Monday, October 29, 2007

Desperate defence of Arab 911 Terror Myth

First read the facts:

Then see the convoluted protracted mental acrobatics,1872,5590735_idDispatch:5477812,00.html


America is Somehow to Blame: German Public Television on 9/11

John Rosenthal

World Politics Review Exclusive

Last Sept. 11, German state-owned television ZDF marked the sixth
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by broadcasting a prime-time documentary
titled "September 11, 2001: What Really Happened." By enticingly implying
a discrepancy between what the film itself repeatedly terms the "official
version" of 9/11 and the reality of the events, the mere title of the film
already provides obvious grist for the mill of what might best be called
"alternative" 9/11 conspiracy-theorizing: "alternative" because in the
legal sense of the term, the 9/11 attacks were in fact the product of a
conspiracy. On the ZDF Web page promoting the documentary, this effect is
then underscored by a subtitle portentously announcing that "ZDF
Investigations Reinforce Accusations against Authorities." The
"authorities" in question are, of course, more specifically American
authorities. As is well known, for "alternative" 9/11 conspiracy
theorists, it is the latter -- and not Osama Bin Laden and the 19
identified hijackers -- that are supposed "really" to have been "behind"
the attacks: often -- though the German broadcaster tastefully avoids this
linkage -- in further connivance with the Israeli secret service Mossad.

When, however, Ray Drake of the German media-watch blog Medienkritik
called attention to ZDF's seeming pandering to the most disreputable
extremes of the 9/11 "truth" movement, his remarks quickly drew irate
reactions from some German-speaking defenders of ZDF. The counter-critics
argued that while the ZDF documentary did indeed give a platform to some
well-known alternative "conspiracy theorists," it in fact served to
"debunk" their theories. On the most generous assessment, ZDF had even
pulled off a sort of pedagogical coup de force: in effect, fooling the
most benighted sections of the German public into watching the documentary
by way of its salacious conspiracy-mongering title and promotional
material -- only in order then to set them straight about the
erroneousness of the alternative "theories." (For the original post and
discussion on Medienkritik, see here.)

And, indeed, the ZDF documentary does not exactly endorse the hypothesis
that 9/11 was the product of a U.S. government conspiracy. It does not,
however, reject it out of hand either. While it concludes that most of the
variants of the government conspiracy "theory" are perhaps wrong -- or
"unproven," as the narrator puts it, in the conspicuously noncommittal
final word with which the documentary concludes -- what is so remarkable
about the ZDF documentary is precisely that it treats them throughout as
eminently reasonable and hence worthy of serious debate. It thereby, in
effect, serves to render them, as one says in German, salonfähig: i.e.
acceptable in polite company.

In fact, the thesis of U.S. government and/or Israeli involvement in the
9/11 attacks was already flourishing just on the edges of the established
media in Germany long before such "theories," having wafted across the
Atlantic, gave rise to similar offshoots in the United States. But even
for Germany, ZDF's remarkable indulgence toward the alternative conspiracy
theorists represents a significant change in attitude as far as the
mainstream is concerned. Thus, for example, in an August 2003 report on
its "Panorama" news magazine (video clip), Germany's other public
television network, ARD, raised the alarm about a boom in Germany of what
the title of the report describes from the outset as "absurd" 9/11
conspiracy theories. "People all over the world were there as it occurred
'live' on their television screens," Panorama's online summary of its
report begins:

No terrorist attack has been so thoroughly documented. But self-styled
experts on September 11th dispute the facts, suppose that deception and
conspiracy lies behind everything, and claim that only they know who was
truly behind the attacks and what the real motivations were. Thus, on
their account, the World Trade Center was brought down through the use of
explosives, the Pentagon was hit not by an airplane but by a missile, and
at least some of the alleged hijackers are still alive.

"All sheer nonsense," the Panorama editors conclude, in the same tone of
bewilderment as characterizes the report itself, "but more and more people
believe it and enthusiastically buy the books of the conspiracy
theorists." Panorama refers here to a whole list of German bestsellers: by
well-known authors like Mathias Bröckers, a former editor at the popular
"leftist" daily die Tageszeitung, and Andreas von Bülow, a former minister
of research in the Social Democratic government of Helmut Schmidt -- as
well, of course, as the "dean" of 9/11 "conspiracy theorists," the
Frenchman Thierry Meyssan. This is in the summer of 2003: at a time when
"alternative" 9/11 conspiracy theorizing in the United States was still
largely confined to the murkiest backwaters of the Internet.

