"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."--George W. Bush, 9/13/01
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."--George W. Bush, 3/13/02
"Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."--George W. Bush, 9/17/02

Sure we can. Among major American poets, only Amiri Baraka and Clayton Eshleman have challenged the official version of 9/11. On Hunger Magazine, 2003, Eshleman was asked by J. J. Blickstein: "How are you addressing the current events on the world theater, 9/11, the imminent 'War for Oil' with Iraq, the North Korean conflict, in your work?" He answered:

My initial response to the 9/11 assaults, as a reader/investigator, was to start making myself more aware of what we might have done to others, beyond our borders, to instigate such action. I read William Blum's Rogue State, and am now reading his Killing Hope. Learning of Bush's bizarre and utterly irresponsible immediate response to the assaults (he continued listening to school children read to him in a Sarasota grade school for nearly a half hour), I also began to learn more about him by reading Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon. Then Gore Vidal alerted me to the considerable possibility that the official version of what happened on 9/11 was bogus. Vidal's information was based on Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's The War on Freedom which I studied for several weeks, at the same time checking its information with the numerous 9/11 sites (e.g., Paul Thompson's The Complete 9/11 Time-site). I have not found any information that contradicts Ahmed's. There is additional material in David Icke's Alice In Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster, but one must ponder it in a context that is Blakean and obsessed with global fascist conspiracy controlled by reptilian "entities."
After studying the Ahmed book, I wrote "The Assault," which opens with compressed time-line data on some of the evidence that contests the official 9/11 version. Part II is my own lyric response, written out of the angry indignation I associate with Robert Duncan's "Uprising," the key declaration by a poet during the Vietnamese War. My poem can be read on the Skanky Possum web site.


The 9/11 matter has taken up nearly all my political reading time over the past months. I try to make myself aware of the political dimension but not be taken over by it. I am of course dead set against an invasion of Iraq, and see it as stepping stone #2 after our despicable bombing of Afghanistan (there is still no evidence that would hold up in court that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 assaults--in fact there is considerable evidence that bin Laden is a CIA asset, and that the assaults were either permitted to happen or arranged by our own government in order to get the public outrage backing to go into Afghanistan, an invasion that was planned months before 9/11--primarily to get rid of the unreliable Taliban, which we created in the first place, and to install a government amenable to a UNOCAL oil pipeline into the Caspian reserves).
I haven't spent much time on the North Korean situation and probably know less about it than you do.
I think there are certain occasions that call for a politically-focused poem; in that sense I wanted to get possible government conspiracy on 9/11 into the poetic record. Beyond that, I seek to build an atmosphere of political awareness into everything I write. I have done this for some years. I want a sense of my own time, in a national and international way, to permeate my language. The only way the American poem can remain human, as our government expands its imperialist domination of the world (and space), is for the poet to ceaselessly indicate awareness of the monstrous interventionist framework within which, as a tiny and impotent god, he mixes his poisons and proceeds. In this sense, I am an alchemist with one eye on fire, literally and figuratively.


