and the life of a county clerk
In yesterday's post (scroll down to read it), I discussed theories about an American conspiracy to bring about 9/11. A friend asks:
So how do you read the Kennedy Assassination? Was it other than Oswald alone? Oswald for CIA, for Rich Texans, for Castro? Was there another gunman? Or more than two?
For years I maintained a position of spiteful skepticism, based on the refusal of certain agencies to release their files on the assassination.
Perhaps emblematic of my feelings was the passage in the 1987 sf novel Replay, by Ken Grimwood, where the protagonist (having been put back in time through no fault of his own) is determined to prevent the assassination. He goes to Dallas, finds a typewriter shop with demos sitting out front, and types a letter from Oswald to JFK, concluding with the friendly warning "I will murder you."
He mails the letter; Oswald is arrested; and our hero returns in a leisurely way to his hometown, feeling pretty good about changing the course of history. Unfortunately, when he arrives, he is greeted by the news that the president has been shot in his motorcade in Dallas by a lone gunman named Nelson Bennett, who in turn is shot to death by Jack Ruby. I suppose history was not amenable to being messed with.
But I also got pretty tired of the over-the-top claims of the conspiracy theorists who couldn't seem to get over it. Oliver Stone in particular.
My account of the death of John F. Kennedy, which appears in his Political Graveyard entry, went through a series of versions as I debated with many correspondents as to how definite it should be. The original was larded with equivocating weasel words, but I ended up with the following:
Shot by a sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald, while riding in a motorcade, and died in Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Dallas County, Tex., November 22, 1963. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby.
For a while, I received a lot of email sneers about this, along the lines that "everybody knows" there was a second gunman, but nothing that changed my mind about it.
I shared some of these letters with the Political Graveyard email list (which has over 300 members, including current and past politicos, historians from Left to Right, librarians, etc.) and the points raised by the critics were rejected by almost everyone.
Interesting to relate, the hubbub has died out. I don't think I have received any complaints about JFK's entry in at least a year. I still get plenty of email commenting on the site -- just not about that detail.
My friend continues:
Just curious. I've always been dubious of it being Oswald alone with that weapon, distance, lack of skills, trees, moving target, etc. However, I've also never seen anything else that I've found convincing.
I'm definite that Oswald did it. His reasons, or who was behind him, are still open to debate.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum — Comments
I have no patience for people who dismiss hard factual evidence of deep corruption as "conspiracy theories" (especially since the official explanation of the events of September 11th is the most retarded conspiracy theory ever concocted — the whole American defense apparatus being totally blindsided and the Towers falling straight down at the speed of gravity.how stupid are you?!?!)
Yes, there are now some contrarians out there who dispute the accepted narrative that Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center.
The problem with paranoia is that paranoid explanations of events are both logically tidy and emotionally appealing. In the paranoid worldview, there are no coincidences, no loose ends, a reason for everything.
Occasionally the paranoid view turns out to be correct, but not often. The emotional pull of the paranoid view should always be resisted.
It is tempting, for example, to look back at catastrophic events which turned out to advantage a specific group and find some reason to believe that the advantaged group deliberately caused the catastrophe.
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 obviously rescued GWB's popularity and increased the power of his administration. There was the suspicion among some (parallel to claims about about FDR and the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack) that the president and his advisors knew in advance about the attacks and did nothing to stop them, rather, they sat back, let them happen, and reaped the political rewards.
Morgan Reynolds, a retired academic economist, takes this a long step further. The planes weren't enough, he says, to knock down the towers. Rather, he concludes, it was a professional demolition job with explosives carefully installed in critical places to bring all three buildings (including WTC 7) down very neatly into their footprints.
He marshals a lot of plausible-sounding engineering evidence for this, and points to what he describes as FEMA's tight control over the debris to prevent it from being examined.
Instead, says Serendipity, the planes which crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were remote-control drones, and the near-death cell phone conversations with passengers on those planes were faked. The real flights were diverted to a military base in West Virginia; all the innocent passengers were transfered into Flight 93, which was deliberately crashed in Pennsylvania.
Yow. If true, that would be the crime of the century.
Even for those of us with a very low opinion of the current adminstration's moral compass, that is very hard to swallow.
But if it was really an evil conspiracy involving agents of the U.S. government in the deaths of almost 3,000 people, it has to make sense going forward as well as backward. And this is where it breaks down.
In advance of 9/11, it certainly wouldn't be obvious that a devastating terrorist attack would redound to the benefit of the president and party in power. In fact it did, but it didn't have to. Moreover, the administration was at the time downplaying and shrugging off the risk of just such an attack, openly rejecting the advice from its predecessors to take this threat seriously and make it a priority.
That didn't end up being much of an issue, but it could easily have been.
I would have thought that even a paranoid view would have to take account of Al Qaeda as a real organization with real terrorists, and that the hijackings were a genuine terrorist act, but that was before I saw Serendipity's web site.
Still, whoever was in charge of crashing those planes into the WTC, it is also plainly the fact that the plans and preparations for the attack started during the Clinton Administration, long before a hypothetically super-evil stop-at-nothing Bush junta could have anticipated the political benefits to be gained from such an attack.
Moreover, these theories posit that the plotters needed the Twin Towers to be destroyed in order to create the desired political effect and/or to cover up the conspiracy. Somehow, they knew in advance (without any precedents) that the fires caused by the planes would burn out without causing a collapse.
So, rather than simply choosing a different type of attack that might have destroyed the complex by itself, they secretly supplemented the coordinated crashing of two aircraft with a commerical style controlled demolition — thus making the whole job immeasurably more complicated to pull off.
To do this, they found demolition experts who were willing to be mass murderers. Amidst the hubbub of the World Trade Center, a team of surely at least twenty engineers and technicians, who had to know what they were doing, somehow quietly set up the buildings to implode neatly, without anyone noticing the weeks of extensive work that is usually required to accomplish this, including drilling and notching beams and installing lots of explosive charges.
Such a demolition job would have left behind lots of evidence in the rubble, scattered unpredictably all over the site. Even a major government would have trouble securing and covering up, what, millions of tons of debris in the middle of a big city. Still, presumably they would have plenty of time to put a plan in place to take total control of the site, a control that would probably have raised few questions at the time.
But that did not happen. If you read the accounts of what really happened at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after 9/11, the chaos and confusion and ad hoc organization bears no resemblance at all to what a hypothetical evil conspiracy would have arranged to cover up its crimes.
I'm all for examining evidence, but this whole theory makes no sense to me at all.
Update 1/1/06: Adam de Angeli has posted a point-by-point rebuttal to this. Of course, I don't agree, and I will have more to say about this soon.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum — Comments
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