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Synthesis/Regeneration 42   (Winter 2007)


Unquestioned Answers

by Steve Bhaerman

Early last year I found myself in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Rose to hear Dr. David Ray Griffin, author of a book on the 9-11 attacks called The New Pearl Harbor, as well as The 9-11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. Griffin, a soft-spoken retired professor of theology with sandy, graying hair, proceeded to calmly and quietly dismantle the official 9-11 story. The room was filled to capacity with people of all ages. As Griffin made his case for how the official story could never have happened the way they said it did, I looked around me. Everyone was riveted; I detected no fear or paranoia in the room.

People were hearing his message — the essentials of which are that our government likely knew about or had something to do with the 9-11 attacks — and yet there was something about his delivery that was reassuring. I’ve heard David Ray Griffin twice since then and each event had a similar ambiance: a calm, thoughtful, scholarly presentation without the least hint of sensationalism or personal glory.

Whatever one’s preconceptions of what a “conspiracy theorist” is like, David Ray Griffin doesn’t fit the mold — perhaps because he’s really a non-conspiracy theorist. While he methodically deconstructs the official story, he doesn’t spin his own alternative yarn to fill the vacuum. Instead, he allows audience members to draw their own conclusions. As for conspiracy theories, he explains,

The official story is itself a conspiracy theory. As the accepted “conspiracy theory” goes, a cadre of al-Qaida operatives conspired to hijack four jetliners, did so undetected, and was able to complete their mission with no interception or even interference from the best-prepared air force on the face of the Earth.

The crime was solved immediately and the official story was in place before the day of the attack was over. Within 48 hours, our president stood at the National Cathedral surrounded by Billy Graham, a cardinal, a rabbi, and an imam, and used this religious setting to declare a holy war on terror.

If we were to contrast the smoothness of the post-9-11 operation with the aftermath of Katrina, we are left with the question: How can a president so inept in one setting have been so “ept” in another?

False flags

While Griffin professes no formulated alternative theory of what did happen, he offers a clue in the title of his first book. The New Pearl Harbor refers to a passage in a document called “Project for the New American Century” — the neo-cons’ blueprint for what they call “pax Americana.” It says that, for the American people to accept the overt military mission of creating security through world domination, a “new Pearl Harbor” would be needed. Griffin believes that the 9-11 attacks were just that.

This is a horrific assertion to make: that the leaders of our country would sacrifice some 3,000 civilians so that we could launch a preemptive attack on a perceived enemy. Yet, Griffin is quick to point out, our history is rife with just such incidents, from the “remember the Maine” boosterism preceding the Spanish-American war to the Gulf of Tonkin lie that launched US involvement in Vietnam to the Pearl Harbor attacks themselves. (Recent scholarship on Pearl Harbor suggests that President Roosevelt knew of the attack plan in advance and even purposely provoked the Japanese because he knew it was the only way we could join the war against Germany.)

During the Cold War, two more chilling examples of so-called false flag operations have come to light. (False flag operations are covert situations conducted by governments or other organizations that are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities.) In his recent book, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Dr. Daniele Ganser, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies, Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, reports that NATO, guided by the CIA, supported terrorist attacks on civilians in various European countries to discredit the left and create fear on the part of the populace.

In the aftermath of 9-11, Griffin initially dismissed any speculation that the attacks could have been an inside job. “I subscribed to the ‘blow-back’ theory,” Griffin says. “After generations of exploitation and interference by Western powers, these people had such fury that they had to lash out any way they could.”

At the time, Griffin, who was close to retirement from his position at Claremont School of Theology, was working on a book on global democracy. In the wake of 9-11, he decided that he needed a special chapter on US imperialism. He worked on that chapter for over a year before he came to the view that 9-11 was an inside job. “As much as I knew about prior false flag operations, as much as I knew or thought I knew about the nefariousness of the current regime, my first take was not even the Bush administration could or would do such a thing.”

Three different stories

It wasn’t until a colleague sent Griffin an e-mail with Paul Thompson’s timeline — an exact, minute-by-minute accounting of the events of Sept. 11 based entirely on mainstream media accounts — that he changed his mind. “The most glaring anomaly,” Griffin now says, “was that none of the hijacked planes were intercepted, even though all of them would have been, had standard procedure been followed.”

According to Gen. Ralph Eberhart, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), from the time the FAA senses something is wrong, it takes about a minute to contact NORAD, after which NORAD, Eberhart says, can scramble fighter jets “within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States.” So what happened on that morning?

The government has given three conflicting answers to this question.

Since a full 32 minutes elapsed between the time the first hijacked airliner was detected and the time it crashed into the World Trade Center, it initially appeared that “stand down” orders must have been issued to suspend standard procedures. Indeed, the first reports from both NORAD and Gen. Richard Myers, the acting chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated that no jets were scrambled until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:38 a.m.

By September 13, however, the original story had morphed into an explanation that “the planes were scrambled but arrived too late.” The delays were blamed on the FAA, said to have been slow in notifying NORAD. If that were the case, Griffin points out, it was strange indeed that no FAA personnel were fired or even cited for the breakdown in procedures and the resulting disaster. Griffin notes, moreover, that the FAA flawlessly handled — on the same day — the unprecedented task of grounding thousands of domestic flights.

Meanwhile, Griffin reports, transportation secretary Norman Mineta testified that at 9:20 a.m. — about 18 minutes before the Pentagon was hit, allegedly by Flight 77 — he went down to the shelter conference room under the White House. According to Mineta, a young man walked in and said to the vice president, “The plane is 50 miles out,” and later, “The plane is 30 miles out.” When the young man reported, “The plane is 10 miles out,” he also asked the vice president, “Do the orders still stand?”

