Two Profound Stories—And A Humble Strategic Anecdote
The 9/11truth movement poses a unique spiritual challenge. Are you going to go on living a comfortable lie? Or can you handle an uncomfortable truth? If so, what are you going to do about it?
The great monotheistic wisdom traditions— Judaism, Christianity and Islam—offer a guide to the perplexed. Since the 9/11 attacks were designed to stir up hatred between these three great faiths, it is only fitting that we turn to them for advice in our dilemma.
In this essay I will consider two profound stories from the Jewish and Christian traditions, and a humble strategic anecdote from the early annals of Islam. I do so not because the Jewish and Christian traditions are more profound than Islam, but simply because these three stories fit together nicely, and the humbler Islamic tale forms a fitting coda for the symphony of the other two.
The first story I turn to recounts the trials of Job, a good man forced to confront apparently gratuitous suffering. Job had a good life—a huge, happy family, plenty of the goods of this world, and the even deeper pleasure of serving his God faithfully. But one day God decided, for reasons known only to Him, to allow Satan to unleash the torments of hell on Job for no particular reason. Bit by bit, Job lost everything he had—his property, his family, and finally his health. Tormented by painful boils, Job finally cried out to God, “Why?” God answered him in an awesome theophany, saying “Where were you when I created the universe?” To rationalists, God's answer is most unsatisfying. To the faithful, it is most satisfying—especially because God gave Job back most of what he had lost. To mystics, it is God's appearance at the end, giving Job a taste of the direct experience of a brush with God—an experience that makes all the suffering seem insignificant and ephemeral by comparison—that is the real point of the story.
The story of Job restates, in monotheistic terms, Buddhism's first noble truth: Life is suffering. It also offers the same solution, but in monotheistic terms: The endurance of suffering, acceptance of its truth, and a kind of non-attachment to the things of this world (i.e. faith in the One eternal thing, God) can provoke theophany and the direct experience of something much greater than the ordinary concerns of life, something so stupendous it makes the suffering seem an insignificant prelude.
Coming to terms with 9/11 truth does not cause boils to break out all over your skin—though in some circles it can make you a social leper. Unfortunately, facing the truth does cause significant psychological and spiritual suffering. Most people, in their state of ordinary happiness, which doubles as quiet desperation, see their government and its leadership rather the way a child sees its parents—as all-powerful and, hopefully, at least somewhat benevolent. A child who learned that her apparently normal father was a serial killer and sadistic rapist would have a hard time processing that information. She would probably try to repress it, forget about it, avoid thinking about it, and enter a state of denial. If she did ever come to terms with such a horrific truth, it would be at the cost of a great deal of misery.
Since September 11th, 2001, we have been like children given more and more evidence, more and more increasingly obvious clues, and finally irrefutable proof that our national family is headed by psychotic serial killers who, on that dark day four and one half years ago, devoured almost 3000 of their own children—the very citizens they had sworn to protect. The process of being pummeled by more and more evidence, of being bludgeoned into submission (to truth, or to denial, as the case may be) parallels the sufferings of Job, who first loses his property, then his family, and finally is reduced to sheer physical agony. Our faith in the benevolence or at least non-malevolence of our government has also been shaken bit by bit, first by scandals like Enron, then by the uglier matter of Abu Ghaib and the global sex-torture gulag, followed by the dawning realization that we were led into the Iraq quagmire by inept, murderous liars, and finally by the weight of the accumulated evidence—which we may accept or deny as we choose, but which will not go away—that 9/11 was an inside job.
Jesus Tempted by Satan's Offer of Global Empire
If the story of Job speaks to our pain as the gradually disillusioning victims of the 9/11 swindle, the temptation of Jesus on the mountain speaks to the 9/11 perpetrator within us all. Jesus was invited to join Satan and lord it over a world empire—and just like us, he almost fell for it. I realize that this observation may make some readers really uncomfortable. What—me?! A 9/11 perpetrator? I can hardly fathom how anybody associated with the US government could do something so heinous—much less me! And Jesus! How dare you suggest such things!
The fact is, we are all potential 9/11 perpetrators. We all went along with the obvious fraud—some of us longer than others—and we all derived psychological benefit from accepting the lie. Most of us imagined ourselves part of a benevolent nation attacked by psychotic nihilists, and enjoyed the patriotic feeling of national unity that followed, and has since evaporated. A few of us—those who already knew that the US empire is basically a criminal enterprise—did the same thing in reverse, by enthusiastically embracing the “blowback” thesis, according to which the US got pretty much what it deserved on 9/11.
