It's happened a few times here in Europe recently, after the London bombings. Talk turns to terrorism, and some dewey-eyed European asks me who I think really committed the 9/11 attacks. I venture a wild guess: "How about 19 hijackers, under the leadership of Khalid Sheik Mohammed?" I venture. Really? They ask suspiciously. Don't you think it might have been the CIA, or the Bush family?
At this point, there are two options. If the poor, benighted European happens to be an attractive female, I point out that they have been deluded by a conspiracy theory, and that it's generally considered rather silly to believe things when there's no evidence to support them. Then I change the subject.
If they're not an attractive female, I tell them "No, I don't think that the CIA or the Bush family somehow plotted the attacks, and further I think anybody who does think that is a f*cking moron." Naturally, because most of he people asking these questions believe this theory, they are a tad offended. So be it. We Texans are funny that way.
"But how can you be so naïve as to believe the official version?" they ask me. They point me to books like Die CIA und der 11. September by Andreas von Bülow, former technology minister in Helmut Schmidt's government. Here is the Amazon editorial review summary of his book (my translation):
For his strongly conspiratorial book, von Bülow has cobbled together various more- or less-plausible doubts concerning the events of 9/11. The author suggests a scenario all his own: The hijacked planes were actually remote-controlled by secret agents and directed into the twin towers. However, the impact of the planes alone would not have collapsed the two buildings. Therefore, key load-bearing pillars in the buildings were simultaneously detonated. The point of the action: Israel and the CIA wanted to use the attacks as pretexts in order to be able to continue their anti-Islamic foreign policy unhindered.
Secret agents! Remote-controlled planes! Simultaneous explosions! Scheming, murderous Americans and Jews! It's like a Bond film -- only stupider.
Who believes this tosh, you ask? A surprising number of people who should know better -- and at least three apparently-normal humans I've met in the last week. A couple of them are even lawyers, which is pretty disturbing. Fortunately, they are still a small minority, and forces of reason are also afoot in Europe. Der Spiegel, for instance, never known for its fanatically pro-U.S. coverage, has devoted a good long article to pointing out how utterly stupid these theories are. The English version is here.
When I encounter one of these folks who is not an attractive female, I've developed a catalog of questions for them. It goes a little like this. OK, if you're such an expert on the 9/11 attacks and the "myth" of Islamic extremist terrorism, I'd like you to tell me: How many hijackers were there (according to the "official version")? About how many persons managed to use cellphones to call relatives from the airplanes during the hijackings? What countries did the hijackers come from? What is the name of the [alleged] 20th hijacker, who is currently on trial in the United States? Who was the financial and logistical mastermind of the 9/11 attacks? Is he still on the loose, or has he been captured? Who is acknowledged as the spiritual father of modern Islamic extremism? When, where and how did this person die?
I could go on, but usually 5-10 questions is enough. I have yet to meet any of the Euro-conspirators who can answer more than 1 or 2 of them, and most can't answer any at all, even the most simple. It's disappointing how lazy these folks are. A real conspiracy buff, after all, knows even the official "inside" story absolutely cold, and you can often learn something from him. These people, however, haven't the faintest idea what the official story is, and cannot even formulate one plausible argument to explain why they doubt it.
At the end of my cross-examination, they are usually humiliated and silent. Sometimes they mumble something about how they're "still not convinced," or about how "there's no point learning all these fake details, because they have nothing to do with the real cause of the attacks, etc." But, in fact, they look like the fools they are, and they're not happy about it.
Then I switch from bad cop to good cop. I say to them: "Listen, I've got a suggestion for you. If you're such an expert on the attacks, and so interested in them, I suggest you read the Report of the 9/11 Commission. It's free, you can download it here. I've read it myself; it's thorough, surprisingly well-written, and dramatic. After you've read it, let's meet again and you can explain to me what its weak points are."
I haven't had any takers yet...