September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since September 11, 2001, two different stories have emerged about the attacks on that fateful day.

Story 1: The attacks were the planned and organised solely by Al Qaeda Islamist terrorists, headed by Osama Bin Laden. 19 terrorist operatives boarded armed with little more than box-cutter knives, boarded 4 passenger jets, overpowered the flight crews, and sent their planes towards New York and Washington DC, where two airplanes hit the World Trade Center, one plane crashed into the Pentagon, and another plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, having failed to reach its intended destination. The Twin Towers collapsed as a result of structural weaknesses caused by the impacts and burning jet fuel. The US authorities failed to prevent the attacks due to lack of co-ordination between intelligence authorities and insufficient information about the terrorists’ objectives.

Story 2: The attacks were planned and coordinated by Israeli and/or US authorities, mainly as a pretext for war against Iraq and Afghanistan and extending American hegemony in the oil-rich Middle East. The World Trade Center collapses were caused by controlled demolitions. According to some accounts, no plane hit the Pentagon – instead it was caused by a missile shot at close range.

Clearly, most people accept the former story, but a small redoubt of people fervently believe that the leadership of the free world tried to pull a fast one on them, and that there is plenty of evidence in this regard to disprove the official account. These people have spent an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to unpick the established narrative.

Which story to believe?

Story 1 has a number of points in its favour. 9/11 was set in the context of increasingly audacious violence from Islamist terror groups, from Kenya to London to Bali.  The 9-11 Commission Report recounts, in excruciating detail, the level of miscommunication, discord, lack of communication and underestimation that took place between intelligence authorities in the days up to and including September 11th. Members of the military and intelligence communities were themselves targeted and killed in the attacks. The US Government had to invest in a massive overhaul of security. It embarked on two colossally expensive foreign wars to protect its interests. There are multiple lines of evidence: tracing the movements of the killers, the actions of the different intelligence communities, senior government decisions, airport security, flight crews, passenger phone calls, Islamist leaders and many more – all adding to an overall narrative of events on the day. Few individuals from the thousands of people, who were players in the events of the day, ever registered any major dissent from the narrative. Neither has any major media organisation, at home or abroad, seriously contested the story. It’s a story of terrorists getting lucky against a security system that was less than watertight.

To accept Story 2, you must replace incompetence, discord and pot-luck with a tale of near perfect planning and co-ordination, on a vast scale. At each stage up to the attacks themselves, alert airport officials, brave passengers or crew members could have disrupted the government’s putative plans. The implication is that they would need to have been tipped off in some way – that they were in on the conspiracy. Only a handful of companies in the world could have staged a controlled demolition on the order of the World Trade Center. To do so covertly would have been even more challenging – taking months of meticulous planning. Why didn’t the world media investigate these demolition companies? What of the (surely abundant) evidence of the products of controlled demolition among the wreckage of the buildings? The clearance teams must have been truly excellent. If the Pentagon was not hit by a jet plane, what happened to all the passengers of Flight 77 and who helped clear up (or plant) the evidence? To accept this story, you must accept that an army of specially trained, and potentially psychopathic government operatives, were in place to maintain a subterfuge on this scale. The aftermath of Iraq and Katrina, and the sheer ineptitude of many officials at that time, does not help the conspiracy theorists’ case.

It is worthwhile reminding ourselves that mass collusion does occur and has occurred in the past. The history of the 20th Century provides us with many examples: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, the Cambodian killing fields, Pinochet’s Chile. However, these examples all had a common refrain: the hatred of a particular class of people to the point that eliminating them was seen as a good thing by the perpetrators. How the ordinary traders, administrators, managers and support staff of the World Trade Center fitted the mould of  non-people is something the conspiracy theorists need to properly establish. Then there is mass-collusion within organisations such as the Catholic Church and Scientology. But these organisations, by their nature, value absolute adherence to dogma, stifle freedom of speech and are contemptuous of dissent: again, hardly prototypes for the loud, free-speaking, most in-your-face country on the planet.

Conspiracy theorists will scream that the devil is in the detail, so if you are truly bothered, far better brains than I have pulled the detailed claims apart. Popular Mechanics did a full deconstruction of the Truther claims, there are a few grassroot sceptical sites and Ryan Owens has put together some good debunking videos also. Skeptic Magazine also ran an article on 9/11 debunking that’s worth a read.

So, if you believe that the 9/11 attacks were the result of an inside job, the weight of evidence is completely against you. You are not a skeptic, you are a denier; the burden of proof is on you. The focus should be on the many issues and developments that arose out of the attacks – some of which have that often have had a huge impact on personal freedoms and government power – and not on this bullshit.