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Summary, or, Al Qaeda's Lucky Day

All right already, so, was 9/11 an "inside job" or what? The facts justify certain suspicions but the only honest answer is we just don't know. We do know that the stories from official sources are full of improbabilities, contradictions, and coincidences that beggar belief, and that skyscrapers don't normally drop into a heap of dust and steel segments from the effects of fire.

Still. Let's face it. You have to believe some mind-boggling things to think any government would participate in an attack on its own people. To believe it is to change your entire view of how the world really works. Normal is gone. Normal doesn't live here any more. You've now got more disturbing questions than you are ever going to get answers for.

On the other hand, you have to swallow some mind-bogglers to accept the official narrative as well. A bit of oops here and there we can handle. But a long trail of oops and near miracles like this one is bad for the digestion. And it's not as if these military-industrial-intelligence types have proven themselves too nice to deal in large scale murder or anything.

Even so it could fairly be said that no matter how improbable all the mutually supportive failures might be, they're psychologically outweighed by the difficulties of accepting powerful and malevolent factions within the government playing such appalling games with people's lives. So a person could be forgiven for choosing not to go there. Even if that's exactly how they knew they'd get away with it.

But let's take off our tinfoil hats and presume for the sake of argument that it went down more or less like the 9/11 Commission said, that there were a surprising and disappointing number of bureaucratic failures and stupid decisions, and that random fires really can make modern steel-framed buildings fall into a symmetrical heap with alarming suddenness. If there was a cover-up, it's about covering up incompetence, and about things like diplomatic sensitivities and protecting valuable oil relationships; it's lousy, but it's not about hiding any conspiracies. We'll not nitpick about the Commission's internal discrepancies or sins of omission. Nothing's perfect.

It's quite easy to say the government could never pull off a big secret operation like 9/11 and get away with it, or "never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence." There's an understandable logic to that attitude; it speaks to our weary cynicism. Our weary cynicism likes being spoken to.

But let us be clear about one thing: If we accept the Incompetence Theory, there's no escaping the necessary corollary that the hijackers were also extremely lucky. Make that extremely stupid and extremely lucky: The plan we are told they had was a very bad plan that had virtually no chance of success. The only way it succeeded was thanks to a long string of often bizarre US failures that they certainly could not have counted upon.

Talk about the surprise factor as much as you like, the fact is if normal protocols are followed, the hijackers never get in the country, never mind near a plane. And if they do hijack a plane they're intercepted fifteen minutes later. If there were any smart terrorists there at the plan's inception they got overruled by the dumb guys. Let's imagine that meeting, shall we?

A: So, we'll all go to the United States, right, and we'll....

B: Hang on. Stop right there. We'll all go to the United States? We'll never get visas. Some of us are already being watched. Al-Midhar, for chrissakes? He's already linked to the Cole bombing and probably the embassies. We're just going to waltz into the country?

A: They might make a mistake.

B: A mistake?

A: Sure, mistakes happen. They might forget to check the list.

B: For all of us?

A: It could happen.

B: That's the plan? "They might make a mistake"? They might make a mistake nineteen times?

A: Let's move on. We go to the United States. We take flying lessons.

B: Shouldn't we train somewhere else? The CIA could well be watching us. One person gets suspicious, the FBI gets called in, the whole thing unravels.

A: Don't worry so much about the FBI and the CIA. They're administratively incapable of sharing information.

B: That's actually not true. They share information all the time. You should really research this stuff.

A: So, we get on the planes with box cutters and we...

B: Hang on, stop. How do we get them through security?

A: Well, we don't brandish them, we hide them, you know, in our bags.

B: The bags that go through the x-ray machine?

A: They might not notice.

B: That's the plan? "They might not notice"?

A: It could work.

B: It could NOT work too.

A: You are such a pessimist.

B: OK. We get there, we train, we get on board all four planes. Some of these pilot guys are pretty tough ex-military types. They're going to give up their planes to a bunch of us skinny dudes with box cutters?

A: We are wiry and strong. And we fight dirty.

B: OK, so, we get control of the planes somewhere over Ohio or someplace. It's a pretty long way to New York from there. We'd have to be in the air off course for what, at least a half hour?

A: Yes, something like that.

B: We'll never make it to New York.

A: Why not?

