Note on “9/11 Trutherism”

One conservative political goal seems to be to make acknowledgment of any U.S. co-responsibility for 9/11, of any even potential validity in Binladenist justifications for war, as inadmissible as “Trutherism” – which latter, informatively, stands as a classic “repressive de-sublimation,” the intimation of “something more” to 9/11 turned into a kind of fantasy self-indictment by dream logic.  Because as a society we prefer to avoid the facts, we give the name “9/11 Truth” to something obviously mad, pathologically crude and simple-minded, thus freeing ourselves to dismiss it and look away.  The madness of Trutherism can be understood as a histrionic demand for attention, but we look no further because we already know that we are indictable, and cannot cope practically and morally with the indictment.  In other words, it’s easier for a few people to imagine our own government plotting spectacular and catastrophic acts of destruction against the symbols of its own power, for a few others who are treated as only slightly less mad to speculate about mere “blowback” for particular policies, and for the rest of us to let the crazies carry the burden of “asking questions,” than to contemplate the ways in which our entire way of life and our “saner” self-conceptions may be implicated.

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23 comments on “Note on “9/11 Trutherism”

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  1. All right there a re oblique ways in which we are involved the Loomis/Philby negotiations that paved the way for Aramco, and
    by extension Mohammed Bin Laden’s fortune as well as that oF OLayan
    ,Alamoudi, Bin Mahfouz, this helped empower the Ilkwan retainers, which ultimately encouraged them to attack the Saud’s claim on the
    country, and we were in the way. But that is a rather obtuse way of looking at things, will we ‘responsible’ for the next atrocity that kills
    100,000. 1,000,000.

  2. You might want to save it for the next post, narc – this was just a spin-off of my ongoing work answering J-Bone’s question.

  3. The assertion by Imam Rauf that among the causes of the attacks of September 11, 2001, are actions of the United States demands the closest possible scrutiny. First of all is the use of the word “accessory” by the imam. As with many words, accessory has multiple meanings. In law, being an accessory to a crime implies culpability. One can be an accessory before the fact (the crime) or after the fact and the degree of culpability varies, but the sense of the word in both is that of consciously aiding or abetting the crime either by commission of certain acts or omission of others. Clearly the United States was not an accessory after the fact, so if the imam intended to use the word in its legal sense, he might mean before the fact. That too must be rejected, however, as patently ridiculous. The United States government took no deliberate action to aid and abet the attack nor did it deliberately fail to take actions that could have prevented it. So I conclude that Imam Rauf’s use of the word has no legal basis.

    Yet, he still used that word. Why? One can only speculate. Mister Rauf has been speaking English and has lived in the United States long enough for one reasonably to suspect that he was very likely aware of the legalistic connotation of “accessory” when he made the remark (he wasn’t talking about fashion, that’s certain). In other words, the unavoidable implication of the word “accessory,” which is one of culpability, was not some accident of faulty English usage on his part. Rauf did not try too, too hard to avoid the unavoidable here. Consider, the context of his remark was that of a crime, which, I understand, he himself avows that 9/11 was. (The attack was something more than a crime, of course, but it was at least that.) Therefore, to use a word drawn from the lexicon of criminal law, a word, moreover, the use of which cannot be justified as applying to the United States in the case of 9/11, was malicious and was definitely intended to exploit the justiciable culpability that the word ordinarily evokes. It was a cunning and, for that reason, contemptible way of framing the question.

    Let’s suppose, however, that he was not malignly motivated, that perhaps he meant only that certain actions of the United States “contributed” to the 9/11 attack. The problem here is that “contribute” is simply too plastic a word to carry the weight of meaning that Rauf clearly intended “accessory” to carry, which certainly appears to be one of assigning some portion of the blame for the attack. Putting malignity aside, therefore, one is left to wonder what he was trying to say. Since the agent here, in Rauf’s own words, is the “United States,” it seems unavoidable to conclude that it was the foreign policy of the United Sates broadly interpreted, which would include several wars the US has waged in the so-called Muslim world, that the imam intended to indict.

