9 - 1 1 R e s e a r c h essays

Picking Up Where Partridge Leaves Off:
Researchers Address a 9/11 Skeptic

by Victoria Ashley and Jim Hoffman

May 6, 2006

Version 1.0

In a recent article in CommonDreams.org, The Crisis Papers co-editor Ernest Partridge described receiving a series of angry responses to comments he made during a radio interview:

About half-way through the hour-long program, the conversation was going well, until I expressed some doubts about the "controlled demolition" hypotheses of the collapse of the World Trade Center. That comment sealed the fate of the remainder of the hour . . .

This unexpected response prompted Partridge to take a weekend to examine the diverse claims countering the official version of events on 9/11/01, and pen his essay, The 9/11 Conspiracy: A Skeptic's View.

Given the dearth of media coverage of challenges to the official version of events of that day, it is not surprising that Partridge was caught off-guard by his listener response. While mainstream media was dutifully covering every nuance of the 9/11 Commission, people worldwide -- discovering that the puzzle pieces of 9/11 didn't fit -- were seeking information elsewhere. Because the most basic questioning of the official version has been pejoratively labeled the work of "conspiracy theorists," and summarily dismissed in progressive venues such as The Nation, few intellectuals have examined the unanswered questions in depth.

Partridge's sober treatment of the issue is thus refreshing, as he both refutes nonsensical alternative theories and highlights absurdities of the official account. He points out a handful of striking anomalies that undercut the official version of events, including the destruction of an air traffic controller interview tape, and the unconvincing explanation for the collapse of 47-story WTC 7, thus showing a willingness to go beyond the familiar and sweeping 'incompetence theory' put forth for every outrage from 9/11, to WMDs, to the 2004 election debacle.

However, Partridge rejects outright two of the most popular claims implying insider engineering of the attack: "that the WTC towers were brought down by pre-set demolition charges, and that the Pentagon was not struck by a Boeing [757]." He walks us through his rationale and even supplies his own theory: that the Bush administration anticipated the attack and allowed it to proceed -- thinking it might only involve an attack on the Pentagon similar in scale to the USS Cole bombing -- and then exploited it to launch their wars.

Here, the contrast becomes apparent between Partridge's treatment of anomalies suggesting Bush administration foreknowledge (i.e., the behavior of the Secret Service at Booker Elementary and surges in pre-attack put options on the targeted airlines) and treatment of anomalies suggesting insider engineering. Notably, Partridge attempts to debunk only the latter type and, in the case of the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks, focuses on easily debunked claims while overlooking undisputed facts and bodies of evidence which don't fit his position.

One reason that Partridge's position is understandable -- limiting his speculations to scenarios short of ones in which insiders orchestrated the destruction of the World Trade Center -- is that these are dark and difficult areas for anyone to fathom. All Americans are being pressured to accept or deny an increasingly dire, contradictory, and painful series of debacles and general lawlessness under the Bush administration. But fathom such recesses we must if we are to reclaim our future. There is little hope of escaping the endless war as long as the events on which it is predicated remain unexamined.

Because of the emotionally charged nature of the attack -- as shown by the tearful We're not ready! outcry to the premiere of United 93 almost five years on -- many would-be common-sense cognitions about the events become distorted or denied entirely. As with any traumatic event, an individual's understanding of 9/11 typically progresses through stages; an objective understanding is not easily attained through a weekend of study.

We pick up the analysis of 9/11 where Partridge left off.

What Hit the Pentagon

Partridge ridicules the Pentagon no-jetliner theory:

Hundreds of eyewitnesses on the George Washington Parkway at morning rush-hour were either (a) victims of mass-hallucination, or (b) taken aside and threatened or bribed to testify falsely that they saw a commercial aircraft.

Immediately after the impact, squads of conspirators rushed to the scene (including the inside of the burning Pentagon) to plant body parts, personal effects, and bogus aircraft parts (some, like the engines and landing gear weighing several hundred pounds). Others dumped aviation fuel, to "falsely" suggest involvement of an airplane.

With just a few paragraphs Partridge disposes of the case against the crash of Flight 77 at the Pentagon by exposing its essential absurdities. He does not address detailed claims of the no-Boeing theorists, which are so numerous their debunking could amount to a full-time job.

