Commentary 14 Sep 2012 07:53 pm

9/11 conspiracies

A scientist travels back in time to the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to warn her husband, a risk-management consultant working at the World Trade Center, of the impending attacks.

That’s the plot of “The Big Lie,” a comic book by Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine published last year to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

The husband and his co-workers are skeptical, but allow the scientist to present her evidence, stored on an iPad, a device that didn’t exist 11 years ago. Predictably, the men are more taken by the tablet than by the images of planes hitting the very building they are in, dismissing the video as an elaborate forgery by a big-name movie director for a project they are working on.

The story follows a trajectory very familiar to fans of O. Henry or “The Twilight Zone” and would be enjoyable — if tasteless — except for the inclusion of various alternate theories about why and how the buildings were destroyed.

Much of this “evidence” is cobbled together from what could be termed the Conspiracy Theorist’s Playbook. Accordingly, the Sept. 11 attacks were orchestrated by highly placed members of the Bush administration who adhered to elitist philosopher Leo Strauss’ belief that “what the world needed was a return to American imperialism at any cost.” The U.S. government ignored warnings from various national security sources and allowed the attacks to occur, thus providing Bush with an excuse to invade Iraq.

Veitch spends much time discussing a linchpin of these alternate theories, that the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings could not have been caused by jet planes alone, but required controlled demolitions, i.e., strategically planted explosives.

At the center of this belief is World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story skyscraper that toppled hours after the initial attacks. Any number of websites theorize that the building’s destruction appeared to be a controlled demolition and that the debris (which was quickly removed and destroyed) indicated the presence of thermite, used in incendiary bombs.

I have no love of the Bush administration or how it piggybacked on 9/11 to reduce American freedoms and increase our presence overseas, but the thought that he or his handlers orchestrated a direct attack against the American people beggars the imagination and cannot be supported by evidence.

We are talking, after all, about politicians, appointed officials and public employees, who seldom demonstrate the closed-mouthedness necessary to keep secrets for long. If one or more of them had been in bed with terrorists or involved in wiring buildings with explosives, somebody or somebody’s mistress would have talked. The fact that nobody did is significant.

Separate reports by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology confirm that jet fuel from the planes was sufficient to weaken the Towers’ steel frames. That, and combustible materials inside the buildings, made it hot enough for the structures to collapse.

Similarly, the destruction of the smaller Building 7 is also explained by a 2008 NIST report that blames falling debris from WTC 1, seven hours of uncontrolled fires raging among building furnishings, and sprinkler-system failure.

(A good source of reliably vetted information is a Popular Mechanics cover story originally published in March 2005 and freely available at the magazine’s website as a teaser for the full-length “Debunking 9/11 Myths,” updated last year.)

When I read material like “The Big Lie” or accounts of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and other public figures that weave sticky webs of complicity, I’m reminded of a troubled woman who showed up at The Review offices in the days after 9/11. She was carrying receipts from a local store for photocopies she had made the week before. Numbers, letters and words were circled — proof, she was convinced, that God had given her a premonition, but that she had missed the signs and was guilty of all those deaths.

Some people cannot accept that the simplest explanation for an event that accounts for all, or most, of the facts is likely the correct explanation. With 9/11, some Americans struggle to believe that ordinary, nondescript people with deluded mindsets planned and executed the deaths of thousands. But they did. They and their warped ideologies are solely to blame.

Layers of bureaucracy hindered the United States intelligence community from recognizing warning signs and stopping the attacks, but this was determined mostly by Monday-morning quarterbacking and hindsight. We’ve fixed many of those problems in the last 11 years and are now better equipped to move and act.

At some point, evidence may surface to lend credibility to some of the loopier theories about 9/11. Until then, however, they remain fodder for the fringe, the stuff of big-budget summer thrillers and comic books, and not a productive way to honor the lives lost 11 years ago this week.

Originally published Sept. 13, 2012 in The Alliance Review.

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