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« Labour's choices | Main | Unnatural history lesson »

July 26, 2008



While you're at it, Oliver, can you explain to your colleagues on "The Times" that the University of Warwick (where Labour is meeting) is actually in Coventry, and not Warwick as today's paper claims in several places.

sackcloth and ashes

Oliver, I would guess that Mr Seymour's rave review of Harman's book is not just due to the fact that he's a swuppie, but that he'll need a more senior figure in the party (probably Harman himself) to endorse his masterpiece 'The Liberal Defense (sic) of Murder', if and when Verso gets round to publishing it.

Anon S

Oliver Kamm wrote: "...the 9/11 conspiracy theorist Howard Zinn..."

Howard Zinn does not believe the Twin Towers were brought down any other way than explained by professional engineers. Zinn does not accept that a missile hit the Pentagon. His original objection is summarized thusly

"Zinn is an original signatory of the 9/11 Truth Statement. The Statement highlights areas of incriminating evidence that were either inadequately explored or ignored by the Kean Commission, ranging from insider trading and hijacker funding to foreign government forewarnings and inactive defenses around the Pentagon. The Statement did not address nor support the theory of an inside job."

Since that time, Zinn has had little or nothing to say on the matter, unlike your friend, Christopher Hitchens, the Saddam-bin-Laden conspiracy theorist.

Oliver Kamm

Oh dear. That's feeble.

I didn't say Zinn believes a missile hit the Pentagon. I called him a 9/11 conspiracy theorist - and that's being generous to him. The "9/11 Truth Statement" that he signed, and which oddly you don't quote in its relevant aspect, "calls for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war".

These "unanswered questions" include such remarkable and incriminating findings as that the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, once co-authored a scholarly book with Condoleezza Rice (an excellent volume, as it happens - about German unification - which I have on my shelves).

That is a conspiracy theory. And so far from having little or nothing further to say on the matter, Zinn has recommended the bible of crank conspiracy-mongering on 9/11, The New Pearl Harbour by David Ray Griffin. According to Zinn, Griffin "has done admirable and painstaking research in reviewing the mysteries surrounding the 9/11 attacks".

Griffin maintains that "the evidence that 9/11 is an inside job is now overwhelming". Do I need to explain to you why someone who takes that view has not, in fact, done admirable and painstaking research, but is a paranoid crank who will believe anything that accords with his perverse political predilections? If I do, then I'd be glad if you refrained from posting here again, because I have no intention of throwing this forum open to such a discussion.

Anon S

Oliver Kamm wrote: "The '9/11 Truth Statement' that he signed, and which oddly you don't quote in its relevant aspect, 'calls for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war'."

And many of those questions have since received answers. And because Zinn has not pressed the point, it would appear he is quite satisfied with them. Therefore you are attaching meaning to this statement nowhere expressed by Zinn.

Oliver Kamm wrote: "Griffin maintains that 'the evidence that 9/11 is an inside job is now overwhelming'."

Griffin openly shares that view now, in 2008, the year you quote him, and very likely a few years earlier. Howard Zinn recommended only his first book, published in 2004, which never went so far, and contained much valuable information. Gerald Posner has also expressed concern over hijacker funding and foreign government forewarnings. Sibel Edmonds, a focus in Griffin's first book, has also received coverage in The Times.

Calling Howard Zinn a "9/11 conspiracy theorist" reeks of desperation, as it does Hitchens.

And why the double standard?

Oliver Kamm

The word "desperation" certainly belongs in this discussion. Unfortunately I don't have the skills that you possess in reading Zinn's mind: I go by what he's written.

The number of questions "suggest[ing] that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war" is nil. The same was true in 2004.

Griffin's book, which you don't appear to have read, is a crank conspiracy theory affecting to be a dispassionate presentation of competing hypotheses. Griffin writes: "It would be hard to deny that the critics of the official account have discerned a pattern. They have shown that many otherwise puzzling events - before, during, and after 9/11 - can be explained by the theory that high-level officials in the US government conspired to allow the attacks to occur and then to cover up this fact. Given that pattern, the price for rejecting this conspiracy theory is to accept a coincidence theory. And, critics of the official account can point out, the number of coincidences that would need to be accepted is enormous."

This is pernicious nonsense. Zinn describes it as "admirable and painstaking research" on the fly leaf of the book. If you know what Zinn's criteria are for admirable and painstaking research - I've previously discussed on this site his ignorant conspiracy theories about the Truman administration and the A-bomb - this won't come as a surprise.

