Sunday, September 02, 2007

9-11 Controversy Continues

Thoughts on a Painful Anniversary

Here we are, close to six years after the tragic events of September 11, 2001--a horrible day that saw two hijacked commercial airplanes slam into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the unprecedented total collapse of those two towers and WTC Building 7, a deadly air attack on the Pentagon, the dropping out of the sky of another hijacked plane, and a total death toll of close to 3000 people. I believe that we need to remember both the victims and the heros among the police and fire fighters who were the first responders that day. These are the people who died, were injured, who lost loved ones, or who helped at the risk of getting sick from the polluted WTC dust. I also think it is important to remember that there are still many unresolved questions about the September 11 attacks and the public is deeply divided on how to understand what actually caused or contributed to the success of these terrible events.

What Do Public Opinion Polls Reveal?

According to a 2004 national Zogby Associates public opinion poll, 42% of the American public believes that the Bush administration--and even the 9//11 Commission--have covered up, through various omissions and distortions, evidence that might suggest that the success of this Al Qaeda-related mission was facilitated by official US negligence, incompetence, or even complicity. Another 10% are not sure if this is true or not, which means that 52% of the American people are not confident of the 9-11 Commission truthfulness. Furthermore, a 2006 Zogby Associates public opinion poll indicates that half of New York City residents and 42% of New York State citizens believe that some elements of the US government were directly complicit in facilitating the success of the September 11 terror attacks on US soil. The motive, these respondents claim, was to create a pretext for pre-existing, but unpopular, administration policy goals--such as a desire to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, massively increase the military budget, dramatically expand US Presidential power, and increasingly stifle political dissent and curtail civil liberties long guaranteed by the Constitution. Interestingly, 62% of New Yorkers want a new, tougher, more independent investigation of 9-11.

What Are Some Of The Contending Theories Out There?

Any search of the web will detail many widely different theories about just what happened on September 11, 2001. Here is a quick overview of the key features of the major theories I've noticed in contention.

First, there is the original official conspiracy theory put forward by key leaders of the Bush Administration immediately after the attacks. This theory claims that 19 Al Qaeda operatives, with likely support from the Taliban and Iraq, engaged in a surprise attack on America of so dramatic a nature that it hadn't even been imagined by our government's counter-terrorism experts, that the plot left no warnings of any such attacks in the years and months before September 11, 2001, and that these surprise attacks could not possibly have been stopped by US intelligence agencies or the military. This theory also claims that the later US attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq were only contemplated after September 11 as a legitimate defensive response to eliminate the threat of Al Qaeda and its most likely state sponsors.

The more comprehensive official conspiracy theory, which was put forward by the 9-11 Commission appointed by President Bush, is that 19 Al Qaeda operatives engaged in an attack that had been envisioned by a few US government counter-terrorism experts, included some significant warnings that were never put together into a big picture, and was not thwarted because of some level of generalized bad luck and some poor bureaucratic design and procedures on the part of various government agencies. It blames every US government agency involved a little bit but, like the Bush Administration's earlier official theory, steers away from any claims about significant negligence, incompetence, or complicity on the part of any key players in the US government.

There is also the somewhat more critical theory put forward by some 9-11 Commission skeptics that says it wasn't just bad luck and poor bureaucratic design and procedures that enabled the attacks to succeed, but a level of near criminal neglect and incompetence on the part of several key Bush administration officials, US intelligence agencies, and the air defense system that didn't follow well-known and frequently practiced standard procedures for intercepting hijacked airplanes in US air space. Unlike the 9-11 Commission, these people also frequently believe that the Bush administration cynically took advantage of the successful attacks (facilitated through their own incompetence) by using them as a pretext for pre-existing, but previously unpopular, administration policy goals--such as a desire to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq for greater control of world oil supplies, win massive increases in the military budget, expand corporate welfare through military spending, dramatically expand US Presidential power, and increasingly stifle political dissent and civil liberties in the US and around the world.

There are also a range of even more critical theories put forward by people whose review of the available evidence suggests to them the strong possibility, if not a firm conclusion, that the fundamental problem causing the inability of the US government to stop these attacks is that key people in the Bush administration had some level of advance knowledge of the attacks and were actively complicit in facilitating the success of the attacks.

Theologian David Ray Griffin, is one such theorist and in one of his books he lists several increasingly dire levels of possible US government complicity ranging from 1) the theory that certain key people in the government knowingly interfered with normal counter-terrorism efforts in order to let the attacks happen, 2) the theory that some key government officials actually increased the destruction and psychological impact of the attacks on the US population by causing the collapse of the Twin Towers and WTC Building 7 through a pre-planned controlled demolition using explosives, and 3) the even stronger complicity theory, which argues that Al Qaeda either wasn't involved in the attacks at all, or were only patsies, in a scheme almost entirely initiated, planned, and carried out as a covert "fakse flag" operation by key figures in the civilian administration, the military, and US intelligence agencies as a pretext for the administration's drive toward war, empire, and political repression.

My guess is that a survey of the faculty, staff, and student members of the Antioch New England community would reveal that, like America as a whole, there are people here that hold each of these contending theories. My question is how much actual research have we all done to come to an informed, credible, and plausible conclusion about which theory best fits the available facts? As someone who loves his country, as well as the values of peace and democracy, I feel that engaging in this kind of research and reflection is one of our duties as active, engaged citizens.

How Can We Become More Informed About 9-11?

There are a wide variety of books, articles, studies, and documentaries that explore these issues and try to make the case for a particular point of view or come to a conclusion about which theory most plausibly fits the available evidence. The single best and most objective source I've found so far, however, is the Complete 9-11 Timeline website, an ongoing project of the Center for Cooperative Research. What is great about this website is that its team of researchers led by Paul Thompson has already created thousands of short posts based on news stories from national and international mainstream media and government sources that relate to the 9-11 terror attacks. This ever-growing number of 9-11 postings is also well categorized, searchable, and includes live links to the actual articles, webpages, reports, and video newsclips that are referred to in the post summaries. You can go immediately to original sources with this powerful online research tool.


At 7:27 PM, Blogger Erik said...

excellent snapshot of the various theories and reasoning for continued discussion and investigation of 9/11 and its ramifications. I'll be interested to see what comes of your call for debate at Antioch

At 9:54 PM, Blogger STEVE CHASE said...

Thanks Erik. I'm interested, too. If much of anything comes of it, I'll probably post something here later on. For my part, I've just order both the 9-11 Commission's Report and the Popular Science book debunking any more critical theory than what is outlined in the 9-11 Report. I've also order copies of David Ray Griffen's critique of the arguments and handling of the evidence in both of these reports. Should be interesting to study up on these four books in the cracks of a busy semester teaching Organizing Social Movements and Campaigns as well as Patterns of Environmental Activism.


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