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911 and its Meta-Politics
Oct. 31, 2002
by Steve Martinot

email posted by permission

What follows is about 911; but it is not about 911. It is really about the relation between us as people and the US government, as revealed by 911. There have been many ways of thinking about that day, different political interpretations of it, but they have all boiled down to one way, because only one account of the events has ever been given mainstream currency (though many have been imagined). I wish to suggest another way of thinking about it, based on the notion of what it means to be sovereign in our thinking.

More than a year has gone by since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. To look back at that moment now means to look back through the vast debate on it (much of which was exiled from mainstream space); and it means to look back through what has been done in the name of "911" by the US government, namely, wars, militarism, interventionist and "first strike" strategies, and a vast extension of domestic policing and surveillence. Thus, it also means having a certain vantage point on the politics that already surrounded those events, that gave them their meaning before the fact and after the fact, as a kind of meta-politics of the event which we have all lived within since then. I will use the term "911" to refer to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, without attributing them a political meaning, to set back from that meta- politics, and see what it means to live within them. To discuss it that way will mean starting with bare facts, and regard the meanings of those facts as such.

In a "bare-bones" manner, the facts are the following. Two planes flew into two of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers, and three of the WTC towers collapsed. An incident occurred at the Pentagon which left part of that building collapsed and burning. And Flight 93 met its end over Pennsylvania. Many people died, many more people were traumatized and terrorized by the event. And then, many more people died as a result of the US government's response to the event, mostly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Palestine, but also in the streets and buildings of the US. With respect to these deaths, I refuse the chauvinist choice that American lives are worth more than Afghani lives, or Palestinian lives, or the life of an Arab grocer in his shop in an American city. The vengence expressed by the US government in killing Afghanis because of 911 changes the value of the lives lost on 911. They cease being the victims of the event, and become instead the opportunistic icons for further mass murder, the tools for victimization and aggression.

What happened on that day

The most salient fact about what happened that day is that we do not know what happened on that day. We do not know what happened because we do not know what meaning to give it -- for two reasons. We do not know who was at the controls of those planes (even the FBI admits that it doesn't know). And no one took credit for the event.

Only the people on those planes knew who was at the controls when they crashed, and they are all dead. The planes cut all radio contact with the ground shortly after being hijacked, and offered no communication to the world concerning what they were about, or whether demands were made. With their transponders shut down, the situation inside the planes remains unknown. This inability to know is a fact about what happened. And it is important because, if no one knows who was at the controls, then it is impossible to say who hijacked the planes. It is a known fact that planes were hijacked that day, because their transponders were shut off, and they were crashed into buildings. But who did it is not known. To think that we know is to deny this fact; to think that we know what happened that day is to be in denial.

This is one reason the story floating around, that seven of the Arab men named as hijackers by the FBI are still alive, is important. It is an attempt to return to factuality, to cease being in denial about our non-knowledge, and to judge whether the FBI is being fraudulent or not in fingering 19 terrorists.

But second, no one took credit for the event. No organization or group came forward and said, "We did it, and here's why." If it is generally assumed that al-Qaeda did it, it is because the US government has said so. But the very existence of al-Qaeda is also given us by the US government. We have no independent way of ascertaining its existence. It could be like that of the "Molly Maguires" of the 1870s, a story of a "terrorist" group that the government invented and then used to suppress the mine unions of Pennsylvania.

Without actual perpetrators saying that they did it, we do not know who did, nor the reason for the act, nor its political purpose. We can know these things only if someone connected with the event tells us. Indeed, it is a political act only if it is done pursuant to a political purpose, and that purpose is made public. This is the nature of politics; a person or event is political only if the political purpose or goal of that person or event is publically known. No one need agree with that motivation, but it is necessary. A political explanation for flying jet planes into buildings is necessary to make it a political act.