Sibel Edmonds was interviewed by The Sunday Times (not The Times) in January this year. She is a former FBI translator of Turkish who maintains that corrupt public officials have been selling nuclear information on the black market. This story has nothing to do with supposed government complicity in 9/11. The Times and The Sunday Times have certainly not been giving so much as the time of day to the crank conspiracy theories that so impress the zany Zinn.

David Duff

"I undertake further to explain that the Queen's Speech is not in fact written by the Queen, and that the Lord Privy Seal isn't in charge of locks on the lavatory."

A corker! Do you know, I'm almost tempted to start reading 'The Times' again.

sackcloth and ashes

On Zinn, the '9/11 Truthers' come in two categories, known in short-hand as 'LIHOP' (Let It Happen On Purpose) and 'MIHOP' (Made It Happen On Purpose). Most 'truthers' follow the MIHOP view, asserting that the Bush administration (in tandem with big business/Israel/the Illuminati - delete as appropriate) staged 9/11 as a false flag attack, complete with controlled demolition of the WTC buildings/a missile in the Pentagon/a directed energy attack from a space satellite/holographic and-or remote controlled planes (again, delete as appropriate).

LIHOP theorists aren't quite so baroque. They accept that Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11, but claim that the US government deliberately turned a blind eye to preparations for this atrocity, so that it could have a pretext for wars of aggression/for oil in Afghanistan, Iraq etc. Howard Zinn clearly subscribes to the LIHOP view of 9/11:

'And above we have Christopher Hitchens pointing to the written work of David Irving as a source of education, for himself and others'

Let's nail this smear here and now. This is what Hitchens actually had to say:

'I allowed for Irving's obsessions. I wrote a column [describing him] as not just a fascist historian but a great historian of fascism. One should be allowed to read "Mein Kampf" as well as Heidegger. Allowed? One should be able to do so without permission from anybody.

[However], there are suspicious mistranslations, suggestive ellipses and, worst of all, some tampering with figures: in other words, Irving knowingly inflates the death toll in the Allied bombing of Dresden while deflating it in the camps and pits to the East. And, yes, all the "mistakes" have the same tendency. In a crucial moment, Irving "forgot" what he had said about Nazi Gen. Walter Bruns, who had confessed to witnessing mass killing of Jews and had been taped by British intelligence while doing so. When it suited Irving to claim that Bruns didn't know he was being recorded, he claimed as much. When it didn't, he suggested that Bruns was trying to please his hearers. Having listened myself to Irving discuss this fascinating episode, I mentally closed the book when I reached this stage in it. It was a QED.'

A collosal misjudgement on his part (and one which eminent and reputable historians like Donald Cameron Watt and John Keegan also committed). But defending Irving's right to free speech doesn't come in the same category of claiming that a Holocaust Denier is 'a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort'.

sackcloth and ashes

Oh, and Hitchens also threatened to take Henry Kissinger to court when the latter implied he was a Holocaust Denial, so I suggest you stay anonymous unless you want to deal with a writ:

Anon S

Sackcloth wrote: "Howard Zinn clearly subscribes to the LIHOP view of 9/11"

Strange, then, how you cannot produce a single direct quote from Howard Zinn to that effect.

The page you link merely has Zinn expressing his firm belief that 9/11 was conducive to hardliners in the US administration.

He expresses no personal view that the U.S. Government "Let It Happen On Purpose", stating only

"[Griffin's] book has already encouraged many thousands to debate the case for possible government complicity and at the very least to demand a full, transparent and truly independent public inquiry. Democracy requires citizen vigilance, informed debate and official accountability. In that spirit, David Ray Griffin's book deserves to be widely read." (emphasis mine)

You further misconstrue my statement in regard to Hitchens, whose own comments are obvious and unproblematic. My point is, I do believe our host would have rapidly bent such remarks out of shape, had they originated elsewhere.


Anon S, here's a link to the full Zinn quote, interestingly enough included in 'Endorsements' on ''.

The views on 9/11 reported there seem entirely consistent with the view that the US government 'Let It Happen On Purpose'.

David Irving's occasional attempts to distinguish his 'questioning' of the total deaths and causes of death in the Nazi extermination camps from Holocaust revisionism are now generally treated with the contempt they deserve. Zinn's fictitious distancing of his views from cranks like Griffin, whose conclusions he clearly supports, deserve the same contempt.

If Zinn wants to commend Griffin's work, as he has, then he can take the consequences regardless of the intellectual cowardice he displays in the process.

sackcloth and ashes

Anon S, if Zinn's views on 9/11 aren't LIHOP, then why did he sign a statement in October 2004 calling for an 'immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur'?

If that isn't LIHOP, I'd like to know what is.