    Now, however, a great difficulty arises. When the United States, considered as a moral agent, namely, someone or something to which praise and blame can be apportioned, acts it acts as a nation state whose actions affect other nation states for good or ill. In the first Gulf War a coalition of nation states attacked a specific nation state, Iraq, for a specifiable reason: the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. In the course of pursuing that war, the nation state of the United States was invited by the nation state of Saudi Arabia to set up military bases on the soil of the latter both to defend Arabia and to attack Iraq. Further back in time, the United States, again acting as a sovereign nation state, was the first to recognize the nation state of Israel, extending recognition literally within seconds of Ben Gurion’s declaration of Israeli independence. In 1956, the United States acted to thwart the intentions of three nations (the United Kingdom, France, and Israel) to protect the interests of a fourth nation (Egypt). In 1973, the United States acted to protect Israel from the serious threat posed by another nation state, the Soviet Union, which was also an enemy of the US.

    Obviously a list of actions by the United States in the “Muslim world” could be considerably extended, particularly to include the war waged on the nation of Serbia to protect the nation of Bosnia and the nationality of Kosovars, as well as to the numerous Security Council vetoes the US has cast on Israel’s behalf. Yet what apart from those and similar particulars might Rauf have had in mind? I don’t believe there are any. In any case, the real point to be made here, which bears considerable emphasis, is that in not one foreign policy predicament past or present, did the nation state of the United States act to attack the religion of Islam. Yet if one is to believe the actual perpetrators of 9/11—and I for one believe them completely—they acted to defend Islam from Judaism and Christianity. Whether or not Rauf agrees with them is irrelevant. That is what Al Qaeda and a whole lot of other agitated Muslims believe and maintain.

    So we are left with a peculiar situation, a very peculiar situation, in which, on the one hand, the United States is acting and has acted, not for or against Islam, but for or against other nations, yet is condemned by Islamists for acting for one religion and against another, while on the other hand, according to Rauf, the actions of Al Qaeda, for the most part Sunni Muslims, are somehow not those of one religion (Islam) against another (Christianity or Judaism). The US cannot be charged with acting from anti-Islamic motives, yet that is in fact the principle and overriding charge being brought against us. The activities of Islamic fundamentalist groups cannot possibly be separated acting from their Muslim beliefs, yet that seems to me to be pretty close to what Rauf and others are saying or at least implying.

    Unless the United States can credibly be accused of deliberately acting for one faith or faiths and against another, which I submit is ridiculous, as the Suez and Balkan wars amply demonstrate, what on earth are we or have we been “accessory to” other than the pursuit o our national interests as we, through our government, understand them? Is this a comprehensible use of the word “accessory”? Its use would be reasonable if—note I do not say “only if”—Rauf agrees with Al Qaeda that what is and has been occurring here is in fact a religious war, for which, if that were even partially true, the United States could indeed be held culpable of a crime to which the word “accessory” might be applied to some degree or another.

    I do not believe that Rauf is accusing the United States of any crime to which the word accessory might apply. I do believe that he is accusing the United States of acting pursuant to an Islamophobic agenda. Islamophobia here operates as a notional crime, and so Rauf feels justified to resort to legally inflammatory language. A notional crime is of course no crime at all—at least not yet; and that is just one more example of the insidiousness inherent in too easy a recourse to this word, Islamophobia, which (like homophobia) properly speaking has only a narrow range of applicability. A phobia is a psychological disorder. An aversion to certain widespread practices of Islam is not. By insensible steps, an aversion to Islam, as practiced, that is justifiable in principle becomes the motivation for waging actual war upon Islam that in principle is unjustifiable. It is only by inferring a confused mingling in Rauf’s mind between the two that I can even begin to understand his words.

