This essay is Chapter 12 of Kevin Barrett, John Cobb Jr., and Sandra Lubarsky, eds., 9/11 and American Empire: Christians, Jews, and Muslims Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2007).
INTERPRETING THE UNSPEAKABLE: THE MYTH OF 9/11
9/11 is myth, not history.
This suggestion will at first sound absurd. Did not actual events, terrible events, really happen on that day? Did not many people really die? Did the events of 9/11 not alter the course of history?
Certainly the awful destruction and suffering on that day were all too real. But the result was not to make or alter history, but to annihilate it and replace it with myth. Since September 11, 2001, we have been living after “the end of history”—-though a rather different end from the one predicted by the repentant ex-neocon Fukuyama.1
History, like any other human construct, is not a given. Like myth, religion, ideology, and identity, history is an interpretive grid imposed upon events. More than other such constructs, history depends upon the skeptical sifting and winnowing of evidence to construct a believable narrative about the past. It is not simply a matter of “public presumptions... beliefs thought to be true... shared in common within the relevant political community” as Philip Zelikow, self-styled expert on the creation and maintenance of public myths, would have it.
Years before 9/11, Zelikow evinced an astoundingly prescient fascination with a coming “watershed event” of “catastrophic terrorism” that would “like Pearl Harbor... divide our past and future into a before and after.”2 Such were the credentials that brought him the position of Royal Mythographer and main author of The 9/11 Commission Report. One wonders, given the evidence that 9/11 was a hoax scripted to become a Zelikow-style “public myth,” whether someone with Zelikow’s areas of expertise did not write the obviously false “let’s roll” heroic mini-myth of Flight 93, and indeed script the explosive demolition of the World Trade Center, without which the New Pearl Harbor would have been 2,000 deaths short of the old one, and manifestly inadequate as a trigger for the war that will not end in our lifetimes.3
This fearless and irreverent examination of evidence that separates history from “public myth” has been conspicuously absent from official discourse—journalistic, academic, judicial, and political—surrounding the events of 9/11. Corporate media outlets, in particular, have been gratuitously remiss in their duty to call attention to the embarrassingly abundant source data that undermine the official account of what transpired that day. Academics, who are supposed to be both more reflective and more analytical than journalists, and who are supposed to know their history—-including the evidence that most of the wars America has fought have been triggered by contrived “incidents”—-have been equally derelict of duty. Politicians, with a few courageous exceptions, have likewise been missing in action. The judicial system, too, has gone AWOL. And the farcically under-funded and under-mandated 9/11 Commission, whose creation the Bush administration frantically struggled for almost two years to prevent, and whose hobbled “investigation” it impeded at every turn, produced a blatantly mendacious narrative that pointedly failed to answer any of the real questions that have been raised. The 9/11 Commission Report is myth disguised as history, and its sham “documentation” appears, upon critical examination, as hilariously, insanely fantastical as the mad narrator’s footnotes in Nabokov’s Pale Fire.4
What does it mean to call the official account of 9/11 a myth? Why not simply call it a lie? That, of course, has been done. A tremendous amount of research has targeted the many holes in the standard account, and taken as a whole, this research has indeed proved that the official story is a lie.5 But simply proving the “nineteen Arabs” fantasy a lie is not enough. We need to understand why the lie was told, why it has been so widely believed, how it has functioned historically and culturally, and how it can be annihilated and replaced by a better story. By better I do not simply mean truer or more accurate, but also more life-sustaining, since a true story that is death-dealing rather than life-sustaining is of no use to anyone.
Truth-versus-lies is a simple binary opposition. The richly ambivalent word “myth” takes up where “lie” leaves off. The disciplines contiguous with mythography, including folklore, psychoanalysis, literary criticism, and religious studies, are appropriate tools for the interpretation of 9/11. For that event, as it comes down to us mediated by culture, is less a historical happening than a peculiar intersection of fantastic tales, the sacred, and applied mass depth psychology. The study of myths and legends provides an excellent point of departure for any serious attempt to come to grips with this still-unspeakable object.
Myth and Mythography
Mythography, the study of myths and their meanings, was born out of a secularizing trend in Western universities and intellectual life in general. The word “myth,” an ancient Greek term that described, among other things, its own culture’s sacred narratives, was taken up by Christians and applied to the sacred narratives that Christians believed to be false, starting with those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. By extension, it came to mean “falsehood,” as in “that’s just a myth; that character is purely mythical.”
In the nineteenth century, more and more European intellectuals came to doubt their own culture’s Jewish and Christian sacred narratives, yet shied away from applying the new literary-historical critical approaches developed for other cultures’ sacred narratives to their own. By the twentieth century, however, that taboo had been breached, and the Western intelligentsia no longer used its own Jewish and Christian sacred narratives as the touchstone of truth against which the falsity of other cultures’ sacred stories could be measured. It has been argued that a new myth of progress, rationalism, and enlightenment had taken the place of the old Jewish and Christian mythology, and that this myth too went largely unquestioned until the rise of postmodern thought in the late twentieth century.
In today’s folklore and anthropology departments, the term myth normally refers to a narrative—often a foundational one for a worldview or social order—that is considered both true and sacred by those who use it and believe in it.6 The discipline of mythography seeks to understand sacred narrative from a perspective that goes beyond the naïve or unconscious acceptance of one’s own sacred narrative as the touchstone for the interpretation of all others as something less than truth. How, then, can a religious believer do mythography? The very notion of scripture would seem to put a particular set of sacred narratives on a pedestal, bracket them off, and make them immune to mythographic analysis.
As a Muslim trained in mythography, I have been grappling with this problem for some time. My purpose in discussing it here is to answer the question: how can a believing and practicing Muslim be offering a mythographic analysis of 9/11—-or any mythographic analysis of anything, for that matter?7
First, it must be said that Islam is an extremely scriptural religion—-indeed, the ultimate scriptural religion in the view of Muslims themselves. The whole religion is based on belief that the Qur’an is literally the word of God, as received by the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him. Scholars have tried to show, with a great deal of success, that the Bible is the product of many authors, which implies that if indeed there is only one God, the Bible must have been written by humans, perhaps in some or all cases under some form of divine inspiration. Such an approach does not work with the Qur’an. There is plainly a single consciousness responsible for the entire Qur’an as we have it today; no reasonable literary critic could assert that some parts of it appear to have been written by one hand, and others by another.8 So we are left with the choice of imagining the Qur’an to have been authored by a single human author, presumably Muhammad of Mecca (the non-Muslim position) or viewing it as a divine product, as the Qur’an itself asserts.
As a Muslim, I embrace the latter position. I read the Qur’an as the word of God, as it asks to be read. In doing so, do I not undermine my credentials as a student of mythography? Am I not asserting that the Qur’an is the world’s one and only genuine sacred narrative, immune from mythographic analysis, while all others are fair game, to be read in light of their confirmation or rejection of Qur’anic positions?
