A Reichstag Fire on Steroids?

— David Finkel

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current struggled at some length with the question of publishing this review of The New Pearl Harbor, and posed some hard questions to our comrade and friend Jack Ceder as he developed and re-drafted it. We decided ultimately to publish it, given the obvious importance of the topic, while also feeling compelled to briefly indicate our dissent from its central thesis.

Let’s be clear: There are serious anomalies and omissions in the official government account of 9/11 and the 9/11 Commission Report. One doesn’t have to be a “conspiracy nut” to question the official report and condemn the government’s arrogance in refusing to answer many salient questions (about, for example, the impact evidence at the Pentagon).

At the same time, if populist skepticism is in order, then a little Marxist common sense is appropriate too — and from that standpoint, the fullblown “inside job” theory of 9/11, which Griffin clearly favors though he tactically stops short of unconditionally endorsing it, makes no sense at all.

Some of the technical difficulties are mentioned by Jack Ceder: how a purported conspiracy of this magnitude could be kept secret, and why, since the Bush administration’s obvious target was Iraq, why no “evidence” was concocted to connect the Saddam Hussein regime to the 9/11 crime, and what in the world happened to those hijacked planes if they didn’t, in fact, crash into the WTC and Pentagon. In addition, I believe that some (though certainly not all) of the “scam theory” allegations — notably that Flight 93 was shot down, and that the WTC Twin Towers couldn’t have collapsed from structural damage caused by the fires from the crashing planes — have been fairly refuted.

But these points are not the main issue. Rather, the notion that a massive government conspiracy targeted the centers of U.S. finance, trade and military power in order to facilitate a “new world order” is politically ludicrous. Beside the fact that this operation could not have been a conspiracy of “neocons in the Bush administration” — its preparation would have required vastly more than the nine months Bush had been in office — there was simply no crisis of capitalist power in this country, no massive instability or threat from below, that would require such an assault on ruling class institutions.

In 1934, facing such a crisis in Germany, the newly installed Nazi regime organized the burning of the Reichstag (parliament) building to create a pretext for Hitler’s unrestrained dictatorship. The fullblown 9/11 conspiracy or “scam theory” — especially if you add the apparent fact that Flight 93 was aiming for the Capitol Building, with Congress in session (until the hijackers crashed it to prevent the passengers from seizing the plane) — would be like a Reichstag Fire on Steroids.

The only logical purpose of such an operation would be to create a Presidentialist dictatorship, destroying the institutions of stable bourgeois democracy that have enabled the U.S. ruling class to successfully prevail through civil war, America’s rise as the dominant imperial power, two world wars and numerous domestic crises. There isn’t the slightest shred of evidence that any sector of U.S. capital or political elites harbored any such project. This is where the 911 conspiracy theories really crash and burn.

This doesn’t remove another possibility — that the Bush regime and “neocons” had reasons to expect a terrorist attack would occur, and were far more interested in exploiting than in preventing it. It is eminently reasonable to condemn the 911 Commission and corporate media for failing to pursue that entirely plausible angle.

ATC 114, January-February 2005