Attempting to tease apart the magical thinking surrounding our national tragedy is harder than spotting a white rabbit
By P. Joseph Potocki
It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.
–Alice, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
We’re hurtling down the rabbit hole. Gravity’s refuted. Black is white, and white turns bitter, transfigured by a mawkish Mad Hatter blithely chewing up our Constitution, juggling missile-shaped teacups, splashing sweet, light crude and cold blood everywhere. To anyone who’s passed through the last eight years believing whatever George W. Bush and his minions have blown their way, well, best of luck to you, because most of it hasn’t been true.
Does that mean, then, that W. and his cronies were behind the 9-11 attacks? Of course not. Some say, however, if it looks, waddles and quacks like a duck and lays duck eggs, then perhaps it’s time we re-examine it under oath, because it just might be a friggin’ duck. (Fact: Nixon White House audiotapes reveal Tricky Dick literally quacking like a duck. Nixon was a lot of things, but ducky wasn’t one of them.)
We’re all mad here.
–the Cheshire Cat
Ken Jenkins, a Marin-based videographer, electrical engineer and activist with the 9-11 Truth group, tells of one who responded to certain provocative conjecture with “I wouldn’t believe it–even if it were true.” It , of course, is the widely held and yet wildly contentious belief that elements within our own government bear responsibility for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; and that the 596 pages of the official 9/11 Commission Report comprise lies, half-truths and intentional omissions. Like the rift between those who detected a foul stench behind the Warren Commission’s report on JFK’s assassination and those who believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, deeply held 9-11 beliefs place Americans at increasing loggerheads with one another.
Mainstream media and not a few on both sides of the political divide condemn, belittle and ridicule conspiracy theorists, who, in turn, have graced their own movement with the weighty word “Truth.” And, just like backers of the official account, the “Truthers” boast vast legions of supporters from across the doctrinaire landscape.
Each side contains its sober thinkers, its celebrities, rational researchers, experts, well-meaning patriots, rabid supporters and total nutballs. Bizarre and contradictory political alliances abound. Reams of paper, books, reports, magazine articles; ceilinged stacks of film and video documentaries; and tens of thousands of blogs and websites–one source contends there are more than 600,000–vie for our attention, proving this issue will not soon disappear.
In one corner there are the “official report” backers, including not only Bush & Co. sycophants, but an armada of Bush-bashers, including such well-regarded lefties as professor Noam Chomsky, journalist Greg Palast, satirist Bill Maher, columnist Alexander Cockburn and the comedy team Penn and Teller. They think the 9-11 Truthers are cranks.
The other side of the ledger boasts its own raft of notables calling for a new independent investigation into the attacks. These include former U.S. senators Lincoln Chafee and Mike Gravel, fellow politicos Ron Paul, Jesse Ventura and Dennis Kucinich, historian Howard Zinn, doc maker Michael Moore, actors Martin and Charlie Sheen, Ed Asner and Rosie O’Donnell, former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and retired CIA chairman of the National Intelligence Estimates, Ray McGovern.
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first–verdict afterwards.’
Richard Gage is a Bay Area-based architect and the founding member of Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth. He presently has over 400 fellow architects and engineers who’ve signed on with him, demanding a new investigation. Gage contends that the WTC Twin Towers came down as the result of controlled demolitions. Citing the 10,000-page National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 2005 report on the tower collapses, Gage notes that the report stops before the collapses actually occur. Why? “Because,” Gage charges, “if they had gone any further in their analysis they would have had to account for the massive quantity of evidence for the demolition of these two towers.”
Well, further they have gone. The NIST last week released a new report centering solely on WTC Tower 7, the focus of much speculation for its hours-later tumble, and now pronounced to be the first steel skyscraper to ever succumb to mere fire.
Even that bastion of the handy-guy, Popular Mechanics , has stepped into the fray, releasing a special report entitled “Debunking the 9/11 Myths.” Popular Mechanics says, “Plane debris sliced through the utility shafts at the North Tower’s core, creating a conduit for burning jet fuel–and fiery destruction throughout the building.”
Jet fuel burns at about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, while steel doesn’t begin to melt until about 2,700 degrees. Even if the steel lost structural strength at somewhat lower temps, and building materials and furnishings stoked the blaze, a 1,200-degree meltdown differential does raise certain questions.
Curiouser and curiouser!
Lots of people think conspiracies never happen, that life at or near the top, where we’d expect conspiracies to originate, is far too intricate and subtle for such shenanigans. Nicholas Lemann, writing on conspiracies last year for the New Yorker , claims conspiracy theories amount to “a view of how the world works that mistakenly empowers particular, and evil, forces with the ability to determine the course of events, and it misses the messiness and contingency with which life actually unfolds.”
If we buy into Lemann’s argument, then how about the Gulf of Tonkin affair and the explosion on the Battleship Maine? What about Watergate and Iran-Contra, the Tuskegee Study or innumerable covert adventures in foreign coups, economic hits and political assassinations? And what about the 1999 trial when Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s family won a wrongful death civil suit against “unknown co-conspirators”? Six white and six black jurors found that “governmental agencies were parties” to Dr. King’s assassination plot.
