Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Doesn't Know About Gulf on Tonkin Incident, Attacks 9/11 Truth

Conspiracy buffs dispute motives, causes of attacks
By Robin Acton
Sunday, September 9, 2007

Somerset County Coroner Wally Miller has no time or patience to talk about conspiracy theories linked to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Six years later, he's furious about lingering suggestions that Air Force fighter jets shot the plane from the sky, leaving a trail of debris and human remains over the fields surrounding Shanksville and into nearby Indian Lake.

"The plane crashed. People died. There was debris in Indian Lake. There were no human remains in Indian Lake," Miller said. "I'm not going to get into any conspiracy theories."

Although voluminous evidence exists that proves Islamic hijackers plotted and carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, numerous myths continue to find an audience among people who insist Americans are being denied the truth about what really happened that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

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Al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 2,981 people. There is extensive evidence that al-Qaida meticulously crafted plans to use four passenger jets as fuel-filled weapons that would target the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Still, many Americans aren't buying the official record, won't listen to experts and refuse to accept appeals to their common sense.

Doubt lingers

Last year, a national poll conducted by Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that 36 percent of Americans believe it is likely the U.S. government either assisted in or did nothing to stop the attacks because of a desire for war in the Middle East.

Lisa Butler, a senior researcher in the psychology department at Stanford University, said the conspiracy theorists often believe the "initiator should fit the size of the event." She explained that the notion of a grand conspiracy involving the U.S. government rather than the actions of a handful of terrorists is easier for some people to swallow.

"It's very hard for some people to believe that a huge, catastrophic event can result from a small number of players," Butler said. "The same thing happened with the JFK assassination because people couldn't stand the idea of a lone gunman."

Conspiracy theorists abound on the Internet, where they can share their thoughts on thousands of Web pages maintained by individuals and groups, including 911truth.org, whatreallyhappened.com, AttackonAmerica.net and scholarsfor911truth.org.

Butler said many of the people who participate in these conversations and theories "obviously already have issues with the government."

"And when people are frightened and angry, they tend to be open to consider the possibility that there are things going on that are not on the surface," she said.

The Department of State has chosen to meet the conspiracy theorists head-on. In a Web page maintained by the International Information Program, the department attempts to debunk with hard facts what it has identified as the top eight "unfounded conspiracy theories" that continue to circulate throughout the world. Point by point, the department offers information from experts to discount the theories.

Among the most prevalent, according to government, are suggestions that the World Trade Center's twin towers and building 7 were destroyed either by controlled demolition or by planes flying by remote control, that the Pentagon was hit by a missile fired by elements "inside the American state apparatus" rather than a plane, and that fighter jets shot down Flight 93 -- despite cockpit voice recordings that showed heroic passengers fought the hijackers in an attempt to regain control of the aircraft.

The department includes the theory that suggests there was advance knowledge of the plot because of unusual trading in the stocks of United Airlines and American Airlines in the days before the attack, as well as an unfounded rumor that 4,000 Jews failed to show up for work at the World Trade Center that day.

Alice Hoagland, of Redwood Estate, Calif, whose son, Mark Bingham, was among the 40 passengers and crew who perished on Flight 93, said conspiracy theories don't bother her because they keep the public's attention focused on the attacks and the memories of the victims. She insists that the evidence surrounding Sept. 11 is "pretty straight forward."

"I have a certain amount of pity for the people who concoct some of these awfully elaborate and clearly meritless theories. I know other people in my family -- my sister -- are a little more concerned and saddened when some of the sillier stuff shows up," she said.

"It's human nature for people to read more into that than there is."

Memorial flak

In recent months, controversy has mounted over the planned Flight 93 memorial in Somerset County amid claims that architect Paul Murdoch's design is a tribute to Muslims because it contains a crescent symbol and faces Mecca.

Thomas Burnett Sr., of Northfield, Minn., the father of Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett, said he withdrew his son's name from a listing on the proposed memorial because of questions about the design. Although he does not believe there is a conspiracy afoot by Murdoch, he finds the design "fatally flawed."

He said Alec Rawls, of Palo Alto, Calif., has written a book, "Crescent of Betrayal," that lists a number of examples to support his belief that the memorial is a monument to terrorists.

"Alec Rawls should be listened to. If it turns out he's all wet, that's OK," Burnett said. "It's hard for me to believe that this is by accident. I'm deathly against holding out a hand to any of these fanatics. It's tainted to the point that we can't escape it."

William Steiner, of Mt. Pleasant, also has been a critic of the design since ever since he saw what he believes is a Muslim crescent, a symbol used on flags in various Arabic countries. He said he can't get a handle on the designer's motivation, nor can he understand the government's willingness to allow the project to proceed.

Family members of some Flight 93 victims asked Dr. Daniel A. Griffith, a professor of geospatial information sciences at the University of Texas-Dallas, to study Rawls' assertions. Griffith, a native of Hempfield Township, found fault with his claims.

Griffith told the Tribune-Review that Rawls' math does not prove the design points to Mecca, noting that because the Earth is round, a person can be pointing to Mecca from anywhere on the globe.

Nevertheless, Steiner believes the supporters of the design and government officials "are in consummate denial" over the issue.

"One needs spend only a few minutes doing the reading and research to a sufficient level of familiarity to allow the big-picture light bulb to come on," Steiner said.

Some conspiracy theorists have embraced ideas that range from far-fetched to far-out.

Many seized upon the belief that the government has been less than truthful about the Sept. 11 attacks. They claim the official version of events surrounding the day have been used as justification for the war in Iraq, what they believe are illegal surveillance tactics approved under provisions of the Patriot Act and other government initiatives aimed at the war on terror.

Mike Berger, a spokesman for 911truth.org, an Internet-based group of doubters, insists there are inconsistencies between testimony before the 9/11 Commission and its final report that make the official version of the events that day hard to believe.

"People don't want to look at the facts that contradict the official story," Berger said.

A Temple University senior, who heads the group Philly911truth.org, believes the attacks were part of a conspiracy by rogue elements in the U.S. government as a pretext for war with Iraq, just as he believes the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used as a pretext for attacking North Vietnam.

He said many of the questions the families had about the government's knowledge about the attacks never have been answered, while some aspects have not been fully investigated. He believes there was "a cabal of people" behind the attacks that were designed to benefit certain people for political and financial reasons.

"We look at 9/11 from the position that the United States allowed the attacks to happen or made them attack us," he said.

It's that kind of talk that upsets Beverly Burnett, who tries to spare her husband from seeing computer web sites spewing theories and counter-theories about conspiracies and government plots.

"When I see one, I delete it," she said.

Robin Acton can be reached at racton@tribweb.com or 724-830-6295.


I am amazed by the frequency of misquoting in this article wherein they state I said the goal was "a pretext for the Iraq War" however I said "a Middle Eastern campaign" and I also stated "either they let it happen, or possibly even more nefarious...they made it happen" not "either they let it happen or the made them attack us"

The interview was conducted by Rich Gezerech so be sure to mention his name when you call and lambaste this misinformed media monolith and tell them that the Gulf of Tonkin incident has been declassified as a fraudulent pretext for the Vietnam war.