Friday, December 17, 2021

Chompsky on 9/11 Truth: A Failure of Counterfactual Reasoning by Will Fenio

Noam Chomsky has been one of the leading dissident voices on the American left for decades.

Accordingly, people put a lot of stock in what he has to say on a plethora of topics. As with any

leading figure, Chomsky’s following contains a cultic subset that takes his word as gospel

warranting no critical scrutiny. Unfortunately, Chomsky has demonstrated very poor reasoning

ability when asked about the anomalies of 9/11 that appear to undermine the official story

repeated by media and government. The following quotation was a response given by

Chomsky to an audience member that asked about alternative hypotheses of 9/11, pejoratively

labeled “conspiracy theories”. Following the quotation we will show how Chomsky’s deceptive

framing and exclusion of evidence distorts his conclusions, especially given more recent

revelations. Disappointingly, Chomsky has given no indication of updating or amending his

views. He has publicly made similar dismissive comments on other occasions in which he

diminishes the importance of expert opinions concerning the building collapses. He has also

made the same counterfactual argument with regard to the implications of Saudi involvement

in multiple contexts. The substance of Chomsky’s arguments evaporates upon close analytical

scrutiny, revealing a vacuous adherence to the official account.

“What you are referring is a statement by a thousand people, most of them basically

unknown, who make certain claims about technical facts which I’m in no position to

evaluate. The obvious thing for them to do is present their findings to the people who

can make evaluations... [T]hese people you are referring to, though they don’t seem to

understand it, are in fact working very hard to absolve George Bush and implicate

Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. And the reason is extremely simple. I mean

everyone agrees, this is uncontroversial, that the destruction of the world trade center

was attributed to Saudis. OK, now suppose the Bush administration had done it. They

would attributed it to Iraqis. I mean they’re trying very hard to find an excuse to invade

Iraq. If they had attributed it to Iraqis, it would have been a walk away. They would

immediately get total popular support. They’d get a UN resolution. NATO would pass a

supportive resolution. When they attributed it to Saudis, first of all, they alienated their

most powerful ally in the region… most important ally. And secondly, they forced

themselves to jump through hoops to try to concoct some sort of pretext for invading

Iraq (weapons of mass destruction, some sort of connection between Al Qaeda and

Saddam… the whole business which of course collapsed, exposing them to ridicule. And

they also diverted their efforts to a side show – invading Afghanistan for which there

was very little purpose… and getting themselves caught up in that. And delaying the

invasion of Iraq, which they wanted in the first place. So, they {Bush administration

officials] couldn’t have done it, short of lunacy. But, who does it point to? Who would

have gained by attributing the destruction to Saudis? I can think of only two people…

one is Saddam Hussein, who wanted to divert a US attack on Iraq. And the other is

Osama Bin Laden. I mean the Saudis are his worst enemies. To try to get the US to hate

Saudis would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden]. At least I can’t think of anyone else

who would have benefited. So it seems to me all these huge efforts are essentially

directed to absolving the Bush administration and blaming Saddam Hussein and Osama

bin Laden. And I just don’t see any point in taking off years of study to prove that.” (1)

– Noam Chomsky, 10/29/2009

What People?

NC: “What you are referring is a statement by a thousand people, most of them basically

unknown, who make certain claims about technical facts which I’m in no position to

evaluate. The obvious thing for them to do is present their findings to the people who

can make evaluations.” (1)

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911) is the group of “a thousand people” that

Chomsky and his interlocutor were referring to. Incidentally, today (2021) they number over

3,000 experts. Chomsky gives a subtle slight by remarking on how they are “basically

unknown”. This is irrelevant as it does not reflect the quality of their credentials or relevance

of their expertise. After all, how many architects or engineers are actually well-known? Not


It is also important to highlight the fact that since the time of these comments by Chomsky,

AE911 has attempted essentially what he recommended.

“Project Due Diligence is a coordinated effort by a team of engineers around the world

to engage the profession in performing its due diligence regarding the official reports on

the three catastrophic building failures that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

“To facilitate this process of due diligence, we are giving our presentation to groups all

over the world. At the conclusion of each presentation, we invite engineers to sign our

petition and to join us in disseminating this information to the entire engineering

profession.” (2)

They even commissioned an independent study of the World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7) collapse,

which found the officially sanctioned explanation by The National Institute of Standards and

Technology (NIST) completely untenable.

