November 21, 2002



(See previous post) A poster on Flitters suggests I should leave the heavy lifting on Sept. 11 issues to Bill Herbert, who has, by his own claim, definitively proved that all the Sept. 11 conspiracy theories are wrong. I've been in correspondence with Mr. Herbert through the day today, and while he makes some minor points, he also sometimes overstates his case.

My original point was that the What Really Happened website, which Herbert has repeatedly beat up on for its obvious bias and loony Big Conspiracy bent, is easily dismissable, whereas the Canadian Global Howler conspiracy site, which has a flatter, more dispassionate telling of many of the same facts, is not.

There are some real unanswered questions about Sept. 11. It is not unpatriotic to bring those questions up. Yes, you can still be written off as a loony if you just make stuff up, or link stuff in improbable chains like Jim Garrison did. But there is nothing wrong with, Sylvia Meagher style, listing the questions that remain unanswered. Meagher was derided at the time for doubting the Warren Commission, but if it hadn't been for her work, more than anyone's, there wouldn't have been a House Select Committee on Assassinations, and a closing of many of the unanswered questions from the JFK assassination. In the situation with Sept. 11, where incomprehensibly we still haven't even got to the Warren Commission stage of inquiry yet, it is entirely right and proper to bring up the holes remaining in the story... if only so that, for historical reasons, we ultimately get a clearer picture of what happened to the world that day.

Global Howler isn't perfect by any means. It clearly does base much of its work on the discredited timeline from one Michael Ruppert (featured on What Really Happened), who casts all the evidence as support for his belief of a CIA-FBI-Al Qaeda conspiracy. But it doesn't use those facts in the same way: instead, Meagher-style, it just presents them, and for the most part lets the questions themselves stand as an indictment of the American government's apparent disinterest in pursuing the truth, wherever that may lead. As I said before, that is still a valuable form of fringe dissent.

Herbert wrote in his email:

'The howlers suggest WTC owner Larry Silverstein may profit from the attacks... And take a gander at the first source cited for this item: the rabidly anti-Semitic"

What global howler actually said:

"July 24, 2001: The US Government sells the World Trade Center to Manhattan real estate mogul Larry Silverstein. This is the only time the WTC has ever been sold. Silverstein is now pursuing a $7.1 billion insurance claim, after paying $3.2 billion for a 99 year lease on the doomed property."

This is, simply a fact. The source, anti-Semitic or not, does not matter if it's true. And Global Howler, unlike Ruppert and company, is leaving the interpretation to the reader here. Herbert thought they were blaming the Jews' foreknowledge, because Silverstein is Jewish. When I first read it, I thought it was questioning the U.S. government's foreknowledge.

Another of Global Howler's factoids:

"Enron’s $3 billion investment in an electrical generating plant in Dabhol, India is jeopardized when the company loses access to fuel for the plant from the State of Qatar. [Albion Monitor, Feb. 28, 2002]"

Writes Herbert: "Not true at all. Enron had secured LNG to power the plant from both Oman and UAE. The real reason Dabhol remains dormant to this day is that Enron and the Indian government could never agree on fair usage fees, and because of India's obstinance, no other firms have viewed the plant as profitable since Enron's collapse. This is very well documented in publications a bit more respectable that "Albion Monitor.""

But it IS true. Yes, replacement gas supplies were found, and yes, Enron continued to push at getting the project off the ground right up until it collapsed. It's relevance to any Sept. 11 discussion is highly questionable, of course, but the basic facts as presented are truthful. Again, the source doesn't matter when that's the case.

Herbert continues:

"Global Howler has also repeated the lie about bin Laden relatives being flown out of the country during the commercial flight ban."

Here's what Global Howler actually said:

"The young members of the bin Laden clan... left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks."

Again, that's exactly true. Herbert's the one with his facts wrong this time.

Herbert again: "[Global Howler] repeated the claim that the Bush administration gave $43 million to "the Taliban," when in actuality, they gave the aid to NGO's in Afghanistan."

Yes, but only as the result of the Taliban living up to its previously signed agreement with the UN to end poppy cultivation. The unarguable fact is that the new Bush government was somewhat more favourably inclined to normalize relations with the Taliban than its predecessors had been. Is this germane to Sept. 11? Likely only as an ironic tangent. But Global Howler isn't wrong to mention it, although I agree their language could have been more precise. (Frankly, given the degree of looting of NGO warehouses, and the atmosphere of absolute rule, there's little doubt the Taliban DID see it as THEIR money, no matter what Colin Powell told American reporters back home. Does Herbert not remember all the reports of USAID wheat being found in Taliban military installations?)

I agree, after discussion with Herbert, that Global Howler is occasionally imprecise. They've removed a lot of the bias they've inherited from Ruppert, but not all of it yet. They still make too much of the Vreeland case, which until someone comes forward to confirm at least part of Vreeland's fantastic story, is not worthy of any more attention at all (it's not preknowledge if no one remembers you saying it). And they rely too much on the UK Mirror's description of the October, 2000 emergency drills at the Pentagon, which dealt with a airliner crashing into the building, but not necessarily a hijacked airliner, as they claim. But all that just suggests to me that they haven't seen all the evidence Herbert and I have yet, not that they're building air castles out of nothing.

What is notable about Global Howler is what's NOT there... the latent or overt anti-Semitism one sees on other sites, for instance. When I see what a Justin Raimondo or a Ted Rall or a Marc Herold or a Mike Ruppert can write, I know I cannot, will not, ever have a dialogue with them on this: they've lost any rational perspective they once might have had. But when I see another person that seems, like me, to be using their website to search for truth in a state of imperfect knowledge, I hold out hopes that that dialogue might be possible, and profitable. I'm certainly not inclined to shut them down as being 'as bad as all the rest' until they show by their acts that they are.

UPDATE: In his reply on his site, Herbert says that, re my earlier comments, that John Ashcroft was likely lying about being told to stop flying commercial air in July for security reasons, just so he could fly in cushy private jets instead from then on. Perhaps. But Occam's Razor does not mean automatically dismissing all facts as soon as there's ANY kind of alternate, innocuous explanation for them. However you cut it, someone is lying to the American public here: if Ashcroft's staff want to change their story now, that's fine. But it's certainly a question one would expect any formal inquiry into Sept. 11 to pursue, and Global Howler is certainly not wrong to bring it up in the way that they did.

THURSDAY UPDATE: In Flitters, Robin Roberts reminds us that, in fact, the WTC was owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, not the U.S. government. I should have known that. I agree it invalidates that portion of the Global Howler site. Notably, none of the sources they link to says it was the U.S. government: it's apparently a Howler misreading of their own evidence. Unintentional or not, I was mistaken to defend them for it.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Herbert points out in an email that I had conflated Michael Ruppert (the guy touting the Vreeland hoax and author of the timeline) in one reference above and Michael Rivero (author of What Really Happened, which promotes Ruppert's work). My apologies and thanks for pointing it out: I've corrected it.

Posted by BruceR at 12:33 AM