  4. I gave him a little more credit than he deserved Joe, if we unlike the Brits and the French really moved against the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, we were not given credit. If Saddam has crossed a Khafji
    into Arabia, likely there would have been great destruction raining
    upon Riyadh and even Diriyah in the long run,

  5. @ Joe NS:
    I have a post to go up in detail on this subject, Joe, so I’ll refrain from an extensive reply, and will instead invite you to re-consider and perhaps amend your comment in light of my remarks, then re-submit it at the appropriate time. I myself will take another look at my post and see whether there are any simple changes I can make that will take your approach into account and explain why I chose a different perspective on his remarks.

    In addition, if you’re going to parse Rauf’s words so closely, to the extent of attempting to read his mind, assess his character, and impute underlying, unspoken rationales, you should at least make the effort to refer to them as actually delivered, and as well to consider the context, which was conversational – that is, an interview on 60 Minutes. That doesn’t mean that I doubt he chose his words with care, but I do think it’s a bit much to apply a strict juridical interpretation to them and then to build on it in the way you do.

    You can find the transcript here:

  6. @ CK MacLeod:

    Where I’m speculating I say so. To accuse me of attempting mind-reading is jejeune. I gave my reasons for my inferences. I do not see that I’m obliged to do more. Nor do I feel that I have even remotely mangled or distorted what he said. Here are his words:

    I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

    I wrote:

    . . . what apart from those [aspects of US policy] and similar particulars might Rauf have had in mind? I don’t believe there are any.

    There is no daylight between those statements as far as I can tell and thus no further “effort” would seem to be necessary on my part to critique it.

    I am reading his use of “accessory” very closely, as you say, because to the extent that I have been following the debate, and that includes here at ZC, it is that statement and that word that has received the greatest attention.

    In reading the rest of the Bradley interview, I find nothing whatsoever that would contextualize “accessory” so as to give it another meaning than the one it normally can be expected to convey in context:

    Consider, the context of his remark was that of a crime, which, I understand, he himself avows that 9/11 was [emphasis supplied].

    Vigilantism, Rauf’s word, is a crime even in Shariah. I’m not sure what more I can do context-wise.

  7. Therefore, to use a word drawn from the lexicon of criminal law, a word, moreover, the use of which cannot be justified as applying to the United States in the case of 9/11, was malicious and was definitely intended to exploit the justiciable culpability that the word ordinarily evokes. It was a cunning and, for that reason, contemptible way of framing the question.

    The “question” had been framed by Ed Bradley, as a point of clarification regarding the immediately prior discussion of opposition to US policy in the Middle East. Rauf was specifically asked to assure Bradley and the audience that he, Rauf, wasn’t claiming that “we in the United states deserved what happened.” Rauf did so, and then introduced the word “accessory” clearly in the sense of not being responsible in the same way as the actual perpetrators, but of having contributed to it, and not in relation to the “US government” and even less to the people of the US, but to “United States policies.”

    The difference, as anyone who wasn’t setting out from a position of the closest possible hostile scrutiny of Rauf would immediately understand, is simple: Rauf disclaims any notion that the US “deserved” the punishment of 9/11. He does explicitly claim that US policies set the groundwork for the act, both by contradicting our own values (his initial comment) and (his final comment) by “making” Bin Laden. (When I use the word “groundwork,” Joe, I am using a metaphor. I am not making a cunning reference to the Bin Laden family’s construction background. When I use the word background, Joe, even though I speak and write English as my first language, I am not making a cunning reference to painting, photography, or any other visual art.)

    A peculiar verbal transference or confusion occurs over the course of the dialogue in which 9/11 functions first as a punishment (deserved or not), and then as a crime. The initial question is whether 9/11 was a fitting punishment for unjust acts (the previously mentioned policies leading to anti-Americanism): Again, we are already speaking metaphorically here, on the level of moral-historical speculation. Rauf then defines not those American policies as unjust-acts-worthy-of-punishment (i.e., crimes), but 9/11 as the unjust act – a harmful act committed against innocent parties, regardless of particular statutes against, say, flying jetliners into skyscrapers during business hours. He then assigns a lesser but significant portion of responsibility for this “crime” to United States policies, and that is clearly the intent of his use of the word “accessory.”