“On March 25, 2020, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks issued the final

report of a four-year computer modeling study on the collapse of World Trade Center

Building 7.

The 47-story WTC 7 was the third skyscraper to be completely destroyed on September

11, 2001, collapsing rapidly and symmetrically into its footprint at 5:20 PM. Seven years

later, investigators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

concluded that WTC 7 was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely

as a result of normal office fires.

Contrary to the conclusions of NIST, the UAF research team found that the collapse of

WTC 7 on 9/11 was caused not by fires but by the near-simultaneous failure of every

column in the building.” (3)

There was even an attempt to engage NIST to amend its conclusions, based partially on the

findings of the UAF study.

“A group of eight family members who lost children, parents, siblings, and spouses on

9/11 filed a lawsuit today against the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The lawsuit alleges that NIST violated federal law in its denial of a request for

correction calling on the agency to throw out the conclusions of its 2008 report on the

collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.

“The eight family members were joined by 10 structural engineers and architects and by

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. All three groups of plaintiffs were signatories to

the original request for correction, which identified eight ways that NIST’s fire-based

scenario for the collapse of Building 7 was both physically impossible and inconsistent

with the available evidence.

“The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain a court order that forces NIST to perform new

analyses and to develop a new “probable collapse sequence” that is physically possible

and consistent with the available evidence. The plaintiffs argue that the only such

scenario is a controlled demolition of the building.

“In August 2020, NIST issued its initial decision denying the request for correction.

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth decried the decision as a “blatant avoidance of

the arguments and facts contained in the request.” Following the group’s

subsequent appeal in September 2020, NIST took until June 2021 to issue a final

decision — seven months longer than the agency usually takes to respond to such


“The lawsuit alleges that NIST’s denial of the request for correction is arbitrary,

capricious, and contrary to law because the agency’s responses to the arguments in

the request are irrational, evasive, and unsubstantive.” (4)

Chomsky’ assertion that he is “in no position to evaluate” the “claims about technical facts”

made by AE911 cues his followers to ignore the issue altogether (1). It is an odd statement

since we regularly repeat expert opinions without possessing their expertise ourselves. Also,

one doesn’t require advanced degrees in engineering to recognize that NIST is not offering

substantive rebuttals to AE911’s attempt to engage them in a constructive technical dialogue.

A layperson can see that NIST is avoiding the issue, presumably because they don’t have a

counterargument of scientific merit. By skirting this issue, Chomsky avoids a major problem

with the official narrative. A controlled demolition would have to be explained as either

unconnected with the terrorist events or somehow compatible with the mainstream hypothesis

that no powerful domestic actors were involved. Both seem like challenging cases to make.

The Afghan “Sideshow”

NC: “And they also diverted their efforts to a sideshow – invading Afghanistan for which

there was very little purpose… and getting themselves caught up in that. And delaying

the invasion of Iraq, which they wanted in the first place. So, they {Bush administration

officials] couldn’t have done it, short of lunacy.” (1)

Afghanistan was no sideshow. In fact, there were plans to invade prior to 9/11. Chomsky

reiterates the prevarication that the intervention in Afghanistan was only done as a response

for the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Had this been the case, would we expect planning for

an imminent invasion before the attacks even occurred? It seems highly doubtful to say the

least. Consider the following proof of a pre-9/11 plan to invade.

“The first draft of that new strategy, in the form of a Presidential directive, was

circulated by the NSC staff on June 7, 2001 and I am told some five more meetings were

held that summer at the Deputy Secretary level to address the policy questions

involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against the Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan

relations. By the first week of September, this process had arrived at a strategy that was

presented to Principals and later became National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD)-

9. The objectives of the new strategy were: • To eliminate the al-Qaeda network; • To

use all elements of national power to do so -- diplomatic, military, economic,

intelligence, information and law enforcement; • To eliminate sanctuaries for al-Qaeda

and related terrorist networks – and if diplomatic efforts to do so failed, to consider

additional measures. The essence of this strategy was contained in NSPD-9. It was the

first major substantive national security decision directive issued by this Administration.

