When Gertrude Stein quipped, "There's no there there," she was talking about Oakland. I always thought it was a great line, but a bad rap. I like Oakland. But maybe there was a hidden meaning in her words. You see, the Ella Baker Center is in Oakland. Van Jones used to be its executive direct. And when it comes to Glen Beck's accusations that ended up causing him to resign, Gertrude Stein was right on the money.
Calling Republicans a-holes? If that were a firing offense in DC, the place would be a ghost town. Signing a 9/11 Truther petition? Well, at first I just shrugged. Sure they're nutballs, who keep repeating refuted arguments--sort of like Republicans. But people who sign lots of petitions online are bound to sign one or two along the way that maybe they shouldn't have. That was my first thought. There's a reason that names on a petition don't carry very much weight compared to letters--even emails--phone calls or faxes. Signing a petition for something does not make it your cause célèbre.
But then I had to go and use the Google. And I found the petition. And it's totally innocuous in the conspiracism department. In fact, it's an exercise in respectability. "9/11 Truthers Clean & Sober Tour". That kind of thing. I wouldn't have signed it, because I think this phraseology is needlessly provocative and it just bugs me:
we have assembled 100 notable Americans and 40 family members of those who died to sign this 9/11 Statement, which calls for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.
But it's not necessarily false. What unanswered questions suggest to one person need not be suggested to another. I can easily understand someone shrugging off that bit of innuendo as relatively harmless, given the sorts of questions they wanted answered--questions that the official investigation had clearly left hanging:
We want truthful answers to questions such as:
Why were standard operating procedures for dealing with hijacked airliners not followed that day?
Why were the extensive missile batteries and air defenses reportedly deployed around the Pentagon not activated during the attack?
Why did the Secret Service allow Bush to complete his elementary school visit, apparently unconcerned about his safety or that of the schoolchildren?
Why hasn't a single person been fired, penalized, or reprimanded for the gross incompetence we witnessed that day?
Why haven't authorities in the U.S. and abroad published the results of multiple investigations into trading that strongly suggested foreknowledge of specific details of the 9/11 attacks, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of traceable gains?
Why has Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who claims to have knowledge of advance warnings, been publicly silenced with a gag order requested by Attorney General Ashcroft and granted by a Bush-appointed judge?
How could Flight 77, which reportedly hit the Pentagon, have flown back towards Washington D.C. for 40 minutes without being detected by the FAA's radar or the even superior radar possessed by the US military?
How were the FBI and CIA able to release the names and photos of the alleged hijackers within hours, as well as to visit houses, restaurants, and flight schools they were known to frequent?
What happened to the over 20 documented warnings given our government by 14 foreign intelligence agencies or heads of state?
Why did the Bush administration cover up the fact that the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency was in Washington the week of 9/11 and reportedly had $100,000 wired to Mohamed Atta, considered the ringleader of the hijackers?
Why did the 911 Commission fail to address most of the questions posed by the families of the victims, in addition to almost all of the questions posed here?
Why was Philip Zelikow chosen to be the Executive Director of the ostensibly independent 911 Commission although he had co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice?
Note in particular #4 above. No one was fired for the catastrophic government failure on 9/11.
But now someone has been fired for asking why that was, among other things. (Yes, yes, I know, he wasn't "fired." He was just left to twist in the wind until he got the message to fire himself. Difference without a distinction from where I stand.)
Add to the generally sober nature of that list of questions the fact that former CIA officers Ray McGovern and Mel Goodman both signed the petition as well, and you begin to get a sense of how totally bogus the attack on Van Jones really was.
As if you didn't already know that, given that the attacks were lead by Glenn Beck.
The REAL Truther BS
In contrast to the above petition, check out the following sites for detailed debunking of major myths that "9/11 Truthers" promote that Van Jones didn't come within a country mile of:
I do not pretend to be an expert in any of this, since I checked out on this front long ago. Once I saw the irrational denialist response to the first round of debunking, I saw no reason to pay any further attention. A sample of that debunking should suffice, since many of the original myths still survive, as if never debunked, or else survive in the form of mutated offspring.
For example, it was enough for me to encounter folks arguing that jet fuel couldn't have caused the steel supports of the WTC to melt, and hence collapse, therefore planted explosives had to be involved. As Popular Mechanics noted back in 2005:
Claim:"We have been lied to," announces the Web site AttackOnAmerica.net. "The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel." The posting is entitled "Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC."
FACT: Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750°F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength - and that required exposure to much less heat. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."
"Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100°F," notes senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri of the American Institute of Steel Construction. "And at 1800° it is probably at less than 10 percent." NIST also believes that a great deal of the spray-on fireproofing insulation was likely knocked off the steel beams that were in the path of the crashing jets, leaving the metal more vulnerable to the heat.
But jet fuel wasn't the only thing burning, notes Forman Williams, a professor of engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and one of seven structural engineers and fire experts that PM consulted. He says that while the jet fuel was the catalyst for the WTC fires, the resulting inferno was intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, including rugs, curtains, furniture and paper. NIST reports that pockets of fire hit 1832°F.
"The jet fuel was the ignition source," Williams tells PM. "It burned for maybe 10 minutes, and [the towers] were still standing in 10 minutes. It was the rest of the stuff burning afterward that was responsible for the heat transfer that eventually brought them down."
For me, the bottom line on the whole "9/11 Truth" charade can be summed up in three points:
Many ardent "9/11 Truth" true believers think that they are propounding a radical truth, that folks like just can't handle. In fact, they are propounding a conservative "truth" which (a) lays all blame for 9/11 on a small cabal of elite operatives, (b) absolves US imperialism and international capitalism of any responsibility for creating oppressive conditions in which terrorism would naturally tend to flourish, and (c) (implicitly or explicitly) makes the racist assumption that Arabs just don't have the smarts to pull off an attack of such magnitude.
Yes, there are very many unanswered questions about 9/11, and our political system--including the Versailles Democratic leadership--has utterly failed to answer them. This failure is downright criminal. However, the unanswered questions are almost entirely along the lines of those listed in the petition that Van Jones signed, which are entirely different in character and implication than the "questions" raised (and repeatedly answered) at the core of the "9/11 Truth" conspiracy narratives.
This is all an enormous distraction of energy and attention from actually effective organizing around realworld issues that could have a tremendous impact on the lives of billions of people around the world. The sort of organizing that, for example, Van Jones has actually been involved in throughout his career.