The Village Voice recently featured a blog piece, followed by many interesting comments, on the proliferation of 9/11 conspiracy theories.  Are those who believe such theories simply nuts?  Are they doing the right thing, at least, by questioning the “official version” of the story?  Either way, their cause has some legs because according to the article, which cites a Zogby Poll (and I find this hard to believe in a country in which the one third of the population consistently supports the President):


A startling 36 percent of Americans now believe the Bush administration either perpetrated the attacks or failed to stop them because it wanted to go to war in the Middle East [and]


Forty-two percent of Americans believe the U.S. government and 9-11 commission are in some way covering up the truth of 9-11.

One needn’t believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories to see who was the clear victor on that day.  It was, resoundingly, the Bush administration.  Whether the Bush administration powers-that-be knew or didn’t know what would happen; whether they turned their heads or didn’t turn their heads; whether the catastrophe was a result of their cynicism or their negligence; whether they were shocked, shaken, horrified, or grief-stricken, they must have known, very soon after, what a victory the event was for their party and for the neoconservative agenda.

The event, within a matter of days, justified a sweeping revamp of executive power, long on the Dick Cheney and neoconservative “to do list.”  It gave the President not only the already legally sanctioned right to make independent decisions in a time of war, but it gave him an excuse to push through other policy agendas, such as the NSA surveillance program, without the support of Congress or the sanction of the courts.  It seemingly justified his self-anointed role as “The Decider.”

The Decider

After 9/11, the Bush administration had the almost unanimous support of Congress and the support of a large majority of the American people.  Congress rubber-stamped (98-1) the Patriot Act without debate and some legislators approved it without even reading it.  Most importantly for the Bush administration, they were able to use 9/11 as a leverage point for their nearly monomaniacal plans for Iraq.  They were able to conflate Al-Qaeda, “The War on Terror,” and Saddam Hussein, and they were able to use the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” within the context of all-too-vivid imagery of what a weapon of mass destruction can actually do.  Whether or not Saddam actually had such weapons seemed almost beside the point.

And how fortuitous it was for them that the tragedy occurred less than two months prior to Election Day, so that, every year, they can trot out the same old slogans about the war on terror, play upon people’s fears, and market Republicans as the party that is “tough on terror.”  Each September they can exploit the shocking imagery to the max without even directly referring to it (although they do that often enough) and without being accused of exploiting it, since it is already all over the media.  They can use the debate about war, terrorism, and security as a distraction that allows them to push through legislation that gives tax cuts to the rich, irreversibly harms the environment, and short changes education and the country’s infrastructure (see New Orleans levees).  They can cater to big business and the oil industry with nary a peep of critique because everyone, including the media, has their eyes fixed on Iraq and the ongoing (and almost by definition never-ending) “War on Terror.”  Oil prices can go up, wages can remain stagnant, and the health care system can remain an expensive mess, because all we ever hear about is Iraq and terrorism.  It is almost all that we have to respond to.

The neoconservatives have been able to use 9/11 as an exquisite justification for their Project for the New American Century.  And the longstanding US, and particularly conservative, policy of nearly unconditional support for Israel seemed almost sensible in light of what Muslim extremists were actually capable of.  Never mind that unconditional support for Israel is actually more part of the problem than part of the solution.

In short, all of the main policy agendas of the neocons, the Rumsfelds, the Cheneys, the Wolfowitz’s and the Kristols, have been justified or aided by the events of 9/11.

The Latin proverb says that it is the “victor [who] rewrites history.”  The Bush administration was the clear victor in the 9/11 attack , and almost from day one they rewrote the history of that event, by linking Saddam Hussein and “the axis of evil” to it and, now, by purveying, through right-wing hacks and shills, shamelessly blatant propaganda in the form of “The Path to 9/11.” 

And who were the biggest losers that day?  The American people.  Not only because they lost a cultural icon and 3000 souls, but also because they lost some of their freedom and privacy, some of their good sense, and a lot of the world’s good will.