The 9/11 Truth Conspiracy Is a Distraction from the Real Crimes of Our Government

We should be sounding the alarm over endless war being waged in our name, not conspiracy theories.

Terry J. Allen July 11, 2006

The New York City skyline on Sept. 11, 2001. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Amer­i­cans love a con­spir­a­cy. Accord­ing to a May 17 Zog­by poll, 42 per­cent believe the U.S. gov­ern­ment and the 911 Com­mis­sion are cov­er­ing up what real­ly hap­pened on Sept. 112001.

There is some­thing com­fort­ing about a world where some­one is in charge – either for good (think gods) or evil (think Bush insid­ers plot­ting 911). Many peo­ple pre­fer to believe a Pro­crustean con­spir­a­cy rather than accept the alter­na­tive: Life can be ran­dom, vicious­ly unjust and mean­ing­less; tragedy and joy alike flow from com­plex com­bi­na­tions of good and bad inten­tions, care­ful plot­ting, ran­dom hap­pen­stance and bum­bling incompetence.

Con­spir­a­cy hypothe­ses often con­sist of a vast pile of cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence shaped into a seem­ing­ly coher­ent whole with the strong glue of faith. Debunk one or even many alle­ga­tions and the pile still stands, impres­sive in its bulk and ide­o­log­i­cal coher­ence. If size were all, it would con­vince Pyrrho himself.

Sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ries, on the oth­er hand, depend on inter­lock­ing chains of evi­dence: The integri­ty of the whole relies on the sound­ness of each link. Break any one and the the­o­ry founders.

The 911 con­spir­a­cy is a clas­sic exam­ple of a faith-based pile hypoth­e­sis. Its pro­po­nents cite a moun­tain of evi­dence to con­clude that the U.S. gov­ern­ment per­pe­trat­ed the 911 attacks for its own trai­tor­ous ends, chiefly stag­ing a new Pearl Har­bor” to ral­ly sup­port for an inva­sion of Iraq.

I spent months as a researcher con­duct­ing a fact-by-fact dis­sec­tion of a few key aspects of this hypoth­e­sis. I approached the project know­ing that U.S. cabals had pre­vi­ous­ly con­coct­ed casus bel­li to dri­ve pub­lic sup­port for war: the Gulf of Tonkin for Viet­nam, incu­ba­tor babies for the first Gulf War. And clear­ly from its ear­ly days, the Bush admin­is­tra­tion had lust­ed for war with Iraq.

But the hypoth­e­sis that it planned and exe­cut­ed the 911 attacks is just not sup­port­ed by a chain of evi­dence, nor do the facts sup­port the con­spir­acists’ key charge that World Trade Cen­ter build­ings were destroyed by pre-posi­tioned explosives.

Struc­tur­al engi­neers found the destruc­tion con­sis­tent with fires caused by the jet lin­er strike; that tem­per­a­tures need not actu­al­ly melt the steel but that expan­sion and oth­er fire-relat­ed stress­es would account for com­pro­mised archi­tec­tur­al integrity.

When David Ray Grif­fin, a the­olo­gian by trade, said it was phys­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble by laws of physics” for the planes alone to have brought down the tow­ers, I asked what engi­neers had con­firmed that. I haven’t talked to any because they would be too afraid to tell the truth,” he said. How would you be able to pro­tect your fam­i­ly if you were to accuse the gov­ern­ment?” he asked, accus­ing the government.

Many con­spir­acists offer the col­lapse of WTC Build­ing 7 as the strongest evi­dence for the kind of con­trolled demo­li­tion that would prove a plot. Although not hit by planes, it was dam­aged by debris, and suf­fered fires even­tu­al­ly fueled by up to 42,000 gal­lons of diesel fuel stored near ground lev­el. Grif­fin cit­ed as evi­dence of gov­ern­ment com­plic­i­ty that the build­ing’s sprin­kler sys­tem should have, but did­n’t, put out the fires. But the the­olo­gian did not know and had not con­sid­ered that the col­lapse of the tow­ers had bro­ken the area’s water main.

Anoth­er con­spir­acist, Alex Jones, writes on his Web site, Lar­ry Sil­ver­stein, the own­er of the WTC com­plex, admit­ted … that he and the NYFD decid­ed to pull’ WTC 7.” (Leave aside how unlike­ly it would be for the gov­ern­ment to include Sil­ver­stein in a trea­so­nous con­spir­a­cy, or that the NYFD was in on it, too.)

Sil­ver­stein’s actu­al quote: I remem­ber get­ting a call from the fire depart­ment com­man­der, telling me that they were not sure they were going to be able to con­tain the fire, and I said, We’ve had such ter­ri­ble loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.’ And they made that deci­sion to pull and we watched the build­ing collapse.”

Jones con­tin­ues: The word pull’ is indus­try jar­gon for tak­ing a build­ing down with explo­sives.” In fact, a Lex­is Nex­is search for a three-year peri­od fails to find one Amer­i­can ref­er­ence to pull a build­ing” with­out the prepo­si­tion down” when refer­ring to inten­tion­al destruc­tion. An alter­na­tive expla­na­tion would be that giv­en the lack of water and the num­ber of injured and miss­ing fire­fight­ers, the NYFD decid­ed to pull work­ers from Build­ing 7 to con­cen­trate on search and res­cue at the fall­en towers.

In the end, this kind of under­min­ing of indi­vid­ual facts,” although rel­a­tive­ly easy, is irrel­e­vant for those who base their beliefs on piles rather than chains of evidence.

But the work should be done. Pile con­spir­a­cies can be dan­ger­ous. Those who deny that HIV is respon­si­ble for AIDS, for exam­ple, have con­tributed to unnec­es­sary infec­tions and deaths.

And the 911 con­spir­a­cy hypothe­ses dis­tract from the grow­ing chain of evi­dence doc­u­ment­ing how the Bush admin­is­tra­tion actu­al­ly manip­u­lat­ed this coun­try to war on a train of lies rid­ing tracks of fear – cyn­i­cal­ly using the bod­ies of the 911 vic­tims as fuel.

Ter­ry J. Allen is a vet­er­an inves­tiga­tive reporter/​editor who has cov­ered local and inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics and health and sci­ence issues. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Boston Globe, Times Argus, Harper’s, the Nation​.com, Salon​.com, and New Sci­en­tist . She has been an edi­tor at Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, In These Times , and Cor​p​watch​.com. She is also a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Her por­traits of peo­ple sit­ting in some of the 1900 cars lined up out­side a New­port, Vt., food drop can be seen on www​.flickr​.com/​p​h​o​t​o​s​/​t​e​r​r​y​a​l​l​e​n​/​a​lbums. Ter­ry can be con­tact­ed at tallen@​igc.​org or through www​.ter​ry​jallen​.com.
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