When it comes to the events of 9/11/2001, certain concerned citizens, having realized that the government’s explanations are wrong, have been trying to figure out what happened and who did it for nearly 20 years. During that time, a significant volume of evidence has been gathered and analyzed. With respect to “what happened?,” an abundance of high-quality evidence establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that three buildings were blown apart (of course, unreasonable explanations still flourish in official and media sources).
With respect to “who did it?,” however, the evidence is not as ironclad but is nonetheless highly suggestive of an inside job. Made-it-happen-on-purpose (“MIHOP”) is supported by an abundance of circumstantial evidence, some physical evidence, a logic test (“cui bono?”), and the classic crime-suspect test (“means, motive, and opportunity”). Though more work needs to be done to establish the “inside job” hypothesis as a certainty (on par with the certainty of controlled demolition), for the purpose of this article the MIHOP hypothesis is accepted.
9/11: An Encounter With “the Unspeakable”
In the event 9/11 was an inside job, the concerned citizen is confronted with an atrocity so deeply horrifying as to strain that citizen’s ability to comprehend it. In his book on the assassination of JFK, James Douglass refers to an encounter with this kind of evil in terms first coined by the theologian Thomas Merton – as an encounter with “the unspeakable” – meaning an evil so vast as to defy human language’s capacity to express it. In contemplating 9/11 as an inside job, an incredulous question comes to mind, “how could anyone do such a thing?!” Inevitably, the perpetrators are then immediately regarded as sociopaths on the outer fringes of humanity.
This article begins to explore the possibility that 9/11 was rationalized by the perpetrators as a kind of act of paternalism, wherein those who planned 9/11 and carried it out believed that, rather than doing something evil, they were doing something good that in the end would increase the overall well-being of the citizens of the USA.
The reader might ask, “why even try to understand the twisted mindset of those who did 9/11?”
Because one cannot challenge and root out the rotten ideas within America’s government that made the planning of 9/11 as inside job possible without first identifying those ideas and understanding their basis.
Paternalism is doing what is best for "others" even when the "others" oppose the action. Some believe that paternalism is only justified when it prevents someone from harming someone else (e.g., John Stuart Mill). Others take a more expansive view, applying the more permissive test that paternalism is justified whenever it increases the overall well-being of the affected parties. Paternalistic acts that do not increase the well-being of the affected parties are undesirable, and their implementation is an error.
Evidence that 9/11 was a misguided act of paternalism can be found in the document that is most often referenced as the philosophical basis for 9/11 as an inside job. The document is the 1997 defense-planning white paper prepared by the Project for the New American Century (“PNAC”), “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” An oft-cited passage on Page 51 of the document reads:
Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Within the 9/11 truth community, this passage is viewed as a “smoking gun” left behind by the planners of 9/11. But, I would like to clarify the quote, which is easily misunderstood taken out of context, and explore some of the rest of the PNAC’s document for indications of the critical assumptions behind the philosophical basis of 9/11. For purposes of this article, it is assumed that 9/11 was an inside job and it was called for, in part, as a practical extension of the ideas expressed in PNAC’s paper.
First, I want to clarify what I think are some misconceptions about the above passage read out of context.
- The “transformation” referred to in the passage is military transformation, not a transformation of American society.
- The military transformation sought in the paper is to increase combat readiness to a level adequate to accomplish the geopolitical tasks identified in the document, including the incorporation of the tremendous advances in technology that had occurred since the collapse of the USSR, and during the partial “drawdown” of the military that followed it under Clinton.
- Similarly, the “revolutionary change” in that passage is a major upgrade to the potency of the military, not a revolution in the geopolitical world order or in American society.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, there were two general schools of thought as to how the American military should be re-formulated, if at all, to respond to what was perceived by both schools as the West’s great victory over Communism.
Two Schools of Thought
One school of thought was that the Cold-War level of military spending was no longer necessary and justifiable, particularly as it corresponded with a superpower rival that no longer existed. Post-Cold War, no one knew for certain what the global security situation was going to be, but it was thought within this school of thought that the military needed to be re-fashioned to respond to regional conflicts that would flare up in response to the power vacuum created by the dissolution of the USSR, as ambitious states that had been held in check now had the opportunity to test the global community by reaching for land and resources that had been inaccessible under the Cold War’s bi-polar world order. In its introduction, PNAC’s white paper characterizes this school of thought, believed by PNAC to be erroneous, as follows:
… the [flawed] idea [was] that the collapse of the Soviet Union had created a ‘strategic pause.’ In other words, until another great power challenger emerges, the United States can enjoy a respite from the demands of international leadership. Like a boxer between championship bouts, America can afford to relax and live the good life, certain that there would be enough time to shape up for the next big challenge. Thus the United States could afford to reduce its military forces, close bases overseas, halt major weapons programs and reap the financial benefits of the ‘peace dividend.’
