Guestblogger Arthur Goldwag is the author of "Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more" and other books.
9/11 -- the sheer shock of it, the deaths, the sense of violation-still rouses incredible emotions. The seven years of international adventurism, state-sanctioned torture, domestic spying, rampant privatization, and upward redistribution of income that followed, all of it promoted by waving the bloody flag, have left us more polarized as a society than we've been since at least the 1960s.
I recently heard from Daniel Edd III, a passionate and voluble member of the 9/11 Truth Community. "How do you feel about this guy's qualifications?" he asked, posting a link to the Wikipedia entry on Steven E. Jones. "Have you ever watched the documentary 9/11: Press for Truth?" he continued.
I do not understand how anyone could watch this documentary, argue against the victim's families, and still consider themseleves a Patriotic American Citizen. The evidence has been served up on a silver platter, and I promise you that I will see to it that the truth gets exposed.
I joined the US Army in a combat arms MOS just three months after 9/11. I believed that defending my family, friends, and fellow countrymen from those who attacked us was a cause worth dying for. My beliefs have not changed. I raised my right hand and swore to defend this country against all enemies, foreign or DOMESTIC. Now that I know beyond any doubt that Osama bin Laden and 19 cavemen did not bring down the towers, I will continue upholding my oath by pursuing the TRUE perpetrators until I take my last breath.
I'm sure I'm not the first to say this, but Yeats's words in "The Second Coming" seem strangely apt when it comes to 9/11 Truth: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." Which isn't to say that 9/11 Truthers are all "bad." Many of them -- Daniel Edd Bland III, for one -- are absolutely sincere and well-intentioned. Part of the reason I try to avoid getting into arguments with them is because I don't want to seem to be impugning their intelligence or their characters. What's "worst" in them is their critical methodology-their emotionally-colored, conspiratorial, often magically deterministic view of the world.
Consider David Ray Griffin, whose qualifications as a liberal theologian are sterling, whose political leanings are idealistic and enlightened, but whose writings about 9/11 are tendentious in the extreme.
My own mind may not be first-rate but, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, it's able to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time. Though I am no Truther, I believe that the Bush/Cheney administration lied to us, repeatedly and brazenly. They cynically exploited the attacks to promote a war that an unholy alliance of interests -- Israel-centric neo-conservatives; profit-hungry oilmen; evangelicals looking to hasten the advent of the End times; expatriate Iraqis seeking their return to power -- were certain would be a cake walk. But I have seen no credible evidence that Bush, Cheney or anyone else in the American government planned or abetted the attacks themselves--and my mind boggles at the sheer nastiness of some of the Truther scenarios that question whether the people on the planes really died.
I was maybe a quarter of a mile away from the North Tower that morning; the jet was over mid-town when it popped into my field of view and I didn't take my eyes off it until it disappeared in the fireball. But an hour and a half later, when I was back in Brooklyn and someone told me that the tower had just collapsed (and indeed, there'd been all kinds of rumblings outside and the sky had darkened noticeably), I insisted that they were mistaken. "It couldn't have fallen," I said. "The damage was all at the top." I was practically there, but I didn't know what I was talking about. No big surprise-as any lawyer can tell you, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. The next afternoon, I met a hard-hat on the Brooklyn Bridge who'd been working on the Pile. "Was it a bomb?" I asked him. "I don't know," he answered, "But I'll tell you this: Yesterday this country was caught sitting on the crapper, with its pants around its ankles." He didn't know anything either, but it's hard to argue with what he said.
As for Steven E. Jones, yes, he is a well-regarded physicist, but he's not a structural engineer. I've read articles by structural engineers that completely demolish his claim that the buildings collapsed at "free fall acceleration." I'm not able to follow their math, but I suspect that most members of the 9/11 Truth Community aren't either. And from what I've read about the trace quantities of chemicals associated with thermites that Jones detected on debris collected from Ground Zero, they don't remotely prove the presence of incendiary bombs--they can also be found in Freon and paint and computer equipment. I could point to websites like debunking911.com or AE911Truth.INFO or 911Myths, but most true believers would simply direct me to advocacy websites of their own.
William of Occam said it best in the 14th century: Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate. "Plurality should not be assumed unnecessarily." Occam's Razor, also known as the Pinciple of Parsimony, suggests that the most credible theory is almost always the most economical--the one that involves the least number of moving parts. This blog post tallies up all the people who would have had to be involved in a conspiracy in which the government deliberately blew up those buildings, manipulated fake hijackers or suicide operatives into crashing jets (or holograms of jets) into them, and corrupted thousands of scientists, law enforcement authorities, insurance inspectors, construction workers, and firefighters to rubberstamp the official story. It's much easier for me to imagine a small, well-funded group of Arabs with box cutters pulling this off (whose leaders may have hid from US bombers in caves, but who are very far from troglodytes) than half a million silent collaborators, almost none of whom have anything to gain by it-and whose number includes almost every structural engineer in the world (Richard Gage, the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth is NOT a structural engineer).
I didn't watch the movie but I know it was well-reviewed. I salute the Jersey Girls for their courage and assiduousness. I don't believe that all of the political or public safety issues that 9/11 raises have been remotely resolved either (consider NORAD's and the FAA's torpid response to NWA's rogue Flight 188 two weeks ago, if you think that sufficiently-committed hijackers couldn't knock down another American building). I'm completely in favor of airing everything that can be aired in the full glare of the press.
But I don't think it serves truth or justice to misuse science, to pretend that people who died didn't die, that jets didn't crash or that members of the Bush administration-which Lord knows is culpable for so many things-knowingly pulled any triggers.