In 2001, directly after the crimes of September 11, a series of events took place in the United States that are called the “anthrax letter attacks” or simply the “anthrax attacks.” Although the casualties were few in comparison to those of 9/11, the implications of the anthrax attacks were more worrisome. Crashing planes into buildings is a crude method of attack and is less likely to produce very large numbers of casualties than dispersing a bioweapon such as anthrax. This was recognized in the fall of 2001 and there was a corresponding degree of concern.
I began looking into the anthrax attacks in 2010, having been led there by several years of study of the 9/11 attacks. Earlier, when I had examined the official story of 9/11, I encountered many surprises. More surprises were in store when I began to study the anthrax literature and to discuss the attacks with others. While the public remembers the 9/11 attacks vividly, I was perplexed by how quickly the anthrax attacks were disappearing from collective memory. I was surprised as well that almost no one I spoke to remembered the connections between the anthrax attacks and the 9/11 attacks. These connections were numerous. It gradually became clear why today neither the anthrax story as a whole nor its connections with 9/11 receives significant attention either from governments or the mainstream media: the documentary evidence relating to the anthrax attacks, when studied critically, raises serious questions not only about the FBI’s account of the anthrax attacks but also about the U.S. government’s account of what happened on September 11, 2001. Taken together, these sets of evidence erode the rationale for the Global War on Terror.
Much effort has been spent over the years deflecting attention from the weak foundations of the Global War on Terror, and several clever propaganda moves have been deployed to this end. My use of the term “conspiracy” in the title of this book provides a critical response to one such move. Both journalists and scholars have acceded to the thoughtless and pejorative use of the term “conspiracy” and the related term “conspiracy theory” in relation to those who seek to question the official version of the events of 9/11. In doing so they have made honest and open discussion of key events purporting to justify the war on terror extremely difficult. Few people want to be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”—even less as conspiracy “buffs,” “nuts” and the like. So they quiet their doubts and try to believe what their governments tell them, however absurd the tales may be.
Many of the journalists and scholars using these terms in a propagandistic way seem to be unaware of what the expression has done to them. They have accepted the taboo implicit in the term; as it relates to 9/11, for 13 years they have refused to go into forbidden territory, convinced that this is a realm of enquiry that is polluted and dangerous and that only harm will come to them if they venture there. As a result many have not read the substantial critical literature of recent years: they know scarcely more about these “terrorist” events of the autumn of 2001 than they knew directly after the events took place. The “conspiracy theory” barrier has protected their worldview at the cost of keeping them, and the public whose interests they are supposed to serve, uninformed.
Perhaps it is not surprising that intellectuals keen to protect the U.S. government from criticism have tried to stigmatize “conspiracy theorists” and make their organizations objects of government infiltration and spying, but it is disturbing to find those who are critical of the U.S. government working almost as hard to distance themselves from all talk of conspiracies. For example, in an otherwise insightful book on Islamophobia, Stephen Sheehi says that conspiracy theories “are absurd manifestations of the illogic and contradictions within the ideology in which we live.” But when we read his account of the maintenance of Islamophobia in the U.S. we discover that people with great influence may join in a “cabal,” “coterie,” or “clique.” Members are bound by deep loyalties and exclude others from “the inner circle.”They make plans, and the plans sometimes result in immoral and illegal acts—including invasions of other countries. They do not hesitate to hold “secret meetings,” even sometimes resorting to “undisclosed locations.” In a moment of forgetfulness, Sheehi even says they conspire.
What is going on? Why are progressive thinkers like Sheehi determined, against the evidence they have themselves uncovered, to disparage conspiracy theories as legitimate avenues of enquiry—other than fear of career damage and job loss?
There seem to be three related misconceptions at the root of this confusion. First, people who write in this vein appear to think that if they acknowledge the existence of a particular conspiracy they can be seen as committing themselves to a whole string of conspiracies. Sheehi appears to feel that if one has a “conspiracy theory” of 9/11 (this is a misuse of the term, as I shall explain) one will necessarily believe in the Illuminati, as well as in theories having to do with Jews and One World Government. But this is not so.
The second misconception can be seen as a continuation of the first. Some researchers appear to think that a person who holds a conspiracy theory with respect to a particular event must have a conspiratorial view of history—he or she must hold that history is nothing but the playing out of conspiracies. And, since it is easy to see that such a grand theory of history is false, all talk of conspiracies must be false. But, again, the reasoning is flawed. If I hold that the Black Death had a great impact on social life and changed history in important ways I am not committed to a “disease theory of history,” according to which all of history is driven by epidemics. I am simply open to the reality of epidemic disease and its impacts on society and history. Why should I not be open to the existence of conspiracies and their impact on society and history?
A third misconception is the conviction that progress in thinking about human society and history has depended on rejecting the image of wizards behind the curtain controlling events. History, we are told, unfolds in ways that resist human will. Impersonal forces and random combinations of events drive history, and those who look for conspiracies represent a regression to a primitive or childish view of the world. But, once again, the choice presented is unnecessary. It is quite possible to acknowledge the power of forces of many kinds, as well as “ideological formations,” the Political Unconscious, and so on, but none of this means that powerful people do not sometimes get together in confidence to plan destructive acts.
Unfortunately, the widespread unwillingness of intellectuals and journalists to acknowledge the reality of conspiracies has left civil society with little defense against the intelligence agencies and military structures—well funded and expert in deception and destruction—that currently pose a threat to democracies and to our human future.
