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June 30, 2008

9/11: Facts and Narratives
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Our challenges in the Middle East are not simply about policy; they are about narratives, and our failure to understand their importance.  I was reminded of this again last week, when some relatives from Egypt were visiting for a wedding. I had mentioned 9/11 in the context of civil rights for Muslims in America. Then, quickly, the conversation took a different turn. My aunt said something about Arabs not being responsible for September 11th. She suggested that it was probably an “inside job,” and began listing a variety of non-Arab groups that could have been involved. I got annoyed. “You don’t really believe that, do you?” “Those are just baseless rumors and conspiracy theories,” I said. “I mean, after all, Bin Laden himself admitted his involvement and congratulated the 19 hijackers for what they did.” (Then the creative response, “Bin Laden was a double agent.”)

Then my uncle chimed in. He’s exactly the kind of person (some) U.S. policymakers appear to like. Privately religious, but adamant about the separation of religion from politics; distrustful of the Egyptian masses and what they would do if they were allowed to actually vote in free elections; and goes into near seizures whenever the name of the Muslim Brotherhood is mentioned (“they’ll destroy the country!”). But, even here, the same old narrative popped up. He argued that when you’re trying to determined who did 9/11, you have to look at who benefited most from it (“The U.S. and Israel”). Then he started talking about one of those 9/11 truth viral videos about how a couple planes couldn’t have made the towers collapse the way they did. 

But then there was another point he raised which was interesting to me, because it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to hear, but you actually hear it quite a lot from Arabs. He said that Arabs are so backward and hopeless that there was no way they could be responsible for anything which required such advanced planning, organizational discipline, and technical knowledge, etc.

After about 10 minutes of trying to counter what they were saying, I gave up. The facts were irrelevant. If anything, the more I countered with evidence, the more adamant they were that I was wrong. This is not surprising, and there has been a growing, and quite fascinating, literature on how challenging misconceptions with facts can actually have the effect of hardening those misconceptions (see, for instance, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler’s excellent paper on this). The statements of my aunt and uncle may appear to be irrational and stupid, but they are totally in keeping with the predominant narrative that exists in the Middle East. Facts are interpreted within the context of this narrative, and everything is bent to fit it. The narrative is this – that the U.S., through its policies, has consistently undermined the will of Arabs and Muslims, and contributed to the underdevelopment of the region. Whether or not this narrative is actually accurate is almost beside the point.   

The point is that it happens to be the dominant narrative. It is based on a certain degree of exaggerated extrapolation – that if we were capable of 1953 and 1991 (not to mention the Iraq war), then we are capable of anything; that if we can consistently support brutal dictatorships with billions of dollars, then we are capable of anything. So, even if we do good things in the region, those things will likely be re-interpreted by Arabs as examples of negative involvement. That is why we need to have a debate about why and how this narrative – one which happens to be almost the opposite of how perceive ourselves – came to be. Once we have a better understanding of the current narrative, we can then begin to take serious action to offer a new story to the region,  one that will require a difficult, and perhaps tortured discussion, about sometimes destructive American policies over the past five decades.


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Actually Hamid, you're relatives have a lot of indisputable evidence that backs up their contention that 9/11 was an inside job. We're not talking about "viral videos from conspiracy theorists". We're talking about relevant research from scholars, engineers, physicists, government officials and eyewitness accounts.

You can't just roll all of this evidence under the blanket label of "conspiracy theory". There is substantial evidence that completely disproves the official story of 9/11. Are there kooks in the 9/11 Truth movement - of course there are. Just as there are kooks in any area of research, whether it's global warming or quantum physics. That doesn't discredit the research of the serious researchers involved in the movement.

Do you know that the collapse of the three WTC towers is yet to be scientifically explained? It's certainly not explained by the 9/11 Commission report or the NIST reports. They fall short at collapse initiation and they even admit in their reports that their reasoning leading to collapse initiation has a very low probability of occurence.

This is an incredibly serious issue that is the fulcrum of the "war on terror" and US foreign policy of the last 8 years. Doesn't it bother you that there has not been a conclusive scientific, forensic investigation into 9/11? It's outrageous! And it's outrageous for you to call the credible research into 9/11 "viral video conspiracy theory"!

How can you dismiss all of the following and so much more:

1) The freefall, instantaneous, explosive collapse of three steel structured skyscrapers due to fire when there has never been another instance of a collapse of a steel structured tower due to fire in history despite many other examples of steel structured buildings with raging infernos that did not suffer from steel structural failure. This alone is a very serious structural engineering problem that is yet to be explained.

2) Eyewitness reports and video evidence of multiple explosions. Firefighters describing rings of explosive charges going off in the buildings.

3) Molten metal at the base of all three collapsed WTC towers.

4) All the characteristics of the collapses of the towers can not be explained by structural failure due to fire but are obvious examples of controlled demolition.

5) The impact at the Pentagon. What happened to the 60 tons of debris from the 757? Why is there no evidence of a 757 in the four frames of security camera footage released by the FBI? Why won't they release any more footage of the most secure building in the world?

