Five Years After and We Still Don't Know
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In the five years since three World Trade Center buildings collapsed into their own footprints in virtually free fall time, the convincing power of the official explanation of that day's events has evaporated. Polls show that 36% of Americans do not believe the official account. As Lev Grossman writes in Time magazine (September 3, 2006), "Thirty-six percent adds up to a lot of people. This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality."

Grossman acknowledges that alternative explanations of 9/11 are more compelling than the official explanation. Grossman offers a psychological explanation for the success of alternative explanations: "a grand disaster like Sept. 11 needs a grand conspiracy behind it."

However, Grossman's psychological explanation fails on its own terms. Which is the grandest conspiracy theory? The interpretation of 9/11 as an orchestrated casus belli to justify US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, or the interpretation that a handful of Muslims defeated US security multiple times in one short morning and successfully pulled off the most fantastic terrorist attack in history simply because they "hate our freedom and democracy"? Orchestrating events to justify wars is a stratagem so well worn as to be boring. Indeed, it is the fantastic conspiracy of the official explanation that makes it unbelievable.

The scientists, engineers, and professors who pose the tough questions about 9/11 are not people who spend their lives making sense of their experience by constructing conspiracy theories. Scientists and scholars look to facts and evidence. They are concerned with the paucity of evidence in behalf of the official explanation. They stress that the official explanation is inconsistent with known laws of physics, and that the numerous security failures, when combined together, are a statistical improbability.

The call by 9/11 skeptics for an independent investigation by an international panel of experts is not a conspiracy theory. In principle there is nothing wrong with such an investigation. In practice, it might be difficult to create a truly independent panel. How many physicists, for example, have careers independent of government grants, and how many engineering firms would risk being branded "unpatriotic" and lose business by coming down on the "wrong" side of the issue?

Nowhere is there a surfeit of brave men.

I do not know what happened on 9/11, and I don't expect to ever find out. Neither government nor media show any interest in providing us with anything except a political commission's report.

9/11 skeptics have pointed out a large number of problems with the 9/11 Commission Report. Here is a very short list:

(1) There appears to be a very large energy deficit in the official explanation of the collapse of the two WTC towers, and no explanation for the collapse of WTC 7. What is the source of the energy that brought down the three buildings?

In the PBS documentary, " America Rebuilds," broadcast in September 2002, Larry Silverstein, who had the lease on the World Trade Center, said that WTC 7 was brought down by a decision of the authorities on the scene: "I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, 'We've had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is to pull it.' And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse."

Two striking facts jump out from this quote. One is that fire was not raging in WTC 7. The other is that "to pull" a building means to bring it down by engineered demolition. For WTC 7 to be pulled on the late afternoon of September 11, it would already have had to be wired for demolition. Why was WTC 7 wired for demolition?

Brigham Young University Professor of Physics Steven Jones has suggested that thermite, or some other powerful, high temperature, high explosive capable of slicing the powerful steel columns that comprised the WTC towers central core, provided the energy missing in the official account.

In a September 1, 2006, New York Times article, "U.S. moves to debunk 'alternative theories' on Sept. 11 attacks," Jim Dwyer reports that the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, disputes Professor Jones' suggestion. NIST believes that such "enormous quantities of thermite would have to be applied to the structural columns to damage them" that engineered demolition is not feasible.

Gentle reader, note what NIST is saying. If no reasonable quantity of the explosive thermite, which is used for engineered demolition, could damage the powerful buildings, the measly energy from an airliner, a bit of jet fuel, and gravity could not have collapsed the buildings.

The fact of the matter is that there has been no investigation of why the three buildings collapsed. Bill Manning, the editor-in-chief of "Fire Engineering" got it right when he wrote in the January 2002 issue of that publication that "the 'official investigation' blessed by FEMA and run by the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half-baked farce that may already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure. . . . As things now stand . . . the investigation into the world Trade Center fire and collapse will amount to paper- and computer-generated hypotheticals."

Manning complained about the "destruction of evidence . . . of the largest fire-induced collapse in world history" and wrote that nowhere in the "national standard for fire investigation" is there "an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence."

Obviously, we were not meant to know why the buildings collapsed.

This conclusion does not automatically lead to the conclusion that some elements of the US government and/or Israeli intelligence destroyed the buildings, using airliners as cover, in order to justify invasions to achieve US/Israeli hegemony in the Middle East or US control of oil supplies. No doubt, neoconservatives in the Bush administration used 9/11 for this purpose. However, perhaps the buildings failed for reasons that involve enormous liabilities, and those liabilities were covered up with a bogus explanation.

According to news reports, insurance payments to Silverstein for the buildings were many multiples larger than the price he paid for the lease. If the reports are correct, perhaps money explains the story.

(2) The belief that Muslims pulled off the attacks is based on the concreteness of the 19 names identified as the hijackers by the FBI. The fact that the FBI attests to the identity of the hijackers is the source of the official story's credibility.

Considering the official story's dependence on the identity of the hijackers, how is it possible for the official story to survive for 5 years after the BBC's report ( September 23, 2001) that a number of the alleged hijackers are alive and well?

According to BBC News World Edition, "Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September. His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world. Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco. He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports. He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring."

Obviously, Waleed Al Shehri would not be alive if he had crashed an airliner into the World Trade Center. It would appear that the FBI's confidence in the identity of the hijackers is more public relations than reality. As the FBI has been proven wrong about the identity of a number of the hijackers, how do we know the FBI is right about any of them?

There are many holes in the official 9/11 story and very little evidence in its behalf. Did the government, terrified by possible public reaction to the catastrophe and expected to have an explanation for the terrifying event, simply concoct a story?

The reason so many people doubt the 9/11 story is not because they have psychological needs for conspiracies, but because the 9/11 story is not believable.


Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington;  Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

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