Monday, July 02, 2007

On being a loon

Regarding this, some thoughts:

1. The official explanations as relayed through the 9/11 Commission and NIST reports are wholly unconvincing. Seriously, read them -- along with the related critiques. About the best way to put it is that they were the prosecution's case for the government's theory about what happened that day. They start with the assumption that a bunch of foreign evildoers, acting independently, were able to penetrate multiple layers of US security, crash four planes, and take out several high rises in NYC, as well as inflict damage to the Pentagon. Both purport to explain how this happened -- or, quite frequently, how it could have happened. They do not entertain other theories, even ones that would be a slight modification to the official account. Where information doesn't fit or contradicts the established narrative, it's typically ignored.

2. In the case of the NIST report, this way of explaining how airliners and fire (or related damage caused -- see the thus far unexplained implosion of WTC7) could cause the collapse of multiple steel-framed high rises is perhaps most worrying because the final explanation is heavily dependent on computer modeling, the integrity of which is questionable due to the ease of fiddling with variable inputs in order to achieve the desired result.

3. In the case of the 9/11 Report, the bulk of it is devoted to providing historical context, thus making the official account logically plausible, and not actually explaining what happened on 9/11 or elucidating the precise evidence that points to the conclusions drawn.

4. An aside, but related to the points above: it's scandalous that there are better defenses of the official story available on the internet than that which was produced by the government or its ancillaries.

5. I think a lot of stuff about 9/11 has been covered up -- big and little. There's plenty of evidence and information around the margins suggesting so. Whether this cover up is to shield people from further embarrassment, to protect 'national security' interests, or to protect allies -- and not to obscure evidence of internal complicity -- is possible, perhaps probable. But, in any case, that doesn't justify the lack of disclosure or the unwillingness to seriously probe, particularly when there's ample reason to be suspicious that something more sinister is going on. At base, large elements of the truth about 9/11 remain obscured and that should be deemed unacceptable.

6. I've personally found it daunting to approach the literature of the 9/11 'truth' movement. The internet's a great resource, but the sheer amount of material out there on 9/11 can be overwhelming. I've also found it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the more solid criticisms of 9/11 skeptics. Partly because of this, I recommend David Ray Griffin's latest book as a gateway into the literature. The fact that the book is amply sourced makes it easy to follow up on claims. I also appreciate that Griffin's disputes are tied closely to the main sources of the official narrative, which makes it easier to check where the real discrepancies are and whether they have any merit.

7. I've read stuff that points me in several different directions. Especially as a layperson, it's hard to judge the credibility of some of the papers that deal with specialized knowledge, or those that delve heavily into physics, structural engineering, and the like. Appeals to authority and expertise abound in the literature about 9/11, so get used to it. It's easy to get paralyzed, but I don't think there's a way to get beyond it. Just keep reading and make up your own mind.

8. I long thought the controlled demolition hypothesis was the looniest theory proffered by 9/11 skeptics. It was far less plausible, in my mind, than the potential of a stand down order. That's no longer the case, for me. For a long time, I just didn't bother to look at why people make that claim: it tends to be offered because other explanations for the collapses look either improbable or implausible. At the risk of overly-simplifying arguments, the demolition hypothesis tends to reduce to a question: how do you reconcile symmetrical, rapid, global failure with asymmetrical, relatively localized destabilization?

9. On practically every aspect of the 9/11 story, relevant, important questions have been raised, but remain largely unanswered. There are whole angles of the story, based on credible initial sources or media accounts, that have been either inadequately addressed or wholly ignored: the Israeli spies, the insider trading, the ISI links, the 'Able Danger' revelations, to name just a few.

10. The government has lied repeatedly about 9/11 -- going so far as to change its story completely, perhaps most notably regarding the claim of when the military was informed of the hijackings. In many places, it looks like we've been given several post-hoc rationalizations for actions (or non-actions), not convincing explanations.

11. In sum: I don't ascribe to any single theory of what happened on 9/11, but I don't have much confidence in the integrity of the explanations put out by official authorities -- or their ancillaries. That one of the central alternative theories is that there was some degree of complicity within the US government doesn't suggest that investigations conducted under its umbrella -- or strong influence -- will be terribly forthcoming about that possibility. And, alas, that's what we see. Supporters say that's simply because the evidence is lacking. A whole lot of other people say otherwise, and for good reasons. At the least, an independent, credible investigation of what really happened on 9/11 needs to be launched.