Perfect Circle - G&G Interviews
A Philosophy Professor Leads the Charge:
G&G Talks with David Ray Griffin
David Ray Griffin is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont School of Theology in California, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is the author and editor of over 20 books, most of which have been on philosophical topics, such as the problem of evil, and the mind-body problem.
But with The New Pearl Harbor, Professor Griffin focuses his formidable mind on the historic events of 9-11. Since publication in March, The New Pearl Harbor has been acclaimed as the best book on 9-11. No less a name than Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, upon reviewing it and reexamining the events of 9-11, has called The New Pearl Harbor "the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation of the Bush administation's relationship to that historic and troubling event."
As part of our effort to amplify unheard political voices, and to explore a political perspective outside the corporate media's narrow purview, Garlic & Grass spoke with Professor Griffin by phone.
Below is a transcript of the interview that has been slightly edited for clarity.
Garlic & Grass:
I found your new book, The New Pearl Harbor, about a month ago. It's an amazing book. I think it's striking in both its fearlessness to go where no one else in the media seems to be going, and also in the calmness with which it asks explosive questions.
What do you think are the two or three biggest questions or problems with the official story about all of this?
Professor David Ray Griffin: It's hard to narrow it down to just two or three. I've recently been asked many times, you know, "Are there any smoking guns?" And so I decided finally to write up a list of them. I came up with a list of forty.
G&G: Forty smoking guns?
DRG: So there are lots of major questions. Certainly, near the top of the list at least has to be the mere fact that on 9-11, Standard Operating Procedures, were not used – certainly with regard to Flights 11 and 175 that hit the World Trade Center, and then (at least according to the official story), Flight 77, which was said to hit the Pentagon.
But beyond that, there's the massive amount of evidence that the three buildings of the World Trade Center were not brought down by fire, as the official theory has it, but by controlled demolition. There is President Bush's behavior that day, which suggests that he and his Secret Service knew that they were not targets.
And on and on and on... [briefly laughs] So, there are quite a few.
G&G: And then the 9-11 Commission report has come out. What they seem to say, basically, is that it was all a classic case of unpreparedness. How does that sound to you?
DRG: That is the official story. That we were just not prepared for any such thing, that we were looking out, as in the old Cold War days, rather than looking inside. Of course, the 9-11 Commission itself has debunked most of what the White House had claimed by revealing the August 6th memo and other pieces of information that showed the administration had considerable warning about planes being used as terrorist instruments. And there are even more specific pieces of information that we know about that the 9-11 Commission has not raised. So�they've been somewhat self-contradictory on this.
But certainly the Commission has supported the official view, which is that ultimately it all occurred because of a combination of incompetence and breakdown. Whereas, of course, the alternative explanation is that it was not breakdown, but stand-down. That is supported by the fact that, although here you had dozens of people exhibiting extreme incompetence that led to the deaths of some 3000 Americans, not a single person was fired, punished, or even publicly reprimanded. Normally, when there is that kind of incompetence, there are consequences. But here, if there were any consequences at all, the people were promoted.
G&G: It's odd that there were no fighter planes in the air during the hour or two that the planes were hijacked. The question that I have and that people have asked me is: Do you know that that there were planes in the couple of years before 9-11 that were routinely intercepted? Or was it really something that they had never done before?
DRG: Oh, not at all. Interception, as I point out in the book, and as many other authors have pointed out, is an extremely routine matter. Now, shooting down is not a routine matter, because normally when planes are intercepted by two jet fighters [laughs briefly], they do what they're told. They follow the fighters to the nearest airport, and everything is taken care of. But interception itself has occurred about 100 times a year – so it's extremely routine.
And also it occurs very quickly. Normally, the time that passes between the sign that an airplane has possibly been hijacked – you know, it goes radically of course, or they lose radio contact, or the transponder is turned off, any sign like that – within a minute the FAA controller notifies NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). That's simultaneously notifying the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. NORAD has the assignment of ordering jets scrambled – sent up – from the nearest airport. And that normally takes another minute. And then, according to NORAD itself, jet fighters can go from scramble order to 29,000 feet in two and a half minutes. And then these jets, if they're F-15s, can fly at 1,850 mph. So, given the number of bases we have in the country, almost any plane would be intercepted with ten to fifteen minutes.
And yet on 9-11, Flight 11, according to the official story, was known to be possibly hijacked at 8:14 am. It did not hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center until 8:46. That was 32 minutes. And then, with that warning, Flight 175 was known to be hijacked certainly by 8:42, and yet another 21 minutes went by before it hit the South Tower at 9:03. And then another very long time goes by – another 35 minutes – until whatever it was that hit the Pentagon hit it. And that was actually 42 minutes from the time that, according to the official story, the air traffic controllers saw it turn around and head back towards Washington.
