Response to Cockburn's "Theory of the WTC Collapse" Part 1
In the most recent issue of the newsletter Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn published another rant against those who would question the official story of 9/11.
Cockburn begins his most recent hit piece by claiming that “9/11 nuts proffer…disturbing questions though they disdain all answers but their own," however as one reads it becomes clear that it is in fact Cockburn who prefers his own answers to questions raised by the impudent “nutters.” After all, Cockburn agrees with Michael Neumann's remark that there isn’t “a single serious question about 9-11,” and with Neumann's claim that whatever lingering doubts might remain in the minds of “nutters” derive from the same kind of irrationality that perpetuates beliefs in “angels, creationism, and…channeling.”
Putting aside the fact that both Neumann and Cockburn evidently fail to understand what a logical argument is as they both blithely engage in the fallacy of association, what is especially worth noting is that the most prominent source of disturbing questions about 9/11 is the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 independent commission. The family members of the victims of 9/11 had and still have many legitimate questions about 9/11 including why jets were unable to intercept the hijacked planes if they were airborne within eight minutes of notification? And the question of why NORAD apparently waited until after the second plane hit the WTC to try and prevent possible further attacks, and why the fighter jets that tailed flights 11 and 175 as they crashed into New York’s WTC were not rerouted to intercept flights 77 or 93, before they crashed into the Pentagon and Pennsylvania?
Many contradictory answers have been given by NORAD on these subjects. Recently tapes were released that contradicted the 9/11 commissions explanation to such a degree that Kean reportedly felt that the commission had been lied to by NORAD officials, although Kean admitted the commission did nothing about the lies and omitted any mention of them in the final report.
The tapes reveal that drills and wargames helped to create confusion that day. Again this fact was not revealed in the commission report.
So, according the families, and to Thomas Kean, important questions remain on the subject of NORAD's response or failure to respond to the hijackings, but Cockburn is not interested in learning why NORAD lied about the wargames, and suggests that those who seek to know to what extent these excercises interfered with standard operating procedure on September 11th are simply delusional.
After laying out his bias Cockburn then goes on to contradict himself. His next move, in fact, is to admit that Al Qaeda was probably infiltrated by military intelligence before 9/11. And Cockburn agrees with the nutters that intelligence reports were turned in that pointed to an impending onslaught and even to the manner in which the onslaught might be carried out, but he insists that US intelligence agencies failed to act on these reports because of an innate slowness and due to an eagerness not to compromise useful informants who “have to buttress credentials by even pressing for prompt action by the plotters.” The last point is interesting in that the question of informants who press for prompt action by the plotters is mostly irrelevant when it comes to 9/11, but could possibly apply to the previous attack on the WTC in 1993. During the trial of the Blind Sheik it came out that the FBI had infiltrated the cell responsible for the bombing and that the FBI informant, a Emad A. Salem, both urged the group to create an explosive to bring down the tower, and was originally planning to provide the cell with a phony harmless powder instead of explosive powder. The New York Times reported that Mr. Salem was to have “helped the plotters build the bomb and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer, Emad A. Salem, should be used, the informer said.” It may very well be that the first WTC bombing was a sting operation that was terribly, lethally, bungled, but this says nothing about the attacks of September 11th.
Cockburn of course mentions none of the specifics, he offers nothing in terms of actual evidence, but instead leaps from his half baked answer to the question of whether the strong evidence of US intelligence foreknowledge implies complicity or merely incompetence, a question he in fact doesn't even articulate, to the question of what hit the Pentagon. Here he gives hearsay as evidence, citing his brother’s claim to have seen photographs of a hole in the Pentagon that “clearly showed the outline of an entire plane including wings” rather than publishing the photograph itself or providing the reader with information on how to obtain the photograph.
Perhaps because he is aware of how unsatisfactory the evidence he provides is, Cockburn then turns out a litany of rhetorical questions hurled out seemingly at random.
He asks: “What happened to the 757? Did the conspirators shoot it down somewhere else, or force it down and kill the passengers? Why plan to demolish the towers with pre-placed explosives if your conspiracy includes control of the two planes? Why bother with planes at all? Why blame Osama if your fall guy is Saddam Hussein?”
Any answers to these questions would obviously be incredibly speculative, regardless of their truth value. Nobody will know precisely what hit the Pentagon, or more importantly, why it was possible to hit the Pentagon at all, nor will we know why the conspirators planned to demolish the buildings, without a truly independent investigation of all the evidence. An independent investigation of all the evidence is precisely what the people Cockburn calls "nutters" are calling for and it precisely what Cockburn refuses to admit is necessary as he refuses to admit that any legitimate questions remain.
After this assault of phony questions Cockburn offers up an assertion that is probably born out of ignorance. He claims that the 9/11 conspiracy theorists scorn the notion that the WTC towers may have crashed down because they were badly built.
In fact, this is precisely the reason given for the building’s collapse at oilempire.us, a prominent 9/11 conspiracy website. Further, it is those who would seek answers to questions about 9/11, for instance those who seek to understand precisely how fire and damage could bring down the Towers in such a unexpected way, who are most likely to force the revelation of how the faulty construction of the Towers is responsible. Certainly the phony 9/11 Commission did not bring this forward, and neither has NIST, as both studies are designed not to fault any agency or institution, but rather to provide justifications for the failures and reasons to expand the power of the intelligence agencies most at fault.
It is also worth noting that it is largely the 9/11 conspiracy nuts who are talking about the effect of asbestos and other toxins on first responders to the WTC, and on New Yorkers in general. The EPA issued an entirely false report stating the air was clean shortly after the attacks, and it is this group that is pointing most stridently at the illegality and immorality of Whitman and Rice’s report on air quality.
At this point we leave the first section of Cockburn’s hit piece behind and encounter the main point of the article, after all he did not title his essay “Every Asinine and Illogical reason I can cook up to dismiss those who are still asking questions about 9/11,” but instead chose to entitle his essay “A Theory of the WTC Collapses.”
In the next part of this response we'll look at exactly what Cockburn's explanation is, and how well it holds up to commonly held standards about what constitutes evidence.
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