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Fact-checking the Empire

by Berry Friesen (September 30, 2016)

The way the mainstream media tell the story, the empire is a positive force in the world for peace, economic stability and the rule of law.  This characterization provides moral legitimacy, which is the key to the empire’s spiritual power over our hearts and minds.

Yet frequently the facts do not support the empire’s narrative.  Here are a few important examples.

1. The war in Syria is not so much a “civil war” as an invasion by outside powers.
An estimated 30,000 foreign fighters are engaged in the effort to bring down the government of Syria. They fight in groups that go by multiple names, but all are Salafist in ideology, committed to the use of violence to impose on Syria a rigid, sectarian version of Sunni Islam similar to what currently dominates Saudi Arabia.

These foreign fighters are equipped with arms bought and paid for by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf Cooperation Council states.  They are supplied through channels facilitated by neighboring Turkey, Israel and Jordan.  They are trained by advisors from NATO countries (including the US). When in battle, they receive sophisticated battlefield intelligence from about the movements and capacities of the Syrian army.

In late 2015, Russia and Iran came to Syria’s assistance at the request of the Syrian government, which has a responsibility to repel invaders and protect the Syrian people. The presence of Russia and Iran in Syria is entirely consistent with international law.  

The US claims the right to be in Syria under a United Nations resolution (#2249) that encourages member nations to join the fight against ISIS (but see this discussion of the limiting nuances of that resolution).  However, the US role in Syria is much broader than its now-and-then attacks on ISIS.  The US has long supported so-called “moderate rebels” and by helping those “moderate rebels,” it has also supported al-Qaeda, under whose authority the “moderates” fight. Indeed, there are numerous reports (see also here) of the US directly arming and supporting al-Qaeda in Syria. These US involvements are all illegal under international law.

2. Western news sourced from “White Helmets” in Syria is unreliable.

Much of what is reported about Syria in the US and in Europe is sourced by the White Helmets, a civil defense group generously supported by Western governments and operating solely in jihadi-controlled areas of the country.  Certainly the group is involved in rescue operations, but it reports about only one side of this terrible war, which is the side Western media publicizes exclusively.

Most egregiously, the White Helmets act as a propaganda arm of the jihadi forces, manufacturing fake stories and misrepresenting facts that are then amplified by Western media and used to generate public support for the invasion of Syria.  Vanessa Beeley is a reporter for 21st Century Wire who has visited Syria and reported extensively on the role of the White Helmets in promoting Western hostility toward the Syrian government; see her reports here and here.  

3. The September 28th Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report blaming Russia for the attack on Malaysian Flight 17 is tainted by bias.

The July 17, 2014 attack occurred over Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Ukrainian government commenced an investigation into who was responsible.  The Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia joined in the investigation, promising confidentiality with regard to all information not approved for release by the Ukrainian government.  

The thing is, the Ukrainian government is a leading suspect in the crime; at the time of the attack, it had fighter planes in the air near MH17 and it had BUK missile batteries in the area of eastern Ukraine from which a ground-to-air missile apparently was fired.  So this particular investigation was led by what may be the guilty party.

The JIT concluded the BUK missile came from Russia (duh, only Russia manufactures BUK missiles so all such missiles come from Russia) and that it was fired by eastern Ukrainian dissenters in cooperation with Russia.  Well, that’s exactly what you would expect a Ukrainian-led report to say. See here and here for why we ought to be very skeptical of the JIT report.

4.  Wall Street and Washington orchestrated Brazil’s impeachment of its president, Dilma Rousseff.

Behind the scenes, the struggle of nations to break free of the iron economic grip of the empire goes on. A case in point is Brazil, which has in recent years elected presidents who prioritized national development over the interests of the empire and cooperated with other mid-sized nations (India, South Africa and Russia) to establish global institutions outside of the empire’s control.

The empire’s response is detailed in a revealing article by William Engdahl, “Washington Tries to Break BRICS—Rape of Brazil Begins.”   Trumped-up charges of corruption were leveled against Rousseff to serve as a pretext for her opponents to remove her from office.  

