On all sides of the political spectrum, limits exist. On the respectable (sic) Right, for example, it’s fine to rant and rave about the sanctity of “unborn lives” but not acceptable to post pictures of abortion doctors on your website. The Left, contrary to popular belief, has limits of respectability (sic), too. For example, leftists can get hot and bothered over Bush not reacting to pre-9/11 warnings. However, those who go further and implicate the U.S. government in any way, shape, or form…well, they are banished to realm of “conspiracy theory.”
“The seeming paranoia of conspiracy theorists is not necessarily the result of some underlying mental dysfunction or of stupidity,” declares Jonathan Vankin, author of “Conspiracies, Cover-Ups, and Crimes.” “The dysfunction is with American society, maybe even civilization as a whole. The structure of civilization itself requires mass adherence to faith in the institutions that built civilization and make it run. Conspiracies theorists question those authorities and, because they do, they skirt the fringes of society.”
Actively skirting the fringes of society is Sander Hicks … founder of Soft Skull Press and now Vox Pop / Drench Kiss. Hicks gained national notoriety when he published Jim Hatfield’s controversial Dubya biography, “Fortunate Son.” The scathing, well-documented expose of the Bush dynasty resulted in near financial ruin for Soft Skull, a brilliant film documentary, and Hatfield’s tragic suicide. Through it all, Hicks remained focused and ever-searching.
Hicks is a poet, playwright, publisher, a punk rock showman. For anyone looking to get a handle on him, consider this: He was the first publisher to give me a book deal. That might offer some insight into his style…or his sanity?
Besides starting up a new publishing company and bookstore in Brooklyn, Hicks has turned his focus to the “day everything changed” and the result is a book due out in 2005: “The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistleblowers, and the Cover-Up“. In the interest of tossing Hicks’ provocative and well-researched take into the mix, I asked him some questions about 9/11. The results are below.
MZ: Whether it’s from a mainstream media outlet or respected left wing scholars, the reflexive reaction to those who question the official 9/11story ranges from condescension to outright mockery. What led you to take a closer look at this story?
SH: With Jim Hatfield, I was publishing the Bush/bin Laden connection starting in 1999. I think his “Fortunate Son” bio was the most above ground that material had become until then, until it was forced back down. When 9/11 happened, for me it was in the wake of Jim’s suicide. Less than two months earlier, Jim had thrown in the towel after two years of being prevented from making public a few simple, documented truths about Bush. So I was kind of in a natural position to become someone who looks at 9/11 with a lot of skepticism. It’s a skepticism based not only on facts, but facts that have proven to be highly sensitive, sore spots on the Bush body politic.
MZ: What kind of reactions has your skepticism provoked?
SH: I’ve been lucky enough to work with editors at Long Island Press who really believed in this stuff, maybe because I was telling the 9/11 story in a specific, personal way, through the stories of 9/11 widow Ellen Mariani, or researcher Daniel Hopsicker. So I can’t take the classic position of bitching about being totally ignored by mainstream media…hell, New York Press actually asked me to review the 9/11 Commission Report, and it was hell of a lot of fun tearing that thing down to its oily elements. I feel the work at INN World Report has been ignored by bigger television outlets but that’s no surprise. I feel it’s been kind of well appreciated on the Net, instead.
We’re at a time now when this stuff is beginning to break above ground again. One thing I keep hearing in mainstream radio outlets that are beginning to put a toe in the water, is “well, there are a lot of theories out there and the more we hear about all of them, the less we’ll know which is true.” That is so backward. The process of inquiry and dialogue and choice and rationality itself necessarily means that the lousy, kooky theories will be discarded by the process. The truth will come out.
MZ: I’m glad you mentioned the “kooky” angle (although there’s not much out there more “kooky” than trusting the government to objectively investigate itself). How can a skeptical observer differentiate between the research you’re talking about and theories that involve remote-controlled planes and/or explosives pre-planted in the Pentagon or WTC? Let’s say I’m just beginning to re-evaluate the 9/11 story…where do I begin?
SH: Well actually, first I have to say I’m not against speculating about explosives at the WTC. Even longtime peace activist John Judge told me in our interview (http://sanderhicks.com/judge.html) that there well could have been explosives planted, it doesn’t mean the Federal Government was complicit, though. Whoever pulled off 9/11 could have planted them. Explosives per se don’t indict any party.
To answer your question more directly about how to determine what’s worthwhile, and what’s crap…well it’s an important question. When you have a sensitive topic here, when so much political power is involved, there’s going to be a series of false reports, disinformation put forth to obscure the real story, red herrings to throw off the dogs. It happened in the JFK assassination, and it’s happening now.
My quick analysis on how this is happening right now would be to point out two red herrings: The Pentagon Theory and the accusations of anti-Semitism. Paul Thompson of the 9/11 Timeline was on the Morning Sedition show and host Mark Marin dismissed the entire 9/11 Truth website by saying, “Oh, it’s one of those sites that say no plane hit the Pentagon.” We’re being judged by our weakest link. And it is pretty weak.