The answer is: yes and no. What I take to be the basic message of the Qur’an is quite straightforward and immune to the usual sorts of mythographic analysis. The Qur’an departs from the whole notion of myth as sacred narrative in part because it isn’t really a narrative at all, but a compendium of poetic exhortation studded with narrative fragments that shine with wisdom like gleaming jewels, but which do not in themselves constitute a sacred narrative. (The closest thing Islam has to a sacred narrative is the Sira, or life of Muhammad, peace upon him, which does not really have a single canonical form and which occupies a marginal place in the corpus of Islamic scripture.)
The Qur’an exhorts us to be aware of and submit to the one God, Lord of the worlds, the transcendent, ineffable, eternal creator, the absolutely Real (all else is relative) whose first two quasi-tangible qualities are mercy and compassion. This exhortation is primary; all the embedded and surrounding narratives are secondary, and, in my view at least, fair game for mythographic analysis. Indeed, the Qur’an comes to correct not just the erroneous myths that stem from human alteration of previous divinely revealed messages, but the whole process of taking a human-authored story for an absolute truth. The process of storytelling is inevitably contaminated (and in another sense enriched) by human desires, which are themselves bound up with the haughty, self-centered human ego. The stories we want to hear, and tell, are those that appeal to our desires and pander to our egos, not those that are good for us. The Qur’an overwhelms us with its magnificent language and offers the “true” versions of some of the earlier revelations that the Bible distorts—-“true” in the sense that they are the God-authored ones that are good for us, that take us beyond our own fallible desires and egos.
For me, analyzing narratives from a Muslim point of view is a logical extension of literary studies, which in its classical form also seeks texts that are somehow good for us, such as Shakespeare and Balzac, and rejects those that are not, such as Horatio Alger and Mickey Spillane. The former, it is believed, hold the potential to raise us beyond our dumb brute egos into a realm of freedom and pure contemplation, while the latter feed and freeze those egos into a fixed, bestial, rapacious form. In fact, things are not quite that simple: moral and spiritual effects are produced by text reader-context interaction, not text in a vacuum. One can read about evil so as to get better at avoiding it. And one can read a perfectly good text and derive corruption from it. (One of the twentieth century’s worst writers and human beings, E. Howard Hunt, reportedly bought the rights to Animal Farm from Orwell’s widow on behalf of the CIA, in order to make sure that any films of the book would be mere anti-Soviet propaganda—and in so doing showed he had learned nothing from Orwell except how to be more Orwellian.)9
Literary criticism, like literature itself, is basically moral critique that at its best rises to lofty spiritual heights. The whole modern literary industry is grounded in a debate about Christianity that arose in the nineteenth century, and whether we see literature as a substitute for traditional Christianity (Matthew Arnold and the whole tribe of secularizers), an exhortation to traditional Christianity (C.S. Lewis), or a gesture toward some alternative, esoteric religious vision (Blake and Bloom, symbolist-surrealist-Romantics), Western literature, as presently constituted, is the stepchild of Christianity. This is not necessarily a bad thing, even from a Muslim perspective. Christianity and Islam are quite similar universalized versions of Judaism, and they agree on most key points, with the areas of disagreement mostly being semantic and/or provisional.
Turning back to mythography, a subfield of literary studies and anthropology, we can see a parallel moral and spiritual debate taking place. The explosion of popular interest in myth in the sense of “other people’s sacred stories,” is symptomatic of a dissatisfied yearning on the part of intellectuals who have lost faith in Christianity.10 Like the explosion of conversions to Buddhism, interest in New Age alternative spiritualities, and indeed the growing trend toward conversion to Islam, the popularity of such figures as Jung and Campbell shows that mythography is driven and energized by post-Christian culture’s need to fill a certain religious void.
It was once thought that students of mythology could be scientific, neutral, and objective in their approach to other people’s sacred stories. That naïve epistemology is now almost entirely defunct, replaced by a new paradigm that is sometimes called postmodern, but which extends beyond the bounds of that term to embrace almost all current methodologies, which require, in one form or another, the development of systematic self-awareness on the part of the student so that the mythographic/ethnographic product is framed as a self-conscious dialogue between two worldviews, rather than a monologic description of the other by a privileged observer.11
Thus a Muslim doing mythography simply needs to be clear about what that entails, and what assumptions are being brought to bear on the material. My own approach is built on ambivalence: Myths should be celebrated for their richness and beauty and occasional glimmerings of wisdom, while simultaneously deflated and deconstructed as idolatrous fantasies. Any myth that overwhelms its audience and demands to be a focal point of existence, an absolute, a touchstone, is idolatrous. Like anthropomorphized gods, human heroes presented for worship as if they were gods are idols. And idolatry, or shirk, is the first sin in Islam. Why? Because idols represent and reinforce unbalanced aspects of the naves, the desiring ego, and turn our natural tendency for worship away from God and toward the self.12 This is where Joseph Campbell reaches his limits of understanding. Campbell celebrates pagan mythologies and idols, arguing that human beings need to live for something beyond and greater than the self (correct) and that mythic heroes and similar idols offer a way to do that (often incorrect). Certainly such mythic heroes as the prophets of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, and presumably the thousands of other prophets who have come to other peoples, do offer models for enlightenment. But Campbell ignores the destructive potential of idolatry, evidenced by the cults of human sacrifice that are such a pervasive part of debased “religion” all over the world, as René Girard has persuasively shown.13 Ultimately Campbell’s moral-spiritual vision is blinded by his post-Catholic Romantic idealization of the exotic other, and a parallel rejection of that key dimension of religion, morality, and ethics, of which he was perhaps force-fed too much in Catholic school. His work, like so much of the other spiritual alternatives in American popular as well as academic culture, appeals to those who, for reasons of selfish desire, wish to reject the moral-ethical dimension of their monotheistic heritage.14
So let me lay my cards on the table: I am doing mythography as a rational moral critique grounded in the basic precepts of Islam. When I see a myth whose main function is to trigger and legitimize mass human sacrifice—like the myth of 9/11—I feel obliged to deconstruct and denounce it. So much more so in that the myth of 9/11, even more than others, is so transparently a human product, crafted by human hands in order to attain the basest and most illegitimate of human desires. Those who brought us the myth of 9/11 are pursuing what Richard Falk has called the “global domination project.”15 Citing the adage “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Griffin points out that the “tends to” in the first half of the phrase disappears in the second, underlining the point that power may conceivably be exercised responsibly while it is merely relative, but when absolute power is attained, the only possible result is absolute corruption.16
The neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which guides the Bush administration and had sixteen of its members appointed to administration posts, openly called for a “new Pearl Harbor” in September 2000 and boasts that its purpose is absolute global domination—that is, absolute power.17 Indeed, those who already possess something akin to absolute power, American-Atlanticist global economic and military hegemony, seek to make their power eternal and prevent any challengers from ever arising to make it less than absolute. The inevitable result of this situation, of course, is absolute corruption. The Islamic antihero who is the avatar of such behavior is Pharaoh, Moses’s shadow antagonist.18 Holding absolute worldly power, Pharaoh imagines himself a god. The result is his utter destruction at every level: moral, spiritual, and worldly. One does not need prophetic powers to foresee a similar end for the architects of the global domination project.
