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August 26, 2007

Spare Me the Ravers, But...

By Deborah Newell Tornello a.k.a. litbrit

Damn.  Just...damnGo read this (I've linked to Common Dreams, since the source article in Britain's The Independent seems to be, er, not available; the article was first published in The Independent, now with a working link):

My final argument - a clincher, in my view - is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything - militarily, politically diplomatically - it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?

Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim - as the Americans did two days ago - that al-Qa’ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. “We disrupted al-Qa’ida, causing them to run,” Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named “Operation Lightning Hammer” in Iraq’s Diyala province. “Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them.” And more of the same, all of it untrue.

Within hours, al-Qa’ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas - which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush’s more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.

But - here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It’s not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93’s debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I’m not talking about the crazed “research” of David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster - which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers - whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C - would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower - the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon [sic] Brothers Building) - which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering - very definitely not in the “raver” bracket - are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be “fraudulent or deceptive”.

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11.

August 26, 2007 in Bush Administration, Terrorism | Permalink

Comments

ISTM that there's two completely deluded, irrational views regarding the attacks on 9/11. The first is that the Bush Administration has told us the complete truth on pretty much anything, let alone something so significant as what happened that day. To think that we have correct information about those attacks is to ignore the record of secrecy and deception that the Bush Administration was already accumulating before 9/11.

The second irrational view is what Fisk talked about, which is the idea that the Bush Administration could have actually pulled those attacks off. That they could have done that much planning and kept it quiet both before and since.

Though they may seem like polar opposites, those who believe "Bush did it" and those who believe that the government is telling us the whole truth occupy side-by-side spots on a continuum that turns back onto itself.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 26, 2007 9:09:27 AM

I would not have expected to see a site like Ezra Klein's blog, usually so readable and interesting, descend into silly tinfoil-hat talk. How disappointing. I hope Ezra is back soon to take his site back from Ms. Tornello.

For information on some of the old chestnuts raised in the linked article, such as the steel beams and the WTC7 collapse, see the long, exhaustive Popular Mechanics article debunking 9/11 myths:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html

Posted by: Vidor | Aug 26, 2007 9:16:23 AM

Vidor,

Spare us the stupid insults, please. Also, take a moment to actually read the linked article - or go to your community college for a remedial reading comprehension course.

How you managed to take an article that denigrates 9/11 conspiracists so completely and turn it into an example of that which it denies is, quite honestly, beyond me. But then I try to make a habit of paying attention to the meanings of various words and the way that putting them into sentences conveys information that may or may not be already rattling around in my head.

Fisk has some questions about the things we have been told about 9/11. So do I and so should you. Regarding the steel beams specifically, had you been able to understand what Fisk wrote, you would have seen that he was questioning how the steel beams could have snapped, especially with beams in separate parts of the buildings snapping at pretty much the same time.

And by the by, the question of snapped steel beams wasn't addressed by Popular Mechanics.

One hardly needs to be a conspiracy theorist to have serious questions about what we've been told. But then, you seem to be the type of person I described in my first comment, one who appears willing to accept wholesale the various stories we've gotten from the Bush Administration despite their record of deception.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 26, 2007 9:36:14 AM

For the record, I am deeply--and oftentimes thoroughly--skeptical of the many 9/11 conspiracy theories and so-called explanations floating around, including the ones Bush et. al. sold to the American public. At the very least, any non-biased, science-based view of the matter should include the questions Fisk raises, along with this one: why, six years later, haven't they been addressed?

Posted by: litbrit | Aug 26, 2007 9:43:44 AM

"Spare us the stupid insults, please."--Says the man who then lets fly with a lot of stupid insults. Unfortunately, it is Stephen who apparently cannot comprehend the article enough to notice that it includes several tropes taken from the paranoid fantasies of 9/11 conspiracy theorists: the "lack" of airplane debris at the Pentagon (there was debris) the business about the melting point of the steel beams (Stephen again can't read, it seems; the Popular Mechanics article does indeed address that very issue), and all the chattering about the "mysterious" collapse of WTC, which, as it happens, was badly damaged both by debris and by fire.

I do not find an article that basically says "Hey, I'm no crackpot, but what about all these things the crackpots say" any more defensible than an article actually written by a crackpot. Like I said, hope Ezra starts blogging more, soon, and hopefully Ms. Tornello can find other ways to occupy her time. Like doing some basic research about 9/11 conspiracy theories, for starters. Anybody still weaving fairy tales around the melting point of kerosene does not deserve our attention, or a spot on Ezra Klein's blog.