Note that the Panorama report explicitly draws attention to the
irrational, esoteric quality of the "theories": as highlighted by the
pretense of their purveyors to be in possession of an exclusive knowledge
that stands in bold contrast to the allegedly deceptive obviousness of the
widely known facts. Unlike their colleagues at ZDF, moreover, the ARD
editors did not shy away from mentioning the use by the alternative
"theorists" of the nefarious, esoteric explanation of merely "apparent"
political facts par excellence: namely, the hypothesis of a specifically
"Zionist conspiracy." "There is no respectable conspiracy without the
Jews," the Panorama narrator remarks ironically, amidst footage of
interviews with the neo-Nazi Horst Mahler and the Social Democrat von
Bülow. "If Israeli Mossad agents are to be believed," von Bülow remarks,
"psychological warfare can also lead to the employment of terrorist acts
against one's own population." And then he concludes: "so, the Israeli
side possibly played a role in 9/11."

The change of tone in the ZDF documentary could hardly be more patent.
(The full video can be viewed here.) Now the alternative "theorists" are
no longer the purveyors of wildly implausible allegations, which are
plainly contradicted by banal and well-known facts. Instead, they are
respectable, even courageous, seekers of truth, whose allegations can only
be disproved, if they can be disproved, by additional research: such, for
instance, as the "investigations" undertaken by ZDF's intrepid documentary
team of Michael Renz and Guy Smith.

Now the "theories" of the likes of a von Bülow are not the product of
morbid phantasms and prodigious logical leaps, but of reasoned, if
ultimately perhaps faulty, reflection. It is none other than the "Former
Federal Minister of Research" Andreas von Bülow who is brought out by the
ZDF documentarians to set the stage for the other "skeptics": a motley
crew of American acolytes of the European "theorists," including the Texas
radio show host Alex Jones and Dylan Avery, the 23-year-old director of
the Internet documentary "Loose Change." Referring to the "official
version" of the events, von Bülow says: "That is the conspiracy theory
that the Americans disseminate and that gives them the justification for
fighting a worldwide war against terrorism, usually in Muslim countries
with oil or mineral resources. I believe this story is not true, that
there is a completely different background. And there are many, many
skeptics . . ." And then the narrator continues, as if speaking in a
single voice with von Bülow, "and many open questions." Unlike in the ARD
report, von Bülow is never once confronted with his widely-publicized
opinions about Israeli involvement in 9/11.

Now it is not the alternative "theories" of 9/11 that are inherently
dubious, but rather the -- supposedly! -- known facts themselves: the
ominous "official version." "Most people know where they were as the
towers burned," the narration begins, "but do they know what really
happened?" And thereafter even the most well-established and
uncontroversial facts about the attacks are persistently stylized into
mere hypotheses. Thus, for example, as pictures of Mohammad Atta and his
accomplices flash rapidly across the screen, the narrator refers to the
perpetrators of the attacks -- or rather those "presented [as such] to the
world by America's government" -- as "19 young men, allegedly [angeblich]
armed with box-cutters." Shortly thereafter, as debris from the twin
towers is shown, he speaks of "the remains of two giants that were made to
collapse by Osama Bin Laden's young martyrs -- so it is said [heißt es]."

When the ZDF "investigators" manage finally to cast doubt upon one or
another of even the most ludicrous arguments of the "theorists," moreover,
it is only ever after a seemingly immense intellectual effort -- when
simple common sense ought to have sufficed. Thus, for example, the ZDF
documentarians, in perfect harmony with the paranoid mindset of the
"skeptics," treat it as being inherently suspicious that the hijacked
passenger jets that crashed into the World Trade Center were not shot down
by American fighter jets -- elements of "the best air defense in the
world," as the narration repeatedly emphasizes. They thus reason as if the
use of passenger jets as projectiles against buildings was a commonly
known practice before 9/11 and, furthermore, as if the obviously knotty
ethical question of whether it would be acceptable to shoot down passenger
jets under such circumstances had already been resolved. Needless to say,
there had never been any real world occasion even just to pose this
question, much less resolve it, prior to 9/11. Moreover -- as Michael
Renz, the German co-director of the documentary, must know -- it remains
to this day a subject of vigorous debate even in Germany.

It is only after speaking with Stephen Trimble from Jane's Defense Weekly,
who politely explains to them various technical details of the American
air defense response on 9/11, that the filmmakers allow that the inaction
of the fighter jets might not, after all, be evidence of a government
conspiracy. "Many experts agree," the narration of the segment concludes,
"the mightiest military machine in the world completely failed." Never
mind that Trimble has not in fact quite said this. He has merely pointed
to the fact that U.S. air defense was not prepared for the scenario
presented by the 9/11 attacks: noting, among other things, that while
fighter jets were indeed eventually scrambled, they were not given
definite orders. But for the ZDF documentarians the premise that the
inaction of the fighter jets is "surprising" must be preserved -- and
thereby too the pretense that the "doubts" of the "skeptics" are

