By MARC McDONALD
I find it interesting how, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the whole once-noisy "Truther" movement seems to have faded away. 9/11 conspiracy theories were already on the wane before Bin Laden was killed. Now, they've faded into the woodwork.
I myself have long been allergic to conspiracy theories. Whether one is talking about the JFK killing, or Princess Diana's death, or 9/11, the problem is that conspiracy theories tend to suffer the common problems of either (A) being too implausible or (B) raising more questions that they answer.
Personally, I believe "our" government has yet to tell us the truth of what really happened on Sept. 11, 2001. But on the other hand, I'm not ready to join the ranks of those who believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives that were covertly smuggled in.
Most 9/11 conspiracy theories I've heard are just wacky. They don't make much sense. For example, if the Twin Towers were really brought down by planted explosives, then what, exactly, was the whole point of the hijacked airliners? If some secret Bush cabal was really behind 9/11, then why not just detonate the towers and leave it at that? Why make the whole conspiracy vastly more complicated by including the hijacked airliners scenario?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these Bush-supporting, Truther-bashing wingnuts who scoff at the very notion of a 9/11 conspiracy.
In fact, I personally believe that there was a 9/11 conspiracy. But it wasn't anything like the "Truther" movement has conceived. And unlike some elaborate James Bond-style plot, this 9/11 conspiracy theory was prompted by decidedly unsexy factors like plain old incompetence and the U.S. government's "cover-your-butt" mentality.
After all, as we now know, George W. Bush himself was real big on butt-covering himself. Exhibit A of the latter came on Aug. 6, 2001, when, in the middle of a 5-week vacation, Bush was handed a Presidential Daily Briefing that warned: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Bush's response that day was to tell his CIA briefers: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
However, unlike most of the elaborate, far-fetched 9/11 conspiracy theories out there, there is one conspiracy theory that actually makes sense.
My own 9/11 conspiracy theory is as follows. The Saudi government (or at least powerful, key elements of it) knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. And what's more, powerful key players in the U.S. government now know that the Saudis knew in advance.
Note that I'm not saying that the U.S. government knew about 9/11 in advance. But I do believe it's highly plausible that key players in our government did know, after the fact, that the Saudis knew in advance.
Personally, I think this conspiracy theory makes sense and it goes a long ways toward explaining a number of mysteries that linger from that day.
For example, Truthers have long (rightly) been skeptical about why the Bush White House long fought to cover any 9/11 investigations with a veil of secrecy.
Whether one believes in a conspiracy or not, one undeniable fact is that our government has long been working hard to cover up something.
I believe the 9/11 conspiracy theory I've presented would explain several other mysteries. One is why the Bush White House was so eager to fly various Saudis, including extended members of Bin Laden's own family, out of the country, in the days following 9/11.
Some commentators, including Michael Moore, raised this issue years ago. Now, a decade after 9/11, this mystery continues to be unexplained. In fact, at least one flight of a Saudi national took place during the period in which all flights were ordered grounded by the FAA. For three years, the White House denied the very existence of this Sept. 13, 2001, flight, from Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky.---that is, until Tampa International Airport finally confirmed it, in 2004.
(Note that the Snopes.com site attempts to make the case that the Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky. flight didn't actually occur before national airspace was open to general aviation. But in this case, it appears that Snopes.com is wrong).
It's clear, then the U.S. was giving the Saudis special treatment. But why? If the Saudis had damaging information about the U.S. government's 9/11 knowledge, this would make perfect sense.
It'd also explain why the U.S. always treated the Saudis with kid gloves after 9/11. It's odd when you consider that, at a time the Bush White House was already gearing up to go to war with Iraq (a nation that, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11), the Bush team was bending over backwards to accommodate the extraordinary demands of Saudi Arabia---the nation where 15 of the 19 hijackers came from.
The Saudis, in fact, rarely cooperated with the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11. They refused for years to allow U.S. investigators access to the financial trail of the hijackers, for one thing.
Why, exactly, didn't the Bush White House press the Saudis on this valuable data? Could it be that the Saudis had the Bush team by the balls?
The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would also explain a major mystery that was uncovered by investigative author Gerald Posner, in his 2003 book, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11.
In the book, Posner related the amazing story of the CIA interrogation of Saudi citizen Abu Zubaydah, a man who has never been charged with a crime, but who was waterboarded during CIA interrogations. (The CIA later destroyed videos of the interrogations in 2005).
Posner writes that the CIA flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex painstakingly furnished to resemble a Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces, would play the role of his new inquisitors."
"What transpired in the next hour took the American investigators completely by surprise. When Zubaydah was confronted with men passing themselves off as Saudi security officers, his reaction was not fear but instead relief. The prisoner, who had been reluctant even to confirm his identity to his American captors, suddenly started talking animatedly. He was happy to see them, he said, because he feared the Americans would torture and then kill him. Zabaydah asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the ruling Saudi royal family. He then provided a private home number and a cell phone number from memory. "He will tell you what do," Zubaydah promised them."
Posner notes that, during the interrogation, Zubaydah revealed the names of four powerful figures, from both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Not long afterward, all four people met untimely deaths, under mysterious circumstances.
What's notable about Posner's revelation is that he is an extremely skeptical writer who has built his career by debunking conspiracy theories. He is the author of two books that demolish many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of JFK and MLK.
The more one reads about the Saudi government's behavior in the aftermath of 9/11, the more clear it becomes that the Saudis have long demanded (and received) extraordinary special treatment from the U.S. on all matters 9/11-related.
It's clear the U.S. government has been extremely reluctant to provoke the Saudis in any way. A reasonable explanation for this is that the Saudi have dirt on the U.S. government (or at least a number of powerful key players in our government). The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would go a long ways toward explaining this mystery.
I'd expect that many conspiracy-weary readers will object to my theory on the grounds that President Obama would certainly have investigated and revealed this matter by now.
But if anything has been certain about Obama since he assumed the White House, it's that he simply isn't interested in investigating any of the crimes of the Bush administration. We've already seen clear evidence of that in other areas. After all, three years after the 2008 financial crash, not a single high-profile Wall Street player has faced criminal charges in the aftermath of what was the biggest financial fraud ever foisted upon the American people.