9/11 as Satanic Parody of Sacred Narrative
As the preceding discussion makes clear, I am analyzing the myth of 9/11 from a morally engaged perspective. I see the official account of 9/11, and the death cult that has grown from it, as a satanic parody of sacred narrative. It is a shallow myth that was consciously scripted, not divinely revealed, to serve as the foundation for a cult of human sacrifice. In this it follows the function of foundational myths: to inaugurate and legitimize a particular social order.
One does not have to believe that the official story of 9/11 is false or evil to accept that it is a myth in the deep, scholarly sense of a sacred legitimizing narrative of origins. The scholarly approach to myth does not usually concern itself with whether a myth is true, false, or something else. Scholars of mythology, like those of literature, find such stories fascinating in part because they convey information in a way that is more powerfully profound and world-shaping than is possible in modes of discourse that foreground verifiable truth claims, such as scientific writing, journalism, nonfiction, biography, and historiography. (Those supposedly nonfictional forms, upon closer inspection, often turn out to be rich in mythography themselves, and it is usually the mythical element at least as much as the truth value that is responsible for their appeal.)
Though we can analyze the official story of 9/11 as a myth without concerning ourselves about whether or to what extent it is true, that does not mean that, in the final analysis, the truth of the story does not matter. That way lies nihilism—whether the vicious and mendacious nihilism of the neocons, avatars of the Big Lie, or the less pernicious nihilism of certain postmodern thinkers, who believe that truth is boring and passé. The truth does matter. Though the myth of 9/11 functions in about the same way whether nineteen extremist Muslim hijackers actually did it, or whether they were framed by intelligence agents working for the US high command, the question of whether and to what extent this myth was consciously authored, and by whom, is obviously relevant to its ultimate meaning. Roland Barthes, the first and greatest analyst of the mythologies of modern life, supposedly oversaw the death of the author: According to Barthes, the author’s intended meaning is irrelevant to the meaning of her text.19 This may be true for Finnegan’s Wake, but not for 9/11. If we learn that the myth of 9/11 is false, a fictional creation intended to inaugurate an era of an endless “war on terror,” the meaning that we draw from it, and the historical effect we create as we draw that meaning, will be quite different from what we would have drawn and done as true believers in an egregiously false myth.
Our analysis of the official story of 9/11 as a myth in the deep sense can also help us understand why so many people believe it, despite the existence of overwhelming evidence against it. The official tale in general, and the Kean-Zelikow novel in particular, is a terrific story. It is woven around a stunning mythic image, has an unbelievable cast of larger-than-life heroes and villains, hails its American audience by casting it on the side of the angels, exerts a strong yet subliminal sexual fascination, sustains itself through a powerful structural rhythm of tension (insecurity) and partial release, and forces itself upon us through repeated tellings around our modern tribal hearth until it is deeply ingrained in our consciousness. Questioning it begins to feel like sacrilege.20
In short, many Americans have accepted the official version of 9/11 simply because it is such a good story. And we love good stories, as every storyteller knows. Nobody wants to be awakened from the “storylistening trance,” that pleasurable state evoked by a well-crafted narrative.21 And if the awakening is a rude one—-if the storyteller and his biggest heroes turn out to be vicious, coldblooded murderers posing as our protectors, wielding the power of life and death over all of us with a murderous, cynical sneer—-it may be less painful to remain half-asleep, dreaming the pleasant dreams that flicker evanescently from the television soma-dispenser.
The official story of 9/11 is not only a good story, but (on the surface, at least) it is a coherent one. The allegedly relevant facts are arranged in such a way that they appear to all fit together. Those who point out the existence of a massive body of evidence contradicting the official story cannot easily produce an equally coherent counter-narrative to explain the event. They must admit that they don’t know for sure whether there were any hijackings or not, whether occupied passenger planes or remotely guided dummy planes hit the buildings, who the relevant actors were and exactly what they did, and so on. All the critics of the official version can do is make educated guesses. And educated guesses are not as appealing as a tightly woven, thrilling narrative, with each of its threads apparently in place, and its myriad loose ends concealed.
Our examination of the myth of 9/11must explore the ways that it is such a good story. The core of the official 9/11 story is its central mythic image: The collapse of the Twin Towers. Who will ever forget the sight of those massive, looming monuments exploding into dust and collapsing at free-fall speed? And though the sight itself was unforgettable, even on a nineteen-inch television screen, the major television networks, largely owned by defense contractors that would be lapping up 9/11’s trillion-dollar windfall, made absolutely sure we wouldn’t forget it, by running the same footage over... and over... and over. Cognitive psychologists tell us that the most effective way to transfer data into long-term memory is repetition, repetition, repetition. That is why the best way to learn a new acquaintance’s name is to use it several times in quick succession.
The endless reruns of planes crashing into buildings, then buildings exploding and collapsing, did more than drive a message into the audience’s long-term memory. It also created a powerful, irrational link between the plane crashes and the buildings’ explosions and collapses. This is less a matter of logical inference of causality from chronology than an emotional linkage whose glue was the spectacular horror of the two events. Such irrational linkages, hardened into the illusion of logical causality, can be extremely difficult to deconstruct rationally, no matter how much evidence is produced showing that the crashes and collapses were physically unrelated. The perpetraitors22 used misdirection, the central principle of stage magic, leading the audience to focus on the planes, and the horror-movie script of what allegedly transpired on board, while the buildings were actually brought down with explosives.23
The endlessly repeated crash–collapse footage served another purpose: It battered the viewer’s psyche into horrified submission to authority. As we identified with the victims—-and the harangue from American television channels reinforced that identification for US citizens by indoctrinating us with an “American victims-foreign attackers” dichotomy—-we watched ourselves get murdered over and over and over. It was like an endless snuff film with ourselves as victims. And the worst part is that we were doing it to ourselves. I do not mean this just in the sense that our tax dollars paid the salaries of the politicians, military leaders, and covert operatives who carried out the atrocity. As television viewers, we could not turn away. We could not change the channel—after all, this was historic, and the same thing was on every channel. Few of us could summon up the courage to just turn the damned thing off.
We thus became complicit in our own endlessly repeated mass murder. By watching the atrocity again and again, we literally tortured ourselves. And self-torture, as the CIA has long known, is the most effective kind of torture. That is why the hooded figure from Abu Ghraib is standing with his hands straight out, trying to avoid moving: he is being tortured by electric shocks every time he moves.24 As CIA interrogators know, it is possible to resist torture applied by another person. Create a situation in which the victim tortures herself, and she will quickly be reduced to jelly. The self-torture victim collapses into a state of extreme dissociation, in which her previous identity, her sense of herself in the world, is exploded. The self-torture victim is ready to be infantilized, taken under the wing of a substitute parent figure, and told what to do, think, say, feel, and believe.25
By battering us in this way, the perpetraitors, including our governmental, financial, and media elites, became our abusive parents. Like battered children, and the Winston Smith who loved Big Brother, we identified with our abusers. We blinded ourselves to the abuser’s evil, and instead relinquished our souls to the very forces that battered us. We were collectively overwhelmed by a new socio-psychiatric disorder that might be termed ACS, Abused Citizen’s Syndrome.26 And most of us entered a deep state of denial from which we have yet to emerge.