    In what appears to me to be a diversionary effort on your part to justify your emotional and ideological reaction to Rauf and the GZ Mosque controversy, you import diverse historical events and theoretical social, religious, political contradictions, when Rauf, in his brief contribution quoted in the interview, is actually quite specific about the basis of opposition to US policy: “It is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.” Is there any argument to be had over the accuracy of this description? Or are you now going to explain how Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, just for example, were not oppressive regimes?

    Along similar lines, regarding Bin Laden’s having been “Made in the U.S.A.,” Rauf is again, obviously, speaking metaphorically. He’s as little a mad scientist as he is a lawyer: He is not saying that the U.S. assembled skin, organs, teeth, and hair and constructed a FrankenLaden’s monster. He probably believed at the time, as many did and as many still do, that Bin Laden had been in the direct pay of the U.S. via the CIA, and had also received Saudi and probably Pakistani support with the blessings of the U.S. He further likely believed that Bin Laden & Co. were allowed to run riot in Afghanistan when the U.S., its anti-Soviet business done, largely fled the scene, not giving a flying fig about what happened afterward. And he probably also had in mind the post-Gulf War I Iraq sanctions + Saudi basing policy that served as a key rallying/rhetorical point for AQ during the ’90s.

    I, however, have something more in mind, because support for the foreign fighters directly via the US or indirectly via US allies, the abandonment of Afghanistan, and the sanctions + basing policy are in my opinion pieces of a larger, very unfashionable yet always in vogue accessorization of US strategy. I would go much further than Rauf would probably dare to go, in that I don’t think the category of “deserving” history’s punishments is very helpful. How one apportions such “deserts” is a matter of belief and ideology. There is no objective standard.

    I will leave further comments on Rauf’s statement, from the perspective that I find most interesting, until later. Unfortunately, I now find myself with another few hundred words to cut out of an entirely too long, and too long delayed, draft post.

  8. 9/11 was an act of terrorism EXACTLY like other famous acts of terrorism Bali,London,Madrid,Oklahoma City,Lebanon etc etc. It was a larger act of terrorism,that’s the difference. If we compare Dec 7th 1941,to 9/11,the difference between war and terrorism is cleared up. We,however,continue to pretend it was an act of war,and it looks like we have entered the age of perpetual war. That’s because a WOT is as a War on Evil,which can’t end. NPOD’s WW4 has already become WW5.

  9. it would be more honest to say he was made in Riyadh’, under the watchful eye of Prince Turki and Adeeb of the Istikbarat (General
    Intelligence) re; Coll’s Ghost Wars,and the Islamabad, of Yousef, Akhtar and Gul’s ISI, who selected Hekmatyar, Raisul Sayyaf, and
    Haqquani and Younis, as their proxies. But that did not get to the point that he was trying to deny Arab complicity in the attack, in
    a similar way that Siraj has been revealed to be a Salafist booster, but still on Bloomberg’s Human Rights commission. or how Aulaqi condemned 9/11 but cultivated future Ansars ‘helpers’ from Leeds to Toronto to Killeen

  10. We’ve seen that formulation pop up with all too many critics of the Afghan intervention and the fight against AQ, Moore seemed to think
    the only bad thing about AQ was their connection toBush,Arundhata (sic)Roy postulated that he was just Bush’s doppelganger, Le Carre, similarly showing he hasn’t known who the enemy is since 1979. Rall made a bid deal of the gas pipeline, that cuts through the Stans, all fancy ways of saying ‘we deserved it’.

    Obama revealed a similar blinkered mindset in the letter to that Chicago paper that first week in September, he saw that this would
    interfere in his efforts against ‘negative liberties’, the search for
    redistribution of wealth and community organization. He opposed the Iraq war, but then supported funding it,when some of his Baathist benefactors were involved. And he stigmatized the chosen effort to attack AQ targets in Pakistan, as ‘deliberately air raiding villages and killing civilians’ much of what he has done in the last year

  11. Recounting the history of the US in the Arab and or Muslim world, adding up the debits and credits according to one’s own calculus, doesn’t add much to ones’s understanding before the exercise (although it can be useful to clarify what one’s understanding is.)

