Faith base: A retired professor of theology, Dr. Griffin gravely asserts that the U. S. government was complicit in the 9-11 attacks.
Nonconspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin takes aim at the official
About 10 years ago, I was asked to perform comedy at a conference I quickly
dubbed "the Paranoids Conference." Each presenter had a dark tale
to tell of abductions, drug running, assassinations and other nefarious horrors
too terrible to mention. There were whispers of government agents in our midst,
so when it was my turn to perform, I said I was with the CIA. I paused while
the audience gasped. "That's the Comedians Institute of America."
It got a laugh, but no amount of laughter could counterbalance the toxicity
of the atmosphere. I couldn't wait to leave.
Fast forward to a sunny Sunday afternoon early last year when I found myself
in Santa Rosa's Church of the Rose to hear Dr. David Ray Griffin, author of
a book on the 9-11 attacks called The New Pearl Harbor, as well as The 9-11
Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. Griffin, a soft-spoken retired
professor of theology with sandy, graying hair, proceeded to calmly and quietly
dismantle the official 9-11 story. The room was filled to standing with people
of all ages, many of whom attended the church. As Griffin made his case for
how the official story could never have happened the way they said it did, I
looked around me. Everyone was riveted, and yet I could detect no fear, no paranoia
in the room.
People were hearing his message--the essentials of which are that our government
likely knew about or had something to do with the 9-11 attacks--and yet there
was something about his delivery that was reassuring. I've heard David Ray Griffin
twice since then, once at a small gathering of world government advocates, the
other time at the prestigious Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Each event had
a similar ambiance: a calm, thoughtful, scholarly presentation without the least
hint of sensationalism or personal glory.
Whatever one's assumption of what a "conspiracy theorist" is like,
David Ray Griffin doesn't fit the mold, perhaps because he's really a nonconspiracy
theorist. While he methodically deconstructs the official story, he doesn't
spin his own alternative yarn to fill the vacuum. Instead, he allows audience
members to draw their own conclusions. As for conspiracy theories, he explains,
"the official story is itself a conspiracy theory. As the accepted 'conspiracy
theory' goes, a cadre of al Qaida operatives conspired to hijack four jetliners,
did so undetected and were able to complete their mission with no interception
or even interference from the best-prepared air force on the face of the earth."
Even more unusual, Griffin says, "the crime was solved immediately, and
the official story was in place before the day of the attack was over. Within
48 hours, our president stood at the National Cathedral surrounded by Billy
Graham, a cardinal, a rabbi and an imam, and used this religious setting to
declare a holy war on terror."
If we were to contrast the smoothness of the post-9-11 operation with the aftermath
of Katrina, we are left with the question: How can a president so inept in one
setting have been so "ept" in another?
While Griffin professes no formulated alternative theory of what did happen,
he offers a clue in the title of his first book. A New Pearl Harbor refers to
a passage in a document called Project for the New American Century--the neocons'
blueprint for what they call "pax Americana"--which says that for
the American people to accept the overt military mission of creating security
through world domination, a "new Pearl Harbor" would be needed. Griffin
believes that the 9-11 attacks were just that.
This is a pretty serious--and horrific--assertion to make: that the leaders
of our country would see fit to sacrifice some 3,000 civilians so that we could
launch a preemptive attack on a perceived enemy. And yet, Griffin is quick to
point out, our history is rife with just such incidents, from the "remember
the Maine" boosterism preceding the Spanish-American war to the Gulf of
Tonkin lie that launched U.S. involvement in Vietnam to the Pearl Harbor attacks
themselves. Indeed, recent scholarship on Pearl Harbor suggests that President
Roosevelt knew of the attack plan in advance and even purposely provoked the
Japanese, because he knew it was the only way we could join the war against
Germany. This in itself offers a dicey moral dilemma: Is it justified to sacrifice
thousands of lives to save millions of lives?
During the Cold War, two more chilling examples of so-called false flag operations
have come to light. (False flag operations are covert situations conducted by
governments or other organizations that are designed to appear as if they are
being carried out by other entities.) In his recent book, NATO's Secret Armies:
Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Dr. Daniele Ganser, a senior
researcher at the Center for Security Studies, Federal Institute of Technology
in Zurich, reports that NATO, guided by the CIA, supported terrorist attacks
on civilians in various European countries to discredit the left and create
fear on the part of the populace.
In Italy, right-wing terrorists, supplied by a secret army (named "Gladio,"
Latin for "sword"), carried out bomb attacks in public places, blamed
them on the Italian left and were thereafter protected from prosecution by the
military secret service. As right-wing terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra explains
in Ganser's book, "The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force
these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security."
In our own country during the early '60s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the
command of Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer came up with a similar plan to provoke an attack
on Cuba. According to NSA myth-buster James Bamford in his 2001 Random House
publication Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency,
the Joint Chiefs called for undercover operation of terror within the United
States that included plans for "innocent people to be shot on American
streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas;
for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami and
elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would
be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus
giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international
backing, they needed to launch their war."
President John F. Kennedy nixed the plan immediately, and it was never put
into action. But it did have the approval of top military brass, and with the
right president--or the wrong one--it could very well have come about.
