Published on Friday, July 14, 2006 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
9/11 A Bush Conspiracy? Get Real
by Tony Norman
A couple weeks ago, a colleague slipped me a burned copy of "Loose Change," a freelance documentary about 9/11 that won't be turning up on the History Channel anytime soon.
Though calling it to my attention can only be interpreted as an endorsement of its views on some level, my colleague went out of his way to withhold judgment, other than to say it raised a lot of questions for him.
Like most people in this business, he's a good guy. He wants desperately to believe that history isn't so open-ended that it's susceptible to the brute passions of 19 zealots with 72 virgins and high-tech martyrdom on their minds.
Still, he was circumspect even as he handed me the disc. Questioning the official narrative of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 is risky business.
Though I believe all sorts of outlandish things from the Nicene Creed and Arlen Specter's "single-bullet theory" to the likelihood of stolen elections in Florida and Ohio, I can't make the leap of faith necessary to give the Bush administration credit for masterminding a conspiracy of the scale and complexity of 9/11.
Maybe I'm too cynical for my own good, but this White House doesn't strike me as sufficiently evil, imaginative or competent to pull off a military-assisted coup under cover of a terrorist attack.
Certainly, everything this administration has done since 9/11 is inimical to American democracy, but there's a difference between exploiting a horrible situation for partisan advantage and planning the atrocity in the first place.
To believe "Loose Change" is to imagine Osama bin Laden the unwitting patsy of American neo-cons so fiendishly clever that they're able to manipulate al-Qaida into believing that 9/11 was their handiwork when Vice President Dick Cheney was the actual culprit.
Mr. Cheney may be the closest thing we have to Shakespeare's Cornwall and Richard III rolled into one, but he's also the man who couldn't make it off a hunting range without shooting a companion in the face.
Illuminati? Cheney barely qualifies as Three Stooges material. Neither he nor his ostensible boss, President Bush, knew what hit them the morning four passenger planes smashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a lonely field in Shanksville, Pa.
The infamous classroom footage of President Bush reading "My Pet Goat" to elementary kids in Florida the morning of the attacks also exonerates him in a perverse way.
Anyone who saw Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9-11" will never forget the look of fear and confusion on the President's face as he struggled to keep his composure during the most traumatic day of his life.
If Mr. Bush had conspired to orchestrate 9-11, wouldn't he have been holed-up with Cheney in a bunker far from intrusive cameras when hell started falling from the skies?
Wouldn't Mr. Bush have taken to the airwaves earlier to calm the nation with a resolutely brilliant speech had he known the terror attacks were coming? Would he have left that duty to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani stoically dodging falling buildings at Ground Zero if he and Cheney were pulling the strings of everything behind the scenes?
When Gregory Itzin as President Charles Logan went from feckless political hack to Machiavelli-on-steroids during the fifth season of "24," it was a great turn that, nonetheless, underscored the show's unbelievable weekly plot twists.
But unless we're prepared to believe George Bush is as great an actor as Gregory Itzin, even the most rabid administration critic has to concede that the look of stupefied wariness on the president's face was real. He had no idea what was going to happen next and he was as terrified as the rest of us.
Conspiracy theories represented in documentaries like "Loose Change" and the dozens of books and hundreds of web sites devoted to "telling the truth about 9/11" are the ironic fruit of the administration's cynical manipulation of information. It's compulsive secrecy led to the universal distrust with which it is held.
If not for the cowardice and "resurgent patriotism" of the mainstream media in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration's political ineptitude would've become fodder for late night comics and tough-minded exposes years ago and possibly spared us the Iraq war.
The search for answers about 9/11 took a back seat to regurgitating the self-serving propaganda of an administration caught flat-footed by terrorists affiliated with those who attacked the WTC a decade earlier.
In the absence of a vigilant press, a thousand conspiracy theories have bloomed. The full truth will eventually be pieced together by a future generation of journalists and historians who don't give a damn about being included on this White House's Christmas card list.
© 2006 PG Publishing Co., Inc.