Sept. 11 conspiracy theories unfounded, harmful

There is a whole community of disbelievers who not only question the chain of events on Sept. 11, 2001, but also question who perpetrated them. Almost all of these theories lead to one conclusion – George W. Bush and his administration orchestrated the attacks to inspire the country to go to war with the Middle East. These fallacious theories and the weak evidence that supports them are crippling to this country and its fight for freedom around the globe.

One such theory that is swiftly infiltrating the mainstream is the idea that Sept. 11 was an “inside job.” Loose Change, a movie that amasses all the popular conspiracy claims, is leading the charge among a segment of society that has a difficult time wrestling with the hard actuality of the post-Sept. 11 world.

However, these theories fall flat.

For instance, one theory deals with American Airlines flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It was asserted by some to be a military cargo or fuel plane – not a passenger jet. According to some fringe left-wing Web sites such as, a Fox News videographer named Marc Birnbach saw the plane “crash into the south tower.” The Web site claims Birnbach said, “It definitely did not look like a commercial plane. I didn’t see any windows on the sides.”

In fact, Birnbach later told Fox News and Popular Mechanics magazine he didn’t see anything at all. He was standing more than two miles southeast of WTC 2 and said he couldn’t see the plane hit – he only heard the explosion.

Furthermore, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) probe investigated the collapse of the towers and found passenger windows on a piece of American Airlines flight 175 fuselage atop WTC 5. W. Gene Corley, an engineer with Construction Technology Laboratories who headed up the FEMA probe, told Popular Mechanics in an interview he was able to track the trajectory of fragments as they slashed through the South Tower. He had no doubt they were from the American Airlines plane.

Another example is French author and conspiracy buff Thierry Meyssan. Meyssan is among others who claim it was not a plane that struck the Pentagon, but a missile. He writes in his book The Big Lie that the Pentagon attack “could only be committed by the United States military personnel against other U.S. military personnel.” He – and others – go on to assume the government struck its own military defense headquarters with a satellite-guided missile. The method conspiracy advocates use to arrive at such a conclusion is obvious – they deliberately misinterpreted the account of someone who was there.

Meyssan and others cite an eyewitness who said the aircraft that hit the Pentagon looked “like a cruise missile with wings.” The witness – Mike Walter, a Washington D.C. broadcaster – in reality told CNN: “I looked out my window and saw this plane – this jet, an American Airlines jet – coming. And I thought, ‘This doesn’t add up. It’s really low … and I saw it. I mean, it was like a cruise missile with wings. It went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon.”

It’s similar with most Sept. 11 conspiracy theories – they are supported by shoddy and unsubstantiated evidence and subsequently can be proven false with a little research.

Although these suppositions are repeated and distributed widely throughout the world, they don’t resemble any morsel of fact. In addition, anyone who tries to refute them is conveniently considered to be a part of the conspiracy.

Educated uncertainty and doubt about government can be healthy, but only when it’s based on facts. Wholeheartedly believing these fallacies and fabrications is not only harmful to the individuals who believe them and the United States, but such claims are also disingenuous and harmful to the families of Sept. 11, whose memories are all too vivid.

Erik Raymond is a junior majoring in English and pre-law.