It was presented for decision by principals on September 4, 2001 – 7 days before

September 11th. The directive was signed by the President, with minor changes, and a

preamble to reflect the events of 9/11, on October 25, 2001.” (5)

As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained in 2004, the rationale for this pre-9/11 plan

was to combat terrorism:

“It had become increasingly clear that we could no longer afford to treat terrorism as a

manageable evil – that we needed an approach that treated terrorism more like fascism

-- as an evil that needed to be not contained, but fought and eliminated.” (5)

This quote proves that the global war on terror was conceived before the attacks of 9/11


Even if we were to take Rumsfeld’s anti-terrorist pretext at face-value, we are still left with a

reason intervention was desired prior to Sept. 11, 2001. But the question arises: How seriously

should Rumsfeld be taken? Was it only out of anti-terrorist stratagems that such a plan arose?

It is important to remember that Afghanistan had long been viewed as geostrategically

important due to its location relative to the oil producing regions – hence the value of securing

it for US interests. Speaking at a Cato Institute conference in 1998, future Vice President Dick

Cheney gave an indication of why such a massive operation against the Taliban might have

been a priority:

“I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as

strategically significant as the Caspian. It’s almost as if the opportunities have arisen

overnight.” (6)

This strategic importance was because, “The only way to get that fuel [from central Asia] to

bigger markets like India or the Gulf of Oman — from where it could be shipped to Western

markets — was by building a pipeline through Afghanistan” (7).

It seems that Rumsfeld was only giving us part of the story. The reason terrorism warranted a

major military operation was because it was stifling geostrategic objectives and corporate

access to a crucial region of the world. Western oil and gas interests had been courting the

Taliban to exploit the central Asian energy reserves through the construction of trans-Afghan

pipelines: “The Taliban and Unocal were hoping to build a $4.5 billion pipeline network to

transport Caspian Sea oil and gas across Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent” (8). Osama

bin Laden threw a wrench in the works when his network attacked US embassies, provoking the

Clinton administration to launch airstrikes into Afghanistan:

“After U.S. missile strikes against Afghanistan, Unocal suspends pipeline project and asks

American staff to leave… Citing low oil prices, concerns over Osama bin Laden, and

pressure from women's groups, Unocal withdraws from Afghan pipeline consortium.” (9)

Given all this, it is curious that Chomsky would characterize such a “strategically significant”

country as a mere sideshow “for which there was very little purpose”.

A Train Wreck of Counterfactuals

NC: “I mean everyone agrees, this is uncontroversial, that the destruction of the world

trade center was attributed to Saudis. OK, now suppose the Bush administration had

done it. They would attributed it to Iraqis. I mean they’re trying very hard to find an

excuse to invade Iraq. If they had attributed it to Iraqis, it would have been a walk away.

They would immediately get total popular support. They’d get a UN resolution. NATO

would pass a supportive resolution… they forced themselves to jump through hoops to

try to concoct some sort of pretext for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction, some

sort of connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam… the whole business which of course

collapsed, exposing them to ridicule… But, who does it point to? Who would have

gained by attributing the destruction to Saudis? I can think of only two people… one is

Saddam Hussein, who wanted to divert a US attack on Iraq. And the other is Osama Bin

Laden. I mean the Saudis are his worst enemies. To try to get the US to hate Saudis

would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden]. At least I can’t think of anyone else who

would have benefited. So it seems to me all these huge efforts are essentially directed to

absolving the Bush administration and blaming Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

And I just don’t see any point in taking off years of study to prove that.” (1)

Chomsky’s counterfactual thought experiment is problematic at multiple points. It depends on

some very important assumptions: First, it assumes that Bush administration officials (and

stateside ancillary parties) would not have been bound by any limitations in concocting or

facilitating the 9/11 attacks, had they played a role in them. In other words, Chomsky supposes

they would have had complete freedom to attribute the attacks to anyone they wished (i.e.

Iraqis). But this is unlikely to have been the case. If the administration desired an actual attack

on the U.S. to be successful, it would have probably given aid to real jihadists who shared a

sincere conviction to carry out such an attack. This means there would have been a limited

pool of terrorists that could have been indirectly supported to unknowingly fulfill the

administration’s desire for a successful attack. The conspirators within the Bush administration

could have ignored warnings of the impending crime and stifled our ability to respond

defensively as we normally would have. This hypothetical scenario matches the apparent

willful ignorance and obstruction of intelligence-sharing that could have thwarted the attack.

This extreme level of negligence does seem to have occurred.

“How the president’s national security advisor—and the president and vice president

themselves—did not prioritize the urgency of new intelligence regarding a terrorist

attack against the United States is still a matter of confusion and deep disappointment

for [CIA Director] Tenet.” (10)

Second, Chomsky’s argument assumes Bush administration planners would not have crafted or

effectuated such a plan in concert with any foreign elements. Notice how he frames it in his

comments: “…suppose the Bush administration had done it.” It seems near certain that the

hijackers had no direct contact or intent to work for the interests of the Bush administration; as

any American administration would be viewed as evil to a sincere jihadist. It is a general truism

that a suicidal terrorist would not waste his life on a plot that would knowingly serve the

interests of his enemy. But it is entirely possible that the hijackers were indirectly enabled by

their enemy to facilitate a desired result (i.e. a successful attack). Had this been the case, the

hijackers would have been oblivious to the ultimate source and intention behind any assistance

they were receiving that made the crime possible. The identities of the intermediaries

(primarily Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud) give indications that this was probably the case. In

fact, we have reasonable grounds to suspect that the faction of US elites (i.e. the clique of

neocons associated with Bush) had significant connections to prominent Saudi elites and, hence

could have conspired with them to create opportunities (through backchannel support) for the

hijacking plot to come to fruition. The network of connections that has come to light is

suggestive that this hypothesis is probably correct, given the nature of the relationships and

aims of the participants.

There was a preponderance of neoconservative ideologues that populated the Bush

administration. Many of them were associated with a foreign policy think tank called The

Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was formed in 1997: “Of the twenty-five

people who signed PNAC's founding statement of principles, ten went on to serve in

the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney [Vice

President], Donald Rumsfeld [Secretary of Defense], and Paul Wolfowitz [Deputy Secretary of

Defense] (11).” Other Bush administration officials had PNAC connections as well: John Bolton

(Under Secretary of Arms Control and International Security Affairs, Ambassador to UN);

Scooter Libby (Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the

Vice President); Peter Rodman (Asst. Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs);

Henry Rowen (Defense Policy Board member); William Schneider, Jr. (Chairman of the Defense

Science Board); Abram Shulsky (Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans); Stephen

Cambone (Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence); Devon Gaffney Cross (Defense Policy

Board member); Paula Dobriansky (Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs); Jeane

Kirkpatrick (Representative to UN) (12). PNAC was focused on advancing American interests

abroad through projection of military presence and capability. In September of the year 2000

(about a year before the 9/11 attacks and a few months before the Bush administration

assumed power), PNAC released a prescriptive report titled, Rebuilding America’s Defenses:

Strategies Forces and Resources for a New Century. Participants in the production of the report

included “six of whom [that] subsequently assumed key defense and foreign policy positions in the

Bush administration (11).” The report outlined the following concerns:

“If defense budgets remain at projected levels, America’s global military preeminence

will be impossible to maintain, as will the world order that is secured by that


“Conventional forces that are insufficient to fight multiple theater wars simultaneously

cannot protect American global interests and allies.”

“[A]ddressing the Army’s many challenges will require significantly increased funding.”

“The true cost of not meeting our defense requirements will be a lessened capacity for

American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is

uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity.” (13)

In the same document, PNAC acknowledged that such a desired transition would be

accelerated by a cataclysmic assault on the United States: “Further, 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 (13).”

Notice how similar this sentiment is to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s admission that

such a traumatizing attack was needed to justify the coveted plan to invade Afghanistan:

“Imagine the outcry any U.S. President would have faced had he proposed what would

have been labeled a pre-emptive war in Afghanistan before the experience of September

11 th . Unfortunately, history shows that it can take a tragedy like September 11 th to

awaken the world to new threats – and the need for action – and even then there are

different views.” (5)

Rumsfeld essentially explained why the 9/11 attacks were a necessary pretext to launching a

desired military campaign. He inadvertently revealed why an administration bent on such

foreign policy actions would have had a motive for allowing - or enabling - such attacks on U.S.

soil. This is ample evidence that the people in key positions of the Bush administration (and

their ideological acolytes) were conscious that a national tragedy like 9/11 would have

advanced their goals.

Another part of this network of potential conspirators was the Saudi elite and their terrorist


‘Some leaked information from CIA and FBI documents allege that there is

”incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials, including from the Saudi

embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles, gave the hijackers both financial

and logistical aid. Among those named were then-Saudi Ambassador Prince

Bandar and Osama Bassnan, a Saudi agent, as well as American al-Qaeda cleric Anwar

al-Awlaki, 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta, and  Esam Ghazzawi , a Saudi adviser to the

nephew of King Fahd.’ (14)

Consider Prince Bandar’s connections to both the hijackers and Bush administration neocons.

Does it seem likely that such a person would be working against the wishes of the Americans he

had become so close to?

‘Bandar has formed close relationships with several American presidents,

notably George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, giving the latter the affectionate and

controversial nickname "Bandar Bush"... He was reportedly so close to George H. W.

Bush that he was often described as a member of the former president's family.  He

advocated Saddam Hussein's overthrow in Iraq in March 2003.  He encouraged military

action against Iraq and supported Dick Cheney's agenda for "The New Middle East",

which called for pro-democracy programs in both Syria and Iran. Additionally, Bandar's

children supposedly attended the same school where Cheney's grandchildren were

enrolled.’ (15)

Senator Bob Graham mentions some of these connections to the hijackers: 

“Now coming back to the question of Bandar, the 28 pages discussed the fact that one of

Osama bin Laden’s closest associates, a man named Abu Zubaydah, was captured in

Pakistan shortly after 9/11. Among his effects was a notebook of telephone numbers.

Two of those numbers related to Prince Bandar. One of them was to his mansion/second

home in Aspen, Colorado. The other was to his bodyguard in Washington, D.C. That’s all

we know about those numbers. The second is that Bandar was alleged to have provided

funding for an intermediary who was close to one of the persons in San Diego who was

providing assistance and support to the three hijackers who lived there.” (16)

One of the links in the chain from “Bandar Bush” to the hijackers was Osama Bassnan:

“Osama Bassnan was a Saudi citizen who lived in San Diego and boasted to an FBI asset

about the assistance he provided to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-

Midhar… It had previously been established that Bassnan’s wife had received a series of

cashier’s checks from Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United

States and close confidant of President George W. Bush Prince Bandar. Those

checks—which the 28 pages say totaled $74,000—were claimed to have been charitable

in nature, meant to aid Bassnan’s wife in paying for medical treatments. Newly revealed

in the 28 pages is a direct payment of $15,000 from Bandar to Bassnan in May 1998.

The pages also cite a CIA report that indicates Bassnan received a “significant amount of

cash” from an unidentified member of the Saudi royal family in a 2002 Houston

meeting—seven months after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.” (17)

Another connection from Prince Bandar to 9/11 hijackers was Omar al-Bayoumi. He has also

been shown to have been connected to the House of Saud, as a member of their intelligence


"Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi, a legal U.S. resident, assisted two of

the 9/11 hijackers when they first arrived in San Diego. The FBI had identified al-Bayoumi

as a Saudi intelligence agent prior to the arrival of the hijackers."

"Al-Bayoumi had ties not only to Saudi intelligence but to the Saudi royal family as well.

He received a hefty monthly check starting in 1999 from a bank account under the name

of a Saudi princess, the wife of the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, Bandar bin

Sultan." (18)

Were these connections merely fortuitous coincidences? Is it plausible that Bandar’s personal

closeness to the Bush administration and sympathies for their objectives make it likely that he

would have done something to betray those relationships? That seems highly improbable. By

ignoring these relationships, Chomsky offers an inadequate analysis. He doesn’t take into

account the probable indicators of a social network based on shared interests (a successful


The Enemy of My Friends…

NC: “When they attributed it to Saudis, first of all, they alienated their most powerful ally

in the region… most important ally… I mean, the Saudis are his worst enemies. To try to

get the US to hate Saudis would be wonderful [for Osama bin Laden].” (1)

Chomsky echoes the conventional interpretation of Bush not wanting to alienate the Saudis.

This is a commonplace observation:

“Immediately after the attacks, the Bush administration downplayed the Saudi

connection and suppressed evidence that might link powerful Saudis to the funding of

Islamic extremism and terrorism. The Bush White House didn’t want to upset its

relationship with one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations, which was also

an American ally with enormous political influence in Washington...” (19)

Similarly, the Saudis didn’t want bin Laden captured because of fear that he would reveal

information about high level-Saudi funding for previous terrorist operations (20). If captured

and interrogated, he could potentially bring down powerful Saudis with terrorist connections.

But the dynamic between the Saudis and U.S. is perhaps more complicated than Chomsky lets

on. Would the fear of alienating the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be the driving factor in shielding

them from perceived complicity, given that they were heavily dependent on the U.S. at an

existential level?

“After all, the House of Saud has long been virtually dependent on Washington’s

protection for its very survival. Arms and security guarantees supplied by Washington

represent a formidable obstacle to any Saudis seeking to take their country down a

different path, and have played a significant, perhaps decisive, role in keeping the

regime in power. Washington is the ultimate sponsor and guarantor of this repressive

regional order, through massive arms deals, training for regime security forces, and the

large-scale presence of its own troops and military apparatus.” (21)

This shows a fundamental reliance of the House of Saud on Washington. As a result of being so

tethered, it probably would have been the House of Saud that was worried about alienating

Washington, not vice versa. Therefore, if the people in power in the United States had wanted

“a new Pearl Harbor” (a la PNAC), then support from the Saudi government to the attackers

might not be so hard to imagine. They would have known that they weren’t acting

inappropriately with respect to their benefactors in Washington by supporting an operation

that was ultimately desired. As demonstrated above, we know that the Bush neocons wanted

to enhance American global hegemony through expanded and improved projection of military


It is also worth remembering that there was much anti-government domestic sympathy for Al

Qaeda within Saudi Arabia, which made dealing with them a very delicate issue for the ruling


“There is a broad category of Saudis who agree with the extreme interpretations of

religion and the call to jihad espoused by Osama bin Laden, and they're also in

agreement with Bin Laden's political perspective — accusing the Saudi royals of being

puppets of the West, attacking the U.S. for support of Israel and its invasion of Iraq,

opposing the U.S. troop presence in the region. There is a significant section of Saudi

public opinion that is supportive of Bin Laden, and it's within that sea that these al-

Qaeda extremists swim. Setting out to crush al-Qaeda puts the government into conflict

with this significant section of Saudi society, and that's a difficult problem.” (22) 

So, while the House of Saud may not have wanted to stir the hornet’s nest of domestic tensions

themselves, it is far from clear that they would have been alienated by the United States

blaming Bin Laden’s network for the crimes of 9/11 precisely because the “Saudis are his worst


“Saudi-born Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has long called for the overthrow of the

Saudi royal family to punish it for allowing U.S. military bases in the kingdom. He

broke with the monarchy in 1990 over the Gulf War, when the kingdom invited U.S.-

led coalition troops onto Saudi soil to defend its oil fields and to prepare to attack

Iraq.” (23)

Bin Laden had been excommunicated from the house of Saud and living in Afghanistan since


“1994 -- The Saudi government officially strips bin Laden of his citizenship, freezing all

the remaining assets he has in the country. His family disowns him as well.” (24)

In other words, Bin Laden’s culpability in the September 11 th events would not necessarily

reflect badly on a government that had previously rebuked him as a persona non grata.

Chomsky’s reasoning on this is not cogent. Back-channel support from Saudi elites for an attack

attributable to Bin Laden would have been a good way to persecute a figurehead of anti-

government sentiment while achieving aims of American friends that wanted a pretext for

military interventions. So, blaming Bin Laden (who the Saudi ruling elite viewed as an enemy,

even stripping him of his citizenship) would likely have been within the Saudi regime’s self-

interest, insofar as members of that regime themselves would not have been publicly culpable

for the 9/11 crime. It would have channeled perceived responsibility for the attacks away from

the Saudis that we wouldn’t have wished to implicate, while bringing more American military

force against one of the kingdom’s most hated adversaries (who had been based in

Afghanistan, not Saudi Arabia). In fact, the U.S. government and media were very quick to

blame Bin Laden without any substantive evidence linking him to the attacks; so, it didn’t seem

to be against their perceived self-interest to do so.

“Through corporate media, the Bush administration told the American people that bin

Laden was ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people

on September 11, 2001. The federal government claims to have invaded Afghanistan to

‘root out’ bin Laden and the Taliban, yet nearly six years later, the FBI said that it had

no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.” (25)

This is compatible with Osama bin Laden’s own statements in his first interview after the

attacks of 2001: "I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the

United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these

attacks” (26). This dovetails with the dubious translations of Bin Laden’s supposed confession

in which certain words may have been added to make it sound more incriminating than it

actually was in the original Arabic.

“Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, states, ‘I have carefully

examined the Pentagon’s translation. This translation is very problematic. At the most

important places where it is held to prove the guilt of Bin Laden, it is not identical with

the Arabic…. Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-

Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg sums it up: ‘The American translators who

listened to the tapes and transcribes them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they

wanted to hear but cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to

it.’” (27)

Of course this does not decisively prove that Bin Laden was being honest in his denial of

involvement. But it does seem to indicate that as a possibility worthy of serious consideration.

Certainly, it must be factored in to our comparative assessments of competing hypotheses.

After all, the ideological affiliation of the hijackers with Bin Laden doesn’t entail that he would

have been involved in every operation in which they participated. Apparently the FBI didn’t see

a necessary connection.

A crucial piece of background information neglected by Chomsky is the well-documented fact

that the principle elite Saudi connection to the hijackers was Prince Bandar. As we saw, Bandar

was very close to the Bush administration and agreed with their agenda. The importance of this

cannot be overemphasized. As mentioned before, it is hard to imagine that Prince Bandar (or

the Saudi regime) would have done anything against the wishes of the U.S., given the history of

his loyalties and the Saudi government’s dependence on the U.S. - especially if they could have

blamed a common enemy like Bin Laden. Far from alienating the Saudi ruling class, the

attribution of the 9/11 attacks to Bin Laden would shift the focus and ire of the Americans onto

a shared adversary of the Saudi regime. It clearly satisfied the desires of the U.S. neocons in

power at the time, to which the House of Saud were largely beholden. Chomsky had it

backwards. Bin Laden was known to be behind the terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies in

East Africa in 1998, so he was already in the crosshairs. The difficulties that Bin Laden created

in Afghanistan (provoking airstrikes from Clinton and scaring away Unocal) turned Bin Laden

into more than just a terrorist. He became a problematic stumbling block to corporate and

strategic U.S. interests. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had already disowned him for working

against the legitimacy of their rule. Aside from not wanting to cause tumult among the restive

Arabs that felt some solidarity with Al Qaeda, the House of Saud would have been simpatico

with the U.S. regarding Bin Laden. Chomsky completely misses this nuance in his assessment.

To the extent that the official narrative was believed, it is hard to imagine an American public

so-indoctrinated would have demanded attacking a government that was also ostensibly at

odds with Bin Laden. This paramount necessity to narrow the focus on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

is likely why an active effort was made to shield the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from being

implicated. Hence, any supportive connections to the hijackers (e.g. funding) were effectively

downplayed or ignored in the official investigation of the 9/11 Commission.

“Staff Director of the 9/11 Commission, Phil Zelikow, actively worked against any

thorough investigation into the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its role in the 9/11

attacks. So, when two JICI staffers were brought over to the 9/11 Commission to

continue their work on the links between the KSA and the 9/11 attacks, they were

blocked by Zelikow. Zelikow fired one investigator when she tried to access the 28 pages

as part of her further investigation and work for the commission. And, the second staffer

(who was the person responsible for writing the 28 pages in the first place when he

worked on the JICI) was actively thwarted from his investigation by Zelikow, as well. In

fact, once the 9/11 Commission report was in its final draft form, Zelikow “re-wrote” the

entire section that dealt with the Saudis — leaving out vital, highly pertinent, and

extremely damning information. Thus, when a person says the 9/11 Commission, “found

no evidence linking the Saudis,” be wary of the cute context of the words. The 9/11

Commission “found no evidence” because they were either never allowed to look for any

evidence or whatever evidence they did find was conveniently written out of the final

report, compliments of Phil Zelikow. Why would Zelikow block his own investigation?

No one knows for sure, but for starters, Zelikow was taking regular phone calls from

White House political adviser Karl Rove whose job at the time was to ramp up the

drumbeat for the war in Iraq — not a war with Saudi Arabia. In addition, Zelikow was

part of George W. Bush’s transition team and good friends with Bush’s National Security

Advisor Condoleeza Rice. In fact, it was Zelikow’s job to brief the incoming Bush

Administration about national security issues.” (20)

Such coordinated misdirection was probably intended to prevent the public from seeing the

uncomfortable (and potentially incriminating) connections between Washington, the House of

Saud and the terrorists. It seems less likely to have been about alienating the Saudi regime

(that depended so crucially on U.S. support for their hold on power), as Chomsky suggests (21).

