"...there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans." —Stephen F. Hayes, The Weekly Standard, 2003
When discussing politics, if there's one thing that sends people running for the hills, it's conspiracy theories — or worse, conspiracy theorists.
As with those who are deemed "racist" or "isolationist," conspiracy theorists are automatically dismissed by polite society, not necessarily because they are wrong, but because of the nature of their arguments. And because their ideas and opinions are outside of consensus politics or the mainstream media, conspiracy theorists lack credibility simply for being outside the realm of respectability.
Take, for example, what is commonly known as the 9/11 Truth Movement, a collection of conspiracy theories that claim the terrorist attacks in 2001 were orchestrated by the U.S. government. Watching 9/11 Truth videos online like "Loose Change" or "Zeitgeist" raises many interesting questions, and might cause even the most reasonable of folks to at least question the conventional wisdom on the subject. Yet, by and large, the 9/11 Truth conspiracy remains a fringe movement, taken seriously by few and laughed at by most.
But if 9/11 "Truthers" are wacky for believing the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by Uncle Sam, what about the conspiracy theorists who tried to convince Americans that 9/11 was orchestrated by Saddam Hussein? Consider the following from The Weekly Standard's cover story "Case Closed" written by Stephen F. Hayes in November of 2003: "Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda — perhaps even for Mohamed Atta — according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by The Weekly Standard."
After the memo Hayes cited was immediately and entirely dismissed by the Department of Defense and virtually every intelligence official, Newsweek decided to investigate Hayes' claim further, concluding "the memo doesn't actually contain much 'new' intelligence at all. Instead, it mostly recycles shards of old, raw data that were first assembled last year by a tiny team of floating Pentagon analysts whom [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J.] Feith asked to find evidence of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda 'connection' in order to better justify a U.S. invasion."
Hayes went on to write a book called The Connection based on the same false memo, and as the Bush administration went on to make the same case that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney told the Rocky Mountain News that Hayes' Weekly Standard article was the "best source of information" on collaboration between Hussein and Al Qaeda.
Of course, this was all fantasy. It was a conspiracy — not between Saddam and Osama — but amongst the Bush White House and their media allies to construct a "connection" between Hussein and Al-Qaeda that had never existed, an irrefutable fact reflected by every piece of U.S. intelligence before the invasion of Iraq — and proven again after it. Yet today, you will still find the random conspiracy kook who still believes that Saddam was behind 9/11.
So what is the difference between conspiracy theorists who believe the U.S. government orchestrated 9/11 and those who believe Saddam Hussein did? For starters, the 9/11 Truth conspiracists have arguably more circumstantial evidence for their case than men like Hayes or Cheney ever did for theirs. But the most significant difference is that while 9/11 Truthers are relegated to the internet with no mainstream media support, 9/11 Saddam Hussein conspiracists like Hayes were the media and worked in conjunction with the government to perpetrate their fraud.
While I try to keep an open mind, I do not believe the U.S. government orchestrated 9/11 precisely because I don't believe our government is competent enough to pull off such an elaborate scheme, and if they did, it would certainly be too incompetent to cover it up.
But 9/11 Truthers and similar groups don't concern me half as much as the conspiracy theorists in our media and government, who have the power to start wars, end lives, and damage nations, based on their own self-aggrandizing-fantasies.
And if I had to choose, there's something much more healthy and patriotic about those who take their distrust of government to what some might consider a ridiculous degree, than those whose unquestioning trust in government is not only unhealthy — but completely ridiculous.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.