W. David Kubiak thought the 9/11 attacks would be a “wake up call.”
“Once you could accept 9/11, you could say, ‘I’ve really got to look at the world again with new eyes,'” he said during a recent phone interview with The Wire .
Kubiak is a member of the steering committee of 911truth.org , a group formed “to investigate, unearth, and widely publicize the full truth surrounding September 11th, 2001.”
It’s been three years since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, and while supporters and detractors of the war continue to debate the causes of and solutions to that conflict, one fact is almost indisputable: the long, bloody journey in Iraq began on Sept. 11, 2001.
I say almost indisputable because, in the world of the 9/11 truth movement, everything from photographic evidence to offhand statements and individual words are up for debate. The term “conspiracy theory” calls to mind images of a spider’s web. That’s an accurate description for the complex and intricately constructed narratives found in any number of conspiracy theories, but the actual building of conspiracy theories, the steady accumulation of new evidence, new proof, new witnesses, is more like sedimentary rock. A pebble here, a pebble there and, after a number of years, a looming monument to suspicion and paranoia.
But, as they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. We’ve got plenty of reason to be suspicious. Most recently, President George W. Bush has been stumping in support of his executive power to spy on American citizens, and the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq was hoarding stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction has so far turned out to be false. Then there are the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair, just some of the plots the government has come (somewhat) clean about. Even in the last decade, the CIA has admitted that it engaged in mind-control experiments using hallucinogenic drugs in the MK-ULTRA program. And since the 1970s, it’s been well known that the CIA used to assassinate foreign political leaders in order to sway policy. And that’s aside from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King Jr., all of which still rouse suspicion to this day. Looking for shadowy plots, nefarious motives and sinister connections between the government and corporate elite is as American as baseball–and infinitely more entertaining.
Theories about the culprits behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy slowly infiltrated the mainstream in the following three decades, until it got to the point that believing there was a conspiracy was more mainstream than believing Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But the theories about what really happened on 9/11 have accrued much faster, thanks in part to the Internet. Now, almost five years after the attacks, there are countless Web sites, books, videos and other sources claiming to know the truth. We’ve got a front-row seat for the development of what, in time, could turn out to be the biggest conspiracy theory of them all.
But the explanation offered by the 9/11 truth movement is just as slippery and hard to believe as the “official conspiracy” story offered by the U.S. government. Much of the evidence is comprised of scattered news reports, dribs and drabs of government memos, and inter-personal connections between President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Osama bin Laden and all the other major players, connections that are open to lots of interpretation.
It’s easy, almost too easy, to dismiss them all as members of the tinfoil hat brigade. But spend some time skimming the Web sites, reading the books or watching the videos, and it’s hard not to be sucked in. No corner of the Web is untouched–Google the phrase “temperature at which steel melts” and you’ll get dozens, if not hundreds, of Web pages about the collapse of the Towers. The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks ushered in a new age of paranoia, one which holds everyone, from the government and the media to corporations and the military, at fault for what happened.
a rundown of possibilities
Though he was a “Johnny-come-lately” to the 9/11 research field, theologian David Ray Griffin has become one of the central figures of the movement. In 2004, he released two books, “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions” and “The New Pearl Harbor.” Since then, Griffin, a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth–a self-described non-partisan group of professors, lawyers and former government officials that includes among its members Robert Bowman, former director of the U.S. Space Defense Program and Andreas von Buelow, former German defense minister–has become a fixture on the lecture circuit at colleges and universities.
Griffin was initially doubtful of the “inside job” theory. “My reaction was, ‘I don’t think even the Bush administration would do such a thing,'” he said.
The official version goes something like this: a team of 19 hijackers, all allegedly members of the al Qaeda terrorist network, boarded four airliners on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. After seizing control of the planes, they flew the aircraft into the two World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon; the fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers wrestled control of the plane from the hijackers.
But after looking at a timeline of events compiled by 9/11 researcher Paul Thompson, Griffin couldn’t ignore all of the contradictions between the events of the day and the official story. When his students at the Claremont School of Theology in California asked him to make a presentation on the Iraq war, Griffin instead focused on 9/11 as a pretext for the war.
Critics have said Griffin’s theological background doesn’t exactly make him an expert on federal emergency response plans, geopolitics and terrorism. But to Griffin, it’s no great leap to go from studying God to studying the hidden connection between Bush and bin Laden.
“Theologically, it’s not much of a stretch, because at least a certain kind of theology says our task is to try to imagine the world from a divine viewpoint, that is, to try to push the values we assume our creator is in favor of. An operation like this would clearly be against that,” he said.
Mapping out a conspiracy theory requires a frightening amount of vision and the ability to put everyone in the right place at the right time. Using the available data and occasionally making some logical leaps, there are a handful of unofficial explanations for how the attacks happened.
