The saddest part of remembering September 11 is dealing with the myriads of 9/11 conspiracy theories, of both American and Arabic origin. Herewith some samples and a rebuttal.
9/11 conspiracy theories: the general thrust
All 9/11 conspiracy theories share this premise: the nineteen Arab suspects (mostly Saudi Arabian nationals) did not do the deed. Behind that premise lies another: that the Arabs did not have that combination of motive, opportunity and means that makes a murder case. Motive aside, many Americans cannot believe that anything less than a superpower military could lay on a complex operation like September 11. And many (though not all) Arabs want to deny that nineteen co-ethnics (and co-religionists) did such a thing.
Beyond that, those who propound these theories name different culprits, each with their own motives, opportunities, and means. What culprits anyone names says as much about his own motives as about those of the ones he accuses.
American 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: the Truther Movement
In American politics, a truther is anyone who accuses the United States government of engineering the September 11 attacks. (They have that name because they insist that they know the truth about what happened.) According to this site (and this), some of the 9/11 conspiracy theories are very wild. Some say that the hijackers of the four flights involved were covert US operatives on a suicide mission. Others say that the flights did not crash into those buildings, and all the passengers are alive and well on some South Sea island.
Brad Reagan, co-author of Debunking 9/11 Myths, reminds us that the first “truther” theories came out in the first year after the incident. Thierry Meyssan, in L’Effroyable Imposture, said that no aircraft crashed into the Pentagon. Doubtless he believes that the crew and passengers of American Airlines Flight 77 are enjoying an early retirement on Tahiti or Fiji. The problem: forensic scientists have identified DNA from Flight 77 passengers at the Pentagon crash site. So much for the bribed and disappeared passenger theory.
Others admit that the planes that many of us (including your editor) watched as they crashed into those buildings really did crash. But they then say that the government rigged 1 and 2 World Trade Center with controlled-implosion charges. To do that, the presumed US operatives would have had to aim those airliners at the precise floors at the center of upward collapses above, and downward collapses below. UAL 93, according to this narrative, was either a red herring—or aimed at the capital in a bid to destroy Congress and establish the President as a dictator.
This, then, is what moves those Americans who promote 9/11 conspiracy theories. They believe that President George W. Bush sought to:
- Justify a grand and old-fashioned campaign to seize Middle East oil fields as spoils of war.
- Change the United States into an authoritarian country—a “police state.”
That Congress survived is a miscalculation. So say the “truthers.” (That is, if they think that far. Many of them don’t even consider how UAL 93 complicates their theories, and fatally.)
Arab 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Jihad and Anti-Semitism
As the smoke of 1 and 2 World Trade Center filled the sky above lower Manhattan, Arabs literally danced in the streets of Ramallah and Jericho—or on rooftops in Jersey City. But four days later, according to Dan Klein at Jewish Exponent, the Arabs put out a different party line. According to it, the hijackers were not Arab, but Israeli—and specifically members of Mossad. The Syrian daily Al-Thawra said that Mossad warned 4,000 Jews to stay away from their World Trade Center jobs that day.
Anyone should see that that’s absurd. Nineteen people can keep a secret—but four thousand? Mossad wouldn’t dare give more than a general hint that their co-religionists should stay away. And everyone who got the warning would call the FBI immediately to share what he knew. If Mossad told them the whole story, they could never be sure that every one of the 4,000 would agree to the plan.
A third set of theories has been current for the last ten years. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14), as a candidate for President, has said often that the United States has none to blame but itself for what happened. He does not, as the “Truthers” say, suggest that US operatives destroyed the buildings and possibly the planes. Instead he says that US foreign policy, in the Middle East, the Far East, and Soviet Central Asia, provoked the September 11 attacks. Among other things, Paul cites US diplomatic support for Israel against the so-called “Palestinian Arabs” as the provocation. He dares not suggest that the United States owes the Arabs reparations or an apology. But he has said that, absent the “bias” toward Israel and other US military involvement in the Middle East, September 11, 2001 would have passed as an ordinary day, and the World Trade Center would still stand.
The Patriot movement
Sadly, 9/11 conspiracy theories are current within the “Patriot movement.” Those who promote those theories most strenuously, have concluded that the phrase free government is oxymoronic, and that only under anarchy—lack of a ruler—is freedom safe. They cite a number of sad cases of clearly excessive, even unwarranted, use of force against armed suspects. The Ruby Ridge and Waco Incidents are the most prominent incidents they cite. Novelist John Ross (Unintended Consequences) put it this way:
A smashed-up wood-frame building pumped full of CS gas doesn’t say, “Come out.” It says, “You’re dead.”