In the aftermath of 9-11, Griffin initially dismissed any speculation that
the attacks could have been an inside job. "I subscribed to the 'blow-back'
theory," Griffin says. "After generations of exploitation and interference
by Western powers, these people had such fury that they had to lash out any
way they could."
At the time, Griffin, who was close to retirement from his position at Claremont
School of Theology, was working on a book on global democracy. In the wake of
9-11, he decided that he needed a special chapter on U.S. imperialism. He worked
on that chapter for over a year before he came to the view that 9-11 was an
inside job. "As much as I knew about prior false flag operations, as much
as I knew or thought I knew about the nefariousness of the current regime, my
first take was not even the Bush administration could or would do such a thing."
Three Different Stories
It wasn't until a colleague sent Griffin an e-mail with Paul Thompson's timeline--an
exact, minute-by-minute accounting of the events of Sept. 11 based entirely
on mainstream media accounts--that he changed his mind. "The most glaring
anomaly," Griffin now says, "was that none of the hijacked planes
were intercepted, even though all of them would have been, had standard procedure
According to Gen. Ralph Eberhart, head of North American Aerospace Defense
Command (NORAD), from the time the FAA senses something is wrong, it takes about
a minute to contact NORAD, after which NORAD, Eberhart says, can scramble fighter
jets "within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States."
So what happened on that morning?
The government has given three conflicting answers to this question.
Since a full 32 minutes elapsed between the time the first hijacked airliner
was detected and the time it crashed into the World Trade Center, it initially
appeared that "stand down" orders must have been issued to suspend
standard procedures. Indeed, the first reports from both NORAD and Gen. Richard
Myers, the acting chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated that no jets
were scrambled until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:38am.
By Sept. 13, however, the original story had morphed into an explanation that
"the planes were scrambled but arrived too late." The delays were
blamed on the FAA, said to have been slow in notifying NORAD. If that were the
case, Griffin points out, it was strange indeed that no FAA personnel were fired
or even cited for the breakdown in procedures and the resulting disaster. (Griffin
notes, moreover, that the FAA flawlessly handled--on the same day--the unprecedented
task of grounding thousands of domestic flights.)
Meanwhile, Griffin reports, transportation secretary Norman Mineta testified
that at 9:20am--about 18 minutes before the Pentagon was hit, allegedly by Flight
77--he went down to the shelter conference room under the White House. According
to Mineta, a young man walked in and said to the vice president, "The plane
is 50 miles out," and later, "The plane is 30 miles out." When
the young man reported, "The plane is 10 miles out," he also asked
the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?"
"Of course the orders still stand," Cheney is alleged to have replied.
"Have you heard anything to the contrary?"
When Mineta was asked by the 9-11 Commission how long after he arrived the
conversation occurred, Mineta said, "Probably about five or six minutes,"
which would have placed it around 9:25 or 9:26am. However, in the final version
of the story, The 9/11 Commission Report maintained that no one in our government
knew about the approaching aircraft until 9:36am, too late to shoot it down.
How did the Commission deal with this apparent contradiction? Like just about
every other piece of testimony that conflicted with the official story, Griffin
avers, they ignored it.
"With regard to the question 'Do the orders still stand?'" Griffin
says, "Mineta seemed to assume those orders were to shoot the plane down.
But really, the young man's question makes sense only if the orders were to
do something unexpected--that is, not to shoot the plane down."
So what did happen? Whodunnit?
Again, Griffin prefers to focus on the circumstantial framework for examining
the evidence. "You have a suspect who changes his story three times. Does
this make him more or less suspicious?"
Of course, the top echelon of leaders in this country aren't exactly your usual
run-of-the-lineup perps--which, according to Griffin, is why those who've pointed
fingers at the emperor's bare buttocks in this case have been marginalized like
a bunch of tinfoil-headed kooks. No argument about this. I've asked a number
of savvy authors and commentators why they haven't taken on the unanswered questions
and unquestioned answers around 9-11. Their answers have been pretty much the
same: It's just too big a stretch for most Americans to believe their own government
could have had anything to do with it. However, in an exceedingly underreported
Zogby poll done just last month, 42 percent of adults polled believe the U.
S. government and the 9-11 Commission "concealed or refused to investigate
critical evidence" that contradicts the official explanation of the attacks.
Perhaps what these reluctant commentators really meant is that they would be
committing career suicide by questioning the official story. So why and how
is David Ray Griffin different? And why is he spending his retirement traveling
around the country writing and talking about something that conventional wisdom
insists people don't want to hear?
Perhaps it has something to do with Griffin's background in "process theology."
Process theology is specifically designed to answer such post-Holocaust questions
as, how could a loving God have allowed such a thing to happen? Griffin has
written or co-authored a dozen books and articles on the subject, and roughly
the answer is this: We, as creations of the Creator, have free will to choose
how and what we create in this life. This very often results in what we call
"evil." On the other hand, our greatest power as human beings is to
bring that loving God to earth by creating good instead.
