Washington can't live up to standards of 9/11 'truthers'


Timothy Giannuzzi, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, July 10, 2008

The late U.S. president Ronald Reagan once remarked that "facts are stupid things." While Reagan's comment was an inadvertent slip of the tongue, too many people remain willing to unblushingly assert their belief in this sort of thinking.

Rather like corpse gas, a fresh batch of skewed thinking has lately bubbled up from the depths due to the imminent release of a draft report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology on the collapse of 7 World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.

WTC 7 was not hit by planes, but rather collapsed at 5:20 in the afternoon on the same day after being hit by debris from the fall of the North Tower. Its destruction was not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report on the attacks.

To definitively establish how WTC 7 collapsed, NIST launched an investigation in October 2005 and has since intermittently disseminated progress reports which have left little doubt of the report's eventual conclusions: "An initial local failure occurred at the lower floors of the building due to fire and/or debris-induced structural damage of a critical column. . . . Vertical progression of the initial local failure occurred up the east penthouse as the large floor bays were unable to redistribute the loads . . . horizontal progression of the failure across the (thicker) lower floors . . . triggered by damage due to the vertical failure result(ed) in a disproportionate collapse of the entire structure."

Seems pretty clear. WTC 7 was hit by stuff from the collapse of the twin towers and damaged. Fires further weakened the building's supports and it collapsed. Firemen who entered WTC 7 before it fell reported that the building was creaking ominously.

Unfortunately, reality is a little too bland for the "9/11 truth movement," a diverse group of woollen blindfold-wearing conspiracy theorists united by their belief that the U.S. government was behind the attacks and convinced they have the technical data and circumstantial evidence to prove it.

To them, NIST's conclusions are stillborn. WTC 7 housed branches of the FBI, the CIA, FEMA and the Secret Service and, many truthers allege, it was brought down in a controlled demolition by a nefarious federal government that had crammed the Manhattan skyscraper with dark secrets and decided to get rid of them all in one shot.

The amusing part of all this is not the bizarre lengths to which these conspiracy theorists go to rationalize their beliefs, but rather the main presupposition that underlies their thinking.

For the American government to have instigated 9/11, it would have had to exhibit a staggering amount of competence, cohesion and co-ordination. Tens of millions of dollars, a great deal of explosives and, at the very least, many dozens of people would have to have been organized, bought off and/or used surreptitiously so as not to attract attention.

These assumptions alone invalidate the conspiracy theorists' position. Anyone possessed of an ounce of rationality knows that the U.S. government is not remotely capable of acting like this. Consider: in 2006, the Pentagon accidentally sent four intercontinental nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan; in 2004-05, the American military lost track of 190,000 pistols and automatic rifles shipped to Iraq; in 2007, a B-52 bomber armed with nuclear warheads was mistakenly flown over several states; a 2004 report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office revealed that more than 400 federal employees and 28 senior employees -- including top staff in the Department of Homeland Security holding high level security clearance -- had bought their degrees from diploma mills.

Carrying out the 9/11 attacks would also have required the government to choose employees who were utterly mercenary while people unconnected to the plot would have had to be bribed or killed to prevent leaks. If true, then none of these individuals has suffered pangs of conscience, no one has spilled the beans, no one has noticed suspicious deaths and the explosives which allegedly brought down the WTC buildings were planted without anyone noticing. This is perfect information control, something the government is incapable of, as the Valerie Plame affair and the U.S. attorney firing scandal plainly show.

The 9/11 "truthers" ought to stop giving the government so much credit. Rehearsing the facts wouldn't hurt either.

Timothy Giannuzzi is a Calgary writer specializing in foreign affairs. His column appears every second Thursday.