9/11: 80 Minutes of Unilateral Disarmament

What happened on 9/11, and why? Answers swirl in confusion and mystery two-and-a-half years later. Yet the events of that day and their aftermath are the pivot point of the 21st century, the linchpin of U.S. foreign policy and the principal reason our President offers for the merit of his reelection. There can be no more compelling political events to understand.

Unfortunately, the administration's behavior repeatedly demonstrates that it does not want any serious, objective inquiry into the facts of 9/11. Curious, isn't it? Consistent obstruction would make Columbo suspicious, and it ought to make us suspicious too. In the land of the (fractionally) free and home of the brave, some are brave enough to think outside the government box, and these inquiring minds want to know. Set yourself free, throw off the federal blinders and follow the evidence. This is the opposite of the "conspiracy theory" approach.

Before the necessary descent in details, let's look at the big picture first: How could such a horrific crime against the homeland succeed? The answer has got to be: "It takes a lot." That's true whether you favor the "grand incompetence" theory or the "government complicity" theory. Whatever, it takes a lot of stuff working together.

Nineteen young Arab men reportedly armed with some really, really sharp razor blades wreak mass destruction in the homeland – that's what government wants us to buy into. My reaction: you've got to be kidding! Your evidence had better be good, very, very good. Nineteen guys from the Middle East (I'll abstain from gratuitous insults against these guys for the sake of their families) up against our Goliath Department of Defense with all its fancy hardware and (pretty damned capable!) personnel and the score? David 100, Goliath zip. Total humiliation for our military. C'mon! Goliath stutters and stumbles around for 80 minutes, doing his best Hamlet, and never gets it together? The skies over America totally undefended? In the biggest assault on the United States since Pearl Harbor? Even at Pearl, a couple of guys got up in the air, didn't they? Agreed, government is incompetent but, pardon my prejudice, nineteen low-tech losers did all this? Really!? It's quite a story. And yet it's sacrilege to ask any challenging question about this story, government's involvement or its holy war on terror, consecrated by the lives lost on 9/11.

Ask and you're in the cross hairs of the Bush slime machine. Ask former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, or former counter-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke, the latest in a growing line of former, now-critical government officials, what a nasty bunch this Bush group is. Therefore, I come to praise David Ray Griffin, a professor of philosophy of religion at Claremont School of Theology in southern California, for his enormous courage in writing The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11.

Most importantly, The New Pearl Harbor puts all the tough issues into a dispassionate, scientific package. It follows the evidence where it leads and to put it mildly, finds the shifting government explanations wanting, preposterous for the most part. It's a rare book that can make a major difference in history. Yes, Griffin builds on the work of hundreds of other investigators but he is the first to put it all together in a coherent and well-written analysis.

Strong evidence contradicts virtually all of the official account, opaque as it is, but here's my top six:

  • Fact: Authorities abstained from standard operating procedures to respond to hijackings for a crucial 80 minutes.
  • Fact: Collapses of the World Trade Center Towers and WTC 7 building could not have been caused by the two airliner crashes and subsequent jet fuel fires, leaving demolition (controlled explosions) as the best explanation. Further, government officials prevented a forensic examination of the debris, especially the steel, suggesting a cover-up.
  • Fact: Photographic evidence shows that the hole in the Pentagon façade was 18 feet in diameter, tops, and there is no evidence of wreckage from a Boeing 757. A large plane like the Boeing 757, as asserted by government, could not fit in such a hole, and related physical evidence and eyewitness testimony suggests a much smaller aircraft like a guided missile caused the death and destruction at the Pentagon.
  • Fact: Passenger cell phone conversations, crash site debris and government deletion of the last three minutes of the cockpit voice tape suggest authorities ordered Flight 93 shot down over Pennsylvania after learning that passengers were gaining control and might return with live hijackers.
  • Fact: Not one employee at the FAA, Defense, WMCC, NORAD or any other culpable civilian or military branch of government has been reprimanded or dismissed for incompetence. The official fable is that indecisive employees, both civilian and military, stood around and dithered, wondering what to do, thereby creating an unprecedented systemic failure. Remember Payne Stewart, professional golf champion? The Air Force went up to check his fatal Lear jet flight on 25 October 1999. Routine. Turning off a transponder is illegal, much less calls from flight attendants at 8:21 a.m. confirming the hijack of Flight 11, fully 25 minutes before that first collision with a WTC Tower at 8:46 a.m., plenty of time to intercept it far from New York City.
  • Fact: High officials in the Bush government openly expressed their wish for a "new Pearl Harbor" because of all the benefits it would bring, and got their wish within 12 months.