What convinced her opponents to take this step?  In part it was fear; the US secretly surveilled Brazil’s top officials for years and could easily blackmail those who refused to cooperate with the plan to depose Rousseff.  And in part it was greed;  the new president of Brazil plans to sell off prime national assets into private hands and this will open unprecedented opportunities for insiders to amass private fortunes.

Engdahl provides this summary:  “The removal of Dilma Rousseff and her Workers’ Party after 13 years in Brazil’s leadership was a new form of Color Revolution from Washington, one we might call a judicial coup by corrupt judges and congressmen. Of the 594 members of the Congress, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reported, ‘318 are under investigation or face charges’ while their target, President Rousseff, ‘herself faces no allegation of financial impropriety’.”

What has happened to Brazil must strike fear into every national leader who seeks to lead his/her nation along a path that is different from what the empire wants.  They will be targeted for removal.  

Brazil’s travail is highly relevant to Russia, which is the empire’s #1 target for regime change.  For more on that, see Michael Hudson’s and Paul Craig Roberts’ essay, “Can Russia Learn from Brazil’s Fate?”.

A Hunger for Authenticity

by Berry Friesen (September 26, 2016)

“Authenticity” is not a word generally associated with Donald Trump. After all, he says whatever suits his interests at the moment.  Exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies are his modus operandi.

Yet his broad appeal as a candidate is partly due to the fact that he seems more authentic than Hillary Rodham Clinton.  He’s more spontaneous, less scripted, more candid.  Though frequently regarded as insincere, his insincerity seems to mock the staged pretense of conventional political norms.  We might say Trump’s so phony he is real.  And these days, people want “real,” even if in the form of a con-man.

Granted, this describes a pretty desperate state of affairs. Could it be that Americans are so jaded—so sick-and-tired of pretense and posturing in political life—that they are willing to embrace an inexperienced braggart?   Based on Trump’s popularity, many people are.

Yet it’s not hard to explain how we have slipped into such a state.  We are living in a nation saturated by deception and dishonesty.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago and the emergence of the United States as the world’s sole super-power, America’s leaders have used propaganda to sell the American people continuous war against nations that have done us no harm.

First it was Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, then Muammar Gaddafi and his genocide against the people of eastern Libya, then Bashar al-Assad and the tyranny with which he ruled Syria, then Viktor Yanukovych and his corrupt impoverishment of the Ukraine.  Now it’s Russia’s Vladimir Putin, said to be another Hitler.

None of this was or is true.  These men did not threaten America; they were stigmatized as part of a campaign to manipulate the American people into supporting international aggression and the deaths of two million people living in the Middle East and North Africa.

But continuous, inconclusive war is only the start of the frustration Americans are experiencing.

America’s government insists 9/11 was planned and executed by al-Qaeda, but it now trains and equips Islamic extremists to fight with and for al-Qaeda against the Syrian government. How can this be tolerated by our leaders?

America’s government claims Da’esh (ISIS) is a serious threat, but it continues to work hand-in-hand with the very Middle Eastern governments (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states) that keep Da’esh strong and well-equipped.

During election campaigns, America’s politicians pretend to be part of a government by the people and for the people, but as soon as the election is over, they serve the moneyed interests of big campaign donors.

And though it’s politically correct for them to sympathize with average Americans struggling economically in the global economy, once the election is over it’s the bankers, weapons manufacturers and multi-national corporations who get the special care and the federal dollars.

So yes, Americans are hungry for authenticity in its leaders. Part of Trump’s appeal is that he is tapping into this vein of discontent.

None of this suggests Trump as President would set a different direction for America. His fondness of bravado, bullying and being #1 is highly congruent with an imperial approach.  He embraces the imperial identity of the United States with more enthusiasm than any American candidate since Teddy Roosevelt.

But if elected, Trump will not pretend to be a great humanitarian and lover of equality. The pretense will fall away; instead, he will exercise his power boldly, unapologetically and without wearing Obama's velvet gloves. For a nation tired of politicians who hide behind propaganda, Trump’s overt enthusiasm for US dominance in the world may be the quality that gets him elected President.

By stripping away America's humanitarian pretense, the election of Trump also would bring into focus the moral challenge of being citizens of the nation that leads the empire. And maybe, just maybe, with Trump as President, people of faith would discover the anti-imperial message of the Bible, reach out to one another in solidarity, and give voice to another way.