And so they conclude that any external enemies that the United States seems to have, are either figments of overheated imaginations, or falsely accused scapegoats. In other words, external enemies do not exist. Thus they serve only to excuse the government to abridge civil liberties and keep Americans under constant surveillance. They go further: the government, they say, encourages Americans to “snitch” on one another. The common warning,
If you see something, say something
becomes an open invitation to vengeful or mercenary informers. These soi-disant Patriots would say instead,
If you see something, keep your trap shut, because it’s none of your business!
Brad Reagan and his friend Dave Dunbar have offered the best scientific rebuttal to the 9/11 conspiracy theories. But no rebuttal will work without addressing the philosophy behind such theories.
Understand this: your editor holds no brief for an agency called the Transportation Security Administration (“Thousands Standing Around”). That agency has used an excess of political correctness, along with plain old-fashioned bully instinct, to make life miserable for air travelers. Some freedom-loving groups sternly tell their members never to fly again until some future action abolishes that agency. (At least, not out of an American airport. Perhaps they recommend driving up to Toronto or Montreal if they need to go overseas.)
But the United States government did not plan or execute the September 11 attacks. Neither did Mossad. That latter is a lie comparable to the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. And those who tell that lie, do so for the same motive.
The kind of people who planned the September 11 attacks are still at large. Indeed, authorities are now looking for three of them, who plan to blow up a car on a bridge or busy street in New York or Washington. The Qu’ran commands them so to act. True enough, a simple car bomb is a damp ladyfinger firecracker compared to hijacking four airliners and crashing them into buildings. But that operation is real, and every American should want someone to stop it.
And the Qu’ranic motive is real. Surah 9:5, the “Verse of the Sword,” couldn’t be clearer:
Fight and slay the infidels wheresoever ye find them! Seize them! Besiege them! Ambush them with every stratagem! But if they repent and follow Allah and pay the poor-due, then let them go their way. Lo! Allah is Forgiving! Merciful!
The government did not make this up. Authoritative Qu’ran translation sites contain this text.
One more element deserves mention, if only to condemn it before it becomes current. Rumors have it that the Russian scientist Vadim Chernobrov has built a device that can displace an object in time. Micah Hanks at MysteriousUniverse.com doubts it. But one other source alleges that the CIA has discovered a “tunnel in time” in the Antarctic and is trying to replicate it. Furthermore, two other Russian mathematicians said more than three years ago that experiments at CERN might prove that time displacement, i.e. time travel, was possible.
Your editor has no reason to believe that Dr. Chernobrov, or CERN, or the CIA has anything like a time machine. But it’s only a matter of time (pardon the pun) before some “truther” charges that Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Robert Patrick, or Sam Worthington, or Kristanna Loken went back into time to plant incriminating texts in the Qu’ran or the Hadiths or both. Nineteen Eighty-four meets The Terminator—for that is how a “truther” thinks.
George W. Bush’s blind spot fuels 9/11 conspiracy theories
Time travel aside, several “Patriots” have asked your editor a rhetorical question to this effect:
If the Muslim enemy is as deadly as you say, then why didn’t George W. Bush seal the border and have all Muslims deported?
The answer: because George W. Bush had a blind spot. He secured the airports (though how effectively, even security professionals dispute) but failed to secure the border. And he made the same mistake that many people make: saying that the nineteen men who hijacked the planes, also hijacked Islam.
Where to go from here?
The various 9/11 conspiracy theories are at best, wastes of time, and at worst, deadly distractions. The man now holding office as President has given the American people ample cause to fear their government. Arguably, certain senior career officers at the FBI and ATF have given more direct cause, and for far longer. But to deny that external enemies exist, ill befits—or behooves—the American people. Sun Tzu would certainly agree that no law of war limits a person’s enemies to one at a time.
So freedom-loving Americans should stop offering theories that independent investigators have already discredited. One can argue whether the American response to the September 11 attacks was and is appropriate in every particular. One can ask why the government has neglected the most basic element of homeland defense: an armed citizenry. One can also ask whether our security is in the most effective hands. But to return to a pre-September 11 world, which itself was not safe (witness Ruby Ridge and Waco), is not only unavailing but impossible. The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a means toward that pre-September 11 return goal. They are the stock-in-trade of leftists and anti-Semites, and have no place in a movement of genuine lovers of freedom.
Featured image: Office workers jump to their deaths from the World Trade Center, preferring death by fall to death by fire.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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