Of course, there is lots more than these six facts, especially specific intel government ignored pre-9/11 and its continual obstruction of field investigators. In mid-August, for example, FBI headquarters denied Minneapolis FBI agents a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui's computer and other possessions, despite a damning French intelligence report that showed him to be a threat. Frenzied agents were blocked at every path. But the same happened to FBI agents in Phoenix, Chicago, and New York and on and on.

But let's just amplify on the first two facts above. Second only to the loss of 3,000 innocent lives and its associated property damage is the paramount fact about 9/11, namely, there was an 80-minute "outage" in standard response. Airliners or, indeed general aviation, running around willy-nilly are a threat to public safety. So flying in authorized "channels" was strict policy before 9/11, not just after. FAA regulations had instructed air traffic controllers that an aircraft emergency exists when "there is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with…any aircraft…If…you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency." Any deviation from plan and non-response is considered a real emergency.

The FAA manual specified what happens at the intercept of an totally unresponsive plane, quoting Griffin: "Rocking wings…conveys the message: u2018You have been intercepted.' The commercial jet is then supposed to respond by rocking its wings to indicate compliance, upon which the interceptor performs a u2018slow level turn, normally to the left, on to the desired heading.' The commercial plane then responds by following the escort." Non-response, according to standard procedures, risks a shoot down. Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder, a NORAD spokesman, told the Boston Globe that NORAD’s "fighters routinely intercept aircraft" and explained, "Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile."

According to military regulations, a hijacking meant that the National Military Command Center "will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exceptions of requests needing an immediate response…forward requests for DoD assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval." Immediate response means that many people in the line of command would have had the authority to prevent AA Flight 11 from slamming into WTC North. Anybody who believes that highly-trained military commanders, the guys in the killing and maiming business, sit around and dither over a potential loss of civilian life during a military emergency, paralyzed, even with well-established procedures in place, needs to get back in touch with planet earth.

The Secretary of Defense was at the Pentagon the morning of 9/11, busy discussing terrorism with Congressman Christopher Cox, pleading for more money and impressing him with his predictive powers. At 8:44 a.m., according to AP, Rumsfeld said, "There will be another event. There will be another event." Two minutes later, AA Flight 11 slammed into WTC North. Watching television at 9:35 a.m., Rumsfeld wowed Cox again by saying, "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us." A few moments later, at 9:38, the Pentagon was hit. Attacks in New York? No fighters were put over Washington.

I remember watching both wounded WTC Towers on television and my first reaction was, "Those buildings won't fall." When they did, I couldn't believe it. After the airliners penetrated and jet fuel was burning (that couldn't last long), the buildings were quiet, motionless, and stable. Photos show that the fires were small and the dark smoke indicated that they were suffocating. Such fires could never bring the temperature up enough to melt steel. That's why no steel-framed building before the alleged 9/11 exception has ever collapsed solely because of fire.

Further, the South Tower was struck 17 minutes later than the North Tower, yet collapsed 29 minutes earlier. This is suspicious in view of the fact that the South Tower fire was much smaller (the plane hit the corner and dumped most of its fuel outside). The only explanation that fits all the physical facts is controlled demolition: internal explosions at various levels shattered the three buildings and rapidly collapsed them within 10 seconds, including the "mysterious" collapse of the 47-story, steel-framed WTC 7. The physical facts support a "politically-incorrect, engineering theory," if there ever was such a thing, at every turn. For example, rather than collapsing into broken pieces, 100,000 tons of concrete in the floors were vaporized into the dust we saw in the air and on fleeing people. That takes an enormous amount of energy. We're supposed to believe that a suffocating hydrocarbon fire high up in each Tower caused this? Physically impossible.

But where's that Boeing 757 that was AA Flight 77 if it didn't crash into the Pentagon? Danged if I know. There were unconfirmed reports of a plane crash in Ohio and Kentucky but it's unexplained. And how could any group even contemplate such a conspiracy? Ever since the 1898 Spanish-American war, the dossier of foreign policy betrayals is thicker than you might think. The Gulf of Tonkin incident, for example, was completely bogus but perceived as real enough at the time to boost lucky Lyndon into a "war president."

Well, that's enough for now. Facts are stubborn things. Read the book. Educate yourself and others. Prepare to be regaled by government's investigation of itself, courtesy of the 9/11 Commission this July. Failing to ask disturbing questions about physical evidence or anything else, its report on the parade of Kabuki artists lying before it will make for some "fantastic" reading.

March 26, 2004