The issue of 9/11 is divisive, and blurs many political and ideological markers. When Noam Chomsky, arguably the world’s most listened-to anti-imperialist dissident, endorsed the version of events presented by the U.S. authorities, many people were confused. And when in Europe, the left of the left followed suit, new cleavages emerged around this question, with the appearance of right-wing intellectuals who, for their part, took up the issue without any complexes. In order to go back to the source and understand the disinterest, even the apprehension of the left towards this question, Kairos met Jean Bricmont, physicist and anti-imperialist intellectual. Often considered as Chomsky’s spokesman in Europe (which he denies), his thinking is nevertheless very close to that of the famous linguist.
Kairos: The first time I heard Noam Chomsky talk about 9/11, about possible American complicity, he said, « Who cares? (« Who cares? ») What appealed to me about that was that it was through Chomsky’s books that I, along with many others, learned to look beyond appearances, to recognize false flag operations, as they are called. He is still the one who always finds the dirty tricks of history. Do you share his opinion?
Jean Bricmont: No, it’s not so much that he flushes out the dirty tricks. Chomsky’s thought is still an analysis of ideology, which is very different. And it is always based on official facts. Let’s take an example that particularly touches me, because it’s what marked me politically, it’s the Vietnam War. It started in earnest with the famous Gulf of Tonkin incident. I’m not convinced that it was an American set-up. Perhaps they sincerely believed they were being attacked, but the question to ask is whether this legitimized the bombing. What were they doing so close to the Vietnamese coast? What had they been doing since ’58, or even since the sabotage of the Geneva agreements? For me, all this is a political analysis.
So if we take for example the war in Afghanistan: no matter if there was an external attack or an inside job on September 11, I don’t agree that it is legitimate, and the one in Iraq even less. So it doesn’t depend on whether there was any internal complicity.
K: Okay, but for a lot of people, it makes a world of difference. And as such, if an inner complicity was demonstrated, it would change a lot.
JB: It would change, yes, but the question is how much should I care? I can relate to this for two reasons. One would be purely intellectual, but that is not the case here. The other is political, and here I think that the political interest of this question is very low, for the following reason: the 9/11 truthers say that a new investigation is needed. This is a concrete demand, but one that seems to me to be completely utopian, given that this investigation would be carried out by the people currently in power, who all agree with the official version. If by some miracle it happened, it would give the same results. So it’s a claim that doesn’t speak to me, personally. The demand on which I fully agree with truthers and on which I have no problem with them, is: let’s unite against wars, whether they are humanitarian or not. Who can do more can do less: if we were able to show that September 11 was an inside job, then it seems to me that we should be able to stop wars.
K: Isn’t that what Chomsky and his friends have been trying to do for the last 40 years, and hasn’t there been a huge setback in these fights since 9/11? You write: « It would be possible to create a movement in favor of withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan (where the war is clearly lost), against the expansion of Nato, or for an end to support for Israel. » How many decades have we been trying to do this? Is this fight in progress or in retreat?
JB: No, I think it was the development of the ideology of humanitarian intervention in the 1980s and 1990s that sabotaged some of the efforts on the left. This is what is at play in Syria and Libya, for example, it is not 9/11. As for 9/11, it was exploited to wage war in Iraq, and there was massive opposition, more important than ever.
K: And what did it achieve?
JB: Nothing in the immediate future. But it’s true that now, the unpopularity of this war is causing the Americans to withdraw — not totally, but more or less. And they are reluctant to intervene massively in Syria.
K: But if there hadn’t been this movement against the war, they would have gotten stuck anyway, right? The unpopularity also comes from this stalemate. So what was the point of this huge movement, which you are still calling for? It did not prevent the war, and it did not help its unpopularity.
JB: It’s like the Vietnam War, which was not stopped by the anti-war movement, but mainly by the Vietnamese, the military setbacks. Wars only become truly unpopular when they go wrong. But on the other hand, opinions are changing about Israel, so it has some effect. One can always hope that ideological action has an effect, even if it is not the essential aspect.
K: But are opinions changing because of ideological action, or because of the excesses of Israel that are becoming more and more evident?
