The time elapsed from November 22, 1963, to September 11, 2001, is thirty-seven years, nine months, and twenty days. That is just about a generation and a half. A person born the day Kennedy died would likely have children not old enough to remember 9/11. We let it happen in 1963; just over thirty-seven and a half years later, we let it happen again.
We know now that we permitted a coup in 1963. A long time passed – more than forty years – before many of us understood that. We don’t know yet what occurred on September 11, 2001. The events of that day present more complications than does delivery of a bullet to a leader’s head. Complex or not, we do not have fifty years to understand the events of 9/11. To save our democracy, we have to understand them as soon as possible.
To undertake this project, we should recall that the desire to discover what happened on 9/11 does not originate with a group of extremists who see a government conspiracy behind every horrible event. Efforts to learn the truth about 9/11 originate with the families of people who died that day. Family members lost wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They lost the people they loved most in circumstances so unimaginable, the victims jumped from a thousand feet and more to escape being burned alive. Better one last leap into the air wait for the flames to consume you and everyone with you.
Each person in the towers walked into the front door of the building that sunny September morning, ready to work one more day. They took the elevator to the floor where they would meet their friends, sit at their desks, place phone calls, type messages to colleagues. Everything seemed like every other morning. Thirty minutes later, they are saying goodbye to their spouses on their cell phones, standing at a shattered window to decide whether they have courage to jump. Most of the people who died that morning had loved ones at home, in school, in cities nearby. They all had dinner that night with an empty space at the table, went to sleep that night with an empty space in the bed. They knew the empty space would not be filled again.
When something like that happens to your family, you want to know why. You don’t just let it go. You press for an investigation, but you find quickly enough that the officials you ask are too busy for you. They tell you they have better things to do. They tell you to go away: we’ll give you money if you go away. They tell you we already know everything we can find out. They tell you things you know cannot be true. You come to understand that they snow you compulsively, that you cannot trust them with even the simplest request or task.
The 9/11 truth movement began with family members who encountered officials who screwed with them, officials who were dishonest, unforthcoming, deceptive, unresponsive and, in the end, unsympathetic. The 9/11 Commission was formed more than fourteen months after the attacks, and submitted its final report nearly three years after September 11, in 2004. Even the president would not speak with the Commission for the record – the president! Anything he had to say would be privileged and private. If the president would not cooperate with the Commission, who else in the government would?
Today the 9/11 truth movement continues to comprise men and women who just want to know what happened, not extremists who pose a threat to our country. Cass Sunstein, who works for President Obama, has called people in the movement epistemological cripples, people so unbalanced that government should infiltrate their groups to destroy cohesion, spread rumors and lies, sow conflict, and end their effectiveness. That is how government responds to people who just want to know what happened. Sunstein ridicules parents who do not care to hear lies and excuses when they ask why their sons and daughters died. He devises aggressive, deceitful strategies to derogate and destroy spouses who simply want to know what happened to their wives and husbands.
Instead of honest, full answers, we have a whitewash. The difference between Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush is that Johnson launched the Warren whitewash right away. If it had been up to George W. Bush, we would have had no 9/11 Commission at all. He steadily opposed an investigation, and only acceded to an investigation after Congress sent the required legislation to the White House for his signature. Since he did not explain why he resisted an investigation for so long, we can only guess. He offered an excuse that an investigation would distract from the administration’s Global War on Terror. That’s some reason.
World Trade Center building number seven plays the role of Jack Ruby in this story. On Sunday, November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby walked up to Lee Oswald in the basement of a Dallas police station and shot him in the stomach. The country watched him do it on television. Now the Kennedy family would be spared the pain of a trial. Something was not right about that murder. Something was fishy. Something was not right.
The controlled demolition of World Trade Center 7 was equally fishy. No one could witness the destruction of that building – on film or otherwise – and think it was anything other than a planned demolition. No forty-seven story skyscraper constructed of heavy steel could fall to the ground in just over seven seconds due to some scattered fires. Just as governnment offered pablum to explain why Ruby shot Oswald, it offered essentially no explanation for the destruction of World Trade Center 7. The building fell down: that’s all you need to know.
Now we come to the stated aim of the 9/11 truth movement. When challenged on their evidence, their reasoning, their implied conclusions, their analytical methods, or any other element of their arguments, movement representatives say that all they want is a new, impartial investigation. It’s a reasonable aim, a modest one, and in its modesty it deflects the challenges people would like to pose for the group.
A major difficulty is that movement leaders do not indicate who should conduct an impartial investigation. Investigators would need resources, and access to relevant information. The investigators taken together would need a variety of skills. They would need a charter of some sort to lend their findings legitimacy. They would need to use methods of research that promote high quality work, sound conclusions and believable results. With people like Cass Sunstein working for the White House, the battle lines in this conversation are already drawn. Some people will regard the investigators’ results as incredible no matter what they find. In that kind of investigative environment, you have to think about what kind of body could produce results that are worth the trouble.