So, these are extreme examples of not following Standard Operating Procedures. In each case, if we work down the details of this story, we would see, either an FAA controller or someone at NORAD or the fighter pilots themselves – or maybe two or three of these people – acted with unusual incompetence on that day – and as far as we know only on that day. So, what happened with the planes on 9-11 was extremely unusual.
Why Weren't Any of the Planes
G&G: I want to get back to the Pentagon, but first, the things that you point out in The New Pearl Harbor are so explosive – as you say, there are 40 smoking guns. Why is it, do you think, that there are not people in the streets just freaking out? Where's the media in all of this? Why aren't there government officials that are coming forward with these scandalous allegations?
DRG: The lack of concern by evidently most of the population thus far is due, I would say, primarily to the fact that the people have not been informed about these discrepancies. The mass media has not informed people. So it is only those people who listen to alternative radio or who take the initiative to find stories on the Internet who learn about these things. But I find that as soon as people learn these very elementary details, they are appalled and they are extremely upset.
If you look at the customer reviews on amazon.com (we have almost 80 of them now), many of the reviews say, "An extremely frightening book." "A very scary book." And when you think through the implications, that is a fair reaction. So I find people are concerned once they know the discrepancies between the official story and the fact that are readily available even from mainline sources.
So the main scandal here – besides the fact that 9-11, which was used as the basis for the Bush Administration's War on Terror, was perhaps the ultimate act of terrorism itself – the main scandal is the failure of the mainline media. Both the print and television and mainstream radio have failed to inform people about these most elementary facts.
G&G: But government officials? How many people do you think had to know about this? Do we have sort of a huge cadre of 'evildoers' in our government?
DRG: This is a complex issue. But first of all, we need to distinguish between people who are in the military and people who are in other government services. We know that the military does instill a distinctive kind of discipline, and most people in the military are imbued with the ethic of obeying their superiors no matter what. Now, the Allies, after World War II, said that was not acceptable. We told the Germans, just the fact that you were following orders does not excuse you; if you knew the orders were illegal and immoral, you should have disobeyed them. But we also know from accounts of various wars of our own, such as Vietnam and now Iraq, that subordinates generally believe they are to do whatever their superiors tell them to do and not to think for themselves. Furthermore, they fear – and we have reports of this from previous stories if one reads the history of American militarism and imperialism – that people are told rather forthrightly that it would be very dangerous for them to break the code of silence. And then, if we go beyond the military to people in the government, we also find that intimidation is used in their cases. If they're members of the FBI, and certainly the CIA and other intelligence agencies, they have taken an oath of silence. Again there is a conflict between that and the more general moral duty not to do something illegal and immoral.
But in most cases, this ethic that has been instilled in them, this institutional ethic, combined with the fear of losing their job and perhaps even being prosecuted, can keep most people silent. I think most of us can understand, if someone said to you, you know, "Tony, if you go and talk about this, we just will not be able to guarantee the safety of your family members." It's an implicit threat, but explicit enough that the person gets the point.
DRG: So, I'm not surprised that people haven't come forward if indeed this was a fairly massive conspiracy with, perhaps, 100 people or so involved. People generally only come forward when there is a public climate that induces this, and thus far there has not been any such public climate. In fact, the public climate has been to discourage people from coming forward.
But if, for example, Thomas Keane, the Chair of the 9-11 Commission, had gone on national TV and said to the American public, "We are looking into all possibilities here, including the possibility that 9-11 was allowed to happen because of government complicity by certain agencies of the U.S. government. And we want you to come forward if you know anything about this, and we will give you immunity and protection." Then maybe some people would have come forward. But obviously nothing like that – even close to that – has happened.
G&G: Professor Griffin, what do you say to those who disagree with you, who say asking these questions in this time of war and terrorism is borderline treason?
DRG: Well, I have no patience with any accusation like that. It is well known and well-documented and [laughs briefly] something that is part of the American way of life that dissent – the right to dissent, the right to question your own government officials, even the right to accuse them of crimes – these are fundamental rights. And when we're talking about what we're out there doing is protecting the 'American Way of Life,' we're not simply talking about protecting our riches and consumerism. We're most fundamentally talking about – or should be talking about – protecting our democratic freedoms, our civil and political rights.
Now, if someone disagrees, on the other hand, with the idea that perhaps the government is complicit, then I have no problem with that whatsoever. I do not even make that charge directly myself. My book only says that there are many pointers that seem to suggest government complicity. And that's what I mean by 'smoking guns.' (When I speak more precisely I call them 'prima facie smoking guns' – things that appear to be smoking guns.) But I'm pointing out that only further investigation could reveal whether these things really do point to complicity, or whether there's another explanation. So my book, as you know from reading the last chapter, is simply a call for a full investigation. I am calling for an investigation that does include investigating these more disturbing questions that seem, on the surface, to point to government complicity.