  THE ASSAULT
    I
Mid-July 2001: The US government—having decided that the Taliban regime was too unstable and too hostile to serve as a vehicle for US entry into Central Asia—had planned on an Afghanistan invasion for October.
National support for such an invasion depended upon a widely-perceived direct threat. Now known “enemy attacks” used to whip up and mobilize people for war included: the US Battleship Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, Tonkin Bay. Our atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the beginning of the Cold War.
September 10: Bin Laden was in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, courtesy of the ISI, for kidney dialysis (in July he met with the local CIA agent in Dubai; no attempt was made to arrest him).
September 6-10: United and American Airlines stock shares were massively sold short, as were shares at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (occupying 22 WTC floors) and Merrill Lynch (headquarters near the WTC). Insiders with advance knowledge of an approaching national catastrophe are believed to have made over 15 million. If they knew, would you tell me that Bush, The Secret Service, The Air Force, and the Pentagon did not know?
(The alleged lead hijacker Mohammed Atta, with an expired 2000 tourist visa, re-entered 3 times in 2001 for flying lessons—for which he lacked the required M-1 work visa—while under FBI surveillance for stockpiling bomb making materials)
August 2001: The FBI was informed that Zacarias Moussaoui was linked by French intelligence to bin Laden (top FBI officials blocked field agents’ requests to search Zacarias’s computer).
August 2001: Attorney David Schippers was approached by FBI agents and given the names of the hijackers, their targets, proposed dates, and the sources of their funding. He tried to contact Ashcroft who did not return any of his calls. Schippers’ informants were pulled off their investigation and threatened with prosecution if they went public (Schippers is now representing one FBI agent in a suit against the US government in an attempt to subpoena its testimony, so he can legally speak about the blocked investigation on public record).
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) requires fighter jets to scramble and intercept under emergency conditions. No approval from the White House is required (when Payne Stuart’s Learjet pilot failed to respond to the air controller at 9:33, 21 minutes later, an F-16 traveling at 1500 mph reached the Learjet at 46,000 feet).
On September 11, Flight #11 was clearly way off course by 8:20. SOP called for
  immediate notification and response.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was not informed of
  an emergency by Boston air traffic control until 8:38.
Initially, according to former NORAD Commander Gen. Richard Myers, no jets
  were scrambled until after Flight #77 struck the Pentagon at 9:40
(1 hour and 20 minutes after #11 was suspected of being hijacked).
Within days, this story changed: at 8:44, we are told, 2 F-15s were scrambled at Otis
  (Cape Cod), 190 miles from Manhattan.
If these jets flew at top speed (1850 mph), they would have reached the Towers in
  6 minutes.
But at 9:03, when Flight #175 struck the South Tower,
the Otis jets were unexplainably still 70 miles from Manhattan
  (and why sent from Otis? McGuire, a major, active facility in New Jersey, is 71
  miles from the WTC. Arrival time: 3 minutes. No planes were scrambled from
  McGuire).
The apparent shut down of SOP on Flight #77 is even more sinister:
known to be hijacked by 8:50 (at which time it was also known #11 and #175 were
  hijacked, meaning a national emergency was at hand), NORAD was not notified
  until 9:24—
and, after NORAD was notified, jets were scrambled from Langley (130 miles from
  Wash DC) instead of from Andrews (10 miles away), with 2 combat-ready squadrons
  (the Langley jets arrived 15 minutes after the Pentagon was plowed into).
9:16: NORAD was informed that Flight #93 had been hijacked (at which time it was
  known that 3 other flights had been hijacked and that 2 had already blown up their
  targets).
No jets were scrambled to intercept #93.
No one has been charged with incompetence.
After both Towers had been struck, President Bush, in Sarasota, visiting a grade
  school, was informed.
He continued to listen to children read to him for 25 minutes before informing
  Americans of what they already knew.
Myers, at the Capitol, was chatting (about “terrorism”) with Senator Max Cleland.
They saw a TV report that a plane had hit the WTC. “We thought it was a small
  plane or something like that,” Myers said.
So the two men went ahead with the office call.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Tower was hit. “Nobody informed us of that,” Myers said.
