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From Zion's Herald: An Open Forum for People of Faith, Boston Wesleyan Association, Berwick, ME. July-August 2005, pp. 5-6, 39-40.


9/11: A Christian Theologian's Response: Deceptions of Empire and the Anti-Imperial Gospel of Jesus

David Ray Griffin


In the spring of 2003, near the end of my 31-year teaching career at the Claremont School of Theology, I began writing a book about 9/11, which would be published as The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11. I have often been asked why I, as a Christian theologian, would write such a book.

[For a related commentary, see Ian Markham, “Did Bush Cooperate with Terrorists?” in Zion’s Herald, November/December, 2004.]

The answer is that one of our main tasks as theologians is to comment on current events in light of the fact that our first allegiance must be to God, who created and loves all people, indeed all forms of life. If we believe that our political and military leaders are acting on the basis of policies that are diametrically opposed to the divine purposes, it is incumbent upon us to say this. This is especially the case if we live in a rich and powerful country, the policies of which affect the welfare of other peoples, even other species. This is all the more true if these leaders are claiming divine support for their policies, as did Vice President Cheney in sending out a Christmas card with the statement: “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” [1]

Accordingly, when I came to the conclusion that the Bush-Cheney administration had orchestrated 9/11 in order to promote this empire under the pretext of the “war on terror,” I decided that I needed to say so by means of summarizing the evidence for this conclusion.

I am also often asked how I first came to this conclusion. I did not do so immediately. For about a year and a half, I accepted the government’s conspiracy theory, according to which the attacks were orchestrated entirely by members of al-Qaeda. But I also accepted the standard liberal view, according to which the attacks were “blowback” for US foreign policy. [2] On that assumption, I began working on a book about the American empire.

In the course of my research, I learned that US political and military leaders had, many times in the past, lied about or even created incidents that could be used as pretexts to go to war.  We did this to begin the war with Mexico, to enter the wars in Cuba and the Philippines, and, more recently, to begin the full-out attack on Vietnam. [3]

In also learned about Operation Northwoods, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a document for President Kennedy containing “pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba,” some of which involved killing Americans, such as the proposal to “blow up a U.S. ship in Guantánamo Bay and blame Cuba.” [4]  (Thankfully, Kennedy rejected these proposals.)

Given this research, I might have immediately regarded the attacks of 9/11 as one more fabricated pretext.  But when I first heard this allegation, I replied that I did not think even the Bush administration would do such a heinous thing.  I checked out some proffered websites but found the evidence unconvincing.

A few months later, however, I was given a website containing a 9/11 timeline by Paul Thompson, which presented an enormous number of reports, all drawn from mainline sources, that contradicted the official story and thereby implied governmental complicity of some sort. [5] After studying the evidence, I concluded that there was very strong prima facie evidence of complicity at the highest levels.  I summarized much of this evidence in The New Pearl Harbor [6] (henceforth NPH).  What kind of evidence did I find?

Evidence from before 9/11

Some of the evidence consisted of reports from before 9/11 that contradicted the official story.  Part of this story was that by the summer of 2001, Osama bin Laden was America’s “most wanted” criminal, whom the U.S. government was trying to kill or capture.  And yet in July, according to highly respected sources, he spent two weeks in the American hospital in Dubai, where he was treated by an American surgeon and visited by the local CIA agent (NPH 76-77).  Another part of the official story is that the attacks were a complete surprise.  However, according to attorney David Schippers, who had been the chief prosecutor for the impeachment of President Clinton, highly specific knowledge of the attacks was present in the FBI at least six weeks before 9/11 (NPH 84-85).  According to still further reports, FBI headquarters prevented agents in various cities from pursuing investigations that might have uncovered the plot (NPH 79-83).

Evidence from after 9/11

Another kind of evidence consisted of reports from after 9/11 suggesting that the government was not really trying to solve the case.  I learned of reports that, rather than trying to capture bin Laden in Afghanistan, the US military repeatedly let him and his men escape (105-08); that the US government covered up evidence of funding for the alleged hijackers provided by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, which works closely with the CIA; and that the FBI blocked investigations into the flight schools where the alleged terrorist hijackers undertook flight training (118-19).  And I learned to write alleged hijackers” by discovering strong evidence that at least six of the named men are still alive (NPH 85-87, 169-7). [7]

Evidence from 9/11 itself

The most important evidence, however, comes from 9/11 itself.  Some of this evidence suggests a military stand-down.  Had standard procedures between the FAA and the military been followed that morning, the airliners would have been intercepted within 15 minutes after signs they had been hijacked.  Instead, they reportedly flew through US airspace for 20, 30 or even 40 minutes after such signs were present (NPH 3-11, 41-42, 170-73).  Problems also plague the official story about the attack on the Pentagon, according to which it was hit by Flight 77 under the control of al-Qaeda hijackers.

To mention a few problems: (1) The alleged pilot, Hani Hanjour, was a terrible pilot, who could not have executed the trajectory taken by the aircraft that hit the Pentagon. (2) This aircraft struck the Pentagon’s west wing, which for many reasons would have been the least likely spot for alien terrorists to target.  (3) Several factors, including photographs of the west wing taken right after the strike and the failure of the Pentagon’s anti-aircraft defense system to shoot down the attacking aircraft, suggest that it was not a Boeing 757. (4) Although videos exist that could show what really hit the Pentagon, the government refuses to release them (NPH 25-48, 174-75).

Perhaps the strongest evidence that the attacks were an inside job is provided by the collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7 of the WTC.  These collapses can be explained only as examples of controlled demolition, induced by thousands of explosives placed throughout each building. Why?  For one thing, the official story is that the buildings were brought down by the fires, but fire has never caused steel-frame buildings to collapse, even when the fires have been much larger, hotter and longer-lasting.  Although the official theory says that the collapses were partially caused by the airplane strikes, Building 7 was not struck.

Equally important is the fact that the collapses manifested all the traditional features of controlled demolition: the buildings collapsed straight down and at virtually free-fall speed; many explosions were heard and felt; virtually all the concrete was pulverized into tiny dust  particles, a feat requiring many times the energy available from gravity; pools of molten steel were found beneath the rubble; the collapses were total, reducing, in the case of the Twin Towers, 110-story buildings to piles of rubble no more than three stories high; and most of the steel beams and columns came down in sections about 30-feet long, conveniently ready to be loaded on to trucks (NPH 12-23,175-85).  Installing the explosives in these three huge buildings would have taken thousands of man-hours.  No foreign terrorists could have obtained the required access to the buildings.

The 9/11 Commission Report

Whatever doubts remained after I completed that book were removed when I read The 9/11 Commission Report. [8]  Instead of explaining how all the prima facie evidence of official complicity could be explained away, it simply omitted most of this evidence and distorted the remainder, as I demonstrated in a second book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (henceforth O&D).

To illustrate the omissions: There was no mention of the reports of Osama bin Laden in the American Hospital before 9/11 or of letting him escape after 9/11, of David Schippers and the FBI agents, of the Pakistani payments to the alleged hijackers, of some of these men as still alive, or of any problems in the official story about the Pentagon strike.  There was no discussion of the evidence pointing to controlled demolition of the WTC.  The collapse of Building 7 was not even acknowledged.

One enormous distortion involved an implicit attempt to explain how the Twin Towers could have suffered total collapse.  The core of each tower consisted of 47 massive steel columns, which extended from the basements through the roofs.  Given the official explanation of the collapses, known as the “pancake” theory, those massive steel columns should have still been standing.  The 9/11 Commission Report overcame this problem by declaring that “[t]he interior core of the  buildings was a hollow steel shaft” (O&D 27-28).

After discussing some 115 lies of omission and distortion,[9] I concluded by saying that the Report, “far from lessening my suspicions about official complicity, has served to confirm them.  Why would the minds in charge of this final report engage in such deception if they were not trying to cover up very high crimes?” (O&D 291)

Imperial motives

Allegations of criminal conduct, to be credible, need to show that the accused had the requisite motive.  My study revealed that the Bush administration, including its Pentagon, indeed had such motives, most of which revolved around the desire to expand the American empire.  After 9/11, in fact, members of the Bush administration repeatedly described the attacks as opportunities—“opportunities,” as Rumsfeld put it, “to refashion the world” (O&D 116-17).

One part of the administration’s pre-9/11 plan to refashion the world was to replace the Taliban so that a pipeline to bring oil from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan could be built.  Another plan was to invade Iraq, establish military bases there, and take over its oil.  A third goal, especially important to Rumsfeld, was to fund the US Space Command’s project to put weapons in space (NPH 89-100).

Rumsfeld, along with Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and many others who became members of the Bush administration, belonged to an organization called The Project for the New American Century.  In the fall o 2000, it published a document titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses, which focused on getting more tax money allocated for the technological transformation of the US military, especially the Space Command.  Because this transformation would be very expensive, the document said, it would probably proceed very slowly, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor” (NPH 95-96).

The new Pearl Harbor was effective.  On the evening of 9/11, Rumsfeld, far from being disoriented by the attacks, used them to obtain more money for the military, especially the Space Command (O&D 121).  Since then, furthermore, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were authorized by the US Congress and the president has gotten every additional appropriation he has sought for the so-called war on terror.

