Chomsky’s Failure of Counterfactual Reasoning: 9/11 Truth

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Introduction

Noam Chomsky has been one of the leading dissident voices on the American left for decades.  Accordingly, people put a lot of stock in what he has to say on a plethora of topics.  As with any leading figure, Chomsky’s following contains a cultic subset that takes his word as gospel warranting no critical scrutiny.  Unfortunately, Chomsky has demonstrated very poor reasoning when asked about the anomalies of 9/11 that appear to undermine the official story repeated by media and government.  The following excerpt was a response given by Chomsky to an audience member that asked about alternative hypotheses of 9/11, pejoratively labeled “conspiracy theories.”

Chomsky on 9/11 Truth: A Failure of counterfactual reasoning

“What you are referring to is a statement by a thousand people, most of them basically unknown, who make certain claims about technical facts which I’m in no position to evaluate.  The obvious thing for them to do is present their findings to the people who can make evaluations… [T]hese people you are referring to, though they don’t seem to understand it, are in fact working very hard to absolve George Bush and implicate Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  And the reason is extremely simple.  I mean everyone agrees, this is uncontroversial, that the destruction of the world trade center was attributed to Saudis. 

OK, now suppose the Bush administration had done it.  They’d have attributed it to Iraqis.  I mean they’re trying very hard to find an excuse to invade Iraq.  If they had attributed it to Iraqis, it would have been a walk away.  They would immediately get total popular support.  They’d get a UN resolution.  NATO would pass a supportive resolution.  When they attributed it to Saudis, first, they alienated their most powerful ally in the region… most important ally.  And second, they forced themselves to jump through hoops to try to concoct some sort of pretext for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction, some sort of connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam) the whole business which of course collapsed, exposing them to ridicule.  And they also diverted their efforts to a side show – invading Afghanistan for which there was very little purpose… and getting themselves caught up in that.  And delaying the invasion of Iraq, which they wanted in the first place.  So, they [Bush administration officials] couldn’t have done it, short of lunacy.  But who does it point to?  Who would have gained by attributing the destruction to Saudis?  I can think of only two people… one is Saddam Hussein, who wanted to divert a US attack on Iraq.  And the other is Osama bin Laden.  I mean the Saudis are his worst enemies.  To try to get the US to hate Saudis would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden].  At least I can’t think of anyone else who would have benefited.  So, it seems to me all these huge efforts are essentially directed to absolving the Bush administration and blaming Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  And I just don’t see any point in taking off years of study to prove that.” [1] – Noam Chomsky, 10/29/2009

We will proceed by parsing the various premises contained in this statement.  This scrutiny will show how Chomsky’s deceptive framing and exclusion of evidence distorts his conclusions, especially given more recent revelations.  Disappointingly, Chomsky has given no indication of updating or amending his views as he has made similarly dismissive comments on other occasions.  He has continually diminished the importance of expert opinions concerning the building collapses.  He has also given the same erroneous counterfactual arguments about the implications of Saudi involvement in multiple talks.  Unfortunately, the substance of Chomsky’s arguments evaporates upon close analytical scrutiny, revealing a vacuous adherence to the official account.  This analysis is not an exhaustive examination of all the oddities that are difficult to reconcile with the official account of 9/11 (e.g., suspiciously timed war games, indications of insider trading, Bush family connections to the company that ran security in the WTC complex, etc.).  It is a more modest charge.  The purpose of which is merely to show that the assumptions and framing used by Chomsky to bolster the mainstream narrative are fallacious and misleading.

What people?

NC:What you are referring to is a statement by a thousand people, most of them basically unknown, who make certain claims about technical facts which I’m in no position to evaluate.  The obvious thing for them to do is present their findings to the people who can make evaluations.” (Ibid.)

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911) is the group of “a thousand people” that Chomsky and his interlocutor were referring to.  Incidentally, today (2022) they number over 3,500 experts.   Chomsky gives a subtle slight by remarking on how they are “basically unknown.”   This is irrelevant as it does not reflect the quality of their credentials or relevance of their expertise.  After all, how many architects or engineers are actually well-known?  Not many. 

It is also important to highlight the fact that since the time of these comments by Chomsky, AE911 has attempted essentially what he recommended: 

“Project Due Diligence is a coordinated effort by a team of engineers around the world to engage the profession in performing its due diligence regarding the official reports on the three catastrophic building failures that occurred on September 11, 2001To facilitate this process of due diligence, we are giving our presentation to groups all over the world. At the conclusion of each presentation, we invite engineers to sign our petition and to join us in disseminating this information to the entire engineering profession.” [2]

They even commissioned an independent study of the World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7) collapse, which found the officially sanctioned explanation by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) completely untenable:

“On March 25, 2020, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks issued the final report of a four-year computer modeling study on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.

The 47-story WTC 7 was the third skyscraper to be completely destroyed on September 11, 2001, collapsing rapidly and symmetrically into its footprint at 5:20 PM. Seven years later, investigators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded that WTC 7 was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely as a result of normal office fires.

Contrary to the conclusions of NIST, the UAF research team found that the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11 was caused not by fires but by the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.” [3]

There was even an attempt to engage NIST to amend its conclusions, based partially on the findings of the UAF study:

“A group of eight family members who lost children, parents, siblings, and spouses on 9/11 filed a lawsuit today against the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The lawsuit alleges that NIST violated federal law in its denial of a request for correction calling on the agency to throw out the conclusions of its 2008 report on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.

The eight family members were joined by 10 structural engineers and architects and by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. All three groups of plaintiffs were signatories to the original request for correction, which identified eight ways that NIST’s fire-based scenario for the collapse of Building 7 was both physically impossible and inconsistent with the available evidence.

The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain a court order that forces NIST to perform new analyses and to develop a new “probable collapse sequence” that is physically possible and consistent with the available evidence. The plaintiffs argue that the only such scenario is a controlled demolition of the building.

In August 2020, NIST issued its initial decision denying the request for correction. Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth decried the decision as a “blatant avoidance of the arguments and facts contained in the request.” Following the group’s subsequent appeal in September 2020, NIST took until June 2021 to issue a final decision — seven months longer than the agency usually takes to respond to such appeals.

The lawsuit alleges that NIST’s denial of the request for correction is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law because the agency’s responses to the arguments in the request are irrational, evasive, and unsubstantive[4].

Chomsky’ assertion that he is “in no position to evaluate” the “claims about technical facts” made by AE911 cues his followers to ignore the issue altogether. [1]  It is an odd statement since it is perfectly legitimate and commonplace to repeat expert opinions without possessing their expertise ourselves.  Chomsky often accuses 9/11 Truth researchers of claiming to be experts in engineering and physics after spending an hour on the internet.  “Now there happen to be a lot of people around who spent an hour on the internet and think they know a lot of physics.” However, citing the opinions of actual experts is not the same as pretending to be such an expert.  Chomsky likes to conflate the two in an attempt to strawman the Truth movement.  Also, one doesn’t require advanced degrees in engineering to recognize that NIST is not offering substantive rebuttals to AE911’s attempt to engage them in a constructive technical dialogue.  A layperson can see that NIST is avoiding the issue, presumably because they don’t have a counterargument of scientific merit.  By skirting this issue, Chomsky avoids a major problem with the official narrative.  A controlled demolition would have to be explained as either unconnected with the terrorist events or somehow compatible with the mainstream hypothesis that no powerful domestic actors were involved.  Both seem like challenging cases to make.

