Conspiracy Theories And 9/11: World Trade Center

Many remember 9/11, but some of us view the events in a different light.  In order to discuss it, I’d like to start with some baseline information and move on from there.


The official story:  On 11 September, 2001, two commercial airliners impacted the main towers of the World Trade Center on the island of Manhattan in New York City.  Thousands of people were trapped above the resulting fires; almost all were killed when the buildings later collapsed.  In addition, a third structure, WTC7, later collapsed due to damage sustained by debris and possible seismic impact.

Again, there’s a lot of people that don’t think this is the whole story.  Personally, I know it’s not the whole story; too much happened as a result, and the operation leading up to this was far too complex for it to have happened as a result of random chance or a few isolated extremists.  There was indeed a conspiracy; there would have had to have been, or something like this could never have happened.  And, in any event like this, there’s plenty of room for honest skepticism.  Having said that, though, it’s best to direct your skepticism wisely.

Let’s start with the most common conspiracy theories and work down, examining each individually on its own merits.  Remember:  Logically, there actually WAS a conspiracy.

Those Weren’t Passenger Jets

Some theorists believe that the Towers were brought down by the US military, using either tanker planes, drones, or demolitions.  I believe I’ve fully answered this in a previous post, but I’ll go over the main points again anyway.

While it’s possible that thousands of direct eyewitnesses and millions in the television audience were fooled somehow, it’s a far more likely scenario that what actually happened is exactly what seems to have happened:  Someone flew passenger jets into big buildings; the jet fuel started massive fires, and eventually the buildings collapsed.  After all, passenger jets would have accomplished the job just fine.

For the purposes of accomplishing a terror attack and establishing an excuse for war, all that had to happen was a big fire in which a very obvious target was hit and lots of people died.  Once it made national news, that was enough.  The towers didn’t need to collapse; all that had to happen, in point of fact, is for a couple of planes to get deliberately rammed into important buildings.

So why would anyone bother to use any method other than the simple and obvious one?  Seriously — if it was the US military trying to fool us all, why would they not just fly jet planes into the buildings themselves?  Why use demo at all?  After all, that sort of thing might leave evidence, and no self-respecting conspiracy wants that.

But Jet Fuel Doesn’t Burn Hot Enough To Melt Steel

No; that’s true.  It doesn’t.  Jet fuel burns at about 1300-1500 °F in open air; structural steel doesn’t melt until it hits 2000 °F at a minimum.  Add to this that the fuel in the aircraft in question would have spread out over a vast surface and either been consumed instantly or, near the center of the building, would have completely burned up in about fifteen minutes.  Even the NIST report stipulates this.  (Plus, I read it on Wikipedia, so it must be true.)

On the other hand, steel doesn’t have to melt in order to lose strength.  Anyone who’s watched a blacksmith at work knows this; you heat the metal until it starts to glow, and then you hit it with a hammer, and then it bends.  You don’t heat it to make it harder to bend; you heat it to make it easier.

Structural steel has a wide range of properties; it’s not one single thing.  However, within that range (at least in the US), it loses a third of its strength once it’s heated to between 1000–1300 °F.  So, yes, jet fuel can heat steel enough so it fails.

But it’s obvious that, by the time the buildings collapsed, any jet fuel would have long since been consumed.  Since the buildings evidently were actually on fire (I think we can stipulate this), it seems apparent that other things — carpet, furnishings, paint, sheetrock — were what was actually doing the burning at the time.  I can’t tell you just how hot that could have been, but NIST thinks that some spots in the fire passed 1800 °F.  That’s plenty hot enough to make structural steel turn cherry red and bend over like a well-bribed Congressman.

A typical house fire can easily reach 1100 °F.  In a fire-resistive high-rise (like the WTC), greater precautions are used because a tall building acts rather like a chimney; high winds can generate conditions similar to those within a blast furnace.  As a result, spray insulation would be used to cover structural steel members.  Unfortunately, that sort of thing isn’t designed to withstand impact, and certainly not the type of massive lateral impact that would be generated by flying a plane into the side of the building.  And all it would take for the steel to fail would be a crack or two in the cladding — far less damage than is likely in reality.

But I’ve Read About Thermite And Superthermite and Nano-Thermite Residue

First:  There is no such thing as “Superthermite”.  It has entered the language as slang for nanothermite, but it’s not a real word.  Moving on.

Thermite is a mixture of aluminum and oxidized iron; nanothermite is pretty much the same thing, only extremely finely ground and therefore fast-burning.  It burns at 3000°F.  In any building with cheap paint there’s gonna be plenty of aluminum; in any steel building, you can find iron.  Of course there was residue.  According to NIST, there was nothing to suggest any was employed to melt support structures.

On the other hand, I’m going to refer back to a previous section and say, “Why would anyone bother?”

OK, Well, What About Building 7?

WTC7 collapsed several hours after the “main event”.  There were small ongoing fires in the structure, but it seemed to be holding up fine and nobody was really bothering with it.  Then, suddenly, it collapsed.

Skipping right past the obvious question, “Why do we care?” and the second, “Who would bother?”, we’re confronted with the basic truth that there were fires there that nobody was fighting.  Really big buildings had just come down next door and everyone was worried about rescuing survivors.  More to the point, a large number of firefighters had just died in the collapse, so there wasn’t a lot of spare manpower around to do more than contain dangerous situations — which Building 7 didn’t seem to be.

There’s evidence of an extremely large propane tank in the basement with feeder lines going throughout the building, including right next to some main structural members.  Given a nearby seismic event (collapsing towers, anyone?), it’s quite reasonable to presume there was some structural damage to begin with, and prolonged fire can cause steel members to fail.  Frankly, there’s no reason to look any further, which is just what the official investigation concluded.

Speaking Of Seismic Events…

There was an early rumor that seismic spikes registered rather than the seconds-long rumbles that one would expect with building collapses.  It would be interesting if true, because it would suggest that those weren’t real buildings that came down but rather lightweight mockups that… no.  Sorry.  There’s no explanation, however farfetched, for such an event.  There were just too many witnesses.  The buildings were up; then they came down.

Back To The Towers:  What About Lobby Damage?

One theory that suggests explosives use cites massive damage to the lobbies of both tower buildings shortly after the plane strikes.  It seems highly unlikely for fire to travel eighty stories down in order to burn out a lobby.

Again, skipping over the “Why bother?” of it all (since the buildings didn’t need to collapse for the attack to succeed; see above), we’re faced with a need to come up with an alternate explanation.

According to NIST, it’s probable that jet fuel got into elevator shafts and then exploded.  This would rocket the elevator cars to the ground floor, where they would burst open, disgorging corpses and flame.  This explanation mirrors the evident results, and, given the “Why bother?”, I’m inclined to let it go at that.  Unpleasant, seems unlikely, and yet strange things frequently happen in fires and explosions; this is less strange than some things.

But The Towers Went Down Like A Controlled Demolition

They did, in fact.  The eventual collapse was floor-by-floor; we can tell by watching the video.  Debris was blasted out through the windows as a catastrophic chain reaction caused the building to fail one floor at a time.

Controlled demolitions are designed the way they are in order to limit external damage to the surrounding structures, and in order to restrict the debris field for the sake of later cleanup.  Properly done, they are neat and orderly.  It takes a vast amount of planning and effort to make that happen.

Again, I’m compelled to ask why anyone would arrange this.  Why would anyone benefit by arranging a controlled collapse?  Yes, it would reduce the damage to surrounding structures — but the only people who would benefit from that would be the local landlords.  The real estate market on Manhattan is cutthroat, but it’s asinine to suggest that these buildings were destroyed in order to allow for rent increases nearby.

The investigation concluded that the buildings collapsed as they did because of the way they were designed, and a large number of independent civil engineers agree.  It’s considered gauche to design buildings in such a way that they topple into the structures next door — and, on Manhattan, where demolition and reconstruction are a way of life, it’s code.

The Bottom Line

The buildings at the World Trade Center were indeed destroyed by the civilian passenger planes that struck them, spraying them with debris and burning jet fuel.  Given the complexity of the operation, it’s reasonable to explore for other contributory causes — extra bombs in the basement, residual damage from the earlier bombing attempt, that sort of thing — but really, there’s not enough evidence to conclude any such thing happened.

We tend to forget the immediate consequences of these attacks in the light of speculation with regard to the relative truth of the reporting surrounding the events.  They were used as a pretext for invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, they created vast turmoil in the international markets.  Finally, they were used to justify acts of Congress that restricted the freedoms and individual rights of American citizens in a way that hasn’t been done (or possible) ever before.

Even if the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks originated in the US government (or, conversely, within some shadow government behind or inside what we see), there would be absolutely no need for it to involve anything beyond the extremely obvious in order for the above consequences to occur.  There is, therefore, absolutely no reason to conclude that anything more than the obvious took place, and in the absence of evidence, there’s no reason to even consider it.

In future articles, I may explore the money trail and the consequences of the attacks.  I fully expect to expand on my remarks about the existence of a conspiracy, but in case I can’t, let me leave you with this one thought:  The most plausible explanation is that a conspiracy of nineteen-plus people who really hated America and the American way of life decided to kill themselves and thousands of others in a devastating series of attacks on national symbols.  In consequence, horrible things happened and awful things were done — both by the attackers and by the government.

Most of the conspiracy theories about 9/11 are just that:  a distraction from the real issues.  If I were ramming a Patriot Act down the throats of the American people, I couldn’t ask for better cover than a thousand flimsy conspiracy theories.  Don’t let them distract you.

Post-Script:  Flight 93

Flight 93 was hijacked by four men rather than the five on the other flights.  The event took place later in the flight than was the case on the other aircraft, which gave the passengers time to act.  They did so, rushing the cockpit and bringing the plane down in an abandoned quarry.

Given the conclusions of the above article and my preceding one, it seems superfluous to explore the crash in Pennsylvania.  It’s also disrespectful and I find it horrifically distasteful.

There is no reason to presume that the WTC and Pentagon attacks happened as they seem to have done, but that somehow Flight 93 did not.  As well, since it was the fourth plane taken, fighters had been scrambled to intercept with orders to shoot it down.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that they would have failed in this task, and the results in that case would have been very similar to what did in fact happen, which was that terrified passengers heroically brought down their own plane rather than let it be crashed into an occupied building.

Since there are no convincing theories about this particular flight, I see no reason to continue against my inclination.

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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