You had rush hour traffic on I-395 that saw the plane hit, you have 100 eyewitnesses compiled in the pamphlet published by Penny Schoner. Where the hell did this theory come from? Thierry Meyssan’s book “The Horrible Fraud” was the original source. Meyssan wrote his book from Paris, he didn’t travel over here. The book is highly imaginative, and in the middle of a trauma, people are searching for answers. A lot of people in the 9/11 truth movement glommed onto this one and I think it’s hurt our credibility over all. You have to wonder if that was by design. For instance, all the right-wing magazines (e.g. National Review) have had a field day.
I’ve also seen media voices dismiss the entire topic of 9/11 questioning by sweeping it all into some kind of anti-Semitic whacko camp.
MZ: When writing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, I learned to never underestimate the collective power of arrogance and racism. Racists within the U.S. military and government never imagined that Japan could orchestrate such a successful offensive. Few Westerners took the Japanese seriously and FDR himself dismissed the Japanese as combat pilots because they were all presumed to be “near-sighted.” It’s easy to imagine that Clinton and/or Bush had more than an inkling that Osama and Co. were plotting something big. It’s equally as palatable to assume that either administration would gladly exploit any attack on the homeland for their benefit and that of their corporate benefactors. What reasonably objective observer would be shocked to learn that both U.S. regimes never believed that a group of cave-swelling nomads could pull off anything approaching the success of 9/11?
SH: Racism is a big part of this country’s history and its present modus operandi, at home and in the newly globalized world. But in the case of 9/11, we knew damn well that we weren’t dealing with “cave-dwelling nomads.” Al-Qaeda is a well-funded organization. They were an outgrowth of the CIA/Pakistani ISI relationship, funding the Mujahedeen. When the US pulled out after the end of the Cold War, Saudi money and Pakistani intelligence stepped in. In fact, I have a source in the Indian Army, Major General Vinood Saighal, who has published three books, in which he refers to “the Al Qaeda/Taliban/ISI combine”. But wait, Pakistan’s our ally, right? You don’t get this perspective in the US.
Look closer at 9/11 and it seems likely Mohamed Atta was a double agent, playing both sides. Look at Daniel Hopsicker’s work in Florida, that tracks Atta’s moves in strip clubs and cocaine bars. How did Atta get in this country twice without a visa? The guy had juice. Or look at Professor Peter Dale Scott’s excellent excoriation of the 9/11 Commission Report, called “How to Stop Terrorism,” Al Qaeda chieftain Ali Mohamed was “almost certainly an out-of-control informant for the FBI.” Scott backs this up with sources and the paper trail. Ali Mohamed is the guy who photographed the Kenyan embassy that Al Qaeda then bombed. He’s an Al Qaeda mastermind, and like, Atta, is also Egyptian. I wonder which one of these guys was that “mole” that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was referring to when in Fall, 2001 he told newspapers Egyptian intelligence and Mubarak himself warned the US about 9/11.
So, I think the question is a little bit off, because you’re suggesting this country (USA) may have been foiled by its own arrogance and its racist assumption that the terrorists couldn’t have pulled this off, right? Well, what I’m saying is that the $400 billion a year war machine and the $40 billion a year intelligence machine had its paw prints all over these guys. They didn’t underestimate them. They allowed these guys to get riled up for a cause, and then do something that would in the end, hurt that cause greatly. Because it would justify a US military expansion.
The real racist tragedy is when you have 9/11 people who know nothing about history or foreign policy or politics who advance theories that completely ignore smoking guns, like the CIA/ISI connection. Their theories tend to veer into the esoteric. Really imaginative territory, like the “In Plane Sight” video. I’m not sure who they blame, they seem to think that the attack originated deep inside the war machine itself. But Arab anger is real. The real trick is to not only see it, but to understand it, and then to understand how it could have been manipulated. In the end, double agent Atta swore allegiance to Bin Laden, and that’s who he died for. He cared very deeply about the Palestinian “homeland” as he called it. If he did have US intel connections, as the evidence shows, he was probably thinking he could play both sides and then have it blow up in our face. What he didn’t figure is his handlers were one step ahead of him.
MZ: How would you summarize your perspective on 9/11?
SH: Reality is a construction. We’re told what to believe by the government and media. Most people play along, pay taxes, support the troops and the wars that are part and parcel of capitalism. But there are some who drop out and fall away from the death machine. God bless them.
MZ: For those who fall away from the death machine, what actions or steps can we take to do something about this? What can the average person do to help bring out the truth and how does that fit into the larger activist picture?
SH: Jeez, it’s hard to answer that and not come off as a holier-than-thou Pharisee who’s telling people what to do. For my own part, I was working on houses, for the past couple years. I was listening to Democracy Now every day in New Mexico (out in the mountains up north there you can get it on like 3 different channels). It got to a point where I felt like things had gotten too weird, I had to get back into independent media, in a whole new way, try to present an alternative to the alienation and paranoia by creating media and community empowerment systems that showed the world how much we all have in common. So that’s what I’m doing, Vox Pop, the coffee-house/bookstore/publishing company. I’d like to order the world to come participate, but all I can do is open the door.
MZ: Can you offer some resources for readers to follow-up?
SH: These are the guys/gals I like: Daniel Hopsicker, Mike Ruppert, Robert Parry, Peter Dale Scott, Gary Webb, Lois Ann Battuello, Anthony Lappé, and Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
Sander Hicks can be reached at email@example.com (or by visiting the sites mentioned above).
MICKEY Z. is the author of four books, most recently: “The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda” (Common Courage Press). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.