Interestingly, people from the latter group are often more resistant to 9/11 truth than those from the former. The reason is simple: These folks took pleasure in the 9/11 spectacle and are resistant to giving up that pleasure, just as neurotics, according to Freud, are unable to give up earlier fantasy pleasures in order to enter the cold hard world of factual reality. The diehard defenders of blowback, of course, are not the only ones who reveled in the 9/11 spectacle. The unpleasant truth is that we all did. The sight of huge jetliners smashing into gargantuan buildings, and those buildings exploding into powder and shards, is an awful yet ecstatic sight, especially when witnessed from the safe distance of a television screen. Ecstasy is the state of being temporarily outside oneself, and in beholding 9/11 we all experienced it. Most of us, however, were so overwhelmed by the horror and suffering, and the moralizing, sentimental, patriotic discourse that yapped incessantly from the military-contractor-owned TV networks, that we refused to admit that the experience had been ecstatic. We built a wall in our minds to separate ourselves from the memory of that unspeakable ecstasy. That wall prevented us from facing the soul-shattering truth: We—our nation—our government—had done this horrific, ecstatic thing.
The blowback diehards, however, embraced the pleasure of 9/11 in a different and perhaps uglier way. Their self-image and self-esteem are based on a feeling of moral superiority to other Americans who do not realize that their empire is a criminal enterprise—or that they even have an empire, for that matter. The small minority of Americans who have embraced the ideas of people like Noam Chomsky realize full well that the US empire is evil—and that realization would destroy their self-esteem...unless they replace it with another source of self-esteem: The feeling of moral superiority over other, ordinary Americans that comes from having read Chomsky. The 9/11 attacks, for these people, greatly bolstered their self-esteem. “See?” the blowbackers gloated. “The US empire is so evil that its victims are willing to cunningly and elaborately immolate themselves to get back at us! If you poor ordinary schmucks had just listened to us...” For these folks, the 9/11 attacks—provided that they were carried out by victims of the evil US empire—were a good, pleasurable thing. The 9/11 truth movement, and the mountain of facts toward which it incessantly gestures, threatens to take away that pleasure—and with it the last shreds of self-esteem of those who know their nation pursues an evil foreign policy, a fact that would be impossible to bear without a sense of moral superiority fed by self-satisfied gloating over 9/11. (Here I am exaggerating the psychological processes of the diehard blowbackers in order to make a point, not condemning the whole notion of blowback, which gestures towards an eternal truth: we reap what we sow.)
Whether pre-ex-patriots, blowbackers, or 9/11 skeptics, we have all tasted the unspeakable pleasure of the 9/11 spectacle, just as Jesus tasted the ecstasy of that view from the mountain, tasted the power that would be his if he said “yes” to Satan and bestrode a global empire. And, like Jesus, we are faced with a choice. Will we embrace that empire and, in so doing, accept Satan as our lord? Or will we say “get thee behind me, Cheney” and give up the pleasure that 9/11 delivered, and the power that it promises, by clinging tenaciously to truth? Will we follow Jesus, or the Lord of Lies?
Truth is Our Trench
In contrast to the grandiose, soul-wrenching stories of Job and the temptation of Jesus on the mountain, the Muslim story of the Trench is rather down-to-earth, and, in this context, almost anticlimactic. I could have chosen to end with the larger story of Muhammad's reception of the divine Truth and his sufferings and ultimate triumph in professing it. But the story of the Trench, a minor episode in that larger story of a man holding fast to Truth, offers 9/11 truth activists a solid bit of practical advice.
Here is the situation as summarized by an Islamic website (http://www.iberr.org/salmaan.htm):
Twenty-four thousand fighters under the command of Abu Sufyaan and 'Uyainah Ibn Hisn were advancing on Al-Madinah to storm it and to lay siege to it in order to get rid of Muhammad, his religion, and his Companions. This army did not represent the Quraish alone, for they were in alliance with all the tribes, and all had vested interests that were threatened by Islam. It was a last and decisive attempt embarked on by all the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH), based upon individual, collective, and tribal interests.
Today, many Muslims feel that they are in a similar situation, and that the 9/11 frame-up was aimed at inciting Americans to use their unrivaled global power to destroy Islam. The awesome military, financial and technological power of their enemies seems to present Muslims with an unequal fight against overwhelming odds—just as the overwhelming military, financial and media power of the anti-truth forces seems to present 9/11 truth activists with a hopelessly unfavorable fight.
What neither the Muslims nor the 9/11 truth activists fully realize yet is that truth is their trench—the invincible weapon that will demoralize the enemy and send him home with his tail between his legs. Here is the rest of the story:
The Muslims found themselves in a precarious situation. The Prophet (PBUH) assembled his Companions for consultation. Certainly they were gathered to reach a decision on defence and battle, but how could they put up a defence? And then a long- legged man with flowing hair for whom the Prophet (PBUH) bore great love, Salmaan Al-Faarisiy, held up his head and took a look at Al-Madinah, which was surrounded by hills, mountains, and exposed open country which could be easily broken through by the enemy.
Salmaan had much experience, in warfare and its tactics in his native Persia. So he proposed to the Prophet (PBUH) something which the Arabs had never seen before in warfare. It was the digging of a trench in the exposed places around Al-Madinah.
