I was quite amazed when I looked that the Across the Aisle blog yesterday and saw there were over 80 comments posted in one day! I wondered, what foreign policy issue was generating such intense interest? It must be a debate on the future of our forces in Iraq, or a debate on the volatile situation in the Middle East, or a discussion on how our country deals with nuclear threats from Iran. Or perhaps commentators were discussing how we deal with our dangerous dependency on foreign oil.
Sadly, it turned out that nearly all of these comments were from readers who adamantly felt that 9/11 was a government conspiracy. Of course, you can probably guess from my tone that I do not believe in such theories. Although I do concede that over the years the US government has been guilty of numerous crimes and covert actions that in many cases make me ashamed, I find it quite hard to believe the conspiracy theories that are presented by these commentators. Of course, I’m no physicist and I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics of what happened on September 11th. However, I felt that Ben’s link to a Popular Mechanics article written by a wide variety of reputable sources was quite convincing – certainly much more convincing than many of the links and videos presented by the ensuing commentators. That, combined with the extensive research done by the 9/11 Commission, makes me skeptical of those arguments in favor of conspiracy theories. Certainly, there are many questions and unknowns about what happened that day. However, those questions and unknowns, when taken in total, seem insufficient to prevent a believable case against the conventional explanations of what happened.
Nevertheless, I certainly believe that advocates of the conspiracy theory point of view should be able to express their views. However, it saddens me that such energy and intensity is not directed at the issues of the day that are not in such contention. The Bush administration misled the American people into war in Iraq and did so without a plan to win the peace. The Bush administration has used 9/11 to dramatically increase Presidential power and decrease civil liberties. Our international reputation is in tatters. These are all conditions that are pretty much agreed on and their ramifications are incredibly tragic and ominous. Where is the outrage over these issues? I learned long ago that it is important to choose one’s battles and I would argue that the more effective battleground is around the issues that I’ve laid out.
Finally, I was particularly disappointed in the tone of many of the comments. While there are valid arguments that one can make in support of a conspiracy theory, when one interlaces those with profanity and name calling, one’s argument is easily dismissed.