The Afghan “Sideshow”

NC: “And they also diverted their efforts to a sideshow – invading Afghanistan for which there was very little purpose… and getting themselves caught up in that.  And delaying the invasion of Iraq, which they wanted in the first place.  So, they [Bush administration officials] couldn’t have done it, short of lunacy”. [1]

Afghanistan was no sideshow.  In fact, there were plans to invade prior to 9/11.  Chomsky reiterates the prevarication that the intervention in Afghanistan was only done as a response for the September 2001 terrorist attacks.  Had this been the case, would we expect planning for an imminent invasion before the attacks even occurred?  It seems highly doubtful to say the least.  Consider the following proof of a pre-9/11 plan to invade:

“The first draft of that new strategy, in the form of a Presidential directive, was circulated by the NSC staff on June 7, 2001 and I am told some five more meetings were held that summer at the Deputy Secretary level to address the policy questions involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against the Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan relations. By the first week of September, this process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to Principals and later became National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD)-9. The objectives of the new strategy were:

  • To eliminate the al-Qaeda network;
  • To use all elements of national power to do so — diplomatic, military, economic, intelligence, information and law enforcement;
  • To eliminate sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and related terrorist networks – and if diplomatic efforts to do so failed, to consider additional measures.

The essence of this strategy was contained in NSPD-9. It was the first major substantive national security decision directive issued by this Administration. It was presented for decision by principals on September 4, 2001 – 7 days before September 11th. The directive was signed by the President, with minor changes, and a preamble to reflect the events of 9/11, on October 25, 2001 [5].

As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained in 2004, the rationale for this pre-9/11 plan was to combat terrorism: 

“It had become increasingly clear that we could no longer afford to treat terrorism as a manageable evil – that we needed an approach that treated terrorism more like fascism — as an evil that needed to be not contained but fought and eliminated”. (Ibid.)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

This quote proves that the global war on terror was conceived before the attacks of 9/11 occurred.  Even if we take Rumsfeld’s anti-terrorist pretext at face-value, we are still left with a reason intervention was desired prior to Sept. 11, 2001.  But the question arises: How seriously should Rumsfeld be taken?  Was it only out of anti-terrorist stratagems that such a plan arose?  It is important to remember that Afghanistan had long been viewed as geostrategically important due to its location relative to oil producing regions – hence the value of securing it for U.S. interests.  Speaking at a Cato Institute conference in 1998, future Vice President Dick Cheney gave an indication of why such a massive operation against the Taliban might have been a priority:

“I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It’s almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight.” [6]

Dick Cheney, CATO Institute, [Cato Institute, 6/23/1998]

This strategic importance was because, “The only way to get that fuel [from central Asia] to bigger markets like India or the Gulf of Oman — from where it could be shipped to Western markets — was by building a pipeline through Afghanistan.” [7]

Donald Rumsfeld greeting Saudi Prince Bandar
Donald Rumsfeld and Prince Bandar

It seems that Rumsfeld was only giving us part of the story.  The reason terrorism warranted a major military operation was because it was stifling geostrategic objectives and corporate access to a crucial region of the world.  Western oil and gas interests had been courting the Taliban to exploit the central Asian energy reserves through the construction of trans-Afghan pipelines: “The Taliban and Unocal were hoping to build a $4.5 billion pipeline network to transport Caspian Sea oil and gas across Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent” [8].  Osama bin Laden threw a wrench in the works when his network attacked U.S. embassies, provoking the Clinton administration to launch airstrikes into Afghanistan:

“After U.S. missile strikes against Afghanistan, Unocal suspends pipeline project and asks American staff to leave… Citing low oil prices, concerns over Osama bin Laden, and pressure from women’s groups, Unocal withdraws from Afghan pipeline consortium” [9].

Given all this, it is curious that Chomsky would characterize such a “strategically significant” country as a mere sideshow “for which there was very little purpose.”

A Train Wreck of Counterfactuals

NC:I mean everyone agrees, this is uncontroversial, that the destruction of the world trade center was attributed to Saudis.  OK, now suppose the Bush administration had done it.  They would have attributed it to Iraqis.  I mean they’re trying very hard to find an excuse to invade Iraq.  If they had attributed it to Iraqis, it would have been a walk away.  They would immediately get total popular support.  They’d get a UN resolution.  NATO would pass a supportive resolution… they forced themselves to jump through hoops to try to concoct some sort of pretext for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction, some sort of connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam… the whole business which of course collapsed, exposing them to ridicule… But who does it point to?  Who would have gained by attributing the destruction to Saudis?  I can think of only two people… one is Saddam Hussein, who wanted to divert a US attack on Iraq.  And the other is Osama bin Laden.  I mean the Saudis are his worst enemies.  To try to get the US to hate Saudis would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden].  At least I can’t think of anyone else who would have benefited.  So it seems to me all these huge efforts are essentially directed to absolving the Bush administration and blaming Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  And I just don’t see any point in taking off years of study to prove that”. [1]

Chomsky’s counterfactual thought experiment is problematic at multiple points.  It depends on some very important assumptions: First, it assumes that Bush administration officials (and stateside ancillary parties) would not have been bound by any limitations in concocting or facilitating the 9/11 attacks, had they played a role in them.  In other words, Chomsky supposes they would have had complete freedom to attribute the attacks to anyone they wished (i.e., Iraqis).  But this is unlikely to have been the case.  If the administration desired an actual attack on the U.S. to be successful, it would have probably given aid to real jihadists who shared a sincere conviction to carry out such an attack.  This means there would have been a limited pool of terrorists that could have been indirectly supported to unknowingly fulfill the administration’s desire for a successful attack.  The conspirators within the Bush administration could have then ignored warnings of the impending crime and stifled our ability to respond defensively as we normally would have.  This hypothetical scenario matches the apparently intentional ignorance and obstruction of intelligence-sharing that could have thwarted the attack.  This extreme level of negligence does seem to have occurred:

“How the president’s national security advisor—and the president and vice president themselves—did not prioritize the urgency of new intelligence regarding a terrorist attack against the United States is still a matter of confusion and deep disappointment for [CIA Director] Tenet”. [10]

Consider the inconsistency of such disinterest in the light of Rumsfeld’s previous statement about the administration’s pre-9/11 view that terrorism was an urgent foreign policy priority. [5]  Hence, it looks more like willful ignorance than fumbling neglect.

