This will be the first in a number of articles meant to express my opinion on common topics. Often I find I can’t explain my view concisely without feeling I’m cheating someone out of part of the story. Referrals to this page should obviate the need to make editorial decisions that deny people information - decisions I justifiably hate making.
Today’s topic: the attacks of 11 September 2001.
The September 11 attacks were not faked or perpetrated by individuals under the direction of the White House, George W. Bush or his staff, the CIA, the FBI or any government group. The common argument runs, roughly:
- There is no way the terrorists could have eluded customs, the intelligence community, the police, airport security, etc.
- The Bush Administration wanted to make war on Afghanistan/Iraq, and views ‘common American people’ as expenable.
- Certain analyses of video, audio and photographs of the attack show phenomena irreconcilable with the appearance/sound of normal jetliners.
- Therefore, the attacks were engineered by non-terrorists using prepared jets, so that Al-Qaeda could be blamed and Afghanistan invaded.
Sadly this line of ‘reasoning’ subscribes to a different species of the very paranoia the administration fosters. Some remarks:
- There is a way the terrorists could have entered the U.S. To believe in an airtight Customs system, the omnicognizance of the U.S. intelligence services or the omnipotence of the military machine is to put blind faith in a number of deeply flawed systems. My impression of American government is one of a bureaucracy that views itself as something to be circumvented, with the result that nothing is well-coordinated (despite the largely unsung efforts of a small number of honest people). In any case, the porousness of borders and international transporation is real, and due more to poor and incomplete execution of current systems than the absence of The Next Big Fix.
- I’ll agree that the current White House team is a blundering, corrupt, shoot-from-the-hip group of ignorant warmongers. This is precisely why this propostion is laughable. The level of sophistication, coordination and indirection required to plan an event like 9/11 is entirely beyond them. There’s no doubt there were plans to invade Afghanistan, Iraq or even Iran on file before 9/11; I’m sure senior members of the administration plan wars like the rest of us play Risk, and view it as just as harmless. They were definitely quick out of the gate when the (flimsy) excuse presented itself, but they couldn’t have conceived of anything as clever as faking a terrorist attack to justify an invasion.
- These arguments resemble the arguments of unscientific types convinced that UFOs are alien spacecraft. Beware the bullying line of “It’s right there in front of your eyes - can’t you see it? I see it… everyone else sees it. Are you stupid?”, beware armchair aerostructures and demolition experts, beware conveniently selected reference photos of ordinance mounted on much smaller aircraft. I’m particularly annoyed by the “That little bit of jet fuel couldn’t have taken down the Twin Towers” argument. Many people are clearly unaware of what jet fuel is and how tall buildings are constructed. This is another example of the ‘America Is Invincible’ hypothesis, whose proponents would expect the Statue of Liberty to withstand a direct meteorite strike. Ridiculous.
- Logic fails completely here.
In general the whole thing can be dismissed via Occam’s Razor, by stacking “Surprisingly, Arabs can also fly airplanes, and knives are sharp,” against volumes of conspiracy theories. People need to have the sophistication to find the intelligent middle ground between blind faith and the unconstructive, combative ‘question everything’ approach. Listen more, preach less.