When Charlie Sheen called into The Alex Jones Show on the Genesis Communications radio network to express doubts about the official version of what happened on 9/11, he was, predictably, immediately attacked by a number of media pundits.
The New York Post, for example, said that Sheen “has joined the 9/11 gone-bonkers brigade.” Incidentally, the “9/11 gone-bonkers brigade” includes 41% of New Yorkers, who, according to an August 2004 Zogby poll, believe that the attacks were known about in advance but that the government consciously failed to act.
The Guardian of London published a smear piece that, rather than addressing the questions he discussed with Alex Jones, made personal attacks against Sheen’s character and called him “insane” for saying the collapse of the World Trade Center towers looked like a controlled demolition. Incidentally, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and host of other news anchors, reporters, and other commentators, must also be “insane”, since they similarly observed on the day of the attacks that the buildings came down in a manner resembling a controlled demolition. Don Dahler, for instance, reported to Peter Jennings that the south tower had collapsed “as if a demolitions team had set off–when you see the old demolitions of the old buildings–it folded down on itself…” Peter Jennings remarked that “Anyone who’s ever watched a building being demolished on purpose knows that if you’re going to do this, you have to get at the under infrastructure of a building and bring it down.” Dan Rather, commenting on the collapse of building 7, said, “For the third time today, it’s reminiscent of those pictures we’ve all seen too much on television before when a building was deliberately destroyed by well placed dynamite to knock it down.”
The Boston Herald quoted Sheen as saying, “It is up to us to reveal the truth. We owe it to everybody’s life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened,” and then concluded, “Excuse us if we don’t exactly feel that Charlie’s the man for that job!” Incidentally, if the authors of that piece had listened to the Sheen interview with Alex Jones, they would have noted that Sheen himself, after suggesting that a truly independent investigative committee be appointed, far from claiming to be an expert, stated explicitly that while he wouldn’t be the man for the job, a real investigation should be made nonetheless.
Fox’s Hannity and Colmes talked about “the bizarre rantings and ravings” of Sheen. “I think he’s nuts,” said Hannity, adding that Sheen’s comments were “irresponsible”. “Why can’t he be more thoughtful about the families of 9/11?” he asked. Incidentally, it is the families themselves that have largely spearheaded what is known as the 9/11 truth movement by seeking answers to some of the very questions Sheen was asking.
Guest Betsy Hart, a syndicated columnist, suggested conspiracy theories about 9/11 are the result of a deep-seeded fear of Islamic terrorism, that pointing to the government allows people to “relax” those fears. “I did not know Charlie Sheen had a degree in civil engineering,” she mocked, an apparent reference to Sheen’s comment that the collapse of the towers looked like controlled demolitions. “Wow, that’s news to me.” Of course, if she had listened to what Sheen actually said, she would know that he stated explicitly and repeatedly that he was not an expert, but simply that he, like so many other non-“experts” around the country, had questions he would like answers to; answers none of the “experts” seem willing to divulge to the public, such as a reasonable explanation, with evidence, as to what made building 7 collapse perfectly into its own footprint. “What this shows,” she added, “is that Hollywood is completely out of touch with mainstream America.” One wonders how much more in touch with “mainstream America” Betsy Hart is, particularly when polls indicate that large numbers of Americans question the official version of events.
Sheen responded to the attacks against him by saying, “I demand to be challenged on the facts not on immature behavior from twenty years ago. If they continue to attack me personally it only gives credence to our side of the argument.” He also wrote a response to the Guardian, correctly observing that “no attention whatsoever is given to the questions I raise or the evidence that stimulated those very questions. Instead, low-brow idiotic hit pieces are spewed forth in an effort to sway the readers’ opinion of the messenger while blatantly disregarding any of the potentially valuable content of the story. It’s transparent and sandbox propaganda as dated and cheap as the paper it’s printed on.”
When CNN’s Showbiz Tonight reported on Sheen’s conversation with Alex Jones, the response was enormous. Letters poured in, most in support of Sheen and his statements. 84% of more than 40,000 respondents to a CNN poll that asked “Do you agree with Charlie Sheen that the U.S. government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks?” answered “Yes”. Apparently, it’s Betsy Hart and others who react so venomously to questions being raised about the official account who are “completely out of touch”.