Second, Chomsky’s argument assumes Bush administration planners would not have crafted or effectuated such a plan in concert with any foreign elements.  Notice how he frames it in his comments: “. . . suppose the Bush administration had done it.”  It seems near certain that the hijackers had no direct contact or intent to work for the interests of the Bush administration; as any American administration would be viewed as evil to a sincere jihadist.  It is a general truism that a suicidal terrorist would not waste his life on a plot that would knowingly serve the interests of his enemy.  But it is entirely possible that the hijackers were indirectly enabled by their enemy to facilitate a desired result (i.e., a successful attack).  Had this been the case, the hijackers would have been oblivious to the ultimate source and intention behind any assistance they were receiving that made the crime possible.  The identities of the intermediaries (primarily Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud) that connected the Bush administration to the hijackers give indications that this was probably the case.  In fact, they provide reasonable grounds to suspect that the faction of ideologues surrounding Bush, with significant connections to prominent Saudi elites, could have conspired to create opportunities (through backchannel support) for the hijacking plot to come to fruition.  The network of connections that has come to light is circumstantially suggestive that this hypothesis is probably correct, given the nature of the relationships and aims of the participants.

President Bush greets Saudi Prince Bandar  with Condoleezza Rice in the background standing with the Saudi King at Bush's Texas property.

There was a preponderance of neoconservative ideologues that populated the Bush administration.  Many of them were associated with a foreign policy think tank called The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was formed in 1997: “Of the twenty-five people who signed PNAC’s founding statement of principles, ten went on to serve in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney [Vice President], Donald Rumsfeld [Secretary of Defense], and Paul Wolfowitz [Deputy Secretary of Defense].” [11]  Other Bush administration officials had PNAC connections as well: John Bolton (Under Secretary of Arms Control and International Security Affairs, Ambassador to UN); Scooter Libby (Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President); Peter Rodman (Asst. Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs); Henry Rowen (Defense Policy Board member); William Schneider, Jr. (Chairman of the Defense Science Board); Abram Shulsky (Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans); Stephen Cambone (Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence); Devon Gaffney Cross (Defense Policy Board member); Paula Dobriansky (Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs); Jeane Kirkpatrick (Representative to UN). [12]

PNAC was focused on advancing American interests abroad through projection of military presence and capability.  In September of the year 2000 (about a year before the 9/11 attacks and a few months before the Bush administration assumed power), PNAC released a prescriptive report titled, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies Forces and Resources for a New Century.  Participants in its production included “six of whom [that] subsequently assumed key defense and foreign policy positions in the Bush administration.”  The document outlined the following concerns:

“If defense budgets remain at projected levels, America’s global military preeminence will be impossible to maintain, as will the world order that is secured by that preeminence. . . .  Conventional forces that are insufficient to fight multiple theater wars simultaneously cannot protect American global interests and allies. . . .  [A]ddressing the Army’s many challenges will require significantly increased funding. . . .  The true cost of not meeting our defense requirements will be a lessened capacity for American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity.

[Rebuilding America’s Defenses, PDF p. 83, Original p. 71]13

In the same report, PNAC acknowledged that such a desired transition would be accelerated by a cataclysmic assault on the United States: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”. [Rebuilding America’s Defenses, PDF p. 63, Original p. 51]

Notice how similar this sentiment is to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s admission that such a traumatizing attack was needed to justify the coveted plan to invade Afghanistan:

“Imagine the outcry any U.S. President would have faced had he proposed what would have been labeled a pre-emptive war in Afghanistan before the experience of September 11th.  Unfortunately, history shows that it can take a tragedy like September 11th to awaken the world to new threats – and the need for action – and even then there are different views.” [5]

Rumsfeld essentially explained why the 9/11 attacks were a necessary pretext to launching a desired military campaign.  He inadvertently revealed why an administration bent on such foreign policy actions would have had a motive for allowing – or enabling – such attacks on U.S. soil.  This is ample evidence that the people in key positions of the Bush administration (and their ideological acolytes) were conscious that a national tragedy like 9/11 would have advanced their goals.

This doesn’t mean that everyone in the Bush Administration with connections to PNAC would have been directly involved in the conspiracy.  But certainly there was a common ideological culture within the institutional hierarchy of the executive branch that makes a plot to have enabled a successful attack contextually plausible.  Obviously, there would have been varying degrees of participation.  The central players would have had key roles in planning and implementation, while the more peripherally involved actors would have known to look the other way and allow things to unfold in a desirable fashion (e.g., willful neglect of warnings). 

Perhaps this complicit culture of intentional ineffectuality was ultimately behind the breakdown of intelligence-sharing that could have prevented the attacks.  The flow of crucial information seems to have been thwarted from high levels of the Bush administration, as attested by the experience of then-acting Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke:

“In his memoir, Against All Enemies, Clarke wrote that Condoleezza Rice decided that the position of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism should be downgraded. By demoting the office, he believed that the Administration sent a signal to the national security bureaucracy that reduced the salience of terrorism. No longer would Clarke’s memos go to the President; instead they had to pass through a chain of command of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, who bounced every one of them back.” [14]

Such deliberate stifling of bureaucratic cooperation would also explain the puzzling failure of crucial information to have reached Clarke as well:

“Clarke, who led government-wide counterterrorism efforts from the White House during the Bush and Clinton administration, has said in the past that he was astonished to learn after 9/11 that the CIA had long known about the presence of Hazmi and Mihdhar inside the United States … He said that if he had known anything about Hazmi and Mihdhar even days before 9/11, he would have ordered an immediate manhunt to find them—and that it would have succeeded, possibly disrupting the 9/11 plot.” [15]

clarke-memo

Another part of this network of potential conspirators was the Saudi elite and their terrorist beneficiaries: 

“Some leaked information from CIA and FBI documents allege that there is ‘incontrovertible evidence’ that Saudi government officials, including from the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles, gave the hijackers both financial and logistical aid. Among those named were then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and Osama Bassnan, a Saudi agent, as well as American al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta, and Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd.” [16]

Consider Prince Bandar’s connections to both the hijackers and Bush administration neocons.  Does it seem likely that such a person would be working against the wishes of the Americans he had become so close to?

“Bandar has formed close relationships with several American presidents, notably George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the latter giving him the affectionate and controversial nickname ‘Bandar Bush’. . . . He was reportedly so close to George H. W. Bush that he was often described as a member of the former president’s family. He advocated Saddam Hussein‘s overthrow in Iraq in March 2003.   He encouraged military action against Iraq and supported Dick Cheney‘s agenda for ‘The New Middle East’, which called for pro-democracy programs in both Syria and Iran.   Additionally, Bandar’s children supposedly attended the same school where Cheney’s grandchildren were enrolled.” [17]

“Incredibly, the connection to Bandar was made through an alleged recruiter for Al Qaeda, whose phone book was obtained during a Pakistani raid in March 2002.” [18].