After the Pentagon was struck (3/4 of the assault now successfully completed),
a cellphone was handed to him; finally, the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs
 is informed!
According to Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria Clarke: “Rumsfeld stayed in his
office until the Pentagon was hit, with the excuse that he had some phone calls to make.”
    II
A composite vision: our callow, illiterate, Supreme Court-
 appointed Fool, drifting in photo-op with school children,
Myers discussing “terrorism” with Cleland,
Rumsfeld, in effect, hiding in his office,
           while flames
 drink debris-blocked staircased bodies.
   My head shudders with
  the mortification of finding Bush in my own eyes,
yes, for I do not see myself outside the male coagulate.
Part of me is a lazar born of mass guilt,
funhouse horticulture, where the decency facets
  I’ve struggled to file ripple with
    “Full Spectrum Dominance”
    Out the window, in autumnal weak green:
  tent caterpillar encampments, opaque, milky,
creating as if under camouflage deadly screens—
elected American presidents in the democracy-subverted
    host tree:
      Bush Junior entangled with pa
crawling Nixon’s raging animus, the Nobel Carter
  mottled with Khmer Rouge horror,
Johnson cloaked in “We seek no wider war,”
whipping out his big dick to reporters, declaring
      “This is why we’re in Vietnam!”
Reagan as a goggle-wearing grub, chirping: “Contras are
  the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.:
      These nest camps where
  baby Pinochets bud (Nobel Kissinger
on his knees gripping the altar-bowl
vomiting up a stomach hash of millions—
    suddenly his ghost stands up through him, called
    to lead the 911 investigation.
The nests enweb electronically through the American mind.
Whitman’s visionary eternal present has become
  the language of TV, tending always to transfix
    the audience in an eternal now.
I’m taken in, as are you, fellow citizens,
failing to instantly recall background particularities.
A week later, I come to, recalling, while reading,
 details I should have brought to bear.
The mainstream media cartel
  beams its needles out of the screens,
who is not injected, anesthetized by conversion-
 spiked
    patriotic aura?
Like a depth charge dropped into 911: 50 years of Cold War
  mobilization against the Soviet Union has left the country with
“a boiling residue of paranoid anxiety.”
Greed become a crazed intoxication to redetermine history,
if the Bush family becomes trillionaires, might they,
  led by angels, slip through eternity,
    skipping over death?
Jackknifed bodies plummeting against
  the photo-serenity of a Tower,
not Crane’s “bedlamite,” but a secretary
  exploding in blue September sky
Living in America now is like being on a revised Flight #11.
The nave of this self-righteous citadel extends for miles—
section after section of our cluster-bombed Yugoslavians,
  our jerking nerve-gassed Laotians, our napalmed Vietnamese girls,
our chopped- apart Guatemalans, our mowed-down East Timorese
and there’s our Sharon, in high heels, tightening
  the thumbscrews on Palestinian immiseration
--and below? Right here? Bush is in my gas,
Cheney’s in my steering-wheel, Ashcroft’s under our bed!
Should 911 be seen as a 3000 body count down payment on
  a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistani UNOCAL oil pipeline?
3000 dead? More like 8000—
for this figure must include the Afghanistan dead
bombed in retribution—for what?
Nothing they did but inhabit land we
--and here “we” partitions my heart—
    seek to exploit.
The unutterable humiliation of 911!
Holocaust of firemen to make millionaires billionaires!
Workers, executives, of the capitalist epi-center,
but much more importantly, beloved citizens
  who went to work that day
(overhearing me, bored Bush turns aside:
“Adolf, let’s go fishin.”)
    In our hearts we know
    In our hearts we do not know
Baby Bush now spectre-entangled in the entrails of the nation.
    --Clayton Eshleman
    [November-December, 2002, Ypsilanti]
[NOTE: the compressed time-line data is mainly taken from Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's The War On Freedom, Tree of Life Publications, Joshua Tree, CA., 2002. I was alerted to Ahmed's book by Gore Vidal's "The Enemy Within," which appeared in the UK Observer, 27 October 2002. I also drew upon material from Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon, Norton, NYC, 2002, and William Blum's Rogue State, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 2000. The lyric outrage is all my own (other than when factual), and participates in the tradition of the sirvente; Robert Duncan's "Uprising," which blasts Johnson for the bombing of Vietnam and which may be found in Bending the Bow, New Directions, NYC, 1968, hovers over "The Assault," a predecessor ghost.]

