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I wrote this article over the December 2001 holidays, and it was published 4 months to the day after the September 11 attacks, in the University of Waterloo Imprint student newspaper. It’s not completely comprehensive, and there’s been a lot more research and hypothesizing in the time since, but I think it provides some food for thought – basically raising some troubling questions. For some more discussion on the topic — including on the ‘psychology of belief’– please see Eric Francis’ podcast at PlanetWaves.net


The World Trade Center was taken down on September 11. That much is for sure. But start talking about who did it, and you might be on shaky ground.

Apparently, we are told, there is evidence against the Al-Qaeda terrorism network, including Osama bin Laden. To date, the most compelling evidence is a self-incriminating videotape of bin Laden; yet, in an age where movies like The Lord of the Rings can be made, seeing should not necessarily mean believing.

There are many troubling questions that surround the September 11 attacks. Given that “U.S. military leaders proposed in 1962 a secret plan to commit terrorist acts against Americans and blame Cuba to create a pretext for invasion and the ouster of Communist leader Fidel Castro” [Baltimore Sun, April 24 2001], the possibility of U.S. government, military, intelligence complicity in the attacks should not be discounted.

However, we have others who tell us not to think about the possibility. Speaking to the United Nations general assembly, George Bush said, “We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th, malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty.”

Yet others are not so sure. In the first footnote to his presentation “Why there is a war in Afghanistan,” delivered at a teach-in/forum in Toronto on December 9 and sponsored by Science for Peace, University of Guelph professor John McMurtry stated, “With any such hypothesis, one looks not only for the evidence confirming it, but more conscientiously, for the evidence disconfirming it.

“The evidence confirming U.S. and allied security awareness of and possible complicity in the 9/11 attack is considerable, but I have found no evidence disconfirming it,” he said.

Let’s look at some of the questions that have been raised.


There are many reports that the surprise attacks were not really a surprise to the various U.S. government agencies — the CIA, the FBI, the military. The fact that, with all the resources they possess, these agencies were unable to do anything to prevent an attack by people they were already closely monitoring, is as surprising as the attacks themselves.

“The governments of at least four countries — Russia, Germany, Israel and Egypt — gave Washington specific warnings of terrorist attacks in the United States involving the use of hijacked airplanes as weapons, in the months leading up to September 11.” That from a January 5th article posted on the World Socialist Web site (www.wswj.org).

Former U.S. Special Forces master sergeant Stan Goff, in an essay posted on www.narconews.com, writes, “As a former military person who’s been involved in the development of countless operations orders over the years, I can tell you that this was a very sophisticated and costly enterprise that would have left what we call a huge ‘signature.’ In other words, it would be very hard to effectively conceal. So there’s a real question about why there was no warning of this.”

Yet, despite all that, the terrorists were still able to organize, plan and successfully carry out these attacks. Even once they had successfully hijacked the planes, there was still an opportunity for the attacks to have been averted …

Events the morning of . . .

One question that has been raised is why no military planes were scrambled to intercept any of the planes once it had been determined that hijackings were taking place. One allegation being made is that orders from high up were given to stand down — to not follow the standard procedures for dealing with hijacked aircraft — which would have included sending up aircraft. Particularily troubling is how the third plane that crashed into the Pentagon was allowed to fly unimpeded towards Washington and the Pentagon for a half-hour after the second plane had crashed into the WTC.

Questions also exist as to whether Ghost Hawk remote control flying technology could have been used to take over control of the planes, and as to whether the fourth plane crashed, or was shot down by a mysterious white plane (see www.flight93crash.com). So far, none of the black box recordings have been released.

Investigations hindered

The hope would be that the people investigating the events of September 11 would be able to get to the bottom of everything. That may not happen.

“This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on [the investigation of the WTC collapse], and our hands are tied,” said one team member who asked not to be identified. Members have been threatened with dismissal for speaking to the press. “FEMA is controlling everything,” the team member said. (NY Times; December 25 2001)

The editor of Fire Engineering, a 125-year-old monthly firefighting magazine, has called for a “full-throttle, fully resourced” investigation instead of the current “half-baked farce.” (NY Daily News; January 4 2002).

The National Security Agency has been destroying evidence since September 11. “Some Central Intelligence Agency analysts and staff members of the House and Senate intelligence committees fear that important information that could aid in the investigation, and perhaps even redirect it, is being lost in the process.” (Washington Globe; October 27 2001).

An investigation into insider-trading activities on airline stocks prior to the attacks has led to a bank in Germany with connections to the CIA (www.copvcia.com).

A November 6, 2001 report on BBC TV’s Newsnight detailed how some investigations into terrorist connections were being covered up by US authorities.


One of the first thing any detective does is consider the criminal’s motive. The U.S. administration, military or intelligence community has enjoyed many benefits since the terrorist attacks.

U.S. interests wanted to install an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to access oil reserves in the former Soviet states, said to be potentially the richest reserves in the world. The U.S. had pre-existing plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-October, according to former Pakistan foreign secretary Niaz Naik. In fact, it would have been nearly impossible to plan for such an invasion in the short time between September 11 and October 7 (according to Stan Goff).