Senator Bob Graham mentions some of these connections to the hijackers:

“Now coming back to the question of Bandar, the 28 pages discussed the fact that one of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates, a man named Abu Zubaydah, was captured in Pakistan shortly after 9/11. Among his effects was a notebook of telephone numbers. Two of those numbers related to Prince Bandar. One of them was to his mansion/second home in Aspen, Colorado. The other was to his bodyguard in Washington, D.C. That’s all we know about those numbers. The second is that Bandar was alleged to have provided funding for an intermediary who was close to one of the persons in San Diego who was providing assistance and support to the three hijackers who lived there.” [19]

One of the links in the chain from “Bandar Bush” to the hijackers was Osama Bassnan: 

Osama Bassnan was a Saudi citizen who lived in San Diego and boasted to an FBI asset about the assistance he provided to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar. . . .  It had previously been established that Bassnan’s wife had received a series of cashier’s checks from Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States and close confidant of President George W. Bush Prince Bandar. Those checks—which the 28 pages say totaled $74,000—were claimed to have been charitable in nature, meant to aid Bassnan’s wife in paying for medical treatments. Newly revealed in the 28 pages is a direct payment of $15,000 from Bandar to Bassnan in May 1998. The pages also cite a CIA report that indicates Bassnan received a “significant amount of cash” from an unidentified member of the Saudi royal family in a 2002 Houston meeting—seven months after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.” [20]

Note the peculiar fact that Hazmi and Midhar were the same hijackers that Richard Clarke seems to have been deliberately kept in the dark about.  The fact that these two specific men were also linked to Prince Bandar may be more than a random coincidence, given his comradery with the upper echelons of the Bush White House that were clamoring for a pretext for war.  Clarke speculated that the reason he was not given this information was because the CIA had been attempting to infiltrate al-Qaeda and did not want their operation interfered with.  But this seems an unlikely explanation as the whole point of infiltration would be to stop a terrorist event like 9/11 from occurring in the first place.  It strains credulity to posit a scenario in which the CIA allowed a massive plot to proceed because they were making efforts to get people inside the terrorist organization for the specific purpose of neutralizing just such an attack.  Unsurprisingly, the CIA has denied the existence of Clarkes’ conjectured infiltration bungle as it assumes an absurd level of incompetence.  Perhaps Clarke wanted to avoid the more uncomfortable possibility that the plot was desired and enabled by the administration, which is probably the ultimate reason he was cut out of the loop of vital intelligence.

It is noteworthy that both Clarke and Tenet identified the White House as a source of the obstructive sabotaging of intelligence sharing that crippled an appropriate response.  Tenet was mystified by the apparent disinterest of the Bush administration in the warnings sent by the CIA. [10]  Clarke claimed that his role was deprioritized and all his reports involving terrorism were “bounced back”. [14, 15]  Remember, Rumsfeld claimed that terrorism was a deemed a foreign policy focus of the administration even before 9/11, as evidenced by the NSPD-9. [5]  Rumsfeld also admitted that 9/11 was a useful pretext for attacking Afghanistan.  How does one square this hyper focus on terrorism as a central plank of foreign policy with the negligent obstruction and disinterest in warnings of imminent terrorist threats?  A natural inference that reconciles this incongruity is that the attacks were allowed to happen precisely for the reasons outlined by Rumsfeld and PNAC.       

Another connection from Prince Bandar to 9/11 hijackers was Omar al-Bayoumi.  Additionally, he has been shown to have been connected to the House of Saud as a member of their intelligence services:

Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi, a legal U.S. resident, assisted two of the 9/11 hijackers when they first arrived in San Diego. The FBI had identified al-Bayoumi as a Saudi intelligence agent prior to the arrival of the hijackers. . . . Al-Bayoumi had ties not only to Saudi intelligence but to the Saudi royal family as well. He received a hefty monthly check starting in 1999 from a bank account under the name of a Saudi princess, the wife of the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, Bandar bin Sultan.” [21]

The significance of Prince Bandar as a crucial bridge within an ad hoc criminal network (that connected American neoconservative political operatives to foreign hijackers) reflects an elementary principle of Social Network Analysis (SNA) deployed by law enforcement specialists: “So, for network analysis we are basically looking at people who form points or nodes in the network and they have identifiable links between one person and another . . .” [22]  This type of investigative approach is important, since “analysts are predominantly using SNA as a way of identifying individuals who were not previously on the radar of law enforcement agencies” (Ibid.).  As we will see, Prince Bandar has been intentionally kept off the radar.  It is rational to suspect the reason for this was to hide the scope of the conspiracy that facilitated the 9/11 attacks.  His connections have potentially damning implications about the extent of the criminal network in which he seems to have been situated.  However, a cursory examination of his ties to powerful players in Washington makes the revelations of supportive financial flows to 9/11 hijackers (through Bayoumi and Bassnan) warrant extreme suspicion and scrutiny. [17, 20, 21]

Were these connections merely fortuitous coincidences?  Does Bandar’s personal closeness to the Bush administration and sympathies for their objectives make it likely that he would have done something to betray those relationships?  This seems highly improbable.  By ignoring these relationships, Chomsky offers an inadequate analysis.  He doesn’t take into account the probable indicators of a social network based on shared interests that could have been fertile ground for a conspiracy to ensure the success of the 9/11 plot.

The Enemy of My Friends…

NC: “When they attributed it to Saudis, first of all, they alienated their most powerful ally in the region . . . most important ally.   I mean, the Saudis are his worst enemies.  To try to get the US to hate Saudis would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden].” [1]

Chomsky echoes the conventional interpretation of Bush not wanting to alienate the Saudis.  This is a commonplace observation:

“Immediately after the attacks, the Bush administration downplayed the Saudi connection and suppressed evidence that might link powerful Saudis to the funding of Islamic extremism and terrorism. The Bush White House didn’t want to upset its relationship with one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations, which was also an American ally with enormous political influence in Washington . . .” [23]

Similarly, the Saudis didn’t want bin Laden captured because of fear that he would reveal information about high level-Saudi funding for previous terrorist operations. [24]  If captured and interrogated, he could potentially bring down powerful Saudis with terrorist connections.  But the dynamic between the Saudis and U.S. is perhaps more complicated than Chomsky lets on.  It is true that there were sometimes very public tensions between Crown Prince Abdullah and the Bush II administration regarding the American position on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Yet it is hard to know how much of that acrimony was for show (with the purpose shoring up common cause with a very popular anti-Israeli Arab sentiment).  Even granting such areas of tension, would the fear of alienating the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be the driving factor in shielding them from perceived complicity in 9/11, given that they were heavily dependent on the U.S. at an existential level? 

“After all, the House of Saud has long been virtually dependent on Washington’s protection for its very survival.  Arms and security guarantees supplied by Washington represent a formidable obstacle to any Saudis seeking to take their country down a different path, and have played a significant, perhaps decisive, role in keeping the regime in power.  Washington is the ultimate sponsor and guarantor of this repressive regional order, through massive arms deals, training for regime security forces, and the large-scale presence of its own troops and military apparatus.” [25]

This shows a fundamental reliance of the House of Saud on Washington.  The two countries had grown into a symbiotic relationship.  This is because:

“From its establishment in 1932 to the present day, Saudi Arabia has attached great importance to developing good relations with the U.S., which has been its most crucial security guarantor. Thanks to U.S. support, Saudi Arabia, for almost a century now, has been able to overcome the gravest regional threats confronting it. For the United States, the oversight of the enormous hydrocarbon resources of the Gulf region, especially those of the Saudis, is crucial to the U.S.’s own energy security and claim of global leadership. These mutual interests have been pivotal in keeping the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. very close since 1932. [ . . . ]  No global power other than the U.S. has the motivation and capacity to ensure security in the Gulf; 2. Saudi-U.S. relations are based on interests, and not common values.” [26]

As a result of being so-tethered, the House of Saud would have been equally as worried about alienating Washington as vice versa.  Therefore, if the people in power in the United States had wanted “a new Pearl Harbor” (i.e. PNAC), then support from the Saudi government to the attackers might not be so hard to imagine.  They would have known they weren’t acting inappropriately with respect to their benefactors in Washington by supporting an operation that was ultimately desired.  As demonstrated above, we know that the Bush neocons wanted to enhance American global hegemony through expanded and improved projection of military power.  It was explicitly observed that they would need a traumatic event to rouse public support for such an agenda. 