The reaction to Sheen’s interview with Alex Jones has been fairly typical. Rather than addressing his questions or providing facts or information that would convince him, and those who share his questions, of the truth of the official version of events, commentators simply attacked his character. This unwillingness to look seriously at the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11 and the apparent inability of those who subscribe to the official story to answer those questions, Sheen suggested, simply bolsters the case of the conspiracy theorists. The unwillingness and/or inability to address the questions most certainly, at any rate, feeds those alternative theories.
But what of Sheen’s questions, or the questions of so many others who doubt the story they have been told? The 9/11 Commission report engraved the official version in stone, and was supposedly designed to answer the serious questions so many had about the events of that day. But many commentators observe that the report raises more questions than it answers. Most serious questions people have had about 9/11 were completely ignored by the Commission, and those few areas where the Commission members actually examined issues raised by skeptics of the official account fall far short of what should be expected of a serious investigation.
Take, for example, the report’s conclusion that there is “no evidence” of any foreign government “or foreign government official” financing the terrorists, despite reports that the FBI had traced $100,000 supplied to Mohammed Atta to Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, the chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Not only does the Commission completely fail to address these reports, but they go further and actually make the absurd statement that the financial evidence “is of little practical significance”. With statements like this from the Commission report, what conclusion can a reasonable person draw but that there is a cover-up taking place?
While Sheen did not comment upon that issue, he did raise other questions that people have had since the attacks took place. The 9/11 Commission report claims that towers fell in ten seconds, while furthering what is known as the “pancake theory” of the collapse, which basically says that one floor fell on top of the one below it and so on, causing a successive failure all the way to the ground. However, one needn’t be an engineer to realize that, according to this theory of the collapse, there would have been significant resistance. A ten second collapse, near free-fall speed, conventional wisdom seems to tell us, would simply not be possible. What is the official explanation for this apparent inconsistency? There doesn’t seem to be one, and the question, like so many others, is generally ignored.
Moreover, even if one accepts the official theory for the collapse of the twin towers, there is still the matter of the mysterious collapse of building seven, which, as Dan Rather observed, looked precisely like a controlled demolition. How does the 9/11 Commission report address the question of WTC 7? Simple. It ignores it completely. The collapse is not even mentioned in the report. Apparently, the total collapse of a 47 story building in the World Trade Center complex on September 11, 2001 is not a significant enough event to warrant even a footnote in the Commission’s report.
For a building to collapse straight down within its own footprint, all major load-bearing columns must be made to fail at precisely the same time. Controlled demolition experts work very hard to achieve this very thing. By destroying the central columns first, and then the exterior ones, in rapid succession, experts can make a building collapse in on itself, or implode, without causing damage to nearby structures, which would often be the case were buildings to topple over. Similarly, by laying explosives principally to one side of the building, causing structural failure on one side first, with resistance remaining on the other from load-bearing columns, demolitions experts can cause a building to topple over towards one side if that is the desired result.
That, of course, follows conventional wisdom. It’s pretty much common sense. Or at least, it was, prior to 9/11. The laws of physics, apparently, changed that day, so that any number of experts told us laymen that the only way for a building to collapse, or at least for the World Trade Center buildings, is straight down (Dr. Thomas Eagar, for example, on the PBS show NOVA). This became “conventional wisdom” about the towers post-9/11, even though prior to that day, we had been told repeatedly that the WTC was saved from toppling over in 1993 because the terrorists who exploded a bomb in the basement failed to properly locate the van. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to point out such inconsistencies, and it doesn’t require a nutcase or a person of negligible intelligence to question things in order to seek reasonable and consistent explanations.
To further demonstrate, the FEMA report on the collapse of the WTC attributes the collapse of building 7 to fire, stating, “The performance of WTC 7 is of significant interest because it appears the collapse was due primarily to fire, rather than any impact damage from the collapsing towers. Prior to September 11, 2001, there was little, if any, record of fire-induced collapse of large fire-protected steel buildings.” Nor has there been any such collapse since. It was, it seems, a freak phenomenon, if we are to accept the official explanation (or rather, the lack thereof). The best the FEMA report attempts to do is give “a hypothesis based on potential rather than demonstrated fact”, dependent upon even further theories for which there is admittedly “no physical evidence available”.