The Empire at Work

by Berry Friesen (September 20, 2016)

The war in Syria, now well into its sixth year, has brought death, injury and displacement to millions of Syrians.  It has been waged since the very beginning by mercenaries trained and/or equipped by a US-led coalition that wants to carve up Syrian territory and overthrow the legitimate government.

You thought Iraq and Libya were horrible?  Syria is worse.

Recent events there provide yet a deeper look into this mechanism of evil. Here are the highlights.

1. During early September, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov negotiated a multi-stage “cessation of hostilities” agreement to prepare the way for an end to the war.  The first stage began September 12.  It called for a week-by-week ceasefire between Russia’s ally (Syria) and the US ally (“moderate” rebels trying to overthrow the Syrian government).  It also made provisions for humanitarian relief and required “moderate” rebels to separate themselves from terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda that have invaded Syria.

2. The Syrian army complied with the ceasefire; the “moderate” rebels continued to attack Syrian government positions and remained embedded in al-Qaeda held areas alongside al-Qaeda fighters.  Some humanitarian aid was delivered, but not nearly enough.

3. Throughout the week of September 12, US military leaders criticized the cessation of hostilities agreement and expressed doubt about complying with the second stage of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, which requires US-Russia cooperation in targeting and attacking al-Qaeda and Da’esh (Islamic State).

4. On September 17, US-led fighter planes based in Iraq attacked Syrian army forces defending the Deir Ezzor airbase in eastern Syria from a siege by Da’esh.  Nearly 100 government troops were killed and many more were wounded.  Within ten minutes of the US-led air attack, Da’esh fighters attacked and routed Syrian government positions.  As a result of this incident, the city of Deir Ezzor (civilian population of 150,000) is in grave danger of being overrun by Da’esh.

5.  US officials have claimed the attack on Syrian forces was a mistake, but the facts suggest otherwise.  The attack focused on a strategic position the regular Syrian army had held constantly for months, usually under drone surveillance.  Though Da’esh forces were all around, US air power had not been deployed against those forces for two years. Under such circumstances, it is simply not credible to call the attack a mistake, especially not during a ceasefire agreement in which the US had agreed to coordinate with Russia all efforts against Da’esh.  Rather, it appears the attack was designed to force Syrian forces out of another eastern Syrian city, thereby clearing the way for the further carving up of Syria and a Salafist entity in the east.  See this MoonofAlabama commentary for more. (Sept. 21 addition:  see also "Attack on Aid Convoy" by Felicity Arbuthnot.)

6.  On September 19, the Syrian government announced it would not extend the ceasefire beyond the initial week because rebel fighters had not complied with their side of the agreement.

7.  Also on September 19, a convoy of trucks reportedly carrying humanitarian assistance was destroyed in in al-Qaeda-controlled territory.   Western media widely reported that the convoy had been destroyed by an air attack and blamed Syria and Russia. Russian officials have denied the accusation, noting that while the destroyed convoy showed ample evidence of fire, there was little evidence of an air attack.  Though the details remain murky, there is a substantial possibility the entire incident was contrived to rally Western opinion against Syria and its Russian ally.

What are we to make of all of this?

First, the Obama-Kerry attempt to phase down the war against Syria has failed.  The war will continue into the administration of Clinton or Trump.  If Clinton is elected, she will escalate imperial attacks on Syria and heighten the chances of hostilities between the empire and Russia. If the inexperienced Trump is elected, Pentagon and CIA leaders are still likely to have their way, especially given Trump’s inexperience and belligerence.

Second, President Obama has lost control of the military and CIA, each of which actively sabotaged the Kerry-Lavrov agreement and refused to follow Obama’s direction. For more on this, see Mike Whitney’s “Rogue Mission.”  (Sept. 21 addition:  see also "Was It Mutiny?" by Glen Ford.)

Third, within Western news coverage, there is not a word about how the empire is attempting to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria by equipping and training mercenaries to fight with al-Qaeda or Da’esh.  There is not a word about how US officials are resisting Russian overtures to cooperate in defeating al-Qaeda and Da’esh.  There is not a word about how the Syrian government provides protection and support for the millions of Syrian people internally displaced because of the violence of jihadist fighters. What we hear instead are reports designed to demonize the Syrian government and demonstrate the empire’s great humanitarian concern.