It is also worth remembering that there was much anti-government domestic sympathy for al-Qaeda within Saudi Arabia, which made dealing with them a very delicate issue for the ruling elites.

“There is a broad category of Saudis who agree with the extreme interpretations of religion and the call to jihad espoused by Osama bin Laden, and they’re also in agreement with bin Laden’s political perspective — accusing the Saudi royals of being puppets of the West, attacking the U.S. for support of Israel and its invasion of Iraq, opposing the U.S. troop presence in the region. There is a significant section of Saudi public opinion that is supportive of bin Laden, and it’s within that sea that these al-Qaeda extremists swim.  Setting out to crush al-Qaeda puts the government into conflict with this significant section of Saudi society, and that’s a difficult problem.” [27]

This conflict of ostensibly incompatible interests (i.e. depending on the U.S. to remain in power while needing to placate a largely anti-U.S. population) was even tangentially acknowledged in the PNAC report mentioned above:

“Although Saudi domestic sensibilities demand that the forces based in the Kingdom nominally remain rotational forces, it has become apparent that this is now a semi-permanent mission. From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene.” [13]

However, an increased American military presence in the Gulf region (the likes of which would be justified by “a new Pearl Harbor”) could be viewed as desirable to the Saudi ruling class.  It would give them the security of having a powerful protective ally nearby to bolster their hold on power while simultaneously facilitating a reduced U.S. military footprint within Saudi borders, which could diffuse domestic hostility to the Kingdom.  Hence, it is conceivable that a 9/11 attack could have been perceived as agreeable to the Saudi regime. 

So, while the House of Saud may not have wanted to stir the hornet’s nest of domestic tensions themselves, it is far from clear that they would have been alienated by the United States blaming bin Laden’s network for the crimes of 9/11, precisely because the “Saudis are his worst enemies.”

“Saudi-born Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has long called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family to punish it for allowing U.S. military bases in the kingdom. He broke with the monarchy in 1990 over the Gulf War, when the kingdom invited U.S.-led coalition troops onto Saudi soil to defend its oil fields and to prepare to attack Iraq.” [28]

Bin Laden had been excommunicated from the house of Saud and living in Afghanistan since 1996:  “1994 — The Saudi government officially strips bin Laden of his citizenship, freezing all the remaining assets he has in the country. His family disowns him as well.” [29]  This suggests that bin Laden’s culpability in the 9/11 events would not necessarily reflect badly on a government that had previously rebuked him as a persona non grata.  And the House of Saud would not have been antagonized by one of their principle enemies (bin Laden) catching the wrath of the American military behemoth, so long as he wasn’t put in a position to incriminate any of them (i.e. through the opportunity to stand trial and testify).  Chomsky’s massive elisions make his reasoning on this uncogent.  Back-channel support from Saudi elites for an attack attributable to bin Laden would have been a good way to persecute a figurehead of anti-government sentiment while achieving aims of American friends that wanted a pretext for military interventions.  So, blaming bin Laden (who the Saudi ruling elite viewed as an enemy, even stripping him of his citizenship) would likely have been within the Saudi regime’s self-interest, insofar as members of that regime themselves would not have been publicly culpable for the 9/11 crime.  It would have channeled perceived responsibility for the attacks away from the Saudis that we wouldn’t have wished to implicate, while bringing more American military force against one of the kingdom’s most hated adversaries (who had been based in Afghanistan, not Saudi Arabia).  In fact, the U.S. government and media were very quick to blame bin Laden without any substantive evidence linking him to the attacks; so, it didn’t seem to be against their perceived self-interest to do so:

“Through corporate media, the Bush administration told the American people that bin Laden was ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. The federal government claims to have invaded Afghanistan to ‘root out’ bin Laden and the Taliban, yet nearly six years later, the FBI said that it had no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.” [30]

Interestingly, this is compatible with Osama bin Laden’s own statements in his first interview after the attacks of 2001: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks.” [31]  This dovetails with the dubious translations of bin Laden’s supposed confession in which certain words may have been added to make it sound more incriminating than it actually was in the original Arabic.

“Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, states, ‘I have carefully examined the Pentagon’s translation.  This translation is very problematic.  At the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic…. Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg sums it up: ‘The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribes them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it.’” [32]

Of course, this does not decisively prove that bin Laden was being honest in his denial of involvement.  But it does suggest that as a possibility worthy of serious consideration.  After all, the mere ideological affiliation of the hijackers with bin Laden doesn’t entail that he would have been involved in every operation in which they participated.  Apparently, the FBI didn’t see a necessary connection.  The organizational structure of al-Qaeda was a distributed network as opposed to a centralized network. [33]  Therefore, it is plausible that an operation could have been undertaken without bin Laden occupying a central role in its planning or execution.

“Although Osama bin Laden is commonly thought to be the leader of al-Qaeda, in reality there is no one in charge of this organization. He is attributed with providing the fundamental ideology, as well as, the operating goals and objectives for this organization. However, it would not be possible to track an operational cell to him through an organizational structure.” (Ibid.)

However, the question of bin Laden’s involvement does not affect the relevance of the information that follows, insofar as it does not negate the evidence of a social network that included both Saudi and American participants as potential conspirators.

A crucial piece of background information neglected by Chomsky is the well-documented fact that the principle elite Saudi connection to the hijackers was Prince Bandar.  As we saw, Bandar was very close to the Bush administration and agreed with their agenda. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.   As mentioned before, it is difficult to believe that Prince Bandar (or the Saudi regime) would have done anything against the wishes of the U.S., given the history of his loyalties and the Saudi government’s dependence on the U.S. – especially if they could have blamed a common enemy like bin Laden.  Far from alienating the Saudi ruling class, the attribution of the 9/11 attacks to bin Laden would shift the focus and ire of the Americans onto a shared adversary of the Saudi regime.  It clearly satisfied the desires of the U.S. neocons in power at the time, to which the House of Saud were largely beholden.  Chomsky had it backwards.  Bin Laden was known to be behind the terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, so he was already in the crosshairs.  The difficulties that bin Laden created in Afghanistan (provoking airstrikes from Clinton and scaring away Unocal) turned bin Laden into more than just a terrorist.  He became a problematic stumbling block to corporate and strategic U.S. interests.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had already disowned him for working against the legitimacy of their rule.  Aside from not wanting to cause tumult among the restive Arabs that felt some solidarity with al-Qaeda, the House of Saud would have been simpatico with the U.S. regarding bin Laden.  Chomsky completely misses this nuance in his assessment. 