Posted by: Vidor | Aug 26, 2007 10:06:26 AM

melting point of the steel beams (Stephen again can't read, it seems; the Popular Mechanics article does indeed address that very issue),

Do you know the difference between the words snap and melt? Dictionary.com is a good reference; once you're clear on the meanings of those very different words, you might want to read the relevant portions of Fisk's article, my comment and the article at Popular Mechanics. Until you manage to address the things that are actually written down and not the presuppositions in your head, it's going to be hard to discuss this with you.

Fisk wasn't so much declaring that there never was any debris at the Pentagon; rather he wants to know what happened to it. There was as surprisingly small amount of debris there as far as us regular folks were able to see.

Again, read what's there. That you keep raving on about the melting point of steel when that's not really the question that Fisk raised shows how you're way more interested in expounding upon your intellectual superiority than engaging what people say. Your obsessive hold upon your beliefs about 9/11 in the face of evidence - especially the approach of the Bush Administration toward sharing information about any subject - puts you squarely in the realm of crackpot conspiracists. Just because your irrational beliefs are different than those described by Fisk doesn't mean they are inherently more valid.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 26, 2007 10:19:30 AM

Litbrit, I love you... but the questions raised in Fisk's article, ostensibly about science, but really meant to continue a vague conspiracy theory that planes could not possibly have achieved the destruction of the Pentagon and WTC, have been asked and answered repeatedly. As Vidor notes, the extensive work of Popular Mechanics (hardly a tool, so to speak, of the right) on this has laid most of these issues well to rest, despite people like Stephen insisting, over and over, that they don't. Many, many engineers have offered answers about what likely happened within both towers (and 7 WTC), and the issues about the Pentagon have been almost thoroughly debunked. It s terribly sad to me that we can't simply let this rest. If people find the answers we have so far unsatisfying, I'd submit that there's just not an answer that will. The "mysteries" of 9/11 are not about the science of what happened; they're about understanding the capacity of people to cause so much needless, needless death and destruction. Americans, especially in recent history, have never been exposed to it, and it's no wonder, really, that we have trouble processing it. But there's nothing here to debate, no "answers" that will satisfy the people challenging these conclusions, and giving more life to this line of discussion serves, I am convinced, little useful purpose. Please, litbrit, look into the reporting of PM and other engineers, and let this rest.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 26, 2007 10:33:04 AM

From the silly article:

***I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers - whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C - would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.)***

From the good folks at Popular Mechanics:

***However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength — and that required exposure to much less heat. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."***

So what Fisk is getting at, besides the same kind of baseless rumormongering he purports to dismiss, I can't imagine. The beams got hot. They weakened. They snapped. End of story.

Why did Flight 93's wreckage scatter? IT WAS TRAVELING AT 300 MILES AN HOUR WHEN IT HIT THE GROUND, that's why.

Where's the Pentagon plane debris, Fisk asks? Well, go to the Pop. Mechanics article here for a picture of a chunk of airplane:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html?page=6#flight77debris

Where were the engine parts at the Pentagon, Fisk asks? Well, go here to see PHOTOGRAPHS OF ENGINE PARTS:

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/conspiracy/q0265.shtml

It took me only a couple of minutes looking on Google. I wonder why Robert Fisk couldn't be bothered to make a similar effort. Or why Ezra Klein's blog hosts such silliness.

Posted by: Vidor | Aug 26, 2007 10:36:26 AM

Yeah, Ms. Tornello, let those big, strong, manly engineers tell you all you need to know, silly girl.

Asking questions about things and stuff is soooo lame and dumb and dorky. We should just accept what we're told. That's the serious person's way.

Anyone who has any question about the events of 9/11 is automatically a crazed conspiracy theorist who totally buys into every conspiracy theory about 9/11, even ones they haven't heard of yet.

And anyone who doesn't believe that is also a crazed conspiracy theorist who automatically believes all the conspiracies, even if they don't. It's logic, that is.

Posted by: big stron manly man with a logic-creating penis | Aug 26, 2007 11:00:05 AM

More ad hominem, which is all one gets from the 9/11 conspiracy mongers, because they have no actual evidence.

Posted by: KevinA | Aug 26, 2007 11:04:08 AM

For what it's worth, I desperately would love to see the conspiracy come true, as it would be proof positive for not only impeaching Bush's entire administration but locking them all up for a loooong time.

(on the other hand I'd rather not see it come true for what it would say about humanity ... religious fundamentalism is easier to stomach than naked greed and psychopathy)

But anyway, what I wanted to say was - as attractive as the conspiracy seems sometimes, its defenders always fall back on the defense of "but you have to question authority, if you don't you're just a mindless sheep!"

The thing is, it's one thing to ask lots of questions. It's quite another when those same questions have been asked and answered multiple times. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is not a sign of sanity.