For instance, if when a man shoots a political leader, it could be a political assassination, or an act of jealousy, or a personal vendetta, or simply the man's psychotic way of getting in the news. For it to be a political assassination, the man must state his political purpose for killing the leader. The death of the leader will be a political event for those who follow him, but the act of killing him is a political act only if done pursuant to a political purpose. Of course, the death of a political figure always has political consequences. There are those who lose through his death, and others who gain. For those who lose, the perception that his death is an assassination with respect to those who gain is inevitable; as is the suspicion that those who gain did the deed. Whether they did or not, they gain nevertheless. But when civilians are killed by an unknown assailant, for an unknown motive, such as happened on 911, the people of that society lose, and no one seems to gain by the killing.

The government calls 911 "terrorism." To be "terrorism," it must be done for political purposes. For the politics of 911 to exist, they have to be known. The motivation has to be made public for the act, by those involved in it, to have a political character, and thus to be "terrorism." What they are attempting to accomplish by the act must be stated. No one did this -- not an al-Qaeda, nor a bin Laden, nor the Pakistani government (which is involved because it sent $100,000 to a man named Mohamad Atta a few weeks before 911). No one. No one said what they hoped to gain from the event. The US government gained the opportunity and the ability to launch war, and to begin building a dys- Constitutional police state. In responding politically to what had no politics, in bombing the government of Afghanistan into non-existence, killing untold thousands of people directly and through the starvation brought about by the economic dislocation of war, and replacing it by a different government, the US government gained by making itself the new conquerors of Afghanistan. But no one else gained.

But what about the tape?

The tape was allegedly found in a bombed out building in Jalalabad, two months after the assault and bombing of Afghanistan began. It purports to be a "home movie" of a social event at which bin Laden was present, and speaking about foreknowledge of the event. This tape does not constitute "taking credit for 911" because it was not released to the world for that purpose. A home movie not released to the world is not an act or explanation of anything. At most, if the tape is valid (though being found intact on a table in a bombed out building in the midst of a war makes it suspect), it might become evidence in a criminal prosecution of bin Laden. (The story floating around that bin Laden had been in an American hospital in Dubai in May, 2001, receiving kidney dialysis treatments, and was visited by the CIA, but not arrested for prosecution, becomes important in this regard; it would mean the US government was not really interested in prosecuting him.)

When the tape first appeared, "experts" claimed it had to be authentic, because it would be very difficult to fabricate such a tape. Yet when it was broadcast in the US, the TV station succeeded in actually modifying the tape in the moment, while on the air; they had one of their reporters shown on the screen sitting down within the scene portrayed on the tape, behind the two men talking, and listening to the two men as they talked, as if he had been in Afghanistan at the moment the tape was made. Anyone who taped that broadcast would have a tope of bin Laden speaking to a friend in the presence of an American TV reporter, and it would look like a home movie. In other words, the TV station manufactured such a tape easily, in full view of the TV audience. The government did not allow the tape to appear in public for more than 4 days.

Recently, there were attacks on US Marines in Kuwait. They are attributed to al-Qaeda; but no evidence is given. The Marines constitute a military occupation of Kuwait; any attack on them is an act of resistance against that occupation. The US government calls this "terrorism." Several audio tapes ostensibly from al- Qaeda leaders are said to "threaten" the US; but none of the threats are quoted, though other aspects of the communications are quoted. The media therefore is faking the threats. It is, again, reminiscent of the "Molly Maguires," whose terrorist threats were invented by the Pinkerton detective who gave testimony in court against the mine unions.

The government assigned credit for 911

As a substitution for someone taking credit for 911, the US government assigned credit -- to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In other words, the government assigned it a politics, a meaning. Thus, the political process was reversed. Rather than a group with a political purpose performing an act and making known how that act furthers their purpose, the US government assigned a meaning and political purpose to an event, and through that assignment, pointed to a group that is then given authorship of the event. But in that case, event does not express the politics of those who are blamed for it. What the event "expresses" becames the US government's political act.

