What, another post in under a week? I know! It's as if there are things about home I need to talk about…
So, Scott Hamilton of Reading the Maps fame dropped me a line to check out a KiwiBlog post. I don't typically read KiwiBlog: it's proprietor is one of those awful human beings who tries to come across as all reasonable, but let's the comments section of their blog be utter swill water.1 But, given Scott's erudition, I thought I'd follow the link. And what a link it is.
Dr. Amy Benjamin Baker is a law lecturer at AUT (Auckland University of Technology), with a law degree from Yale Law School. She has written a paper entitled '9/11 As False Flag: Why International Law Must Dare to Care' which is appearing in the July/August edition of African Journal of International and Comparative Law, which is published by Edinburgh University Press. I don't know much about the African Journal of International and Comparative Law; the submission pages does not mention blinding papers for peer review, which is a tad suspicious.
Now, the KiwiBlog post scoffs at the idea of a lecturer at a tertiary institution writing a paper advocating looking at 9/11 as a false flag event, and provides a few choice snippets from the paper as illustration. Then again, the proprietor of KiwiBlog scoffs at a lot of academic endeavours, so the fact they take it to be nonsense isn't any mark for against the paper in question.
I don't like to prejudge papers I've not yet read, so I read the paper. I should point out that the copy of the paper linked to by the KiwiBlog post is obviously either a pre-publication version of the paper, or even a draft. As such, nothing about the following comments might be true of the published version which appears in the African Journal of International and Comparative Law. I'm going to read the final version when it comes out, and see if it differs substantively. Because if I had reviewed this paper for the journal, I would have required major revisions. I would not have rejected it outright, because there are some interesting points in the paper, but the argument in favour of treating 9/11 as a false flag event just isn't very good.
Worry #1: Throughout the paper Benjamin presents a fairly weird view of the official theory of what happened on 9/11. She claims there is a mountain of convincing work that shows 9/11 was an inside job, and thus a false flag event, and acts as if there is a) no sustained criticism of that work, b) if she does mention that criticism she ascribes that to academics, lawyers, journalists and politicians as being afraid to look at the topic, and c) completely sidesteps any of the official inquiries into 9/11. Indeed, at points she gives the impression that the official theory of 9/11 is just that the U.S. declared it was Al-Qaeda several days after the event, and then seems to argue that this means American citizens in particular are in a limbo state as to whether that official theory is warranted or not. This is an issue, because Benjamin is either ignorant of the research that argues Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 (and it's very unlikely she is ignorant of it) or she is deliberately portraying the official theory in its weakest possible light in order to point score. Either way, her refusal or inability to present both sides and then argue her side is the better explanation is telling.
Worry #2: This worry somewhat follows from the latter; Benjamin's best case for thinking 9/11 was an inside job is the history of false flag events over the course of the 20th Century. This is a potentially fruitful way to argue for at least considering the possibility 9/11 was a false flag event. However, she completely bungles her point by a poor choice of examples.2
She cites three examples of false flags. Well, one example which is not (as she describes it at least); the 1931 invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese. Benjamin's gloss on the event never states that the Japanese caused the explosion that they then used to justify the invasion; in her retelling it comes across as 'There was an explosion, and the Japanese reaction to it overstated the effect of the explosion.' That's not a false flag; that's just (once again, in her retelling) a case of exaggerating for the sake of justifying an invasion.
Her second example is the Gleiwitz Incident in 1939. However, she bungles this example by then referring back to the Reichstag Fire of 1933. The Reichstag Fire, the event which lead to the National Socialist Party becoming the biggest party in the German parliament, has often been cited as the quintessential false flag event, but modern historians now think that—like the invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese—this was just a case of Hitler and his cronies making the most of an actual act of homegrown terror. That is, it's not really considered a false flag event any more (and hasn't been for several decades, really).
Her third example is Operation Northwoods, which—as she notes—was never acted upon. Sure, the plan entailed a lot of false flag events, but when the Secretary of Defence, Robert MacNamara received the plan, he quashed. Now, I do think there is something interesting and salient about Operation Northwoods and the fact agents of governments seriously contemplate false flag activities, but as evidence that 9/11 could be one… Well, pointing towards things governments refuse to engage as proof they might be engaging in them now requires much more argumentation than Benjamin provides.3
Minor niggle: Benjamin writes:
Further, all subsequent events of terror deemed connected to 9/11 through the inchoate skein of violence that flowed from it – Madrid’s 3/11, London’s 7/7, Paris’s 1/7 and 11/13 – would immediately become suspect as representing aspects of the same foundational fraud.
But that’s not clear at all. Those particular events could still be individual acts of terror which are not false flags. If 9/11 turned out to be a false flag event it would, true, invite us to at least consider the possibility these events were false flags too, but it doesn’t rule them out as ‘just’ acts of terror. Basically, Benjamin makes her case too tightly tied to showing that 9/11 was a false flag, and thus kind of ignores the elephant in the room, which is what factors might be involved in creating an environment where people commit acts of terror on foreign soil. As others have argued, some of the various 9/11 Inside Job theories end up robbing people of their political potency by denying them their acts of political violence by ascribing them to other individuals.
The upshot: The last part of the paper details reasons as to why the U.N. should investigate 9/11 and ascertain whether the U.S. really were a wronged party. Yet because the first part of the paper doesn't do much to convince this reader about the legitimacy of the author's version of '9/11 as a false flag,' the last part of the paper feels undeserved: by not giving the reader much reason to think 9/11 was an inside job, the claims about how the U.N. could test that theory left me with a feeling of 'So what?'
Now, part of me hopes what I've read is a draft, and that the version which is getting published was revised to take care of at least some of the problems identified here.4 So, I'll update you on my thoughts about the paper come July or August, when it hits print.
- Scott is the kind of person who perseveres in outreach, hoping to get some of those commentators at KiwiBlog to see the light. I admire that. ↩
- There are better examples in the footnotes, admittedly, but footnotes are—as someone wisely told me—the place where interesting ideas or pertinent facts go to die. Like this one. ↩
- As I note, she has better examples in the footnotes, which if they had been referred to in the main text, would have greatly helped her argument here. ↩
- I've not listed all my issues with the paper, mind; I'm not actually its reviewer, after all). ↩