JB: Both, and mainly the second one. But I’m not going to go to Israel to participate in these excesses, and I’m not going to join Al Qaeda in Iraq… I do what I can. But again, if people think it’s more effective to focus on 9/11, they’re free to do so. I don’t think so, as far as I’m concerned. Now, if people want to spend their time convincing me, I’ll give arguments why I don’t believe in it, but ultimately, for me, it would be more interesting to know why I should care.
No more than I am interested in knowing what really happened at Pearl Harbor, or the Kennedy assassination, or other unexplained events in history. Take Pearl Harbor. We can say that it was a game changer, it changed a lot of things. We still don’t know exactly how it happened, whether they knew about it or not, whether they let it happen or not. But the war is over, and there is not much concern about what really happened. I think these wars could end without resolving the issue of 9/11.
K: Have you followed the evolution of the truth movement? It has evolved a lot in more than ten years, and its findings and analyses have been refined.
JB: In general — and contrary to many people on the left — I tend to trust the experts, on GMOs, on nuclear power,… Being a scientist myself, I know that one does not become a scientist just like that, and I am not going to despise all my colleagues in aeronautics, strength of materials etc.
It is true that I do not feel competent to question what they say. And I would never have studied the file if I wasn’t frequently asked about it. One has the impression that there is a relentlessness among truthers against people who do not share their belief or conviction, I would almost say their faith. If they were criminally prosecuted, like the negationists, the problem of freedom of expression would arise. This is not the case.
K: No, but they feel like a huge opportunity wasted.
JB: Well, suppose Chomsky, the people around antiwar.com, Counterpunch magazine and I became truthers. What will it change? Except for the fact that there may be many people who will use this to discredit us.
K: That’s a real question. Isn’t it mainly the fear of discredit that dictates these positions?
JB: No, since I am already largely discredited. I am regularly called an anti-Semite because of my criticism of the politics of the Zionist lobbies. If I really wanted to avoid discredit, I would stay in my corner and not talk about political issues. Tackling issues such as wars, lobbies, freedom of speech, easily brings discredit.
That said, I might have to study the issue, but I feel like if I do, I’ll have spent an enormous amount of time studying arguments and counter-arguments. I still have a job. I am an individual, not an organization, I don’t have a site or a forum, so I limit myself to what I think I can do.
K: But there are serious people in the truth movement too, and you don’t seem to realize that. Have you read Griffin’s books?
JB: No. But Griffin, he is also a theologian… At first glance, this does not inspire confidence.
K: He’s a logician, too. And a philosopher. And then that, typically, is shooting the messenger. Look at what he has to say.
JB: But I don’t have time… ! Have you read Faurisson?
K: No, but I’m not interested in that.
JB: There you go, it’s the same answer.
K: I think you are very interested in imperialism, American politics, ongoing wars, etc. All these topics are intrinsically linked to 9/11.
JB : But Faurisson will answer you that the gas chambers have become a central and ideological element of the history of the Second World War, and it is true. You ask any kid going to school now what they remember about World War II, they’ll tell you that’s what it is. For some, this is the basis of the entire current ideology of Western countries. This is not my point of view, but there is a parallel.
K: Except that all the people I trust politically and ideologically, and in whose discourse I find myself, and even far beyond, are part of a consensus to reject his theses en bloc. The very little dissent comes from people whose speech, even on other subjects, revolts me. In the case of 9/11, it is quite different, there is no consensus. As a result, reference points are blurred. Chomsky, for example, is someone I admire and who has taught me a lot, but on this issue, I can’t follow him. Moreover, I have the impression that he does not know the case, you confirm that you have not read Griffin or any dissenting author. I think it would be enough to read 2–3 books, it doesn’t take that much time. You would see the quality of the argument and the logic.
JB: I’ve read a number of counter-arguments instead, and I think it would take me a long time to get into that debate. I would also like to ask you a question: the conspiracy, who does it involve? A few people, the entire administration, the FBI?
K: In your turn, explain to me why, when one challenges the way the facts are presented in the official version, one is immediately summoned to deliver a key scenario of how things would have really happened. If we demonstrate impossibilities that leave a logical vacuum, and that therefore make it impossible to find an explanation, it means that we must say how many people were in the conspiracy, and who were they? Griffin is often told to do this, he refuses to do it, and I think he’s absolutely right.
