The Phaserl


9/11: The Myth and the Reality

by David Ray Griffin,

Although I am a philosopher of religion and theologian, I have spent most of my time during the past three years on 9/11—studying it, writing about it, and speaking about it. In this lecture, I will try to make clear why I believe this issue worthy of so much time and energy. I will do this in terms of the distinction between myth and reality.

I am here using the term “myth” in two senses. In one sense, a myth is an idea that, while widely believed, is false, failing to correspond with reality.

In a deeper sense, which is employed by students of religion, a myth serves as an orienting and mobilizing story for a people, a story that reminds them who they are and why they do what they do. When a story is called as a myth in this sense—which we can call Myth with a capital M—the focus is not on the story’s relation to reality but on its function. This orienting and mobilizing function is possible, moreover, only because Myths with a capital M have religious overtones. Such a Myth is a Sacred Story.

However, although to note that a story functions as a Myth in the religious sense is not necessarily to deny its truth, a story cannot function as a Sacred Myth within a community or nation unless it is believed to be true. In most cases, moreover, the truth of the Myth is taken on faith. It is not a matter of debate. If some people have the bad taste to question the truth of the Sacred Story, the keepers of the faith do not enter into debate with them. Rather, they ignore them or denounce them as blasphemers.

According to the official story about 9/11, America, because of its goodness, was attacked by fanatical Arab Muslims who hate our freedoms. This story has functioned as a Sacred Myth for the United States since that fateful day. And this function appears to have been carefully orchestrated. The very next day, President Bush announced his intention to lead “a monumental struggle of Good versus Evil.” 1 Then on September 13, he declared that the following day would be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks. And on that next day, the president himself, surrounded by Billy Graham, a cardinal, a rabbi, and an imam, delivered a sermon in the national cathedral, saying:

Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of Evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. . . . In every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom. They have attacked America, because we are freedom’s home and defender. And the commitment of our fathers is now the calling of our time. . . . [W]e ask almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. . . . And may He always guide our country. God bless America. 2

Through this unprecedented event, in which the president of the United States issued a declaration of war from a cathedral, French author Thierry Meyssan observed in 2002, “the American government consecrated . . . its version of events. From then on, any questioning of the official truth would be seen as sacrilege.” 3

That attitude has remained dominant in the public sphere until this day, as the official account has continued to serve as a Sacred Story. When people raise questions about this story, they are either ignored, ridiculed as conspiracy theorists, or—as Charlie Sheen has recently experienced—attacked personally. When anyone asks what right the administration has to invade and occupy other countries, to imprison people indefinitely without due process, or even to ignore various laws, the answer is always the same: “9/11.” Those who believe that US law and international law should be respected are dismissed as having “a pre-9/11 mind-set.”

Given the role the official account of 9/11 has played and continues to play, the most important question before our country today is whether this account, besides being a Myth in the religious sense, is also a myth in the pejorative sense—that is, whether it is simply false.

As a philosopher of religion, I would emphasize that the fact that a story has served as a Myth in the religious sense does not necessarily mean that it fails to correspond with reality. Many religious accounts contain at least a kernel of truth that can be defended in terms of a rational examination of the relevant evidence.

In many cases, however, stories that have served as religious Myths cannot stand up to rational scrutiny. When such a story is stripped of its halo and treated simply as a theory, rather than an unquestionable dogma, it cannot be defended as the best theory to account for the relevant facts. The official account of 9/11 is such a theory. When challenges to it are not treated as blasphemy, it can easily be seen to be composed of a number of ideas that are myths in the sense of not corresponding with reality. Using the word “myth” from now on only in this pejorative sense, I will discuss nine of the major myths contained in the official story about 9/11. I will thereby show that the official account of 9/11 cannot be defended, in light of the relevant evidence, against the main alternative account, according to which 9/11 was an inside job, orchestrated by people within our own government. I will begin with a few myths that prevent many people from even looking at the evidence for this alternative account.

Myth Number 1: Our political and military leaders simply would not do such a thing.

