By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
"I cannot explain it. That is not my duty," says former German cabinet minister Andreas von B a leader of the 9-11 skeptics in Europe, in a recent Dutch documentary. VonKleist takes the same line. He doesn't theorize anything, he says. "I'm simply asking questions."
That sounds fair at first, only it isn't. The movement's questions imply a different version of the story, and the true test is whether that alternative is more or less plausible that the official one. By saying they're only checking facts, the Truth activists avoid having to address the weaknesses in their own yarn. Why do the "booms" at the trade center come several minutes before the "demolition"? Why would the government destroy WTC7 when no one knew or cared about it? What happened to the people on the planes?
Some skeptics, however, aren't shy. Fringe pol Lyndon LaRouche thinks the attacks were "an attempted military coup d'état." Hufschmid says the Arab terrorists were patsies of several governments, including the U.S. and possibly Britain, France, Canada, and Israel. Ruppert, an adherent of the theory that oil reserves have peaked and that the petroleum-based economy is in great peril, postulates that 9-11 was a desperate effort by a couple dozen elites from the Clinton and Bush administrations to cling to dwindling energy supplies. His version stresses the links between the CIA and Wall Street and drug money, suspicion of the Secret Service, and a plot to rid the world of 4 billion people in order to reduce demand for petroleum.
For passengers detraining at the PATH station and climbing the stairs to ground zero on a typical Saturday, the 9-11 Truth movement is hard to miss. There at the exit stand Jamieson, Rudkowski, and a few compatriots holding a large banner declaring "9/11 Was an Inside Job." Pamphlets are handed out, and some of the vital books of the Truth movement are at the ready if a passerby wishes to debate, which happens a couple times each week. A woman is labeling as "bullshit" the idea that the entire government was behind the plot. Jamieson shakes his head. "Not the entire government," he says. "Just a small faction."
It's cold, and some passersby laugh. It has not been easy, Rudkowski says, but he sees progress. "At first my family thought I was an idiot," he recalls. "Now they're just scared." Avery and vonKleist say they've each distributed some 50,000 copies of their respective movies, but the total number of people who've seen the films must be far larger, given how often they have been shown to groups small and large. At ground zero, in the church basement, and in interviews, Truth movement members are optimistic their crusade will go far. What is clear is that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for many of them to turn back. Once you believe that official sources cannot be trusted because they are part of the conspiracy, it becomes very difficult to accept any evidence to the contrary.
Take the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief: By forcing its release, the 9-11 Commission showed the world that the president knew something about heightened threats. But to Alex Jones, the anti-government radio host who thinks the FBI plotted the 1993 Trade Center bombing, the PDB episode was just a ploy to make the commission appear independent. When the Voice mentioned to Avery that a key firefighter witness denied ever saying there were "bombs" in the towers, and that San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's "foreknowledge" of the attack seemed to have been limited to something the State Department posted on its website, the director was unfazed. "It's just one piece of evidence," he said about the Brown warning.
He's not alone. Although the Truth movement is quick to seize upon shifts in the government's story, its own version has changed multiple times. Meyssan first said a truck bomb hit the Pentagon, then suggested a drone aircraft or cruise missile did. At first, skeptics said there was too little damage to the interior rings of the Pentagon for the building to have been struck by a 757; now, some say there was too much. The number of hijackers who are supposedly alive has risen and fallen over the years.
The key to understanding the Truth movement is to realize that its members do not lack faith in all institutions of the U.S. government. On the contrary, their theories rely on a healthy respect for the power and competence of air defense units, FBI agents, high-rise building designers, and others.
Why would Bush mistakenly say he'd seen the first plane strike on TV? How could the FBI miss so many leads? Is it plausible that the CIA ignored all those warnings? And after the purported multiple failures of the FAA and NORAD on 9-11, how come no one was fired?
It's odd. For a group of people who harbor so many doubts about the intentions of their own and other governments, the media, and fellow citizens, much of the Truth movement does not suspect for a moment that our defense spending has been a rip-off, that the FBI is a clumsy bureaucracy, that our spy agencies are deaf and dumb, and that our skyscrapers are not 100 percent safe. They do not seem worried that they could be unwitting partners in a more mundane conspiracy to obscure the limits of security and science. To the lies of the Bush administration, many in the Truth movement reply with stunning and familiar certainty. "I can't jump back to the other side," says Avery. "I know that what I'm doing is right."