This is how international aggression and brutality is laundered and made morally acceptable to the Western public.  For more, see Finian Cunningham’s “Why US Had to Kill the Syrian Ceasefire.”

When we watch television news, listen to National Public Radio or read the headlines on our little screens, the empire’s propaganda engages us with a proposed transaction: give me your credulity and trust in exchange for a tale of humanitarian concern and justice.   Because we Americans naturally want to think of ourselves as good people, many of us eagerly accept the empire’s proposal.

But it’s the devil’s bargain.  Haven’t we seen enough to know that by now?

Going Tribal

by Berry Friesen (September 13, 2016)

One of the off-putting things about the Bible is that it gives such prominence to social and political structures (“tribes” for short).  It starts with a story of liberation from an empire (Egypt), follows with a long and complicated account of “the people of Israel,” transitions to stories from the life of Jesus and the emergence of a network of Jesus-following assemblies, and ends with another account of an empire shamed (Rome).  

Most Westerners (whether “liberal” or “conservative,” it makes little difference in this regard) have no patience with this tribal emphasis because they understand life to be a story about autonomous individuals.

Life isn’t a tribal project (in other words), it’s a personal project fashioned by each individual to the best of his/her ability.  Certainly social and political structures impact how life plays out, but within the dominant Western paradigm those structures (e.g., the empire, corporations, political parties, community institutions, a church or religious network) are taken for granted.  They are not perceived to be important and dynamic characters in life’s drama.

This core dissonance between an individualistic worldview and the Bible’s structural approach explains much of contemporary disinterest in the Bible.  It also explains why questions the Bible regards as important (e.g., What tribe are you?  How does your tribe relate to the empire?) seem so alien to Western ears.

The Christian religion has done its best to overcome this dissonance by reframing the Bible as a story about personal salvation and self-improvement.  That is, each of us as an autonomous individual is estranged from the one who created us and without hope for the future unless we make personal peace with god and find our true purpose via faith in Messiah Jesus.

If Not Empire, What? does not follow conventional Christianity in this reframing exercise. Instead, it accepts the Bible’s structural approach and applies it to modern life.

As we present it, the purpose of Messiah Jesus was “to save the world” (John 3:17) from all that enslaves and destroys. This entails the forging of a tribal identity around “the way” Jesus embodied; it also entails engagement in a struggle, not so much against human enemies (Ephesians 6:12), but against social and political structures that deceive us, exploit us and turn our hearts toward evil.

Co-author John K. Stoner and I briefly outline this perspective in chapter 4 of our book.

Within the biblical worldview, “cultures and their gods, not individuals, create social reality.  How we as individuals perceive the world to work . . . . is shaped by the group with which we identify. Because groups and their gods construct social reality, and because YHWH intends for that reality to be just, liberating and sustainable, the Bible focuses on the transformation of a group to lead the way by example” (pages 25-26).

In short, within the biblical worldview, Earth’s salvation is mediated historically through a righteous tribe committed to YHWH.

What about our personal sinfulness?  John and I write:

“While perceiving each human being to be divided in his/her commitment to what is good, most biblical authors also seemed to have been fully convinced of the human capacity to live in a righteous and peaceful manner according to YHWH’s intention.  .  . . What is decisive is the god one worships and the resulting social milieu in which one lives.  Only a worldview and community animated by YHWH will enable the multitudes (not just a few heroic individuals) to see what is good and . . . embrace it” (Id.)

In other words, we as individuals recognize and desire the way to Earth’s salvation only when we see it embodied in a community (a tribe).

Greg Boyd, an Anabaptist pastor and author from St. Paul, Minnesota, reflects aspects of this approach.  He and his comrades have launched a network-building website called Tribenet.  Boyd intends it “to help kingdom people and communities begin to network together (and) also give all who share our kingdom vision a sense of belonging to a common kingdom tribe.”

