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Nutty professor

Once-respectable publisher prints conspiracy theorist's wild accusations

Issue: "Red & blue all over," Sept. 23, 2006

Theologian David Ray GriffIn, professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology, has written a book arguing that President Bush committed the 9/11 attacks. In his words, "9/11 was a 'false-flag' attack, orchestrated by forces within the U.S. government who made it appear to be the work of Arab Muslims."

According to Griffin's Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, the alleged terrorists who hijacked those planes were not really Muslims, were not on the planes, and are still alive. Osama bin Laden is a "legend," whom Griffin variously describes as a CIA agent or a framed innocent. The Osama bin Laden who took credit for the attacks is an American-sponsored Osama impersonator.

The planes, according to this theologian, did not bring the buildings down. That was done by demolition charges set by President Bush and his minions. Griffin goes so far as to deny that Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. (I know of someone on that flight. So where is he if his plane didn't crash?) He says that Flight 93 over Pennsylvania was shot down, at the orders of Vice President Cheney. (Why would he do that if he wanted the plane to crash into a building?)

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The book reads like a Holocaust denial tract or an Illuminati fantasy. Griffin constructs plausibility structures that purport to account for the facts, while ignoring all contrary evidence and common sense. The "evidence" that Griffin cites is based on cherry-picking contradictory testimony in the confused aftermath of the attack. Witnesses said the collapse of the World Trade Center sounded like one of those building demolitions shown on television; therefore, this is what it was.

Griffin's argument is full of "could haves" and "would not haves." For example, he says that the Secret Service would not have allowed the president to finish reading that picture book to the schoolchildren if the United States was really under attack. Therefore, they knew the president was not in any kind of danger. Therefore, the Secret Service and the president were all in on it.

Griffin ignores the big picture and the obvious questions. So what is his explanation of those planes flying into those buildings, as recorded on tape and seen by millions? If the terrorists didn't do it, who did? Does he think the Secret Service has suicide brigades?

And why do jihadists to this day proclaim 9/11 as a great victory, if they had nothing to do with it? And what of all of the other terrorist attacks since 9/11? Did Tony Blair blow up the London subways? Did Australian president John Howard bomb the Bali nightclub? Does he think the Israelis really run Hezbollah? Or did President Bush plan these, too?

And why did President Bush do all of these nefarious deeds? To take over the world. According to Griffin, the plot was launched so that "the United States should use its military supremacy to establish an empire that includes the whole world." Somewhat anti-climactically, Griffin says that we invaded Afghanistan so that an oil company could build a pipeline across that country. (So, where is the pipeline?) As for the Iraq war, that has certainly done the United States and the president a lot of good!

But this is not the biggest conspiracy Griffin claims. The second half of his book maintains that the message of Jesus was really "anti-Empire," something obscured by the conspirators who wrote the Bible. Griffin, a "process theologian" (related to the Openness of God evangelicals), says the doctrine of God's omnipotence is also to blame. He does, though, believe in the demonic realm, enough to conclude that "the American empire is evil, and in fact the principal location of demonic power in our time."

For a scholar to go off the deep end is not that uncommon. More surprising is who published the book: Westminster John Knox Press, the official publishing arm of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Westminster has published liberal titles, but at least it used to have scholarly respectability. In this case, editors have suspended the rules of scholarly evidence and even simple fact-checking. Apparently at least some elements of the theological left-once the bastion of intellectualism-are descending into irrationalism and fanaticism.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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