If guilt (or credit) for the event is assigned by the US government based on presumption, then it is the source of the government's presumptions that provide the real politics behind the politics that the government has assigned to the event. In other words, the source of the assumptions that the US government has made constitutes a meta-politics. The government has not made known its meta-politics (a silence coinciding with that of the 911 perpetrators), but we can judge that meta-politics somewhat by what the government did subsequently, in the name of its presuppositions. And that is our job, since it is our government.

Two aspects of the notion of a "meta-politics" are noteworthy. First, a recognition of the existence of a "meta- politics" should not be confused with a "conspiracy theory." The "conspiracy theories" that have abounded since 911 are attempts to guess the politics of 911, given the fact of ignorance concerning them, and to provide narrativizations. They theorize what the motivations may have been for the event, and thus, who might have done it. They guess without power, whereas the government's account does not appear as a guess because it has power. Specifically, the government assigned blame (credit) for 911 to al-Qaeda. It is that assignment that transforms 911 into a particular political event, though it is not a political act because no one took credit. The act of assigning credit (blame) is a political act which substitutes itself for the event itself not being a political act; the act of assigning credit thus pretends it is the political motivation of the original act. But in proclaiming the event to be an act of terrorism (which it could not be if it is non-political), the US government becomes responsible for it being an act of terrorism. The act of proclaiming 911 to be an act of terrorism becomes itself the act of terrorism. None of this attributes motives; these are simply the meanings that derive from the fact that no one took credit for 911.

Second, what is important is that the government policies pursued after 911 existed before 911, and their promulgation was enabled by 911; thus, those policies are relevant to what the meta-politics of 911 were. The unfolding of those policies signify, retroactively, what that meta-politics had been, the source from which the government made the assumptions by which it assigned a politics and a guilt (credit) for 911. Concretely, while the event occurred in September 2001, we know that the assault on Afghanistan was planned in July 2001, and the overthrow of the Taliban in May 2001. The re-opening of Afghanistan to produce opium and heroin was requested in April 2001, the passage of the Patriot Act was drafted in 1991, the establishment of a Homeland Security Department was first thought of during the Reagan administration, a second assault on Iraq was planned in the summer of 2000, and the construction of massive military bases in central Asia was planned who knows when. These all constitute the signifiers for the government's meta-politics, the sources from which it made its assumptions about 911, and spoke for the al-Qaeda, which had remained silent.

The specifics of these policies are now known. In Afghanistan, the US had three goals: to create a political environment in which a pipeline could be built and maintained to carry Caspian oil to east Asia; to allow opium and heroin to again be grown and exported from Afghanistan; and to establish a strong military base and presence in central Asia, from which to reach out for the resources of the Asian steppes. The US government had attempted to work with the Taliban toward these goals, but the Taliban wouldn't cooperate. They asked for too much control and royalties for the pipeline; they were too protective of Afghani sovereignty to permit US military presence; and they were too adament about banning opium and heroin to allow recultivation. As a result, the US government decided to destroy them. 911 constituted an opportune stepping stone toward those goals. In making it an act of terrorism, a certain popular support for those goals was induced. Though the US government has committed acts of terrorism against other countries in the world through death squads, interventions, coups, and military assaults, this is the first time it has engaged in terrorism against the American people.

In spite of this meta-politics, we still don't know what happened on that day, since we don't know who was at the controls of those planes, nor what organization or purpose was behind the event. But this ignorance, as part of its meta-politics, places us in an anti-democratic situation on two counts. Democracy works only for an informed citizenry. With respect to 911, and the meta-politics that appropriated it for its own purposes, we have only the government's account, and the choice to believe the government or to disbelieve it. As the government becomes more and more a government of secrecy, believing or disbelieving the government becomes a Manichean choice between thinking the government legitimate or not. But a government based upon a Manicheanism of belief is already totalitarian. Second, because we don't know who was at the controls of those planes, any connection made or believed between those crashes and Arab peoples, Islamic fundamentalists, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or an unlocatable "international terrorist conspiracy," is an act of racial profiling. And racial profiling is anti-democratic.

