New York City
Certain events can be expected each time the 9/11 anniversary rolls around. Opinion writers will opine about how the attacks did or didn't change America. Moments of silence will take place in any number of locales. Think tanks will host panels discussing everything from the war on terror to the impact on immigration reform. And the loosely affiliated conspiracy theorists that comprise the 9/11 Truth Movement will hold rallies and conferences around the country to bring themselves attention.
Truthers, as they are called, hold a wide range of (often mutually exclusive) theories about what took place on September 11, 2001. They break down into two broad camps: those who believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made 9/11 happen on purpose and those who believe that they let 9/11 happen on purpose. Truthers bristle at being called conspiracy theorists even as they argue that the president had explosives planted in the World Trade Center to ensure the collapse of the Twin Towers after airplanes struck them, had a missile fired at the Pentagon, and shot down Flight 93 in an effort to start a series of wars that would lead to the seizure of Middle Eastern oil and the securing of a pipeline through Afghanistan.
NY 9/11 Truth held its anniversary celebration, "The 9/11 Truth: Ready for Mainstream," at the Cooper Union in New York City last week. Frequently citing Abraham Lincoln--who forcefully articulated his political philosophy on the same stage 147 years earlier--the Truthers invited to speak seemed less interested in discussing the intricacies of the various plots they claim to have uncovered than in shoehorning 9/11 into causes they supported long before the terrorist atrocities of that day. Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a Lakota radio host, said he wasn't at all surprised by the events of 9/11 because "America [has been] an 'inside job' since 1492." Mya Schone, another staple of liberal talk radio, entitled her speech "9/11 and the Oppressive Apparatus of the Capitalist State."
Attendance was sparse. Despite warnings to get tickets in advance in order to assure a seat, Cooper Union's Great Hall was at perhaps 25 percent of capacity on the first day. Even fewer showed up on the second day. Truthers varied in age, but the uniform of the event seemed to be T-shirts sporting slogans like "9/11 was an inside job!" and "Impeach Bush." Devotees of Lyndon LaRouche were staked outfront of the premises, warning that the ideas contained within the literature were "heavy, important, man." The LaRouchies seemed to realize they weren't welcome at the event, but it's hard to think that the sermon they were preaching was any more outlandish than, say, that of Alfred Webre, who was given 45 minutes to talk on the topics "9/11 as a war crime" and the "development of [an] international tribunal" for the Bush administration. After touching on those subjects (to great applause), he veered off course, arguing that an "artificial intelligence matrix" controlled by the Rothschild family might have caused 9/11, that the cancer rate in Iraq now stands at 30 percent, that AIDS is a biological weapon created to control the population, that global warming is being caused by a black hole 23 light years from Earth, and that the NYPD was employing a supersonic crowd disruption device that was depressing turnout.
It would be unfair to lump everyone at the conference with such nutty ideas; for every Webre there was someone like Sander Hicks. Hicks, a lanky, clean-cut gentleman sporting wire-rimmed glasses and a firm handshake, was there to help moderate the event. The proprietor of a successful independent coffee and bookshop in Brooklyn, Hicks showed up early to pass around copies of his newspaper, the New York Megaphone, which features an exposé of the legal dealings of New York governor Eliot Spitzer and real estate mogul Larry Silverstein (who Truthers cite as a key member of the 9/11 conspiracy, as he collected a massive insurance payout when the World Trade Center was destroyed). We had a chance to chat beforehand, and when he heard the rantings of Webre he hustled over to make sure that I understood not everyone involved in the 9/11 Truth Movement was so crazy.
Webre aside, the speeches focused on several similar themes: that Bush is a war criminal for perpetrating 9/11 and the "illegal" wars he has waged across the globe; that a dreaded cabal of neocons at the Project for a New American Century think tank--which included several prominent members of the Bush administration--planned and executed a "new Pearl Harbor" on September 11, 2001, in order to increase military spending; and that Dick Cheney is planning a nuclear confrontation with Iran. Another point of agreement, highlighted by the organizer of the event, was the vociferously antiwar nature of a number of the protestors. Webster Tarpley described those gathered before him as "morally and intellectually superior" to any other movement, since they had begun questioning the events of 9/11 so quickly and fought with such dedication.
Much to the chagrin of many elements within the antiwar left, these 9/11 deniers are now as involved in protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as getting the "truth" out about 9/11. At a rally in front of the White House on the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the guests that DC 9/11 Truth invited spent far more time talking about the need to end the war in Iraq and the importance of impeaching Bush and Cheney than 9/11. The musical stylings of dR. O kept the crowd a-rocking and a-rolling between speakers. Described as the "Supergroup of Cyberspace" by Yahoo! Internet Life, the alt-rock, Pearl Jam-lite quartet enthralled with insightful lyrics like "Go f--- yourself, Mr. Cheney / Go f--- yourself, a--hole." Sadly, this was the final stop on dR. O's "Impeach Now or Die Tour."
Most of the speakers took a similarly belligerent tone. Adam Kokesh, the director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, mused about America's commitment to attacking governments that sponsor terrorism, noting that with campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq going on, "It's too bad [the military is] stretched too thin to strike America." He added that this is why the Founders included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights--"It's time to rise up," he said, and overthrow a tyrannical government. The warmongering fascists across the street probably don't have too much to worry about from the freedom fighters gathered at Lafayette Park; fewer than a hundred protestors braved the intermittent drizzle to show their disdain for the Bush administration.
Near the end of the rally, a group of cross-country marchers showed up holding various signs like "Honk for Peace" and "Pro-War Is Anti-Christ"; one of the marchers took the stage to deliver a rambling monologue in which he apologized for the way evangelicals have supported the war in Iraq. Anthony St. Martin, a spokesman for Pledge to Impeach, addressed the crowd to implore those rallying to go on strike if Bush and Cheney are not removed from office. "This is a different day, this isn't the 1960s," St. Martin told the soggy crowd of aging hippies and college-aged hipsters.
A couple of speakers from the New York conference had also made their way down to Washington. Tarpley was one, and he gave much the same presentation he had three days before. In it, he warned that Dick Cheney is planning a nuclear attack on Iran sparked by "a new 9/11." But the threat isn't from Islamist terrorists or Iranians with nuclear weapons; America's real scourge is Cheney himself, who is planning to stage another attack on American soil (this one nuclear) in order to solidify his and Bush's grip on power and cancel the 2008 elections.
And now we've come full circle: From trying to prove that Bush and Co. had a hand in 9/11 to trying to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to preemptively warning about wholly unsubstantiated future conspiracies, the Truthers never have a moment's rest. There's always the next battle to fight, the next conspiracy to unravel. It will be fascinating to see what they have thought up by September 11, 2008.
Sonny Bunch is assistant editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.