This idea is widely believed. But it is undermined by much evidence. The United States, like many other countries, has often used deceit to begin wars—for example, the Mexican-American war, with its false claim that Mexico had “shed American blood on the American soil,” 4 the Spanish-American war, with its “Remember the Maine” hoax, 5 the war in the Philippines, with its false claim that the Filipinos fired first, 6 and the Vietnam war, with its Tonkin Gulf hoax. 7 The United States has also sometimes organized false flag terrorist attacks—killing innocent civilians, then blaming the attacks on an enemy country or group, often by planting evidence. We have even done this in allied countries. As Daniele Ganser has shown in his recent book NATO’s Secret Armies, NATO, guided by the CIA and the Pentagon, arranged many such attacks in Western European countries during the Cold War. These attacks were successfully blamed on Communists and other leftists to discredit them in the eyes of the voting public. 8

Finally, in case it be thought that US military leaders would not orchestrate such attacks against US citizens, one needs only to read the plan known as Operations Northwoods, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff worked up in 1962, shortly after Fidel Castro had overthrown the pro-American dictator Batista. This plan contained various “pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.” American citizens would have been killed in some of them, such as a “Remember the Maine” incident, in which: “We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantánamo Bay and blame Cuba.” 9

At this point, some people, having seen evidence that US leaders would be morally capable of orchestrating 9/11, might avoid looking at the evidence by appeal to

Myth Number 2: Our political and military leaders would have had no motive for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.

This myth was reinforced by The 9/11 Commission Report . While explaining why al-Qaeda had ample motives for carrying out the attacks, this report mentions no motives that US leaders might have had. But the alleged motive of al-Qaeda—that it hated Americans and their freedoms—is dwarfed by a motive held by many members of the Bush-Cheney administration: the dream of establishing a global Pax Americana , the first all-inclusive empire in history.

This dream had been articulated by many neoconservatives, or neocons, throughout the 1990s, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union made it seem possible. It was first officially articulated in the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992, drafted by Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney—a document that has been called “a blueprint for permanent American global hegemony” 10 and Cheney’s “Plan . . . to rule the world.” 11

Achieving this goal would require four things. One of these was getting control of the world’s oil, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East, and the Bush-Cheney administration came to power with plans already made to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. A second requirement was a technological transformation of the military, in which fighting from space would become central. A third requirement was an enormous increase in military spending, to pay for these new wars and for weaponizing space. A fourth need was to modify the doctrine of preemptive attack, so that America would be able to attack other countries even if they posed no imminent threat.

These four elements would, moreover, require a fifth: an event that would make the American people ready to accept these imperialistic policies. As Zbigniew Brzezinski explained in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard , the American people, with their democratic instincts, are reluctant to authorize the money and human sacrifices necessary for “imperial mobilization,” and this refusal “limits . . . America’s . . . capacity for military intimidation.” 12 But this impediment could be overcome if there were “a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat” 13 —just as the American people were willing to enter World War II only after “the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” 15 This same idea was suggested in 2000 in a document entitledRebuilding America’s Defenses , which was put out by a neocon think tank called the Project for the New American Century, many members of which—including Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz—became central members of the Bush administration. This document, referring to the goal of transforming the military, said that this “process of transformation . . . is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.”15

When the attacks of 9/11 occurred, they were treated like a new Pearl Harbor. Several members of the Bush administration spoke of 9/11 as providing opportunities. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said that 9/11 created “the kind of opportunities that World War II offered, to refashion the world.” 16 It created, in particular, the opportunity to attack Afghanistan and Iraq; to increase the military budget enormously; to go forward with military transformation; and to turn the new idea of preemptive warfare into official doctrine. This doctrinal change was announced in the 2002 version of the National Security Strategy , which said that America will “act against . . . emerging threats before they are fully formed.” 17

So, not only did the Bush administration reap huge benefits from 9/11. These were benefits that it had desired in advance. The idea that it would have had no motives for orchestrating 9/11 is a myth. But there is one more myth that keeps many people from looking at the evidence. This is

Myth Number 3: Such a big operation, involving so many people, could not have been kept a secret, because someone involved in it would have talked by now.

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RELATED: David Ray Griffin: “911 Miracles”

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