It was relatively easy for Bush et al to direct the American population’s thirst for revenge

towards Afghanistan (rather than Saudi Arabia), as Bin Laden had been operating from there for

some time. They clearly intended to focus the attention on Bin Laden and Afghanistan while

deflecting attention away from any the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The whole propagandistic

utility of declaring a “war on terror” was its broad applicability (not narrowly identified with one

specific country): “The naming of the campaign [the War on Terror] uses a metaphor of war to

refer to a variety of actions that do not constitute a specific war as traditionally defined.” (28) It

was used as an umbrella policy that could encapsulate any operation in any country, so long as a

rhetorical link with terrorism could be made to the targeted nation. With such flexibility to

selectively frame interventionist justifications, the Bush administration exercised confident

control over which countries to demonize. They obviously assumed they could guide the

narrative to keep the Kingdom in the clear. All of this makes Chomsky’s insistence that Saudi

involvement precludes a Bush administration role in the attacks misguided, to say the least. It

depends on which Saudis we are talking about.


Chomsky has done his listeners a disservice by offering up transparently inadequate arguments

against skeptics of the official 9/11 story. First, he has failed to acknowledge the legitimacy of

the expert testimony that has accumulated against the official explanation of the WTC 7

building collapse.

“The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on

9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST and private engineering firms that studied the

collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a

global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.”


This issue has to be dealt with when comparing the merits of alternative hypotheses. If pre-

planned demolitions were involved, how does the official story (that Chomsky seems to prefer)

explain this? Could it have been completely disconnected from the terrorist operations on

9/11? If so, how could it have been a surprise to people that were employed there? Barry

Jennings who worked in WTC 7 at the time said, “That’s when I found out Building Seven came

down; I was so surprised (30).” A normal aboveboard building demolition would have been

known and expected by the people who worked in the building scheduled for destruction.

This pressing question arises: Is a professional demolition more probable on a hypothesis that

includes high-level U.S. involvement? Or, is it more likely on the official account that portrays

Al Qaeda operatives as having sole responsibility for the events of that day? I submit the

former is more likely. Clearly there are ambiguities and gaps in knowledge that deprive of us of

a smoking gun either way. But this need not prevent us from weighing the balance of evidence

and assessing whether or not one hypothesis can be rendered most probable, based on the

information we do have. If a demolition is more likely on the physical evidence, those

advocating for the official story have to offer a plausible scenario of how such a secure building

(that included CIA, DOD, IRS, SEC and U.S. Secret Service offices) could have been accessed to

rig an elaborate system of explosives capable of causing a symmetrical collapse (29, 31).

Chomsky’s negligence of this line of inquiry reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of his approach

to 9/11.

Chomsky has violated one of the cornerstones of objective historiography by eliding relevant

background information. He has straw-manned skeptics in the truth movement by

representing their position simply as “Bush did it.” The truth movement is not monolithic as it

contains many different hypotheses that challenge the official narrative, from the outright

outlandish to the more conservative and reasonable. There is a plausible hypothesis that

Chomsky refuses to properly entertain: It is well-established that several prominent members

of the Bush administration had an ideological commitment to remaking the United States’

global preeminence through militaristic means, as evinced by the prevalence of PNAC members

at high levels of the executive (11-13, 32). These people also have demonstrable ties to the

Saudis (e.g. Prince Bandar) that gave back-channel support to some of the hijackers.

Presumably, the U.S. political players around Bush (and their domestic networks of power

elites) would have had a greater ability to prepare professional demolitions in a highly secured

facility than Al Qaeda operatives alone would have had. Chomsky is ignoring the possibility that

these war-hungry American ideologues (who expressed the need for a sufficient pretext)

conspired with powerful Saudi associates to enable terrorist hijackers to successfully attack the

territorial U.S. while setting the buildings up for maximal destruction to increase public trauma

and gin up a pro-war patriotic sentiment. The history of associations and ideological affinities

among the neocons that populated the Bush White House make a conspiracy arising from such

ranks very plausible. Key players from this group that occupied the apex of the Executive

hierarchy were intimately connected to powerful Saudis that gave material support (through

intermediaries) to terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks.

“What really binds the power elite to one another are their mutual interests… The

importance of social networks cannot be overstated for it is in these powerful, yet

informal, networks that bonds are formed…” (33)

As we have seen, much of the data that Chomsky neglects is more consistent with this

alternative hypothesis than with the officially sanctioned one. As a result of his omissions and

distortions, Chomsky’s probability assessments are skewed in favor of the official account. It is

sad to see such a valued figure reduced to blatant sophistry.

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