Originally Published: September 10th, 2008

Linh Dinh was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1963, came to the U.S. in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two collections of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and Blood and Soap (Seven Stories Press 2004), and the novel Love...

  1. September 10, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Since it's relevant, here's a letter I published in the Chicago Reader a couple of years ago:
    Editor:
    Since there happens to be no "evidence" that the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives rather than planes, it is hardly surprising that, as [letter writer's name redacted] complains [Letters, November 3], [reporter] Michael Miner hasn't "look[ed] into the reasoning behind the position." I happen not to believe that George Bush is a giraffe, but I must admit I haven't investigated the lack of evidence for such a belief in depth. To say that David Ray Griffin's "argument" "is one that has been developed evidentiarily, inductively, and cooperatively over the course of these several years by the many people working in what is usually called the "9/11 truth community" is a bit like saying that Scientology's argument that the galactic overlord Xenu brought humans to earth 75 million years ago has been developed through the careful sorting of evidence in keeping with the precepts of scientific rationality.
    I'd love to know what sort of "evidence" I'm supposed to examine in order to conclude that the Bush administration would risk the destruction of the Republican Party and the prospect of execution on charges of treason in order to murder thousands of American citizens. I know they haven't shown any moral compunction regarding the murder of perhaps as many as half a million Iraqis, but to them this is a distinction that makes all the difference. For the record, anyone who's managed to pick up enough critical acumen to delete unread e-mails from Nigerian finance ministers promising untold riches should be able to perceive the insubstantiality of the mountain of coincidence, paranoia, and straight-out falsehood that constitutes "evidence" within the delightfully christened "9/11 truth community." Anyone still convinced that every last one of the hundreds of people needed to implement a conspiracy on the order of 9/11 within the government and military could manage somehow to keep it under wraps this long is urged to check out the useful and unfortunately necessary book Debunking 9/11 Myths, edited by David Dunbar and Brad Reagan, which exposes the pseudoscience and nonsense of [letter writer's] "broad range of evidence."
    [Letter writer] is of course correct to emphasize the urgency of our reliance upon "the way we use our faculty of critical inference." All the more puzzling, therefore, that he seems to have abrogated his entirely, failing to discriminate among claims, as if each and every position were to be afforded equal consideration. I wonder that he has not written letters upbraiding reporters for failing to examine all the evidence before dismissing white supremacists or creationists or Holocaust deniers as "wingnuts." Critical intelligence involves a certain dependence upon a well-developed and defensible common sense -- a sense held in common, which teaches that some ideas aren't worthy of being taken seriously. As Noam Chomsky has sensibly pointed out, the idea that the U.S. government engineered the 9/11 attacks is "so hopelessly implausible that [there is] no point in talking about it." [Letter writer] implies that it is fear that keeps us from confronting the truth of what our government is capable of. This is all too true, which is why such inane distractions from the actual crimes of the radical statist regime in power are morally implicated in the ongoing diffusion of that fear.
    Michael Robbins
    Hyde Park

  2. September 11, 2008
     Joseph Hutchison

    Linh, I'd like to add the books of Peter Dale Scott to those your post will encourage folks to read. His poetic trilogy Seculum, along with his journalistic works, especially The Road to 9/11 and The War Conspiracy, examine the deep politics behind our major post-WWII national tragedies (those we suffered and those we inflicted on others). You will spark some outrage here, I imagine, especially among aesthetes who do not wish this kind of material to find a place in poetry. But it needs to be there. If poets don't speak about the powers behind the two-way mirror (not necessarily in every poem–there is more to life than those powers, after all), then our poetry will continue to become even more enervated and irrelevant. Thank you for using this occasion to remind us that poetry shouldn't be all fishheads and petunias.

  3. September 11, 2008
     Jane

    Poetry is not above or below politics, the personal is political as they say.
    But often in poetry- it's what is politically correct that is said. A poetry revolution would involve
    inviting everyone to be heard/read. Imagine a patriotic poem embraced? One that doesn't celebrate socialism? Or pro-life prose?

  4. September 11, 2008
     Henry Gould

    And would you believe - World War I did NOT ACTUALLY HAPPEN? World War II should, in all accuracy, be called World War I !!!! Since Jim Tuckey, whose grandfather was in the Coast Guard, suddenly, out of hte blue, for no apparent reason, HIT me in the face one day with a very solid ice cream sandwich, I have been pursuing "offkcially censored" information about the history of Europe 1914-1918. Several reputable blog sites emanating from Transylvania have convinced me that the Serbian gunman said to have assassinated Duke Ferdinand, on that black day in 1914, was actually a disgruntled employee of the Lithuanian Secret Service (aka Postal Service) named Tadzek Czcthinchim !!! As EVERYONE KNOWS, the LSS was a front organization for the U.S. Government, established in 1905 by would-be Rough Rider Theodore ROOSEVELT, to serve the ubermensch hegemonic designs of the Evil Superpower from MARS, otherwise known as the good ol' "U.S.A." !!!!! AND WE ARE ALL VICTIMS OF THIS INSIDIOUS HISTORICAL MYTHOLOGY !!!! Someday the truth will be told - when politically-aware poets arise in these Mental States of ours and RECITE THE PLEDGE OF MANDATORY DISESTABLISHMENT. (If you have not memorized the iambic pentameter pledge yet, visit this website : http://conspiraciestodaytomorrowandyesterday.org. Do it now!)