Boyd describes the mission of his project this way:

“God is currently birthing a movement that we believe will eventually transform the face of Christianity. All over the globe people are being gripped by a beautiful vision of a Jesus-looking God raising up a Jesus-looking people to transform the world in a Jesus-kind of way. Many of those who have been captivated by this vision no longer feel at home in traditional churches, but they also are unaware of others who share this vision. They therefore feel isolated and without ’a tribe.’

TribeNet was created in response to the many requests we regularly receive at and/or at asking for referrals to kingdom-minded individuals, groups and/or churches in their locale. By allowing kingdom-minded individuals and groups to find each other, it is our hope that TribeNet will help everyone acquire a sense of belonging to an identifiable global tribe and that God will use this site to help shape and expand the kingdom movement that he is raising up.”

All of this is a stretch from prevailing understandings (whether religious or secular) of how the world works and what life is all about.  What’s your response?  Does it make sense to you that the salvation of Earth requires a tribe—yes, many tribes—committed to the way of compassion, forgiveness and nonviolent resistance to evil?

If so, how might you “go tribal?”

Picking Our Poison?

by Berry Friesen (September 7, 2016)

Here in the US the presidential election is only two months away.  The winning margin will be small, we are told; Hillary Rodham Clinton leads at the moment, but Donald Trump remains close enough to catch her.

For those who assume the imperial paradigm (i.e., someone will dominate the world, it may as well be us), the Clinton-Trump contest presents an important choice:  who is better qualified to serve—the experienced insider or the maverick outsider?

In contrast, those who desire an end to US domination of the world have little interest in either Clinton or Trump.  Our votes will go to a third party candidate—either the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. In my case, it will be Stein.

But whether we are emotionally invested in the Trump-Clinton contest or not, their contest provides important insights into what life has become here at the center of the empire.

For instance, consider the commentary of Gary Luepp.  He calls the entire election campaign “an exercise in mendacity.”  Clinton brazenly lies about her emails and about Benghazi (Libya) and she won the Democrat nomination through the lying and cheating of the Democratic National Committee. Trump brazenly throws out false statements nearly every day about whatever topic he happens to be addressing. Even on his signature issue—illegal immigration—he can’t be trusted.

Everyone knows this, yet the rank dishonesty of both candidates is not seen as embarrassing, much less disqualifying.  Instead, most people say, we must dutifully choose one or the other.

As Luepp puts it sarcastically, “So what that the whole system is soaked in shit? It’s the best system in the world, damn it, so just wade through it and enjoy the stench for the duration.”

Hmmn.  How long, exactly, is “the duration?”  Has “mendacity” come to define the empire itself, not just the presidential campaign?

For a second example, consider the commentary of Daniel Lazare, who asks: “Who’s the most right-wing presidential candidate of all?”  Writes Lazare, “The answer used to be Donald Trump, famous for his naked bigotry toward Mexicans and Muslims.”  But that was before Clinton started attacking Trump from the right “for failing to embrace the ultra-imperialist doctrine of ‘American exceptionalism’.”

Here is Clinton, speaking August 31 to the American Legion convention in Cincinnati: “If there’s one core belief that has guided and inspired me every step of the way, it is this. The United States is an exceptional nation . . . And part of what makes America an exceptional nation, is that we are also an indispensable nation.”

Part of this “indispensability” in Clinton’s view is that “when America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rush in to fill the void.”  So America has a responsibility to provide “leadership,” according to Clinton: “The decisions we make and the actions we take affect millions even billions of lives.”

In her speech, Clinton also promised to respond to foreign cyber-attacks with military means and to take on the world’s dictators.  “All this,” writes Lazare, “from a woman whose family foundation has received up to $25 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most repressive government on earth, plus up to $50 million from other Persian Gulf sources.”

Hmmn.  Is there a connection between Trump’s “naked bigotry” toward Muslims and Mexicans here at home and Clinton’s dominating “leadership” abroad?  Might the arrogance and violence of US policies over there be bleeding inexorably into our lives here at home?

Mendacity and bigotry:  two troubling features of this presidential campaign—and of the empire in which it is embedded.

Heads Up on 9/11 Conspiracies

by Berry Friesen (September 1, 2016)

(Sept. 7, 2016 update: Just published by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, "World Trade Center Physics:  Why Constant Acceleration Disproves Progressive Collapse."  Framed as a communication to engineers and other building professionals, this 16-page, illustrated pamphlet explains why over 2,600 architects and structural engineers have called for a new investigation of the failure of three World Trade Center towers on 9/11.)