The first is simple governmental incompetence. It’s rather mundane, as far as conspiracy theories go, but is decidedly reflective of everyday government behavior. One need look no further than the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina to see just how badly the feds can screw up, even when all signs point to imminent disaster. The incompetence theory looks good on the surface–it’s easy to understand and doesn’t require a lot of speculation. At the same time, it’s intensely troubling, because if it’s true, that means that no system or organization is reliable–from the intelligence community and the military to our multi-billion dollar air-defense system to simple airport security measures.
But even more sinister than that is the two “happen on purpose” (HOP) camps in the 9/11 truth movement, both of which agree that the federal government is to blame for 9/11.
First, there’s the “let it happen on purpose” (LIHOP) camp, people who believe that, though the government had sufficient foreknowledge of the attacks, including warnings from German, Pakistani and other foreign intelligence sources, as well as red flags raised by the FBI, CIA and so forth, they were allowed to happen anyway. The motives for this acquiescence all depend on who you ask. Some theorists say Bush, Cheney and everyone else let the Twin Towers fall in order to jumpstart public support for war in the Middle East–much in the same way Franklin Roosevelt used the Pearl Harbor attacks to bring America into World War II. Others say the whole plan was an effort to pour money back into the defense budget. Or maybe it was for oil. Or maybe it was a way to bring about an increasingly totalitarian government. Or maybe all of the above.
Then there’s the “made it happen on purpose” (MIHOP) crowd, and that’s where much of the current batch of 9/11 research falls. Essentially, for all the reasons cited above–war, oil, totalitarianism, etc.–members of the government engineered, through various means, the entire 9/11 tragedy. Whodunnit? Most of the blame goes to the Bush/Cheney crowd, although the alleged masterminds behind the whole thing are members of the group Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative think tank that, in 2000, published a position paper literally calling for some kind of new Pearl Harbor to set the American imperial machinery into motion: “The process of military 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.”
from the wilderness
Former Los Angeles Police Department detective Michael Ruppert knew something was wrong once the second plane hit the WTC on the morning of Sept. 11.
“I’m an Air Force brat. My father flew interceptors … I grew up around NORAD, I lived with that stuff,” Ruppert said during a phone interview. “I know and knew the Air Force air defense system is much, much better than that. I knew the only way a second plane could have hit the tower was if someone wanted it to.”
Ruppert is one of the big names among 9/11 researchers. His 2004 book “Crossing the Rubicon” is a massive tome that links the Bush/Cheney cabal to everything from the CIA’s alleged drug trade activities during the Iran-Contra scandal to the imminent peak oil crisis. In the book, he plainly states that Dick Cheney masterminded the attacks and says that the 9/11 plot was all part of a plan for the United States to secure the remaining oil deposits in Iraq in order to stave off the looming energy crisis.
Ruppert is no stranger to the world of conspiracies and government skullduggery. Since 1998, he’s been editor and publisher of “From the Wilderness,” an Internet-based newsletter that offers alternative explanations for foreign and national affairs ( www.fromthewilderness.com ). But even before “FTW,” Ruppert was known in conspiracy circles for his research into the CIA’s drug trade in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It was a subject Ruppert was intimately involved with: he was a narcotics officer in the LAPD at the time, and his then-fianc?e was allegedly working for the CIA.
Ruppert said he’s treated his research “almost like you would (if you were) a detective at a crime scene.” Following the attacks, he started looking at world and national news Web sites for initial reports because, he said, early reports often contradict what the “manufactured consensus” later states.
“I was finding major errors and major inconsistencies within the first week,” he said.
These inconsistencies included the official assertion that a plan to use planes as weapons was unthinkable. In fact, Ruppert said, his research later showed there had been warnings and contingency plans in place for such an event. Other oddities include discrepancies in the passenger lists and the flight patterns of the four planes involved. But Ruppert was most surprised to discover that the military was running multiple wargame exercises on the morning of the attack–including one simulation that was using actual aircraft posing as a hijacked plane.
He was also struck by how fast the government released detailed information about the 19 hijackers.
“I was very put off with the utter convenience of the evidence (appearing),” he said. “It was like Santa Claus dropping presents from his sleigh. We’ve seen that pattern before.”
Where? The JFK assassination. According to Ruppert, and many other 9/11 researchers, the conspiracy and cover-up of 9/11 used many of the same tricks, including the quick establishment of an official story, continuing media manipulation, and a hasty, perfunctory “investigation.” While the tactics are the same, 9/11 is just so much bigger. The official story is a little harder to believe (just how did 19 guys outwit the government, military and FAA?), the mainstream media is even more hesitant to discuss alternative theories and, lest we forget, the Bush administration was less than welcoming of an official inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
If 11/22 marked the beginning of the modern age of conspiracy research, then 9/11 is a turning point–after more than three decades of dirty tricks, we’re
Appropriately wise, and cynical, enough about the government to begin looking for conspiracies from the get-go. In 2004, a Zogby poll commissioned by Kubiak and 911truth.org found that 49.3 percent of New York City residents said some of our leaders “knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act.”
