I write on September 12 and that is no accident. I was waiting for September 11 to pass, to let people still grieving unspeakable losses have a bit of peace before I say this piece.
This is about power and how it gets used and abused in an age when democracy is such an ascendant ideology that even the worst tyrants pay lip service to the will of the people. I claim this soapbox as a citizen of the United States, not because my tribal nation is perfect but because, like all Indian nations, the harm we can do by abuses of power is trivial in comparison to the colonial powers. And we must admit, at least by body count, that claiming to be the bosses of us is fairly trivial in a long litany of abuses.
What sends me down this path are the so-called “9-11 truthers.” If you haven’t visited that three ring circus in cyberspace, it’s not hard to find and if you think I’m making this up, you need only consult Professor Google. I’ll just hit the high points; the truthers don’t agree among themselves about the details.
Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. He was a patsy, a fall guy, and that famous video of bin Laden cheering over the results and praising the martyrs was a CIA fake.
Some truthers claim bin Laden was killed to maintain the conspiracy and some claim he’s not really dead. Either way, he is or was a bit player.
You see, a jet liner does not hold enough jet fuel and the fuel will not burn hot enough to bring down a skyscraper. Professor Google can refer you to experts in metallurgy who will tell you that you need to believe them and not your lying eyes. The collapse of the Twin Towers was a controlled demolition by U.S. government special operators.
In some versions, the Mossad was in on it and you can find proof in the factoid that none of the Jewish workers in the World Trade Center showed up on September 11, 2001.
Then there is Building 7 of the World Trade Center, which was not hit by an airplane and is said to be the only steel skyscraper in history to have collapsed because of fire, in this case a fire that burned out of control all day because there was no water pressure for either the building’s fire suppression systems or hoses manned by firefighters.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Steel Construction, , the National Fire Protection Association, and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers were all in on the cover up of the controlled demolition of Building 7.
Unaccounted for are all the insurance companies that took giant financial baths and have their own investigators.
Why Building 7? If you can get past why the Twin Towers then it makes more sense to ask “Why not?” But the answer has to do with a bunch of government agencies that had offices in Building 7 where a diligent truther could have found proof of all this.
What about the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on the same day? That didn’t happen. The damage was from explosives planted in the building.
What about all the people who died on the airplanes? The truthers are split between calling them collateral damage in the conspiracy and denying that there were any humans on board the airplanes. That is, they flew into the Twin Towers on remote control, killing a bunch of non-Jewish people in the buildings but killing nobody on the airplanes because the planes had no passengers. Some versions have the passengers taken off the planes and detained in government gulags along with anyone else who might blow the whistle.
Even those who haven’t done the math know instinctively that the success of a conspiracy involving silence is directly related to how many human beings are involved. The 9-11 conspiracy is a cast of thousands. Why?
Why the conspiracy and why the truthers? The latter is easy. Those among the truthers with credentials to set themselves apart or with a pre-existing political organization have coined money from the credulous.
The marks will shell out to have their place in the universe ratified by experts. The paranoid turn in modern politics (not just in the U.S.) has grown with the complexity of government. The Internet gives those flattened by the globalized and technocratic juggernaut a place to find kindred spirits.
Why did The Da Vinci Code coin money? Everybody knows about the Roman Catholic conspiracy to rule the world, as sure as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion blew the whistle on the Jewish conspiracy to do the same. More complexity just expands the number of conspirators.
The truthers have tradition on their side, but what about the government? Why?
What are governments always about? Power! Governmental power is obstructed in the U.S. by that pesky Bill of Rights. When the powers of a government are hobbled by democratic institutions, it’s necessary to convince people to surrender their rights and the best way to accomplish that is to scare the bejesus out of everybody.
The Fourth Amendment took some serious body blows in a law called Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 aka USA PATRIOT. Terrorism is meant to terrorize, and in the grip of terror the “greatest deliberative body in the world” failed its duty to deliberate and passed USA PATRIOT 98 to Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was opposed but afraid to say so.
Feingold lost his seat to a Tea Party nutcase in the next election and, by the way, he’s running to get it back in 2016 and I’ve written him a check in spite of not living in Wisconsin. Landrieu also lost hers, but Louisiana has never been very tightly wrapped anyway.
Feingold was still in office in 2006 when USA-PATRIOT had to be re-authorized and he voted for it that time. The reason he voted for it was that he had been working with the junior senator from Illinois, a fellow named Obama, to amend out some of the worst abuses. Before the Congress went crazy to celebrate the first black POTUS, it was customary that if the Senate agreed to significant amendments you advocated, then you should vote yea on final passage. Failure to do that made you a grandstanding jerk.
Now, of course, everybody is a grandstanding jerk.
I’ll be back in a future column to explain why, whether USA-PATRIOT was the fruit of the conspiracy or not, the surveillance powers we the people have ceded to government are of less import in some ways and more import in others than what the average person thinks.
What about the second Iraq war as a result of the conspiracy? That’s a very big deal.
It is. The second invasion of Iraq was a terrible blunder that has killed and continues to kill Arabs by the tens of thousands and has put gold stars in too many windows on reservations, as happens every time the U.S. goes to war.
One of many things that makes the 9-11 conspiracy tinfoil hat material is that the wars have not been exploited to suppress domestic dissent even as much as, for example, WWI. The second President Bush did not put us on a war footing at all.
The wars were funded off the books, by continuing resolutions rather than in the budget. The government made every effort to keep public concern about the human costs as quiet as the monetary costs and confined to the families of the one percent who had to do the fighting. Remember “Mission Accomplished”?
Failure to put the nation on a war footing does not jibe with the motives the 9-11 truthers attribute to the government. I am reminded of traditional Cherokee government, in which the red (war) chiefs had more power to command than the white (peace) chiefs but they lost their power as soon as the threat was removed.
There is no incentive for government to downplay a war, particularly if that same government just got through killing 3,000 people on live TV for the purpose of scaring people into a warlike state of mind.
Just because there was no 9-11 conspiracy does not mean the fear—dare I say “terror?”--- of 9-11 has not endangered the liberties to which we have been accustomed, and those dangers will be the subject of Part II.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.