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Bedtime Stories From Your 9/11 Commission

In 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted a plan to commit widespread acts of so-called Cuban terrorism in order to "place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances," thereby inciting rage in the American public and world opinion. That, in turn, would justify a U.S. attack on Cuba to get rid of Fidel Castro. The plan included hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship with consequent loss of U.S. military life, and even developing "a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, other Florida cities and even Washington." The top-secret scheme was intended to "focus all efforts on the objective of justification for US military intervention in Cuba." The memo had the written approval of all the Joint Chiefs and its chairman, Eisenhower-appointee General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who presented the scam to defense secretary Robert McNamara in March 1962, but it apparently was rejected by the civilian leadership and then went undiscovered for 40 years.

In view of these chilling facts, we are entirely justified in asking a "sacrilegious" question: Could 9/11, a godsend for the war plans of Bush and company, have been arranged by the U.S. government? Well, yes, as a matter fact, the attacks could have been. A disturbing thought, I agree. But such a conspiracy is actually more plausible than the official account of 9/11. The behavior of government decision-makers on that fateful September day, from the President on down, otherwise remains puzzling to this day.

But let's slow down and proceed step by step. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Yes, we're entertaining a conspiracy theory. Worried about that? A conspiracy is merely "an agreement to perform together an illegal, treacherous, or evil act" (my American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin). Whoever did what on that fateful day, there were surely a dozen or more people involved. "Now, I'm not into conspiracy theories, except the ones that are true," as filmmaker Michael Moore says. The real question is, what theory best explains the events of 9/11? In truth, there are only two overarching theories, A) massive governmental incompetence, or, B) governmental complicity of one sort or another.

The government's 9/11 Commission says that it knows what happened, and (surprise!), it chooses theory A, government had a bad day. It was all a blameless bunch of confusion, communication failures and bureaucratic indecision goin' on. Yup, no firings, trials or punishments for (in)actions that day are needed. The Report supposedly gives we suffering taxpayers "the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11" (p. xvi) and strives "to provide the most complete account we can of the events of September 11, what happened and why" (p. xvii). That's absurd. The Report does no such thing, nor, really, did anybody believe that the Commissioners would, going in, did they? The Report shuns the possibility of government complicity – wouldn't want to offer the internuts the slightest sliver of respectability – and therefore hard questions raised by ugly facts are totally ignored. No, there was too much at stake. That's why the Bush administration resisted the Commission right to the end, giving us probable cause to suspect consciousness of guilt. As Sophocles wrote, "Truly, to tell lies is not honorable; But when the truth entails tremendous ruin, To speak dishonorably is pardonable."

To avoid tremendous ruin to Bush, the war party, and public confidence in the gigantic federal government itself, the 9/11 Report lies, evades and spins. Mostly it evades. The mainstream media, averting their eyes as usual, even admit as much with the euphemism that the bipartisan Commission arrived at the "lowest common denominator." The Report never confronts 9/11 skeptics on any issue, like, say, a Boeing 757 (American Airlines Flight 77) allegedly crashing into the first floor of the Pentagon and completely disappearing without a trace on the lawn through a hole in the wall no bigger than 18 feet in diameter. The tail on a Boeing 757 is 40 feet tall and the wingspan is 125 feet, with two huge outboard, steel engines. How could that happen? Look in vain at the Commission Report for an answer. Challenging questions don't exist in the Commission's world.

Even on elementary issues, the Report is woeful. Minor shortcomings abound. On Flight 11, which allegedly struck the World Trade Center's North Tower at 8:46 after departing Boston's Logan airport, the Report tells us that alleged hijackers "stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants" (p. 5). With what? Knives apparently, but how did they get them on board? Did hijackers smuggle them past screeners? Or was it an inside job, with knives smuggled on board earlier by someone? If so, by whom? The Commission never asks, so we get no answers. The incurious narrative skates by difficult questions throughout chapters 1 and 9, the only material submitted about the events of 9/11 itself.

The Flight 11 hijackers supposedly "sprayed Mace, pepper spray or some other irritant in the first-class cabin." Where'd passengers gain access to that? Again, no explanation offered. Nor does the Commission "know exactly how the hijackers gained access to the [locked] cockpit." Pretty amazing. Nearly three years after 9/11 and this is the best government's apologists can do?

The Commission believes that the Flight 11 "hijacking began at 8:14 or shortly thereafter," then supposedly a flight attendant notified American Airlines via telephone of the hijacking at 8:19 while the transponder was turned off at 8:21. Despite the mayhem aboard, no crew member ever punched in the universal four-digit code available at multiple locations for a hijack in progress. In fact, it never happened on any of the four alleged flights. How'd that happen?