The coercive hypnotic power of this carefully scripted, endlessly reiterated disaster footage was immense. The images of planes hitting skyscrapers, and of skyscrapers collapsing, possess the kind of scope and power that makes them potent mythic icons. Humans have always dreamed of flight and trembled with fear and longing—look at Icarus! And the dream of trying to build a tower to the skies, and then watching it collapse into ruins, is to building what the dream of Icarus is to flying. The collapsing tower dream is the core image of the Babel myth. In fact, the parallels between 9/11 and the Babel myth are rather stunning. In the story of the Tower of Babel, the tower builders get their power from the gradual unification of humanity under a single language. On 9/11/01, the world was nearly united under a single global language, English, the natural language expression of the underlying techno-economic language of global capitalism. The triumph of capitalist “democracy” would, according to the wildly and inexplicably popular neocon Fukuyama, bring the “end of history.”27 In fact, Fukuyama claimed, history had already ended; we just didn’t realize it yet. The world was unified under the anglo-capitalist Tower of Babel, which was destined to reach the stars. Yet the hidden masters of this tyrannical globalization were being challenged by the anti-globalization movement, whose Islamist wing—because it rejects usury, holds fast to its religious tradition, and dwells atop most of the planet’s remaining oil reserves—remains the biggest obstacle to one-world tyranny under Atlanticist domination.
On 9/11, the World Trade Center collapsed, blown up by the globalists themselves—and capitalist globalism collapsed with it.28 Rabid neocon nationalism, laying bare the real forces behind socalled globalization, arose on the ruins of the towers, and in proclaiming an incipient American empire, the Bush administration set the stage for the confusion of nationalistic tongues that increasingly drives the world toward chaos. Fukuyama’s report of history’s death turned out to have been greatly exaggerated.
It is one of history’s exquisite ironies that the architects of the 9/11 myth were trying to preserve the very empire they so efficiently destroyed. The US empire, and especially its Israeli outpost, were doomed in the medium-term anyway, with or without 9/11. Inexorable demographic and economic trends were working against them. The European Union was already bigger, both in population and GNP, than the United States, and Israel was losing its demographic race with the Palestinians it had always needed to expel as a precondition for an apartheid “Jewish state.”29
Peak oil was coming soon, and with it the empowerment of whoever controlled the remaining oil reserves—meaning the Arabs and Muslims. Meanwhile, China was shaping up as the superpower of the second half of the twenty-first century. The neocons, through their think tank PNAC, openly stated what seemed, to them, obvious: The US had a limited window of opportunity to shape the international environment, and it had better take advantage of its unmatched military power, the only card in its hand, while it still could. But US military might would only be fully unleashed, the PNAC neocons wrote, after “some galvanizing event like a new Pearl Harbor.”30 Without this new Pearl Harbor, Americans would not make the sacrifices—such as accepting widespread poverty, unemployment, the destruction of Social Security and the limitation or even end of their constitutional civil liberties—necessary for the US to put all its eggs in the military basket, and then lob those eggs at every imaginable potential adversary. Unfortunately for the US empire, these neocon strategists had not understood the point Charles Kupchan makes so forcefully in The Vulnerability of Empire: Empires fall when they make stupid, rash decisions, and those bad decisions are almost always driven by the same psychological factor: A fear of homeland vulnerability.31 By killing over 2,700 Americans as they staged what was intended to be the inaugurating myth of the New American Century, the neocons spurred the US into a frenzy of pathological overextension, uniting the whole world, especially the energy-rich Islamic world, against America. Instead of preserving US power, they assured their empire of a much earlier, more violent, and complete demise than would have been the case had it merely faded slowly and wisely from its position as world hegemon.
Intended to kick off a New American Century of absolute domination, 9/11 now looks more like the beginning of the end of the American empire. In any case, it marks a transition. The core mythic image represents the explosive transition from one epoch, one state of being or non-being, to another. It separates the time and space we know from an earlier condition of chaos, void, or nonexistence. The best-known creation myth in Western culture, of course, is Genesis:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
---Now the earth had been wild and waste,
darkness over the face of the Oecan, beath of God hoveing over the face of the waters---
God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
God saw the light: that it was good.
God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light: Day! And the darkness he called: Night!
There was evening, there was morning: one day . . .”32
God goes on to separate waters from waters with a dome, creating heaven and seas; separates the seas from land; life from non-living matter; man from woman; and so on. Note the pattern: One big moment of creation, the birth of somethingness (heaven and earth) out of nothingness, is followed by lesser acts of creation by division. In each case, something chaotic or amorphous is divided, resulting in two less-amorphous entities, one of which is better, being less chaotic or amorphous than the other. Chaos is broken into light and darkness (light is better); the waters are broken into above and below, and those above (heaven) are better; dry earth is divided from the seas, and dry earth is better; plant life appears from the earth (life is better than mere earth); animals appear (an improvement over plants); and finally humans are created in God’s own image, with men being better (less amorphous and chaotic) than women. This magnificent myth is a monument to the human ego: The process of creation that led to ME consisted of cutting chaos in two, discarding the worse half, and keeping the better half, until finally I was created in the image of God.
The Bible’s creation myth is clearly derived from earlier Middle Eastern creation myths. The one preserved in the Gilgamesh epic posits a somewhat more violent sundering of chaos, in the person of the oceanic female, and the bloody carving out of the domain of (aggressive male) order. That aggressive male ego is then held up as the tribal norm.
The core mythic image of 9/11, the destruction of the WTC, is more like the Gilgamesh/Sumerian versions of creation than the one in Genesis. For one thing, it is ultra-violent. Thousands of human bodies are smashed, pulverized, and exploded into pieces. But unlike the Sumerian version, in which the primordial chaos goddess is dismembered by the male warrior hero, here the sacrificial victim is ambiguously gendered. The Towers, of course, are phallic symbols, and the American audience is invited to view their destruction as a kind of symbolic castration. Yet this symbolic castration of America is linked to the “our women are threatened” motif, perhaps the most powerful motivational myth available to those who wish to stimulate warlike behavior. The media propaganda machine worked overtime cranking out portrayals of Arabs and Muslims as vile sexist villains who abuse, oppress, and sexually exploit women. Thus the destruction of the Towers is blamed on these dark sexist villains who threaten womenfolk everywhere, and the image of the collapsing Towers made into a kind of rape. America, robbed of its two towering phalluses, is feminized, symbolically penetrated by gigantic, explosive airplanes ejaculating jet fuel, whose crews and passengers had already been penetrated by Arab-Muslim blades, box cutters that had somehow penetrated airport security. The image of a nation vulnerable to penetration is heightened by the story about the alleged “nineteen hijackers” who supposedly snuck into the country to do the dastardly deed. The sexualized nature of the attack seems to have been intended to trigger the erection of a pre-planned post-9/11 sex torture gulag, famously represented by that poor parody of Pasolini’s Salo known as Abu Ghraib.