And Allah knows what could have been the position of the Muslims in that battle had they not dug the trench, which was no sooner seen by the Quraish than they were stunned by despair. The forces of the enemy still remained in their tents for a month, unable to take Al-Madinah, until Allah sent them one night a storm which devastated their tents and tore them asunder.
Then Abu Sufyaan announced to his forces that they should return to where they had come from. They were despondent and frustrated.
The truth is our trench. It is a line that the enemy cannot and will not cross. When we speak truth from the heart, and point to simple, verifiable facts, the Empire of Lies cannot engage with us, because to do so would be to admit the lie. They can only stand helplessly on the other side of the trench, calling us names, appealing to irrelevant truisms and emotional shibboleths, and growing increasingly paralyzed and hysterical as the truth gradually spreads. 9/11 Coverup Czar Philip Zelikow, driven to the brink of inanity by the chorus of voices pointing toward truth, famously sputtered that shooting down 9/11 truth activists and their evidence is like playing whack-a-mole—shoot one here, and another pops up there. Since his Commission had never bothered to even try to refute the vast majority of the evidence cited by the truth-seekers, some wondered whether he was comparing the activists themselves to moles (a term for an enemy agent who has penetrated one's agency in intelligence jargon) and admitting that he thought they ought to be shot, but that it would probably be hopeless since for each one shot, several more would pop up elsewhere.
Whack a mole, and ten more pop up. Use your overwhelming superiority in lethal force to silence a voice of 9/11 truth, and the ripple of attention will bring ten more voices into the chorus. Kill Senator Wellstone, and not only will you be disinvited from his funeral, but you'll generate lingering, principled animosity that will eventually create ten new Wellstones.
When David Griffin published The New Pearl Harbor, he was asked if he feared for his life. “Not really,” he said. “It's a win-win situation: If they kill me my book will go to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. And if they don't, I'll get to finish my Summa Theologica in peace.” Griffin's brave comment reveals more than meets the eye, implying that, had he not decided to speak out as forthrightly and effectively as possible on 9/11, he would not have been at peace with himself when he sat down to write his Summa Theologica. The possibility that he would be violently silenced was real—but he knew, and hoped that they knew, that whacking this mole would just make ten more pop up elsewhere.
But the moles will keep popping up, whether you whack them or not, and each new voice of 9/11 truth that appears makes the task of silencing the existing voices, or staging another bogus attack, that much more hopeless. One of the reasons I decided to devote significant time and energy to 9/11 truth activism was to run interference for people like David Griffin, Nafeez Ahmed, Mike Ruppert, and Cynthia McKinney so that if somebody wanted to get to them, they'd have to go through me, and people like me. Another was so that if indeed another 9/11 did happen, and the US completed its descent into hell, at least I could go to my grave knowing I tried to stop it. This, I think, is not just self-sacrificing bravado, but smart strategy. It puts the Empire of Lies in a totally demoralizing lose-lose situation.
Zelikow's “whack-a-mole” comment was an admission of defeat by a man driven to despair by the power of truth—a man condemned, a dead man walking, a man who must feel that he is only biding his time till the inevitable treason trial. The truth was the trench he could not cross, and it left him paralyzed and sputtering like a Quraysh leader facing the strategem of Salman al-Farsi.
The rest of the Bush Administration's 9/11-complicit secret government is in the same position. They have overwhelmingly superior power, but cannot use it—because they stand, deflated and helpless, before the trench of truth. The hot gust of 9/11 wind is gone from their sails, and they float aimlessly in the horse latitudes of the voyage of empire, becalmed almost as soon as the doomed voyage set out. The Captain is disoriented, cut off from reality, perhaps even at the brink of madness; asked if he could point to a mistake he's made, something he'd do differently had he but known, his beady little eyes glaze over with deer-in-the-headlights fear, and he fails to speak.
Will our painful story, like Job's, have a happy ending? Only if we can learn non-attachment from temporal matters (like governments and material standards of living) and put our faith in truth, the Eternal. Will we follow the wisdom of Jesus and reject Satan's temptation to become the foul and lying rulers of a tyrannical global empire? Only if we follow the real teachings of Jesus, not the mad fantasies of those who yearn to rule—or destroy—the world. Will we, like the Muslims of Medina, succeed in defending the truth, and finally making it prevail? Only if we can overcome not just our fear of failure, but also our fear of success. The Muslims had to decide whether their cause was hopeless, or whether faith, courage, and smart judo-style tactics might, God willing, bring them victory. In the end, they chose wisely, and showed mercy at their greatest moment of triumph. The 9/11 truth movement has everything it needs—so many smart, creative, caring people armed with an invincible array of facts. 9/11 truth is the trench that all the
Pharaohs of this world with all their armies cannot cross. We simply need the courage to win, and the wisdom to show mercy in our victory.
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