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Local groups offer differing views on 11th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks



Last modified: Monday, September 10, 2012
NORTHAMPTON - It's been nearly 11 years since almost 3,000 people were murdered on the otherwise quiet Tuesday morning that changed history.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who won't acknowledge the tragedy in such a massive, senseless loss of life, but who can ultimately be held accountable for those crimes remains an ongoing debate.

Two area groups with differing views on who was responsible for the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and in the skies over Pennsylvania will hold separate discussion and screening events on Tuesday's 11th anniversary of 9/11.

The Media Education Foundation in Northampton produced a documentary in 2006 called "Hijacking Catastrophe" that examines the political ramifications of the attacks and how they were used as a springboard to launch unprecedented changes to foreign and domestic policy, according to co-director and MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally.

A screening of that film and a discussion will be held at the MEF building on Masonic Street on Tuesday.

The MEF building's community room is also used often by a local group with its own opinion of the events of that Tuesday morning.

That group, Valley 9/11 Truth, will hold a discussion and screen a documentary in Amherst that disputes the official version of events and asserts that the U.S. government concocted and planned the attacks.

Normally, said Valley 9/11 Truth co-founder Jonathan Mark, that event would be held at the MEF, but the scheduling conflict precluded that.

Jhally said he welcomes the 9/11 Truth Movement chapter to use the community space, and has no issue with the group in particular. His concern is simply that with its frequent use of the space, people are associating the MEF with Valley 9/11 Truth.

"This has been the source of a lot of frustration for us," Jeremy Earp, MEF member and co-director of "Hijacking Catastrophe," said in an email, "for the simple reason that we feel these groups have deflected attention away from a much more important part of the story."

Jhally said the real danger in trying to place blame for the attacks on the government is that it serves as a distraction from examining the larger questions surrounding the attacks. Questions such as missteps the administration made along the way that may have led to the 9/11 attacks tend not to get asked while people are investigating alternative theories, he said.

Jhally said the attacks of 9/11 were the type of event that the CIA refers to as "blowback" - retaliation for years of American actions overseas, and in the Middle East specifically. He said there are plenty of holes and inconsistencies in the official version of the events of the attacks, but in his view, these reflect an effort to cover up Bush administration incompetence in the months leading up to Sept. 11, not an effort to hide a government hand in planning those attacks.

Earp agreed that conspiracy theories can help to explain things that are too huge for our minds to comprehend, like the coordinated hijacking of four passenger planes that were then turned into murder weapons. But the irony in the case of 9/11, Earp said, is that the official account is actually much more simple than most of the theories that claim government collusion, including rigging explosives inside three busy public buildings, and orchestrating attacks hundreds of miles apart.

Cottage industry

Disputing the official account of 9/11 has become a cottage industry of sorts. Books, documentaries, blogs, Internet videos, websites, and almost any other form of media have all been used to convey the message that the government has, at the very least, not been truthful about 9/11 and, at worst, that it orchestrated the whole thing.

Mark, of Wendell, said he fears that if the complete story isn't eventually brought to light, the government can continue to act with impunity.

"9/11 for a lot of us is a last stand," Mark said.

Stan Pollack of Florence says the research he has done leads him to the conclusion that the entire tragedy was concocted, planned, and carried out by the government to promote its own agenda, including huge profits for defense contractors and oil companies that he says some in the Bush administration were beholden to.

Pollack said his biggest dispute with the official account is the manner in which the towers collapsed.

"Never have heavily reinforced skyscrapers fallen in as a result of fire or plane strike," he said.

Pollack believes that only a controlled demolition with materials like thermite, which can burn at temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, could have made the buildings implode like they did and burn hot enough to melt the steel infrastructure. He cited the documentary "Explosive Evidence," which contains interviews with architects and engineers who make the same claim.

Feeding the theory that the U.S. government had a hand in the 9/11 attacks is a document written by the Project for the New American Century, a Washington think tank that advocated increased military spending and action against overseas regimes that may be "hostile to (America's) interests and values," according to its statement of principles.

That statement of principles was signed by members of the George W. Bush administration, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and Vice President Dick Cheney.

In addition, the project produced a document in 2000, called "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century," that contained the sentence "... the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."

That reference led some to believe the government planned the attacks to spearhead its own foreign and domestic policy agendas.

Earp said it's a "huge logical leap" to take the "Pearl Harbor" comment from the Project for a New American Century and declare that is proof of government collusion.

Valley 9/11 Truth will hold a discussion and a screening of "Dark Legacy: JFK and 9/11" at the Bangs Community Center on Boltwood Walk, Amherst, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The MEF will hold a discussion and screening of "Hijacking Catastrophe" on the same day and time at 60 Masonic St., Northampton.