Internet: Once confined to wacky Web sites, 9-11 conspiracy theories are gaining currency in academia. Now a new poll shows one in three Americans believe 9-11 was an "inside job" by the Bush administration.
'Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it's 'very likely' or 'somewhat likely' that federal officials either 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,' " concludes a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,010 adults.
More scholars are lending credence to such nonsense. A closer look reveals they are mostly Islamic apologists and Bush haters from typically leftist campuses.
Wisconsin professor Kevin Barrett, for one, teaches a course on Islam that whitewashes the 1,400-year history of jihad against the West. Echoing a common belief among Muslims, Barrett posits that neocons led by Vice President Dick Cheney toppled the twin towers with secretly planted explosives.
Of course, the 9-11 commission concluded after 1,200 interviews that Muslim hijackers were to blame. Still, the mainstream media haven't done enough to knock down the silly rumors, letting them persist, perhaps by design. Allow us to set the record straight:
Myth: The collapse of the towers was aided by explosives secretly planted in the two buildings. (Fully 16% of Americans subscribe to the theory.)
Fact: Thousands of gallons of burning jet fuel rained down from the top floors where the planes crashed, and heated and weakened the buildings' girders below to the point where they could no longer hold the weight above, causing all the floors to collapse in a chain reaction. (The girders were not protected by fire-retardant asbestos material.) The National Institute of Standards and Technology filed 10,000 pages of reports that found fires caused by the fuel-laden planes were more than sufficient to collapse the buildings.
Myth: The Pentagon was struck by a military cruise missile rather than by an airliner commandeered by terrorists. (Twelve percent suspect this is true.)
Fact: Dozens of eyewitnesses saw the Boeing 757 crash into the Pentagon. And all passengers but one have been identified through DNA, dental records, fingerprints and other evidence at the scene. Before the jetliner slammed into the building, some passengers described the hijacking in phone calls to folks on the ground. Conspiracy nuts would have us believe American Airlines Flight 77 and its 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots simply disappeared that morning . . . perhaps over the Bermuda Triangle.
Myth: Mossad had a hand in the 9-11 attack as part of an Israeli plot to draw the U.S. into a war against Islam.
Fact: The first hero on 9-11 was Daniel Lewin, an ex-Israeli commando who battled with Mohamed Atta and other hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to crash into the towers. He was also the first to die. News of his murder was relayed by two of the flight attendants via mobile phones before the crash.
Myth: President Bush and Cheney had advance knowledge of the 9-11 attack and let it proceed to start a war over oil or against Islam.
Fact: For one thing, the first lady was at the U.S. Capitol that morning, and the Capitol was the intended target of the fourth flight the hijackers aborted over Pennsylvania. More, Donald Rumsfeld was in the Pentagon when the third plane smashed into it. You'd think the defense secretary, of all people, would be in on such a conspiracy. Apparently he didn't get the memo from the White House. Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose wife Barbara died aboard Flight 77, also apparently was cut out of the loop.
Myth: Bush threatened the Taliban with military action before 9-11, forcing them to launch a pre-emptive strike against us.
Fact: The 9-11 attack was planned years before Bush ever set foot in office, and the hijackers began their flight training while candidate Bush was still on the hustings. Atta the ringleader entered the U.S. in June 2000. Fact is, Osama bin Laden hatched the plot during the Clinton administration, yet conspiracymongers don't seem to want to make any connections there.
Religious extremists attacked us five years ago, plain and simple, and now political extremists on the left are attacking the Bush administration. This is the only real conspiracy related to 9-11.