Friday, February 17, 2006

The decline and fall of the 9/11 myth


In feedback -- from various people and various places, including especially readers at Free Market News Network -- I've been questioned a number of times concerning my opinion of 9/11. Or, to be more precise, concerning my opinion of the "official" version of what happened on that day. Like many writers, I'm careful about walking out on "conspiracy theory" limbs. But I owe those readers -- especially one E.S., who took the trouble to send me copies of two films on 9/11 to review -- an honest answer. So here it is.

First, a bit about the two films: Dylan Avery's "Loose Change" and "9/11: In Plane Site" from an outfit called "Power Hour," directed by William Lewis and produced by Dave vonKleist. [Note: "In Plane Site," as well as a number of other films, will be screened at a film festival to be held in conjunction with the Missouri Libertarian Party's 2006 convention; vonKleist is also a speaker at that convention]

I was pleasantly surprised by the production values of both films (more so by "In Plane Site"), and recommend them to viewers, although not without certain reservations. It would be a big stretch to say that I endorse all of the conclusions in either film, or that I find each and every evidentiary "claim of fact" supportable on the evidence the films offer. In some cases, claims are made without evidence to back them up, particularly in "Loose Change" -- for example, the bald assertion that some of those named as 9/11 hijackers are still alive, without any evidence offered to support the claim, or the claim that a certain airplane part can't be what the government says it is, because it doesn't have the triangular bezels shown in a sketch ... even though outline of at least one of the bezels is visible in the photograph of the disputed part.

On balance, though, both films raise important questions and establish probable cause -- in some cases, more than probable and bordering on definitive -- to doubt some of the most important elements of the "official" story.

With respect to the World Trade Center attacks, I have been of the opinion since early on that the towers collapsed not due to the aircraft impacts, but due to the presence of secondary explosive charges detonated some time after those impacts. Both films increase my confidence in that assessment. Firsthand accounts -- including live news broadcast footage and interviews with firefighters who were on the scene -- seem to confirm that there were explosions after, and not directly related to, the aircraft impacts, and that explosive devices were found on the scene by first responders. And the theory that burning jet fuel weakened the buildings' support columns never has seemed to hold much water.

Of course, it's a big leap from "there were bombs there" to "al Qaeda didn't do it." For one thing, al Qaeda has done exactly that kind of thing on a smaller scale, before and since: Planting two bombs, detonating one, then detonating the second once a crowd had gathered or police/troops/emergency responders had arrived. And for those who claim that al Qaeda couldn't have penetrated security to plant bombs in the WTC towers ... well, they also allegedly penetrated security at Logan International, which I suspect was slightly more strict than in the WTC parking garages and such.

It's an even bigger leap from "al Qaeda didn't do it" to "the US government did do it." That's not a leap I'm prepared to make. For one thing, an operation of that scale might ... might ... have been manageable beforehand and through the attack, but there would have had to be too many people involved for all of them to have kept quiet about it in the four years since. If the government is feeding us falsehoods, I suspect the reason is more a desire to minimize the extent of the security failure (especially if that failure included specific warnings that should have allowed the attacks to be prevented) than anything else. But, I could be wrong.

I had problems with some of the claims concerning the plane impacts themselves. For example, both films emphasize the alleged presence of a protuberance on the bottom of the second plane -- a protuberance that, as hard as I looked, I simply couldn't see. Maybe I need a large screen television. They also emphasized "flashes of light" which appeared on the surface of the buildings, apparently just before the aircraft impacts ... and frankly, the "flashes" seemed to be enhanced and I couldn't tell if I was looking at glare, light from within the buildings shining out as the huge aircraft engines sucked the darker windows loose, or just cheap special effects.

With respect to the Pentagon attack, the films convinced me: Something is rotten in Denmark. I am not a munitions or aerodynamics expert, but I've seen what a cruise missile or "smart bomb" hole in reinforced concrete looks like (at al Jabr airbase in Kuwait in 1991, and it looked a lot like the hole in the Pentagon), and I've seen no evidence that tends to support the government's claim that a 757 was what hit the building. No wreckage consistent with a 757, no damage consistent with a 757, no footage of a 757, and several pieces of wreckage and numerous eyewitness accounts that tend to militate against the notion that it was a 757.

What happened to American Airlines Flight 77? I don't know. I don't claim to know. Maybe it's at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay or somewhere else ... but I've read several "debunkings" of the "conspiracy theory" that it didn't hit the Pentagon, and they all boil down to "the government and the government's hired 'experts' say it, I believe it, that settles it." That dog won't hunt. As the "debunkers" like to quote Carl Sagan apropos of the idea that Flight 77 didn't hit the Pentagon, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." But on basis of the visible evidence and eyewitness accounts, the claim that it did is the extraordinary claim precisely because of the complete absence of evidence or proof -- extraordinary or otherwise -- so far offered to support it.

I could frame any number of hypotheses as to what did happen at the Pentagon ... but I'm not going to, because I don't have the evidence, or access to the evidence, to prove or disprove those hypotheses. Keep in mind, however, that I don't have to know what did happen in order to reach a reasonable conclusion as to what didn't happen. Nor do I have to explain why the government would offer claims not supported by the evidence in order to conclude that it has done so.

This far, and no farther: I find significant questionable elements and just downright untenable assertions in the "official" accounts of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and I applaud those who are attempting to discover the truth of the matter. I do hope, however, that they won't allow their desire to know what really happened get ahead of their ability to discover what really happened and lead them into making untenable claims of their own ... because that would reduce their credibility to the same level as the government's, which is low indeed.

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