From the right, "green jobs czar" Van Jones was pro-communist and a race-baiting no-goodnik. From the left, he was an exceptional, inspired leader just in from a little sprint on the Sea of Galilee.
Such was the great divide in an age of political cliches. But where left and right agreed, Jones had committed the unpardonable by signing a tract that peddled the idea that the George W. Bush administration knew in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks and did nothing to stop them. So he had to go. But on the eighth anniversary of Sept. 11, Jones was hardly alone.
Wikipedia has 27 pages on conspiracy theories, believed by a third of Americans, according to polls. Bush and his wicked guru Dick Cheney, according to one favorite conspiracy track, cooked up Sept. 11 as a pretext to go to war in the Middle East. A Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll showed 36 percent saying it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."
Conspiracy theories abounded in France, which took the lead in attacking Bush, but these were largely ignored as the U.S. launched a punitive invasion of Afghanistan.
The theories broke down into two large camps: LIHOP ("let it happen on purpose") was proselytized by suggesting that key figures in the government had some foreknowledge of the attacks but deliberately ignored them. Some even suggested the government knew about the conspiracy and made sure the hijacked aircraft were not intercepted. MIHOP ("made it happen on purpose") held that key government officials planned the attacks and then collaborated with, or framed, al-Qaida in the execution.
A member of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet until June 2003, Environment Minister Michael Meacher claimed to know the United States knowingly had failed to prevent the attacks. Another ranking Brit said the entire Sept. 11 Commission Report "is constructed in support of one big lie — that the official story about 9/11 is true."
Sixteen percent of Americans thought secretly planted explosives, not burning passenger jets, were the real reason the Twin Towers collapsed like a house of cards. Twelve percent thought cruise missiles, not a passenger jet carrying terrorists, had struck the Pentagon. Most opined that the Bush administration, backed up by palpably fraudulent evidence, had lied about Saddam Hussein's involvement with al-Qaida to justify the 2003 invasion. And that Sept. 11 was a conspiracy to pave the way for the invasion of Afghanistan.
Most of the conspiracy buffs were not regular mainstream newspaper readers. But they were regular Internet dwellers. One conspiracy-peddling site was getting tens of thousands of clicks a day. But the disbelievers in what actually happened were clearly prone to other conspiracy theories — e.g., 40 percent said federal officials were directly responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and for "withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from other planets."
Abroad, the skeptics and disbelievers represent still larger segments of public opinion. In Moscow, for the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11 a year ago, an Italian documentary titled "Zero" opened with great fanfare, attended by high-ranking Russian officials.
One of its authors, Giulietto Chiesa, a member of the European Parliament, said, "The people who organized 9/11 knew the geopolitical and energy situation in the world very well. They knew exactly how the attack will change the future of the world."
"They," of course, was the U.S. government, not al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden. In fact, the documentary raises doubts not only about bin Laden's involvement in the attack, but about the very existence of al-Qaida. All this despite the fact that bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, never denied their part in the planning of Sept. 11 and acknowledged the shock dealt the "evil American empire."
Two European books — one in French and another in German — each sold 1 million copies documenting the supposed Sept. 11 conspiracy.
Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's intelligence service who hates the United States with a dark passion, was the first to launch the canard about the involvement of the U.S. Air Force in the Sept. 11 attacks. Less than one month after the attacks, he told this reporter U.S. fighters were not scrambled to allow the hijacked planes to reach their assigned targets.
Informed that Pakistani journalists covering their prime minister's visit to Washington in July 2008 believed that Sept. 11 was a Bush administration conspiracy to justify taking over Afghanistan, nuclear Pakistan's neighbor, a ranking Pakistan official, raising his voice, exclaimed, "But we all believe that." Clearly, he was speaking not for attribution. But the schizy paranoid reaction goes a long way to explaining the state of mind of "a major non-NATO ally."
Pakistan clearly needs the U.S. as an ally — U.S. military and economic aid are indispensable — but at the same time, U.S. and Pakistani objectives in Afghanistan are quite different. The U.S. wants to rid the country of Taliban and its al-Qaida partner; Pakistan wants to get rid of its domestic Taliban extremists but would not be unhappy if a reformed Taliban prevailed in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's decision-makers reckon the U.S. and NATO are already tired of the open-ended Afghan conflict and sooner or later there will be a negotiated settlement with "moderate" elements of Taliban. This is also what President Hamid Karzai has been pushing. Perhaps to detract from what appears to be a rigged re-election?
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
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