April 18, 2012

Bookshelf: The Oklahoma City bombing revisited

Edward Jay Epstein, Wall Street Journal - At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a huge truck bomb destroyed a large part of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, damaging more than 300 other buildings and killing 168 people, including 19 children at a day-care center. The bombing was the deadliest terror attack America had experienced before the 9/11 assault and, understandably, caused a public outcry for justice.

In a matter of days the FBI established that the bombing was the work of a conspiracy. While that word may not always sit well with journalists, conspiracies are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to perpetrating such crimes. According to the Center on Law and Security at Fordham University, which tracks federal terrorism cases, 92% of all federal indictments for such cases since 2001 contained a conspiracy charge.

"Oklahoma City," an extraordinarily well-researched book, asserts that the FBI investigation of the bombing was badly flawed and missed, or disregarded, evidence of a larger conspiracy. The authors, Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles, are both highly regarded investigative reporters who have been immersed in this case for more than a decade. (Mr. Charles also worked as an investigator for the legal team defending McVeigh.) They were given access to vast amounts of material assembled by the defense teams, including 18,000 FBI witness interviews; and the authors extensively corresponded with Mr. Nichols in the supermax prison where he is held in Florence, Colo. Messrs. Gumbel and Charles have no doubt that McVeigh and Mr. Nichols were guilty as charged in the conspiracy, but the authors raise the question: "How far did the conspiracy go?"

The Review's Oklahoma City archives

Progressive Review, June 2006 - A thinker's guide to conspiracy theories 

- A conspiracy does not have to be illegal; it can merely be wrongful or harmful.

- The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by elite media and politicians to denigrate questions or critical presumptions about events about which important facts remain unrevealed.

- The intelligent response to such events is to remain agnostic, skeptical, and curious. Theories may be suggested - just as they are every day about less complex and more open matters on news broadcasts and op ed pages - but such theories should not stray too far from available evidence. Conversely, as long as serious anomalies remain, dismissing questions and doubts as a "conspiracy theory" is a highly unintelligent response. It is also ironic as those ridiculing the questions and doubts typically consider themselves intellectually superior to the doubters. But they aren't because they stopped thinking the moment someone in power told them a superficially plausible answer. Further, to ridicule those still with doubts about such matters is intellectually dishonest.

- There is the further irony that many who ridicule doubts about the official version of events were typically trained at elite colleges where, in political science and history, theories often take precedent over facts and in which substantive decisions affecting politics and history are presumed to be the work of a small number of wise men (sic). They are trained, in effect, to trust in (1) theories and (2) benign confederacies. Most major media political coverage is based on the great man theory of history. This pattern can be found in everything from Skull & Bones to the Washington Post editorial board to the Council on Foreign Relations. You might even call them conspiracy theorists.

- Other fields - such as social history or anthropology - posit that change for better or evil can come as cultural change or choices and not just as the decisions of "great men." This is why one of the biggest stories in modern American history was never well covered: the declining birth rate. No great men decided it should happen.

- Homicide detectives and investigative reporters, among others, are inductive thinkers who start with evidence rather than with theories and aren't happy when the evidence is weak, conflicting or lacking. They keep working the case until a solid answer appears. This is alien to the well-educated newspaper editor who has been trained to trust official answers and conventional theories.

- The unresolved major event is largely a modern phenomenon that coincides with the collapse of America's constitutional government and the decline of its culture. Beginning with the Kennedy assassination, the number of inadequately explained major events has been mounting steadily and with them a steady decline in the trust between he people and their government. The refusal of American elites to take these doubts seriously has been a major disservice to the republic.

- You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please compare the photographs of the aftermath of the recent Pakistan airliner crash, with the photographs of the crashes on 9-11, especially Shanksville.
You might also consider, the next time you fly, whether it seems to you that your airplane could bring down a skyscraper by crashing into the top of it. At WTC, that left about 80 floors below that were 100% intact but vanished completely in an hour or two.