9/11 and Truth: With Knowledge Comes Responsibility
By: Richard Curtis, PhD
(a speech to a meeting of the Seattle 9/11 Visibility Project, Oct. 14, 2006)
Let us suppose that you are the sort of person who likes to go backpacking in the high country. One day you are setting out on a three-day trip into very remote territory that you expect to be the most spectacular of your life. About half a day into the hike you come across a person lying in the path, injured and unable to walk or even crawl for help. This person has been there for some time and is obviously dehydrated and weak from a lack of food. What do you do?
It is not a difficult question, and any normally functioning human being would offer the same reply: “I would stop to help this person, offer my food and water and sacrifice the wonderful adventure I had planned so that I might save their life.” All normal people would respond this way – your planned adventure is virtually meaningless compared with the need, the suffering of this other human being. You would make a great sacrifice of your pleasure in order to help them live.
In our world today an estimated 16 Million people die every year from starvation, dirty water, or a lack of basic health care. 16 Million Innocent people. These people die because of a global economic system that transfers wealth from most places and concentrates it in a few places. You participate, and in fact benefit from this world economic system. What do you sacrifice to save even one of those who die for it?
Perhaps that question is too abstract, too ethereal to elicit a really concrete reply. We here today are too far from that problem to offer the same sort of obvious and universal reply. And you may already be doing things that are aimed at helping some of those people, or altering this global system that uses their poverty to create wealth for the few.
The difference between these two moral problems, other than one being fictional, is the power assumed in the actor. In the first story, you are assumed to have significant power to alter the situation. The story presupposes that you have food and water, and you are healthy and strong. Even if you could not carry the injured person to safety you could help them where they are and then return to your starting point to call on professionals to rescue the victim. In the second case, what power do you have? What power do you personally have to change a deeply entrenched global economic system that literally murders millions of innocent people for the profit of a few? You have some power, but it is not the same sort of power to immediately change the outcome, as in the first story.
In each case though, you know – at least you do now – that something horribly wrong is occurring. This knowledge, knowledge of an evil in progress, is compelling. In the first case, you would help the injured person because that is what any normal person would do. It is the right thing to do, and in the story the only thing to do. In the case of 16 million people dying each year, you know this happens and may know quite a bit about it, but the knowledge is not compelling in the same way. Why is this? Well, the problem is clearly much more abstract, and your power in the situation is less than sufficient to change the outcome.
Why do we have this particular global economic system? Profit, of course. Whose profit? Yours? Probably not, or you wouldn’t be in this room. But you do benefit by virtue of living in the western world. Put starkly: You benefit from the misery and death of innocent people. That knowledge should be compelling, but still it is hard to know what to do.
Let us consider another angle on the problem. Why do we have this global economic system? The system survives because enough people who do not benefit significantly continue to support the system in spite of the obvious moral problem. How does it survive? Interestingly there have been different answers to this question at different times in recent history.
During the Cold War people here were convinced that they needed to support virtually any evil as long as the stated intention was to “prevent the spread of communism” (as if that would be a bad thing). People have different positions on the question of socialist economics, but the core message of the Cold War was that there existed a threat to “our” way of life and this threat required certain sacrifices. People sacrificed their money to buy weapons for dictators, and they sacrificed something of their freedoms and their humanity as well. We certainly sacrificed our morality on the basis of this fear. Now, it happens that the fear was baseless, it was an artificial construction designed and perpetuated in order to convince otherwise ordinary and moral people to support a monstrous evil. The Soviet Union never attempted to build an offensive military capacity and thus the claim that it was a threat was false on two counts; 1) its intentions were not actually hostile, and 2) it lacked and did not pursue the capacity to be a threat.
What of today? Today this global economic system is supported for two reasons, the first of which is diminishing in significance. The first reason, and it was true to some degree during the Cold War as well, is the benefit I mentioned earlier, that we – here – benefit from the expropriation of wealth from the periphery and its concentration in the imperial center. This is what empires do, and the residents in the “belly of the beast” (as Simone Bolivar put it) derive some benefit, even the poor ones. But this reason is less and less compelling as moral issues easily trump it. Most people are not likely to support their part in the horrific deaths of 16 million people every year just so their DVD’s will be a bit less expensive. Like sacrificing the food and water one packed for a long hike, we would sacrifice a DVD to save an innocent child’s life. So this part of the problem is largely related to ignorance of the truth of the situation.
What is more important is the second reason people support the empire. That reason is fear. We are afraid, but it is not communism that frightens us, however ridiculous that fear was, rather it is terrorism that frightens us today. Is that a rational fear?
On the face of it the answer seems obvious, there are terrorist acts in the world and these kill innocent people apparently at random, and this random nature implies that anyone could be a victim. Of course lightning strikes are much the same but we do not worry about that on a daily basis. Human beings are not very good at this sort of risk analysis, as it turns out.