Ruppert expects the 9/11 truth movement to continue on for many years, much in the same way assassination buffs continue to pick apart the details on what happened in Dealy Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963. But Ruppert isn’t holding out hope that the real story of 9/11 will ever penetrate the public consciousness, nor will the guilty be brought to justice.
“Every major window to get 9/11 in the public agenda is closed,” he said. “I adopted the position that peak oil is coming … and it’s fine to talk about 9/11, but to assume somehow you can get the case open at this junction … is fantasy. It’s not going to happen.”
Ruppert identifies peak oil, the idea that the world’s oil supply has reached its apex and we’re rapidly using up the remaining resources, as the motive behind 9/11. But now that the attacks are over, Ruppert said, he’s focusing on the effects of peak oil and how to best to survive the energy crisis. In 2005, Ruppert moved his offices from California to Oregon, a place he says is much more conducive to a sustainable lifestyle.
“That’s an imminent threat,” he said. “9/11 ran us over. Peak oil is a crisis that’s coming that’s much, much worse. It’s threatening to the entirety of human civilization.”
Steven Jones is one of the newest 9/11 researchers. A professor of physics at Brigham Young University in Utah, Jones published last October “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?” an academic paper questioning the official story behind the collapse of both World Trade Center towers and the fall of WTC building 7 ( http://www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html ). Jones believes that it was a controlled demolition, and not fires and impact damage from the two airplanes, which brought down the buildings. BYU does not endorse Jones’ views.
After watching a video that discussed 9/11 anomalies, Jones began to do his own research. Most of the data out there was unscientific, he said, so he was inclined to dismiss the subject. But the more he looked, the more he was convinced something was amiss. It was the destruction of WTC building 7 that first caught Jones’ attention. Though fires had broken out in the 48-story building, WTC 7 had not sustained the kind of damage found in the two towers. No other skyscraper has ever collapsed because of fire damage alone, Jones said, and the way WTC 7 fell (“so rapidly and symmetrically,” he said) can only be explained if the building was brought down with explosives.
“Obviously, the first reaction I get from a lot of people is, ‘Wait a minute. If you’re saying building 7 came down as a kind of controlled demolition, then that must be an inside job, that must mean a conspiracy and hundreds of thousands of people. That’s not possible, so I won’t listen,'” Jones said.
“But I really don’t believe it would take a large number of people. Most people believe 19 hijackers were able to do this feat against our multi-trillion dollar air defense system, and that’s really quite remarkable.”
Much of Jones’ paper focuses on how the towers collapsed and the appearance of molten metal among the debris at Ground Zero in the days after the attack. The official explanation of the fall of the towers–that the impact damage and super-hot fires weakened the core of steel columns that held up the buildings–doesn’t make sense to Jones. He argues that the fire inside the WTC towers could not have gotten hot enough, even with the presence of jet fuel, which burns at a maximum of 1,000 degrees Celsius, to melt the structural steel at 1,500 degrees Celsius, according to Jones’ paper. Jones and other researchers believe that the jet fuel-ignited fires reached only about 650 degrees Celsius. The real cause of the collapse: a series of explosives planted in the buildings that, when detonated, quickly and neatly brought the buildings down.
Jones’ paper has attracted a wealth of attention in the 9/11 truth movement. In April, he’ll present a paper on the molten metal at the WTC site at the Utah Academy of Sciences, and David Ray Griffin has written a complementary paper on Jones’ theory that will appear in an anthology of 9/11 research scheduled for publication this spring. Jones is also co-chair of Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
Currently, he is working on a paper analyzing the possible causes for the appearance of molten metal during the towers’ collapse–he believes that some kind of thermite reaction created by explosives may have caused the molten metal to form. The 9/11 research, he said, takes up about one-third to one-half of his research time.
Jones shies away from pointing fingers. He said he wants to focus on the science and the data surrounding the attacks, but that it’s difficult because so much of the physical evidence–including the debris left from the fallen towers and WTC 7– was destroyed immediately after it was cleared out of Ground Zero. And Jones says a lot of photographic evidence, including videos of the planes hitting the towers and the Pentagon, remains classified.
“There’s a strange reluctance to release data, which is perplexing to me as a scientist,” he said. “It’s unconscionable.”
