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Standing Truth on its Head

Stephen Shaw

September 2006

Peace Talk - The Quarterly Newsletter of Peace Action Maine


On receiving the Nobel Prize in literature last October, Harold Pinter chose to devote his Nobel Lecture to a discourse on truth and fiction. In the real world - which he contrasts with the world of the theater - things are either true or they are not. As citizens we can learn and we can know what is true in the world around us! Yet he goes on to describe the extraordinary extent to which truth is turned on its head in public and political life in the United States and Britain.


Perhaps his most strongly worded point is that the U.S., over a period of many decades, has carried out a barbaric assault on peoples throughout the world while managing to maintain a halo of virtue in the public eye at home. He suggests that the essence of what the U.S. is about as a world power is the brilliant strategic success of saying we are great and good, while being bad.


Being "bad" here refers to invading, stealing, manipulating, poisoning, overthrowing, rigging, murdering, lying, extorting and the general setting-aside of all moral constraints in the conduct of policy. The active cultivation of a "good" facade, in effect, provides cover for these activities.


While piercing this facade to reveal deeper truths about our country will likely be essential to creating meaningful social change in the world, the greatest single act of truth-seeking that we face at present may be a thoroughgoing re-examination of the attacks of September 11, 2001.


As a step toward assessing the truthfulness of our government's accounting of 9/11 let me pull on one thread to see what unravels. The thread is the sudden collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 at 5:20 in the afternoon on 9/11. Built in the mid-80s, WTC 7 was a gleaming 47-story skyscraper just north of the Twin Towers' block. The startling manner in which it fell could be described as watching an intact building vanish vertically into the earth. This occurred at close to free-fall speed, leaving a compact pile of debris.


Though the building was superficially damaged by falling girders from WTC 1, and had fires on a number of floors, the only plausible explanation for the observed perfect symmetry of its collapse is that it was demolished by design with pre-planted explosives. The 9/11 Commission did not suggest anywhere in its report that terrorists had planted explosives in advance of 9/11 in New York. In fact the 9/11 Commission did not mention the fate of Building 7 at all, in spite of it appearing to be, arguably, the most significant structural failure in the history of modern engineering.


If one of the buildings in the World Trade Center complex shows signs that it was intentionally destroyed from within, then what of the destruction of the Twin Towers?


Two questions can be asked about the fall of the Towers. First, "does anything about their collapse resemble what would be expected from a structural failure due to damage by plane impact and fire?" The answer to this would have to be an emphatic "no." A structural failure would have been highly asymmetrical, partial, and prone to toppling or shedding of debris. The collapse would not have followed the path of greatest resistance down the axis of the building!


The second question is "are the observable features of the collapse consistent with a theory of controlled demolition?" At least ten features have been identified that support this theory. These include the extensive pulverization of debris; horizontal ejections of debris remote from the collapse zone; the speed, totality and symmetry of the collapses; and the extraordinary explosiveness clearly seen in photographs and video.


Another feature consistent with a demolition hypothesis is that scores of eye-witnesses are on record as having heard explosions both before and as the towers fell.


These clues to the origin of the destruction in New York are among a large number of anomalies and impossibilities in the 9/11 story as it has been told to us. It appears, in fact, that there is almost no aspect of the official narrative that stands up to careful scrutiny. A reasonable and sobering speculation that follows from the collective evidence is that Islamist extremists were not responsible for attacking us on 9/11. An equally reasonable corollary to this is that the entire "war on terror" may be a fraud.


In a recent essay entitled "Sins of Statecraft: The War on Terror Exposed," writer/activist Brian Bogart takes us back to the mid 70s when a form of coup d'etat took place within the Ford White House. A cast of characters bearing several of the same names as those in the current administration, managed to overturn the prevailing intelligence-community wisdom that the Soviet Union was on its last legs and was eager for detente. In its stead, this group essentially fabricated the mythology utilized to prolong the Cold War by fifteen years.


The strategic idea of inflating the threat of an enemy to meet the wishes of those in power has probably been around for thousands of years. Whether the ultimate expression of this practice is playing out in our time, on our watch, bears considering. If the often-utilized demonization of communism was inevitably due to run its course as a rationale for various forms of imperial projection, then a substitute demon was needed.


A strong case can be made, as Bogart goes on to do in his article, that terrorism is the new mythic foe. It provides, so the argument goes, an enemy that can be invoked in exactly the range of ways that we have all witnessed, almost non-stop, for five years now.


If the degree of plotting and subterfuge that is implied here seems inconceivable, then consider a remark made to journalist Ron Suskind by a senior Bush advisor. After suggesting that the "reality-based community" is out of step with how things now work in the world, the advisor goes on:


''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'' (New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004)


Call me old fashioned and out of step, but I think Harold Pinter could not have chosen a better topic for his Nobel address. The difference between truth and fiction may be the difference between justice or not, peace or not, freedom or not. It may, crucially, be all the difference in the world.