The American Empire and 9/11

The American Empire and 9/11 



After the attacks of 9/11, I accepted the blowback thesis, according to which the attacks were revenge for U.S. foreign policy. This view led me to undertake an extensive study of the American empire, the very reality of which had been an embattled issue.


The American Empire

In his 2002 book American Empire, Andrew Bacevich pointed out that it had long been a “cherished American tradition [that] the United States is not and cannot be an empire.” The words “American empire” were “fighting words,” so that uttering them was an almost sure sign that the speaker was a left-wing critic of America’s foreign policy.[1] 

As Bacevich also pointed out, however, this had all recently changed, so that even right-wing commentators were freely acknowledging the existence of the American empire. As columnist Charles Krauthammer put it in 2002: “People are coming out of the closet on the word ‘empire.’”[2]

     Given this consensus about the reality of the American empire, the only remaining issue concerned its nature. This empire was generally portrayed, especially by neoconservatives, as benign. Robert Kagan spoke of “The Benevolent Empire.”[3] Dinesh D’Souza, after writing that “America has become an empire,” added that happily it is “the most magnanimous imperial power ever.”[4]

     Commentators from the left, however, presented a radically different view. A 2003 book by Noam Chomsky was subtitled America’s Quest for Global Dominance.[5] Richard Falk wrote of the Bush administration’s “global domination project,” which posed the threat of “global fascism.”[6] Chalmers Johnson, once a conservative who believed American foreign policy aimed at promoting freedom and democracy, described the United States as “a military juggernaut intent on world domination.”[7]

Bacevich, although still a conservative, had come to accept the left’s assessment of this empire. He ridiculed the claim “that the promotion of peace, democracy, and human rights and the punishment of evil-doers--not the pursuit of self-interest--[has] defined the essence of American diplomacy.”[8] Pointing out that the aim of the US military has been “to achieve something approaching omnipotence,” Bacevich mocked the idea that such power in America’s hands “is by definition benign.”[9]

     The historical evidence clearly supports this non-benign view of the American empire. Part of this evidence is the fact that U.S. political and military leaders have arranged “false-flag operations” as pretexts for war. We did this to begin the wars with Mexico and the Philippines and to begin the full-out attack on Vietnam.[10]

Also important is Operation Northwoods, a plan submitted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Kennedy containing “pretexts which would provide justification for U.S. military intervention in Cuba.” Some of the ideas, such as the proposal to “blow up a U.S. ship in Guantánamo Bay and blame Cuba,”[11] would have required killing Americans.

This history shows that U.S. military and political leaders have not been averse to using the same tricks as military and political leaders in other countries with imperial ambitions, such as Japan, which in 1931 manufactured the Mukden incident as a pretext for taking control of Manchuria,[12] and Nazi leaders, who in 1933 set the Reichstag Fire as a pretext for rounding up leftists and annulling civil rights,[13] then in 1939 had German troops dressed as Poles stage attacks on German posts at the Polish border, allowing Hitler to present his attack on Poland the next day as a “defensive necessity.”[14] In each case, evidence was planted to implicate the people these governments wanted to attack.

9/11: A False-Flag Operation?

Given this background information, I might have immediately concluded that the 9/11 attacks were false-flag attacks orchestrated by the Bush administration to enlarge the U.S. empire under the cover of the “war on terror.” But when I first heard this allegation, about a year after 9/11, I replied that I did not think even the Bush administration would do such a heinous thing. I checked out some proffered websites but found the evidence unconvincing. (I tell this story because of the widespread allegation that those who call 9/11 an inside job do so because of antagonism to Bush and Cheney and/or their policies.)

A few months later, however, another colleague suggested that I look at a website containing the massive 9/11 timeline created by Paul Thompson.[15] I found that it contained an enormous number of reports, all from mainstream sources, that contradicted the official account. This discovery started a process that led me to publish The New Pearl Harbor,[16] which summarized much of the evidence that had been discovered by previous researchers---evidence, I concluded, that provided a “strong prima facie case for official complicity.”[17] I will summarize some of this evidence in terms of six questions.


I. How Could Hijacked Airliners Have Struck the WTC and the Pentagon?


If standard operating procedures of the FAA and the U.S. military had been carried out on 9/11, AA Flight 11 and UA Flight 175 would have been intercepted before they reached Manhattan, and Flight 77 would have been intercepted long before it could have reached the Pentagon. Such interceptions are routine, being carried out about 100 times a year. A month after 9/11, the Calgary Herald reported that in the year 2000, NORAD had scrambled fighters 129 times. Just a few days after 9/11, Major Mike Snyder, a NORAD spokesperson, told the Boston Globe that “[NORAD’s] fighters routinely intercept aircraft.”[18] Why did such interceptions not occur on 9/11? We have never been given a plausible explanation. Indeed, we have received three mutually inconsistent stories.

     In the first few days, military officials said that no fighter jets were sent up by NORAD until after the strike on the Pentagon at 9:38, even though signs that Flight 11 was in trouble had been observed at 8:15. That would mean that although interceptions usually occur within 15 minutes, in this case over 80 minutes had elapsed before any fighters were even airborne. This story suggested that a “stand-down” order had been issued.

     Within a few days, a second story was put out, according to which NORAD had ordered fighters aloft but they did not arrive in time, because FAA notification had unaccountably come very late. Critics showed, however, that even if the FAA notifications had come as late as NORAD’s timeline indicated, there was sufficient time for interceptions.[19] This second story did not, therefore, remove the suspicion that a stand-down order had been given.

     The 9/11 Commission Report, issued in 2004, gave a third account, according to which, contrary to NORAD’s timeline of September 18, 2001, the FAA did not notify NORAD about Flights 175, 77, and 93 until after they had crashed. As I showed in books published in 2005 and 2006, however, this new story contains many problems.[20]

     In August 2006, Michael Bronner, who was an associate producer for the film United 93, published an essay, “9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes,” which popularized the 9/11 Commission’s new story and emphasized tapes supplied by NORAD, purportedly from 9/11, on which it is based. This new story was further publicized by the simultaneous publication of Without Precedent by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the 9/11 Commission. This book and Bronner’s essay caused a minor sensation with their suggestion that the account given by the military between 2001 and 2004, which only partly absolved the military from responsibility for failing to prevent the attacks, had been a lie. The new story puts all the blame on the FAA, except for a little confusion on the military’s part, thereby lessening the grounds for suspicion that the military had been given a stand-down order. This new story has been widely accepted.

However, in my most recent book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking,[21] I show even more fully than I had before that this new story is incredible. Besides contradicting many well-documented reports, it is inherently implausible, because it claims that military leaders lied in a way that made them look worse than does the truth (as described by the 9/11 Commission). This new story does not, accordingly, remove grounds for suspicion that a stand-down order had been issued.


II. Why Did the Twin Towers and Building 7 of the WTC Collapse?