By Mike Ferner
Information Clearing House
Over 500 people in the packed hall applauded eagerly when Dr. Bob Bowman stated he was an advocate of doctor-controlled, single-payer health care for all.
They cheered louder still when the congressional candidate from Florida’s 15th District pledged that his first piece of legislation submitted in the U.S. House of Representatives would be articles of impeachment.
But they simultaneously jumped to their feet and roared approval when he leaned over the podium and said he was running with a group of Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, Independents and non politicians “.who are all united by one thing. We want to bring our troops home from George Bush’s quagmire in Iraq and expose the lies that allowed him to send them there, including 9/11.”
Experienced in stumping on the campaign trail, Bowman was more dynamic than many of the speakers at the Chicago conference dubbed, “9/11: Revealing the Truth, Reclaiming Our Future,” but they all adamantly referred to the events of September 11, 2001 as the excuse George Bush needed to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
At a news conference Friday that kicked off the weekend discussions, Mike Berger, media coordinator for 911truth.org, one of the sponsoring organizations, referred to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, “The main justification for these wars are the lies put into the 911 report.” Citing bellicose statements made towards Iran by Bush administration officials, Berger added that “the course of history may hinge on getting these facts out.”
Barrie Zwicker, Canadian TV journalist and filmmaker, added that the U.S. government’s official story of what happened on September 11, 2001, is the “linchpin of the war on terror…and advance warnings are now being heard of new attacks.”
That afternoon, several dozen attendees took Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line train to rally outside downtown news media offices. Among the signs they carried were, “Fiscal ruin, lost rights, endless war. Only 911 truth will set us free;” and “Neo-Con Jobs: 911 and Iraq.”
Stopping at Daly Plaza, Ron Roggensack, from Eugene, Oregon, said he believed groups like Scholars for 911 Truth, founded by physics professor Steven E. Jones, and philosopher James Fetzer will be key to winning public opinion because “the most important thing behind an independent investigation into 911 is the science.” When asked what brought him from the west coast for the conference, the 49 year-old landscape architect responded, “I think 911 is the mother of all issues. It has made so many other things possible: the secret prisons, the illegal war in Iraq, and spying on American citizens.”
Watching the marchers pass by on their way to the Chicago Tribune building, James Brown, a visitor from Royal Oak, Michigan, said, “If what they’re saying is true, it’s a sad commentary. There’s a lot of corrupt stuff in government, I know that for a fact. I hope that Iraq thing gets over soon. We’re only making more enemies for ourselves.”
Two women who identified themselves only as “tourists,” had differing opinions.
One, from Los Angeles, said she believed the demonstrators “.wholeheartedly. It was done so the president could do what he’s doing now – go to war. There should be more reporting and investigating about this so people know what really happened.”
A second woman, from New York, said that the arguments she heard were “thought provoking,” and that individually she thought the activists “impressive and well reasoned. Unfortunately,” she added, “when you look at the whole presentation of the group they look like nutcases.”
Moments before, a 50-ish, bearded demonstrator had paraded past the skeptical woman, wearing an oversized mad hatter-type hat covered with political buttons atop graying, shoulder-length hair and an American flag draped over his shoulders.
Back at the conference similar to but considerably larger than previous ones held in Toronto, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., participants heard from a wide variety of speakers the rest of the day and into the evening.
With a gravely voice and the zeal of a Baptist preacher, radio talk show host Alex Jones placed the events of September 11, 2001 in league with the Reichstag fire reportedly set by Nazis in 1933 to advance their political power; Hitler’s invasion of Poland the day after he staged a Polish attack on a German border radio station; Operation Northwoods, a plan approved by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1963 and vetoed by John Kennedy, meant to provoke war with Cuba by faking attacks against U.S. planes and ships; and the nonexistent Gulf of Tonkin incident used by Lyndon Johnson to escalate the war against Vietnam.
In the dispassionate, understated tones of a physicist, Steven E. Jones Ph.D., (no relation), described some of the findings in the official 911 report that led him to write the first scientific, peer-reviewed analysis on the issue.
Stating that “no steel frame skyscraper before or after September 11, 2001 has ever fallen as a result of fire,” he went on to describe the steel beam construction that comprised the core of the 110-story towers; the melting point of steel and how jet fuel could not sustain a fire close to that temperature; the way the towers collapsed instantly straight down, indicating the support beams had been cut simultaneously by explosive charges; the pools of molten steel found underneath the rubble, pointing to the use of thermite in the explosive charges; and finally the collapse of World Trade Center Building number 7 that occurred after 5 pm, September 11.
That building, not hit by any aircraft and sustaining only relatively minor fires, Jones said, collapsed in a classic, controlled-demolition fashion “in about 10 seconds, which is almost exactly the speed it would collapse in freefall.” The significance of that, the Brigham Young University professor added, is that it belies the government theory of “pancaking” floors falling one atop the next to cause collapse.
One panel on Saturday examined the historical role of dissent in political movements.
Rebecca Cerese, a North Carolina filmmaker, spoke on the topic of her recent work, “February One,” the story of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins in
1960. She was joined by Chuck Knowles, a Miami-based filmmaker with a particular interest in the White Rose, a group of courageous German students who spoke out against Hitler in the 1940’s; Ralph Schoenman, who spoke of his lifelong involvement with left and labor causes, and stated that “the 10 trillion dollars spent on weapons in the U.S. over the last 40 years has come from the excess value of the labor of working people;” and Janice Matthews, a Kansas City mother of six studying populist actions around the world as blueprints for change here.
In a later afternoon session, David Slesinger, from Washington, D.C., led a discussion on the history and strategy of non violent civil disobedience.
“Improbable Collapse” was the evening’s film offering, featuring the work of Dr. Steven E. Jones. At one point he described how virtually all the structural steel from the collapsed towers was carted away and recycled in Asia without being examined for clues, commenting “It’s hard to imagine how at a crime scene you can destroy evidence so thoroughly and quickly and get away with it.” The gravity of his low key presentation, however, was undercut at times by the filmmaker’s excessive use of eerie music, apparently in attempts to underscore important arguments.
Attendees were given a 45-minute preview of another film, “Press for Truth.” Filmmakers Kyle Hence and Ray Nowosielski apologized that it couldn’t get a full debut, because they are in the process of shopping their work to international distributors for a formal release before September 11 this year. “If that doesn’t happen,” Hence said, “we will be counting on you to get the DVD version shown in art houses and living rooms across the country.”
“Press for Truth” featured the work of independent investigator, Paul Thompson, who has constructed a minute by minute timeline of the days leading up to and including September 11, 2001, from hundreds of news media sources. In an interview on the film, Thompson said one thing he noticed as he did his research, was that for almost any area covered by the official 911 report, “A different narrative could be constructed if you look deeper into the news reports.”
On Sunday afternoon it was time to hear reports from the various work groups regarding next steps – ranging from coordinated call-ins on radio shows, to supporting a general strike if President Bush invokes martial law during the remainder of his term.
Congressional candidate Bowman then strode to the microphone to bring the weekend’s events to a close. In addition to announcing his support for social programs like single-payer health care, he told the overflow audience that “As an old interceptor (fighter) pilot who flew over 100 missions in Vietnam, I know the drill. I flew those missions. I know how long it would’ve taken pilots to intercept the planes” that flew into the World Trade Center buildings.
“This was not incompetence,” Bowman said, referring to the failure of military commanders to order fighter jets to shoot down the airliners before they hit the buildings, “this was treason.” Judging by the reaction from his audience, it was clear he was not alone in that sentiment.
Mike Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio. He can be reached at mike.ferner(at)sbcglobal.net