CXLIV – 9/11 Was a Conspiracy

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While
you here do snoring lie
Open-eyed conspiracy
His
time doth take.
~
William Shakespeare, The Tempest

I
have lost my sense of humor to indulge
those who reflexively deny the role
of conspiracies in human affairs.
In the months following 9/11 — and
most strenuously in the days leading
up to the fifth anniversary of this
event — conventional thinking has
dictated that commentaries on that
atrocity carry the disclaimer u201CI am
not suggesting a conspiracy.u201D It seems
to be understood that entrance to
the temples of respectable journalism,
academic scholarship, or polite society
would be denied anyone who transgressed
this canon.

It
is not that a speaker must refrain
from expressing any particular conspiracy
theory to explain troublesome occurrences:
one must avoid the implication that
any form of human behavior might be
directed or influenced by conspiratorial
forces. To even consider the possibility
that a given event might have been
produced by a conspiracy, is to run
the risk of being labeled a u201Cparanoidu201D
or a u201Cwacko.u201D As we have no desire
to appear foolish in the eyes of others,
we give in to such intimidation and
preface our opinions with the aforesaid
mantra.

How
easily most of us sell out our intellectual
integrity, and at distress-sale prices.
Even men and women with excellent
minds who should know better have
collapsed in the face of such a charge.
Do we have such a fear of our own
minds that we can no longer stand
up to the epistemological inquiry
that is at the base of our character
and intelligence: how do we know what
we know? Upon what basis do we form
our opinions about the world: the
consensus of our neighbors, or our
independent judgments?

Any
intellectually respectable opinion
must be well-grounded in empirical
fact and rational analysis. I have
no use for those who spin conspiratorial
theories out of little more than fantasy,
wishful thinking, or the failure to
distinguish a temporal relationship
from a causal one. The assumption
that because event u201CXu201D occurred, and
was followed by event u201CY,u201D a causal
connection has been established, is
among the shabbiest forms of reasoning.
One might just as well argue for the
proposition that wet sidewalks cause
rain. In fact, I have no use for conspiracy
theories at all, preferring
— as my late friend, Chris Tame, so
well stated it — to focus attention
on the facts of conspiracies!
As annoying as those are who offer
lazy, simple-minded explanations for
complex events, I am far more aggravated
by those otherwise intelligent souls
who help to man the barricades of
ignorance against honest and empirically-based
inquiries into topics they have been
told are beyond rightful questioning.

As
the events of 9/11 continue — like
a monster movie — to provide us with
fear-ridden entertainment, let me
use them to illustrate my point. There
have been numerous DVDs, articles,
books, and other works that challenge
the government's u201Cofficialu201D explanations
for these attacks. While some of these
presentations test one's credulity,
others have provided purported evidence
which, if true, would lead intelligent
minds to demand further investigation.
To say this, however, is not
to give credence to any particular
theory that one might offer as a counter-explanation
to the u201Cofficialu201D one. It is only
to suggest that a further examination
might be merited.

To
ask empirically based questions is
not to make an accusation, but only
to pursue the u201Ccui bono?u201D question
as a point of departure for uncovering
wrongdoing. When a government official
was murdered in ancient Rome, it was
customary to begin the investigation
with that question: u201Cwho benefited?u201D
My wife and I are fans of the Inspector
Morse television mysteries produced
by the BBC. In a recent rerun, a man
was murdered, and the first question
out of Morse's mouth was u201Cwho stood
to benefit from this man's death?u201D

The
answer to the u201Ccui bonou201D question
does not necessarily identify the
culprit, but it is a very rational
place from which to begin asking questions.
To be a suspect is not to be
accused. If a woman is found
murdered, her husband will probably
be the first one interviewed by the
police in an effort to find her killer.
If the victim had a one-million dollar
insurance policy on her life, with
her husband as the beneficiary, this
will add to the intensity of the investigation.
This does not, of course, prove that
the husband was responsible for his
wife's death, only that it is sensible
for the police to intensify their
inquiry as to him.

I
spoke to a young college student the
other day. He informed me that he
had asked his political science professor
whether he thought it possible that
persons within the United States government
might have been involved in the 9/11
attacks. His professor adamantly denied
even the possibility, saying that
American government officials were
too decent to ever do such a thing.
Is this what passes for u201Cscienceu201D
in the study of government?

If
this academician is prepared to be
disabused of his delusions of faith
in political systems, he might want
to go to u201CGoogle,u201D and enter the phrase
u201COperation Northwoods.u201D Numerous entries
will appear, with the first one —
from Wikipedia — providing, perhaps,
the greatest amount of information
on this 1962 scheme by leading Defense
Department officials. The plan was
to have terrorist acts committed in
various American cities — including
Washington, D.C. — in which people
would be shot; bombings would take
place and planes hijacked; while u201Cevidenceu201D
would be fabricated implicating the
Castro regime with such acts. One
proposal in the plan called for the
destruction of an empty drone plane
— which, people would be told, carried
American college students on a holiday.
All of these contrived u201Cattacksu201D would
then be used as a justification for
an attack on Cuba. This plan had the
written support of all members of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including
its chairman.