Another dimension of this meta-politics is that the US government declared war on something that one cannot declare war on, except metaphorically: the "war on terrorism." Terrorism is wanton violence committed against a people or a government for political purposes. Organizations can commit acts of terrorism, but the terrorism resides in their acts, not in their political goals. The acts must therefore be judged by someone; and the US has established itself as the first and last judge of these acts, in order to declare war on political groups and their goals. The "war on terrorism" is metaphoric for this campaign against certain political groups. The US government displaced the Taliban from governance in Afghanistan by charging that the Taliban harbored those who perpetrated 911 without knowing who committed the act. In effect, a metaphor is the primary principle of the meta-politics of 911, in the name of which the US government has launched assaults on sovereign nations, cynically shredding its pretense to an interest in democracy by unilaterally determining who others' political leadership will be.

This has become the meaning of 911. As a metaphor for a campaign against political groups, the "war on terrorism" is a war on people, in general. In reserving the right to change other people's "regimes," the US government has also declared a war on people in their relation to their "regimes." It is a global war, promulgated against any leadership, any region, and any group the US government decides to target, including us. It contains, as a corollary, police rule over us. Ultimately, the "war on terrorism" is no such thing. It is a war of conquest against the people of the world. This is the meaning that was already broadcast by 911, even as it occurred.

The question of politics in the Arab world

The fact that a connection has been made between 911 and the Arab world, its thoughts, beliefs, or politics, and that this constitutes an act of racial profiling, does not mean that we must not speak about the Arab world, and what is going on there. We must. But not in an anti-democratic way.

The people of the Arab world in general face three structural enemies, because they sit on top of the one resource (oil) that is indispensible to the industrial (colonialist) powers. These structural enemies are 1) the traditional aristocracies that autocratically rule many of the Arab and middle east nations; 2) the oil corporations to which their economies are linked, and 3) the US as the military force which maintains the other two (aristocratic autocracy and corporate colonialist control) in existence. Both western control of the oil, and local autocratic control of the Arab peoples by Arab aristocracies, are the descendants of 19th century colonialism and industrialization in the west, and both are now dependent on military suppression of Arab nationalism and national liberation movements to maintain themselves.

The Arab peoples face the necessity of figuring out ways to struggle against this juggurnaut that besets them. Struggles against their own ruling classes will be attacked repressively by the industrialized and militarized western nations. Struggles for control of their own resources against the oil corporations will be attacked repressively by their own hegemonic aristocracies. Struggles against western corporate or militarist presence will be accounted "terrorism" and assaulted. It is a difficult situation whose complexity is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

The Arab peoples also reside at the center of a field of competition and conflict between the western industrialized nations themselves. The western industrial nations confront a simple proposition, wrought by their own imperialist nature: He who controls the oil, controls the industrialized world. This does not mean that control of the oil is sought for the purpose of self-supply or cheaper prices; it means that the nation that gains control over the world's oil can tell other industrial nations what to do, and they will have to do it. And this life- and-death struggle between industrial nations is being waged on the backs of the peoples of the Middle East, who are trying to survive and liberate themselves from the three enemies that beset them directly.

The Arab peoples will find their own paths to struggle; and they will carry out that struggle in their own ways, since those struggles are for their own control of their own destiny, and their own lands, and their own resources. Ultimately, they will establish their own modes of democratization against their three enemies. We need have no fear that, in the face of these three enemies, the Arab people will ever be finally suppressed, that there will be a "final solution" to the "people problem" of the middle east. And if we are for democracy, we must stand in solidarity with them against western imperialism and US hegemony. What we must understand is that the people of the middle east will do whatever they think valid, by whatever means necessary, to accomplish what they set as their goals, and not what we may think valid or necessary for them. Their struggles may involve political resistance, guerrilla struggle, or flying planes into buildings, to name a few possibilities. We must understand that if we think that it is a mistake to attack buildings in the US, that is nevertheless an evaluation that they must make of their actions, within their struggles, and not us. And we must also understand that any attacks they level against the US will be such only if pursuant to a politics that they make public, and thus known.