It’s been fifteen years since the 9/11 attacks, long enough for a sorting out to take place.

That is, somewhere around one-third of the US population is skeptical of at least part of the official conspiracy theory (OCT), which is the one we encounter in mainstream media publications. (For a satirical, 5-minute overview of the OCT, click here.)  The majority of the US population tacitly accepts the OCT and doesn’t think much about it anymore, secure in the knowledge that that virtually everyone with public stature is of the same point of view.

This split is firmly in place and not a lot of people are openly changing sides.

In part, this is because it is costly to do so. I recall a conversation with an editor at my local newspaper about a skeptical 9/11 essay I had submitted for publication.  “We can’t print this,” she objected; “it would ruin your reputation.”

Why contrasting understandings about an event as significant as 9/11 would have the power to ruin reputations is a complex story in itself.  In part, it’s because the mainstream media has foisted a don’t-you-dare-question-9/11 attitude upon us by stigmatizing OCT skeptics as cranks and nutcases.  Thus, it simply refuses to publish articles critical of the OCT.  To be fair, it’s also important to acknowledge that among 9/11 skeptics are a number of cranks and nutcases.  It does take work to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to 9/11.

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth is one organization you can depend on for reliable data and analysis.  At the heart of its skepticism is a group of 2,600+ certified architects and structural engineers who have put their professional reputations on the line by calling for a new investigation as to the cause of the failure of the three World Trade Center (WTC) towers on 9/11. This organization’s “evidence” page is outstanding!

All of this is by way of introduction.  My point in posting this essay is to alert readers to the fact that notwithstanding the risks associated with 9/11 dissent, bit-by-bit the Official Conspiracy Theory (OCT) is coming undone.  Those who want to appear well-informed increasingly will need to find a way to sagely and ever-so-cautiously acknowledge the “difficulties” in the official theory.

Toward that end, here is some of what you need to know.

1. The destruction of the two WTC towers hit by passenger planes.
At least 44 heavy steel box columns resting on bedrock and running vertically to the very top supported the gravity load of each tower.  According to the OCT, those columns were crushed simultaneously by the falling top portion of the building, which became unsupported due to the damage at the point of airplane impact and the resulting fires.

Why did those heavy columns not stop or at least slow the descent of the top portion of the building?  The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has never explained this, but its official report referenced an explanation developed by Zdenek Bazant, a civil engineering professor at Northwestern University. Meanwhile, Bazant’s work has been substantially challenged by other engineers (see here and here and here) as based on false assumptions and errors of fact.  But NIST has refused to acknowledge this engineering controversy, as have mainstream media.

Video footage from 9/11 shows that when the top portions of the damaged towers began to fall and struck the intact lower portions of the towers, there was not so much as a jolt of impact.  This defies the laws of physics.  In addition, what the absence of a jolt strongly suggests is that the supportive strength of those core columns had been removed through the use of explosives, a possibility NIST has refused to investigate.

2.  The destruction of the third WTC tower (“Building 7”).
This steel-framed, 47-story tower was not hit by an airplane; it sustained exterior damage from falling debris and internal damage due to short-duration office fires. It collapsed in highly symmetrical fashion into its own footprint shortly after 5:00 on the afternoon of 9/11.  When viewed via video, it looks exactly like a controlled demolition.

Further complicating the matter is the fact (acknowledged by NIST) that for a portion of time during the collapse, the building fell at free fall speed, meaning the supporting steel structure provided zero resistance to the collapse.  This is impossible to achieve without somehow moving the lower steel structure out of the way in advance of the fall.

A steel-framed tower of this nature has never collapsed in such a fashion except through the use of explosives.  Again, however, NISP has refused to investigate this possibility.

Instead, using computer modeling, NIST finally concluded in 2008 that the expansive effect of heat caused a supportive girder to move off its seat, precipitating wholesale building collapse.  This finding has been challenged by engineers on numerous technical grounds, including errors NIST made in modeling the connective components of the girder in question.  NIST has refused to release the full computer modeling on which it based its findings, saying it “might jeopardize public safety” to provide that level of detail.