Christians and the American Empire

Christians have every reason to oppose the American empire.  As Richard Horsley has recently emphasized, Christianity began as a movement opposed to the Roman empire.  Jesus preached an “anti-imperial gospel.”[10]  And it was that gospel that led to his death.  “That Jesus was crucified by the Roman governor,” says Horsley, “stands as a vivid symbol of his historical relationship with the Roman imperial order.”[11]  What some early Christians thought of this imperial order is shown, moreover, by the fact that the final book of the New Testament portrays Rome as a dragon, which symbolizes  Satan.[12]

Until recently, the fact that America has an empire could not be uttered in public, except by left-wing critics of American foreign policy.  Recently, however, conservatives speak openly and with pride about our empire, with Charles Krauthammer bragging that America is “no mere international citizen” but “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.”[13]

The similarity, however, is said to stop there, because America, unlike Rome, is a benign empire.  Robert Kagan, a member of the Project for the New American Century, has written of “The Benevolent Empire.”[14]  Dinesh D’Souza says that America is “the most magnanimous imperial power ever.”[15]  America’s “track record,” Krauthammer says, proves its benign nature.[16]

Commentators who have actually examined this track record, however, have a radically different view.  A recent book by Noam Chomsky is subtitled America’s Quest for Global Dominance.[17]  Richard Falk has written of the Bush administration’s “global domination project.”[18]  Chalmers Johnson, who was once a conservative who believed that American foreign policy aimed at promoting freedom and democracy, now describes the United States as “a military juggernaut intent on world domination.”[19]

Andrew Bacevich is another conservative who has recently changed his mind.  He now ridicules the claim that although the American military has been seeking “something approaching omnipotence,” power in American hands “is by definition benign.”[20]  He adds that although most Americans comfort themselves with the belief that the United States is “nothing like Rome,” the reality is that “American today is Rome.”[21]

If that is the reality, churches that wish to follow Jesus today may need to ask whether this does not require total opposition to the global domination project.  Churches who are ready to take that step could have no better starting point than exposing the truth about 9/11, which became and has remained the pretext for every new offensive in that project.


1. Quoted and discussed in Ray McGovern, “God on Their Side,” TomPaine.com, December 30, 2003.

2. This term had become well-known prior to 9/11 thanks to Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2000).

3. On Mexico, see Richard Van Alstyne, The Rising American Empire (1960; New York, Norton, 1974), 143.  On Cuba and the Philippines, see Stuart Creighton Miller, Benevolent Assimilation The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 11, 57-66, 237, 245-47, and Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (1980; New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), 155, 307.  On Vietnam, see Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 116-21, and George McT. Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam (Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1987), 220-23.

4. See James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (2001; New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 82-91.  The entire memorandum is printed in Thierry Meyssan, 9/11: The Big Lie (London: Carnot, 2002), 199-205.

5. The website was www.wanttoknow.info; this site then led me to www.cooperativeresearch.org, where Paul Thompson’s timeline was originally posted.  His work has since been published as The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11—and American’s Response (New York: HarperCollins [Regan Books], 2004).

6. The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Northampton, Mass.: Interlink Books [Olive Branch], 2004), 76-77.  Henceforth abbreviated NPH.

7. The latter pages are found in the 30-page “Afterword” for the updated edition of NPH (169-99), which came out in March 2004.

8. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Authorized Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004).

9. These lies are summarized in “The 9/11 Commission Report: A 571-Page Lie.

10.  Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 129.

11.  Horsley, Jesus and Empire, 132.

12.  Rev. 12:9, 13:2, 20:2.

13. Charles Krauthammer, “The Bush Doctrine,” Time, March 5, 2001.

14. Robert Kagan, “The Benevolent Empire,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1998: 24-35.

15. Dinesh D’Souza, “In Praise of an American Empire,” Christian Science Monitor, April 26, 2002.

16. Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Era,” in Andrew J. Bacevich, ed. The Imperial Tense: Prospects and Problems of American Empire (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003), 47-65, at 59.

17. Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (New York: Henry Holt [Metropolitan Books], 2003).

18. Resisting the Global Domination Project: An Interview with Prof. Richard Falk,” Frontline, 20/8 (April 12-25, 2003).

19. Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (New York: Henry Holt [Metropolitan Books], 2004), 133, 52.

20. Ibid., 244.


David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology and one of the directors of the Center for Process Studies. He has published 34 books in philosophy of religion, theology, philosophy, science, and politics. His seven books about 9/11 include Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory (2007), which was awarded a Bronze Medal by the Independent Book Publishers, and The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (2008), which was a Publishers Weekly “Pick of the Week.”