G&G: Absolutely, Professor Griffin, I completely support what you're saying – that what you're defending is our rights. I did find in reading the book that it's admirably calm and it's admirably detached in a certain scientific way from making huge accusations. What it says is, we need a full investigation.
So, what do you think that the people who are listening to this interview or reading it online, who either agree with you completely or agree with you in part – what can we do?
DRG: In the first place, let me make clear that what I hope they will agree with me on is simply that if there are unanswered questions, disturbing questions, they need to be investigated. And I don't know how anyone could disagree with that.
Now, once they've agreed with that, then there are a number of things they can do.
First, of course, I would hope that they'll read the book rather than simply judging this on the basis of this interview. I stress in the book that mine is a cumulative argument. On the one hand, there's nothing original in the book in terms of facts, as all I have done is really pull together, synthesize, and organize the evidence that other researchers before me had pulled out from the various sources. The only thing that is distinctive about the book is that I did pull those together and organize them in such a way that you can see a cumulative argument – that is, any part of 9-11 that you look at shows that are serious questions and discrepancies between the official account and the apparent facts. So, whether you look at any of the four flights, whether you look at Bush's behavior that day, whether you look at the behavior of the FBI and other intelligence agencies prior to 9-11, or whether you look at those activities after 9-11 and the activities of the US Army and military in Afghanistan in the so-called 'Hunt for bin Laden' – all the way down the line, in every case, you find out that there are these serious discrepancies.
So it's when you start to see not just one or two problems, but a whole slew of problems – as I say, at least 40 major problems – then you start to see, it looks like there's a pattern here. And that's what's most disturbing.
So I would hope people would:
- First of all, investigate this for themselves, and see if they find that there is indeed a pattern.
- Then, if they do that, and they decide that there is at least sufficient basis for suspecting government complicity, then they should demand that there is a new investigation (assuming that what comes forward the 9-11 Commission is not going to surprise us all and go far beyond what they've suggested thus far).
And so this would mean:
- writing letters to the editor of your local newspapers
- writing to your congresspeople,
- joining groups that are involved in investigating this. There's a new umbrella group called 911truth.org. Get involved in this community, and in that way one learns all sorts of new things that can be done
G&G: What do you make of some of the other events that happened shortly after 9-11? There were the anthrax attacks. And then, I guess it was a year later, there was the odd crash of Sen. Paul Wellstone's (D-Minn.) airplane. What do you make of those events?
DRG: They are certainly odd, and I think both demand more investigation than there seems to have been thus far. But these are not issues that I entered into in the book, so I won't speak about them here.
G&G: The last thing I want to say is that it appears that this book is a bit of a departure for you, personally. Do you think so? And if so, was there a special inner or outer reason you wrote this book?
DRG: If one looks at my previous writings, this certainly looks like a tremendous divergence, in that I've written books in the Philosophy of Science and straight Philosophy, such as the mind-body problem, and Philosophy of Religion, dealing with such questions as the problem of evil, and life after death, and evolutionary theory, and creation, and so on. On the other hand, doing the research for this book wasn't so different, because in each of these cases, what you have is a massive amount of information that is relevant to the question. You have an orthodox theory that is the dominant view, and then you have one or more unorthodox – perhaps even heretical – hypotheses. And it's a matter of looking at all of the relevant evidence and seeing which of the various hypotheses, if any, can account for the relevant evidence the best. And so, in that sense, that's what I have done in this book, and this is not so different from dealing with the question of evolution or the mind-body problem or, say, the problem of evil.
G&G: It's a wonderful book. I almost see you more in the tradition of Thomas Paine, bringing out uncomfortable truths in a time of political need. I really think it's a great book at an important time, and I do hope that everyone who reads this interview finds it intriguing enough, at the least, to go out and take a look at the book. So I want to thank you, Professor Griffin, for talking with me today.
DRG: Well, you're welcome. And I like that comparison, because it really doesn't require a lot of sophisticated knowledge to do this, but simply 'common sense,' which Thomas Paine talked about.
G&G: Thank you, professor.
DRG: You're welcome.
Professor Griffin also answered two followup questions via e-mail.
G&G: My only issue about The New Pearl Harbor is that I feel the cover is designed poorly. The red and black seems almost intimidating. And the photographs aren't as powerful or focused as they could be, especially considering how many excellent eye-grabbing photographs there seem to be depicting the events of 9-11. Did you select them, and if so, why?
We unfortunately could not get permission to use the original photographs chosen for the cover.
G&G: Last thing. Professor Griffin, being something of a celebrity in the 9-11 Truth Movement, do you at all fear for your personal physical safety?
DRG: No. There are two possibilities. They can either leave me alone, or take me out. If they leave me alone, I can enjoy my retirement and write my systematic theology. If they decide to take me out, my book will instantly become #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It's a win-win situation.
Interviews conducted by Tony Brasunas
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