9/11, Terrorism and Conspiracy Theories

The Twin Towers (the two tall skyscrapers in the center of the picture) as seen on a clear New York day.
Passenger airplane.
Fireball erupting in the south twin tower.
Rubble on ground zero where the Twin Towers had collapsed. The photo is dated September 16 2001.
The cover of the 9/11 Commission Report, the U.S. government’s official investigation into the attacks on September 11 2001.
Intact nondescript passport.
A flight data recorder, also known as a black box.
Building arrangement of the seven World Trade Center buildings. Number 1 and 2 are the Twin Towers. WTC 7 is shown in blue.
World Trade Center 7 left standing as the collapse of one of the Twin Towers produces smoke and dust around it.
A flag often used by Al Qaeda.
American soldier looking out of a Black Hawk helicopter flying over Afghanistan.

The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, shook the United States and the world. Altogether, in these attacks, some three thousand people died, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in world history, not counting military-style massacres and genocide.

According to the U.S. government’s own investigation into the deadly events, terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda were behind the September 11 attacks. On board three passenger aircraft, the investigation says, terrorists overpowered flight crew and passengers with knives, box cutters and pepper spray-like aerosols. After that, the government report concludes, the attackers took control of the cockpits and piloted the planes into their targets.

A sharp divide

The release of the previously-mentioned official investigation into the events of 9/11 created a sharp and lasting divide among the American people. This is because there are those who fully believe the government’s explanation for the events and there are those who are suspicious about it. The suspicious people, contrary to believers in the government, as a common baseline, tend to think that the investigation serves as a cover up of what actually happened. In line with this, they also often suggest that elements in the government either had an active role in the attacks or were passively involved through deliberately failing to stop what they knew was coming. This involvement of “insiders”, it is argued, was motivated by the power and money that key people in the Bush administration and the military-industrial complex could gain from actions the United States’ government would be able to take in its victim role.

Critics trying to prove lies

In trying to prove shortcomings or lies in the government’s investigation, and thereby make their own narrative sound more convincing, critics often point to things they see as faults or absurdities in the official narrative. One such purported fault or absurdity concerns how a third tower, World Trade Center 7, collapsed into its own footprint at high speed only hours after the Twin Towers themselves caved in. The government’s position, which the critics dismiss as unreasonable, is that heat-induced structural damage caused by fire led to the collapse. A more reasonable view, according to critics assessing the spread of the fire and the orderliness of the collapse, is that the fall of World Trade Center 7 was a controlled demolition — and thus not an unintentional breakdown.

The critics — or “truthers” as they are pejoratively called — sometimes also question how one of the hijackers’ passports could have survived the explosion of one of the airplanes hitting the Twin Towers and later be found intact in the rubble beneath the World Trade Center buildings. As part of their argument, they contrast this seemingly lucky find with the fact that none of the planes’ four 2-feet long black boxes could be located. Had they been found intact, quite interestingly, these orange-colored black boxes, through their built-in recorders, would have provided information about what happened in the cockpits of the airplanes.

Responding to the critical argumentation, advocates of the government’s version of events contend that the loose passport must have been ejected out of the airplane at impact before it could be consumed by fire. The sturdy black boxes, in the view of the same supporters of the official story, moreover, were firmly attached to the airplanes, and therefore probably melted in the burning towers or were ground to rubble during the respective collapses.

Political consequences of 9/11

Moving on from contentious debate and looking at facts, lastly, within a few weeks of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States had gone to war in Afghanistan, where it was believed that Al Qaeda had its base. This campaign economically benefited the military-industrial complex. Likewise incontrovertibly and also within a few weeks, the United States’ government passed the Patriot Act, a law that granted the government broad powers to surveil American citizens through means such as mass collection of telephone meta data. Some people, going back to suppositions, see these actions as incriminating circumstantial evidence of a hidden agenda on 9/11. Others, by contrast, see them as natural and necessary responses to a pressing situation.