- Category: News & Analysis
- Created on Friday, 09 September 2011 21:59
- Written by ALEXANDER COCKBURN
The following appeared on CounterPunch. Thanks to Gio for suggesting this.
The 9/11 Conspiracists:
Vindicated After All These Years?
We’re homing in on the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Wall Street Trade Towers and the attack on the Pentagon. One in seven Americans and one in four among those aged 16-24, (so a recent poll commissioned by the BBC tells us) believe that there was a vast conspiracy in which the U.S. government was involved. But across those ten years have the charges that it was an “inside job” –– a favored phrase of the self-styled “truthers” — received any serious buttress?
The answer is no.
Did the Trade Towers fall because they were badly built as a consequence of corruption, incompetence, regulatory evasions by the Port Authority, and because they were struck by huge planes loaded with jet fuel. No, shout the conspiracists, they “pancaked” because Dick Cheney’s agents–scores of them–methodically planted demolition charges in the preceding days inserting the explosives in the relevant floors of three vast buildings, (moving day after day among the unsuspecting office workers), then on 9/11 activating the detonators. It was a conspiracy of thousands, all of whom–party to mass murder–have held their tongues ever since.
What has been the goal of the 9/11 conspiracists?
They ask questions, yes, but they never answer them.
They never put forward an overall scenario of the alleged conspiracy. They say that’s not up to them. So who is it up to? Whom do they expect to answer their questions? When answers are put forward, they are dismissed as fabrications or they simply rebound with another question. Like most cultic persuasions they excitedly invoke important converts to their faith and the “1500 architects and engineers in the USA” who say the NIST official report is not thorough and needs another investigation. It’s a tiny proportion of the overall members of their profession. At least 80 per cent of faculty economists in the US believe stoutly in long-discredited theories that have blighted the lives of millions around the world for decades. Their numbers don’t equate with intelligence, let along conclusive analysis.
The 9/11 conspiracists seize on coincidences and force them into sequences they deem to be logical and significant. Their treatment of eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence is whimsical. Apparent anomalies that seem to nourish their theories are brandished excitedly; testimony that undermines their theories–like witnesses of a large plane hitting the Pentagon — is dismissed.
Many conspiracists say it wasn’t a plane but a missile. (Other conspiracists denounce the “no plane” Pentagon as wacko.) Eye-witnesses of a large plane hitting the Pentagon — are contemptuously brushed aside. There are some photos of the impact of the “object” — i.e. the Boeing 757, flight 77 — that seem to show the sort of hole a missile might make. Ergo, 757 didn’t hit the Pentagon. It WAS a missile. It wasn’t smoke in some photographs obscuring a larger rupture in the fortified Pentagon wall. On this last matter, Chuck Spinney, now retired after years of brilliant government service exposing the Pentagon’s budgetary outrages, tells me that “there ARE pictures taken of the 757 plane hitting Pentagon — they were taken by the surveillance cameras at Pentagon’s heliport, which was right next to impact point. I have seen them both — stills and moving pictures. I just missed seeing it personally, but the driver of the van I just got out of in South Parking saw it so closely that he could see the terrified faces of passengers in windows. I knew two people who were on the plane. One was ID’d by dental remains found in the Pentagon.”
In fact hundreds of people saw the plane — people who know the difference between a plane and a cruise missile. The wreckage of the plane was hauled out from the site. Why does the obvious have to be proved? Would those who were wounded or who lost friends and colleagues that day assist in the cover up of a missile strike? Why risk using a missile, when you had a plane in the air and - to take one bizarre construct of the conspiracists — had successfully crashed (by remote control!) two into much more difficult targets–the Trade Towers?
This doesn’t faze the conspiracists. They’re immune to any reality check. Spinney “worked for the government.” They switched the dental records. The Boeing 757 was flown to Nebraska for a rendez-vous with President Bush, who shot the passengers, burned the bodies on the tarmac and gave Spinney’s friend’s teeth to Dick Cheney to drop through a hole in his trousers amid the debris in the Pentagon.
Of course there are conspiracies. The allegations that Saddam Hussein had WMD amounted to just such a one. I think there is strong evidence that FDR did have knowledge that a Japanese naval force in the north Pacific was going to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s quite possible Roosevelt thought it would be a relatively mild assault and thought it would be the final green light to get the US into the war.
It’s entirely plausible to assume that the FBI, US military intelligence, and the CIA, — as has just been rather convincingly claimed again in the latter instance — had penetrated the Al Qaeda team planning the 9/11 attacks; intelligence reports piled up in various Washington bureaucracies pointing to the impending onslaught and even the manner in which it might be carried out. The history of intelligence operations is profuse with example of successful intelligence collection, but also fatal slowness to act on the intelligence, along with eagerness not to compromise the security and future usefulness of the informant, who has to prove his own credentials by even pressing for prompt action by the plotters. Sometime an undercover agent will actually propose an action, either to deflect efforts away from some graver threat, or to put the plotters in a position where they can be caught red-handed.
There is not the slightest need to postulate pre-placed explosive charges to explain why the towers collapsed at near free fall speeds. As Pierre Sprey, a former plane and weapons designer who knows a great deal about explosions, told me:
Yet some have discovered a silver lining in the 9/11 conspiracism. A politically sophisticated leftist in Washington, DC, wrote to me, agreeing with my ridiculing of the “inside job” scenarios, but adding, “To me the most interesting thing (in the US) is how many people are willing to believe that Bush either masterminded it [the 9/11 attacks] or knew in advance and let it happen. If that number or anything close to that is true, that’s a huge base of people that are more than deeply cynical about their elected officials. That would be the real news story that the media is missing, and it’s a big one.”
“I’m not sure I see the silver lining about cynicism re government,” I answered. “People used to say the same thing about the JFK conspiracy buffs and disbelief in the Warren Commission. Actually, it seems to demobilize people from useful political activity. If the alleged perpetrators are so efficiently devilish in their plots, all resistance is futile. 9/11 conspiracism stemmed from despair and political infantilism. There’s no worthwhile energy to transfer from such kookery. It’s like saying some lunatic shouting to himself on a street corner has the capacity to be a great orator.
Anyone who ever looked at the JFK assassination will know that there are endless anomalies and loose ends. Eyewitness testimony is conflicting, forensic evidence possibly misconstrued, mishandled or just missing. But in my view, the Warren Commission, as confirmed in almost all essentials by the House Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s, had it right and Oswald fired the fatal shots from the Schoolbook Depository. The evidentiary chain for his guilt is persuasive, and the cumulative scenarios of the conspiracists entirely unconvincing. But of course–as the years roll by, and even though no death bed confession has ever buttressed those vast, CIA-related scenarios — the conspiracists keep on toiling away, their obsessions as unflagging as ever.
Richard Aldrich’s book on British intelligence, The Hidden Hand (2002), describes how a report for the Pentagon on declassification recommended that “interesting declassified material” such as information about the JFK assassination “could be released and even posted on the Internet, as a ‘diversion,’” and used to “reduce the unrestrained public appetite for ‘secrets’ by providing good faith distraction material”. Aldrich adds, “If investigative journalists and contemporary historians were absorbed with the vexatious, but rather tired, debates over the grassy knoll, they would not be busy probing into areas where they were unwelcome.”
The conspiracists have combined to produce a huge distraction, just as Danny Sheehan did with his Complaint, that mesmerized and distracted much of the Nicaraguan Solidarity Movement in the 1980s, and which finally collapsed in a Florida courtroom almost as quickly as the Towers.
There are plenty of real conspiracies in America. Why make up fake ones?