Gore Vidal's 9/11 Conspiracy theory. Anything in it?

In today’s Observer (left of centre British broadsheet paper) there is an enormous article by Gore Vidal in which he makes some startling claims.

A digest of it is available here:


His principal claims are that the Bush administration allowed the attacks to go ahead to give them the reason to go into Afghanistan. This was to serve the interests of Bush’s oil pals.

He also claims that no attempt was made to intercept the four planes, in direct contravention of standard practice.

Furthermore he claims that Pakistan is the state responsible for the organisation of the attack.

THis was a huge article and the digest only hints at the level of vituperation for Bush and others that he displays.

Hopefully from tomorrow the whole article will be on the website.

Any thoughts? These are monstrous actions if true.

Also Gore Vidal is not particularly well known in Britain. I’ve heard of him but don’t know much about him. Is he a well known nutter?

sorry that link should be

Some might perceive Vidal as a nut; some as a Christopher Hitchens type who loves the limelight and knows that being a deliberate provacateur (e.g., attacking Mother Teresa) is a way to ensure your place in the public eye.

Vidal is also notable as one of those Americans who keeps threatening to shake the dust of that corrupt country from his sandals, yet makes a career out of being an American, albeit a disaffected one. At least he’s had the integrity, if you want to call it that, to make good on his self-dramatizing threats to move into exile, unlike other artistes.

As for the substance of his theory, I don’t know that anyone’s ever looked to Vidal as a security expert. As with so many such theories, I think it suffers from being much more complicated and extreme than it would need to be, based on its own premises: I have to think that if the Bush junta were indeed as powerful/ruthless/amoral/corrupted as posited by the various 9/11 theories, (and indeed, as is there central thesis), they would be powerful enough to get what they wanted ($10 rise in the price of oil; military bases in Central Asia; expanded law enforcement power) <without> such overkill as attacking the WTC; why couldn’t they just buy off individual Congressmen, or fake a less-dramatic (and less likely to be detected) casus belli, or use their Skull & Bones connections to otherwise rig the system or hike oil prices? Vidal’s own argument seems to suffer from the same tendency he attributes to the Bush junta: the need to create an all-powerful, almost cartoonishly evil and cunning adversary. In Vidal’s view, Bush turned OBl into such an Oil Can Harry type out of his cynical desire to scare the U.S. people (there is a grain of truth to the notion that propaganda works more easily when it has a singular focus, rather than a diffuse and frustratingly uncatchable force like Islamist extremism); but the 9/11 conspiracy theories fall prey, it seems, to just such cartoonish portrayals of the Big Oil/GOP/security establishment/military industrial complex: they become caricatures of motiveless evil and potency, willing to kill (even when something far short of killing would do the same job) because they’re just plain evil.

I have much admired Vidal as an essayist, somewhat as a novelist, but as a political observer he is way out of his league. I fear he has descended into the role of the elderly curmudgeon, and, frankly, I think he has slipped some of his moorings. A pity really.

Sit down, Grandpa. Here is your easy chair, your tea, your cookies. We remember who you were, we can be generous enough to ignore who you have become. Yes, yes, “kids these days”. Not like your day. We know. But you spent your days to make sure that kids these days wouldn’t be like your day. Rest now. Enough.

To me, Vidal’s screed is essentially a political one.

People say ‘conspiracy’ and immediately think ‘nutball’. But all the word means is two or more people planned something in advance and then did it. And they do happen.

In terms of the people involved, the two biggest aspects of any conspiracy are:
[ul][li]How big the plan is[/li]and
[li]What the plan is[/ul][/li]IOW, how many people will have to know, and how hard will it be for them to keep it to themselves.

For example, I dismiss the whole ‘Moon landing hoax’ conspiracy without having to challenge any specific evidence. I dismiss it based on its scale. While faking the moon landing isn’t really immoral, its certainly unethical. And more importantly it would require literally thousands of people to have known about it. And its an unethical enough deception that at least hundreds of those people would have come forward and revealed it.

Anyway, allowing 9/11 to happen is not only unethical, it is as heinously amoral as you can get. So what Vidal is essentially saying is that republicans would be willing & able to keep such a secret in the name of money.

And frankly, I think that makes him an unbelievable scumbag.

[NewsRadio quoting mode]

Bill: Benedict Arnold slept with George Washington.
Lisa: You really need to stop getting your history from Gore Vidal.

[/NewsRadio quoting mode]

Just out of curiosity, how does invading Afghanistan improve the oil supply? As I understand it, Afghanistan’s biggest exports are AK-47s, heroin and extremism. Even if someone were to gain and hold complete control over the country, there simply isn’t anything there of any major economic interest.

Vidal has a right to be an idiot, but does he have to be such a damn idiot?

Bryan Ekers, I believe there is talk of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. I recall that the pipeline figured in conspiracy theories about how various people were keeping the Taliban in power a couple of years ago.

Even before Afghanistan, there was much written by various journalists, researchers and experts about oil and politics in Central Asia. So Vidal is not a lone voice. Try this search for size.

As an example, from this article: http://www.worldpress.org/specials/pp/front.htm

That article also has links to others at the bottom. Note the dates - before 11th September 2001.

Also this article: http://www.steelbuild.com/general_news/2001/01.htm

which is by a guy called Ted Rall: “Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate, has traveled extensively throughout Central Asia. Most recently, in 2000, he went to Turkmenistan as a guest of the U.S. State Department.” Rall may or may not be a reliable source or opinion, but he’s proof again that Vidal is far from a lone voice.