It is indeed on the question of shooting down passenger jets that the
filmmakers, in effect, show their hand: inadvertently revealing that what
they present as reasonable "doubts" or "skepticism" amounts instead to
simple irrational prejudice. Thus, in a later segment of the documentary
devoted to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.,
evidence is presented that is supposed to suggest that UA93 was indeed
shot down and not intentionally crashed by the hijackers, as according to
the "official version." The filmmakers eventually reject these
indications, while noting -- in the ever ominous tones of the narrator --
that the U.S. government is continuing to hold other evidence classified:
such, for example, as the bodies of the hijackers. "Why?" the narrator
asks, as if there was something deeply troubling about this. Note that in
the earlier segment, the fact that U.S. authorities did not shoot down
passenger jets is supposed to provide prima facie evidence of a U.S.
government conspiracy; in the Shanksville segment, however, alleged
evidence that U.S. authorities did in fact shoot down UA93 is supposed
likewise to provide prima facie evidence of a U.S. government conspiracy.
This is to say, in effect, that for the filmmakers -- as indeed for the
"theorists" -- everything and its opposite is prima facie evidence of a
U.S. government conspiracy.

The final abiding message of the ZDF documentary is that America is, in
any case, somehow to blame: if not perhaps for the attacks themselves,
then at least for the fact that the "skeptics" believe that America was
responsible for the attacks. Thus, as in the Shanksville segment, the
narration repeatedly pillories the American government for its alleged
"secretiveness" [Geheimniskrämerei]: which, we are told -- twice --
"provides the ideal soil for conspiracy theories." The main evidence the
filmmakers adduce for this charge is that the authorities that they
contacted were evidently less than enthusiastic about meeting all the
demands of ZDF. There was, ZDF concludes, a "conspiracy after the
conspiracy": an ambiguous formulation, which appears to imply that perhaps
the U.S. government was also in on the "first" conspiracy, after all.

In the same spirit, when Alex Jones notes that "there are countless
examples of the U.S. government lying to its own people," the ZDF
narration wholeheartedly agrees, helpfully providing the examples:
"Richard Nixon and Watergate, the Iran-Contra Scandal, Clinton and Monica
Lewinsky" -- and, of course, the clincher: "Saddam's Weapons of Mass
Destruction." As the latter words are spoken, the viewer is treated to an
archival clip of a Donald Rumsfeld press conference. This is then followed
by extended footage of George W. Bush awkwardly joking about missing
weapons of mass destruction at the 2004 Radio and Television
Correspondents Association dinner, artfully inter-spliced with infrared
camera shots appearing to show American troops breaking into Iraqi homes
and taking civilians prisoner.

The implication is unmistakable: if the Bush administration could lie
about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, why could it not lie about
9/11? And if one can be so sure that the Bush administration did "lie"
about Iraqi weaponry as the ZDF producers appear to be: why not indeed?
(Ironically, in the archival clip used by ZDF, Donald Rumsfeld can clearly
be heard saying that "we know" that Iraq has "active weapons programs" --
thus highlighting the actual justification of the Iraq War that has been
obscured by the narrow focus on weapon stocks in the habitual "Bush Lied!"
scenario. On the whole matter, see my "16 Words, 500 Tons and 28

ZDF's supposed "revelation" that the fire insulation in one of the two
twin towers was not up to regulation standards represents yet another
variant on the same central motif of, so to say, "internalizing" the blame
for the death and destruction of 9/11. The source of these allegations, a
former New York City Fire Department official by the name of Vincent Dunn,
can be heard pathetically "confessing" that "we all have responsibility":
which in the ZDF translation becomes "we are all responsible." (The ZDF
"investigators" manage erroneously to identify Dunn as "the former Fire
Department Chief of Manhattan," thus providing additional gravitas to the

Never once in the ZDF documentary, however, is serious attention drawn to
the responsibility of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks and
their al-Qaida enablers and co-conspirators. The results of a ZDF online
poll that appears on the promotional page for the documentary are thus
hardly surprising. Asked to identify "who pulled the strings" in the 9/11
attacks, fully 66 percent of respondents, as of this writing, have chosen
either "George W. Bush" (26 percent) or "U.S. Authorities" (25 percent) or
the "Armaments Lobby" (15 percent). The fourth and remaining choice,
"Osama Bin Laden," is given the nod by only 26 percent of respondents.

Such a marked lack of interest in the real background to the 9/11 attacks
is especially curious in the case of a German public television network.
As is well known, three of the four lead hijackers involved in the 9/11
attacks came from Hamburg, Germany. As is equally well known, a fourth
member of the so-called "Hamburg cell," Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, was denied
entry into the United States, but continued to facilitate the attacks from
German soil. The Hamburg terrorist cell has often been described as a
"sleeper" cell. But one knowledgeable German observer has noted that the
members' behavior was so flagrant that this description is misleading.
(See here, for instance, from ARD's "Panorama".) The author of this
observation is not some marginal "conspiracy theorist" like radio show
host Alex Jones or the 23-year-old Dylan Avery. It is none other than Kay
Nehm: Germany's Chief Public Prosecutor at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
This is perhaps a subject to which ZDF will want to devote a documentary
on the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic relations. He
is a WPR contributing editor.,1872,5590735_idDispatch:5477812,00.html

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