Conspiracy, Conshmiracy

I’m still trying to understand it. For over a month a number of prominent, progressive publishers and writers have been ax-grinding against those of us who have suspicions about the Bush administration’s innocence prior to the 9-11 attacks. The first person I know of to take to the keyboard was Z Magazine’s Michael Albert, followed by David Corn of The Nation, Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive and, most recently, columnist Marty Jezer. Jezer had the hardest line of them all; in his words, “if I didn’t know any better, I would say that the emergence of the 9-11 conspiracy theory is a FBI plot to discredit the left.”

Of course, there are a variety of “conspiracy” theories. I don’t believe in or subscribe to all of them. It is true that some “conspiracists” can become so wrapped up in the individual redwood of one possible conspiracy that they miss the forest of an unjust and corrupt system that cries out for transformation. But is it the case that the Left risks discrediting itself if it takes up the call for a full and independent investigation of the 9-11 attacks, including the pre-9-11 history of the U.S. government’s past ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Is such a campaign, one already underway, just another example of “conspiracyitis” gone awry?

My view of this question is colored by my personal experiences during 1973 and 1974. This was the period of time when “Watergate” was the front page story of the day. The liberal corporate press and the Democrats were doing what they could to embarrass and undercut Nixon and his right-wing henchmen. But there was almost no focus on this issue by the Left until Nixon overplayed his hand and, in late October, 1973, fired the Special Prosecutor investigating the June, 1972 Watergate Hotel break-in at national Democratic Party headquarters. This action dramatically escalated the situation, leading to the active involvement of growing numbers of grassroots activists, a National Campaign to Impeach Nixon that I helped to found, the setting up of a Congressional investigation and the eventual forced resignation of Nixon.

I remember writing in the fall of ‘73 an article urging the active involvement of the Left in this campaign. My major points were these:

-This was clearly a major crisis for the Nixon administration.

-There was a chance that many of them, including Nixon, could be forced out, which would be a good thing for the people of the world and for us in this country, and it would be big mistake not to do what we could to advance this objective.

-If he wasn’t forced out after all of this exposure of likely criminality, we would be in for a very rough time of it in this country. Therefore we should build a progressive grassroots movement for impeachment.

What Nixon and his henchmen did was clearly a conspiracy, of the most classic kind. The specific action that was the basis for them being investigated, thrown onto the defensive and eventually forced out of office was NOT their criminality in perpetuating an unjust and destructive system. It was a much less significant, specific act of criminality that mushroomed into an eventual exposure of the seamy reality of FBI/CIA/government action in a wide range of areas. It was a watershed in the struggle against government repression for years to come.

So how does this relate to our situation today?

First, as was true back then, we don’t know the full story of what was happening leading up to 9-11.

Second, there are enough hard facts and genuine questions, enough smoke, to make a serious investigation to look for the coals of the fire a very necessary, essential undertaking.

Third, it is entirely possible, a rational belief that, if the full truth were to be revealed, major political damage would be done to the Bush oil-and-war-men and their despicable plans for what can only be called 21st century corporate fascism. Their chances of reelection in 2004 would be seriously set back.

Fourth, given the fact of past CIA, oil company and bi-partisan U.S. government ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda going back many years, it is likely that an exposure of the truth would undercut not just the Republicans but the Democrats and the corporate paymasters.

Of course, we could just take a pass on this one, hope for the best, play no role, act as if the world might have been dramatically changed for the worse because of 9-11 but, what the heck, we’re too powerless to have much of an impact anyway. We can engage in a conspiracy of head-turning regarding the truth of probably the single most impactful event of the past 25 years. And while we’re at it, why don’t we all just put our heads in the sand?