I think you’re somewhat missing the point. Rall <never> suggests what is the truly wacky part of Vidal’s hypothesis: That the Bush cabal brought about/intentionally allowed Sept. 11. Questioning whether Bush et al. are too tied to oil interests, etc. is pretty standard fare on the left, and may well be legitimate; questioning whether the War On Terror has in some aspects mutated into “let’s use this as an opportunity to get some other unrelated geopolitical loose ends tied up while we can” is likewise a common pastime (cf. the many Iraq threads).

And despite his rather lurid/partisan language, those two critiques are essentially <all> that Rall indulges in:

“When an Egyptian group whose members had trained in Afghanistan hijacked four airplanes and used them to kill more than 6,000 Americans on September 11th, Washington’s patience with its former client finally expired.”

If that were all Vidal had said (“They’re using 9/11 as a mere pretext to go into C. Asia”), no one would be calling him a nut. Instead, his suggestion is “They <caused> 9/11 as a mere pretext to go into C. Asia.” Rall’s hypotheses may also suffer from a tinge of the Vidal problem – they explain somewhat more than they have to – but just a tinge.

i saw vidal on UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE and he said the history books in our schools are propaganda. i can’t argue with him about that.

i find it very strange that arab terrorists tried to hijack a plane in france in 1994 to kamakaze attack paris but the FAA didn’t reinforce doors to cockpits for 6 1/2 years. and this isn’t discussed by the talking airheads on the boob tube.

i think strange things are going on but i don’t know if they are just the result of STUPIDITY. actually stupidity scares me more than EVIL.

Dal Timgar

Vidal’s a pretty interesting writer. I liked his historical fiction best, especially Creation. Heck of a cool novel for ancient history buffs like me. Also his role in the movie Bob Roberts was played pretty well for a non-actor. He sure beat Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt at being a movie actor (in Wings of Desire II).

His article is just plain lunacy. He claims that Osama Bin Laden was set up as a fall guy because the government always wants to pin the blame on a ‘lone nut’. With an army, I guess.

He also makes some absolutely lunatic claims about the hijacked airliners. He claims that if this wasn’t being orchestrated by the Bush administration, those jets would have been shot down, because that was STANDARD procedure. This is just factually wrong. There was no SOP for shooting down civilian jets before 9/11. Bush signed that order later that day. But then Vidal makes an even bigger whopper when he says that it is standard procedure for fighter jets to be scrambled every time a jet diverts from its flight plan. I think he just pulled this out of his ass, because it’s wrong. If fighter jets were scrambled every time an aircraft diverted from its flight plan, the skies would be thick with them.

Finally, he also notes that Bush looked ‘calm’ when being told about the attacks, with the implication that Bush already knew. First of all, Bush handled it exactly the way the President should have handled news like that - maintain your composure, and take your first opportunity to leave without startling anyone. So Gore is claiming that competance must mean conspiracy. And anyway, if Bush really did know, wouldn’t he have acted surprised?

Anyway, it’s the ravings of a near-madman. Vidal is heading firmly into Oliver Stone territory.

Thanks for the feedback. It is very unusual for someone to be given four pages of dense type in even the upmarket British sundays for what is essentially a “think” piece.

The Observer is not a hysterical paper, and doesn’t normally carry “nutter” articles. If anything it suffers from the deathly earnestness of the left.

Unfortunately the entire article cant be linked for “rights reasons” according to the website (unless it was previously published else where?)

people named “gore” should not be trusted.

“bush got benefits from x, therefore he must have known about it.” Reminds me of Gary Trudeau’s idiotic “the evildoers are getting my agenda passed” cartoon.

It sounds like Vidal is one of many armchair Air Defense experts who have come out of the woodwork in the past year. They seem to know all about what should have been done about the diverting aircraft, who should have been where when. There are sites all over the Internet purporting to know the truth and trying to figure out all the math of how fighters were kept on the ground to let the conspiracy happen.

But I haven’t seen one right yet. In fact, they have a rather poor picture of what air defense is like in the US these days. It’s not the Cold War anymore, and keeping crews and aircraft on constant alert is expensive and strenuous on airframes and aircrew. It’s still done, but at far fewer sites. And the jets don’t take off the second a call comes in to scramble.

There have been plenty of articles on the details of the air defense response on the 11th, none of which I can remember the location for. But there is a time chronolgy at the very bottom of this page. http://www.afa.org/magazine/Sept2002/0902black.asp ]NORAD Chronology

As you can see, Vidal’s claim that no aircraft were scrambled until 9:40 does not match. And probably came from some random conspiracy site on the net.

Vidal says this:

I doubt he could cite that law. The fact of the matter is, the delay was due to the FAA not deciding immediately that something was up. And I don’t blame them one bit. There were a million reasons to consider before thinking an aircraft was hijacked, especially when they recieved no notification from the pilots, not even the transponder code that signifies a hijack.

I work with people here in Alaska who were in the thick of the air defense situation on Sep 11. There were fighters in the air and lots of airlines, and everything else was confusion. No one was certain what could be done if they discovered another hijacked aircraft. Authority for shootdown was decided on that day.

Might I also mention the outcry we’d be hearing from people like Vidal if a plane had been inadvertently shot down? They all sound so non-chalant about it, like it was a simple matter to just start plucking airliners out of the sky. I can assure you, the pilots involved weren’t too thrilled about having to face the possibility of shooting the airliners down.

Had things been different, military and government personnel might have really had to face the task of killing innocent Americans in the hopes of saving more on the ground. It irritates me to no end that they get criticized by people who wouldn’t have had the guts to make that kind of call, much less pull the trigger and live with the guilt.