This violent, spectacular, sexually-charged image separates “us”, the forces of order, from “them”, the forces of chaos and evil—-a primal sundering that repeats the pattern of all creation myths, which cleave before from after, good from evil, day from night, inaugurating the whole social reality that the myth participants and their descendants subsequently experience. “If you are not with us,” George W. Bush famously warned, “you are against us.” This bifurcation of the world into light and dark, white (Americans) and dark (Ay-rabs and Nee-groes), pure unsullied Judeo-Christians and swarthy, sexually aggressive Muslims, repeats the pattern of earlier Euro-racist mythologizers, notably Adolf Hitler. Like Bush and the neocons, Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies, dusky-hued, sexually aggressive Semites whose penetration of the pure white homeland would have to be stopped by any means necessary. The new, post–Reichstag Fire world would be one of endless aggressive war. Bush’s obsession with this idea of a whole new era of perpetual war, an era inaugurated by the destruction of an architectural monument, produced one of the most bizarre presidential Freudian slips in history. In a story that should have been headlined “Bush Threatens Submarine Attack on Clinton Presidential Library,” Sidney Blumenthal described President Bush wandering beside the Arkansas River just after the opening ceremony of the Clinton Presidential Library:
“...Bush appeared distracted, and glanced repeatedly at his watch. When he stopped to gaze at the river, where secret service agents were stationed in boats, the guide said: ‘Usually, you might see some bass fishermen out there.’ Bush replied: ‘A submarine could take this place out.’”
Was the president warning of an al-Qaeda submarine, sneaking undetected up the Mississippi, through the locks and dams of the Arkansas river, surfacing under the bridge to the twenty-first century to dispatch the Clinton library? Is that where Osama bin Laden is hiding?
Or was this a wishful paranoid fantasy of ubiquitous terrorism destroying Clinton’s legacy with one blow? Or a projection of menace and messianism, with only Bush grasping the true danger, standing between submerged threat and civilization? Perhaps it was simply his way of saying he wouldn’t build his library near water.33
As Blumenthal suggests, this scene drew a stark dividing line between America’s past and its apparent future. The past, symbolized by the Clinton Presidential Library, is the pre-9/11 world, a world of literate presidents, libraries, buildings sitting peacefully beside a river. The future is Bush’s fantasy of sending a nuclear submarine to destroy the Clinton library—to destroy the past order and erect a new order of war, terror, and fascism. As Bush put it in another telling Freudian slip, “They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”34 Along with blowing up American buildings, Bush also fantasizes about blowing up Social Security, international law, and the Constitution. Such fantasies would be harmless were he not in a position to realize them.
The Myth that Failed
One of the early epitaphs of Communism was “the God that Failed.”35 The attempt of the architects of 9/11 to create a mythical sui generis event, and found a whole new social order upon it, was a far more abject failure. Communism, after all, lasted well over half a century—from the Russian Revolution in 1917 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But as I write, in the winter of 2006, the post-9/11 moment of flag-waving patriots exuding purity and righteousness as they march off blissfully to found a globe conquering 100-year empire has already passed. In truth, it only lasted a couple of months. Launched by the media’s Big Lies in the hours after the attacks, the New World Order petered out somewhere in the mountain snowfields of Afghanistan, when it grew obvious that the US high command had no interest in pursuing, much less apprehending, Osama bin Laden—that the whole thing had been a pipeline grab for Caspian Sea energy resources and geopolitical advantage.
The myth failed because it was phony. Real myths are organic, growing naturally out of a particular people’s soil, shaped by thousands of hands, and bearing fruit that meets the needs of many generations. But this one was as plastic as the imploding petrocivilization whose terminal decline it hastened and highlighted.
Admittedly it was not the first plastic myth. We have been getting what passes for our mythology on celluloid for nearly a century, and those celluloid (now digital) artifacts, consciously crafted by the high-priest propagandists of Hollywood, are a poor imitation of the sacred narratives that sustain genuine civilizations. But 9/11 took the ersatz mythology of Hollywood, whose dominant tone is a realism designed to make the audience forget that it is watching an artifact, and made it a thousand times more putrid and death-dealing than the ugliest snuff film. By staging the on-camera murder of 2,752 unpaid extras in the most obscene special-effects extravaganza ever committed to film, the architects of 9/11 were counting on the very real suffering they inflicted to create what Roland Barthes calls “l’effet du reel”—the effect of the real, that certain je ne sais quoi that makes an audience suspend all critical judgment and forget that it is beholding an artifact.36 Like the philosopher George Bataille, who wanted to stage a public human sacrifice in hopes of reawakening the religious emotions of which modern man had been deprived, the authors of 9/11 believed that the ritual murder of human beings would magically right the wrongs of a doomed civilization. They thought that this mass human sacrifice would create the “new Pearl Harbor” they called for in September 2000—a “galvanizing event” that would unleash a brave and virile imperial culture unafraid to send its children off to die overseas, believing they were fighting for goodness and justice.37 And they apparently thought that mass murder was their best insurance against getting caught—that the very act of murdering 2,752 of the very citizens they had sworn to protect, in an act of treason against the Constitution they had sworn to defend, was so heinous that nobody would ever believe them capable of such a thing, no matter how much evidence they left behind.
This attempt to consciously craft a civilization-saving myth was remarkable for its audacity as well as its evil. Those of us trained in literature are inclined to admire the amazing energy and imagination that authors invest in their fictional creations, and there is something about the 9/11 myth that inspires this kind of awe—especially since it must have been the product of a number of minds, rather than a single evil genius.38 Still, it has been said that the King James Bible is the only document written by committee that turned out any good, and the 9/11 myth will certainly never be viewed as the second such success. In the final analysis, considered as a work of art, it is blatantly bad—a horror movie in which you can see the strings attached to the monster’s jaws as they snap at dime-store model airplanes.
The qualities implied by adjectives like false, shoddy, ersatz, plastic, fake, artificial, unreal, and so on, ultimately return us to the notion of the lie—the deliberately fabricated untruth. The myth of 9/11 has failed precisely because it is a lie. Had there been a real attack on 9/11/01 by real foreign terrorists who had outwitted a government that was really trying to prevent any such attacks, the resulting myth might not have failed. The nation might have rallied to a nationalist cause based on such a “true myth,” rather as it did after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.39 But after 9/11, it wasn’t just the perceptive minority that smelled a rat. Most, perhaps all of the population knows at some level, whether consciously or unconsciously, that the whole 9/11 event exudes a potent whiff of rotten fakery. In many cases that knowledge remains thoroughly unconscious, blocked from awareness by the kind of wall of repression that Freud famously analyzed, along with the denial characteristic of abuse victims.
The main source of that repression and denial is clear: Nobody wants to believe that their own government willfully slaughters thousands of its own citizens and then lies through its teeth about it. Nobody wants to believe that the media we depend on for our information are that corrupt. Nobody wants to believe that things are quite that bad.