To the extent that the official narrative was believed, it is hard to imagine an American public so-indoctrinated would have demanded attacking a government that was also ostensibly at odds with bin Laden (i.e. the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).  This paramount necessity to narrow the focus on bin Laden and al-Qaeda is evinced by the fact that an active effort was made to shield the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from being implicated.  Any supportive connections to the hijackers (e.g. funding) were effectively downplayed or ignored in the official investigation of the 9/11 Commission:

“Staff Director of the 9/11 Commission, Phil Zelikow, actively worked against any thorough investigation into the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its role in the 9/11 attacks.  So, when two JICI staffers were brought over to the 9/11 Commission to continue their work on the links between the KSA and the 9/11 attacks, they were blocked by Zelikow. Zelikow fired one investigator when she tried to access the 28 pages as part of her further investigation and work for the commission.  And, the second staffer (who was the person responsible for writing the 28 pages in the first place when he worked on the JICI) was actively thwarted from his investigation by Zelikow, as well.  In fact, once the 9/11 Commission report was in its final draft form, Zelikow ‘re-wrote’ the entire section that dealt with the Saudis — leaving out vital, highly pertinent, and extremely damning information.  Thus, when a person says the 9/11 Commission, ‘found no evidence linking the Saudis,’ be wary of the cute context of the words. The 9/11 Commission ‘found no evidence’ because they were either never allowed to look for any evidence or whatever evidence they did find was conveniently written out of the final report, compliments of Phil Zelikow.  Why would Zelikow block his own investigation?  No one knows for sure, but for starters, Zelikow was taking regular phone calls from White House political adviser Karl Rove whose job at the time was to ramp up the drumbeat for the war in Iraq — not a war with Saudi Arabia.  In addition, Zelikow was part of George W. Bush’s transition team and good friends with Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. In fact, it was Zelikow’s job to brief the incoming Bush Administration about national security issues.” [24]

Such coordinated misdirection was probably intended to prevent the public from seeing the uncomfortable (and potentially incriminating) connections between powerful players in Washington, the House of Saud, and the terrorists.  It seems less likely to have been about alienating the symbiotically dependent Saudi regime, as Chomsky would have us believe. [25, 26]

It was relatively easy for Bush (et al.) to direct the American population’s thirst for revenge towards Afghanistan (rather than Saudi Arabia), as bin Laden had been operating from there for some time.  They clearly intended to focus the attention on bin Laden and Afghanistan while deflecting attention away from any the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The propagandistic utility of declaring a “war on terror” was its broad applicability (not narrowly identified with one specific country): “The naming of the campaign [the War on Terror] uses a metaphor of war to refer to a variety of actions that do not constitute a specific war as traditionally defined.” [34]  It was used as an umbrella policy that could encapsulate any operation in any country, so long as a rhetorical link with terrorism could be made to the targeted nation.  With such flexibility to selectively frame interventionist justifications, the Bush administration exercised confident control over which countries to demonize.  They obviously assumed they could guide the narrative to keep the Kingdom in the clear.  All of this makes Chomsky’s insistence that Saudi involvement precludes a Bush administration role in the attacks misguided, to say the least.  It depends on which Saudis we are talking about. 

Another Blind Spot

Chomsky has done his listeners a disservice by offering up transparently inadequate arguments against skeptics of the official 9/11 story.  He has failed to acknowledge the legitimacy of the expert testimony that has accumulated against the official explanation of the WTC 7 building collapse. 

“The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST and private engineering firms that studied the collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.” [35]

This issue has to be dealt with when comparing the merits of alternative hypotheses.  If pre-planned demolitions were involved, how does the official story (which Chomsky prefers) explain this?  Could it have been completely disconnected from the terrorist operations on 9/11?  If so, how could it have been a surprise to people that were employed there? 

This is a counterfactual point that Chomsky completely misses:  Barry Jennings, the Deputy Director of Emergency Services for the New York City Housing Authority, was called in to WTC 7 to assist the emergency response coordination on the morning of 9/11.  After being trapped in the building for an extended period, he managed to get out.  While fleeing the area, he heard about the collapse: “That’s when I found out Building Seven came down; I was so surprised.[36]  A normal aboveboard building demolition would have been known and expected by the people with occupational responsibilities in the building scheduled for destruction.  Certainly, someone in Jennings’ position would have known about a legitimately sanctioned demolition before being called to work there.

While in the building, Jennings witnessed a quickly abandoned workplace, not a scene you would anticipate had a planned demolition been scheduled for the near future:

“Upon arriving into the OEM EOC [Emergency Operations Center], we noticed that everybody was gone. I saw coffee that was on the desk. The smoke was still coming off the coffee. I saw half-eaten sandwiches.” (Ibid.)

How likely would the people that so quickly vacated their work stations have even been there on a day when a demolition was planned?  One could speculate that perhaps the building had been wired for destruction at some time in the coming days or weeks, and the events of 9/11 made them decide to do it ahead of schedule.  Obviously, it makes sense that the employees of WTC 7 evacuated their work stations after the first tower had been hit by the airplane.  However, it seems highly improbable that anyone would have even been allowed to report to work in a building that was in the process of being prepared for demolition, let alone one that had already been fully rigged for destruction.  This is an important and revealing counterfactual deduction often missed in discussions of Jennings’ harrowing experience.  No building that had been wired for a controlled implosion would have been staffed by anyone other than the workers preparing the demolition.  Yet, the physical evidence points to a preplanned and professionally orchestrated destruction (as indicated by the UAF study, to which NIST has no rebuttal).  Imagine a normal office building:  Would employees be allowed to come to work in city hall if it had been rigged with explosive charges?  Would factory workers be allowed to continue on an assembly line had their entire facility been prepped with explosive charges with the purpose of bringing it down?  As counterintuitive as that would be, all indications are that WTC 7 had been functioning as a normal work setting for the offices within it up to the morning of the attacks.  Ergo, this was not an aboveboard implosion prepared under the normally expected protocols.  This is a very problematic anomaly that the officially sanctioned narrative does not even attempt to account for.  Thus, Barry Jennings’ testimony is another important piece of information that Chomsky shows no awareness of or interest in. 

Concluding Assessment

This pressing question arises: Is a professional demolition more probable on a hypothesis that includes high-level domestic U.S. involvement?  Or, is it more likely on the official account that portrays al-Qaeda operatives as having sole responsibility for the events of that day?  I submit the former is more likely.  Clearly there are ambiguities and gaps in knowledge that deprive of us of a smoking gun either way.  But this need not prevent us from weighing the balance of evidence and assessing whether or not one hypothesis can be rendered most probable, based on the information we do have.  If a demolition is more likely on the physical evidence, those advocating for the official story are obligated to offer a plausible scenario of how such a secure building (that included CIA, DOD, IRS, SEC and U.S. Secret Service offices) could have been accessed to rig an elaborate system of explosives capable of causing a symmetrical collapse. [35, 37]  Chomsky’s negligence of this line of inquiry reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of his approach to 9/11.

Chomsky has violated one of the cornerstones of objective historiography by eliding relevant background information.  He has straw-manned skeptics in the truth movement by representing their position simply as “Bush did it.”  The Truth movement is not monolithic as it contains many different hypotheses that challenge the official narrative, from the outright outlandish to the more conservative and reasonable. 

