Well, that last post touched a few nerves! About conspiracy theories surrounding 9-11. My point was not to debate the significance of various bits of evidence, some real some nonsense, that inevitably come up over the question of whether operatives in the US government planned the attacks. That never goes anywhere except for some particularly passionate devotees of the US-responsibility hypothesis who - when anyone remains unconvinced - then flood you with internet articles written or heavily cited by other 9-11 conspiracists.
If there was any salient point in there, at least that I intended to make, it was not related to the merits of the various arguments, but to the human need for control and denial in the face of our animal mortality.
Then there was a point about Christ.
But now that I've been re-bombarded with these theories, and understanding that practical arguments are not convincing if piecemeal they don't damage the foundation of the theory, that is, the narrative - the story of what happened into which various facts and pseudo-facts are fitted. But it is an anecdotal story, one act by one body of actors, for one purpose, and when this act is accomplished, everything afterward becomes the denouement. The real climax is the collapse of the buildings.
So now, just because it won't take that long, and because I think it's a more plausible story that hasn't ended yet. To tell this story, I have to suspend my own identity and adopt a dispassionate and functional gaze.
was - speaking as an amateur military historian - one of the more
stunningly successful strategic direct actions in modern history.
9-11 was a glimpse
into postmodern war, which will be characterized and determined by
asymmetry. Our whole historical conjuncture is pregnant with new conflicts, and with new kinds of conflict. The new imperial reliance on smart weapons, drones, missiles, and air ordnance is an attempt to outmaneuver asymmetry, because asymmetry defeated the United States military in Iraq and it is defeating the United States in Afghanistan at this very moment. The internet creates conditions favorable to asymmetric conflict, even if it is just ideological conflict, as well as providing potentially asymmetric communications in support of material goals. That is why the powers that be are trying to get hold of it as we have seen with the Snowden revelatons. All things that the weak can use against the strong, turning weakness and decentralization into strengths.
I have no idea if Osama bin Laden was brilliant
or lucky or both - again speaking from a totally dispassionate
historical point of view. Most successful military operations involve both, and I am saying that 9-11 was a brilliantly calculated military attack.
That's my story.
It begins with the psychology of the operation - because all military operations are at their root political actions, and postmodern politics is about psychological operations - a military term that someone like Gramsci would call consent-of-the-governed, or hegemonic power. Performance and perception. Roles and scripts.
Three targets are chosen. One is not only a financial center of the empire, but an iconic double-phallus over the world's financial nerve center. Another is the Capitol, the political center and repository of the nation's identity. Another is the military center, the very beating heart of history's most expensive, technically-sophisticated, and lethal military institution. As a provocation, it is irresistible.
George W. Bush will certainly lash out; he will have to because any seated President of the United States will be obliged to strike back at something. The demand for blood from the public - calculated correctly - was overwhelming, even alarming in its intensity. I remember people who warned me that I ought to put a flag decal on my car and a flag in front of my house, or I might come under suspicion.
But George W. Bush was specifically knowable. Anyone who could read could research Bush's record, his own personality, his own handlers and cronies, and his own policy coterie. Moreover, anyone who was awake knew that Bush had been faced with a political credibility crisis ever since the 2000 election and that he was a political opportunist. He would certainly move to consolidate executive power, breathe life into various agendas, take advantage of political opponents, and pursue to the maximum extent possible the stated goals of his foreign policy advisers.
The neocons' publications have been heavily cited by 9-11 truthers, which they read after the fact then retroject onto their own narrative as support for it. But Osama bin Laden and his fellow planners - rich and well-educated - were able to study the beliefs of these men before the attack. As the truthers point out, the US actions after 9-11 were foreshadowed in many publications. That this doesn't seem sensible if you plan a false-flag operation does not enter into their thinking; and likewise, it does not occur to them that the neocons had telegraphed their future enemy about their intentions.
Their screwy academic notions about reshaping the Middle East in the US image were widely on record. And anyone as familiar with the cultures, complications, and politics of the region - like Osama bin Laden - knew that any attempt to carry out such a program would meet with serial disasters.
Bin Laden never got over the US and Saudi Arabia disallowing his forces the principle role in fighting Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 1990. His past history with the US and with the Saudi regime was broken, and from then on his sights were on them.
In one bold
gesture, one that was not only tactically sophisticated, embedded in an
advanced understanding of how all military actions must be political
actions, and cognizant of public psychology as a determinative strategic
variable, bin Laden tricked an imperial government and a
imperial society into a massive, expensive, disruptive, and years-long
strategic blunder that cost trillions, exposed the myth of US military
invincibility, destroyed US credibility in a large fraction of the
world. Not only did the US not win a war, but their invasion of Iraq ultimately strengthened a strategic
enemy - Iran - with a Shia victory in Iraq. Almost certainly a powerful Taliban government will end up ruling in Afghanistan at the end of
the day. The imperial core has been crippled permanently by the last
decade and a half, and the strategic turning point that led in a direct
line to that historic phase-shift was 9-11.
From OBL's perspective, as a strategist, this is an inconceivably massive success.
We can't know what was actually in his head, because he was killed. But my story tracks better, in my view, than the preposterous notion that this was engineered in the USA and not a single peep in twelve years from anyone in the know. I worked among the most cold-blooded operators employed by our government, and none of us would have ever consented to kill almost 3000 Americans to advance a political agenda. Only in the movies...
One of my disputants read a kind of abbreviated version of the above account, and he was almost relieved. Said I sounded like the "old Stan," meaning when I wrote about war and war's outcomes without counting the human costs, looking at it as a purely strategic matter... then he told me that if I'd "get out of the OBL box" I'd come to the correct (9-11 truther) conclusions. His sense of relief was that I was making recognizable man-talk... ignoring the human realities to explicate the strategic ones... that is, war talk. So there is my little counter-thesis in recognizable man-talk/war-talk.
All I've got to say on 9-11. Now I'll tell you what man-talk covers up.
The struggle between good and evil is not divided up among the "sides," but in the hearts of each person in a broken world, and in the material outcomes of social relations that make war inevitable. We are not faced with a few evil men and their conspiracies. We are faced with structures and their inertia that articulate evil like some bacteria articulate toxins. Slaughtering human beings and valorizing cruelty is the very essence of evil. Visiting grief and misery by design on other human beings is the essence of evil. Would that someone could conspire against that. War, that is.
War is altogether evil.