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Did Sandy Berger blow up the WTC?

I hadn’t paid much attention to 9/11 conspiracy theories, even though I’m somewhat fond of conspiracy theories as a literary form, but a couple of friends were interested in them and they’ve popped up on usually-respectable websites, so when one traddish Catholic friend asked me my opinion I put together a couple of longish responses. For whatever they’re worth, here they are, in somewhat edited form:

I. I’m boringly mainstream in my views on 9/11, mostly on general grounds. Some thoughts:

  1. Effective efforts by smallish groups acting together over long periods to bring about major changes are usually mostly public. Examples would include the efforts to get God out of public life, dissolve the family as an institution, and promote world governance. Secret conspiracies are hard to organize, bring to fruition, and keep secret.
  2. A secret conspiracy capable of planning and executing something as big and complicated as 9/11 as part of some overall plan to bring about a world war against Islam or whatever would require cohesiveness and discipline that I don’t think exists in any U.S. organization, let alone a mixed group of self-seeking U.S. politicians, businessmen, functionaries and operatives.
  3. September 11 was a major defeat for the US. It showed that a few determined men could do us serious damage. That’s why people in the Arab world were jumping up and down cheering. It puts me in mind of the 1905 war between Russia and Japan, which showed that Europeans didn’t always win. When people want to go to war and are looking for a reason to start one now they don’t inflict major defeats upon themselves. They seize on or exaggerate something comparatively minor, the kidnapping of a couple of soldiers, supposed possession of poison gas, an attack on a border post or some such, and say that in the setting of X, Y and Z it’s a big deal or at least the last straw and something must be done.
  4. I don’t think it’s really relevant to talk about other bad things the government has done, like abortion, as proof the government can be bad. People mostly do what makes sense and seems good or at least not mind-bogglingly wrong to them. That’s especially true of people acting in large long-lasting organizations. Basically all reputable mainstream authorities in the Western world think legal abortion is wonderful. The same isn’t true of blowing up your own buildings with your own people in them for the sake of provoking a world war. So I don’t think the “if you do one really bad thing you’ll do another” argument really applies.
  5. Incidentally, the foregoing applies much more to the “they did it” theory than to the “they knew about it but did nothing” theory. The latter theory also seems unlikely to me because the systems for keeping track of what various unfriendly groups are doing involve too many people each with his own interests and loyalties and most of whom would be outraged by a decision to let a large-scale attack succeed. Most organizations that would have been involved (like intelligence agencies) were set up for radically different purposes and such things are hard to change. And it would be too hard for the conspirators to control who knew what.
  6. Basically my inclination is to stick to publicly acknowledged facts. If something is basic and important, the ideology of pluralism and inclusiveness for example, it’ll permeate the publicly acknowledged facts and all that has to be done is point out what’s going on. If this kind of conspiracy theory is true then it’s the kind of epistemological catastrophe that makes it doubtful we can know much of anything about public affairs. In that case, why bother?
  7. In any event, if there’s something funny about what the facts are claimed to be about something as concrete as a building collapsing I’ll trust the engineers to figure things out. When there’s a major building catastrophe there’s enormous professional interest among structural engineers in finding out what went wrong. They don’t want to make the same mistake. And there are structural engineers everywhere in the world. I’d imagine the Chinese, Russians and Europeans are rather good at it for example. None of the basic data is secret, they all have computer modeling programs, and not all of them favor the War on Terror or trust the Bush administration. Nor do their employers.

II. I’ve looked at some of the WTC videos you mentioned but am not persuaded. The controlled demolition theory of the WTC collapse seems a really bad theory:

  1. If you want to destroy the WTC so people get mad, why control the demolition to make the destruction neat?
  2. A sane conspirator wouldn’t run two operations (plane crashes and controlled demolitions) involving two groups of people to bring about a result when either by itself would be enough.
  3. If it took months to do the job, and you had to put the charges in exact locations throughout the buildings, wouldn’t someone notice that something unusual was going on? Why would a sane conspirator take that risk? How many people would have to be in on the conspiracy or be relied on to look the other way?
  4. The tapes of the collapse don’t look at all like other controlled demolitions. What you see looks consistent with the official story. Gravity pulls straight down, that applies all the more strongly the bigger the structure is, so it makes sense to me that if the structure gave way the buildings would fall straight down.
  5. It’s important to remember that things that are very large don’t act like smaller things because they’re much weaker proportionally than you expect. A spider the size of an elephant for example would collapse under its own weight. That’s why an elephant is as sturdy-legged as it is. WTC 1 and 2 were huge. So you can think of them as having the relative strength of a house of cards with little bits of chewing gum to hold the cards in place. Compromise the structure and it doesn’t topple over like a cut tree, it disintegrates and falls straight down. When it hits the ground it’s going at enormous speed and everything’s pulverized.
  6. For the same reason it’s believable it would collapse at something close to free-fall speed. The resistance offered by each floor would be trivial compared to the enormous kinetic energy of hundreds and thousands of tons of concrete and steel moving at speeds that would likely reach 100 mph in 4 seconds or so and go up from there. The building might reach the ground faster than a piece of debris that started falling from the same height at the same time because the piece of debris would be slowed down more by air friction.
  7. I agree of course that the collapse could not have occurred at free fall speed. It seems to me though that in a very large and tall building it could have been close. I really do rely on engineers worldwide timing the collapse, seeing how close it was to free fall speed, and doing the calculations. People concerned about this stuff can get in touch with eminent retired structural engineers in Russia or wherever and see what they say. If good engineers tell me I’m talking nonsense I’d accept it. (A personal note: when I was a Wall Street lawyer I had to deal with engineers now and then in connection with project financings and it was always a breath of fresh air. It actually mattered to them what the truth was. Having to build physical things that work and don’t blow up or fall down seems to keep you honest.)
  8. In both WTC 1 and 2 the collapse started at the impact and fire line. The videos all show that at the beginning the structure was undisturbed above and below that line. That seems to me very important. Thereafter the disintegration of the structure coincided (to the extent you could see things through the dust) with the arrival of the already-collapsed upper portion. Pictures of controlled demolitions don’t look like that. To me these facts strongly support the view that the impact and fire were what made the structure initially give way, where those things had weakened it, rather than explosions placed throughout the building. Thereafter the enormous force of the falling upper floors hitting the lower floors would have been enough to smash them seriatim.
  9. Stuff spewing out of the building as it collapsed would have been caused by an acre’s worth of air on each floor being forced out in a fraction of a second.
  10. The core collapsed because it was no longer supported by the rest of the structure. It wouldn’t have been designed to stand there like a bunch of fishpoles with the rest of the building gone. In one of the videos it actually showed the core still standing momentarily through the dust and then collapsing.
  11. The “controlled demolition” theorists have too many things in play. There are controlled explosions starting at the impact site and then timed floor by floor to coincide with the arrival of the collapsed debris. Then there’s also thermite, to account for the molten metal found later in the debris. Also explosions in the basement. Also random explosions here and there before the airplanes hit, before the collapse starts, and in lower parts of the building as upper parts are collapsing. Also airplanes hitting the towers (that part at least I know is true). And then the collapse looks rather different in WTC 1 and 2, and very different in 7.
  12. WTC 7 is indeed a different story. It’s much smaller and the collapse looked more like a controlled demolition. I seem to recall reading somewhere that in addition to the fire the structure was already severely damaged by falling debris. If so that could provide an explanation. The Larry Silverstein “pull it” video sounded to me like he was talking about stopping the effort to put out the fire and let whatever happen happen.

As to the failure of the military to intercept, which Roberts mentions, presumably part of the point of the official report was to cover up incompetence. Nothing was the fault of anyone in the government, any more than Abu Ghraib was the fault of anyone higher than a sergeant. It’s basic today that no one in a responsible position is ever responsible for anything. In fairness though the military works by standing operating procedures and they may not have had a SOP ready to go on a few minutes notice to cover something like this. It’s not obvious to me they would be keeping track of all domestic flights for example, or that they would have protocols for shooting down civilian passenger airliners when they’re doing something odd.



Roberts seems rather (overly) focused on the erosion of civil liberties under Bush. WTC conspiracy plots help to reinforce his view of what’s most important. He seems smart and has plenty of knowledge of what goes on inside the beltway, so I’ll be charitable and assume that he’s just trying to preempt the coming rape of civil liberties in our India-Brazil-EU future.

Also, this illustrates that in a modern technocracy, there’s always plenty of experts on hand to argue any position and make it sound plausible (e.g. “there’s infinite-abiotic oil” vs. “we have 200 years of oil left” vs. “it’ll peak next year and we’ll all starve in 5 years”).

I think there has been a grand effort to keep Americans in Plato’s cave with respect to what truly occurred on September 11, 2001. The Internet, interpersonal conversations, and courageous book and journal publishers are our only paths out of this cave. The vast majority of the media, both right and left, are puppeteers on 9/11, as they are on Iraq and the delusional war on terror, as you well know.

