The Top Story by Chris Graham
David Ray Griffin is the least likely conspiracy theorist that you’ll ever meet.
A theologian by trade, Griffin was working on a book on Western imperialism at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
At the outset, Griffin said, he viewed what was going on, “as many liberals did,” as a “blowback from our foreign policy.”
He decided to add a chapter on the attack to his book. As he researched the subject, he decided to examine the premise offered by some that the attack was, like the mysterious sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 at the outset of the Spanish-American War, or the equally mysterious Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that precipitated the expansion of United States involvement in Vietnam, a pretext to the Bush administration’s war on terror.
The more he looked at the evidence presented by others who question the “official story,” as Griffin calls it, the more he came to the conclusion that things didn’t add up.
Griffin, a retired Claremont Theology School professor, is convinced, for instance, that the Twin Towers didn’t collapse as a result of the force of the impact of two commercial airliners ramming into them.
“Everything suggests that it was an inside job,” Griffin said, who believes that the collapses were the result of a controlled demolition.
Griffin is just as convinced that President Bush was in on the planning – based on his well-publicized visit to a Florida elementary school the morning of the attacks.
“If this was a surprise attack, as we have been led to believe, and we knew that the Twin Towers had just been hit, and that there were presumably other targets, one would have had to have assumed that the president would be one of those other targets,” Griffin said.
“So why wasn’t he whisked away immediately? Why was he allowed to sit there, as we all saw in Michael Moore’s movie, for seven or eight minutes, then allowed to remain at the school for another 30 minutes before holding a news conference? Why hold a news conference at all? Wouldn’t that signal to the world, ‘Here I am. Come and get me’?” Griffin said.
“The only reasonable explanation is that he knew ahead of time that he would not be a target,” Griffin told The Augusta Free Press.
Griffin’s is far from being the only alternative explanation for what happened four Septembers ago. Not all are based on the federal government actively participating in the planning of the operation – some theories pin the blame on Israeli intelligence agents; others say it was Al-Qaeda that perpetrated the attack, but that government officials knew in advance the details of what was going to happen and failed to do anything to stop it.
There is, though, a common thread – what we were told about 9/11 isn’t true.
“This is a war for the mind,” said Kenneth White, a member of the Nelson County Citizens for 9/11 Truth, which drew nearly three dozen people to a community forum in Lovingston last month that featured a screening of a film chronicling Griffin’s 9/11 theories.
“A lot of people do want to discuss this. A lot of people don’t want to discuss this. They feel that it’s disloyal and disruptive to our troops who are fighting overseas. Those of us who have served in wars know that we have the finest military members in the world, and we support them. But to raise questions about what happened on 9/11 isn’t about being disloyal,” White told the AFP.
“The question should be, do you believe in giving the government more control, or do you believe in freedom?” White said.
The question on the mind of Michael Griffith, who runs a popular John F. Kennedy assassination Web page, is … why?“There is plenty of credible evidence that there was a conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination, a number of unanswered questions, substantive unanswered questions. But in the case of 9/11, it’s obvious what happened,” Griffith told the AFP.
Griffith addresses on a page linked to his JFK assassination site the various theories making the rounds – including the one in which cruise missiles are said to have hit the Pentagon in the place of a passenger airliner; the rather involved one that had the military killing everybody on the plane that struck the Pentagon, using a remote-controlled aircraft to smash into the building, then carting the dead bodies of the plane passengers to the site; and the idea that the Twin Towers were hit by planes autopiloted by military brass on orders from President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
“The general gist of the theories is that somebody, the intelligence community, the president, somebody, concocted a scheme to do this to use the quote-unquote attacks as an excuse to begin a phony war on terror and take away our civil liberties,” Griffith said.
That other views of the story of 9/11 emerged in the aftermath of the attack is not a surprise to Syracuse University political-science professor Michael Barkun, the author of A Culture of Conspiracy, which looks at conspiracy theories from the JFK assassination to the Oklahoma City bombing to 9/11.
“A number of factors are at play as to the longevity of conspiracy ideas. The first is the sheer magnitude of the event,” Barkun told the AFP. “And when I say magnitude, I’m not talking solely about the loss of life or the property destruction. I’m also referring to the psychological horror that is felt on a wider scale. Even an event where there was only one life lost, the assassination of President Kennedy, can create a high level of public anxiety and spawn years and years of conspiracy theories.
“That’s the nature with catastrophic events like these. Even when they take place in public, and even as they are covered in real time through mass-media communication, there are always unanswered questions, and no matter how many eyewitnesses there are, when these events take place, the questions remain, and new questions develop. And the demand for explanations is generated,” Barkun said.
Adding to this demand for explanations, Barkun said, is the notion that in recent decades, dating back to before World War II, the domain of government secrecy has increased.
“And as the domain of government secrecy has increased, and more and more government activities are being conducted outside of the public view, it has become easier and more natural to think of alternative explanations as to what is going on in the world,” Barkun said.
Chip Berlet, a senior research analyst for the Boston-based Political Research Associates, doesn’t dismiss the idea that there could very well be more than meets the eye to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
But that hasn’t stopped Berlet from raising questions with the more popular 9/11 conspiracy theories.
“Many theories quote eyewitness testimony as being proof positive that something other than the official story happened. Well, eyewitness testimony is often flawed,” Berlet told the AFP.
“There is a long list of eyewitness accounts from 9/11 that conflict with each other. The problem with conspiracy theorists is that they don’t present their readers with evidence that fails to support their point of view. For example, two or three people said they thought they saw missiles hit the Pentagon on 9/11. But thousands of people say they saw a commercial airliner strike the Pentagon, and could describe in detail the markings of the plane that they saw,” Berlet said.
“Another fallacy is to show a .jpg picture of the Pentagon site and point out that you can’t see any debris in the photo. But what you’re not told is that .jpg photos aren’t as good at showing detail, and that in high-resolution photos of the Pentagon site, you can indeed see a lot of debris, including some pretty substantial pieces of debris,” Berlet said.
“Some theorists point to the eyewitness accounts of a radio reporter who happened to be looking out his window to see a plane headed in the direction of the Pentagon and described what he saw as a commercial jetliner. Some people did a search of his name and couldn’t find him, and decided that he didn’t exist, and that this was evidence of a conspiracy,” Berlet said.
That was just “sloppy research on their part,” Berlet said, “because the reporter does exist, and in fact he gets so many calls from people trying to verify who he is that the people who answer the phone at his office ask you not to bother him. But you can do a ‘Net search and find audio clips of the reporter in question. He’s well known in the Washington area.”
On the other hand …
Berlet, significantly, concedes that “the simple fact that sometimes governments do engage in coverups.”
“I believe that our government hasn’t revealed everything that it knows about 9/11, for example. I believe the government has engaged in a coverup, and I believe that some of the people who are responsible for our antiterrorism policy and physical-security policy should be indicted,” said Berlet, who feels the conspiracy theorists that have advanced wild stories about the Twin Towers collapse being an inside job and cruise missiles hitting the Pentagon and the like are “taking attention away from the real coverup that took place.”
White, for his part, takes issue with the way Berlet and others “have pushed those of us who are asking questions about what happened on Sept. 11 to the fringe.”
“Of course, any normal, rational person is going to say immediately that there is no way the government would do anything like this against its own people,” White said.
“It’s important for people to know that the 9/11 Commission report was fraudulent,” White said. “The commission was up against the wall politically. They couldn’t really assign blame, because if they were to assign blame, it would have to go on both Democrats and Republicans, because the failure was a failure of the Clinton and Bush administrations.”
White emphasized that his questions aren’t of a political nature.
“We’re not affiliated with any political party,” he said of the Nelson County group. “Our members have varying political views. Personally, I’m an independent. And I supported the efforts to impeach Bill Clinton. I even attended a rally in 1999 to support his impeachment. I didn’t vote for Clinton, Gore or Kerry, and I certainly wouldn’t ever support Hillary Clinton. I think the question isn’t one of Democrat versus Republican. They’re both complicit in this.
“This is explosive. It’s disturbing. But if it’s true, we have to follow it to its conclusion,” White said. “If this was done by our government, we have to examine the effects on our foreign policy. We have to examine what impact it has had on security measures undertaken in this country to fight the so-called war on terror. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered.”