That
top U.S. government officials could
concoct such a deadly plan as a pretext
for war in no way proves that 9/11
was a similarly contrived event. What
it does do, however, is strip away
some of the high-school civics class
veneer of the state that leads most
Americans, including the aforesaid
political science professor, to dismiss
in knee-jerk fashion and without any
felt need to examine the evidence,
the idea that their government
could engage in such calculated wrongdoing.
In light of the lies, forgeries, cover-ups,
and other deceptions leading to a
u201Cwaru201D in Iraq, how can any intellectually
honest person categorically deny the
possibility of the involvement
of American political interests in
9/11?

I
want to emphasize, again, that I am
not even suggesting that persons
other than Al Qaeda operatives were
responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
I know of no evidence sufficient to
sustain such an accusation. I am,
however, suggesting that a number
of critics of the u201Cofficialu201D explanation
have offered enough thoughtful evidence
and factual analysis to warrant a
thorough investigation of these events.
The inquiry should be conducted by
competent men and women with no preconceived
agenda — whether as defenders or critics
of governmental behavior — and without
fear of asking any and all empirically
related questions. Were he not a fictional
character, I would insist that Inspector
Morse — with his u201Ccui bono?u201D disposition
— be made chairman of the investigatory
group.

For
such an inquiry to have meaning, it
must be accompanied by a widespread
change in current attitudes that make
most Americans unwilling to consider
the possibility of u201Cconspiraciesu201D
directing events. Such a nave mindset
reflects an ignorance of so much of
human history as to be embarrassing.
The role of the u201Cagent provocateuru201D
— which found expression in the Operation
Northwoods plan — is much better known
to Europeans, whose political histories
are replete with well-established
in-house scheming.

To
help my American neighbors get beyond
this anti-conspiratorial brain-lock,
I proclaim that the 9/11 attacks on
the World Trade Center and Pentagon
were, indeed, brought about by a conspiracy.
Any who deny this are invited to explain
why the World Trade Center buildings
no longer appear on the New York City
skyline! Unless one is to offer the
state's favorite u201Cone-lone-nut-with-two-commandeered-airplanesu201D
as the causal explanation, it seems
quite evident that these attacks were
brought about by at least two persons,
thus constituting a u201Cconspiracy.u201D
The next question is whether the conspirators
were of Al Qaeda or other as-yet undisclosed
origins or, perhaps, a combination
thereof. One could contend that these
occurrences were the products of nothing
more than random accidents; a bad
day for airline pilots who could not
keep from plowing their planes into
buildings. But even such a far-fetched
explanation implicates a conspiracy,
as many persons in both the government
and the media went to great lengths
to inform us that these were planned
attacks.

What
forces were responsible for the crimes
of 9/11? Admittedly, I do not know,
nor am I prepared to transform my
skepticisms into accusations. Perhaps
it is the lawyer in me that has this
strange attraction to evidence
as the basis for my empirical
judgments. In employing the u201Ccui bono?u201D
test as a point of departure, I find
only two groups which, in Inspector
Morse's question, seem to have benefited
from these attacks: (1) Al Qaeda,
and (2) the United States government.
Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have
become a major political force in
the world, in large part due to the
Bush administration's violent reaction
to 9/11. But the American government
— with its expanded police and military
powers, increased military spending
and the creation of new weapons, and
the popular acceptance of the idea
that people can be held, indefinitely,
without trial — has benefited from
this event by greatly expanding its
powers. 9/11 was the product
of a conspiracy, the only question
being: who were the conspirators?

But
as with a murder investigation, that
one has benefited from a crime does
not prove one's causal role in it.
It is important that this critical
distinction continue to be made. Suspicion
and guilt are not synonymous
words. At the same time, however,
intellectually respectable thinking
demands a willingness to pursue any
inquiry wherever it may lead. There
is far too much at stake in our world
for any of us to take comfort in our
institutionally-certified ignorance
by pulling the blankets up over our
heads so that we not see the bogeyman.

But
there is another factor — what I call
u201Cexistential courageu201D — that must
remain at the forefront of our efforts
to live as human beings, rather than
as servo-mechanisms to the institutional
order. What kind of people are we
that we should lay our liberties,
property, and lives — including the
lives of our children — at the feet
of rulers, to be disposed of in any
manner that suits their momentary
temperaments? What have we become
that we regard any questioning of
this arrangement as the products of
u201Cirresponsibleu201D or u201Cparanoidu201D minds?
Why should free and energized minds
be fearful of asking any questions,
particularly those we have been told
it is improper to ask?

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