“9-11 Truth”—political silver bullet or morass of bullshit?

January 12, 2008

There is a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the official story presented about the events of Sept. 11, 2001. At times, among certain people, it has become a divide, even a hostile divide. Cottage industries, internet “experts,” and swirls of information have created a vortex of speculative websites and taken the genuine need for investigation off into a fantasy realm of competing theories, pronouncements and conjecture often going off the deep end into absurdity.

We know for sure that the full story is not out, that there are questions that need to be investigated. We know the deaths on that day have been breathtakingly used by the Bush administration to launch wars, profiteering, and attacks on our civil liberties and right to organize. Was there foreknowledge of the attacks, and the plot allowed to unfold? This we can believe, because we’ve seen it before with the first World Trade Center attack in the 90’s and with the Oklahoma City bombing, both infiltrated but not stopped. Was it an “inside job” with remote controlled planes, pre-planted explosives, and a vast conspiracy of silence among the conspirators? Unlikely. We already know this government is capable of lying, of planning and executing coups and electoral fraud here and abroad, and funding and facilitating proxy wars. But much of it is by now pretty transparent–from the Republican mob action in Florida to shut down the vote count, to the Downing Street memo, to the retaliation against Valerie Plame to punish her husband for speaking out against the official story on Saddam seeking uranium from Niger.

Much as Cointelpro, the FBI’s counterintelligence program of the ’60’s and 70’s, sought to sow disputes within the left, and in many cases succeeded in their mission, the current and growing “911 Truth” tendency has the progressive movement divided over speculations and competing theories, rather than united around fighting against the concrete things the government has been forced to admit.

We have encountered many people for whom 9-11 conspiracy speculations take priority in their politics. We have been told we are gullible, ‘aren’t really radical,’ or that we’re ‘apologists’ for the regime if we don’t enthusiastically accept the latest assertions about empty planes, a missile hitting the Pentagon, controlled demolition of the towers, or the collapse of the infamous WTC building 7. Indeed, there seems to be an index–the vaster the conspiracy you will accept, the more ‘in the know’ you are, and the less vulnerable you are to the administration’s lies.

For some, the ‘9-11 inside job’ idea has become the silver bullet that will fix the American political scene. If only this 9-11 conspiracy were revealed, the thinking goes, suddenly everyone would understand how rotten our system is and move to undo it. Or, as an ad placed in this issue claims (on this page in the print edition) the silver bullet of 9-11 truth is a necessary precondition to ending the war.

This is a dreamer’s quick fix which evades the work we need to do to convince our fellow citizens about the pretexts used to justify the war and the real reasons for it. These are pretexts and reasons which have already been admitted publicly, or exposed and documented. If half the energy put into ‘9-11 Truth’ websites, email lists and conferences were put into the impeachment of Dick Cheney, he’d be impeached by now–based on what the government has already admitted.

But let’s suppose, for a moment, that the wildest 9-11 speculations and most elaborate conspiracies could be proven with an avalanche of reliable data and testimony. These revelations could just as easily boost cynicism as outrage. Most people now agree that Kennedy wasn’t assassinated by a lone gunman—but that didn’t translate into a robust progressive movement based on the assassination. Indeed, despite a mountain of evidence, the facts are still disputed 45 years later. When Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” came out, it was attacked for not having evidence on its side–even though the evidence mostly points to the scenario ‘JFK’ presented. Short of a confession, some things will never be neatly established, and they therefore form a flimsy base upon which to organize a movement.

However, unlike the copious documentation and witness accounts painstakingly assembled over many years on the assassination of Kennedy, the bulk of 9-11 scenarios rest on one thinly supported point of data, or rely on abstruse technical explanations that are in dispute. It would be great if there were some easy way to sort the wheat from the chaff, but there seems to be an endless capacity to produce chaff in this case.

Perhaps someone can winnow it. There will be a conference on the weekend of Jan. 25-27 in Santa Cruz, California, “Publicizing Truths with Consequences,” — independent media power and the corporate coup (www.truthemergency.us) which has a broad coalition of groups co-sponsoring and guests including David Ray Griffin, Colleen Rowley, Naomi Klein, Ed Asner, Ray McGovern, and Cynthia McKinney. This should be a pretty important gathering, if it can stay focused and grounded in reality.

The conference organizers say: “We do not lack brilliant voices, great stories, or mounting evidence of illicit forces run wild. What we do lack is a coherent vision of what we face and ways to quickly communicate it to the public with galvanizing power…. Despite our unprecedented array of talents, truths and new tech resources, conditions continue to worsen at a truly surreal rate. Many say our democracy will not survive the decade. Others have trouble recognizing it right now… it’s time for the best & brightest working against this [corporate] coup to come together now and urgently explore what can and must be done.”

This article was written with Iguana co-editor Joe Courter. http://www.afn.org/~Iguana