But this poses a problem for many of us who live inside this particular enemy of the Arab peoples. We must learn to respect their sovereignty, and their ability to make their own decisions in carrying on their struggles precisely because the power in which we reside does not. If we wish to make solidarity with them, it cannot be in terms of telling them what we think is the proper thing for them to do. Our opposition to empire must at all times insure the principle of sovereignty and self-determination for those beset by it. That is, our focus must be on the power that abrogates that sovereignty. We must contest every abrogation of the principle of sovereignty, those of the US government, and those committed by some of us who claim to stand in solidarity with people elsewhere struggling against imperialism, but who still judge what is democratic for them and what is not. The guarantee of sovereignty in our own thoughts and our own actions is the most fundamental operation of our resistance to imperialism from within it.

The principle of sovereignty must be understood. At the end of the 20th century, it is different from that understood by the 19th century. The earlier notion derived from a concept of the "sovereign," signifying aristocratic governance, and its heir, the social contract, through which democratic governance was posited for a "sovereign" people; in "social contract" theory, the "sovereign people" were simply substituted for the king or "sovereign" of the old regime. But after the Second World War, an assault on the empires built during the preceding century to take back the lands, societies, and national formations that had been stolen and appropriated by Euro-American expansion called upon the concept of national sovereignty to unify the efforts of national liberation and independence. Sovereignty became a primary anti-colonialist principle. It did not mean the same thing as in Europe; it meant a transformation of land from foreign ownership to control by those who lived on and "in" the land. It ceased to indicate centers of power, and took on the connotation of an overthrow of imposed or injurious or oppressive power. In opposing sovereignty, as their empires crumbled, the European powers transmuted the notion of sovereignty into that of independence, the transformation of a nation state from Euro- American ownership to control by indigenous people, but not that of the land. Thus, the concept of sovereignty subsumes independence, but is a more profound transformation of former colonial areas.

Sovereignty has since been broadened in general to include group autonomy and cultural self-determination well beyond the narrative of the social contract. That is, the concept of sovereignty has been transformed from a political idea in content to a political condition in form. The notion of sovereignty is now understood as extending to local organizations, political groupings, and even labor unions. Indeed, the central issue of labor union legality has revolved around this extended sense of sovereignty. Unions, in their struggle to form a countervailing force to capital and industrial corporatism, have traditionally attempted to act as the sovereign expression of their membership. In the US, when the government legalized unions and collective bargaining through the Labor Relations Act, it set limits on unions; the act of legalization reflected government hegemony, and put constraints on union sovereignty. Witness the recent governmental intervention in the Teamsters Union, where the leader of a democratic movement was removed by the government from IBT presidency and replaced by the old guard in the person of Hoffa's son.

Sovereignty, understood broadly in this way, is a crucial concept because it is the necessary condition for democracy. Democracy refers to a group or people autonomously determining their own destiny, their own organization and future policies. For democracy to flourish, it must be undominated from outside the polity in question. If democracy is the ability of a group to be self-determining, then its sovereignty must be guaranteed. Should its sovereignty be only partial, than an external power or influence is already determining internal matters from outside, preempting the democratic will. That external influence both corrupts and obstructs the democratic substance of the political process. In other words, when a nation such as the US intervenes in another to "establish" or "insure" democracy in the other, it is at the same time obviating the possibility of democracy for that other nation. Any external force applied to make democracy possible makes democracy impossible.

It is in our own struggle for democracy here in the US that we must question everything the government says, what it dishes out as its truth, as the first step toward our own sovereignty of thought. We cannot think of democracy for ourselves without our own sovereignty of thought. To the extent the government imposes an account of an event, without a full accounting of its evidence, as soon as we accept or accede to that account or its language, we abandon democracy because we abandon sovereignty of thought. It actually doesn't matter whether the government is lying or not, though we know that the government lies continually by both omission or commission; if we are not given the possibility of independent judgment, we are given the Manichean choice of belief, with its inherent totalitarianism.