  5. September 11, 2008
     Chris Stroffoino

    I love Amiri Baraka and Clayton Eshelman, but I do want to correct an assumption by the editor that these were the only major American poets to address the 9/11 question. Sure, I know they are both more well known (both born circa 1934) than those of us born in the 1960s, or 1970s and beyond, so I don't necessarily need to claim that I, or my contemporaries are major like these elder statesmen, but I would like to call attention to the piece I wrote a few days after 9/11, published by Daniel Nester in his magazine La Petite Zine (http://www.lapetitezine.org/lpz21_archive.htm). I don't even need to make claims that this is a great piece of writing. It's very emotional, spontaneous, and very different than the poetry I wrote which won kudos from John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Carla Harryman, Brenda Hillman, and Clayton Eshelman himself. But I just felt a need to counter a common assumption that people from my generation and younger have not indeed engaged in the topical at times, like Ginsberg, et al. It just doesn't get talked about the way a poem by Baraka would, because of the increased media censorship our generation has had to face, in both literature and music, etc. I know my post 9/11 shocked a lot of people at the time, because like Clayton and Baraka's, it looks inward into what harm our country has sometimes inflicted on others. I understand that it hurt some people because it didn't seem to foreground the real human tragedy people went through here enough, but maybe 7 years later people can look at it a little more and see what I was getting at?

  6. September 12, 2008
     Brian Salchert

    Not sure how this translated quotation of a sentence written by
    Alexis de Tocqueville might connect with what you are doing
    here, but it is worth reading and pondering:

    See near the top of the page the large font words.

  7. September 12, 2008
     Linh Dinh

    The link by Brian is broken, but this is the quotation:
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
    "Chris" above is Chris Stroffolino. (Yo, Chris, major poets don't mispell their own name, but there might be exceptions. What're you smoking in Oakland?)

  8. September 12, 2008
     jane

    I'm not inclined to see a "conspiracy" in the way that Clayton and the armada of skeptics would. But rather than dismissing them as nutcases, I am always interested in the kernel of truth in such fantasies. I certainly understand the desire for enormously complex and troubling events to take on the form of the whodunnit, to have a denouement when the evident cause stands before you naked – it seems like the ongoing abstractions of, say, global relations and international capital and so forth make one particularly desperate for such concrete versions of causality (this is one of the lessons of the great artist Mark Lombardi). Parallel to this, one sees in such conspiracy theories the recognition that "they hate us for our freedom," and idiot codes like "Islamofascism," lack real expanatory altogether – and the intuition that an explanation is going to need to think about the interlocking overdeterminations of geopolitical and economic power. These conspiracy theories are one of the forms that desperation takes within the foreclosure of actual historical thought, and deserving of understanding within that context.

  9. September 12, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Joshua is right to discern behind the psychology of conspiracy-theory a desire to reassert for historical actors a comprehensible agency whose motivations are as comfortingly familiar as the circulations of capital & religious ideology are nebulous -- in this respect, the 9/11 Truth movement is the inversion of the Bush Administration, fighting to replace phrases with other phrases & in no way combating the real existing world. The pathos, of course, is that those who would oppose official doctrine with fantasy are utterly powerless (& let us acknowledge here, without doubting that al-Qaeda orchestrated the attacks, that the conspiracy-minded are correct to note that no evidence of such orchestration has been produced; rather, the very notion that such evidence should be forthcoming, as the Taliban leadership quite reasonably requested before they would agree to extradite Mr. Bin Laden, is ruled out of bounds, something that tells us more about the juridical imaginary of Bush & Co.'s geopolitical project than about the origins of the September 11 attacks). In this respect, the caretakers of the national body are only too pleased to allow such fantasies to be spun, to distract the grumbling classes with Power Point presentations of steel beams in free fall. This is why, though these theories may be "deserving of understanding" as forms of desperation, they are not deserving of our sanction. They reveal a familiar post-Fordist nostalgia for models of political action that assume if the overseer is not visible from the factory floor, he is watching from behind the smoked glass of his office. This nostalgia permits an illusion of political agency: while I may not be able to combat the forces of evil, at least I, unlike so many, have correctly identified them. In this way, conspiracy theories are as effective at stifling productive forms of dissent as the outmoded regimens of repression whose victims their adherents imagine themselves to be.

  10. September 15, 2008
     Eric Wayne Dickey

    A couple of comments here.
    Jane and Michael, et al, all theories are conspiratorial. The Bin Laden connection to 9/11 is a conspiracy theory. Calling the official version "the doctrine" is a conspiracy in and of itself.
    Cheney knew, as did Larry Silverstein. Not sure how much Bush knew, or how much he was being protected from knowing. Yes, we would be hard pressed to prove the guilt of this administration, but it's pretty easy to see that they are, at the least, complicit with the fore knowledge that attacks were being plotted.
    I recommend two documentaries: 9/11 Press for Truth and Loose Change.
    One damning testimony: Norman Mineta's testimony to the 9/11 Commission. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDfdOwt2v3Y
    Our govt. knew the car was going to get stolen, so they left the keys in the ignition, the car idling, and the door wide open.
    For the record, the US knew the Japanese were plotting to attack Pearl Harbor.
    Lastly, I leave you with this chilling quote:
    "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." -- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials
    To which I add:
    And keep reminding them that they were attacked.
    I think September is the loveliest month of the year, and I won't let my govt. high jack this date.

  11. September 15, 2008
     michael robbins

    Luckily, Mr. Dickey's comment manages to refute itself, particularly if you watch the idiotic, self-refuting documentaries he recommends (an exercise in being condescended to by people who often know less about their respective subjects than the viewer). This kind of trash isn't worth bothering with: the so-called "theories" are exactly as unconvincing as you'd expect, with not the proverbial shred of evidence to support them. Shreds, patches, tatters of innuendo, lies, coincidences, & speculation they abound in. I'm afraid you'd have to be an idiot to believe this stuff, & I'm afraid only idiots do.
    For the record, Mr. Dickey, all theories are decidedly not conspiratorial. Even the most generous interpretation I can provide to that gnomic claim is simply wrong. I'm sorry to hear, however, that you're "not sure how much Bush knew." Do look us up when you nail it down.
    Oh, & the word you want is "hijack."

  12. September 15, 2008
     Linh Dinh

    Hi Michael,
    Do you have to call people who disagree with you "idiots"?

  13. September 15, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Why, no, Linh, nor do I. Lots of people "disagree" with me: Joan Houlihan & Reginald Shepherd & plenty of other people have disagreed with me right on this site without my calling them any such thing or implying idiocy on their part. I "disagree" with Don Share on a regular basis. I "disagree" with every single friend I have about something or other. Do you imagine I call them "idiots"? Or even suspect them of being such?
    I don't "disagree" with Eshleman & Dickey et al., any more than I "disagree" with the views of creationists, Holocaust deniers, the Ku Klux Klan, people who think the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's works, UFO abductees, Scientologists, &c. Disagreement occurs between people who hold reasonable views. If you tell me that the moon is actually a spy satellite planted there by extraterrestrials, I don't "disagree" with you. I know that you're wrong. (In that instance, you're probably mentally ill rather than idiotic, however, & I should have allowed for the possibility that some 9/11 conspiracy theorists deserve the same qualification. Mea culpa.)
    It's really tedious & embarrassing to have to explain this obvious point to you.

  14. September 15, 2008
     jane

    It's an interesting question, about theories. I certainly take Eric's point: that one story about evil geniuses with evil plans is, structurally, the same as any other. But at the same time, and this isn't a digression, it strikes me that the most powerful explanatory theories aren't at all conspiratorial in that sense: the theory of evolution, say, or the general theory of relativity, or the labor theory of value, to choose some examples, In differing ways, they describe how outcomes arise – sometimes quite surprising ones – through the ongoing interplay of multiple causes which, as an interlocking aggregate, have a tendency, a directionality, which is distinct from the will or planning of any individual party involved. That understanding of "theory" seems very much worth keeping to hand as one considers how things come to happen in history.

