Guest Commentary

Fodder for a foothills get-together: conspiracy theories surrounding Sept. 11

I was invited to a Conspiracy Party the other night. An avid conspiracy buff, I eagerly attended.

Contrary to the commonly held perception, "conspiracy buff" does not mean that I eagerly swallow every Internet or tabloid fantasy about aliens stealing the president's brain (although that would explain a lot ...). What it does mean is that I enjoy assessing sources, synthesizing research, calculating motives and using logical analysis to determine, or at least speculate shrewdly, what is--or is not--going on behind the scenes of public or political events.

Consider the classic example. I believe that the Central Intelligence Agency played a pivotal role in a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963, with the casual and/or intimate cooperation of a loose clique of Cold War hawks, a small battalion of vengeful Cubans and a coterie of pissed-off, double-crossed Mafiosi. Call it the "Oliver Stone Theory," although he just dramatized it; he didn't invent it.

However, a squishy-liberal Kennedy lover, I am not. I also believe JFK played the sort of hardball politics that eventually earned him that line drive to the head, including a plan to neuter the CIA and a conspiracy to steal the closest presidential election in U.S. history in 1960 with the connivance, among others, of Mafia-controlled labor unions. I think there is plenty of historical evidence to show that these scenarios are not only plausible; they're logical conclusions.

It might further reorder your perception to discover that, rather than a ramshackle lefty hovel in an alley somewhere around Fourth Avenue, the Conspiracy Party was held in a well-appointed foothills home somewhere north of Skyline Drive. The subject was the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The parallels between WTC and JFK are interesting. The two events were so startling, so surreal and so profound in their lasting impacts on our society that they serve as cultural and historical icons. Every one of us who was alive and paying attention remembers exactly where we were when we heard the news. Most of us quickly formed emotional and deeply held perceptions and beliefs around them. Small wonder, then, that it's so difficult for people to debate them calmly and rationally.

Another factor is persistent mystery. Official investigations failed to produce believable explanations. The Warren Commission, with its infamous "Magic Bullet" theory, has been completely discredited. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency, of recent Katrina infamy, spent a mere $600,000, relying mostly on volunteers, to investigate the collapse of the towers. (This from a government that spent $40 million investigating a consensual blowjob in the White House.)

Few believe that we'll ever get the whole stories. But many believe that they have not just the right, but the duty, to try, if for no other reason than to set the record straight, but also to help prevent such events from recurring. Such are the people who organized and attended the Conspiracy Party: a few activists, an accountant, a doctor, the neighbors--people shrewd enough to realize that the official explanations of what happened on Sept. 11 stink to hog heaven and curious enough to seek the truth.

Unfortunately, the conspiracy buffs who usually get the most attention are Lyndon LaRouche followers who maintain that Satan's emissary, in the form of Dick Cheney, called up demons from hell to crash the planes and hypnotize Congress into supporting ill-advised wars (again, this would explain a lot, but ...).

We watched some videos with production values roughly akin to a horror flick I made with some buddies in high school, discussed some interesting angles and left the party still scratching our heads. But the point, for the time being, was served: to ask the questions that should be asked of any such crime. Who had the means? Who had the motive? Who stood to gain from it? Because at its root, no matter how complex (not everyone who cashes in sits in a smoke-filled room concocting the plot), every conspiracy is fundamentally the same: a conspiracy of profit, as measured in money, power, political objectives or (usually) all of the above.

I believe there was a complex conspiracy at work on Sept. 11 involving, among others, some powerful elements of the U.S. government. But hey, I'm just a conspiracy buff. Don't take my word for it. Go to and start figuring it out for yourself.

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