As well, the attacks gave new-found legitimacy to an unelected president and consolidated power in the hands of his administration and the military and intelligence communities. The huge profits to be made off of the “War on Terrorism” lead back to American interests. Laws have been passed and civil rights stripped away; the people have lost, and the powerful have gained.

There is not enough space here to cover all the questions that are left unanswered. Further research can be done online; some sites to visit include www.rense.com, www.counterpunch.org, davesweb.cnhost.com.


by Greg Macdougall – Sept 21, 2001 | University of Waterloo Imprint (page 10)

It seems like we’re at war now. But I think we can still change that.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Besides some war in some far off place, there’s already been some serious shit going down here. Racism and violence against Muslims and other ‘Middle-Eastern-type’ peoples is happening. It’s not isolated incidents. It’s everywhere. Two shooting deaths this past weekend in the States are the most extreme tip of the iceberg.

Incidents have been reported at this university. Yeah, that’s right, right here. So, I’ma bit disappointed right now – about a lot of things, but very much so about the way some people are racist. Not that that is anything new, though.

Another thing that I’m very disappointed about is how the media is racist. Not that that’s anything new either. But just the way that all the papers and TV stations splashed pictures of Palestinians celebrating the terrorist attacks, but didn’t have anything to say about those who may not have been celebrating, and were instead mourning.

Also, the way that they condemn any anti-Muslim backlash when they are in fact doing so much to fuel it. The way that the Record published a big story on how a local synagogue (Jewish) hired police for protection, yet only put four paragraphs in about how a Guelph mosque (Muslim) was attacked by racists who spray-painted “killers” and “go home” in foot-high letters on the door. This was buried at the end of a story on an area man from Afghanistan who is scared for family that he has living in that country.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m also disappointed with the mainstream and corporate media, not that there’s anything new there either. They’re pretty much promoting that we go to war. They’re preparing us for it – Tuesday’s Record headline was a quote from Bush, “There will be costs.” Wednesday’s Record screams, “Bracing for Holy War,” like it’s the Afghanistanians who are the ones starting this war – like they’ve got any choice at all. I could keep going but it would probably take me more space than I’ve got.

The media features way too many. government officials and military. types, and way too few people who might be opposing war. The interview I did with PACS director Lowell Ewert, who doesn’t like violence, is an anomoly in the sea of voices screaming for blood.

If you want some historical reference, check out the type of propaganda that passed for news back during the Vietnam war. We’re living through another period of that type of shit being fed down our throats. It’s pretty hard to evade it, it’s everywhere.

If you think there’s nothing wrong with the media coverage of this stuff, then – nothing personal – I think you’re smoking crack.

“Never indeed is hatred stilled by hatred; it will only be stilled by non-hatred-this isan eternal law.”

But it ain’t all bad. There’s alternatives to all the hype – the Independent Media Centre here in K-W has put out a special two-page edition of the paper, Blind Spot, to promote peace. You can get it off the Web at ontario.indymedia.org article #1821, or click on the K-W Blind Spot link.

“If they make us all panic then they can start martial law.”
-Dead Prez


Peace and conflict professor calls for words, not war
by Greg Macdougall
September 21 2001 – University of Waterloo Imprint student newspaper

Since last Tuesday, there’s been a lot said about what the terrorist attacks mean and where we go from here. Unfortunately, most of it seems to call for a solution involving military action.

Do more innocent civilians need to be killed? Many seem to think so, but not Lowell Ewert, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies program and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel College. He thinks there may be a better way to deal with the attacks, and he cautiously admits that something positive may come out of this mess.

As the American government declares war on terrorism, Ewert sees “the need for the world community to come together and define this thing called terrorism and agree that its wrong.” But, that’s easier said than done: “I think that’s going to be a more difficult process than George Bush or anyone else thinks at this time because I don’t think there’s a real agreement on what terrorism is.

“As someone said, this is a problem that only the world community collectively can solve; it’s not something that one individual nation can solve. I applaud that.”

Ewert suggests there’s a silver lining in the horrible acts committed last Tuesday. “I mean, there are a lot of people talking to each other about this topic now who weren’t talking two weeks ago and I think that’s very positive.

“I think that first and foremost it needs to be defined as a criminal act. As I heard someone say, defining it as an act of war gives it a certain legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. It’s a criminal act and it should be treated in that way.”

Ewert sees value in looking “to listen to victims’ groups about how they define it, to listen to government officials, to listen to those who are involved in trying to prevent it, to really consult widely.

“To push the learning, the knowledge, the debate and dialogue on that issue is important,” he says.

“I think that civil society can play a very important role in defining terrorism and clarifying for world political leaders that it is not an acceptable political act. So I think we can really get involved in creating a political movement that limits the practice of terrorism.”

How can we limit terrorism? “If you create an international consensus against it, you’re going to make it a lot more difficult for people to find the human resources, the financial resources and the physical resources. I think it starts drying up the pond in which this kind of movement can flourish.”

