Sunday was the anniversary of the horrible events of September 11, 2001. I remember that day with great clarity; it was one of the worst of my whole life. I was teaching, then as now, at a small private school. My students were all at the secondary level; we made no attempt to hide what was happening from them, but at that time we didn't have computers or internet in the classrooms, so we had to listen to the whole, horrible tragedy unfold over the radio. It broke my heart then, and the memories still make me weep today. So many lives lost to the cruelty of fanatics . . . it was my generation's Pearl Harbor, or perhaps our own version of the Kennedy assassination - the one day everyone who was of age to remember can recall in vivid detail - where they were, what they were doing, and how they got the awful news.
But, as I looked at my social media feeds on this anniversary and the days leading up to it, I found a new emotion crowding out the old ones. Not just sorrow and remembrance this time, but anger was what I felt. Not anger at Bin Laden and his cronies, the evil, twisted adherents of the most virulent strains of Islam - but anger that so many of my fellow Americans want to assign the blame somewhere else. To our own government, to be precise.
Inside job, false flag attack, conspiracy - I heard those words again and again, accompanied by memes, some clever, some ridiculous, and some flat-out lies. Many of these are posted by decent and honest people who have been misled by con men and America-hating crypto-fascists and Jew-baiters ("Did you know that all 1400 Jews who worked in the WTC called in sick that day?"), but others were shared by people who ought to know better. Again and again, respected universities and authority figures have shot down these ridiculous allegations, but no amount of logic puts a dent in the certainty of conspiracy theorists ("So what if MIT proved the buildings collapsed that way because of heat and structural damage? You know they're in on the cover-up, right? Our engineers and experts have proved them wrong!"). Try to disprove their allegations and you are branded an idiot and a rube. I tell you, it's worse than arguing with Holocaust deniers! (And I have done that, too. There are many varieties of idiot in the world.)
Here are the reasons why I have and always will reject the whole "9/11 was an inside job" school of thought. First of all, how many people would it take to carry this out? Especially if you buy into the view that the last two attacks - the Pentagon and Flight 93 - were not done by airplanes at all. Many of the conspiracy websites and YouTube videos claim a missile hit the Pentagon, and that the crater near Shanksville, PA was not made by an airplane because there is no visible wreckage. Assuming that either of those ridiculous claims is true (neither of them are, but just for argument's sake let's play along) - then what happened to those two planes? What happened to the passengers? What about all those phone conversations with family members on the ground? Are we expected to believe that the government created both those flights, both those planes, and all those passengers out of thin air? Were the grieving family members all hired "crisis actors"? If not, were all the passengers being held at gunpoint, forced to make those calls with guns to their heads before they were executed by merciless government agents? Who were these agents, and how many of them would it take to execute that many passengers and flight crew. If the Pentagon was hit by a missile, who fired it? And from where? What happened to the two missing airplanes? If no plane crashed at Shanksville, what made the crater? (BTW, most aviation experts will tell you that the crater and the lack of visible wreckage is actually quite consistent with a large plane moving at a high rate of speed slamming into the ground nose-first.) I have yet to hear a credible answer from a conspiracy theorist to any of those questions.
Then, about those towers that collapsed - how many men would it take to plant demolition charges on each floor? How long would it take the to do it? Why didn't the employees in the building notice them doing it? Where on earth would you find that many men who were willing to take part in the cold-blooded murder of 3000 Americans? And how many people did it take to lay the trail of evidence that pointed back to Bin Laden and his terrorist cronies in Afghanistan? Why did Al Qaeda never once deny bringing the towers down? Did we know about the foreign hijackers, let them take the planes over and smash them into the buildings, and plant the explosives in advance, to finish the job in case the towers didn't fall? And again, HOW MANY PEOPLE would have to know about such a vast conspiracy? How many would take an actual part in it? Several hundred? Over a thousand? And in fifteen years of investigative journalism, government inquiries, and endless research, not one of these nasty conspirators has EVER come forward? No deathbed confessions? No plea bargains? Not even one plain old guilty conscience? It boggles the mind. Where did these shadowy conspirators - whether it was the Israelis, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, the CIA, whoever you think did this - where did they find so many people who were willing to murder 3000 innocent Americans and not ONE of them ever come clean about it?
Leaving all that aside, there are two more reasons why I will never believe that Americans carried out the awful attacks of that day. One is personal - in my long life, I have had the privilege of being acquainted with a number of members of the intelligence community, both military and civilian. These are loyal, patriotic Americans that love their country with a fierce love, who take enormous risks in order to foil our enemies and keep us safe, and who sometimes pay a horrific personal and emotional price for their service. Through these individuals, I have received a snapshot of the culture of the agencies they work for. THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE, according to many conspiracy theorists, who either carried out these attacks on America or aided and abetted those who did. I have one word for those accusations - GARBAGE! Might their be one or two twisted souls in the fringe of our intelligence services evil enough to do something like this? Possibly, but I doubt it. Hundreds of them, working in concert to murder their fellow citizens in some ridiculous false flag attack? NEVER. There are simply too many patriotic and decent souls working in our intelligence agencies who would have risked life, limb, and reputation to stop them.
My other reason for rejecting the conspiracy theories about 9/11 is observational. The United States government is an incredibly bloated, sprawling, incompetent organization. Somehow we are expected to believe that the same White House that was too stupid to plant WMD's in Iraq for our troops to find, so that we didn't wind up with egg on our face in front of the entire world, was able to carry out a flawlessly timed, seamless attack, cover their tracks, blame our enemies, lay a convincing false trail of evidence, and not undergo a single defection or whistleblower the whole time? Again, it defies all credibility. But none of that matters to the tireless tinfoil hat brigades who manufacture their memes and post their videos on YouTube.
Every year, on the anniversary, the charges are raised again, the memes with all their exaggerations and falsehoods are posted on social media ("Did you know they didn't recover so much as a screw from Flight 93?") and ON and ON and ON and ON. And, as memory fades and a new generation that was not around on that awful day comes of age, more and more people will start to believe them.
Dear Lord, make it stop.