So now someone has to ask who would sponsor such a group of investigators. The sponsor would select the group’s members, fund the group’s investigation, and help the group achieve its goals. It would facilitate the group’s activities so it could concentrate on research, evaluation of evidence, preparation of summaries and reports, and the like. The sponsor could be inside of government, or outside of government. If inside, taxpayers would fund the investigation. If outside, money from private sources would fund the research. Whatever the source of funds, the group would need access to relevant evidence.
Mounting an independent investigation that has any connection whatever with government would be a foolish, questionable and futile enterprise. We already know that government is thoroughly untrustworthy, that the investigation it has already completed is practically empty of answers to outstanding questions, and that key agencies in the government – especially the CIA and FBI – have no motivation to supply evidence required for the investigation. Why would we expect a new investigation conducted by government to be superior to the one it has already completed?
That leaves a privately sponsored investigation. Here the progress of research into the Kennedy assassination offers a good lesson. The efforts of private researchers over five decades have revealed far more than official inquiries have. Yes, pressure from private researchers and from the public more generally has, over time, forced government agencies to make more documents available than they did in the years immediately following the murder. This new evidence has made a difference.
Nevertheless, credit belongs to the persistence and perseverance of people who worked without sponsorship, without pay, and without an official charter to give them credibility. They suffered incredible ridicule, ostracism and contempt, yet they stayed with their research. They patiently made their case until they left their opponents looking like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A huge preponderance of evidence has sliced off both their arms and legs, yet the lone nut theorists continue to sputter their challenges. They used to speak so confidently – now they look like lightweights who can’t admit they were mistaken.
Our government tries to protect more information now than ever. Certainly it is currently more closed about information related to 9/11 than it has been about records related to the Kennedy assassination. If a group of government sponsored investigators could not gain access to evidence they need, that would be true of private researchers as well. As with the Kennedy assassination, private researchers have to rely on their ingenuity, their resourcefulness, and their investigative skills to make progress. As indicated above, 9/11 is a more complex event than the Kennedy assassination. It also does not have a prominent piece of evidence like the Zapruder film to serve as a touchstone for other work.
No matter. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth have assembled good evidence and arguments related to events in New York at the World Trade Center on September 11. They have professional pride and many other reasons to fuel their work. If what the government says about 9/11 is true, then architects and engineers who design skyscrapers are idiots. Credit belongs to this group and to the professions it represents for taking up this fight.
I do not want to say that government can have no role in uncovering what actually happened on 9/11. It’s clear though that this administration, under this attorney general, would never ever permit an open, thorough and truthful investigation of the events that occurred on 9/11. Meantime, research outside of government will continue – it must continue. Government would like the movement to go away. We know that it won’t, even if our democracy continues to deteriorate.
Let me add one more thought. All of the researchers and writers involved in this search for truth, all who want to learn the truth in order to preserve our republic, should think in terms of stories. If we quote witnesses, the witnesses ought to have names. If we know of incriminating evidence found in the towers’ remains, listeners want to know who found the evidence, what they did with it, and who analyzed it. Listeners want to identify with real people who interact with other real people, and who do things. Why do you suppose the government did not reveal the life stories of the people who attacked us on 9/11? It did not do so because it has too much to hide. It could not personalize the attackers’ stories without revealing information that it would prefer to keep hidden.
Stories about actual people lead to reasoning about motives and actions tied to those motives. Early Kennedy researchers focused, among other things, on the Warren Report and its weaknesses, medical reports, forensic evidence and its interpretations, as well as basic facts gleaned from photographs and eye witness interviews. That was necessary preparative work, but it did not become truly persuasive until researchers sought to attribute motives to the actors. The idea that the Kennedy assassination was a coup remained unpersuasive unless the conspirators had a motive for murdering the president. In books like James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable, we could see at last why the conspirators wanted President Kennedy to die. Douglass tells a complicated story to reveal those motives.
The same narrative methods ought to drive 9/11 research. Which is more persuasive, to say that tiny chips indicative of nano-thermite were found in the towers’ dust, or to relate details about who discovered it, and what happened after that? Assemble first person accounts and fashion them into narratives we can compare with the government’s version. If we don’t have enough good accounts now, find people who were present that day and ask them to write down everything they remember. Banish the passive voice from all investigative reports, and replace it with a narrative that explains who acted, when they acted, what they did, and why.
We can still find out what happened that day. We used to think that the more time passed after November 22, 1963, the more difficult it would be to learn the truth about Kennedy’s assassination. If anything, books about the assassination during the last ten years have been as rich and detailed as you could ask. Evidently we needed the Kennedy research pot to simmer for a long time. Patience yielded persuasive results.
I indicated above that we don’t have such a long time for 9/11 research to simmer. Nearly fifty years ago we let conspirators kill our president, and get away with it. Thirty-seven and a half years later, another calamity struck, and we let the conspirators get away with it again. When U. S. armed forces tipped bin Laden’s weighted body overboard and let it sink to the bottom of the ocean, we did not reach the end of this story. When we assassinated Osama bin Laden, we did not complete our responsibility to our republic, to 9/11 victims or their family members, or to ourselves as citizens. We have to know what actually happened on 9/11 before we can do that.