Getting Agnostic About 9/11
- A society of nonbelievers questions the official version.
Getting Agnostic About 9/11
Friday, August 26, 2005
Anyone who types the words "9/11" and "conspiracy" into an online
search engine soon learns that not everybody buys the official
narrative of what took place on Sept. 11, 2001. As a professor
emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology, 66-year-old David Ray
Griffin would seem to have more affinity for leather elbow patches
than tin hats, yet after friends and colleagues prodded him into
sifting through the evidence, he experienced a conversion. Now he's
spreading the bad news. Griffin compiled a summary of material
arguing against the accepted story that 19 hijackers sent by Osama
bin Laden took the aviation system and the U.S. military by surprise
that awful day in his 2004 book "The New Pearl Harbor" (published by
Interlink, a Massachusetts-based independent publisher covering areas
including travel, cooking, world fiction, current events, politics,
children's literature and other subjects). He recently followed up
with the book "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions"
(Interlink), a critique of the Kean commission document in which he
suggests that a chunk of the blame for the worst terrorist attack on
U.S. soil lies closer to home than the caves of Afghanistan. We
contacted him at his Santa Barbara-area home for a report on his
journey from mild-mannered scholar to doubting Thomas.
How did you join the ranks of those questioning the official account
of the 9/11 events?
I was rather slow getting on board. For the first year and a half I
just accepted the conventional view, really the blowback thesis, that
this was blowback for our foreign policy. When a colleague suggested
to me about a year after 9/11 that he was convinced our own
government or forces within our own government had arranged it, I
didn't accept that. Then several months later another colleague sent
me [a link to] a website that had a timeline. Once I started reading
that and saw all those stories drawn from mainstream sources that
contradicted the official account, I decided I needed to look into it
more carefully, and the more I looked, the worse it got. I considered
it an obligation to kind of organize, compile the evidence and put it
out there for the public.
The Internet is full of 9/11 conspiracy theories. What have you
contributed to the discussion?
My main contribution has been the second book, [showing] that the
9/11 commission report is not worthy of belief, and the implication
of that is that they were covering up the government's own guilt.
What would constitute a "smoking gun" against the official 9/11
There are many. By just ignoring them, the 9/11 commission implicitly
admitted they couldn't answer them. The towers coming down into a
pile only a few stories high is a smoking gun. Many laws of physics
had to be violated if the official story about the collapses is true.
[The collapses] had all the earmarks of a controlled demolition by
explosives. One of those is total collapse into a small pile of
rubble. The fact that Building 7 [a skyscraper near the towers]
collapsed when it had not been hit by an airplane, and collapsed in
seven or eight seconds, that's a smoking gun. The fact that standard
operating procedures were not followed that morning, and we've gotten
three different stories now by the U.S. military as to why they did
not intercept the planes, that's a smoking gun. The Secret Service
leaving the president and themselves wide open to being attacked by
[not responding immediately], that's a smoking gun. I can't say one
is bigger than the other. You've got six or seven that are equally
Critics of the official 9/11 account seem to draw sinister inferences
from instances where people, buildings or physical objects didn't
react or behave as one might expect in theory. For example, if the
hijackers were devout Muslims, why were some drinking, eating pork
chops and cavorting with lap dancers? Doesn't real life unfold
inconsistently, even bizarrely?
That's true, but the 9/11 commission simply ignored those questions.
They're creating this image of fanatics who were so devout and
convinced of the truth of their religion that they were ready to meet
their maker, yet here's all this evidence that suggests they were not
devout at all. [The commission] simply ignored evidence.
Dissenters also seem to find it suspect that in a dire emergency,
individuals and agencies bumbled, fumbled, delayed, dropped the ball
or choked. Won't that occur in any emergency?
Well, of course, that is the official theory. It's a coincidence
theory that just happened to be that on those days, everybody became
terribly incompetent. Take the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].
They've got these standard procedures: If a plane goes off course, if
you lose radio contact or lose the transponder, you call the
military. On this day we're told these FAA officials hit the
trifecta. They got all three of these things, and yet they would
stand around debating, "Should we call the military? No, I don't
think so." And when they finally call, the people at headquarters
won't accept their calls because they were in conference or wouldn't
pass the call on. They have roughly about 100 hijack warnings a year
where planes have to be scrambled, but suddenly they become just all
thumbs. The whole thing is just implausible. The other thing is, if
you've got accidents, screw-ups, some ought to go one way and the
others the other way. Here everything goes the same way. Everybody
fails to do their jobs in relation to something to do with 9/11.
With others, you have alleged that inconsistencies, omissions or lies
in the 9/11 record point to a cover-up, or even collusion or
orchestration, by the American government. What would motivate such a
You've got liberal Democrats and Republicans and Independents who are
appalled by what Andrew Bacevich [a professor of international
relations at Boston University] called "the new American militarism"
in the book "American Empire." New meaning, qualitatively different
than before. This post-9/11 push to a new level has made the world an
enormously more dangerous place. Many people apart from thinking
about 9/11 as an inside job have decided that the United States is
doing what [Princeton University emeritus international law
professor] Richard Falk calls a "global domination project." Chalmers
Johnson [Japan Policy Research Institute president], a previous
conservative, now says that we have become a military juggernaut
intent on world domination.
Have you followed polls on what the public believes about 9/11?
There was a Zogby poll in New York. The question asked was, do you
believe the government had advance knowledge of the attacks and
consciously let them happen? Forty-nine percent in New York City said
yes. I believe it was 43% statewide. That is a pretty remarkable
figure. In this country there has not been a poll that asked, do you
believe the government actually planned and orchestrated the attacks?
The question has been raised in Europe and Canada and has gotten to
somewhere around 20%. It would be interesting to have such a poll in
the United States.
Conspiracy theorists are often dismissed as marginal types. Where do
your views on 9/11 place you in the eyes of your peers in academia?
One thing to point out is, the official account itself is a
conspiracy theory. It says that 19 Arab Muslims under the influence
of Osama bin Laden conspired to pull off this operation. The question
is not whether one is a conspiracy theorist about 9/11. It's which
conspiracy theory do you find most supported by the evidence?
Does your role as a 9/11 dissenter depart from your life's work as a
scholar and theologian?
At first glance it may seem strange, but the task of a theologian is
to look at the world from what we would imagine the divine
perspective, [which] would care about the good of the whole and would
love all the parts. [So] 9/11, if it was brought about by forces
within our own government for imperial reasons, is antithetical to
the general good.
Evil has been a subject of your academic writing. It's also been a
recurring theme in administration rhetoric. Is that strange?
In these politicians' mouths, it's used to describe certain groups
and organizations when it's politically convenient to do so, and then
to overlook even greater evil when it's politically convenient to do
so. If you understand the divine as an all-powerful and wrathful
creator who seeks vengeance, and uses overwhelming power to destroy
its enemies, why then, if you've got the political power, you're
probably going to think you're acting like God if you do that. The
[Christian] church during the early centuries was anti-empire. Rome
was the enemy. With Constantine, the empire accepted Christianity,
and Christianity started accepting empire and all that entailed.
There has been a long history of support for militarism, so from that
perspective, it's not so strange.
Prior to your 9/11 work, did you have an anti-establishment streak?
I never burned my bra. I was fairly critical like a lot of Americans
are, but I don't think people would have looked at me and
said, "There's an anti-establishment guy."
Do you get hate mail?
I've had a few people suggest I need to see a psychiatrist, and one
psychiatrist in L.A. even kindly offered his services.
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