Posted by: Healthy Skeptic | Aug 26, 2007 11:16:21 AM

Kevin, you're welcome to make this as personal as you like... but really, I'm not some man who thinks, by virtue of being a man, that I have "the answers"; I'm all in favor of woman engineers. Indeed, I'd rather hear from them. I'm really not making the broad-brush statements you ascribe to me; I simply think that these pseudo-scientific challenges to the 9/11 evidence we have don't get us anywhere - if there's something these questions will help us figure out, by all means, discuss that. Calling me a sexist jerk isn't really going to get you there... especially since I'm pretty much as far from that as possible. I'm just satisfied that what we know about what happened to the planes and the buildings on 9/11 explains what happened in terms of the science and engineering - nothing, I think, can explain the level of inhumanity.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 26, 2007 11:16:40 AM

"For what it's worth, I desperately would love to see the conspiracy come true . . .

Support for Bush would drop to 19%.

Posted by: Dan S. | Aug 26, 2007 11:23:51 AM

"Hey, I'm no crackpot, but what about all these things the crackpots say"

That does rather sum up the problem, though not in the most charitable way. There are a lot of very normal, smart people who believe in some form of the September 11th conspiracy theories, as many liberals as conservatives (actually somewhat more liberals, according to the last data I saw), and more young than old. As can be seen from the article quoted and some of the reactions to it, there is also some uncertainty and wondering that isn't quite belief in the conspiracies but isn't ruling out some of their main claims either.

Even though Vidor has been too harsh about it, he's basically right that it doesn't take much effort to see how ill-founded these questions are. That they persist shows a willingness to allow skepticism about Bush and the government to, ironically, suspend a proper degree of skepticism about questions about their honesty. Skepticism needs to functions just as vigorously in regard to things that feed our fears and desires.

When reading an article like the one quoted, one might immediately wonder how on earth such basic questions could have escaped attention in the mainstream accounts of September 11th--in fact they haven't. We shouldn't take for granted that what the questions assume is true, as we see in this case it isn't. That probably explains why the article was pulled from the original source.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 26, 2007 12:28:47 PM

For the record, I am deeply--and oftentimes thoroughly--skeptical of the many 9/11 conspiracy theories and so-called explanations floating around, including the ones Bush et. al. sold to the American public. At the very least, any non-biased, science-based view of the matter should include the questions Fisk raises, along with this one: why, six years later, haven't they been addressed?

They have been, and Fisk's questions are simply non-evidence based conjecture. That you would post this makes me wish Ezra will take away your guest blogging status once he returns, for this is the stupidest thing I've ever read on this blog.

Posted by: Cain | Aug 26, 2007 1:47:18 PM

The comments against librit are way over the top. She's been doing great work here. Ezra too sometimes posts things that seem plainly wrong to me, but that doesn't make me wish he would stop posting.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 26, 2007 2:02:32 PM

Even with his disclaimer, Fisk's piece provides a good example of how conspiracy theories can take hold among those with a strong desire to believe in them. Regardless of the subject of the theory, the method is usually similar: identify a few facts or events that seem inconsistent, extremely unlikely, or impossibly coincidental, and imply or assume that those facts must be hints to something bigger and darker.

In the case of 9/11, many of the supposed inconsistencies have been debunked already. But, even if they were accurate, that wouldn't necessarily mean much - and the reason it wouldn't mean much is simple probability.

Any long or complex series of events (and the 9/11 attacks definitely qualify) can be viewed as containing countless sub-events and facts, if you look closely. By pure chance, at least some of those thousands of sub-events and facts will appear extremely unlikely, because they are unlikely. A one-in-a-thousand shot comes through one out of every thousand times on average; if you play the pick three lottery every day for ten years, you'll probably win a few times. The logic of the conspiracy theorist is to focus obsessively on a few "winning tickets," and ignore the massive number of "losing tickets."

Essentially, if you look closely enough at any complicated reality, you are pretty much guaranteed of finding at least a few facts or events that seem inconsistent, extremely unlikely, or impossibly coincidental. That doesn't mean much unless those inconsistencies or coincidences add up to an alternative story that approaches the standard story in terms of plausibility.

Posted by: N | Aug 26, 2007 2:06:25 PM

Uhm- the last post is false, but whatever. The point is that there is a mythology around 9/11 now. Even if new facts come out, it won't change that dynamic. I have no idea what happened. I think the conspiracy theories are wrong, but I also do think that the official version of what happened is b/s. I am less worried in my formulation of Machivellian plots by the American government here, and more concerned by issues like what was happening iwith the Saudis. Thats not a big theory, it's just concern over the I scratch your back, you scratch mine with getting the Saudis out of the US.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 26, 2007 2:21:17 PM

and to explain very briefly with out a pointless back and for tic-for-tac, disproving a narrative doesn't require proving another narrative. This is the mentality of someone looking for a myth to believe in. Disproval,only requires- well disproval. that's it.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 26, 2007 2:22:30 PM

What N said is quite true. Why do you doubt the conventional accounts, akaison? What does getting the Saudis out have to do with it? If there had been any conspiracy there, wouldn't it have made more sense to get them out well in advance?