Another cause is hidden a bit deeper: We have erected a wall of repression around 9/11 because deep down inside, we experienced a powerful wave of forbidden pleasure at the destructive spectacle, akin to that described by Tom Robbins:
“’Tell me, amigo,’ said Switters in a voice just loud enough to penetrate the fellow’s earphones, ‘do you know why boomboom movies are so popular? Do you know why young males, especially, love, simply love, to see things blown apart?’ The man stared blankly at Switters. He lifted his headset, but on one side only. ‘It’s freedom,’ said Switters brightly. ‘Freedom from the material world. Subconsciously, people feel trapped by our culture’s confining buildings and its relentless avalanche of consumer goods. So, when they watch all this shit being demolished in a totally irreverent and devil-may-care fashion, they experience the kind of release the Greeks used to get from their tragedies. The ecstasy of psychic liberation.’”40
Of course, there is a part of us that loves explosions and destruction even without reference to the burden of possessions. I remember the awed fascination I felt as a child while watching pictures of plane and train crashes on TV; such images are still staples of our popular culture, relentlessly purveyed in documentary and fictional disaster footage. On 9/11, the pleasure of such an extraordinary destructive spectacle was inadmissible to consciousness and unspeakable in polite company—thanks to the real human suffering that the operation’s architects had included for that very purpose. A wall of repression, in the form of patriotic cant and mediated big lies, was immediately erected around the event. The repression of the horrific pleasure we all felt at watching those buildings fall stands as one of the least-discussed, least-understood, yet most obvious causes of the neurotic wall of denial that still stands, battered and tottering, around the reality of 9/11. Hypocrite voyeur—mon semblable—mon frère! Deep down inside we are still screaming out “I am not on the side of those who did this!” as we go through with our increasingly empty, meaningless, repetitious and unhappy neurotic behavior, while channeling our lust for still more explosive thrills toward the more socially acceptable alternative of “revenge against the evil-doers.” Crush Kandahar! Bomb Baghdad! Torch Tehran! Nuke them all! Yet the neurotic veneer is wearing thin, and the primal scene—the father-government’s explosive rape of the World Trade Center, and of America—is starting to come back to us. Only its full exposure can offer a cure.
The widespread unconscious or pre-conscious awareness of 9/11’s artificiality made it a stillborn myth. By the time of the Iraq invasion in spring 2003 a worldwide wave of revulsion had already arisen, based largely on a deeply felt but mostly inarticulate sense that something was rotten in Denmark. Thierry Meyssan’s books had set publishing records in France, and the basic thrust of Meyssan’s books had been endorsed by majorities in many parts of the world—including those parts the Bush administration was intent on invading, using the myth of 9/11 as its one-size-fits-all raison d’être.41 The universal semi-awareness that 9/11 was a sham drove the global antiwar majority, just as a repressed understanding of the momentous threat posed by nuclear weapons drove the anti-nuclear-power movements of earlier decades. In both the case of 9/11 and that of nuclear weapons, the root of the problem was so awful that most people simply could not face it, but instead chose to struggle against a surface symptom in order to avoid the real issue.
A successful myth cannot be created from a deliberate lie. But in the end, the myth of 9/11 has failed not just because of its falseness: All myths take liberties with objective, empirical truth, though this one admittedly pushes untruth to an extreme. It has failed because it cannot provide the life-sustaining nourishment of story and symbol that we need. Successful myths, including those of the great religions, grow from the seed and soil of truth. In their highest embodiments, they are firmly rooted in the highest kind of truth, that currently unfashionable commodity known as ultimate truth or divine truth, and they offer their followers access to at least a taste of that ineffable gift. The myth of 9/11, however, offers nothing life-sustaining whatsoever. Its only conceivable legacy is an unending cycle of destruction, Cheney’s war that will not end in our lifetimes.
To be sure, the myth of 9/11 attempts to whip up a life sustaining brew of story and symbol. But what kind of life is it meant to sustain? The pre-scripted line “we were attacked by nefarious evil-doers, and we must not stop until the evil system responsible is destroyed” worked reasonably well for World War II, which targeted a palpable and genuinely evil enemy (Nazi Germany) that could be defeated in less than four years.
The myth of 9/11, however, does not offer a life-sustaining way to get through the historical mess we find ourselves in. That does not, of course, mean that it was never meant to. It was intended to set the American empire in stone for at least a hundred years, perhaps even to found a new, imperial 1000-year Reich like the one the Nazis dreamed of. It was meant to offer an unshakable legitimacy to a stepped-up regime of Anglo-American global domination. It was meant to overcome the resistance of the colonized, especially in such resource-rich regions as the Middle East, and to annex these regions as stable appendages of empire. In so doing, it was meant to achieve the geopolitically unsustainable feat of dominating Eurasia from an imperial center in the Western hemisphere during the critical civilizational turning point of peak oil.42
This project, of course, is impossible. Empires get their power from their economic-technological base, and the American empire was starting to totter well before the architects of 9/11 gave it a huge push designed to keep it upright—which only set it to tottering that much harder. The very impossibility of the project may well be responsible for the hallucinatory lies with which it was realized. The French have a saying, “il prend ses desires pour des réalités” (he mistakes his desires for realities), which applies nicely to the neocons. The neocons wish empires did not rise and fall for reasons beyond human power or comprehension. They wish they could control the process and forestall empire’s end through a judicious application of illusion. They wish the erosion of America’s economic-technological-productive base could somehow be ignored, and American imperial power sustained through lies and deceit even after the base is gone.
At a deeper level, I suspect that many of them at least partly believe their own lies, even though those lies were consciously crafted as lies to manipulate the masses. They have inadvertently hypnotized themselves into believing that America is the greatest place on earth and that whatever it does is right. They have conned themselves into believing that the brown-skinned followers of Muhammad are barbarians and fanatics whose lives are worth little and whose suffering hardly matters. Some of them may even have actually believed that there might have been a couple of irrelevant WMDs in Iraq somewhere, that the Iraqi people would welcome the American “liberators,” and above all that nobody would dare speak up, ever, about the all-too-obvious lies surrounding the 9/11 operation. Indeed, a few of the less clever among them may actually believe the official 9/11 legend.
When people start to believe their own lies, they are usually in serious trouble. The neocons running the US empire on its eve of destruction are no exception. Their openly expressed scorn for those who indulge in “reality-based politics”—”we don’t have time for reality, we’re running an empire here!”—is beyond chutzpah, beyond hubris, beyond the pride that goeth before a fall. Such contempt for truth, for reality, is beyond tragic. It is insane.43
Such insanity is the natural product of a failed myth. Myths, after all, are the foundations of how people understand the world and act in it. Destroy someone’s cherished myth, and you have destroyed their ability to cope with reality. How much more terrible, then, to have consciously participated in the invention of a myth, at the price of tremendous effort and energy and suffering and guilt, and then to watch the whole thing collapse before your eyes. The neocons, like the Nazis hunkering in their bunkers during the fall of Berlin, are in a pitiable situation, and one conducive to insanity. This, of course, makes them extremely dangerous—-which may be one reason that so many apparently well-meaning liberals keep right on humoring them, especially about the big lie of 9/11.
