being a review of David Ray Griffin: Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006). Griffin is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Claremont. This book is organized into two parts. (1) Rehearsal of facts proving that the 9/11 was a false-flag operation. (2) Religious critique of empire-building by the US.
Part 2: Religion
The value of the book resides entirely in the lucid and irrefutable summary of Part 1. Part 2 starts off bad enough, using a higher-critical scissors to trim the Bible down to a kernel that suits Griffin’s purpose. (It is interesting, however, that once a statement in the gospels survives being pressed through the liberal sieve, he does seem to regard it as authoritative at some level). But it gets much worse. He needs a credible theory of “the demonic” to explain how imperialists could be so wicked as to execute a false-flag operation like the 9-11; but without a devil, as that would be mythic. With this motivation, he launches into an exposition of Process Theology only slightly less mythic than Mormon cosmology. In the beginning was God and matter; there was no creation ex nihilo; God shapes and persuades the matter as best He can, always trying to get it stay on the moral path; but the matter, especially after evolving into complex organisms like humans, has a mind of its own that is metaphysically autonomous from God and thus can assert evil. (Insert Twilight Zone theme.) He calls it Semidualistic Monotheism (p. 137).
There are metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological problems with this dualism that are fatal. Here, I take the time to highlight just one. Griffin seems to think that if there was a big blob of matter that was a se, self-existent, and a god that was also a se, then that god might glance over at the blob of matter and say to himself, “self, I think I will go make something out of that blob.”
But this is a gross anthropomorphism. The independent god would not “see” the blob at all. He would not feel it. It would not exist for him.
We can see and feel things because our bodies are subject to electomagnetic forces just like the stuff we see and feel out there. If this were not the case, we would not see anything. If our “arm” swung down against a “table,” it would sail right through without a break. Take away the electromagnetic force, and floors, tables, roofs, walls, and so forth, simply don’t exist for us.
He tries to avoid this problem by saying that knowledge mediated by causal sequences is characteristic of creatures alone (p. 136). As if appealing to the Creator/creature distinction can help this ontology! The living and true God knows all thing immediately, because he is the master of them: his thoughts define them; but Griffin’s god, surrounded by darkness and unfulfilled potentiality, needs a third something between himself and his balky Gegenstand, to establish the contact. Moreover, for Griffin’s god to “find” the blob of matter, he and it would have to “reside” in the same space as it were. But what is the origin of that space? If it is from the god, then how did the eternal matter, being heterogenous to his nature, squeeze into it? If it is from the matter, how did the god enter in? Or, it is a framework in which both exist, in which case then we need to find the living and true God who defines the common framework. Griffin’s god and matter would never have found each other.
It is embarrassing that Prof. Griffin saw fit to go into this, and that the publisher permitted it.
Part 1: The 9-11 Events
In stark contrast, Part I, which lays out the evidence that 9/11 was quite different than what the U.S. national government has told us, is quite good, both for logic and brevity.
He correctly sandbags against the typical name-calling. President Bush and 9/11 Commissioner Philip Zelikow have
warned against “outrageous conspiracy theories.” What do these men mean by this expression? They cannot mean that we should reject all conspiracy theories about 9/11, because the government’s own account is a conspiracy theory, with the conspirators all being members of al-Qaeda. (p. 35)
Griffin’s summary of the case against the Government Story of 9/11 can be sorted under several categories.
This includes things like the fact that burning kerosene only heats up to about a thousand degrees less than the melting point of steel (p. 36). The problems are nicely summarized in pages 35-44. One observation he makes had escaped my attention before, yet is devastating: if the floors really had “pancaked” down on each other, thus explaining the verticle collapse into its own footprint, then the steel columns should have been seen sticking up through it.
Intuitively, most people probably think that a skyscraper is like dozens of crates stacked up on each other, each crate representing a story. Then, as each crate collapses into a pancake, starting at the top, the added weight crushes the next crate, and combined mass falls down to the next crate, and so on.
However, this is not how a skyscraper is constructed. Instead, one should imagine massive steel columns (47 of them) which, tied together and reinforced, form the load-bearing core all the way to the top of the building. Then, each floor is “hung” on this core. So, if under the right conditions, the floors started to pancake down on each other, nevertheless the columns would stick through and still be visible.
The 9/11 Commission
simply denied the existence of the forty-seven core columns, saying, “The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped.” Voila! With no forty-seven core columns, the main problem is removed. (40f.)
The NIST tried a little harder:
The NIST Report handled this most difficult problem by claiming that when the floors collapsed, they pulled on the columns, causing the perimeter columns to become unstable. This instability then increased the gravity load on the core columns, which had been weakened by tremendously hot fires in the core, which, NIST claims, reached 1832°F, and this combination of factors somehow produced “global collapse.”