Because there was no independent investigation of the debris, all researchers have to work from are photographs and news reports of the day. Even Jones’ paper leans heavily on news photographs, coupled with his own experiments to find the temperature at which steel and aluminum becomes molten. That reliance on second-hand sources only hampers the research and opens up the arena to all sorts of armchair “experts.” A good example is the “Hunt the Boeing” Web site (http://www.asile.org/citoyens/numero13/pentagone/erreurs_en.htm), which uses a series of photographs from the attack on the Pentagon to show that Flight 77 could not have caused the damage at the building. But the site fails to address what happened to the airplane if it didn’t strike the building.
Finding out who ordered the rubble destroyed–or even who was involved with the weird airline stock anomalies on Sept. 10, 2001–might yield some answers. For Jones, the conspiracy lies in the cover-up more than in the attacks themselves.
“I don’t think (the attacks) involves that many people. But it’s massive in terms of the apparent-cover up,” he said. “It is a little bit scary to think someone is preventing (this) data from being released. It’s very troubling.”
moving toward resolution
With more and more books and Web sites coming out devoted to the alternative 9/11, it seems like there’s more momentum behind the movement than ever before. Earlier this month, actor Charlie Sheen expressed his doubts about the official 9/11 story during an interview on the Alex Jones radio show (the interview is online at www.infowars.com ). Coverage of the movement is also gaining traction in bigger media outlets. In the last two months, The Village Voice and New York Magazine have both run extensive stories on 9/11 truth.
Despite that groundswell of interest, Ruppert said he’s trying to distance himself from the 9/11 movement. The one subject he doesn’t tackle is physical evidence–the why and how of the Towers’ collapse, the strangeness surrounding the destruction at the Pentagon and the debris left behind by Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. This is the one area where the 9/11 movement is focusing most of its energies now, he says, and physical evidence arguments are “absolute minefields when you get into the legal arena,” with discussions devolving into a competition between whichever side can provide the most experts.
The greater danger, according to Ruppert, is that the 9/11 movement has been “heavily, heavily infiltrated … by government disinformation operatives” who have put proverbial “poison pills” into its debates.
Sounds paranoid, right? Not really. In the 1960s and 1970s, federal programs like COINTELPRO used undercover operatives to infiltrate the anti-war movement and discredit it, and the practice apparently continues today. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union released data confirming that the government has been spying on anti-war groups since the conflict in Iraq began in 2003.
Griffin, on the other hand, is skeptical of talk about disinformation and infiltrators.
“I really haven’t had any strong suspicions about anybody,” he said. “Even if there is some truth to it, I don’t think it’s a very important concern.”
Some of the more outlandish theories–like French writer Thierry Meyssan’s claim that a cruise missile, not an airplane, hit the Pentagon–are only diluting the waters, Ruppert said. There are other theories, too: that there were no planes at all, only holographic projections of planes (used in conjunction with explosives planted by some shadowy group); or that one of the planes that hit the WTC had some sort of anomalous “pod” attached to it that caused extra damage. But this is all “bullshit,” Ruppert said, and is either intentional disinformation or sheer stupidity.
The research conducted by the movement itself is getting lazy, as well, according to Ruppert. Most of the Web sites reference previous research done by Ruppert and others, or they simply reference themselves, which hardly makes for a compelling case.
“My job is to keep my case pure, so if I’ve fallen out of the mainstream with 9/11, so be it. But if 9/11 ever gets opened in a meaningful way, my book is where (people) will have to come to,” Ruppert said.
Griffin is ultimately more optimistic, but he agrees with Ruppert that, should the investigation ever re-open, much of the legwork has already been done.
“If that does happen, they don’t have to start from ground zero, so to speak. Some of us will have done virtually all the work that a Senate committee or special prosecutor would have to do.”
Given our track record with the political assassinations of the 1960s, the Iran-Contra scandal, Vietnam and a whole host of other government malfeasance, that seems unlikely. There are other distractions now–the war in Iraq, the possible outbreak of bird flu, the economy–and, five years on, it’s not unreasonable to think that some simply might not want old wounds to be reopened. The official story is firmly set in place. The 9/11 Commission report is widely agreed upon in the mainstream media as the definitive account, and the U.S. State Department has a whole Web page dedicated to picking apart claims made by the 9/11 truth movement ( http://usinfo.state.gov/media/misinformation.html ).
If, as the Bible says, knowing the truth will set you free, then the revelations promised in the 9/11 truth movement are frightening indeed. They describe a world that’s more murderous, callous and scary than we can imagine. But the thought of a malicious government that’s actively out to manipulate us is an enemy we can fight, which is somewhat more comforting than the alternative–a series of bungling, incompetent institutions that have failed us, and will fail us again, just when we need them the most.
(c) Copyright 2006 The Wire and Larry Clow.
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