In our own struggle for democracy, in other words, everything that is not grounded on public evidence must be called in question. And that means that we cannot accept the government's language and names for things; we must develop our own language to describe a world in which the government's stories cannot be grounded, in order to think in a sovereign manner. The government's very power comes in the form of its account of the world; they give ethical sanction to what it does, and they disguise its criminality, the seizing of lands and people's labor, the violations of others's sovereignty and the killing through its war machine, the controlling of who starves and who eats through its control of the world's finances, as having ethical sanction. With those stories, it exiles us from our political space, because it can even tell us who our enemies are. In effect, our ability to live ethically depends on having our own language, and our own names for things.

In sum, our democracy depends on our sovereignty, and our sovereignty depends on our freeing ourselves from the government's language and account of the world. To accept the idea that 911 was "terrorism," that a "war on terrorism" is possible, that an organization named al-Qaeda exists and did the deed, that 19 Arab men were the one's who killed by suicide, that this represented an attack on the US as a nation, that there is an "international terrorist conspiracy" against the US, that there is an "axis of evil," etc., none of which has reality beyond US government proclamation, means to abandon our political existence, our political space, and slam the cell door on ourselves.

Three questions of fact

To exempify the importance of the idea of sovereignty of thought, in recognizing what we don't know, and thus what we do know about the government's meta-politics, let us look at a couple of questions of fact about 911 that have serious political consequences. These are the fact that fighters were only belatedly sent to intercept the hijacked planes, and the evidence at the crash at the Pentagon. This will not be an attempt to resolve these aspects, but to examine what it means that they exist as questionable at the center of the government's account of 911.

For 25 years, as a matter of routine policy, whenever a commercial plane is discovered to have deviated from its projected flight plan, Air Force fighters have been dispatched to investigate, and if necessary, intercept the wayward plane. This occurs if a plane goes off course, if its transponder fails or is shut down, if it radios a distress signal, or if it is hijacked. It must be emphasized that this is routine, standard operating procedure, and has been for 25 years.

As soon as the transponders in the hijacked planes were shut off, standard operating procedure should have dispatched fighters to investigate, well before any of the planes could hit buildings. On 911, four planes were hijacked, an unprecedented event, and their transponders were all shut off, providing definitive notification to authorities, from the FAA to the National Security Agency, that something untoward was occurring. These planes, still tracked by radar, all soon went off course, confirming the emergency. Yet no fighters were dispatched, and no attempt was made to investigate, until after the crash at the Pentagon, which happened after two planes crashed into the WTC.

Never before had four planes been allegedly hijacked at once; yet on this day, no fighters. And something wholly routine, for which no special order was necessary, did not happen. In order for something routine in the military to not happen, an order countermanding it is necessary. That is, in order for no investigation of transponder-negative planes to occur, an order had to be given not to investigate. Such an order would have to have come from very high up, at the level of the Air Force Command or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Someone at the highest levels of government gave an order not to respond to a totally unprecedented criminal event occurring in US national airspace. The crashes were allowed to happen.

The questions about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon are important in this light. The issue is not whether something hit the Pentagon, but what. A plane approached the building, a huge explosion occurs at the instant of impact, and the building burns and collapses in its outer shell. The issue emerges from the hiddenness of the wreckage, that no evidence has been revealed by the government. A Boeing 757 contains an enormous amount of metal; it is covered with sheet aluminum, and constructed with a mile of struts. Two small pieces of metal, one with its painted lettering intact in spite of the fire, were on the grounds outside the building, though everything else was deemed vaporized in the fire. Throughout the crash site, there were no bodies, no bones, no papers, no clothes or luggage. The only attempt to identify victims was of the people in the building itself. And no black boxes were found, whether wrecked or operative; and no engines were shown. Both the black boxes and the engine are designed to withstand catastrophic conditions: the former to withstand crashes, and the latter to withstand the explosions of jet fuel that power the plane itself. Nothing was revealed by the investigators of the crash to indicate that a 757 had actually hit the Pentagon.