In a larger sense, the failed myth of 9/11 is a synecdoche for the failed myth of America. The United States of America comes with a powerful built-in mythology, one that has sustained the Republic (more or less) for two centuries. The story about George Washington’s cherry tree—-“Father, I cannot tell a lie!”—-may itself be a lie, but it expresses a quintessentially American reverence for truth. That reverence for truth, of course, now lies in tatters in the wake of 9/11. The founding myth of America is also profoundly anti-imperialistic: “We ragtag colonial subjects defeated imperial England and chased its troops out of our land! Hooray for antiimperial revolution!” That too, of course, has been exploded by the neocon hyper-imperial project.
Above all, America is based upon the myth of freedom, which is linked to that of truth, as in the motto “the truth will set you free.” Our whole history is one of a mythic quest for freedom: Freedom from the kings of Europe; freedom from religious repression; freedom from British colonial domination; freedom from the tyranny of an aristocracy; freedom to strike out for the territory when things get too oppressive. Then 9/11 came along with its pre-written Patriot Act, and our whole mythic history of freedom went up in flames.
The “neocon jobbers” blew up America’s cherished foundational myth just as surely as they blew up the three World Trade Center towers. In their place, they intended to erect a new myth: The myth of 9/11, engine of the “war that will not end in our lifetime.”44 But the myth of 9/11 has failed utterly, and US imperial power is crumbling. We now find ourselves in an odd position: We are stuck between two myths that have exploded and collapsed in rubble. The old democratic myth has been destroyed, but the new 9/11-imperialist myth also collapsed almost as soon as it was built. We have nothing left to go on, no firm ground beneath our feet. We are in a liminal position, betwixt and between: the world behind us is gone, but the one the neocons put in front of us has collapsed of its own insubstantiality.
In a healthy culture, liminality is a brief stage, a rite of passage signaling the transition from one state to another: from the womb to the world (symbolized by baby showers and their equivalents), from childhood to adulthood (signified by events like bar mitzvahs), from bachelorhood to married life (symbolized by wedding rites), and ultimately from life to death (signified by funerals).45 Those permanently stuck in a liminal realm, including Hamlet (who can’t make the transition to adult/king by killing the pretender) and Ophelia (who can’t speak her love and realize it through marriage) may be fascinating specimens, but ultimately they wind up doomed or insane.
We are stuck in the unspeakable and ripe for a talking cure. The taboo on the public expression of 9/11 truth must be shattered. We desperately need a 9/11 scandal and accompanying media feeding frenzy in the tradition of Watergate. Such an event would transfix the nation, exorcise its demons, save it from its true enemies, and restore our national moral, spiritual, political, and economic health.
The choice is ours. Will our culture survive the destruction of its old myth, and the failure of the ersatz replacement? Or will we degenerate into madness, culminating in a holocaust of post–peak oil cannibalism that will make the final scene of Hamlet look like a fairy tale happy ending?
No single new salvific myth will save us, so we had better salvage what we can of the old ones. Let us intone with T.S. Eliot, who knew something of liminality and wastelands: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”46 Eliot realized that modernity was unsustainable because it could not yield a viable myth. At this peak-oil post-9/11 moment, the truth of Eliot’s position is growing clearer. After that orgy of destruction that some have called modernity, which others like James Kunstler have more accurately called the age of Petroleum Man, all that is left to us is the fragments of earlier myths.47 Some of them, including the American myth of constitutional freedom, and even more so the great religions, have much to offer us. It seems to me that these time-tested mythic systems offer the best hope for individuals faced with the wasteland the neocons have left in their wake. There are no atheists in foxholes, and the world we are entering is going to have a lot of foxholes. Whether we follow the architects of 9/11 and toss hand grenades between them, or recover our senses and toss packages of food, we will certainly not be a society, or a planet, of atheists.
And that, finally, is the significance of the failed myth of 9/11. A carefully designed ersatz-religious event, crafted by atheist neocons to dupe folks of good faith, has been exposed as a lie. The very magnitude of the lie, in its exposure, has created a massive gap, a huge yawning vacuum that only the greatest and largest of truths—-the ultimate unities of God, the cosmos, humankind, and planet earth—-will be able to fill.48
1 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Penguin, 1992).
2 The Zelikow quotes are from his article “Thinking About Political History” in Miller Center Report (Winter 1999). His prognostications of a watershed Pearl Harbor style terrorism event may be found in Ashton B. Carter, John Deutch, and Philip Zelikow, “Catastrophic Terrorism: Tackling the New Danger,” Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 1998. (www.foreignaffairs.org/19981101faessay1434/ashton-b-carter-johndeutch-philip-zelikow/catastrophic-terrorism-tackling-the-new-danger.html).
3 For evidence that the Twin Towers and WTC-7 were destroyed by explosives, see Steven Jones, “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?” (www.st911.org) and David Ray Griffin, “The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True” (www.st911.org). For evidence that the official account of Flight 93 is false, see Rowland Morgan, Flight 93: What Really Happened On The Heroic 9/11 ‘Let’s Roll’ Flight (London: Constable & Robinson, 2006).
4 One example: According to the footnotes to The 9/11 Commission Report, most of the information about the alleged hijackers’ purported plot came from secret interrogations of one Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM. Yet the alleged arrest of KSM in early 2003 in Pakistan was a ludicrously transparent hoax, and there is no convincing evidence that KSM was ever captured or interrogated—-or, even if he was, that his alleged confession was genuine. The video of KSM’s alleged arrest that was shown to journalists was “openly mocked as a bad forgery” by those journalists (ABC News, Reuters, Paknews, Daily Times) cited in Paul Thompson, The Terror Timeline (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 212. As Thompson proves in his thoroughly documented essay “Is There More to the Capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Than Meets the Eye?” the story of KSM’s arrest “is a mass of lies, cover-ups and contradictions” (cooperativeresearch.org/essay.jsp?article=essayksmcapture). Along with this evidence that KSM’s alleged arrest was a hoax, which makes the whole 9/11 Commission Report a hoax, there is convincing evidence that KSM was not an Islamist extremist, but an intelligence asset (see Nafeez Ahmed’s essay in this volume). In short, it seems that the mad “historian” Zelikow is about as reliable a transmitter of KSM’s story as Nabokov’s narrator was a transmitter of the story of John Shade.
5 David Ray Griffin’s The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2005) proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Kean Commission Report is mendacious. Griffin builds on the work of many other researchers, as well as his own The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Northampton,MA: Olive Branch Press, 2004). For Griffin’s summary of the best reasons to believe that the official story of 9/11 is a myth in the pejorative sense, i.e. a lie, see “9/11: The Myth and the Reality,” (www.911podcasts.com/files/audio/20060330_David_Ray_Griffin_32k.mp3).