However, Griffin dissects NIST with two whacks:
First, NIST’s claim about tremendously hot fires in the core is completely unsupported by evidence. As we saw earlier, its own studies found no evidence that any of the core columns had reached temperatures of even 482°F, so its theory involves a purely speculative temperature. Second, even if this sequence of events had occurred, NIST provides no explanation as to why it would have produces global — that is, total — collapse. The NIST Report asserts that “column failure” occurred in the core as well as the perimeter columns, but this remains a bare assertion. There is no plausible explanation of why the core columns would have broken or even buckled, so as to produce global collapse at virtually free-fall speed, even if they had reached such temperatures. (41)
Sequence of events
The Sequence problem has to do with the consistency of alleged events — the timing of phone calls, meetings, and movements, with respect to the timing of the publicly knowable events — where was Cheny when the second plane hit, that kind of thing. In addition, there is the question of why — NORAD standing down or at least fumbling, intercept planes nearby not being ready. As much detail as the reader can stomach is ably summarized in Chap. 4, Flights of Fancy (pp. 57-75).
The government investigations, notably the 9/11 Commission’s and the NIST report, are what most people rest their confidence in. It is probably not so much belief in the veracity of the government so much as the impossibility of the contrary: it seems incredible that so many people could collude to deceive without someone blowing the whistle.
Nevertheless, there are facts about these reports that need to be remembered:
1. The official narrative changed through several revisions as skeptics pounced on contradictions (pp. 57-75).
2. Facts that remain embarrassing are simply ignored into oblivion (e.g. 9/11 Commission on the 47 columns, mentioned above [pp. 40,41]; others discussed p. 16, pp. 80-82).
3. Other problems are dealt with by pure arbitrary assertion, without evidence — (e.g. the NIST report on the same problem ; more on p. 35).
How do we reconcile these difficulties with the common man’s feeling that a conspiracy of such magnitude is not possible?
The answer is, it is not necessary that very many of the investigators would be in on the scam — indeed, perhaps not any of the rank and file. Most of them are just ordinary people doing their job, and their job was not to discover the most probable perpetrator from a clean slate, but rather, “show how al Qaeda did it.” And in terms of that non-falsifiable premise, the investigators did their investigation quite diligently.
That this is exactly how they proceeded is ludicrously illustrated in one incident. Just days before the event, a huge number of PUT options were taken out on just the very two airlines involved in the hijackings. This allowed the holders, after the event, to “put” the stock to the writer of the option at the pre-plummeted price, making millions of dollars. There is strong prima facie suspicion that the purchasers knew what was coming down. The government’s explanation for this is telling for their whole approach:
The 9/11 Commission tried to show that these suspicions were unfounded. Its most important claim was that the purchases of put options for United Airlines do not show that anyone other than al-Qaeda had foreknowledge of the attacks, because 95 percent of these options were purchased by “[a] single U.S.-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda.” (p. 80)
And they roared with laughter, Solzhenitsyn’s equivalent narrative would add.
We can see what value should be put on those investigations.
For me, at the end of the day, it is the human narrative that makes the official conspiracy theory incredible. It is bad enough that 19 skinny Arab boys, entering single file Indian style with their box-cutters (and how did the investigators figure that out again?), are able to overwhelm the crews — who are generally tough guys, often former military — and succeed every time. Then, right after the fight of their life and commission of grisly, bloody murders, the corpses still lying around, they “get behind the wheel” for the first time ever, and find these targets and steel their nerves to blow right into them. Try this while speeding scary fast down a hill on your bike, then multiply the velocity by 20. Yet these Arab boys did it, every time without fail.
But it gets better. One of the boys, slated to board flight 11 from Boston, decides to make an excursion to Maine the day before. No one can figure out why. It will necessitate hopping on a commuter flight to connect to the big one the next morning. Imagine risking the whole operation if the puddle-hopper were to be late! And sure enough, it is late — not so late that Atta cannot board Flight 11, but too late for his luggage to get transferred, and so the authorities can now retrieve some smoking guns. And what is in his bags?
Flight simulation manuals for Boeing airplanes, a copy of the Koran, a religious cassette tape, a note to other hijackers about mental preparation, passport and will. (p. 17)
Think about it. I suppose Atta was thinking he would cram during the last hour before the “final exam” on how to fly the big Boeing. In case he would get bored with that, he could always read a bit of the Koran or listen to a tape. But the real howler is the will. He is about to self-immolate in a towering inferno. What possible good to anyone would it do to have his will burning up along with him?
I can’t believe a human would behave like this, even if I try. But I can very well believe that some dim-witted police-state bureaucrat assigned to this detail of the planning would include all those items in the packet, since each has its place in ratifying the government’s story.
All of this I mention, despite the fact that “the flight manifests that have been released have no Arab names on them. The 9/11 Commission Report simply omits any mention of this problem.” (p. 16) But we have to start somewhere.
Meanwhile, the boys that hijacked American flight 77
reportedly executed a 270-degree downward spiral, which according to some pilots would have been impossible for a Boeing 757 even with an expert pilot. Hanjour, moreover, was known as ‘a terrible pilot,’ who could not even fly a small airplane” (p19).
During all this, the W was yaking away to the schoolkids in Florida. He continued to yak even after the second tower was hit. This is not how a President would behave if an unexpected attack of unknown scope were occurring.
Despite its flaws, this book presents a succinct summary of the facts such that it is hard to imagine that anyone intelligent, honest, and diligent could continue to believe the government’s conspiracy theory of what happened on 9/11.