See here and here for additional details.

3. The composition of the dust.
The dust that blanketed Manhattan on 9/11 is a rich source of data about what happened inside those towers on that day.  For example, the presence of billions of distinctive iron-rich microspheres in the WTC dust was documented by several testing labs in 2004 and 2005. These microspheres form at extremely high temperatures exceeding the melting point of iron (~2,700° F). Such high temperatures could not have been produced by jet fuel or office building fires, which reach only up to 1,800 °F under the most severe conditions.

Also found in the dust are tiny red/gray chips.  In April 2009, a team of scientists that included physicist Steven Jones (formerly BYU), chemist Niels Harrit (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), physicist Jeffrey Farrer (BYU), and six other authors published their findings regarding the red/gray chips in the peer-reviewed paper “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe.” After detailing their findings, the research team concluded that the red layer of the red/ gray chips “is active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating nanotechnology,” and that it “is a highly energetic pyrotechnic or explosive material.”

This peer-reviewed research has not been challenged or refuted by any other peer-reviewed study.  It stands today as evidence (see also here) of high-powered explosive residue in the dust of 9/11.

4.  The absence of air defense in response to the hijackings.
The failure of the US military to intercept the four hijacked passenger planes as they meandered through hundreds of miles in US airspace is as inexplicable today as it was on 9/11.  Pentagon officials have provided several explanations, each materially different from those given previously, and repeatedly have blamed the discrepancies on the lies and/or incompetence of prior Pentagon witnesses.  Yet no one in the Pentagon bureaucracy has ever been disciplined for this mammoth failure.

Kevin Ryan, one of the premier 9/11 researchers, has neatly summarized this aspect of the controversy.  I recommend his article to those who want more details.

5. The role of Saudi Arabia in the conspiracy.
Recent disclosures from the Joint Congressional Investigation of 9/11 confirm that highly placed Saudi officials and wealthy Saudi individuals supported at least some of the young men who are alleged to have hijacked the four passenger planes on 9/11.  This information was known at the time by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and by the National Security Administration (NSA).  Yet the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 has long been obscured in the OCT, replaced by blame directed at Iraq and Afghanistan.

More disclosures of a similar nature are likely to be forthcoming as a result of litigation.  Alleged hijackers “training” in Florida may also have received extensive support from Saudi nationals living there.

6. The role of torture in eliciting the story of al-Qaeda’s involvement in 9/11.
Most of the details about al-Qaeda’s role in the hijackings on 9/11 came from the testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zuhaydah, two allegedly senior members of al-Qaeda in CIA custody. More than one-quarter of the footnotes in the final report of the 9/11 Commission cited their testimony, including details about al-Qaeda’s planning and execution of the attacks on 9/11.

Subsequently, it has been revealed that (a) both men had been tortured (including waterboarding) in the process of obtaining their testimony about 9/11; (b) Abu Zuhaydah had never been associated with al-Qaeda in any capacity; and (c) CIA personnel had destroyed the videotapes of the men’s “confessions,” an unlawful act that while criminal has gone unpunished.

Testimony obtained via torture is notoriously unreliable. To end the pain, people will say whatever interrogators want them to say.  Yet most of what we “know” about al-Qaeda and 9/11 was obtained in precisely this way.

In response to all of this and more, those loyal to the OCT insist it just could not be that powerful insiders within US government and corporate structures were part of the 9/11 conspiracy.  Why not?  Because “that’s crazy” or “you couldn’t keep something like that secret” or “I have more trust than that in our leaders.”

These are the protests of people who don’t want 9/11 to have been an inside job.  I understand and join that desire.  And yes, it is “crazy” to think about insiders conspiring to bring about 9/11.

But as for keeping secrets, what secrets exactly?  As this brief post has already demonstrated, a significant amount of evidence of internal conspiracy is already out in the open for all to see.  Yet the evidence has not led to accountability.

And as for “trust,” well, let’s not forget what US leaders have done over the years to people living in such places such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.  Perhaps our “trust” needs to be tempered a bit; perhaps the violence of the empire occasionally turns inward as well as outward.