Muslims Against Crusades protests outside the American Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Credit: Corbis
In a surprising twist, terrorist group al-Qaeda recently issued a statement ridiculing 9/11 conspiracy theories claiming U.S. involvement in the attacks.
The victims and the perpetrator of the terrorism are both saying that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda acted alone and without any knowledge or support from the American government. The statement came in response to a speech that the Iranian President gave at the U.N. General Assembly in which he repeated his claim that the U.S. masterminded the terrorism. As ABC News reported last week,
If anyone in the world would have hard evidence of American collusion in carrying out the September 11, 2001, attacks (and strong motivation for making it public), it would be al-Qaeda. If the conspiracy claims are true, al-Qaeda would have no reason to deny that America helped organize and carry out the attacks. It would call into question the American government’s credibility in a way that various ad hoc conspiracy theorists could never hope to, and forever tarnish America’s political and moral legitimacy.
Of course terrorism has fueled many conspiracy theories. Earlier this year, conspiracies circulated that Osama bin Laden had not actually been killed by American commandos. I wrote a column about it, pointing out that the best proof that bin Laden is dead is that he hasn’t been seen since his death was announced by President Obama. If bin Laden is alive, what better way to embarrass and discredit the United States than to make a smiling public appearance? In fact, not only has bin Laden not emerged from hiding since his (alleged) killing in May, but al-Qaeda itself publicly acknowledged that bin Laden was killed.
The fact that al-Qaeda has denied that America had any role in the attacks strikes a heavy blow to the already shaky credibility of the “Truther” movement and other 9/11 conspiracy theorists. They must not only explain the stark lack of evidence implicating the American government in the attacks, but also explain why America’s longtime sworn enemy would deny U.S. involvement if it were true.
When investigation after investigation finds no American involvement in the attacks, conspiracy-minded folks can dismiss the findings by saying that it’s all part of the cover up. But when a group of ruthless terrorists like al-Qaeda (who everyone acknowledges actually committed the attacks regardless of who gave the orders) questions the logic and evidence behind the conspiracy claims, that’s a sign that your conspiracy arguments and theories are in deep trouble.
Part of the reason that conspiracy theories linger is that any contradictory evidence — no matter how conclusive or compelling—can just be dismissed by claiming that it’s part of the cover-up. There is ultimately no evidence that would satisfy most conspiracy theorists. Those who distrust the government will use any excuse to support their beliefs, logical or not. Conspiracy theorists prefer complex mysteries over simple truths, and find mystery where none exists.