JB: The problem is that as a physicist, I tend to think that evidence of impossibility proves a certain lack of imagination.
K: But it’s not only that…! There are also plenty of facts presented, which were refuted, so that the official version was immediately changed into a new version opposite to the previous one. Basically, they are constantly adapting their version to what cannot be denied.
JB: This is also what Faurisson says about the gas chambers. This is also what the climate skeptics say, that the orthodox keep changing their version according to the attacks of the heterodox. This is a phenomenon that comes up in all the controversies.
K: That’s true in both directions. The orthodox reproach the same things to the heterodox. In particular, to have conclusions first and to arrange the facts according to them. I think it’s symmetrical.
JB: In any case, I don’t see any argument
I see arguments in favor of the conspiracy, but I see arguments against it.
K: Let’s talk about the question of the plausibility of an inside job, which is close to your heart. You say that we should start by looking at plausibility. Isn’t this a bit of a reversal of the scientific method? Shouldn’t we start with the raw facts before allowing ourselves to form an opinion?
JB : No, the scientific method consists in starting by asking questions. Take the question of miracles, for example. Why have people stopped believing in miracles? Because many cases have been explained by science, but there may be some that remain unexplained. And then we said to ourselves: what is this god who intervenes like that, plic-ploc, in secret? And why are there no legs growing back? That’s plausibility. But it is not that I have really studied all the scientific cases suspected of being miracles and proved that all of them can be explained.
For 9/11, there is the problem of the size of the conspiracy: a few individuals or almost the entire state apparatus, including scientists who have studied the issue and basically share the official version? In the first case, why are they not discovered? And the second one doesn’t seem plausible to me.
It also seems implausible to me that there are no leaks. Have you seen the recent affair around the NSA? There was Manning, there was Assange, there is now Snowden. I think the US government is aware of this, and that all governments are at least as paranoid as the citizens and think that all their secrets are gone.
K: How many of the dirty tricks were left untouched?
JB: I think that in general, the dirty tricks are done. Give me examples of dirty tricks that have not been exposed?
K: But I can’t, by definition… ! That said, it may be a majority. For example: when Gladio was revealed, it was by the Italian secret services themselves, when they passed on to a judge documents on this subject, which they could very well have kept to themselves. If they hadn’t, this case would not have come out after 40 years, and we still wouldn’t know anything about it.
JB: Yes, that’s true.
K: In that case, how can you say that there would automatically be leaks? If this is the case, only a minority of covert operations ever become public knowledge. We don’t know, by definition.
Otherwise, as for plausibility, there are many people who wonder if the official version is so plausible…
JB: No, it’s true that it’s surprising. It’s amazing that they were able to pull off such a trick. But it is not as implausible as a general conspiracy, in my opinion.
K: But Griffin managed to do a whole book on all the omissions, distortions, and manipulations of the Commission’s report. There are many things that are completely inconsistent.
JB: Yes, but for every inconsistent fact that is pointed out, there are counter-assertions from the orthodox, and I think I could spend my life discussing who is right and who is wrong. I don’t think there are any tuxedo guns, any irrefutable evidence that would put the official version on the ground.
That said, one can very well criticize the official version on other points, without postulating a gigantic inside job. There are people I talk to who accept what you call the official version, but who want to put forward the reasons why the United States was attacked. And the reason that keeps coming up is to punish U.S. support for Israel and Arab dictatorships, among others. There are many clues, but this is never the reason that is given in official speeches. Before the Commission of Inquiry, some CIA and FBI agents invoked this same reason, but it was not retained in the report(1). Another point, raised in particular by Justin Raimundo, a very anti-war author and very critical of US foreign policy, is the role of Israeli spies and so-called « art dealers » around 9/11 (2). When guys are arrested applauding the demolition of the towers, when a good number of Israeli spies are arrested in the United States around 9/11 and then sent back to Israel, when there are a certain number of indications that they probably knew more than what they told their dear allies, there is reason to wonder. So the emphasis on controlled demolitions and all that, it distracts from what I think is the real problem.
Interview by Olivier Taymans
- Voir la vidéo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzYM9ZnWsnk.
- Voir son livre, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection.