2009-12-08 update: I've rethought the idea behind this post and rewritten it as a quiz consisting of a set of independent questions. See this entry.
There is a range of positions to take on 9/11 and the official explanation thereof; here is a sampling, ranging from "conformist" to "not credible":
The official story
is essentially correct and complete. Our leaders, whatever their flaws, acted in the best interests of our country and of civilization in a tremendous crisis and did the best they could to investigate this horrendous crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.B.
The official story is essentially correct, though investigation could have been less sloppy and more thorough. There was some political infighting which hampered investigation unnecessarily. There are probably a number of details we will never know, but knowing them would not significantly affect our understanding of the events of that horrible day. Further investigation is not needed, and would only be a waste of time and money.C.
The official story is sufficiently incomplete and/or self-contradictory that there really should be a new investigation, if only to get those conspiracy nuts to take a stress pill and get on with their lives.D.
The official story is not only incomplete and self-contradictory, but it is also pretty clear that the investigation was actively obstructed. The fact that nobody has been charged with obstruction of justice is highly suspicious, and is an indication of a large cover-up of some kind (though this does not necessarily implicate the cover-uppers in the original crime, nor does it necessarily indicate the involvement of high-level government officials in the cover-up). There should be a new investigation, and it must be set up in a way to prevent the same cover-ups and obfuscations from occurring again.E.
The official story is not only incomplete and self-contradictory, but it is also pretty clear that the investigation was actively obstructed with the cooperation and knowledge of top-level officials. This is highly suspicious, and leads one to wonder what they are protecting, but it is probably nothing worse than a realization that they screwed up badly in allowing the attacks to happen, and not wanting that fact to come to light.F.
Although there is no "smoking gun" and most of the relevant evidence is circumstantial, the overwhelming body of that evidence points clearly to top-level deliberate enablement of the terrorist attacks. It may have been passive rather than active -- opportunistic rather than planned -- but the truth remains that given the choice of taking action to prevent the (then-hypothetical) attacks or leaving the door open, there is strong evidence that multiple doors were left open.G.
There is evidence of active collusion by top-level Bush Administration officials in the events of 9/11. This collusion includes: hampering and shutting down investigations of those who later became the 9/11 hijackers, hampering and shutting down US translations of tapped terrorist communications, deployment of most of the air interception force to a distant location and other changes intended to slow down the interception response, Cheney apparently refusing to authorize some sort of fire on one of the planes, and numerous other actions.H.
There is a large body of evidence that the towers were not brought down by the planes but by internal explosions of some kind. The nature of these explosions is unclear, but there is considerable resemblance to controlled demolition. It is not known who could have planted the explosives, or how they could have gotten past security to do so, but the fact that the official investigation has casually brushed off the very idea of explosions (and failed to follow up on several strong leads, including the involvement of GWB's brother Marvin in the company providing security for the WTC and odd security activity in the twin towers just a few weeks before 9/11), despite the evidence, is beyond suspicious.I.
A cabal of top US officials (including Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld) conspired to engineer 9/11. The planes were all rigged with remote-control autopilot devices, security officers planted the explosives on the twin towers (and WTC7) during the weekend when security cameras were off due to a maintenance-related power failure.X.
For thoroughness, some theories which Just Don't Fit or make any kind of sense: There were no planes; TV videos were faked using live CGI, witnesses who saw planes are suffering from "suggested memory" syndrome... or they weren't planes, but missiles... or the planes weren't normal civilian airliners, but special planes with blacked-out windows, and some sort of weird devices strapped to the fuselage; the real flights were swapped for these planes at an undisclosed location, and the fate of the passengers is unknown. The towers were brought down by antimatter beams, or "micro-nukes", or Muppets from outer space*.(*yes, this is guilt-by-association and argument-by-ridicule; my point is that I don't believe these assertions anymore than you do. If I had seen an even slightly compelling argument for any of them, I wouldn't be dismissing them.)
I would call [F] (and up) "contrarian", but I'm not sure it's fair to call [F] and [G] "conspiracy theories", since all they are asserting is that (a) the official explanation is unsatisfactory, and (b) there is evidence
of shenanigans which needs to be investigated.
[H] seems to be firmly defined by the public as a "conspiracy theory" -- I suppose the "theory" is that the towers were deliberately brought down rather than falling as the natural consequence of the aircraft collision, but the theory doesn't say anything about a conspiracy. [H] doesn't know how it happened or who did it, just that the public and official explanations don't fit the data. The phrase "conspiracy theory
is nonetheless used as a brush to tar [H] as no better (no saner, no more plausible, no more reasonable or measured) than [I] or even [X].
[I] is definitely a conspiracy theory.
The Truther phrase "9/11 was an inside job" obviously refers to [I], but it also fits [D]-[H] -- and it is on that basis that I agree with and support it.
[D] seems to me the minimum defensible position, and [H] the maximum. [I] is credible as a theory, but the emphasis at this point should be on following the evidence wherever it may lead -- not presupposing a conclusion and looking for evidence that fits it. (Not scientific. Nekulturny. Bad.)
I started from the position that the towers collapsed due to mechanical damage and overwhelming heat, but found myself unable to dismiss the evidence of explosives. (I can remember at least one reversal, where I had initially bought into explosives but then convinced myself that pyro-mechanical collapse, and the unusualness of the circumstances, were sufficient to explain the evidence... but then I saw more evidence, and more evidence...) Hence my classification of [H] as "defensible" while [I] is "just a theory".
Obviously, though, I am willing to defend any of the contrarian points up through [H], and will even defend the proposition that [I] fits the available evidence (though it is certainly far from conclusive).