Let me offer some plauible evidence that the official story of 9/11 is a mass-produced delusional myth. How did the reader react to that last statement? Was it with immediate disdain or disbelief or skepticism at the mere thought of a government cover up of this matter? If so, why? Think about your reaction. Is it rational? Our government just sanctioned the Israeli military’s murdering of innocent Lebanese just recently, did it not? Powerful elements in our government would kill their own people if it meant securing and preserving its power. That is certain.

Here is some more plausible evidence of the U.S. government’s capability of massive lying, treachery, and murder. The U.S. government has recently declassified a document called “Operation Northwoods” in which it admits to a plan in the 1960s to murder Americans and blame it on an “enemy,” Cuba, in order to gain the public’s enthusiasm for war? Look at this: This document reveals that it is within the realm of possibility that 9/11 was also a “false-flag terrorism” event. Of course, this doesn’t prove anything, but it at least shows that the U.S. government is capable of it.

There are, of course, many “conspiracy theorists” who think themselves safely out of the cave, but instead have only acted to bind themselves more securely in it, through the chains of their gnostic fantasies. Nevertheless, false conspiracy theories can also be invented and imposed on society by those in power, and just because they are de facto publicly authoritative does not make them any more true than others. I suggest to you that the official story of 9/11 is just one of these false conspiracy theories, with factual and logical holes you can fly a Bowing 767 through. Read David Ray Griffin’s incomparable work on this subject.

If I have peaked your interest even one bit, please watch a new documentary that is by far the best out there: the most balanced, most fact-based, most reasonable, most professional, least conspiratorial, least gnostic. It aims at showing only one specific fact about the fall of the Towers—that they could have only fallen by the process of controlled demolition. Forget the Pentagon. Stick to the Towers, especially Tower 7 which no plane hit, and which fell anyway, into its own footprint, at freefall speed. Did you know that this is absolutely impossible unless it was demolished with controlled explosions? See the physicist Stephen Jones’s work on this as well.

Hundreds of facts about the Tower attacks have been censored in the media to prevent people from drawing the obvious conclusion of controlled demolition, and this documentary provides you with all the censored facts.


1) This is a remarkable book by Webster Tarpley, Synthetic Terror: Made in the USA—and it is on-line. It is the most sophisticated and well-researched of them all. If you can read any chapter of this book, read Chapter XIII. It is an incredible analysis of the dark psychological and sociological forces at work in the American mind today regarding 9/11.

2) This explains how the ruling class created a “regulated group mind” in the American public, one that forbids any skepticism about the official 9/11 story. An incredibly sophisticated analysis.…

3) Paul Craig Roberts is always worth reading, and he has expressed his skepticism of the official story:




4) In terms of an explanation of precisely how 9/11 actually occurred, and who exactly was responsible, there really is relatively little, because hardly anyone really knows. All we do know for sure is that the official story is bogus. This was an incredibly sophisticated operation after all, and it may be years before we know anything concrete. Nevertheless, this article attempts a comprehensive explanation of how and by whom. It is a bit over the top and hyper-explanatory, but perhaps one can glean some truth here.

5) The theologian David Ray Griffin is certainly worth reading, and he has become a public figure now, though his theology is way off: Here is a link for information about him, including a 9/11 lecture he gave on C-Span:


1) This one by Alex Jones is a good overview of the “false-flag terrorism” idea, but he is somewhat bombastic and perhaps a little paranoid. Still, worth watching:


b) This was Alex Jones on CSPAN:…

2) This is a link to a whole bunch of interesting videos on 9/11:

3) This is a talk Tarpley gave in Manhattan a couple years back. Very illuminating. A good summary of his book.

So the government is evil enough and powerful enough to pull off a massive conspiracy destroying two world renowned buildings and killing 3000 people on live TV. And yet this same government is too incompent or ethical to plant WMD’s in Iraq?

I’m always curious, in regards to these seemingly lucid and rational would-be truth tellers, why do they think the big conspiracy allows them to uncover grains of the truth? Sure they are but small fry, but why take the risk, why are they left still alive to plaster our cities with “9/11 was an inside job” stickers? why don’t the universities fire the “scholars for 9/11 truth”? If you can imagine a totalitarian in the White House why not imagine a Stalin?

I agree completely with your analysis, Jim. I think the ultimate source for 9/11 conspiracy theories is that people balk at the thought that 19 evil men really could kill a few thousand people on a whim. It’s an unfortunate reality. We naturally want to blame our politicians for it because we already know that they are the scum of the earth and we have a lot more of them than we really want to have (though a lot fewer than if we really wanted a democracy). But the truth is just that if a few people want to commit acts of far-reaching horror, they can do it. It might even be easier than committing acts of far-reaching good.