The other school of thought was championed by George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, in his 1992 document, “Defense Planning Guidance FY 1994-1999,” authored primarily by his then-Deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. The 1997 PNAC document refers to itself as an update to Cheney’s 1992 document. Cheney believed that after the fall of the Soviet Union, in the absence of a global rival, the USA should seek to preserve and extend its advantageous position as far into the future as possible. This was not only smart, Cheney argued, but also was the only way to honor the tremendous sacrifices in life and treasure that had been made by the USA over more than four decades in order to win the Cold War. Cheney concluded that the only way to maintain the USA’s strategic advantage was for the USA to achieve unquestioned military superiority over all other countries. In Cheney’s view, “Defense” was thus properly conceived as the process of achieving full spectrum (land, sea, air, space, and cyber-space) military superiority to maintain and extend the USA’s dominant geopolitical position. Note that space and cyber-space were identified for the first time as domains for military action and domination.
Fundamentally, the PNAC document is a sharp repudiation and rejection of what the PNAC perceived as Clinton’s policy of wanton neglect of the military as he cut military spending during his terms in office, and Clinton’s irresponsible squandering of “America’s moment,” the possibility to reap the benefits of unquestioned domination of the global world order in the absence of a superpower rival (one has to wonder if this is the real reason that Clinton was impeached).
I believe it would be a mistake for the 9/11 truth movement to dismiss the stated justifications for the military ramp-up that was called for by Cheney in 1992 but not implemented until after 9/11 as the ravings of sociopaths. The 9/11 truth movement should peer at these rationales with clear eyes and fully develop well-reasoned cases against them, as part of its efforts to weed out the thinking that made 9/11 conceivable in the minds of its perpetrators, and led directly to the post-9/11 world we still live in – a world in which the next 9/11 is probably being planned by our “leaders” right now. Exposing the flaws in the paternalistic thought process opens a dialogue, however indirectly, between the 9/11 truth community and those who are contemplating the next 9/11. To be an effective dialogue, it is critical to acknowledge the intellectual framework that is familiar to, and favored by, those with the power to do the next 9/11.
Below is a partial list of the assumptions, explicit and implicit, that are in the PNAC document:
- That the military’s self-assessments of its combat readiness and the necessity of its increased services (as a pre-requisite to the achievement of geopolitical objectives), are sufficiently unbiased. Assessments from independent and impartial parties (e.g., ones who do not stand to gain from military spending), are not required and should not be weighed more than the military’s assessments of itself.
- That US Gross Domestic Product per capita, maximized via unfettered military enforcement of the USA’s dominant position in the world economy, partially or significantly determines the overall well-being of the citizens of the USA. To improve the overall well-being of the citizens of the USA, military spending should be emphasized over other priorities such as addressing the epidemics of obesity, depression, and opioid addiction in the USA – even though it has been well established that mitigating these epidemics would increase the overall well-being of U.S. citizens.
- That if given the chance, the US public would be incapable of thinking rationally about the U.S.A.’s place in "this" particular moment in history (and the best way for the USA to navigate "this" moment to the benefit of all); and, that in light of the public’s lack of vision and lack of capacity for rational thought, the public must be dealt with by exacerbating and exploiting its irrational tendencies, such as via infusions of fear and terror.
- That there are states which are dissatisfied with the current world order who will seek to change it in ways that endanger the freedom, prosperity, and peace of the citizens of the USA. Any sign of weakness by the USA, especially a drawdown of the military or anything that could be viewed as a retreat or lack of resolve, is tantamount to an invitation to those states to undermine the freedom, prosperity, and peace of the citizens of the USA.
- That any country that resists the USA’s leadership in a resource-rich area is properly regarded as an enemy of the USA. Examples of such countries identified in the PNAC’s document include Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya. Clearly at this point North Korea, Russia, and China would have to be added. Central to this premise is that the USA cannot co-exist peacefully and beneficially with countries that claim to "mean us no harm," expect to be allowed to exercise their sovereignty and chart their own course in the world economy (e.g., and therefore, would need to destroying them).
- That “prosperity” is reasonably defined as U.S. industry’s unlimited access to markets of its choosing, on terms of its choosing. Anything that stands in the way of U.S. industry’s unlimited market access and unlimited market power should be considered a “threat to national security,” and an excuse to brandish the military.
- That peace is increased via military conflicts and the threat of military conflicts, including the threat of mutually assured destruction that would result from nuclear exchanges. Looking to history: did we really “win” the Cold War because we “won” an arms race and broke the USSR’s back, or did that country collapse under the weight of its own corrupt bureaucracy? Was the defeat of the USSR the actual objective of the Cold War, or was the Cold War just a cover for all-out American imperialism?
- That the hearts and minds of other countries can be and should be won over, and our way of life spread around the globe, at gunpoint against the will of the people in those countries (e.g., “clearly, you can see that we have invaded your country for your own good”). This assumption is consistent with American Exceptionalism.
- That global leadership can only be exercised by the one nation that has the most potent military. Also, that the kind of leadership that the USA can exercise – as the most potent country on Earth – is the best kind of leadership to promote the interests of the American people.
Averting the Next 9/11
Systematically and rigorously addressing these assumptions would increase our chances of averting the next 9/11 while the original one remains un-prosecuted. Although I would like to think that all of the above assumptions are false and should be rejected, we should be open to the possibility that some of these assumptions should be accepted, as such acceptance would increase the credibility of the 9/11 truth movement.
On a final note, if 9/11 was an inside job and its philosophical foundations lie in the two defense-planning documents cited above, I think it is likely that history will come to regard 9/11 as a military coup performed by Dick Cheney.