Samuel Lowenberg - Independent Journalist biography articles articles

9/11 conspiracy freaks: a roundup of ridiculous theories; Forum.

Playboy  March 1, 2003


September 11 has been the biggest thing to happen to the conspiracy underground since the assassination of JFK. Each September 11 theorist has his own twist on what led to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but the common thread is the idea that Afghanistan is the linchpin to controlling the oil and natural gas reserves of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. As the theory goes, the Bush administration had been planning to invade Afghanistan for months before September 11, and it was the U.S. threat of military action against the Taliban that spurred Bin Laden to launch a preemptive strike. The White House and the CIA had advance knowledge but allowed the attacks to be carried out in order to (1) have an excuse to take over Afghanistan and control its oil route, (2) impose a police state in the U.S. and (3) make billions of dollars in profits by dumping financial and airline stocks in the days before the attack. Here's a look at the ideas of the leading conspiracy theorists:


WHO HE IS: The head of the left-wing French think tank Reseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Meyssan's paperback L'Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud) sold more than 200,000 copies in France, much to the embarrassment of sane French people. One newspaper described him as resembling an insurance agent from the Fifties. Meyssan's book hit the best-seller list after he appeared on the French equivalent of The Jerry Springer Show.

WHAT HE KNOWS: L'Effroyable Imposture posits that the crash at the Pentagon was faked with a bomb or a cruise missile planted by agents of the U.S. military-industrial complex. Furthermore, the two airline jets were "teleguided" into the World Trade Center by U.S. forces. The military did this in order to persuade the president to spend more money on defensive weaponry (as if he had to be persuaded).

HOW HE KNOWS: Although critics say Messyan lifted much of his material from the ultra-right-wing loon Lyndon LaRouche, the heart of his claims lies in his analysis of photos taken at the Pentagon after the attack. He says the photos clearly indicate that the hole is too small to have been caused by a jetliner. A French newspaper points out that "this theory suits everyone. There are no Islamic extremists, and everyone is happy." Some suggest that perhaps the book is a hoax that can only be appreciated by a nation that considers Jerry Lewis a comic genius. Like any good conspiracy theorist, Meyssan takes criticism of his book as evidence the powers that be want him shut down. He recently published a sequel, Le Pentagate.

SOUNDBITE: "As far as we are concerned, the plane [that supposedly hit the Pentagon] was destroyed in Ohio," Meyssan told CNN.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?: France. Or search for the book's title at and select "translate this page" on the first result. JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD AND GUILLAUME DASQUIE

WHO THEY ARE: Brisard is former chief of corporate intelligence for Vivendi. Dasquie publishes a newsletter called Intelligence Online.

WHAT THEY KNOW: Brisard and Dasquie believe Bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center after learning that Bush planned to invade his safe haven in Afghanistan. According to their book, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, "From February 5 to August 2, 2001, the U.S. engaged in private and risky discussions with the Taliban concerning geostrategic oil interests. The suicide attacks of September 11 were the outcome of this initiative."

HOW THEY KNOW: There's no telling. David Corn, Washingon editor for The Nation, calls the book "a shoddy piece of journalism, most of it completely unsourced."

SOUNDBITE: According to a former Pakistani foreign minister, a former U.S. official who may or may not have been drunk supposedly said of the Taliban at a meeting in Berlin in July 2001, "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs." That comment reached Bin Laden, prompting him to take action.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?: The book has been released in the U.S. by the publishing arm of The Nation but with its language softened (the "foreseeable outcome" of the envoy's threat in the French edition becomes "possibly the outcome" in English). "I'm not a conspiracy theorist," says Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation. "I believe Oswald killed Kennedy and probably did it by himself."


WHO HE IS: Former Los Angeles cop who gives and sells on audiotape a revival-style lecture called "The Truth and Lies of 9-11." He claims the attack on the World Trade Center and the war in Afghanistan were the joint work of the CIA, Wall Street, the drug mafia and Enron executives. His lone-crusader marketing extends to the name of his website:

WHAT HE KNOWS: Ruppert's theory is that the Bush administration and U.S. intelligence allowed the attacks to occur because it gave them a chance to revive the opium poppy crop in Afghanistan, which the Taliban had destroyed. This was necessary because the CIA-controlled drug trade is essential to propping up the U.S. stock market, the profits from which Enron launders in the Cayman Islands. At the center of Ruppert's scenario is Delmart "Mike" Vreeland, a man claiming to be a U.S. naval intelligence officer who says he tried to warn the White House of the impending attack but was hampered in his efforts because he was in jail in Canada on charges of credit card fraud. Ruppert says this was necessary cover so Vreeland could infiltrate terrorist organizations, though how alleged credit card fraud qualifies one to infiltrate a terrorist organization is not exactly clear.

HOW HE KNOWS: In 1981, Ruppert told a newspaper reporter that before losing his job at the LAPD, he had fallen in love with a woman nicknamed Teddy who was a friend of the niece of the Shah of Iran. Teddy had a secret phone that connected her to the Air Force. She also was the critical link in a plot between the CIA and the Gambino crime family to sell drugs in the inner city and smuggle arms to Kurdish counterrevolutionaries in Iran. Ruppert says that he was forced out of the LAPD after reporting this information to his superiors. He found a job at a 7-Eleven, but was busted on his first shift for allegedly selling liquor to a minor. (He says he was set up.) Media critic Norman Solomon describes Ruppert's investigative techniques as "a selective vacuum-cleaner approach."

SOUNDBITE: Ruppert says the proof of Vreeland's claim is apparent from a close analysis of a letter Vreeland said he wrote in prison a month before the attacks: "As a last-ditch measure in August, Vreeland had two pens smuggled into his jail cell of a different color and style of ink than what was allowed by the jail. He wrote a hasty warning listing details of the attacks and then had the letter sealed into his jail property, out of reach, and promptly advised his jailers that he was in possession of unapproved pens. These pens were confiscated by authorities, who have retained possession of them and acknowledged that Vreeland had no such pens in his jail cell after that time." WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?: Try Ruppert's newsletter, From the Wilderness. He claims 30 U.S. congressmen subscribe, which is probably true.


WHO HE IS: Hotel manager and 23-year-old executive director of an organization in Brighton, England he calls the Institute for Policy Research and Development.

WHAT HE KNOWS: In his 400-page book, The War on Freedom: How and Why America

Was Attacked September 11th, 2001, Ahmed treads familiar ground, with a few original twists. He reports that the Bush family is financially tied to the Bin Laden family, and that both profited from the war on Afghanistan because of their defense industry holdings. He alleges that the the administration has systematically blocked attempts to apprehend Osama bin Laden. Domestically, he paints a dire picture with the statement that the Bush administration has set up a police state, with "unprecedented curbs on civil liberties and basic human rights, the crushing of domestic dissent, and the criminalization of protest." (If only that were a paranoid fantasy.) Ahmed has a solid grasp of history but ends his book with a deal with the devil--a "Backword" written by his publisher, John Leonard of Tree of Life Publications. Leonard argues that members of the Israeli secret service, disguised as moving company employees and art students, may have known about but not prevented the attacks, or even been involved. The "Judeo-Christian coalition" secretly wants Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in power because the alternative, democracy, would unite Muslims. Leonard also notes that Jews run the phone company.

HOW HE KNOWS: Newspaper clippings and other online fodder. Ahmed says he wrote the book after surfing the Internet and finding "a web of connections that needed to be looked into." To Ahmed's credit, the book is extensively footnoted. SOUNDBITE: "I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm just offering some hard questions that could have horrible answers."


WHO HE IS: Washington editor and columnist for The Nation.

WHAT HE KNOWS: That conspiracy theorists have overestimated the competence of the U.S. government. Pulling off such a vast plot as taking down the two towers, or even covering up advance knowledge of it, would require the coordination of hundreds of Americans in more than half a dozen agencies. The idea that so many bureaucrats could work together and keep it all quiet is simply implausible. What the theorists don't realize, he says, is that Washington is basically a giant Department of Motor Vehicles, filled with agencies that can't coordinate their budgets, let alone a terrorist plot. People want to make sense of complicated events and give them meaning, he says, but the theorists are vague and ultimately exploitative.

HOW HE KNOWS: He's covered Washington for 15 years. Says Mike Ruppert, "It is my opinion that David Corn is an asset of the CIA."

SOUNDBITE: "I won't argue that the U.S. government does not engage in brutal, murderous skulduggery from time to time. But the notion that it either detected the attacks but allowed them to occur or, worse, conspired to kill thousands of Americans to launch a war-for-oil in Afghanistan is absurd."

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