A prominent military strategist says he is considering "some kind of action" to defend his reputation after conspiracy theorists suggested that his work might have led to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"This is slander of the worst kind," Edward Luttwak, who has advised the State Department, the National Security Council, and several branches of the military, said.
"How come a public institution will accord any kind of job other than cleaning the bathrooms to a person who says these things? What were the people who appointed him thinking?" Mr. Luttwak added.
A September 11 conspiracy theorist, Kevin Barrett, had mentioned Mr. Luttwak's name when asked by The New York Sun to name those who could have been responsible for the attacks.
Mr. Barrett is among dozens of academics who have concluded that 19 Islamic hijackers did not hijack American aircraft and crash them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11. While they say they cannot be sure exactly who or what was responsible, they say they suspect that members of the American establishment planned the attacks.
"The most probable hypothesis is that it was a psychological operation to launch somewhere from 50 to 100 years of aggressive warfare against Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries," Mr. Barrett, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the Sun yesterday afternoon, shortly before his introductory course, Religion 370 — Islam: Religion and Culture.
The conspiracy theorists speculate that neoconservatives, many of whom have occupied senior positions in the White House, had long hoped for an attack on American soil comparable to Pearl Harbor that would justify a retaliatory action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.
With the fifth anniversary of September 11 approaching, the small but growing band of academics and conspiracists are trying to counter the conventional account of the history of September 11 as "essentially a Hollywood script."
"I can't swear that's God's truth, but that seems to be where the evidence is leaning," Mr. Barrett said.
If the 3,000 deaths were not the result of knife-wielding Al Qaeda terrorists, what is the explanation?
According to Mr. Barrett — along with a physics professor at Brigham Young University, Steve Jones, and an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, James Fetzer — the standard account is part of a cover-up. Mr. Barrett called the 9/11 Commission report "a 571-page lie."
The academics are part of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, and the people they suggest could be blamed for the attacks on America five years ago include President Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger; President Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski; Vice President Cheney, and the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz. Even the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, could have played a role, Mr. Barrett said.
A spokesman for the White House did not return a call seeking comment. Most of the officials, scholars, intellectuals, and politicians accused of planning, conspiring, condoning, and cheering the terrorist attacks also did not respond to requests for comment.
Although Mr. Luttwak — now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies — said he is disgusted by the September 11 conspiracy theories, he said they come from a feeling of powerlessness in parts of the Middle East. Theories of this type, which he said often have a patina of anti-Semitism, were common long before the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"There's nothing one can do about that. You cannot go around changing people's belief systems," he said.
"You cannot describe" Mr. Barrett "as a lone madman," Mr. Luttwak added. "His conspiracy theories are widely believed in the Muslim world."