    If one takes on the task of trying to understanding Rauf’s remark, a useful place might be to consider what he might have meant, without evaluation until the task is done.

    So what might be the crime to which the Us is anaccessory be? Joe begins his history chronologically with this.

    Further back in time, the United States, again acting as a sovereign nation state, was the first to recognize the nation state of Israel, extending recognition literally within seconds of Ben Gurion’s declaration of Israeli independence.

    Referring to Ben Gurion might be precisily on point. From the Wiki article on Gurion:

    Ben-Gurion recognized the strong attachment of Palestinian Arabs to the land but hoped that this would be overcome in time. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote that in a conversation about “the Arab problem” in 1956, Ben-Gurion stated: “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country … There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it is simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army.”[

    Might it be that the is the crime the US is accessory to after the fact? If so, the credits in US behavior to Arabs/Mulisms may be mitigation, but do not undo the ongoing continuation of the crime of the debits starting with the recognition of Israel within moments of its declaration of existence.

    After all, here we are, pretty much at or past Gurion’s 2 generations and the Arabs have not forgotten.

    Was it ever reasonable to expect them to?

  12. BOB/Referring to Ben Gurion might be precisily on point. From the Wiki article on Gurion—”

    Thanks for the reference,finally an honest,direct comment from the past; no politician today would be so forthright.

  13. Goldmann shows himself to have been extraordinarily naive about the Arabs, did not the ’29, and ’36 results teach him anything. Or Haj Amin
    Husseini’s alliance with Hitler and his proxies in Central Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East which includes the farhud of ’41. Not to mention the very presence of Jews in Czarist Russia which seemed to provoke the likes of Ignatiev, Trepov, Pobostdenev. There is no reason behind hatred, in the final analysis

  14. @ bob:
    There may be an Israeli or Palestinian lurking in the background, but, just insofar as far as Rauf’s direct comments were concerned, or for that matter the announced pretexts for AQ’s war against the U.S., Israel didn’t come up.

  15. Recounting the history of the US in the Arab and or Muslim world, adding up the debits and credits according to one’s own calculus, doesn’t add much to ones’s understanding before the exercise…

    I strongly disagree. The position of Rauf’s attackers amounts to “there are no meaningful debits.”

  16. CK MacLeod wrote:
    @ bob:
    There may be an Israeli or Palestinian lurking in the background, but, just insofar as far as Rauf’s direct comments were concerned, or for that matter the announced pretexts for AQ’s war against the U.S., Israel didn’t come up.

    Didn’t need to/Elephant/Room

  17. @ CK MacLeod:

    That’s their calculus. I don’t see a contradiction.

    What I meant to say is “Talking to oneself doesn’t generally increase one’s understanding of things except to clarify one’s own thinking.”

    As an absolute statement, probably not true.

    Maybe it was just a poorly realized rhetorical device.

  18. Incidentally, I agree that that’s a mouthful and a half from Ben Gurion. Best never think of it nor mention it again ;)

  19. But I still think that, even if Israel stands as a perhaps primary symbolic “crime,” the theft that proves Arabs are less equal than others, it’s still just a small part of what makes the U.S. a material “accessory,” and, getting specifically to the theme of this short post rather than the long one I just put up, just a small part of the 9/11 Truth displaced by Trutherism. I dislike counterfactuals, so I won’t say “if Israel had never been founded.” I’ll just say that the history of Western/U.S. involvement in the fate of the East didn’t begin and end with “the Jewish State.”

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Note on “9/11 Trutherism”"
  1. […] or his project from pre-emption.  I will point out, however, ( as I have already done in thread discussion with Joe NS) that Rauf was responding to a request for re-assurance:  If he believed that 9/11 was justified, […]

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