The truth is out there

After 9/11 paved the road to war, I’ve experienced a couple flashes of suspicion too cynical even for a cynic.

George W. Bush had done little to distinguish himself since squeaking into office. Suddenly, the nation looked to him for leadership, and he got a mandate to make America safe, by any means necessary. Tragedy provided a golden opportunity, and he seized it.

It’s the stuff of legends … and espionage thrillers. Could people in the White House have orchestrated the attacks? Could 24 have a nonfiction parallel? No, too far-fetched—too evil. President Bush, a faithful Christian, wouldn’t condone killing thousands of his own people to advance his political aims. Even Hitler had the Reichstag burned at night, not when it was packed with Germans.

I dismissed the notion. Too much TV—too many books.

Others don’t have my reservations.

Saturday (Feb. 3), I was a guest on the KZFR radio show The Point Is. Dick Witman asked me to assess how 9/11 conspiracy discussions, so prevalent on the Internet, are resonating in our community. Do I get a lot of letters? Calls? Concerned people coming up to me at Peet’s?

I wanted to brush up on the topic before talking about it, so Dick steered me to Conspiracy Planet and Google Video. From these and other online sources, I found some unbelievable plot pieces:

• Earlier in 2001, Vice President Cheney received operational authority over NORAD, our air defense command.

• On the morning of Sept. 11, the military conducted a training exercise for a scenario that included planes crashing into buildings. Some of these “planes” appeared on grids displaying air traffic, as did the real Air Force jets sent to “intercept” them.

• NORAD was ordered to stand down during the attack.

• The World Trade Center towers had structural flaws that would have required massive reconstruction, costing tens of billions of dollars.

• Demolition experts see signs of explosives in the buildings’ collapse.

• Surveillance video at the Pentagon indisputably shows an explosion, but not a jumbo jet crash.

There’s more, of course. The Internet is full of material.

I don’t know how much is fact and how much is conjecture. Ironically, one of the key elements—the structural weakness of the WTC—could bolster the official version of events by explaining why the towers buckled. The outline of a plot may be here, but the devil is in the details.

To answer Dick Witman’s question, Iraq and local issues trump 9/11 these days. I get no letters or calls about it. Do people believe there’s “a grain of truth” in talk of government complicity? Callers to the show confirmed an answer of yes.

Several friends have questioned my sanity for even entertaining the idea, and particularly for writing about it. I need to do a lot more research before jumping to conclusions, but I’m interested enough to look. I’m a sucker for intrigue—and the Internet.