Then there are lesser known but equally real conspiracies. Some were actually foisted upon us or else were disrupted or energetically disappeared from official records. Take, for example, the CIA’s nefarious mind-altering Cold War-era drug testing known as MK-ULTRA. Its scientists and hirelings dosed thousands of unwitting U.S. citizens with mind-altering drugs over the course of two decades.
Operation Mockingbird was another long-running top-secret CIA operation, which co-opted prominent print and electronic media journalists to spy and propagandize the American public. Mockingbird is largely the reason why it is illegal–wink, wink, nudge, nudge–to do so today.
Perhaps the most revealing and least known conspiracy in U.S. history was the stillborn 1933 “Business Plot,” intended to overthrow newly elected president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and put in place a fascist regime designed to be fronted by retired Marine Corps major general Smedley Butler. Fortunately for us, the patriotic Butler spilled the beans. He even remembered what the recruiters said. “You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. . . . And the dumb American people will fall for it in a second,” Butler told the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, the first body convened by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, on Nov. 20, 1934.
FDR had been in office for but a few months. The economy was wrecked, and those who wrecked it didn’t like Roosevelt’s plans for something called the New Deal. A group of businessmen, industrialists and bankers including J. P. Morgan, Irénée du Pont and an up-and-comer named Prescott Bush were fingered by Butler as plot intimates. Afterward, sworn testimony and evidence placed before McCormack-Dickstein disappeared from the official record altogether.
“Like most committees,” Butler said after the report of the attempted coup was released, “it has slaughtered the little and allowed the big to escape. The big shots weren’t even called to testify. They were all mentioned in my testimony. Why was all mention of these names suppressed from the testimony?”
What is the use of repeating all that stuff, if you don’t explain it as you go on? It’s by far the most confusing thing I ever heard!
–the Mock Turtle
So could the official 9/11 Commission Report itself be defined as a conspiracy theory? Put another way, does this report stand up to rational and/or forensic scrutiny?
“The Jersey Girls” think not. Against the considerable will of the Bush administration, these four widows waged a 441-day campaign to force the 9-11 Commission into existence. By comparison, similar investigations into the space shuttle disaster, Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination were launched within a few days of the events occurring. And, say the Jersey Girls, few of their questions got answered by the commission’s report.
But what about plain, old-fashioned forensics? “It’s hard for the mind to reject rational forensic evidence which agrees with logic that’s science-based,” says architect Gage. Later he adds, “I, along with many others, are treated as conspiracy theorists, basically, because people aren’t ready to look at this stuff seriously. But once you get the evidence in front of them, it’s a whole different thing.”
OK, then, why the resistance to a second investigation into what was surely the crime of the last half-century? Ken Jenkins thinks he understands why. “People just don’t want to know it. They don’t want to know how bad things are, and accepting that 9-11 was an inside job is just way too horrendous for a lot of people to seriously consider. They don’t approach it rationally. They approach it emotionally, that in terms of the implications of what you’re presenting is too scary.”
Well, maybe. But then again, who’s to say the initial investigation’s case isn’t actually airtight? One way to answer that is to follow the money. Crimes of this magnitude require enormous sums of money in order to be both properly executed and investigated. Another way of determining the extent to which 9-11 was investigated is to ask precisely who led the investigation?
President Bill Clinton was impeached following an investigation in which he lied under oath about a sexual peccadillo. That investigation, conducted by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, cost taxpayers a cool $39.2 million.
While it cost us nearly $40 million to hear Clinton parse the meaning of blowjob, a mere $3 million got earmarked for the 9-11 investigation. And when it finally came time to actually investigate, who was chosen to lead the team? Philip D. Zelikow, a close personal friend of, former colleague of and book co-author with Condoleezza Rice.
Zelikow also happened to be a White House mole. In fact, unbeknownst to other members of the committee, as executive director of the commission, Zelikow briefed the White House on a near daily basis. Judging from this, one might conclude that the independent investigation into events surrounding 9-11 was about as independent as Fox News is fair and balanced.
And when the White House finally relented and allowed an investigation to take place, no independent counsel was deemed necessary in order to get to the bottom of the disaster. Neither George W. Bush nor Dick Cheney would agree to have their testimony recorded, transcribed or even to have notes taken. They refused to testify separately, in public, or under oath.
According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind’s new book, The Way of the World , George W. Bush had direct and personal knowledge that Saddam had no WMD. Bush lied about it, and then covered up his lie by having the CIA forge a document. But Bush also lied about holding administration officials accountable for leaking the identity of Valerie Plame. He has lied about Brownie and Katrina, about torture, wiretapping, habeas corpus, tax relief to the middle class and the health of our economy.
He’s lied about global warming, his military record, his cocaine use, about his relationships with slime buckets like Ken Lay and Jack Abramoff and about the scientific data’s he’s had altered or deleted from public documents. Bush has been a virtual one-man lying industry, and yet clear thinkers among us would have us believe that, when it comes to this single overarching issue of 9-11, he speaks nothing but the truth.
Alice, spinning through Wonderland, had certain insight into that particular notion: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”