The only facts that have become public knowledge concerning this crash are the huge explosion that occurred as the plane was making contact with the building, and the single round tunnel- like hole made in the building, ostensibly by an engine. If the explosion was of jet fuel, it would melt the aluminum skin of the plane, but not vaporize it. Yet the government's investigators claim that everything in the plane was vaporized, including the black boxes. That is nonsense. Also, the force of a fuel explosion can be seen to go upward, and pieces of the lower part of the plane (without lettering) would survive, as would the black boxes and the engines.

A 757 has two engines. Yet only one hole was made in the building by an engine. The engine is the heaviest and most solid part of an airplane, and would have penetrated deepest into the building on its momentum. The engine-hole in the building goes through three rings of the Pentagon; but there is only one, and it is perfectly round. This means that the engine that made the hole was acting like a projectile, and not twisting sideways as it crashed through the building. This implies that it must have been in the center of the plane, and not fixed to a wing, as on a 757. Had it been fixed to a wing, the crash that sheared the wings off backwards would have imparted a sideways twisting to the engine, which would then have left a jagged hole. These two facts together imply that the plane that hit the Pentagon was a single engine plane, with its engine centered in the fuselage.

The government investigators did not show the public the wreckage of the one engine that crashed through three rings of the Pentagon. The normal suspicion, in such a case, is that the engine was recognizable as not a Boeing engine. And the other alleged engine left not a trace.

All this suggests that the government faked the Boeing 757 crash at the Pentagon. Something non-Boeing hit the Pentagon, and the government decided to disguise it as a hijacked airliner. The real airliner, Flight 77, disappeared; it is not known what happened to it. But it did not leave any traces of having hit the Pentagon. The government is pretending that what did hit the Pentagon was Flight 77, but has produced no evidence that this might be the case.

If the government faked the crash at the Pentagon, this would not be a marginal or ancillary detail to be debated after the "important questions" about 911 have been addressed. It would change all the meanings of 911 as an event -- all of them. The important part of this is not the fact that no 757 hit the building. Nor is it the fact that the government has pretended that a 757 did hit the building. The central and earthshaking fact about this is that the government coordinated its faked crash with the crashes into the WTC. That fact of coordination would set the government at the heart of what happened at the WTC.

To place the government at the scene is not to explain the government's motivation, why it is there, nor how it got there; subsequent events do that. It is simply to place it at the scene, and to ask, what does it mean that it is there.

Neither does this suggest any scenario for what happened on 911, nor suggest a political motive for the government being involved in 911 as an event. All we have on both counts is the meta-politics discussed above. But the fact that someone countermanded the routine dispatch of fighters to investigate the hijacked planes gets transformed. 911 was not simply allowed to happen. The coordination of the faked crash at the Pentagon with the WTC crashes transforms permissibility into authorship. It implies that the use of planes to attack buildings was not only known, but organized and controlled by some people in the US government.

And this would change the meaning of everything that the administration has done since, the onus, the animus, the motivations for its responses, everything. It would change the fact that it was a response. None of it would be a "response." It would transform all that appears as meta-political into what is effectively the "cause" for the event, the strategies for which 911 was a tactic. It would mean that each day, as we look at changes in government strategy and structure, war and internal repression, we are seeing the unfolding of a plan that preceded 911 and whose implementation depended on that event. That the US government is capable of doing this is a matter of record. It is willing to commit mass murder to send a message (Hiroshima), and it is willing to kill Americans to transform or preserve a certain political climate for its own purposes (the Kennedy assassination, the King assassination, KAL 7 plane, the Waco debacle, the assassination and framing of Black Panther Party leaders, the Operation Tailwind that murdered hundreds of Vietnam War resisters, etc.).

One thing it would not change is the question of al-Qaeda's involvement in 911. Al-Qaeda has been given authorship of 911 by the US government. But al-Qaeda never took credit for the act. Therefore, we still do not know who actually hijacked those planes, and why. But if the Pentagon crash was faked, then we do know who was ultimately responsible for the events of that day.

