Where is the evidence?
Paul Craig Roberts
Clearing House" -- -- Readers are asking me to adjudicate the
September 11 debate sponsored by
“Democracy Now!” between “Loose Change” producers
Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas, and Popular Mechanics editors
James Meigs and David Dunbar, who have just published a Popular
Mechanics book, “Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories
Can’t Stand Up to the Facts.”
This is not my role. First of all, I am not an expert on 9/11.
Second, I didn’t see the debate. Third, I don’t think it matters
who won the debate.
I have read the transcript of the debate, but written words do
not convey the same impression as a visual presentation. As
many, if not most, people who have been on debate teams will
tell you, debates are not always won by who has the best facts
and analysis. How one handles oneself, one’s demeanor, how one
approaches the audience, and the audience’s predisposition can
have more to do with the outcome of a debate than facts.
My opinion of “Loose
Change” and Popular Mechanics is
independent of who won the debate. The “Loose Change” producers
are more to be admired than the Popular Mechanics editors for
the simple reason that the former are committed to opening a
debate and the latter are committed to closing debate down.
Indeed, Popular Mechanics was early on the scene trying to close
off debate by defending the government line. Why?
If I had been in the debate, I would have asked Meigs and Dunbar
what’s conspiratorial about a thorough hearing and examination
of an event that has been used to justify illegal invasions that
are war crimes and have destroyed two countries and killed tens
of thousands of people.
The Popular Mechanics editors are convinced that any explanation
other than the government’s explanation is a conspiracy theory.
However, the title of their new book applies equally to their
view, as there is no more fantastic conspiracy theory than the
view championed by the Popular Mechanics editors. How, for
example, can it be possible that on one short morning of
September 11, 2001, multiple failures occurred not only in
airport security but also in FAA and NORAD procedures? The
probability of any one of these failures is low. The probability
of all of these failures occurring on one morning is very low
indeed. How is it possible that essentially all US security
failures of the last 5 or 10 years occurred on one morning? What
probability do independent statisticians assign to such an
The probability is also extremely low that the only three steel
columned buildings believed to have collapsed from fire all
failed on the same day from three separate fires.
There are many problems with the 9/11 debate. Many different
interests are using 9/11 to advance their agendas. Security
interests use fear generated by 9/11 to erode civil liberties
and establish the foundations of a police state. Federalist
Society members in pursuit of a stronger executive use 9/11 to
justify concentrating power in the White House, power that
violates the separation of powers in the US Constitution.
Anti-immigration groups use 9/11 as evidence for closing US
borders and deporting Muslims who currently reside in the US.
Foreign policy experts use 9/11 as an example of “blowback” from
misguided and ill-considered US foreign policy. Discussion blogs
are crowded with people who want to demonstrate that they are
too sophisticated to fall for a conspiracy theory or too
patriotic to believe that their government could be complicit.
On the other side are those who are convinced that the US
government has long been the epitome of evil and that 9/11 is
just the latest example in a long history of US government false
But the main problem with the 9/11 debate is that there has not
really been a debate. Instead, we have had a report from a
political commission run by a Bush administration insider,
Philip Zelikow. In place of a real independent investigation, we
have a collection of Washington players reassuring the public by
defending the government’s story line.
Studies, such as those referred to by the Popular Mechanics
editors, are in fact not forensic studies of evidence but what
the editor-in- chief of “Fire Engineering” called “paper- and
The explanation that the three WTC buildings collapsed as a
result of damage and fire is a mere assertion. The assertion is
not backed up with scientific calculation to demonstrate that
the energy from the airliners, fire, and gravity were sufficient
to collapse the buildings. A number of independent authorities
believe that there is a very large energy deficit in the
official account of the collapse of the buildings. Until this
issue is resolved, the official explanation is merely an
assertion no matter who believes it.
The Canadian scientist Frank R. Greening has made the only
independent scientific attempt of which I am aware to show that
a gravity driven collapse of one of the buildings, WTC 1, was
sustainable. His paper is published in the Journal of 9/11
Studies, Vol. 3 (September 2006) and is available online. It is
a reply to earlier calculations by Gordon Ross, who concluded
otherwise, and is answered in the same issue by Ross, who shows
that Greening’s work actually demonstrates the existence of an
It is instructive to read this exchange between competent
authorities. Few readers will be able to follow the application
of scientific principles and the calculations of the required
and available energy. However, it will be clear that the issue
is a scientific matter that is over the heads of members of a
political commission, pundits, and bloggers, and that it is
inappropriate for a pundit, who himself is incapable of
following such a discussion, to call those participating in it
Perhaps Greening is preparing an answer to Ross that will rescue
the government’s story from scientists’ skepticism. There are
many more skeptics than Ross and Professor Steven Jones. Frank
Legge, for example, has shown problems with NIST’s explanation
that fire caused the buildings to fail.
Perhaps more scientists will find the independence, time and
energy to become involved. But until scientists can come up with
an explanation of where the energy came from to account for the
total collapse of the buildings and an explanation of how the
energy was evenly distributed so as to produce sudden
symmetrical collapse, there is no more evidence for the official
conspiracy theory than there is for the unofficial conspiracy
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