6 Myth is contrasted to legend, a monoepisodic narrative build around an explicit or implicit debate on belief, and folktale, a narrative that is told and received as fiction. See Eliot Oring, “Folk Narratives” in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1986).
7 As co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth (mujca.com) I am constantly being asked by secularist 9/11 skeptics how religious people, who are presumed to be driven by faith rather than reason, could be expected to examine the 9/11 myth, or anything else, lucidly and critically. The question reflects an abysmal ignorance of the history of thought, with its complex interplay of religion and rational criticism, as well as a tendency toward secularist fundamentalism that projects its own ignorance on worldviews it does not understand.
8 The oft-exaggerated thematic and stylistic differences between the Meccan and Medinan suras are plainly the result of changed social and historical circumstances.
9 On the CIA’s purchase of the rights to Animal Farm, see Michael P. Rogin, “When the CIA Was the NEA,” The Nation, June 12, 2000 (www.thenation.com/doc/20000612/rogin). On Howard Hunt, see Gore Vidal, “The Art and Arts of Howard Hunt,” The New York Review of Books, Dec. 13, 1973 (www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=9660).
10 See Wendy Doniger, Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1995).
11 On dialogism versus monologism, see Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).
12 For a Christian analysis of idolatry that runs parallel to the Muslim one, see John Cobb’s essay in this volume.
13 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).
14 Campbell’s seminal work is The Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York: Pantheon, 1949). For an evaluation of Campbell, see Robert A. Segal, Joseph Campbell: An Introduction (New York: Penguin, 1997).
15 “Resisting the Global Domination Project: An Interview with Prof. Richard Falk,” Frontline, 20/8 (April 12–25, 2003).
16 David Ray Griffin, “9/11 and the American Empire: How Should Religious People Respond?” Authorized, modified transcript of a speech delivered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 18, 2005 (911review.com/articles/griffin/madison.html#ftnote).
17 The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, Sept. 2000 (www.newamericancentury.org), 51.
18 See Qur’an 79:20–25, among other passages.
19 Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image, Music, Text (New York: Hill, 1977).
20 Thierry Meyssan has argued that Americans have come to see 9/11 as a religious event, and that this aura of sacrality has blinded them to the obvious falsity of the official story.
21 Brian W. Sturm, “The Storylistening Trance Experience,” Journal of American Folklore 113.449 (2000): 287–304.
22 Normally I am not a fan of neologisms, but perpetraitors perfectly describes the authors of the 9/11 neo con job.
23 On misdirection and magic, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_(illusion). For evidence that the alleged “cell phone calls” were a scripted hoax, see A.K. Dewdney, “The Cellphone and Airfone Calls from Flight UA93” (www.physics911.net/cellphoneflight93.htm) and “Project Achilles Report Parts One, Two and Three” (www.physics911.net/ projectachilles.htm). For evidence that the Twin Towers and WTC 7 were destroyed by explosives, see Steven Jones, “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?” (www.st911.org/) and David Ray Griffin, “The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True” (www.st911.org/).
24 Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006).
25 See Douglas Rushkoff’s book Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say (New York: Riverhead, 1999). Reviewed by Kevin Barrett in the context of 9/11 in the article “Apocalypse of Coercion,” Global Outlook 11, April 2006 (www.mujca.com/apocalypse.htm).
26 An apropos expression I first heard from Pete Creelman.
27 Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man.
28 See John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism and The Reinvention of the World (Toronto: Viking Canada 2005).
29 For a frank admission from a Zionist historian that the Palestinian historians as well as popular memory were right all along, and that the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians was clearly an episode of ethnic cleansing, see Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001 (New York: Vintage, 2001). For an ongoing dialogue involving this volume’s editors and contributors on the discomfort provoked by our widely differing views on Zionism and the question of Palestine, see mujca.com/newbook.htm.
30 PNAC, Rebuilding America’s Defenses.
31 Charles Kupchan, The Vulnerability of Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996).
32 Everett Fox translation.
33 Sidney Blumenthal, “One Gulp, and Bush Was Gone: Behind the Scenes at the Clinton Library, We Saw America’s Future,” Guardian, Nov. 25, 2004 (www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1358966,00.html).
34 Remarks by the president at the signing of H.R. 4613, the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005 Room 350, Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040805-3.html).
35 David Enger, The God That Failed (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
36 Roland Barthes, “L’effet de réel,” Communications 11, 1968.
37 PNAC, Rebuilding America’s Defenses.
38 The 9/11 Commission Report is palpably the product of a single (mendacious) mind—-apparently that of its executive director, Philip Zelikow. The 9/11 operation itself, however, bears the stamp of too many minds fumbling and jumbling, unable to pull it off cleanly.
39 Pearl Harbor was a staged pretext for war, in that it was intentionally provoked and made inevitable by a strangling blockade. Convincing revisionist accounts suggest that the attack probably arrived not by surprise, but with the full foreknowledge of the US high command, which intentionally allowed thousands of Americans to die needlessly in order to provoke the war hysteria that enabled the US to join the slaughter. Such murderous mendacity clearly provided a model for PNAC’s “new Pearl Harbor” of 9/11/01. See Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001).
40 Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (New York: Bantam, 2000), 22.
41 In an October 2003 debate on al-Jazeera’s program Opposing Viewpoints, Thierry Meyssan roundly thrashed a Pentagon spokesman. Al-Jazeera’s accompanying survey showed that 89 percent of its audience believed that the US government had perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, while only 11 percent blamed al-Qaeda.
42 Zbigniew Brzezinski makes it clear that this is the overriding US geostrategic imperative in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997). See Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor, 95–96, and Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2005), 336–340.
43 Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine (Oct. 17, 2004) quotes an unnamed aide to George W. Bush: The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” ... “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—-judiciously, as you will—-we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
44 “The vice president bluntly said: ‘It is different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime.’” Bob Woodward, “CIA Told to Do ‘Whatever Necessary’ to Kill Bin Laden,” Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2001 (www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId= A27452-2001Oct20).
45 See Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969).
46 T.S. Eliot, The Waste-Land (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922); Bartleby.com, posted 1998 (www.bartleby.com/201/1.html).
47 James Kunstler, The Long Emergency (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005).
48 Unity (tawhîd) is the most central characteristic of God according to Islamic tradition. The created cosmos, or “multiverse,” is also undergirded by a principle of unity according to various scientific, mystical, and religious traditions. Humanity, of course, stems from a common ancestor not many generations ago, which is why we all share over 99 percent of our DNA. And humanity’s current challenge is to recognize and act on the unity of planet earth, both at the level of the noosphere (Teilhard de Chardin) and Gaia (James Lovelock). For a bottom-up, democratic movement for deep planetary unity see Planetization: www.planetization.org/membership.htm.
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Kevin Barrett has taught English, French, Arabic, American civilization, humanities, African literature, folklore, and Islam at colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bar Area, Paris, and Madison, Wisconsin. He has been the president of Khidria (a nonprofit organization dedicated to Islamic socio-environmental awareness), writing and editing for the Muslim magazine al-Jumuah, and a founding director of MUJCA-NET: The Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth.