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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why The 9/11 Conspiracies Won't Go Away

There's an article in Time this week: Why The 9/11 Conspiracies Won't Go Away. Author Lev Grossman reviews some of the "conspiracy theories," such as those in the online film Loose Change, explains their appeal, and notes their popularity:
A Scripps-Howard poll of 1,010 adults last month found that 36% of Americans consider it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that government officials either allowed the attacks to be carried out or carried out the attacks themselves. Thirty-six percent adds up to a lot of people. This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.
Grossman examines one of the biggest controversies:
Take the section about the attack on the Pentagon. As the film points out--and this is a tent-pole issue among 9/11 conspiracists--the crash site doesn't look right. There's not enough damage. The hole smashed in the Pentagon's outer wall was 75 ft. wide, but a Boeing 757 has a 124-ft. wingspan. Why wasn't the hole wider? Why does it look so neat?

Experts will tell you that the hole was punched by the plane's fuselage, not its wings, which sheared off on impact. But then what happened to the wings? And the tail and the engines? Images of the crash site show hardly any of the wreckage you would expect from a building that's been rammed by a commercial jet. The lawn, where the plane supposedly dragged a wing on approach, is practically pristine.
Of course, Grossman is writing for a mainstream publication, so he can't let common sense stand:
But there's a big problem with Loose Change and with most other conspiracy theories. The more you think about them, the more you realize how much they depend on circumstantial evidence, facts without analysis or documentation, quotes taken out of context and the scattered testimony of traumatized eyewitnesses. ... The theories prompt small, reasonable questions that demand answers that are just too large and unreasonable to swallow. Granted, the Pentagon crash site looks odd in photographs. But if the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile, then what happened to American Airlines Flight 77?

Here's the photo which accompanies the article:

Indeed--what happened to American Airlines Flight 77?

There are plenty of 9/11 conspiracy theories--and the official story as reported by the 9/11 Commission is certainly one of them. It also depends "on circumstantial evidence, facts without analysis or documentation, quotes taken out of context and the scattered testimony of traumatized eyewitnesses." The truth is undoubtedly a conspiracy theory. Three large American buildings were destroyed and a fourth damaged on the same day--without a doubt the work of many people following a pre-conceived plan; that is, a conspiracy. Anyone who claims not to believe conspiracy theories cannot possibly believe the official story. But the official story has huge holes in it as well. To me, simply the fact that the Pentagon, headquarters of the world's largest-ever military, was hit by anything forty minutes after it was clear that the nation was under some sort of attack, is the biggest hole of all. HQ doesn't get hit, especially by a rag-tag group headed by a guy in a cave, unless some of the guards allow it to happen. And the manner of collapse of the WTC buildings is certainly suspicious--especially after the rubble was hauled off quickly before it could be studied. That the administration blocked the establishment of the 9/11 Commission for over a year, and then substantially circumscribed and hindered its investigation, only adds to the suspicion. The administration had motive and opportunity, and profited greatly from 9/11, both politically and financially. Exactly what they did isn't clear. That they are hiding something is without doubt.