So, today’s 9/11. I really don’t have anything to say, as I’m not really good at that kind of thing. The best thing I can think of is to look at some conspiracy theories surrounding the event. The one I want to look at is this old one, discussing the relationship between bin Laden and the U.S.:
Distortion #1: The CIA only supported Afghan Islamist terrorists against Russia. That is, Washington simply chose some bad allies.
Reality: Does a parent ally with his child? Washington instigated the war in Afghanistan (2) and Washington deliberately created the violent Islamist movement, utilizing for this purpose the harsh Wahhibi version of Islam pushed by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. Some say this was ‘just a bad mistake,’ but it involved debate in the highest circles and careful planning and vast sums of money and the intimate participation of the covert forces of the U.S. and junior partners. As late as this May, President Bush promised to send the Taliban another 43 million dollars. (2a)
Note that there’s nothing here. There’s no argument. The claim is in retrospect we chose some bad allies. There’s no question that at the time it was a calculated decision. It simply had unintended consequences. I don’t see the problem here. Maybe they should have known better, but you still have to wonder if there were other options at the time.
And of course, the idea that Bush sent money to the Taliban is ridiculous. The article is quoted in a footnote:
On $43 million aid: “The Bush administration has not been deterred [by talk of Taliban atrocities]. Last week it pledged another $ 43 million in assistance to Afghanistan, raising total aid this year to $ 124 million and making the United States the largest humanitarian donor to the country.” (‘The Washington Post,’ 25 May 2001)
The next sentence is:
All of the aid is being delivered through the United Nations and private groups such as CARE and Mercy Corps International.
Distortion # 2: “Bin Laden’s network” is the source of all terror.
True, I suppose. Of course, his arguments are ridiculous:
The Taliban fulfilled, or were supposed to fulfill, a key US strategy: to threaten the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia. The message was: cooperate with the US (especially, let the U.S. military take over your defense apparatus with U.S. advisers, arms, etc.) or the Taliban will get you. It is because the Taliban has proved inadequate for this task that the U.S. government is now moving to take Afghanistan into receivership.
No evidence for this is to be found, of course. As I just pointed out, his citation of the U.S. giving aid to the Taliban is distorted.
Distortion # 3: We are told bin Laden broke with the U.S. during the Gulf War.
Bin Laden was never really “with” us. There’s no evidence he ever received funding from the U.S. He wouldn’t deal with us and didn’t have to, because he had plenty of money of his own.
Reality: Who knows the truth? We’re dealing with covert forces here. If he did break, why have he and, more important, a whole army of Islamist terrorists been involved on the side of U.S.-backed (or U.S. created!) terrorists in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia?
Ignoring the “U.S.-backed” comment, they went because Muslims were fighting for independence, as they saw it. They do the same thing in Chechnya.
After some evidence-less rhetoric Israel says this:
Ambassador Michael Kozak announced that his government has a ‘Nicaraguan”-type policy towards Belarus. The Ambassador was referring to Washington’s creation and sponsorship of the Contra drug-gangsters (remember Iran/Contra?) whom Washington organized to terrorize Nicaragua during the 1980s. The goal was to destroy the left-nationalist Sandanista government. Kozak was himself a U.S. operative in that terror campaign, so his outrageous threat should be taken seriously. (3b)
The letter linked is barely a direct accusation. It mentions no specifics and the only evidence is individuals involved in Iran/Contra are being put in posts around the world. There’s also another problem: Kozak didn’t write that letter. The letter is from Mark Almond, who is pointing out that Kozak was involved in the Contra fiasco. Oops.
The U.S. attack on Belarus clearly violates international law – for instance, the Helsinki Final Act, which the U.S., by the way, signed. Perhaps Mr. Bush is unaware that the Helsinki Final Act exists. Perhaps his understanding of international law is: ‘We do what we want and you do what we want or we kill you.’ [An excerpt from the Helsinki Final Act is posted near the end of this discussion.]
Really going off on that Belarus thing, isn’t he? With no evidence, of course.
There’s really not much here, but it teaches a useful lesson about conspiracy theories, a lesson that should be repeated (hence why I’m making some not exactly unique observations). They can look convincing on the surface, but once you have a little knowledge and attempt to dig deeper, they unravel. The main point is this: it can be useful to point this out, rather than just ridiculing them. There certainly are some (how many is an open question) rational conspiracy theorists that are simply misinformed. We should consider just how effective condemnation and ridicule is. It’s definitely useful, but we shouldn’t forget that we can convince some people with rational debunkings.