The Report claims that American Flight 77 out of Dulles airport had U-turned and traveled undetected for 36 minutes on a course heading due east for Washington, DC. Even I don't believe government is that incompetent, yet the Commission sticks to its scrubbed-up version of the official story throughout. The alleged hijacker-pilot of Flight 77, Hani Hanjour, who even the Commission could not disguise as anything but "a terrible pilot" whose work was "well below standard" according to his instructors, comes in at 7,000 feet and then does a "330-degree turn. At the end of the turn, it was descending through 2,200 feet…Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, traveling at approximately 530 miles per hour." Very impressive flying for a beginner behind a big Boeing, wouldn't you say? I wonder if the Commissioners have ever driven a car or motorcycle over 120 mph? They only have one engine but things sure speed up, I can testify, compressing decision-making times drastically. You'd better be quick at good decisions or you lose control in a hurry. How could a guy like Hanjour pull this off? He couldn't. Impossible.

According to the Commission's account, Flight 77's transponder had been turned off at 8:56. Hey guys, that's a felony, and under routine FAA and NORAD procedures, an unresponsive aircraft would have warranted a fighter interceptor immediately. But somehow that September day was different and the plane reportedly was never intercepted and supposedly crashed into the Pentagon 41 minutes later, leaving not a trace after slithering through an 18 foot hole in the wall. Not even the merest scrape on the lawn. That's the Commission's story and they're sticking to it. Uh huh. Despite a fallen Pentagon façade, even the photo shown on p. 313 of the Report offers little support for the "Flight (of fancy) 77" theory (for a thorough refutation, see chapter two here). Hanjour flew miraculously and then suspended the laws of physics too!

Suppose you're an establishment type and you've got shifting, inconsistent explanations from various government agencies. You can primarily blame one agency, the FAA or NORAD, for an unprecedented collapse in national defense. Who would it be? The FAA, naturally. The Report heaps responsibility on the FAA, claiming that it failed to notify NORAD in a timely fashion in three of four hijackings, the exception being Flight 11, and there NORAD only had a nine-minute warning. This cover story allows the credulous to believe that there was no "stand down" by the air force or any such thing, even though the attacks were ongoing from 8:14 a.m. forward that morning. Don't bother your patriotic little heads with doubts about our civilian and military leadership. NORAD's fighters had routinely intercepted aircraft over a hundred times a year, but communications suddenly broke down for a few hours on 9/11. Sure.

One of the interesting things in the Report is how the Commission concocts an "improved" air defense timeline to smooth over hiccups and absolve the military from the suspected shootdown over Pennsylvania, among other desired effects. In public testimony in May before the Commission, NORAD claimed it had notice of hijacked flights 93 and 77 – for example, it had a Flight 93 hijack report at 9:16, 47 minutes before the alleged crash. No go, declares the Commission on p. 34: "This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack report at 9:16." Simple as that, flushed down the memory hole. NORAD officials also testified in May and made earlier public statements that "fighters were scrambled to respond to notifications about American 77, United 93, or both." Oops. Wrong, asserts the Commission: "These statements were incorrect as well…the scramble [was] prompted by the mistaken information about American 11…[NORAD NEADS] was notified at 9:34 that American 77 was lost." So supposedly the military only had one or two minutes to react to American 77. The military was in the dark the whole morning, that's the Commission's cover story.

Despite having FAA radar screens? Wow. Then there's the mystery of Flight 93. Oddly enough, the photo of the Shanksville, PA, crash site shown on the Report's page 313 displays no fuselage and almost no debris. A rather unconventional crash, huh? Debris scattered over 8 miles, eyewitness testimony, seismic evidence on the time of the crash and government deletion of the last three minutes of the cockpit voice tape suggest that Flight 93 (or whatever plane it may have been) crashed at 10:06, not at 10:03, and was "holed," likely shot down by a U.S. warplane. Despite such evidence, the Commission denies any military involvement. Of course we have no National Transportation Safety Board investigation of this crash or the other three. College football recruiting scandals get more attention.

What about the collapses of the World Trade Center Towers and the WTC 7 building? These could not have been caused by airliner crashes and subsequent jet fuel fires because steel melts at 1500 degrees centigrade and jet fuel peaks at 800 degrees centigrade (pp. 12–16 here). Demolition (controlled explosions) is the best explanation for such "neat," 10-second collapses of each building into its own footprint. You'd never know about these problems from the Commission. And why did the South Tower collapse 29 minutes earlier than North Tower, despite being hit 17 minutes later? No explanation. Likely answer: the fire was rapidly burning out in the motionless, stable structure, so it had to be blown early. And how could the buildings collapse in 10 seconds? Silence. Only demolition explains the facts, including how 100,000 tons of concrete could have been vaporized into dust blown horizontally a couple hundred feet, a feat demanding tremendous explosive energy. Demolition also explains why government officials hastily prevented forensic examination of the debris, especially the steel, suggesting a cover-up.

And go on we could. Suffice it to say that the 9/11 Commission's yarns spun on behalf of a massive lie are unsatisfactory. For a more satisfactory analysis, check out The New Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the world still lacks a credible, complete rendering of what happened and why on 9/11. With an arrogant, belligerent U.S. government afoot in the world fomenting war against practically anybody who's "not with us," we need a no-holds-barred, truth-rich account more desperately than ever.

August 14, 2004