By Antonia Zerbisias
Toronto Star, May 26, 2004
Citizens can choose to buy the official line on the events of Sept. 11, 2001 or they can ask questions about holes in that story as big as the crater at Ground Zero. This week, at the unlikeliest of locations, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in west-end Toronto, the International Citizens’ Inquiry into 9/11 picks up where it left off in San Francisco in March.
Here, international authors, filmmakers, academics, military and intelligence experts as well as, yes, probably the occasional conspiracy theorist, are mixing it up with ordinary people who can’t accept that all the systems simply failed on one terrible and tragic morning.
They’re gathering to focus attention on why, still, nearly three years after two planes tore through the World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field, the White House still hasn’t produced a plausible explanation for why so much went so wrong all at once.
“To ask questions and to ask them fearlessly,” says Citizens’ Inquiry director Barrie Zwicker. “This is the heart of this.”
Indeed, a majority of Canadians doubt the line out of Washington. A poll conducted for the non-profit inquiry (http://www.911inquiry.org) this month shows that 63 per cent of us believe the U.S. government had “prior knowledge of the plans for the events of September 11th, and failed to take appropriate action to stop them.”
The White House still hasn’t produced a plausible explanation for why so much went so wrong all at once.
Perhaps that’s a testament to our media, which were not at Ground Zero, not personally affected by events and not waving the flag.
Whatever the explanation, Zwicker, a media critic for more than 30 years, says the U.S. press abdicated its responsibility to probe what happened and has been “complicit” in advancing the official explanation.
“If the corporate media had looked at this from the beginning, we would be living in a different world now,” he insists. “(U.S. President) George W. Bush would have been impeached by now.”
Inquiry’s unasked questions include: Why were fighter jets not scrambled in time to stop the planes from smashing into the buildings? Why did the U.S. chain of command, including the commander-in-chief Bush, not act when the hijackings were in progress? Why were so many warnings missed? And why did it take the Kean Commission, Washington’s official 9/11 inquiry, so long to get going, and only after the bereaved families noisily lobbied for more than a year?
Among the questioners coming to Toronto are University of Ottawa economics professor Michel Chossudovsky (War and Globalization, The Truth Behind September 11), French political activist and best-selling author Thierry Meyssan (9/11: The Big Lie), former fighter pilot turned security expert Dr. Robert Bowman of Florida, the Center for Cooperative Research’s Paul Thompson, who compiled a comprehensive 9/11 timeline (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org), and Ellen Mariani, a 9/11 widow who is suing the government instead of taking a multi-million-dollar payout.
True, some of the participants have some unusual theories. For example, Meyssan, despite eyewitness accounts, has suggested that it was in fact a missile that hit the Pentagon. But at yesterday’s opening session at least, not a tin-foil hat was in site among the mostly middle-aged crowd of 100. In fact, they looked like the kind of people you might see slinging hash for the homeless at a soup kitchen.
That despite sneers yesterday from warbloggers and their acolytes. They claim that those who challenge the idea that some suicidal Arabs armed with box cutters managed to outsmart the greatest technomilitary power history has ever known are “conspirazoids,” “left-wing loonies” or “fanatical Muslims.”
All of which works great for Bush and company. That’s because, by lumping 9/11 skeptics with whackos who pick up alien voices with their tooth fillings, the mainstream media can marginalize any and all questioners as “conspiracy theorists.”
“The official story is a conspiracy theory: Osama bin Laden and his co-conspirators did it,” Zwicker emphasizes. “It’s a brilliant narrative, but upon examination of the evidence, it crumbles into dust, just like the dust of the World Trade Towers.”