I would like to take this blog opportunity, today, to respond to Alexander Cockburn's dismissal of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Cockburn's Counterpunch is one of my favorite places to visit -- yet I must disagree with his reasoning here, which is at its clearest in the analogy with the to-do about the JFK assassination:
Anyone who ever looked at the JFK assassination will know that there are endless anomalies and loose ends. Eyewitness testimony -- as so often -- is conflicting, forensic evidence possibly misconstrued, mishandled or just missing. But in my view, the Warren Commission, as confirmed in almost all essentials by the House Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s, had it right and Oswald fired the fatal shots from the Schoolbook Depository. The evidentiary chain for his guilt is persuasive, and the cumulative scenarios of the conspiracy nuts entirely unconvincing. But of course -- as the years roll by, and even though no death bed confession has ever buttressed those vast, CIA-related scenarios -- the nuts keep on toiling away, their obsessions as unflagging as ever.Now, in real life, the Warren Commission report does not investigate several alternative paths of inquiry to the one it took. There were several points at which an alternate path of inquiry might have started. For example, the question of whether Oswald's gun could have shot JFK from the distance from which it was fired, the question of multiple bullets (as opposed to the "magic bullet" theory), the lapses in security on that day (which for instance allowed Jack Ruby to kill Oswald), Oswald's connections to the Communist Party (which by that time had been thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI) and his bizarre movement in and out of the USSR, the manipulations of JFK's autopsy, among others. The Warren Commission investigated no theory that might have sprung from the discrepancies between the official story and the real-world evidence. Instead, it manufactured an "official story" which is noteworthy for:
- its incomplete glosses on evidence,
- its refusal to explain important portions of the real-life story,
- its refusal to investigate government-kept secrets or destroyed evidence,
- and, most importantly, its refusal to investigate any alternative story to the one it set out to investigate in the first instance, which attempted to pin the blame for Kennedy's assassination on Oswald and Oswald alone.
Responding to conspiracy theory by dismissing the search for "9/11 truth" is simply not going to work. Justin Frank asks us:
What's the Truth Movement doing about the hundreds of thousands of poor non-violent drug offenders who are rotting in US prisons, or the thousands more who are decaying on death row? What are they doing for the teenage girls who slave away in sweatshops piecing together our clothes and sneakers? What have conspiracy theories ever proven, anyway?Most of this quote is non sequitur -- nothing prevents conspiracy theorists from changing the world for the better in the ways which Frank suggests. And even though conspiracy theories don't really prove anything, what they do indeed do is to cement disbelief in official stories. One thing you know for sure when reading Peter Dale Scott or Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed is that the government is lying to you, in contravention of your self-interest, and that you ought to defy it in demanding the truth. And isn't that a good thing?