Ewert suggests that healing for the victims of terrorist acts can be found by bringing them together. “You look at groups of victims who have been subjected to some horrible reprisals internationally — Latin America and other places in the world where there have been a whole bunch of civilian victims — to get them talking to each other and with the people in New York, to talk about their common humanity, their common anger at being victimized and their common fear at being targeted. I think building those kinds of connections between victim groups around the world would be a very valuable part of both healing and solidifying world opinion against terrorism.”

But how can we deal with this horrific act of terrorism committed against the targets in the United States? “From the peace and conflict perspective we believe, and I believe, that another cycle of violence won’t work. I think further research on looking at whether violence, and indiscriminate violence, actually promotes peace. I don’t think it does.

“I think the peace community could, and it hasn’t yet, but it could help the world understand that there are very effective ways non-violently to respond to these horrendous acts, and that blind military striking out may not be the answer.

“I think there’s a legitimate role that police forces play, and I think the distinction that’s typically made is between legitimate policing functions and military. Military forces are subject to political control and they are usually sent for political purposes whereas a civilian police force or a police force is more subject to the rule of law. I think there’s a profound difference.

“Some of the rhetoric seems to say that a military response alone is going to be the solution. Violence typically doesn’t work. Violence typically creates the fertile ground for very, very angry and bitter people to come along and commit other acts. I’m a little concerned that the talk of revenge and retaliation will, if history is a guide here, create more people who have an axe to grind with one or more of the parties and it will not result in a peaceful and just solution for all. So that kind of revenge and retaliatory language is something that I think is misguided.

“There’s been some pretty scary articles that I’ve read basically saying ‘strike back and if a lot of civilians are killed that’s too bad; it’s regrettable but it’s okay.’ That kind of thinking really is frightening to me because it assumes that violence will work.

“Some would justify harming other civilians because of what happened in New York. I just don’t think that’s appropriate. Civilians are to be protected. When people deliberately target civilians, I think we draw the line. We do draw the line, I don’t [just] think that. You don’t target civilians.”


by Greg Macdougall – Sept 14, 2001 | University of Waterloo Imprint (page 12)

You can call it the most terrible thing that has ever happened; you can call it pure evil; you can call it karma.

What goes around comes around, some people say. And on 09/11, the big bully on the playground, the U.S., got sacked in the nuts. The question now is how will they react?

Yes, there’s also a lot to deal with coming to terms with what happened: the horror, the sadness, the fear, the anger. How can you deal with all that?

The easy way is to hit back, hard, and that’s what people seem to want: ‘Kill the bastards!’ As horrible as Tuesday was, I’m more scared of what’s to come. Not from more terrorist attacks -contrary to a lot of people, I don’t feel any less safe today than before the attacks – but from the devastation and horror that people’s reactions could unleash on the world.

I think that the only way a good reaction can come is if we’ve dealt with the emotions that come from this, which is very different from acting on those emotions. And if we’ve made an effort to understand what happened and why. When I see Bush talking of America’s “quiet, unyielding anger” and how the attacks “cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” I feel more sick than I did watching a person free falling from one of the towers.

As we condemn the terrorists to hell, are we going to follow them? Is the current president the man to take the high road, or is he going to lead us on a downward spiral of violence begetting violence?

I’ve heard this attack being likened to Pearl Harbour, but I haven’t heard anyone mentioning what the States’ reaction to that attack was -two atomic bombs dropped on another country, killing how many more people and contributing how much more senseless violence?

Bush claimed that “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” He seems to have missed the fact that, for many, America symbolizes the exact opposite: the repression of freedom. By attacking the crowning symbol of America’s capitalistic might and the heart of America’s military might, a very clear message was being sent.

The personal hatred I hold for American imperialism and militarism gave way to many mixed feelings in witnessing what went on. The hatred that we all hold in our hearts, directed wherever it may be, means that we cannot outright condemn others, ‘foreigners,’ and hold ourselves to be above them. We cannot fall into the trap of thinking that we are good and they are bad. Only by recognizing our own shadow, as Carl Jung called it, can we hope to come to some resolution.

The American shadow is a dark one. For example, they originally backed Osama bin Laden, who they and the media now portray as the face of evil incarnate (without anyone having a clue as to who did all this). Twenty years ago, the United States was training bin Laden and supplying him with arms in his terrorist fight against the Soviets.

The hypocritical nature of the rhetoric spouting from Bush’s mouth, and coming from all the journalists, editors, and opinion columnists creating hatred and hysteria in people’s minds, makes me as sick as the actual act itself.

I also note how ‘good’ this is to Bush and his presidency in so many ways. Everyone is united behind him; all the bad things he has done are gone from people’s minds. As has been noted many times before, a war is sometimes the best medicine for an ailing leader.

However, I hold out some hope that maybe some good will come of this. Maybe this will be a big enough of a shock to people that they change the way they view their lives, the way they relate to other people, the way they live their lives. This is a chance for us to stop ignoring the hatred that is endemic in the world, and to instead acknowledge it while at the same time looking to let love overcome it.

I was once told that all action comes either from love or from fear. I have to ask, where does revenge fit in there?

For more analysis, visit www.zmag.org