There is a plausible hypothesis that Chomsky refuses to properly entertain:  It is well-established that several prominent members of the Bush administration had an ideological commitment to remaking the United States’ global preeminence through militaristic means, as evinced by the prevalence of PNAC members at high levels of the executive. [11-13, 38]  These people also have demonstrable ties to the Saudis (e.g. Prince Bandar) that gave back-channel support to some of the hijackers. [16-21]  Presumably, the U.S. political players around Bush (and their domestic networks of power elites) would have had a greater ability to prepare professional demolitions in a highly secured facility than al-Qaeda operatives alone would have had.  Chomsky is ignoring the possibility that these war-hungry American ideologues (who expressed the need for a sufficient pretext) conspired with powerful Saudi associates to enable terrorist hijackers to successfully attack the territorial U.S. while setting the buildings up for maximal destruction to increase public trauma and gin up a pro-war patriotic sentiment.  The history of associations and ideological affinities among the neocons that populated the Bush White House make a conspiracy arising from such ranks very plausible.  Key players from this group that occupied the apex of the Executive hierarchy were intimately connected to powerful Saudis that gave material support (through intermediaries) to terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. 

This hypothesis does entail a conspiracy in the strict sense of the word.  But the official story is also about a conspiracy.  Both scenarios involve a group effort to orchestrate and effectuate a criminal plot.  The main difference is that this alternative account (that incorporates prominent U.S. political networks) has greater explanatory power with regards to certain data points that are problematic and unexpected on the establishment narrative.  It is true that the fragmentary nature of the information we have leaves many unanswered questions as to specifics.  But this does not preclude the legitimacy of offering a more generic theory of U.S. power elite involvement that renders the anomalous evidence (e.g. controlled demolition, domestic political need for an attack, social networks connecting administration officials to Saudis with terrorist links, etc.) more probable than the mainstream account (that restricts responsibility to al-Qaeda) does.

“What really binds the power elite to one another are their mutual interests… The importance of social networks cannot be overstated for it is in these powerful, yet informal, networks that bonds are formed . . .” [39]

As we have seen, much of the data that Chomsky neglects is more consistent with this alternative hypothesis than with the officially sanctioned one.  As a result of his omissions and distortions, Chomsky’s probability assessments are skewed in favor of the official account.  It is sad to see such a valued figure reduced to blatant sophistry.

Postscript: Assessing the Evidential Weight of Expert Opinion

NC: “You’re right that there’s a consensus among a miniscule number of architects and engineers. A tiny number.  A couple of them are perfectly serious.” [40]

In this statement, Chomsky slips into a common rhetorical tactic of 9/11 Truth debunkers when discussing the multitude of architects, engineers and other experts that have publicly doubted the NIST account of the WTC building collapses. He downplays the significance of the number of experts (over 3,500 as of 2022) that have voiced skepticism about the official account.  The obvious point implied by his emphasis on the “tiny number” of architects and engineers that have publicly questioned the official story is that this number is only a small fraction of the total pool of such qualified professionals, most of whom have not publicly voiced this skepticism. Hence, the insinuation is that such skepticism is unwarranted, since it is only expressed by a minority of the people that work in those areas.  This rhetorical strategy implicitly relies on a series of misleading conflations and the formal logical fallacy called affirming the consequent.
Formally, it can be expressed as the following syllogism:

Premise 1.) A, therefore B
Premise 2.) B
Conclusion: A

Or:

Premise 1.) [A] If a person is an expert that publicly criticizes the official 9/11 story, then [B] they doubt the official 9/11 story.
Premise 2.) [B] An expert doubts the official 9/11 story.
Conclusion: Therefore, [A] that expert will publicly criticize the official 9/11 story.

Obviously, the conclusion in this argument form does not follow. One can visualize it in a Venn diagram (see below). If all members of A are members of B, that doesn’t entail that all members of B belong to A. There may be many more experts that doubt the official story, but for one reason or another (careerism, fear of ridicule, peer pressure, etc.), refuse to voice their objections.

Another crucial consideration is that not all experts in relevant fields have even looked into the issue and scrutinized the data.  The only germane opinions are the ones of experts that have evaluated the data in a scientifically dispassionate way. If that group became our set C (see diagram), it may be that B would be a relatively large subset (if not coterminous with C).  We can also represent the totality of those with relevant expertise as the biggest set [D], becoming the outermost circle in the Venn diagram.  By tacitly appealing to this totality, Chomsky may be covertly treating set C as coterminous with set D, and contrasting that fallaciously conflated set with A.  But the only ratio that matters is that of subset B (i.e. all the relevant experts that doubt the official story) and set C (i.e. the entire pool of relevant experts that have evaluated the data in a scientifically dispassionate way).  Unfortunately, this ratio is not easily accessible as we lack data on these numbers.  Yet, acknowledgment of these categorical distinctions is crucial for any honest appeal to expert testimony.  Disappointingly, Chomsky’s comments evince a fallacy of category conflation.

“Conflation is the merging of two or more sets of information, texts, ideas, opinions, etc., into one, often in error.


In logic, it is the practice of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one, which produces errors or misunderstandings as a fusion of distinct subjects tends to obscure analysis of relationships which are emphasized by contrasts.” [41]

While this conflation is not explicitly stated in Chomsky’s remarks, it is strongly implied by the fact that he calls attention to the “miniscule number of architects and engineers” as if it has supportive relevance to his dismissal of their concerns.

4 circles from large to small, the largest contains the smallest. Each circle represents dispassionate experts.
Relevently-credentialed experts

According to Chomsky, the reason offered by truthers for the (relatively) small number of vocal advocates within the relevant expert communities is that they are afraid of government reprisal:  “[T]he scientists and engineers and professional societies and physicists are so intimidated by the government that they’re afraid; they don’t have the courage to take this position.” [39]  This might be a straw man, as it is hard to determine how common this explanation actually is within the 9/11 Truth community.  But it is irrelevant, since it is entirely plausible that straightforward careerism (and its concomitant reputation management) might act as a disincentive to engagement and dispassionate analysis by those with the technical qualifications to do so.  The threat of being labeled a conspiracy theorist for merely considering an alternative position on the building collapses might be perceived as enough of a nuisance to many professional engineers and physicists to discourage them from looking into it objectively.  This probably explains why many in set D are excluded from subset C.  However, given the myopic bias that plagues the official explanations advanced by NIST (and derivative parties), it wouldn’t be surprising if B encompasses a majority of the members of set C.  It would certainly be a mistake to infer that A:D (an undoubtedly small ratio) accurately reflects B:C (which may be very large).  Yet this conflation is strongly implied by Chomsky’s emphasis of the small size of the subset expert community that has joined the cause of 9/11 Truth.  However, once these substantive categorical nuances are introduced, A:D becomes largely irrelevant to assessing the evidential weight of credentialed opinion on the issue of the WTC building collapses.  The ratio of B:C is the only one that matters, no matter how difficult it may be to ascertain.