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 26, 2007 2:31:43 PM

I'm not really sure that Fisk was doing much more than giving himself future protection from "the Ravers", by now being able to say, "Hey, look, I did question the official story, I've done my bit, now leave me alone."

Posted by: El Cid | Aug 26, 2007 2:50:34 PM

The point is that there is a mythology around 9/11 now. Even if new facts come out, it won't change that dynamic. I have no idea what happened. I think the conspiracy theories are wrong, but I also do think that the official version of what happened is b/s. I am less worried in my formulation of Machivellian plots by the American government here, and more concerned by issues like what was happening iwith the Saudis. Thats not a big theory, it's just concern over the I scratch your back, you scratch mine with getting the Saudis out of the US.

I would cautiously agree with this, depending on what you mean by "official version of events" - there are aspects of what led up to 9/11 in terms of diplomacy and international relations that I think still need examination, and some things about what happened right after that I find curious (though I think, it has turned out, that the claim of Saudis being spirited out of the country during the Ground Stop has turned out to be not true; if true, it concerns me as well). I think, though, that those are different questions than the kind of "Bush had the military shoot missiles at the Towers" craziness, or even the "I don't know how jet fuel melts steel" stuff that Fisk is bringing up. When I say some questions are not really worth continually being raised I'm really only thinking of the science and engineering discussions around the Tower collapse and the Pentagon damage, which are practical matters that can be answered. Bigger geopolitical questions, I'd agree, are still out there.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 26, 2007 3:11:10 PM

That doesn't mean much unless those inconsistencies or coincidences add up to an alternative story that approaches the standard story in terms of plausibility.

But that's not what's happening here. What's happening is that when someone brings up a question - any question at all - about the events of 9/11, they're set upon by a rabid band of shrieking harpies ranting about 9/11 conspiracy theories, whether anyone has actually claimed to believe one of them or not.

I've never believed that Bush was responsible for what happened on 9/11, at least insofar as committing the acts themselves. For that matter, even though he clearly blew off warnings about Osama that very summer, I'm not sure what could have been done to prevent the attacks.

However, I cannot understand people's willingness to accept what they've been told about the events of that day without question. They'll doubt Bush on absolutely everything else, but bring up 9/11 and all the sudden you're denying the virgin birth of Christ and the existence of Santa Claus all in one.

What if needed inspections and maintenance hadn't been done at the World Trade Center? What if there was some evidence in the wreckage at the Pentagon which suggested the involvement of another group in addition to Al Qaeda? There's a million different questions that we can have about the events of that day which have nothing to do with "Bush did it!" conspiracy theories.

And in spite of the apparently Nobel-and-Pulitzer-worthy contributions from the towering intellects at Popular Mechanics, the Bush Administration has kept information to itself, as per usual for them.

But, sure, let's believe them on this one. We might doubt everything they say about Iraq, Social Security, tax cuts, energy policy, environmental policy, torture, warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habaeus corpus, the effectiveness of the TSA, but by God no one better have any questions over the defining event of this generation! That's craaaazzzzy!

Posted by: big stron manly man with a logic-creating penis | Aug 26, 2007 3:26:48 PM

The Independent link works properly now.

Weboy, I don't claim (or even believe) any of the craziness to which you're referring. I found Fisk's piece interesting and provocative--though admittedly, I did not realize the extent to which it would provoke the concerned readers now calling for my dismissal--chiefly because I, too, remain unsatisfied with some (not all) of the official explanations. Interestingly, I've had opportunity to learn a good bit about steel building construction, since that's exactly what we're doing right now: building a modernist house out of welded I-beams. The GC (my husband), the architect, and the engineer--all of whom are far more well-schooled in the art and science of metal building construction and destruction than I; none of whom is a conspiracy theorist in the slightest, nor are they even liberal--have questions about the WTC collapse (to put it mildly).

Posted by: litbrit | Aug 26, 2007 3:42:46 PM

But that's not what's happening here. What's happening is that when someone brings up a question - any question at all - about the events of 9/11, they're set upon by a rabid band of shrieking harpies ranting about 9/11 conspiracy theories, whether anyone has actually claimed to believe one of them or not.

That's not what happened here. It was particular questions, really poorly founded ones, that were criticized. The reasons for the criticism are given above.

Your particular what-ifs don't have any basis.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 26, 2007 4:02:19 PM

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