July 1, 2010
The American Conservative

Sometimes Conspiracy Theories Are True

by Alexander Cockburn

Unlike the French or the Italians, for whom conspiracies are an integral part of government activity, acknowledged by all, Americans have been temperamentally prone to discount them. Reflecting its audience, the press follows suit. Editors and reporters like to offer themselves as hardened cynics, following the old maxim "Never believe anything till it is officially denied," but in truth, they are touchingly credulous, ever inclined to trust the official version, at least until irrefutable evidence - say, the failure to discover a single WMD in Iraq - compels them finally to a darker view.

Once or twice a decade some official deception simply cannot be sedately circumnavigated. Even in the 1950s, when the lid of government secrecy was more firmly bolted down, the grim health consequences of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, Utah, and Nevada finally surfaced. In the late 1960s, it was the turn of the CIA, some of its activities first exposed in relatively marginal publications like The Nation and Ramparts, then finally given wider circulation.

Even then the mainstream press exhibited extreme trepidation in running any story presuming to discredit the moral credentials of the U.S. government. Take assassination as an instrument of national policy. In these post-9/11 days, when Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, publicly declares, as he did before the House Intelligence Committee, that the government has the right to kill Americans abroad, it is easy to forget that nothing used to more rapidly elicit furious denials from the CIA than allegations about its efforts, stretching back to the late 1940s, to kill inconvenient foreign leaders. . . .

Maybe now the decline in power of the established corporate press, the greater availability of dissenting versions of politics and history, and the exposure of the methods used to coerce public support for the attack on Iraq have engendered a greater sense of realism on the part of Americans about what their government can do. Perhaps the press will be more receptive to discomfiting stories about what Washington is capable of in the pursuit of what it deems to be the national interest. Hopefully, in this more fertile soil, Syd Schanberg's pertinacity will be vindicated at last, and those still active in politics who connived at this abandonment will be forced to give an account.


Alexander Cockburn co-edits CounterPunch. He is a regular columnist for The Nation and also writes a weekly syndicated column. Among his books are Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate (both co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair) and Washington Babylon, co-authored with Ken Silverstein.

Enver Masud, "The Achilles' Heel of the Official 9/11 Conspiracy Theory," The Wisdom Fund, October 17, 2007

David Ray Griffin, "Osama bin Laden as Responsible for the 9/11 Attacks: Is This Belief Based on Evidence?,", October 30, 2010

[The New York Times this morning has a particularly lush installment of one of the American media's most favored, reliable, and self-affirming rituals -- it's time to mock and pity Those Crazy, Primitive, Irrational, Propagandized Muslims and their Wild Conspiracy Theories, which their reckless media and extremists maliciously disseminate in order to generate unfair and unfounded hostility toward the U.S.--Glenn Greenwald, "Those irrational, misled, conspiratorial Muslims,", May 26, 2010]

[When I let it be known that I was going to tell Dad, who was director of a U.S. Senate sub-committee at the time, about the fatal tortures that the South Koreans were carrying out in our torture chambers, I was told that if I ever breathed a word about this to anybody I would never get home alive.

Nowadays, such information does get out, but I doubt that anybody in the know about 9/11 would ever divulge what really happened and certainly not who was involved in it, because they would have a life expectancy measured in hours. I have some tales I could tell about that, but this would not be healthy for me. After everybody involved in 9/11 is dead, however, I think it is highly probable if not certain that the full truth will come out. There are good reasons why State Department documents remain classified for fifty years.--Robert D Crane, EMail, May 27, 2010]

David Ray Griffin, "Did 9/11 Justify the War in Afghanistan?,", June 25, 2010

[John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain's role in it--Sydney Schanberg, "McCain and the POW Cover-Up: The "war hero" candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam," American Conservative, July 1, 2010]

[The purest example of how Americans are shielded from truth is the media's (including many Internet sites') response to the large number of professionals who find the official explanation of September 11, 2001, inconsistent with everything they, as experts, know about physics, chemistry, structural engineering, architecture, fires, structural damage, the piloting of airplanes, the security procedures of the United States, NORAD's capabilities, air traffic control, airport security, and other matters. These experts, numbering in the thousands, have been shouted down by know-nothings in the media who brand the experts as "conspiracy theorists."--Paul Craig Roberts, "Conspiracy Theory,", June 20 2011]

Wayne Madsen, "9/11: The Ultimate Triumph of the Strategy of Tension,", October 9, 2011

Psychologists Explain 911 Denial, October 10, 2011

Jake Anderson, "10 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be True',", July 19, 2014

"In 1967, the CIA Created the Label 'Conspiracy Theorists' ... to Attack Anyone Who Challenges the 'Official' Narrative,", February 23, 2015

Ron Unz, "American Pravda: How the CIA Invented 'Conspiracy Theories',", September 5, 2016

Patriots Question The 9/11 Commission Report

What Really Happened on September 11, 2001

back button