B: Well, they'll know it's an obvious hijacking. The plane will be way off course. The pilot won't be responding to them. They'll alert the military immediately. That's protocol. You've researched this, right?

A: But we are sneaky. We turn off the transponders!

B: They won't need transponders, they'll track us on radar! Fighters can be scrambled and intercept a plane in like ten minutes. Tell me you've read up on some of this!

A: I picture them in shock, the weak American air traffic controllers. They will sit there with their jaws slackened by too much television and alcohol and drugs and strippers.

B: Sounds like you, last night.

A: You too.

B: True. That wasn't very Islamic of us.

A: We deserved a treat.

B: Well I think so.

A: Anyway, they could forget to notify the military.

B: Excuse me?

A: Yes, they will be confused, they could easily forget. Each of them could assume somebody else has already done it. Things like that happen all the time.

B: So that's the plan. Hope they forget to call the military.

A: I'm telling you.

B: My friend. May I tell you something?

A: Of course.

B: This is the stupidest plan I have ever heard in my entire life.

A: Silence!

B: Well what next then? We have the planes, can we really fly them? Can we aim them properly?

A: You point it at the biggest building in New York, you step on the gas. What's so hard?

B: I don't know. Those towers are only slightly wider than the planes. It'll be like getting into a Mack truck you've never driven before and driving it through a small garage doorway at ninety miles an hour without touching the sides. We've never handled a plane like that, we'll train in small Cessnas...

A: And some flight simulators.

B: OK, flight simulators. In the real case though, at very fast speeds, is it so easy to hit those buildings?

A: Very very easy.

B: Even the South Tower where we swoop in and get a bulls-eye on a steep banking turn?

A: That one is a bit special. That's a tricky one.

B: That's not so easy.

A: Well...

B: It's really hard! That's expert level flying! We are not experts!

A: Ahhh, it's not so bad as all that. You should see Marwan on the X-Box.

B: OK. But your plan for the Pentagon.

A: What about it?

B: Well, aside from the fact it's well after the towers, and the military will probably be chasing us, if we even make it to DC, there's this spiral descent thing.

A: Beautiful, no?

B: It's dangerously time-consuming and insanely difficult, and even if we manage it, we don't get much value for all that risk.

A: What do you mean?

B: You have done SOME research, right? They're refurbishing that wedge.

A: What a wasted effort! Ha ha! We will destroy their refurbishing!

B: Yes, but it's being bomb-hardened. The damage will be contained. And the work will mean not many people are in there. And the leaders, they sit on the opposite side.

A: What's your point?

B: Well, wouldn't it be much easier, and faster, and cause more damage, if we just dived into the top of the building?

A: I don't like this idea.

B: Why not? Look, from the top, it's hundreds of acres, a nice big target. From the side, it's a short little building. Why not choose the easier thing that's quicker and does more damage?

A: Come on, it's not that bad. You spiral down in your jumbo jet, level off at about 450 miles an hour, stay an inch off the ground the last couple hundred feet and gun it into the wall. No biggie. I think Hani will manage.

B: You think he will manage. You know how he drives.

A: Hani will have beginner's luck.

B: That's the plan? "Hani will have beginner's luck"?!

A: I have spoken.

B: I give up. I give up.

It's easy to believe in screw-ups. Screw-ups happen. It's not the least bit difficult to imagine that airport security could screw up, for example, and let a box cutter (or four) through. But can we believe a halfway decent evil plan would depend on such screw-ups? To me, that's a bit harder. It's a very odd combination of sophisticated planning and total inanity. They had no business counting on box cutters getting through security. They had no business believing they could fly around American skies for hours totally unmolested by fighter jets.

Ridiculous stupid plans with near certain failure at every juncture are very rarely so wildly successful. You'd almost have to believe in miracles.

Strikes me as a bit fishy, that's all. In sum, you've got people who shouldn't have been in the country, by all appearances being protected by intelligence handlers, good investigations being squashed, the military runs suspicious hijacking exercises that day that confuse everybody, every failsafe mechanism and protocol steps aside for them to succeed, and then the government first tries to avoid any investigation at all (!) and then creates a poorly funded Commission run by its friends and proceeds to obstruct it in every possible way.

Inside job? We just don't know. We'll each just have to decide for ourselves what explanation stretches our credulity more.