Another rhetorical tactic employed by Chomsky is the insinuation that a prevalent research modality of 9/11 Truth advocates is characterized by the false assumption that sufficient expertise (in engineering and physics) to adjudicate technical issues is gained after devoting only a minimal time and effort on superficial investigation.  “Now there happen to be a lot of people around who spent an hour on the internet and think they know a lot of physics” (Ibid.). However, this may be a hasty generalization, as we have no statistics on how pervasive this attitude has been within the 9/11 Truth movement.  More importantly, Chomsky should acknowledge the crucial distinction between the citation of expertise and the claim to possess said expertise. It is legitimate for amateur researchers, with no relevant technical qualifications, to note that the scientific objections of AE911 to the NIST report have not been answered in a substantive way.  Instead, NIST has transparently deflected and avoided the criticisms of its work.  It is a natural inference to assume that NIST is behaving this way because they have no rebuttals on scientific grounds, as no other reason makes sense.  Sadly, Chomsky refuses to properly represent the problematic issues of the officially sanctioned 9/11 story.  Through fallacious reasoning, exclusion of relevant information, and mischaracterization, he has revealed himself to be an unreliable analyst of these important historical issues. 

NOTES

1.) “Noam Chomsky on 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.” Www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhlWLNvZs1I. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

2.) “Project Due Diligence.” AE911Truth, www.ae911truth.org/project-due-diligence. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

3.) “University Study Finds Fire Did Not Cause Building 7’S Collapse on 9/11.” AE911Truth, www.ae911truth.org/wtc7. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

4.) AE911Truth. “9/11 Families Sue NIST over World Trade Center Building 7 Report.” AE911Truth, www.ae911truth.org/nist. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

5.) TESTIMONY of U.S. SECRETARY of DEFENSE DONALD H. RUMSFELD PREPARED for DELIVERY to the NATIONAL COMMISSION on TERRORIST ATTACKS upon the UNITED STATES. 2004.

6.) http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a062398cheney

7.) “When Texas Oil Execs Courted the Taliban.” OZY, 23 Sept. 2019, www.ozy.com/true-and-stories/when-texas-oil-execs-courted-the-taliban/96638/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

8.) “Washingtonpost.com: Pipe Dreams – the Struggle for Caspian Oil.” Www.washingtonpost.com, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/europe/pipeline100598.htm.

9.) “Unocal and Bridas Woo the Taliban for Oil Pipeline Project.” Worldpress.org, worldpress.org/specials/pp/pipeline_timeline.htm. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

10.) Jake Anderson. “Ex-CIA Chief: Bush and Cheney Knew 9/11 Was Imminent, Concealed Intelligence.” The Anti-Media, 18 Nov. 2015, theantimedia.com/ex-cia-chief-bush-and-cheney-knew-911-was-imminent-concealed-intelligence/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

11.) “Project for the New American Century.

12.) “Bush Administration: Project for the New American Century – SourceWatch.” Www.sourcewatch.org, www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bush_administration:_Project_for_the_New_American_Century. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

13.) REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century the Project for the New American Century. 2000.

14.) “Richard A. Clarke.” Wikipedia, 10 Dec. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Clarke#Bush_administration. Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.

15.) Shenon, Philip. “September 11th Anniversary: Richard Clarke’s Explosive CIA Cover-up Charge.” The Daily Beast, 11 Aug. 2011, www.thedailybeast.com/september-11th-anniversary-richard-clarkes-explosive-cia-cover-up-charge.

16. “The 28 Pages.” Wikipedia, 11 Sept. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_28_pages. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

17.) “Bandar Bin Sultan al Saud.” Wikipedia, 23 Dec. 2021, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandar_bin_Sultan_Al_Saud. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

19.) TRNN. “Sen. Bob Graham: FBI Covered up Role of Bandar and Saudis in 9/11 Attacks (Pt.1/2).” The Real News Network, 10 Jan. 2019, therealnews.com/stories/sen-bob-graham-fbi-covered-up-role-of-bandar-and-saudis-in-9-11-attacks-pt-1-2. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

20.) “Osama Bassnan.” 28Pages.org, 28pages.org/tag/osama-bassnan/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

21.) Moran, Rick. “What’s in the 9/11 Documents the FBI Released on Saudi Arabia’s Involvement in the Attacks?” Pjmedia.com, pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/rick-moran/2021/09/12/whats-in-the-9-11-documents-the-fbi-released-on-saudi-arabias-involvement-in-the-attacks-n1477918. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

22.) Burcher, Morgan, and Chad Whelan. “Social Network Analysis as a Tool for Criminal Intelligence: Understanding Its Potential from the Perspectives of Intelligence Analysts.” Trends in Organized Crime, vol. 21, no. 3, 24 May 2017, pp. 278–294, 10.1007/s12117-017-9313-8. Accessed 7 June 2020.

23.) Lichtblau, Eric, and James Risen. “9/11 and the Saudi Connection.” The Intercept, 11 Sept. 2021, theintercept.com/2021/09/11/september-11-saudi-arabia/.

24.) Kristen Breitweiser. 9/11 Commission Didn’t Clear Saudis – Consortium News. 27 Apr. 2016, consortiumnews.com/2016/04/27/911-commission-didnt-clear-saudis/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

25.) “9/11 Attacks: US-Saudi Relations Are Proof That the ‘War on Terror’ Was a Lie.” Middle East Eye, www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/september-11-attacks-us-saudi-relations-proof-war-terror-lie. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

26.) “ANALYSIS – the Problematic Nature of Saudi-US Relations.” Www.aa.com.tr, www.aa.com.tr/en/analysis/analysis-the-problematic-nature-of-saudi-us-relations/1523961. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.

27.) http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,451935,00.html

28.) “SAUDI ARABIA: In Al-Qaeda’s Sights.” Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/saudi-arabia-al-qaedas-sights. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

29.) “Timeline: Osama Bin Laden, over the Years.” cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/02/osama.timeline/index.html. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

30.) Censored, Project. “#16 No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11 – Top 25 of 2008.” Project Censored, 28 Apr. 2010, www.projectcensored.org/16-no-hard-evidence-connecting-bin-laden-to-9-11/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

31.) “Bin Laden – Authentic Interview.” Www.bibliotecapleyades.net, www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_binladen02.htm. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021

32.) 9/11: Bin Laden “Confession” Video Mistranslated and Manipulated by the CIA | Empirestrikesblack. 11 May 2011, empirestrikesblack.com/2011/05/911-bin-laden-confession-video-mistranslated-and-manipulated-by-the-cia/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

33.) Hutchison, Nicole, and Art Pyster. Al-Qaeda: Study of Decentralized Organization. 2010

34.) Wikipedia Contributors. “War on Terror.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Terror.

35.) “World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7) University of Alaska Fairbanks.” Ine.uaf.edu, ine.uaf.edu/wtc7.

36.) “Two Barry Jennings Interviews (WABC-TV, 2001 / LTW, 2007).” www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmeY2vJ6ZoA. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021

37.) “7 World Trade Center.” Wikipedia, 15 Dec. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_World_Trade_Center#Tenants. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

38.) http://historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=neoconinfluence&neoconinfluence_neoconservative_think_tanks=neoconinfluence_pnac

39.) “Beware of the Power Elite in Society.” Psychology Today, 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201708/beware-the-power-elite-in-society-0.

40.) “Noam Chomsky – 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.” www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b_nI6DlZP0&t=49s. Accessed 4 Jan. 2022.

41.) “Conflation.” Wikipedia, 7 Oct. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflation#Logical_conflation. Accessed 7 Jan. 2022.

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