“Of course the orders still stand,” Cheney is alleged to have replied. “Have you heard anything to the contrary?”

When Mineta was asked by the 9-11 Commission how long after he arrived the conversation occurred, Mineta said, “Probably about 5 or 6 minutes,” which would have placed it around 9:25 or 9:26 a.m. In the final version of the story, the 9-11 Commission Report maintained that no one in our government knew about the approaching aircraft until 9:36 a.m. — too late to shoot it down. How did the Commission deal with this apparent contradiction? Like just about every other piece of testimony that conflicted with the official story, Griffin avers, they ignored it.

“With regard to the question ‘Do the orders still stand?’” Griffin says, “Mineta seemed to assume those orders were to shoot the plane down but really, the young man’s question makes sense only if the orders were to do something unexpected — that is, not to shoot the plane down.”

So what did happen? Again, Griffin prefers to focus on the circumstantial framework for examining the evidence. “You have a suspect who changes his story three times. Does this make him more or less suspicious?”

Collective evil

Of course, those in the top echelon of leaders in this country aren’t exactly your usual run-of-the-lineup perps. I’ve asked a number of savvy authors and commentators why they haven’t taken on the unanswered questions and unquestioned answers around 9-11. Their answers have been pretty much the same: it’s just too big a stretch for most Americans to believe their own government could have had anything to do with it.

In an exceedingly underreported Zogby poll done recently, 42% of adults polled believe the US government and the 9-11 Commission “concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence” that contradicts the official explanation of the attacks. Perhaps what these reluctant commentators really meant is that they would be committing career suicide by questioning the official story.

“Once the nation-state announces it is threatened, everything else gets pushed to the back burner.”

So why and how is David Ray Griffin different? Perhaps it has something to do with Griffin’s background in “process theology.” Process theology is specifically designed to answer such post-Holocaust questions as, how could a loving God allow such a thing to happen?

“I’ve written two books on the problem of evil, so I’ve been dealing with the topic for a long time,” Griffin says. “Frankly, as soon as I saw the evidence that 9-11 was an inside job, I wasn’t surprised. I had studied the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, the Japanese butchery of the Chinese in Manchuria, our use of nuclear weapons in Japan in spite of their imminent surrender. I’ve seen the depth of evil in collective situations. It’s an old, old story, and this is just the latest chapter. Once the nation-state announces it is threatened, everything else gets pushed to the back burner. That’s what we’re seeing now.”


Other than standing for his faith, what does Griffin hope to accomplish by exposing the 9-11 story as a lie? As an advocate for a worldwide democratic order, he sees this story as an example of “governmental lawlessness” so egregious that its exposure could call into question the continuation of the present system with its “anarchical competition between nation states.” First, however, people must be willing to think the unthinkable, and to be willing to look at the evidence that it is our own nation that has become the Evil Empire.

This is a formidable barrier to cross. Ever since the notion of the “Big Lie” was first put forth to describe the tactics of the Third Reich, it has become a cliché that the bigger the lie, the harder it is for people to see the truth. This is especially so when the official version takes on the status of what theologian Griffin calls “sacred myth.”

“The ‘truth’ of the official 9-11 story,” explains Griffin, “must be taken on faith. It is not a matter of debate or even discussion. Anyone who brings up anything that contradicts the official story is either ignored or denounced as a conspiracy nut.

“However,” he continues, “when the official account of 9-11 is stripped of its halo and treated simply as a theory rather than an unquestionable dogma, it cannot be defended as the best theory to account for the relevant facts. When challenges to it are not treated as blasphemy, it can easily be seen to not correspond with reality.”

So David Ray Griffin continues to make presentations, do interviews, and get his version of the truth to “break the soundless barrier.” With Falk, John B. Cobb, Jr., and Catherine Keller, Griffin co-authored the just-published anthology The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God: A Political, Economic, Religious Statement. His own contribution portrays the 9-11 attacks as orchestrated to promote the American Empire. Published in July is his newest book, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action.

His hope? That enough Americans wake up and call for a re-investigation, and that those who know more will feel safe enough to come forward. First, he says, we Americans must muster the will and courage to face the situation squarely in the face.

As a postscript to my interview with David Ray Griffin, I am reminded of a March 30 article by journalist Doug Thompson published on OpEdNews.com. In it, Thompson recalls a 1981 encounter with the late John Connally, the former governor of Texas who was wounded in the Kennedy assassination. In an unguarded moment, Thompson asked Connally, “Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald fired the gun that killed Kennedy?”

“Absolutely not,” Connally said. “I do not, for one second, believe the conclusions of the Warren Commission.”

“So why not speak out?” Thompson asked.

“I will never speak out publicly about what I believe,” Connally replied, “because I love this country and we needed closure at the time.”

Now here we are more than 40 years after that devastating perpetration and we have to wonder, how well did “closure” serve us? As we see daily the fruits of self-serving secrecy and unchecked power, it might be time for some disclosure instead.

Steve Bhaerman is a social uncommontator who also channels the cosmic comic, Swami Beyondananda. Mr. Bhaerman can be found online at his website: http://www.wakeuplaughing.com.

David Ray Griffin is a retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology and a proponent of an alternative 9-11 theory. Along with John B. Cobb, Jr. he is considered a foundational thinker in Process Theology.

[24 feb 07]

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