Anon S

Again, we have Howard Zinn promoting a single book, on one occasion, in the year 2004, advocating a wider discussion and independent inquiry. Consequently, Zinn appears reasonably satisfied with proceedings today, having had nothing more to say on the matter. And for this Oliver calls him "zany" and a "9/11 conspiracy theorist". Yet Christopher Hitchens, who repeatedly promoted both Stephen Hayes' book "The Connection" and Fox news fantasist Ray Robison, is called.... Christopher Hitchens (and not "harebrained Hitchens", etc.)

You are not being consistent, and I suspect, as do others, that you are simply out to poison the well.

sackcloth and ashes

He was not promoting a book. He signed a statement produced by the 9/11 'Truth' movement (a misnomer if ever there was one), calling for an 'immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur'. If he has renounced that position since then, good for him, but if he's done so he's keeping very quiet about it.

'Yet Christopher Hitchens, who repeatedly promoted both Stephen Hayes' book "The Connection" and Fox news fantasist Ray Robison, is called.... Christopher Hitchens (and not "harebrained Hitchens", etc.)'

I've never heard of these people. Can you provide links?

Anon S

Zinn did both, but you selectively ignore his reason for doing so -- quite remarkable, because it's right there in front of you, on the same page.

Expanding on my second point, here is Christopher Hitchens recommending the work of Ray Robison (and here is Robison's appalling blog). Now, is it wrong to recommend a doubtful character as a source of valuable information, or a seemingly reputable character as an interesting but doubtful source of information? I say "no", for much the same reason explained by Hitch in the previous video (see above).

This makes neither Zinn nor Hitchens a conspiracy theorist, because, amid the rubbish, each work contains enough serious points to warrant further investigation.

Oliver can't have it both ways. If he does not accept Hitchens reasoning, then please say so, and commence pouring the same amount of poison down each and every well.

Oliver Kamm

The book by Griffin contains no material that warrants investigation, because it posits a conspiracy by the US government concerning the destruction of the Twin Towers. It is a book you haven't read. Your concern in this discussion has merely been to make accusations about Christopher Hitchens and me. You haven't had the intellectual honesty even to acknowledge that you were wrong in your assessment of how this blog approaches the work of Noam Chomsky. "Poisoning the well" is what you're doing, and I would appreciate your desisting.

Martin Meenagh

The Lord Privy Seal at the minute is Harriet Harman, who is the leader of the commons. In the past year, when complaints have been made about smoking in, or the condition of, the commons toilets, she has been the accountable minister. So the Lord Privy Seal is whilst not operationally in charge, politically accountable for the privies. I grant that she is not a Lord or a seal, though.

This is a much more interesting point than loony conspiracy theories about buildings probably constructed with shoddy materials and subjected to pressures no engineer or jobbing conspiracist could understand. One can't test skyscraper designs by building them, letting them stand for decades, then flying aeroplanes into them, so why all the certainty that anything other than planes brought those buildings down from some?

sackcloth and ashes

Anon S has an interesting definition of 'repeated'. All he can point me to is one reference to a news story. That doesn't count as an endorsement of someone's ideas or belief system.

Zinn, on the other hand, was not just 'promoting a book'. He had aligned himself with the 9/11 truth movement and has expressed his agreement with LIHOP views. Anyone with basic reading capabilities should see that. But someone who feels free and easy to pontificate about a book that he hasn't read (namely Griffin's) might not.


Interesting thread- Anon S is clearly correct on 2 counts, namely, that Hitch's position is more consistent than Oliver's, and that Griffin's work contains, amidst the rubbish,'several worthy lines of enquiry that have since been investigated and picked up'.
One of those following up valid lines of enquiry suggested by Griffin is Peter Dale Scott in his 'Road to 9/11:Wealth, Empire and the Future of America'.Scott would also disagree with Oliver on the irrelevance of the Sibel Edmonds case in understanding the shortcomings of the FBI in the lead up to 9/11.
Returning to Hitch for a moment, it's also worth mentioning that an earlier work co-authored by Scott 'Cocaine Politics:Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America' was highly praised by him.

Oliver Kamm

A modest caution: unlike Mark, I do not consider this to be an interesting thread. The problem seems to me to be that one participant, who has not posted here before, has made persistent assertions on an extraneous theme that is by definition the preserve of malevolent cranks, without - on his own account - even having read the material he's commending. He has in addition made grotesque remarks about a friend of mine. I have not blocked or edited this intervention in any way, but neither do I consider it appropriate.

Now that Mark, in addition, is praising the "worthy lines of inquiry" advanced by the conspiracist crank Griffin, I direct his attention to a comment I made earlier in this thread. This site is not a place to debate the merits of Griffin's work. There are no such merits. If you wish to argue the contrary, then please go elsewhere to do it so that I don't have to read your views.

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