The report notes that further investigation would be required to truly understand the nature of the collapse of WTC 7, which, of course, could also be said for the twin towers. Of course, a real investigation was not allowed to occur as the evidence from the scene of the crime, namely the remains of the buildings themselves, was quickly removed and sold as scrap, leading the editor of Fire Engineering magazine to call the investigation “a half-baked farce”.
Adding further to the mystery of the collapse of WTC 7, and fuelling the conspiracy theory, Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder for the WTC towers, in a PBS documentary, recalled, “I remember getting a call from the fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were going to be able to contain the fire, and I said, ‘We’ve had such a terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.’ And they made that decision to pull, and we watched the building collapse.”
This is a curious recollection since the term “pull” is used in the industry to describe a controlled demolition. As Sheen noted, “to pull” a building is in the demolition industry what “action” and “cut” are in the film industry, which is to say that it’s terminology well known even without, and completely unmistakable within, a particular industry. In fact, in the same PBS documentary, the experts who demolished the damaged WTC building 6 are heard to use the term. “We’re getting ready to pull building six,” is heard, followed by an explanation about how they had to be very careful how they brought down the building in a controlled demolition.
The State Department website addresses the speculation that this comment fueled by stating, “The property owner was referring to pulling a contingent of firefighters out of the building in order to save lives because it appeared unstable.” There’s a few problems with this explanation, however, beginning with how unusual this language would be if “it”, in context, indeed referred to “a contingent of firefighters”. There is no indication in the context of the quote from the PBS documentary that this is what “it” referred to. On the contrary, in context, “it” would seem rather apparently to refer to the building, WTC 7. And he repeats, “they made that decision to pull”, not to “pull out” or to “pull their teams” or to “pull them out”, but simply “to pull”. The language used itself is problematic for this explanation.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible Silverstein indeed meant to indicate a team of firefighters with his use of the pronoun “it”, however unusual that usage may be in the given context. But there’s another, more serious, problem with this explanation. According to the FEMA report, “firefighters made the decision fairly early on not to attempt to fight the fires” in WTC 7. The report adds that “no manual firefighting actions were taken” by the New York City fire department. “There was no firefighting in WTC 7”, Shyam Sunder of the National Institute of Standards and Technology told Popular Mechanics, in an article perhaps ironically entitled “9/11: Debunking The Myths”.
The conspiracy theorists thus ask the obvious question. How could Silverstein have been referring to teams of firefighters when there were no such teams in the building?
This, like so many others, is a reasonable question, deserving of an explanation. But, and the theorists are not slow to make the point, if the explanations for such questions is so benign, why are people so reluctant to provide such simple answers to such simple questions? Those who subscribe to the official theories surrounding 9/11 often ask what evidence there is for the alternatives, suggesting there is none. But the official theories very often suffer from a similar obstacle. The case of WTC 7 is an example. What evidence is there that the building collapsed as a controlled demolition? Well, if one is to dismiss the collapse itself, and the documentary video evidence of that collapse, then there perhaps is none. However, if one accepts the appearance of the collapse itself as evidence, then the simple fact that the collapse looks exactly like a controlled demolition, and not at all like what one would expect a collapse to look like if a structural failure had initiated at one point, as required by the official explanation, is reason enough not to automatically dismiss the possibility.
And for all the mocking of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists that has been made since day one, what can at least be said for most of them is that they appear to be interested in learning the truth, and, even if misinformed, are sincere; which is something that all too often cannot be said for their detractors who all too often demonstrate not just an unwillingness to address, but absolute intolerance for, questions about the official account, and who, in lieu of reasoned debate, resort to attempted character assassination.
In the end, the conspiracy theorists have a very good point. If the official version is so easily demonstrably correct, so self-evident for any person, as the pundits would have it, with even a modicum of intelligence, then why are the personal attacks, such as those witnessed against Charlie Sheen for voicing his mind, necessary? Why not just answer the questions, as Sheen and so many others of reasonable intelligence have implored for so long?
The answer to that question, to date, yet remains perhaps the most significant of the unanswered questions surrounding the tragic events of September 11, 2001.