Unfortunately, the popularity of the heavily promoted Loose Change and In Plane Site films, and Pentagon Strike Flash video have given the no-jetliner theories legs through misleading presentation and reframing of evidence. An example involves claims about the size of the impact hole in the Pentagon's facade. Pre-collapse photographs clearly show that the facade was punctured for a width of 18 feet on the second floor, but more than 96 feet on the first floor. Yet no-jetliner promoters, such as Thierry Meyssan, David Von Kleist, and James Fetzer steadfastly insist that "the hole" was only 18 feet in width. Each supports this claim through the selective presentation of photographs in which fire suppression foam spray conceals the first-floor damage.

When, Where, How, and Why the Pentagon Was Hit

Partridge's focus on the sensational no-Boeing theory makes it easy to miss his failure to address undisputed facts of the attack that suggest planning by insiders.

First, the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 AM, 77 minutes after the first flight showed all the signs of a hijacking. The explanation advanced by the 9/11 Commission for the failure to defend the US military's headquarters lacks basic plausibility, and is all the more astounding given that the Pentagon is just 11 miles from Andrews Air Force Base, with USAF and ANG fighter squadrons.

Second, the location of the attack -- the west side of Wedge One -- was sparsely occupied as it was nearing completion of its renovation program. By 9/11/01, only Wedge One had been retrofitted with blast-resistant walls.

Third, the attack involved an extreme aerobatic maneuver culminating in a tree-top approach to impact the first floor -- a maneuver that might have been beyond the skill of any human pilot, let alone that of alleged suicide pilot Hani Hanjour, deemed too incompetent to fly a single-engine Cessna.

Fourth, multiple war games were being conducted on 9/11/01, some with scenarios mimicking elements of the actual attack. The consequent deployment of interceptor jets to northern Canada and confusion between exercises and the real attack may help to explain the failure of the military to respond, but was the scheduling of these exercises a mere coincidence?

That Partridge missed this compelling circumstantial evidence of insider planning of the attack is not surprising given the extent to which it has been eclipsed by the no-Boeing theory.

The Destruction of the World Trade Center

Partridge attacks much of the "evidence" presented by "WTC conspiracy theorists," with a mixture of valid and flawed arguments.

In attacking the demolition theory, Partridge makes four claims:

We examine each of these claims in turn.

Fallacious Arguments for Demolition

Partridge correctly flags as irrelevant one of the more common arguments made for demolition: that hydrocarbon-fueled open fires burn at temperatures far below the melting points of structural steels. This argument does not refute any of the collapse theories endorsed by official reports, which blame fires for weakening, not melting, steel.

The real question is whether the fires could have sufficiently weakened steel to induce a collapse event. Partridge states:

The temperature sufficient to weaken steel by fifty-percent (1170°F) was well within the range of the burning jet fuel and office supplies.

But NIST's investigation found only three perimeter columns and two core column specimens that showed evidence of having reached 482°F -- a temperature at which steel retains 99% of its strength. Furthermore, even if the combination of crash damage and fires could cause structural failures in the Twin Towers, one is left with the question of how any initial failure could have led to the Towers' total, explosive collapse -- a question strategically avoided by NIST's investigation, whose analysis stops at the moment each Tower was "poised for collapse."

The Missing Structural Steel

Although Partridge criticizes authorities for withholding and destroying evidence, he defends their treatment of structural steel from the World Trade Center, claiming that it was "examined by forensic engineers" on Staten Island. However, the articles he cites mention forensic examination of debris only for human body parts and personal effects. Despite that effort, more than 1,000 bodies were never identified.

Partridge doesn't mention that FEMA's collapse inquiry relied on volunteer engineers, and was funded with a paltry $600,000. Summarizing this Congressional Report, the New York Daily News reported:

About 80% of the structural steel from the World Trade Center was scrapped without being examined by even one fire expert, mostly because investigators did not have the authority to preserve the wreckage as evidence, the experts said.

Nor does FEMA's final Report inspire confidence in the thoroughness of their forensic work. According to Appendix D:

Collection and storage of steel members from the WTC site was not part of the BPS Team efforts sponsored by FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). SEAoNY offered to organize a volunteer team of SEAoNY engineers to collect certain WTC steel pieces for future building performance studies.