Since much of the confusion and contradiction just discussed flourishes because of a failure to define terms, let me offer the definitions that underlie my work. A conspiracy is a plan made in secret, and involving more than one person, to commit an immoral or illegal act. A conspiracy theory is a theory that posits, or assumes the existence of, a conspiracy. These definitions may be simple but they honor normal usage and are of immediate help as we consider the violent events that took place in the U.S. in the fall of 2001.
Much time has been wasted on accusations that certain people hold a “conspiracy theory” about the events of September 11, 2001. Virtually everyone agrees that the crimes of that day were planned in secret by more than one person and that the aim was to carry out acts that, in the view of the great majority of humanity, were immoral and illegal. Therefore, there is universal or near universal agreement that the 9/11 events were the result of a conspiracy. We would have to look very hard to find anyone who does not hold a conspiracy theory about 9/11. And for this reason it is silly to denigrate people for holding a conspiracy theory about this event.
When the Warren Commission asked whether or not John Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy, it asked a good question. Kennedy’s killing could have been the result of secret plans by either a “lone wolf” or a group. The Warren Commission certainly gave the wrong answer to its question, but there was nothing wrong with the question. In the case of 9/11 the question is not a good one. No lone wolf option is available.
The anthrax attacks are, in this respect, closer to the Kennedy case than to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. It appears, at least at first glance, to have been possible for the attacks to have been planned either by a lone wolf, as the FBI claims, or by a group. So the question as to whether or not the attacks were the result of a conspiracy—whether they involved more people than one—is a good one. When this book claims that the attacks were the result of a conspiracy it is saying something that is not obvious or trivial.
Of course, I am not merely claiming that the anthrax attacks were the result of a conspiracy but that they were the result of a domestic conspiracy—they resulted from planning by actors within the U.S. Moreover, I will be arguing that the conspiracy was not only domestic but undertaken at a high level: it cannot be pinned on skinheads or retail fascists but involved a group well placed in the executive branch of the U.S. government.
How can we settle such matters? How can we actually determine, in any given instance, whether or not a conspiracy has taken place and, if so, who the conspirators were? The tools of investigation are no different from those used to test other proposals. We use evidence and reason. In some cases we will be able to make confident assertions and in other cases we shall have to acknowledge that we are speculating, but even in this second case we will do our best to ground our speculation in evidence. Ideology, national loyalty, outrage and “common sense” will not do the job.
There is a large and complex literature on the anthrax attacks. I have attempted neither a comprehensive review of this literature nor a detailed account of the attacks. I want to draw attention to a quite specific set of difficulties raised by the evidence and, having done so, to argue in favor of the following points:
- The anthrax attacks were carried out by a group of perpetrators, not by a lone wolf.
- The group that perpetrated this crime included deep insiders within the U.S. executive branch.
- This group of perpetrators was linked to, or identical with, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
- The anthrax attacks were the result of a conspiracy meant to help redefine the enemy of the West, revising the global conflict framework from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror.
- The establishment of the Global War on Terror, to which the anthrax attacks contributed, enabled the U.S. executive branch to reduce the civil liberties of people in the U.S. and to attack other nations. Domestically and externally, these events were also used to weaken the rule of law.
A Note on the Hijackers
The alleged hijackers of four planes on September 11, 2001 play an important role in the anthrax story and will be mentioned frequently. To avoid repeated use of the word “alleged” or annoyingly frequent scare quotes (“the hijackers”) I will capitalize the term: Hijackers. The term used in this way refers to the 19 Arabic-speaking men who are said, in the official account of 9/11, to have hijacked planes on 9/11. By capitalizing the term I indicate that these men played the role of hijacker in the scripted events leading up to September 11, 2001. I will give examples in Chapter 7 of the reasons many researchers doubt that these men in fact hijacked planes on September 11.The alleged hijackers of four planes on September 11, 2001 play an important role in the anthrax story and will be mentioned frequently. To avoid repeated use of the word “alleged” or annoyingly frequent scare quotes (“the hijackers”) I will capitalize the term: Hijackers. The term used in this way refers to the 19 Arabic-speaking men who are said, in the official account of 9/11, to have hijacked planes on 9/11. By capitalizing the term I indicate that these men played the role of hijacker in the scripted events leading up to September 11, 2001. I will give examples in Chapter 7 of the reasons many researchers doubt that these men in fact hijacked planes on September 11.
Notes to Chapter 1
- For an excellent discussion of conspiracy and its relation to political theory see Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America (Austin, Texas: Univ. of Texas Press, 2013).
- Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures,” Journal of Political Philosophy 17 (2009): 202–27. For a rebuttal of Sunstein and Vermeule, see David Griffin, Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2011).
- Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: The Ideological Case Against Muslims (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011).
- Ibid., 215.
- Ibid., 57.
- Ibid., 64.
- Ibid., 50.
- Ibid., 53, 64.
- Ibid., 58.16 16
- Ibid., 54.
- Ibid., 59.
- Ibid., 215.
- In my view, the fatal flaws of the Warren Commission’s report were pointed out decades ago by its earliest critics. Readers may consult the website of the Mary Ferrell Foundation for an overview, bibliography and resources. “The JFK Assassination: Mary Ferrell Foundation,” n.d., http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/JFK_Assassination.