Conspiracy Theories And 9/11: The Pentagon

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine was looking at Facebook when he suddenly exclaimed, “Good God!  Don’t tell me people still believe that $#!+!”

Because we’re talking Facebook, I had to ask for a bit of clarification.  I mean, really — there’s a lot of $#!+ out there, after all.  And so I asked, “To which particular bit of $#!+ do you refer?”

So there’s this picture of the side of the Pentagon with a big caption which reads, “Where’s The Plane?”  You’re probably familiar with it; it shows scorch marks, some intact windows, and a couple of holes punched through a couple of the rings of the Pentagon.  Here’s a copy without the text.


Where’s The Plane?

OK; here’s a bit of background:  That particular picture was taken three days after the blast.  The external hole had been smaller, but the area around it had collapsed further over the intervening time.  The photo shows heavy equipment and army trucks, earthmoving and triage setups, plus the (closed) four-lane divided Route 27 (Washington Boulevard).

To either side of the hole in the building are long swathes of scorched wall; the non-concrete roofs of the external, internal, and transverse sections show signs of prolonged fire.  Reports from the day of the event are that the section impacted continued to burn for at least ten hours, and that some of the structure remained in an active combustion state for over a day.

So it’s evident that there was damage to the Pentagon, and it’s unarguable that there was some sort of explosion followed by a fire.  Some people believe that this sort of damage is consistent with the impact of a cruise missile; official reports are that Flight 77, a Boeing 757, ran almost squarely into the side of the building at a high rate of speed.

What I’m not going to do here is attempt to disprove a cruise missile.  That would be a waste of time and effort, for the simple reason that, if it can’t be a cruise missile, why couldn’t it be shaped charges and a carefully-designed blast?  Perhaps the news films were faked and the damage artificially generated.  Hell, perhaps aliens (or Area 51 techs) stopped time in the area long enough to set up a convincing fake.  Tough to disprove every possible non-jet scenario, so I’m not going to try.

It’s worth mentioning that the only persons capable of faking something of this magnitude would be at the highest levels of the US Government.  The Joint Chiefs and the Executive would have to be in on it.  The hypothetical motive would be to create a False Flag event as a pretext for war; manipulation of global stock, currency, and commodity markets would be another possible goal.  Thus far, we’re not outside the realm of possibility; America has done similar things in the past, though never on such a scale.

What makes this difficult to envision, though, is the assertion that something other than a passenger plane caused this particular damage.  Let’s explore the arguments.

There’s No Wreckage

There’s wreckage.

The reason you can’t see it in this photo is that it was taken three days after the event.  What wreckage there was — and it included wreck debris, body parts, uniform fragments, and bits large and small — had been recovered on Day 1.  Several of the on-site tents (the white thingies) were assembly points for wreckage and debris, where it could be labeled and filed before removal to an offsite location for reassembly.  Bear in mind that this is standard procedure; if you want to learn more about it, I’d recommend Crichton’s book “Airframe”; it’s neither precise nor up-to-date, but it provides a solid background on the process that underlies every NTSB investigation.

The reason I know that wreckage was recovered on Day 1 is that I personally watched video on Day 1, at approximately Hour +4, of people walking in a standard recovery line across the grounds, looking for wreckage.  I’ve found archived footage from the day of the event and watched it again, and it matches my memory.  But that’s subjective, and video could be faked, I suppose.  Still, if you’re interested, it can be found here on YouTube.

But you can tell as well that wreckage was removed by simply looking closely at the photo.  If you inspect the roof of the concrete rings (those that didn’t burn), you’ll notice they’re beige.  Look at the continuation of those roofs on other sides and you’ll see they’re black.  Further around the building, you again see beige, but it’s a different color.

The flat roofs were made of gravel over asphalt.  It’s pretty common in the south, where one of the last things one has to worry about is removing snow from a roof.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the gravel has been removed from the entire wing facing the blast site.

All of it.

See, these guys are pretty thorough when they deconstruct a crash site for reassembly later.  I have no doubt whatsoever that several dozen Federal employees were paid time-and-a-half to sift through ton after ton of roofing material in search of tiny metal fragments that might have been part of a plane.

So in short, what you’re looking at here is a picture from days after the explosion that shows no wreckage, and that’s unsurprising because there really shouldn’t be any wreckage three days after the explosion.

What did you expect?  Heaps of severed arms?

But There Was No Wreckage In The Video Either

(I’m referring to the Fox 5 news video linked above.)

There was wreckage in the video, but not much.  There’s a pretty decent reason for this.

A Boeing 757 is pretty flimsy, all things considered.  Sure, it can fly, but it wasn’t designed to drive nails with.  It contains a lot of aluminum, some sheet steel, things like seats, carpets, and passengers, several tons of av-gas, and a couple of massive objects like turbine engines and landing gear.  When one strikes an object head-on, it’s rather similar to a traffic accident; when the impact is at high speed, there’s less a plane than a cloud of tiny bits of shrapnel.

A few of the larger parts might well have survived intact; if they did, they’d have wound up punching through several thick concrete walls or getting flung into the Potomac on the other side of the building or something.  Published reports state that the hole in the building wasn’t caused by the fuselage but instead by one of the massive landing gear assemblies penetrating at high speed.

Frankly, when watching the video, I saw a few random round things, some tiny bits and pieces lying about, and what looked rather like a fellow carrying a human torso.  I couldn’t swear to what anything was or was not, and that’s precisely what I expect.

If you’re interested in a video of a plane striking a solid concrete wall head-on at a high rate of speed, I can’t help you.  What I can give you is video of a semi hitting an SUV at a low rate of speed.  It’s pretty graphic; you know the drill — no small children or people apt to whine at me are permitted to click the link.

So Why Couldn’t It Have Been A Missile Or Something?

Frankly, it could have.  I look at the above and I’m pretty solidly convinced, but on the other hand, if there was a decent conspiracy, I’d be the guy they wanted to convince.  So maybe there was really a missile or something.


First and foremost:  Something happened to Flight 77.  It was pretty final, whatever it was; there’s thousands of reporters who would kill for a scoop like finding a plane that was supposedly destroyed in Virginia sitting in a corn field in Iowa or something.  So let’s presume it was blown up or ditched into the ocean or what have you.

While we’re at it, there’s the flight crew and passengers to get rid of.   Imagine you’re the conspiracy; what would you do?  Well, why not; we’ll ditch them too.  After all, it’s an important cause; what’s a few lives more or less?

Okay, so there’s a major park and I-395, plus a couple dozen high-rise office buildings full of potential eyewitnesses.  How do we make sure they don’t notice?  Well, we can divert traffic easily enough, and we could always do something to the window glass, and clear the park, and…

Hey, I’ve got an idea!  Let’s combine all these operations into one simple, easy-to-manage, and tough-to-screw-up one-shot deal.  It’ll save tons of money and manpower, it’ll decrease the number of eyewitnesses we have to “take care of”, and it’ll keep the conspiracy small.  Perfect solution:  Let’s just find some disposable suicidal schmuck to drive the plane into the side of the damn building already!  Say, do we know any terrorists?  Hey, George, didn’t you know that Obama Bin Whatsisface?  What’s his cell number?

See, now, THAT is a conspiracy theory.  Don’t waste my time with this “There’s No Wreckage” BS; just make it simple and straightforward.

The Bottom Line

If I were in charge of an operation to give the USA an excuse to go to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, I wouldn’t fire a missile or plant demo charges.  I’d stage a real series of attacks and make absolutely certain they’d go off without a hitch.  I’d arrange for the pilots to get training, for there to be no Air Marshals on the selected flights, and for me to be working in some other building on that particular day.

Oh, and I’d pick a list of stocks to sell short and others in which to plausibly invest, and I’d retire to the Caymans.

But first, I’d plan an internet meme campaign with an even dozen really easily disproved conspiracy theories for the gullible out there, something the Elvis-believers and the tinfoil-hat crowd could really get behind.  Something nice and bright and shiny that pointed someplace other than at me.  Why?  Because I’m an evil genius, that’s why.

There’s some reason to believe that this last scenario did not, in fact, happen.  There’s plenty of evidence against it, in fact, not least of which is a positive track for the accused perpetrators.  This includes (but is not limited to) reputable eyewitnesses, and the chain of evidence, if false, has been sufficient to delude several hundred trained investigators, a substantial percentage of whom have been exhaustively trained to be skeptical of the apparent.  That’s an amazing amount of work combining for an impracticable conspiracy.

But this particular article isn’t about the lead-up; it’s only about Flight 77 impacting the side of the Pentagon.  Given enough time and interest, I’ll gladly look into each event on 9/11 and offer my own take on it.

For now, though:  Be glad I’m not the evil genius that’s behind these conspiracies.  Oh, and while you’re at it — please, for the love of God, stop spreading the most brain-dead of these internet memes!  All they accomplish, in the end, is to distract the skeptical from what’s really happening.  And there’s some truly nasty stuff that really happened, folks; never doubt it.

NOTE:  While much of my research on this has been open-source and many of the conclusions original, it would be disingenous to pretend that I’m solely responsible for all of this content.  I own rights to neither the pictures posted nor the videos linked, and I owe a great intellectual debt to the NIST studies on the 9/11 events and the investigation as reported by Popular Mechanics.  It is, in fact, from that article that I pulled the photo at the top of this page.

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