How many steel pieces did they save for future studies? According to the same Appendix, 146 pieces. Furthermore, their report was inconclusive about the cause of the collapses and called for "further research, investigation, and analysis" at a time after the vast majority of structural steel had been recycled.

Despite its limitations, the BPS disclosed in Appendix C of its Report -- Limited Metallurgical Examination -- that:

The severe corrosion and subsequent erosion of Samples 1 and 2 are a very unusual event. No clear explanation for the source of the sulfur has been identified. The rate of corrosion is also unknown.

The New York Times called the phenomenon, which turned a solid steel girder into "Swiss cheese," "the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation". The unanswered questions surrounding the corroded steel were entirely ignored by NIST's subsequent investigation.

Evidence for Demolition

Partridge maintains that all claims, whether for official or alternative theories, rest on "weak" evidence:

For [the public], the evidence is 2nd, 3rd, and Nth-hand hearsay. The best evidence available to us, when relevant, are photographic and video images, and even these are subject to various interpretations.

While it is true that authorities systematically destroyed and suppressed evidence, creating space for vapid speculations that the plane crashes were faked, the nature of the destruction of the Twin Towers is documented by a mountain of surviving evidence, including:

Taken together, these bodies of evidence show the destruction of each of the Twin Towers exhibited the following characteristics:

  1. Sudden onsets of the Towers' telescoping descents
  2. Sounds of loud explosions immediately beforehand
  3. Rapid descents, only slightly slower than free-fall
  4. Rows of horizontal jets of dust emerging from the facades
  5. Radial symmetry about Towers' vertical axes
  6. Total destruction, leaving virtually no large sections intact
  7. Rapid growth of exploding dust clouds to four times the Towers' diameters
  8. Hurling of heavy projectiles distances as much as 500 feet
  9. Thorough pulverization of most non-metallic materials to powder
  10. Observations of molten metal in the rubble up to six weeks afterward

None of these features has ever been observed in any natural collapse of any structure. The first six features are characteristic of conventional controlled demolitions of skyscrapers. The last four features indicate the involvement of much more energy than is used in such demolitions.

In civil engineering, controlled demolitions are usually designed to minimize disturbances to surroundings, so they remove tall buildings by imploding them from the ground up, minimizing the quantities of explosives required. As part of deadly psychological operations, demolitions would be designed for a very different set of objectives, such as hiding resemblances to conventional demolitions, supporting a contrived narrative of events, destroying evidence, and maximizing shock.

The differences between the Towers' explosions and demolition implosions should not prevent us from us from understanding that both are necessarily engineered events. No natural process could maintain the rapidity or symmetry of the Towers' descents, nor achieve the thoroughness of the destruction evident in the Towers' remains.

Engineering the Demolitions

Partridge's most persuasive argument against demolition is that the crashes of the jetliners would have wreaked havoc with pre-positioned explosive charges in the Towers. However, if numerous small charges were positioned around the crash zones, the detonation of some by the crashes would easily have been disguised by the massive jet fuel fireballs. Furthermore, charges could have been encased in protective packages designed to withstand extreme accelerations and sustained exposure to high temperatures, similar to the casings that protect aircrafts' black boxes.

Conclusion

Although Partridge has shown courage to expose absurdities of the official version of events on 9/11/01, he does not equally acknowledge the numerous strong arguments for the intentional demolition of the WTC Towers, and minimizes the evidence supporting those arguments as "2nd, 3rd, and Nth-hand hearsay." In fact, however, the vast public collection of visual records, eyewitness interviews, and scientific reports form a body of first-hand evidence of unprecedented redundancy and verifiability.

It's easy to understand reluctance to confront the case for demolition. It implies that, not only were the gates held open for attackers to kill unwitting American innocents, but that the spectacular grand finale was conceived and engineered long in advance. Controlling the entire event would maximize and guarantee a necessary propaganda outcome for war.

One need only ask: when have the most powerful politicians and billionaires chosen a strategy of 'wait and see' where their fortunes and futures are concerned? Examined logically, the idea that those with the power to wage war on the world or stand down the US military on 9/11 would let a handful of Arab patsies determine the ultimate fate of attacks on the 'homeland' -- i.e., perhaps hitting a nuclear plant or missing their targets altogether -- is far more difficult to imagine than creating and controlling a raw shock-and-awe display of power which could then be blamed on others.



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