Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later

It is 10 years since the day that will always be known just as a date--September 11th. That also happens to be my parents' wedding anniversary, and this is the 62nd anniversary of their marriage.

I remember the fear that followed after that day in 2001--Was another attack imminent? Was anthrax part of the plot? I remember the strange combination of pride and humiliation, fear and faith. I lived 3000 miles away, yet it colored my life like it colored every American life.

I also remember the growing doubts about what really happened. Was there more to the story that we weren't being told? Gradually, I came to accept that most of what the government said happened on September 11th was more or less the truth. I still have some doubts about WTC 7, the 47-story building that collapsed from *not* being hit by an airplane. I still have some questions about why all the planes had so few passengers on board, and why a person I know got a "gut feeling" to pull all his money out of the stock market on September 10th. But I am willing to accept that strange things just happen to happen.

The one story that I still believe is a manufactured lie, however, is the story of the heroic passengers on Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. This flight was scheduled to travel from Newark, NJ to San Francisco. It was taken over by hijackers some 45 minutes into the flight. After that, passengers supposedly made cellphone calls in which they learned that their hijacking was part of a pattern of hijackings, and that 2 planes had already hit in New York City.

Although there are some unlikely aspects to the story so far, up to this point, the story may well be true. But the rest of the story seems like pure propaganda to me. One passenger leaves his cellphone open and says, Let's Roll! A group of passengers rush the cockpit to try to eject the hijackers. And then, what next?

Well, either the passengers take the controls, or they don't. If they take the controls, if they disable the terrorist-pilot and fight off the other 3 terrorists, what would they do? They would contact the ground (with the help, perhaps, of the flight attendants, who must have some idea of how the radio operates) and air traffic controllers would do their best to enable them to land the plane somehow.

On the other hand, perhaps they are not able to overpower the 4 terrorists (though it's something like 35 to 4). The terrorist-pilot remains at the controls of the plane, but he hears the mob of angry passengers outside the door. This is the final and official story of what happened:

"The 9/11 Commission Report concluded that "the hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them" so the hijackers deliberately crashed the plane into the ground.

Now why would they do that? The hijackers intended to die by crashing the plane into the White House or the Capitol, presumably. Why would they panic and crash it into an empty field? What did they have to lose by doing their best to fight off the mob of passengers and continuing with the flight?

When the heroic story was first told, the narrative was that the passengers had made the noble decision to crash the plane, sacrificing themselves for their country. That didn't make any sense at all, so the story was revised to say that the heroic passengers so rattled a group of suicidal killers that the terrorists themselves made the choice to crash the plane rather than...what? Rather than fly it into the White House? Rather than get into a fistfight with the passengers?

The question of whether orders to shoot down the plane was ever given to the military has been raised, and the obvious answer is that that would have been a reasonable choice. A female military pilot has stated that she fully intended to crash her fighter jet into the commercial airliner to take it out before it could reach the Capitol.

I think that if the government and the military did make the choice to shoot down the plane, it would have complicated the narrative considerably, and diverted attention towards arguing about whether the US government should ever attack its own civilians in such a manner.

But that's what I think happened. I think the plane was shot down by the US military.

I don't see any reason that the hijackers would have preemptively killed themselves and their passengers in order to avoid a tussle in the cockpit.

And this means that I believe the government has created an elaborate heroic story, backed up by a fictionalized movie to cement it in the public imagination, in order to avoid a lot of hard questions.

Would the government do such a thing? Ask Jessica Lynch. Ask the family of Pat Tillman.