There is so much more but it is up to you to do your own research. I'm not going to type out a treatise on the mountain of evidence of supportive evidence that shows 9/11 was an inside job.

Here's a few good videos to get you started:

Maybe someday on this page we'll have a Jew kvetching about paranoid zionism and bemoaning the crimes done in our name. Maybe someday.
In the meantime we get an arab schmendrik Who are you anyway, kid, a bastard son of V. S. Naipaul and Bernard Lewis?

"If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"
David Ben Gurion

Ah, sweet reason.

I have some questions:

1> Why was Dick Cheney in charge of NORAD on 9-11?
2> What was NORAD busy doing anyway? What's the probability of that???
3> Where's the missing security video tapes from WTC 1,2 AND 7? We should have them, after all, George Bush's brother was in charge of security over those building on 9-11.
4> Where's the videos from the airplane that hit the pentagon (notice the hundreds of cameras surrounding the Pentagon)? The ones released from the Pentagon were grainy and showed anything but an airplane. Why were there missing frames from that video? Why was the date embedded in the frames "9-12-2001"? Why did Rumsfeld slip and say a missile hit the Pentagon?
5> We were told that the fires at the WTCs were hot enought to melt steal. How is it that paper passports of the terrorists survived the hot flaming explosions? Why have 7 of the supposed "hijackers" been interviewed since 9-11 and are alive and well?
6> What about PNAC (The Plan for a New American Century)? It was authored by the current administration. Did they get their "New Pearl Harbor"?
7> Ossama Bin Laden was interviewed on 9-17-2001 by CNN. All of our military and intelligence couldn't find him yet some stupid reporter didn't seem to have any problem. Why?
8> Ussama Bin Laden is not listed on the FBI's most wanted list for connection with the attacks on 9-11. Why?
9> In every video showing the airplanes hitting the WTCs, there's a flash/explosion in front of the airplanes. What was it?

you guys are all incredibly mislead and disturbed. Wow, if the article was scary, the talkbacks have made me lose faith in humanity.


We are all mislead and disturbed by this administration.

The talkbacks are aimed at getting to the truth. It isn't aimed at scaring anybody.


Grow up and stop being a pussy. What exactly is mislead and disturbed? I can say the same thing about you but if I don't back it up with an argument then those disparaging remarks aren't worth much are they?

If you have something worthwhile to post then do it. Otherwise, go home and cry into your mug of warm milk.

Its confusing to me that people who support the idea that the media puts out there do not simply back up their beliefs with their facts. The 9/11 Commission was woefully inadequate, and did little to answer the questions the the 9/11 truth movement poses.

This is not ancient history this is our history. It is OUR responsibility to know exactly what happened on that day.

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Let’s just face a few simple facts.

Skyscrapers MUST hold themselves up. They must also sway in the wind. The people who design skyscrapers MUST figure out how much steel and how much concrete they are going to put on every level before they even dig the hole for the foundation.

After EIGHT YEARS why don’t we have a table specifying the TONS of STEEL and TONS of CONCRETE that were on every level of WTCs 1&2? The NIST report does not even specify the TOTAL for the concrete. The total for the steel is in three places. So even if the planes did it that 10,000 page report is CRAP!

Conspiracies are irrelevant. The Truth Movement should be marching on all of the engineering schools in the country.

Watch that Purdue simulation. If a 150 ton airliner crashes near the top of a skyscraper at 440 mph isn’t the building going to sway? Didn’t the survivors report the building “moving like a wave”? So why do the core columns in the Purdue video remain perfectly still as the plane comes in?

That is the trouble with computer simulations. If they are good, they are very good. But if they have a defect either accidental or deliberate they can be REALLY STUPID once you figure out the flaws.

The distributions of steel and concrete are going to affect the sway of a skyscraper whether it is from the wind or an airliner.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

How much does one complete floor assembly weigh?

You know those square donut floor slabs? They were 205 ft square with a rectangular hole for the core. There was a steel rebar mesh embedded in the concrete which was poured onto corrugated steel pans which were supported by 35 and 60 foot trusses. There has been talk about those things pancaking on each other for years.

But has anyone ever said what the whole thing weighed? Why haven't we seen that A LOT in EIGHT YEARS? The concrete alone is easy to compute, about 601 tons. But the concrete could not be separated from the entire assembly, the upper knuckles of the trusses were embedded into the concrete. So what did the whole thing weigh and why haven't the EXPERTS been mentioning that A LOT in EIGHT YEARS?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So why hasn't Richard Gage and his buddies produced a table with the TONS of STEEL and TONS of CONCRETE that were on every level of the WTC? How much computing power do they have now, compared to the early 1960s when the buildings were designed? I asked Gage about that in May of 2008 at Chicago Circle Campus and he got a surprised look on his face and gave me this LAME excuse about the NIST not releasing accurate blueprints. Gravity hasn't changed since the 1960s. They should be able to come up with some reasonable numbers.

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