  15. September 15, 2008
     Linh Dinh

    So all the 9/11 skeptics mentioned in my post, Amiri Baraka, Clayton Eshleman and Gore Vidal (and by extension, me, Dale Smith and Hoa Nguyen, on whose website Eshleman's poem first appeared) are idiots, according to Michael Robbins. Also, Eric Wayne Dickey did spell hijack/highjack as "high jack," hardly anything to get excited about, but it was yet another opportunity for Robbins to be contemptuous. Any gap will do, apparently. I'm keenly aware that cyber belligerence is becoming increasingly common and that poets are far from immune, of course, but what does it say about our society when some of our most cultured and educated can lapse so easily into incivility?

  16. September 16, 2008
     Eric Wayne Dickey

    Mr. Robbins, Love the support. You must be a very generous person. Do you kiss your children with that mouth? Of course, I'm assuming someone would actually want to bear your children. (Or is that bare?)
    I suppose you should consider the 9/11 Commission Report for a third unsubstantiated document that did not call upon experts to qualify its findings. A commission who's investigation was adamantly opposed by Cheney himself and didn't begin for over a year after the attacks. I mean, when the Columbia went down, the investigative commission began the day after.
    But if it's experts you want to discredit -- and you are correct, I'm no expert -- you can, if you want, Mr. Robbins, discredit the thousands of professional architects and engineers who question the official story: http://www.ae911truth.org/. You can also discredit the work of Dr. Steven Jones and Paul Thompson. You can spin the fact that Condi Rice was caught lying on camera to the 9/11 commission about prior fore knowledge. Just please couple her lying with Norman Mineta's testimony when you do spin it. I'd love to watch you squirm out of that.
    As for "Debunking 9/11 Myths." The first thing that comes to my mind is "what myths?" And then, why do they need debunking? What if it were Debunking 9/11 Facts? I mean, there's nothing mythic about facts and evidence. I guess it depends on which language of conspiracy teet one suckles.
    All the while, I will gladly take the burden of your name calling. Is that all you got? Names? Shoot, that ain't nothing. It's easier for you this way. Believe me, I know it's easier. I find that name calling is a form of unsupported anger and denial. If I could give you my shoulder, I'd burp you of your anger. It's okay. There, there.
    Please continue your onslaught, Goering would be proud of your tactics. I love how you bunch 9/11 truthers with Holocaust deniers in your letter. Could you add Bigfoot believers? 'cause I would really prefer being one of those instead.
    I think it was Kant who high-jacked something about shadows and how we project our own. So I can let Mr. Robbins' name calling bounce off me by employing the old playground defense about rubber and glue once more! But thank you for coming to my defense, Linh. I don't think such name calling is appropriate for Mr. Robbins, or is it Dr. Robbins? Such a distinction should be worn more honorably. You are very condescending and your tone reeks classicist. Shame on you.

  17. September 16, 2008
     Kent Johnson

    Forsooth, I think it's entirely possible that the Earl of Oxford is the "Shakespeare" author!
    Those who hold it's unlikely the man from Stratford is principal writer of the works constitute a pretty substantial and impressive list, actually.
    It's fine to be a Stratfordian, but the rather serious Shakespeare authorship debate is hardly on same level with alien abduction or the Chupacabra, Michael...
    Kent

  18. September 16, 2008
     Boyd Nielson

    Hi Linh,
    >>what does it say about our society when some of our most cultured and educated can lapse so easily into incivility?
    It doesn’t say a whole lot, I’m afraid. And I would bet that many who contribute to Harriet can recall lots of moments in academic conferences, committees or classrooms (or, say, in conversations at dinner parties) in which a cultured and educated individual was far from civil. In fact, I would bet most people here would admit that our most cultured and educated are not in the least our most civil and decent.
    As I see it, there are two issues at stake in this thread. The first is about whether Michael was (or should have been more) civil in his response. And the second is about whether there is evidence for even entertaining the possibility that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the Bush administration. Whatever you decide about the former (and however much you hate or oppose the policies of Bush or the American government or capitalism in general), I don’t see how you can say Michael was wrong about the latter. And surely this has nothing to do, Linh, with your or Dale Smith’s and Hoa Nguyen’s credibility or competence. You’re all admirable! Nor does it, finally, have anything to do with whether Clayton Eshleman is a fine poet. Certainly he is.
    Michael can attest that he and I have disagreed extensively before, and no doubt we disagree on many other things. It may be that we have barely begun to scratch the surface of our disagreements. But Michael is clearly correct that if we take seriously these 9/11 conspiracy theories we also, unavoidably, endorse an illusion of political agency. (Hey, then it would turn out that Phil Gramm was right!) If the political poetry of the left is really reduced to mounting a critique of 9/11 and its aftermath by rehearsing theories from the so-called 9/11 truth community and challenging the “official version” of what happened with mere innuendo and half-baked speculation, then God save.

