Getting Agnostic about 9/11
Society of Nonbelievers Questions the Official Version
An Interview of David
by Mark Ehrman
Anyone who types the words "9/11" and "conspiracy" into an online search
engine soon learns that not everybody buys the official narrative of what
took place on Sept. 11, 2001. As a professor emeritus at the Claremont
School of Theology, 66-year-old David Ray Griffin would seem to have more
affinity for leather elbow patches than tin hats, yet after friends and
colleagues prodded him into sifting through the evidence, he experienced a
conversion. Now he's spreading the bad news. Griffin compiled a summary of
material arguing against the accepted story that 19 hijackers sent by
Osama bin Laden took the aviation system and the U.S. military by surprise
that awful day in his 2004 book The New Pearl Harbor (published by
Interlink, a Massachusetts-based independent publisher covering areas
including travel, cooking, world fiction, current events, politics,
children's literature and other subjects). He recently followed up with
the book The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions
(Interlink), a critique of the Kean commission document in which he
suggests that a chunk of the blame for the worst terrorist attack on U.S.
soil lies closer to home than the caves of Afghanistan. We contacted him
at his Santa Barbara-area home for a report on his journey from
mild-mannered scholar to doubting Thomas.
How did you join the
ranks of those questioning the official account of the 9/11 events?
was rather slow getting on board. For the first year and a half I just
accepted the conventional view, really the blowback thesis, that this was
blowback for our foreign policy. When a colleague suggested to me about a
year after 9/11 that he was convinced our own government or forces within
our own government had arranged it, I didn't accept that. Then several
months later another colleague sent me [a link to] a website that had a
timeline. Once I started reading that and saw all those stories drawn from
mainstream sources that contradicted the official account, I decided I
needed to look into it more carefully, and the more I looked, the worse it
got. I considered it an obligation to kind of organize, compile the
evidence and put it out there for the public.
The Internet is full
of 9/11 conspiracy theories. What have you contributed to the discussion?
main contribution has been the second book, [showing] that the 9/11
commission report is not worthy of belief, and the implication of that is
that they were covering up the government's own guilt.
What would constitute
a "smoking gun" against the official 9/11 account?
There are many. By just ignoring them, the 9/11 commission implicitly
admitted they couldn't answer them. The towers coming down into a pile
only a few stories high is a smoking gun. Many laws of physics had to be
violated if the official story about the collapses is true. [The
collapses] had all the earmarks of a controlled demolition by explosives.
One of those is total collapse into a small pile of rubble. The fact that
Building 7 [a skyscraper near the towers] collapsed when it had not been
hit by an airplane, and collapsed in seven or eight seconds, that's a
smoking gun. The fact that standard operating procedures were not followed
that morning, and we've gotten three different stories now by the U.S.
military as to why they did not intercept the planes, that's a smoking
gun. The Secret Service leaving the president and themselves wide open to
being attacked by [not responding immediately], that's a smoking gun. I
can't say one is bigger than the other. You've got six or seven that are
Critics of the
official 9/11 account seem to draw sinister inferences from instances
where people, buildings or physical objects didn't react or behave as one
might expect in theory. For example, if the hijackers were devout Muslims,
why were some drinking, eating pork chops and cavorting with lap dancers?
Doesn't real life unfold inconsistently, even bizarrely?
That's true, but the 9/11 commission simply ignored those questions.
They're creating this image of fanatics who were so devout and convinced
of the truth of their religion that they were ready to meet their maker,
yet here's all this evidence that suggests they were not devout at all.
[The commission] simply ignored evidence.
Dissenters also seem
to find it suspect that in a dire emergency, individuals and agencies
bumbled, fumbled, delayed, dropped the ball or choked. Won't that occur in
Well, of course, that is the official theory. It's a coincidence theory
that just happened to be that on those days, everybody became terribly
incompetent. Take the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. They've got
these standard procedures: If a plane goes off course, if you lose radio
contact or lose the transponder, you call the military. On this day we're
told these FAA officials hit the trifecta. They got all three of these
things, and yet they would stand around debating, "Should we call the
military? No, I don't think so." And when they finally call, the people at
headquarters won't accept their calls because they were in conference or
wouldn't pass the call on. They have roughly about 100 hijack warnings a
year where planes have to be scrambled, but suddenly they become just all
thumbs. The whole thing is just implausible. The other thing is, if you've
got accidents, screw-ups, some ought to go one way and the others the
other way. Here everything goes the same way. Everybody fails to do their
jobs in relation to something to do with 9/11.
With others, you have
alleged that inconsistencies, omissions or lies in the 9/11 record point
to a cover-up, or even collusion or orchestration, by the American
government. What would motivate such a scenario?
You've got liberal Democrats and Republicans and Independents who are
appalled by what Andrew Bacevich [a professor of international relations
at Boston University] called "the new American militarism" in the book
"American Empire." New meaning, qualitatively different than before. This
post-9/11 push to a new level has made the world an enormously more
dangerous place. Many people apart from thinking about 9/11 as an inside
job have decided that the United States is doing what [Princeton
University emeritus international law professor] Richard Falk calls a
"global domination project." Chalmers Johnson [Japan Policy Research
Institute president], a previous conservative, now says that we have
become a military juggernaut intent on world domination.
Have you followed
polls on what the public believes about 9/11?
There was a Zogby poll in New York. The question asked was, do you believe
the government had advance knowledge of the attacks and consciously let
them happen? Forty-nine percent in New York City said yes. I believe it
was 43% statewide. That is a pretty remarkable figure. In this country
there has not been a poll that asked, do you believe the government
actually planned and orchestrated the attacks? The question has been
raised in Europe and Canada and has gotten to somewhere around 20%. It
would be interesting to have such a poll in the United States.
are often dismissed as marginal types. Where do your views on 9/11 place
you in the eyes of your peers in academia?
thing to point out is, the official account itself is a conspiracy theory.
It says that 19 Arab Muslims under the influence of Osama bin Laden
conspired to pull off this operation. The question is not whether one is a
conspiracy theorist about 9/11. It's which conspiracy theory do you find
most supported by the evidence.
Does your role as a
9/11 dissenter depart from your life's work as a scholar and theologian?
first glance it may seem strange, but the task of a theologian is to look
at the world from what we would imagine the divine perspective, [which]
would care about the good of the whole and would love all the parts. [So]
9/11, if it was brought about by forces within our own government for
imperial reasons, is antithetical to the general good.
Evil has been a
subject of your academic writing. It's also been a recurring theme in
administration rhetoric. Is that strange?
these politicians' mouths, it's used to describe certain groups and
organizations when it's politically convenient to do so, and then to
overlook even greater evil when it's politically convenient to do so. If
you understand the divine as an all-powerful and wrathful creator who
seeks vengeance, and uses overwhelming power to destroy its enemies, why
then, if you've got the political power, you're probably going to think
you're acting like God if you do that. The [Christian] church during the
early centuries was anti-empire. Rome was the enemy. With Constantine, the
empire accepted Christianity, and Christianity started accepting empire
and all that entailed. There has been a long history of support for
militarism, so from that perspective, it's not so strange.
Prior to your 9/11 work, did you have an anti-establishment streak?
never burned my bra. I was fairly critical like a lot of Americans are,
but I don't think people would have looked at me and said, "There's an
Do you get hate mail?
had a few people suggest I need to see a psychiatrist, and one
psychiatrist in L.A. even kindly offered his services.
Copyright 2005 Los