And if the US government is involved in 911 in an authorial capacity, and the Bush administration is now involved in the creation of a Homeland Security Department which would give it the ability to rule by decree, and has received from Congress the power to assault other nations at will, then we must take seriously, under the Nuremberg doctrine, the meaning that then accrues to this event. That meaning comes to it from its most immediate historical analogue, the Reichstag fire of 1933. The Nazis burned the Reichstag building, and Hitler, calling it a "communist attack on Germany," used it to obtain the power to rule by decree, and to assault other nations at will -- a condition that led to the Second World War, and 42 million dead.
Some final thoughts on "conspiracy theory"
What has been somewhat surprising, in the wake of 911, is the tendency of so many people, including those who spend much time in opposition to the imperialist and exploitative policies of the US government, to characterize questioning the government account as "conspiracy theory." This includes general scoffing at the questions being raised, that they concern mere details, and do not get to the heart of the "important" questions. To argue that some things are more important than others is important; the political questions it raises open dialogue on "importance" itself and the meanings of events. But to scoff is another matter; it derogates attempts by citizens to enter into the process of understanding this event, and it shuts down dialogue - - which means it shuts down investigation through an exchange of ideas. It shuts down understanding. It shuts down the sovereignty of thought, and the attempt to arrive, in dialogue, at a language that escapes government control.

The question, what is important? is an important question. But it can't be decided by fiat, only by agreement. Any attempt to proclaim what is important in the face of a different view is to make agreement impossible; it is to enforce importance, and thus to obviate discussion of what is important. To charge "conspiracy theory," or the non-importance of a process of questioning, is thus self-defeating. Ultimately, it means that one does not want to discuss the matter at all. There is no more apolitical attitude than that.

To raise questions about the government's account, and look for suppressed evidence to the contrary, is not to flesh out a conspiracy concerning who did what, and why certain events occurred. Subsequent events are sure to tell us those things (if we manage to survive them). And surely, we don't want to enter into idle speculation. Some people find it interesting to play with speculative accounts, based on insufficient evidence (there are such things as conspiracy theories). For some, it is a way of making their personal reasoning more concrete, nothing more; for others, it is self-advertising, nothing more. There may be wisdom in some of it, and there may be insight, or there may by nothing. It doesn't matter. What does matter is looking at the meaning of the evidence available, and opening the government's account to questioning. What is always important is generating dialogue among people around political events, not only to move toward truth, but primarily so that people come together through that dialogue.

While some conspiracy theorists disrupt dialogue, the more serious disruption lies with those who disrupt questioning in the name of anti-conspiracy guardianship. Since the mid-1970s, the term "conspiracy theory" has become a form of derogatory term, a means of assaulting a person or position without having to engage them or it. But to shut down questioning of the government's account of events means to accede to the government's account, to acquiesce to it. It may not mean to agree with the government's account, but accession renders agreement irrelevant. In essence, to charge "conspiracy theory" is not only to accede to the government's account, but to indicate that one's deep heart-felt desire is that the government account actually be the true account.

The government's account of events is no longer part of an open politics, because the government is no longer an open government; that is, it is not democratic (the 2002 election is only one moment where this broke the surface veneer). The government lies, and it hides information within a secrecy-style called "national security." Because the government lies fairly consistently, everything it says must be questioned, and its rhetoric (its use of "democracy," "freedom," and "economic stability") understood as veneer. This is an important part of the struggle for democracy in the US, which has a long way to go before it will be won.

What is important is that the central aspect of all this is the question of power. If the government promotes an account of a particular event to rationalize an invasion of other sovereign nations, whipping up a global hysteria, and taking significant (pre-planned) steps toward a dys-Constitutional (or de- Constitutionalized) police state, then whatever one can do to reveal the government's account to be false and fraudulent, and undermine the government's rationale, will undermine its plans, and its power, and thus weaken it politically, while strengthening the justice of resistence to its policies.


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