To those who assert "God is dead," process theology says no, Griffin
reasons. The loving God is alive in our thoughts and words and deeds. God doesn't
intervene to set things right unilaterally. Rather, that spirit--through us--embodies
divine love. In other words, the world changes--if we change it. Divine power,
he says, is "persuasive, not controlling."
While Griffin's faith may be deep, it certainly isn't narrow. He recently edited
a book called Deep Religious Pluralism.
"I've written two books on the problem of evil, so I've been dealing with
the topic for a long time," Griffin says. "Frankly, as soon as I saw
the evidence that 9-11 was an inside job, I wasn't surprised. I had studied
the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, the Japanese butchery of the Chinese in
Manchuria, our use of nuclear weapons in Japan in spite of their imminent surrender.
I've seen the depth of evil in collective situations. It's an old, old story,
and this is just the latest chapter. Once the nation-state announces it is threatened,
everything else gets pushed to the back burner. That's what we're seeing now."
Griffin's intention just over three years ago was to write an article for Harper's
on what he then believed to be "foreknowledge and thwarted intelligence."
But the more evidence he saw that the attacks were likely orchestrated by our
own government, the more he felt a book was needed. Since none of the American
investigators had been able to get a book published at that time, Griffin figured
that as a published author he had a better chance.
But it was far from automatic. Richard Falk, a Princeton professor of international
law and practice, had personally recommended Griffin's book to several publishers.
Every one of them turned it down. "Not for us," said one rejection
tersely. At dinner one night, Falk suggested Interlink Books, a tiny publisher
that had published a recent book of his. Interlink took the book, but only because
of a quirky coincidence. The editor was dubious. But knowing Griffin was a theologian,
she asked her father, a minister, if he'd ever heard of the guy. "David
Ray Griffin?" said her father. "I have all of his books!"
And so, in 2004, the book got published. But you'd never learn this from mainstream
magazines and newspapers, which have yet to publish a review of The New Pearl
Harbor, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Nor will you see him on mainstream
TV, which has yet to invite him to appear.
Griffin seems unperturbed by this, and points out that each week and each month
the alternative account of 9-11 gains wider credence. Is he afraid? Does he
feel in danger? "Well," he jokes, "there are two possibilities.
Either they leave me alone, or they take me out. If they leave me alone, I get
to enjoy my old age and write my systematic theology. If they take me out, my
9-11 books go right to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. So it's
a win-win situation."
More seriously, he points to his Christian faith (Disciples of Christ is his
own background), and says that Christian history is full of examples of the
faithful who stuck their necks out for the truth. "If we who believe in
everlasting life fear death," he says, "what does that say about our
Other than standing for his faith, what does Griffin hope to accomplish by exposing
the 9-11 story as a lie? As an advocate for a worldwide democratic order, he
sees this story as an example of "governmental lawlessness" so egregious
that its exposure could call into question the continuation of the present system
with its "anarchical competition between nation states." First, however,
people must be willing to think the unthinkable, and to be willing to look at
the evidence that it is our own nation that has become the evil empire.
This is a formidable barrier to cross. Ever since the notion of the "Big
Lie" was first put forth to describe the tactics of the Third Reich, it
has become a cliché that the bigger the lie, the harder it is for people
to see the truth. This is especially so when the official version takes on the
status of what theologian Griffin calls "sacred myth."
"The 'truth' of the official 9-11 story," explains Griffin, "must
be taken on faith. It is not a matter of debate or even discussion. Anyone who
brings up anything that contradicts the official story is either ignored or
denounced as a conspiracy nut.
"However," he continues, "when the official account of 9-11
is stripped of its halo and treated simply as a theory rather than an unquestionable
dogma, it cannot be defended as the best theory to account for the relevant
facts. When challenges to it are not treated as blasphemy, it can easily be
seen to not correspond with reality."
And so David Ray Griffin continues to make presentations, do interviews and
get his version of the truth to "break the soundless barrier." With
Falk, John B. Cobb Jr. and Catherine Keller, Griffin co-authored the just-published
anthology The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God: A Political, Economic,
Religious Statement. His own contribution portrays the 9-11 attacks as orchestrated
to promote the American empire. Publishing in July is his newest book, Christian
Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action.
His hope? That enough Americans wake up and call for a re-investigation, and
that those who know more will feel safe enough to come forward. But first, he
says, we Americans must muster the will and courage to face the situation squarely
in the face.
As a postscript to my interview with David Ray Griffin, I am reminded of a
March 30 article by journalist Doug Thompson published on OpEdNews.com. In it,
Thompson recalls a 1981 encounter with the late John Connally, the former governor
of Texas who was wounded in the Kennedy assassination. In an unguarded moment,
Thompson asked Connally, "Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald fired the gun
that killed Kennedy?"
"Absolutely not," Connally said. "I do not, for one second,
believe the conclusions of the Warren Commission."
"So why not speak out?" Thompson asked.
"I will never speak out publicly about what I believe," Connally
replied, "because I love this country and we needed closure at the time."
Now here we are more than 40 years after that devastating perpetration and
we have to wonder, how well did "closure" serve us? As we see daily
the fruits of self-serving secrecy and unchecked power, it might be time for
some disclosure instead.
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