September 11th: Conspiracy-itis
Published on Friday, June 21, 2002 by
September 11th: Conspiracy-itis
by Marty Jezer

I wanted to begin this column by saying that people who view politics through a filter of conspiracy are ignorant of history and how the world works, probably paranoid, and certainly intellectually lazy. Alas, some conspiracies really exist.

For example, take the Kennedy assassination. Though Oliver Stone in his film ďJFKĒ got the conspiracy angle wrong (he blamed it, using flimsy evidence, on Lyndon Johnson), there is overwhelming documentation linking Lee Harvey Oswald to an eccentric New Orleans-based airplane pilot named David Ferrie. Ferrie worked for Mafia boss Carlos Marcello and ran guns to anti-Castro Cubans. The Mafia, which ran the gambling, prostitution and drug concessions in Havana before Castro sent them packing, like the right-wing Cubans, had a motive to get rid of Kennedy. JFK, after the failure of the Bay of Pigs, had no taste for another Cuban invasion.

The Mafia/anti-Castro ďwho-shot-KennedyĒ theory is backed by documented facts and transparent motives. Most conspiracy theories consist of isolated, and often unverifiable, facts, mixed indiscriminately with gossip, innuendo, half-truths, and found-documents that exist outside of any meaningful context. Most conspiracy theories are based on the hatred of one political group for another. When an atrocity happens, conspiracists construct a case in order to pin the blame on their rivals.

Such is the origin of the conspiracy theories, now flooding the internet, which attempt to link George W. Bush to the 9-11 terrorist bombings. Like the right-wing crazies who believe that the U.N. controls America and Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster, conspiracists on the fringe of the left believe that George W. Bush is responsible for the September 11 attacks. They believe he orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in order to create a climate of fear so he could suspend civil liberties, stifle dissent, and then go to war to make Afghanistan safe for U.S. energy companies to build an oil pipeline.

To give the conspiracists credit, they are demon researchers, single-minded in tracking down every shred of information that might bolster their theory. What they lack is an ability (or desire) to evaluate evidence and place it into a real-world context. They canít see the forest for the trees and canít distinguish popple from a sturdy oak. Conspiracists see the world through their own mind-set. To conspiracists, everything has meaning, everything happens according to plan. But the world doesnít work that way. People screw up. Egos and rivalry cause chaos. Organizations have conflicting agendas. The FBI and CIA really donít talk to each other and arenít very good at evaluating raw intelligence data. Thatís life!

One of the difficulties in debunking conspiracy theory is that the debunker has to track down and disprove every alleged piece of evidence. Since conspiracy facts rarely exist in a coherent context, each must be tracked down and disproven separately. Itís a no-win situation. To ardent conspiracists, anyone who challenges their theory becomes part of a cover-up.

I myself donít have the investigative passion to get into the arcane trivia of conspiracy nonsense. All credit then to David Corn, an upstanding journalist for The Nation who took the time to track down the assertions of the conspiracy theorists and found their evidence lacking in veracity and the major purveyors of the theory lacking in credibility. (See ď9-11 X-FilesĒ at

I reject the conspiracy theory on broader grounds, because of the way the conspiracists misinterpret even their more truthful assertions. The conspiracists make much of the Bush familyís connection with the father of Osama bin Laden. Pappa bin Laden has more than 50 children. By fact and on principle, one should not blame a father for the evil of a son (and visa versa), but it suits the conspiracists to insist on a direct correlation.

Conspiracists say the war in Afghanistan was planned before it happened. Duh! The Pentagon has contingency plans for wars in every country. Thereís a whole bureaucracy drafting those plans as their daily work assignment. And oil? Most foreign policy is geared to oil and other natural resources. And the Central Asian countries that have the oil want the pipeline as much as the oil companies. Never before has the United States needed to kill its own citizens in order to justify aggression against another country.

More to the point, evidence indicates that the FBI and CIA had information about a plot before Bush took office and did nothing. Was the Clinton Administration part of the plan, along with the FBI, CIA, FAA, and the airline industry? And why four planes? Why not just one? And why target a building with thousands of people in it when any symbol of America would stir patriotism and cause outrage? And why, if the government knew of or plotted the attack, didnít the authorities pack the planes with undercover agents and stop the attacks as they started? What a coup that would have been. Bush could have parleyed that bit of heroism into election for life.

The conspiracists claim that Bush is a dim bulb, yet they give him credit for pulling off a complex and unprecedented attack. They claim, correctly I think, that he is only interested in protecting the rich; so why would he support an act that hurt the airline and travel industry and took the bottom out of an already declining stock market?

It doesnít make sense, to put it kindly. Nine-eleven conspiracy theories are an ugly, ignorant and dangerous distraction from the real political problems that the policies of the Bush Administration represent. The fact that Bush is exploiting the situation for political gain doesnít make him responsible for the situation itself; any politician would do the same. The conspiracists, to the degree they are identified with the left, will do more damage to the credibility of progressive politics than they will to the reputation of the Bush Administration. If I didnít know any better, I would say that the emergence of the 9-11 conspiracy theory is a FBI plot to discredit the left.

Marty Jezer writes from Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at
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