  19. September 16, 2008
     john

    I'm not sure if I understand what is illusory about political agency.
    Here are a couple of really spooky conspiracy theories that I believe are true.
    In 2000, the Republican Party conspired to steal the election for George W. Bush.
    A fantastically well-coordinated effort, on multiple fronts, was put to that end.
    * Bush's brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, unlawfully purged likely Democratic voters from the roles.
    * When the Florida vote was so close that it necessitated a recount, the Republicans tried to shut the recount down through several avenues.
    * They paid for people to stage a riot outside of the recount office in Miami.
    * They intentionally gave the Miami office erroneous advice about how to mark the ballots that did get recounted.
    * Their agents on the Supreme Court finally ordered the recount to halt.
    Lots more happened, but I don't see anything illusory about the agency of these several political actors working in concert.
    The conspiracy to launch a war in Iraq was even more convoluted and complex, and a lot of it was more subterranean -- we probably still don't know about some of the actions taken.
    The difference between these and the 9/11 atrocity is that a 9/11 conspiracy would require concerted efforts of many people in complete secrecy. I am doubtful too that this would be possible, but I am not doubtful of the efficacy of political agency.
    I see Jane's point about the uncontrollable forces of history -- my agency couldn't have stopped the theft of the 2000 election, for reasons of economic and political power determined by history. But the fact remains, people acted.

  20. September 16, 2008
     Linh Dinh

    Hi Boyd,
    We obviously disagree on the second issue [of "whether there is evidence for even entertaining the possibility that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the Bush administration"], which is fine, I respect that, but I want to note that your tone and substance are radically different from Robbins', with his "It's really tedious & embarrassing to have to explain this obvious point to you" and many other antics which any regular reader of Harriet can attest to. This snarling sarcasm does not reflect well on him, I'm afraid, or on any institution he happens to be associated with, least of all the Chicago Review, an otherwise classy journal. Enough of that. It's important to get at the truth, the essential facts, of any incident, especially one that killed thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people since it was used as a pretext for an open-ended and ill-defined "War on Terror." Eshleman's political engagement is deadly serious and constant, and can't be reduced to 9/11. Ditto Baraka's and Vidal's. They question everything this government says or does, which is the exact opposite of being mentally ill or idiotic.

  21. September 16, 2008
     Eric Wayne Dickey

    Boyd, thank you for acknowledging Linh's work here. I agree, all appreciation. And thank you for engaging more civilly than our friend to the north. I really appreciate your unassuming tone and invitation to dialogue.
    I think the poem and this discussion thread exposes how our misplaced loyalty is easily misguided and manipulated by the very language we speak and by the very ideologies we hold dear, political, religious, economic, etc..
    Reducing the efforts of the professionals in the 9/11 truth movement as "mere innuendo and half-baked speculation" is conspiratorial, if not downright insulting to them. They are not teenagers burning a joint down by the river. If we dismiss them as such, then our necessity to call upon an unsubstantiated God to save us comes as no surprise to me. Simple-minded thinking. With all due respect to you, Boyd, I am not reducing you as such. I'm thinking of society as a whole (hole?)
    And I certainly can't be the only one on this thread to see the hypocrisy (hippocracy) of "endorse[ing] an illusion of political agency." I mean, "self" is an illusion. Embracing one political agency over another is also an illusion.
    I'm no expert in philosophy, but I didn't just google the I Ching yesterday!

  22. September 17, 2008
     Harriet Editor

    This post has been closed to further comments.