training camp in the aircraft toilet’

although they are criticised
for classifying prisoners as ‘hazardous

invertebrate vermin’, a
term not recognised under the Geneva Convention. The Red

Cross will monitor conditions
at Camp X-ray for three months and then publish a

report ‘under no circumstances


9th: WTC legal fall-out.
A New York banker whose car was hit by a man jumping

out of the burning north
tower is suing the dead man’s estate because he failed

to curl up into a neat ball
to minimise the damage. The city of New York is to

sue firms occupying the
upper 38 storeys of both towers because as they crashed

earthwards, they added hugely
to the numbers of people on the lower floors, thus

‘momentarily breaking fire

20th: US is criticised over
‘manipulative’ Olympics opening ceremony in which

the entire American team
form a human twin towers which is then smashed into by

a flying snowboarder dressed
as an Arab and carrying the ribcage of a genuine

New York fireman. As chained
al-Qaeda suspects sing ‘God Bless America’ at

gunpoint, 100,000 doves
with weights tied to their ankles are released to

recreate an engulfing mass
of white dust and the crowd tearfully applaud for

five hours.

24th: Hosting the film Baftas,
Stephen Fry delivers an unspeakably trite and

fucked-up heap of shit urging
film makers to ‘keep telling stories’ in the face

of world events – as if
films make any fucking difference to anything, least of

all the advancement of peace,
as if in fact they don’t more often promote,

through piss like Black
Hawk Down, the very surfeit of self-regarding

superiority that makes the
American West so unpopular in the first place.

Naturally the audience of
actors and industry luvvies spontaneously applaud like

the blinkered, solipsistic,
self-congratulating cunts they are.


2nd: The World Trade Centre
owners announce plans to rebuild the skyscrapers on

exactly the same floorplan
as before – but due to the disputed insurance

settlement, the towers will
only be three storeys high.

24th: As as tribute to America’s
pain, President Bush commissions a new book of

the Bible, called The Acts
of the Folks. The book comes after Revelations and

describes how Manhattan
street vendors gained the kingdom of heaven by giving

firemen free doughnuts.
The new scripture also praises the ‘ordinary folks’ who

turned their babies into
flags, made bonfires of beards or stood on hills and

stared angrily eastwards.
Speaking at an Easter ceremony in Wisconsin in which a

shaved rabbit is nailed
upside down to a cross, the President said: ‘Every

Christian on earth will
agree this book improves the Bible. Amen.’ With these

words the President offered
the rabbit a sponge soaked in vinegar, then shot it

in the stomach and called
on the local necromancer to ‘make it rise on the third

day like the shining rabbit



9/11: George Bush’s day

O846… At a school in Florida,
President George W. Bush is informed of first

World Trade Centre crash
and quips: ‘Nice to see folks so keen to get to work


O905… Bush is informed
of second WTC crash and this time chuckles: ‘Phone New

York air traffic control
and tell them – three strikes and you’re out!’ This

comment fails to capture
public mood.

O906… Emergency conference
in school office as aides explain appalling gravity

of situation. Through closed
doors President is heard screaming: ‘Phone Al Gore

and tell him he won.’

0907… He then orders 60
kilos of cocaine and shoots a White House dog for no


O943… Pentagon attacked.

O944… White House officials
attempt to preserve national control and command

structure by slicing off
Dick Cheney’s head and putting it in a bag of ice


Over the next few hours the
President is helicoptered to Orlando then airdropped

into Vermont. Seizing a
jet pack, he blasts himself into the sea off

Newfoundland where he is
collected by speedboat, hammered unconscious,

miniaturised and injected
into Laura Bush’s foot.

1323-1412… The nation is
unaware that it is being governed by a man who is now

smaller than an E.Coli and
tumbling around in his wife’s aorta.

1542… President retrieved
by mosquito from Laura Bush’s thigh and allowed to

regain size under morphine
during return flight to Washington.

1612… A cleaner enters
White House basement to find the President and George

Bush Snr both naked in barrels
of crude oil. They are deep in conversation.

1641…Fortified by constant
telephone contact with Larry Hagman, a much calmer

Bush chairs war cabinet
in Delaware.

2030…Wearing a lucky Iraqi
foot given to him by his father on his lapel, Bush

addresses the nation, extends
sympathy to the victims and solemnly vows that he

will make no distinction
between the terrorists who committed the attacks and



What they said

An absolute atrocity special
by Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris: the

best of those post-9/11
quotes you haven’t heard yet.

‘We’re all dead Americans

T. Blair

‘Easy, Saladin’

The Pope


First reaction of many British
people who subsequently claimed to be appalled

‘I have seen nothing to convince
me that all these attacks were not the work of

one lone American madman’

John Pilger

‘This wouldn’t have happened
if I’d still been on BBC1′

Noel Edmonds

‘Operation Infinite Enemy
is not a war against Islam, it’s a war against


George Bush

‘If you run the twin towers
footage backwards, the towers stand up again – we

need to ask why has the
footage only ever been run forwards?’

Noam Chomsky

‘We are privileged to live
in a time when even the world’s most TV-hating nation

can make brilliant TV’

Peter Bazalgette

‘Hello Yasser’

Jack Straw greets Ariel



Categories: Uncategorized

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.