Still, fear is a powerful tool. And we all saw what happened on 9/11 and so now we “know” (don’t we?) that there are terrorists out there and they have the ability to strike us here at home. So people are afraid and they think that they have to “fight terrorism.” We are willing to make great sacrifices, including moral ones, because our security would seem to be at stake.
What you saw today may have challenged a very import part of the claim I have been making. This should not be unexpected, after all if the Cold War was based on a lie, and it worked to support the empire, might other justifications for its support also be lies? What if what most people think happened on 9/11 was actually very different from what really happened? This is, as you know, the horrible thought that you are asked to consider here. Some of you may have given this considerable thought already. Some of you may be shocked at what you learned, and quite disturbed by it as well. It is a disturbing thought, to consider that what most people take as true about 9/11 is really a fiction designed to support imperial goals, to support a global economic system for which 16 million innocent people die each year.
The evidence you have seen may be convincing to you. This is evidence that 9/11 had to be an inside job, or what is called a “False Flag” operation designed to terrorize the US population into supporting the sacrifice of our democracy at home and imperial policies abroad.
This introduces a new dimension to the moral problem. What will you do with this new information? With knowledge comes responsibility. As in the story about the hike, knowing that an evil is occurring demands a response from you as a moral person. But we already determined that just knowing about some problems is not sufficient to force action, especially if one does not have power in the situation. Is the truth about 9/11 as intractable a moral problem as participating in a global economic system that kills millions?
David Ray Griffin, in his role a Christian theologian, has written:
The attacks of 9/11, understood as a false-flag operation orchestrated by forces within the U.S. government, can be taken, I suggest, as the chief revelation of our time. Not a divine revelation, to be sure, but the chief revelation of the demonic – of the extent to which it has taken control of the American government. (Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, pp 180-181)
Griffin’s understanding of the term “demonic” is not the dictionary one, but overlaps significantly with that understanding. For Griffin the demonic is not personal, it is not that there is a demon or devil out there guiding the forces of evil. Rather the demonic is that which is counter to God in intention and in power. Griffin, a Process Theologian, believes that there is an omniscient, but not omnipotent God who cares for all living things. The demonic is that tendency in creation to act counter to God’s caring, and when we creatures use our power to counter God’s will we are demonic. So his analysis is that as the U.S. government is the principle power behind this global economic system, “…we must conclude that the United States is today the chief embodiment of demonic power” (p 180).
This is a powerful claim for one of the world’s best-known theologians to make about his own country. It is a disturbing reality to confront. The Lutherans have a term for this; they call it a “status confessionis,” a confessional state (p. 192). That is this knowledge is so significant that moral people are confronted with an imperative to act. In the recent past Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa have been status confessiones. Griffin is telling us that our country is now among that ignoble company and we as moral people are compelled to confront this evil and stop it.
How is difficult. But we need to keep in mind that this problem is not identical to that of confronting the horrific reality of the global economic system itself. Although, in an interesting irony, confronting the reality of 9/11 also undermines support for the global economic system.
Importantly, confronting the truth of 9/11 is not as daunting as it might seem. So, yes if you are persuaded by what you have seen then you are impelled to act by this knowledge you have about the truth of 9/11. I suggest that the actions we ought to take are within our power. Recall that was the issue. We can all agree that knowledge of a moral problem implies a duty to act, but that duty is assumed to be within one’s power. We are obliged to act to the degree that we have power to help change resolve the moral problem.
You, we all, have some power to act in this situation. You now know that you must act, and so you must find a way to act. This will depend upon your situation, but the very least you can do is to spread the word. The work of the empire goes on because enough people believe that it is either necessary or unstoppable. No empire is really unstoppable. So we must undermine its support – the belief that people have that it is necessary – and as this support is principally organized around a lie about 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, then we must challenge this demonic lie.
The War on Terror is a lie because it is predicated on the official story we have been told about 9/11, which is itself a lie. The big lie about 9/11 is intended to fool people into sacrificing democracy and morality for the sake of safety. People have been scared into this belief, but confronted with a few facts, it is a lie that you can disrupt and indeed must disrupt as widely as you can.
This task is surprisingly possible. I know it seems daunting, but the lie at the heart of the War on Terror is amazingly transparent. It is obvious that the events of 9/11, as officially explained, are physically and logically impossible. Tell people that, point out some of the details that prove the official story is impossible, from there it is obvious that it is all a lie. The wars, the threats, the rationale for dismembering our Constitution are all based on this transparent lie. Share this knowledge, demand the truth from elected officials and most importantly refuse to be cowed into sacrificing your liberty and our democracy for their empire.
The truth will set us free!