A Distant View of 9/11
is here as a 44 MB downloadable audio file.
When it all happened on 9/11, I was away from the United States—in the Middle East, to be more precise. I didn’t watch the catastrophe on television; I didn’t have one. (I almost never watch tv, and rarely read newspapers.) And I can tell you that from my detached and distant vantage point the events looked very different than to my friends in America.
So different, in fact, that I ought to begin by telling you that what I write here does not represent the official views of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, nor even the unofficial views of more than perhaps a scattered handful of its members. And with that disclaimer I can now say whatever I want, however strange and radical it might appear.
This then is an account of how 9/11—and events that followed—can be seen from one Krishna conscious point of view.
What we know for sure
The towers fell, and within weeks American troops were in Afghanistan, soldiers of a “global war on terrorism.” But to me—how should I say this?—it didn’t look real. That is to say, I felt a growing sense I was witnessing a colossal, and demonic, fraud.
Here is a note I wrote to myself to help piece together my thoughts, a few days after America went to war in Afghanistan.
What we know for sure about the war
- Political leaders cannot be relied upon to give a true picture of what they are doing and why.
- The news media cannot be relied upon to give a true picture of what is happening and why.
- America opposes terrorism of which America itself is the object.
- When America is not the object, America often shows itself indifferent to terrorism, or actively initiates or supports it.
- America, therefore, is not globally opposed to terrorism.
- That America’s goal is to rid the world of the evil of terrorism is therefore a falsehood.
- We can presume, therefore, that America has other objectives.
- America has substantial economic and military interests in the Middle East.
- Regardless of what else is going on, America is unlikely to put those interests aside.
Political leaders cannot be relied upon to give a true picture of what they are doing and why.
The news media cannot be relied upon to give a true picture of what is happening and why.
America opposes terrorism of which America itself is the object.
When America is not the object, America often shows itself indifferent to terrorism, or actively initiates or supports it.
America, therefore, is not globally opposed to terrorism.
I take this as axiomatic. The history of politics is largely a history of lying. And my mind turned back to something written by my spiritual teacher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in his commentary on the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Writing in 1964 or ’65, he had depicted demonic, morally rotten ultra-materialists—in Sanskrit called asuras—in a way that now seemed helpful in sorting things out:
“The asuras want to enjoy a life of sense gratification, even at the cost of others’ happiness. In order to fulfill this ambition, the asuras, especially atheistic kings or state executive heads, try to equip themselves with all kinds of deadly weapons to bring about a war in a peaceful society. They have no ambition other than personal aggrandizement, and thus mother earth feels overburdened by such undue increases of military strength.”
Note that phrase: “They have no ambition other than personal aggrandizement.” We’ll come back to it later.
Another axiom. In the words of no less an American than Thomas Jefferson: “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”
Examples abound. America supports Pakistan, notorious for its ongoing terrorism in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
And America elsewhere? Shall we pick up another example?
Writing in the Sunday Times (London), here’s a British Army officer who in the 1980’s helped train backward Afghanis into effective modern guerrillas:
“The Americans had been keen we teach them urban terrorism tactics too—car bombing and so on—so that they could strike at Russians in major towns. Personally, I wasn’t prepared to do that, although I realised that eventually they would find someone who was.” 1
Simple logic compels this.
And the rest of the story is simple logic too.
The people called “demons”
Now before we plunge ahead, for a moment let’s look again at that idea of asuras, or “demons.” The term here refers not to fiendish devils with horns, tails, and cloven hooves but to human beings who’ll do anything monstrous to serve their own ends:
- The men who’ll cut the thumbs of village weavers so that cloth mills far away can turn a better profit.
- The heads of state who’ll shoot and starve three million of their own people.
- The cigarette men who’ll pay psychologists and ad agencies to sell tuberculosis and cancer to children.
In the Bhagavad-gita, apart from all that’s said about spirituality, most of Chapter Sixteen tells of men demonic in nature, men proud, arrogant, conceited, harsh, and blind, men who’ll do the vilest things for wealth and power—liars, cheaters, and murderers, often quite sophisticated and refined, who’ll promote vicious enterprises that bring suffering and destruction to the world.
We know of such men: We recognize them easily among the leaders of countries other than our own.
Send our brave young men
Coming back to what I saw from my distant vantage point in the Middle East: The drama of the twin towers, the hijacked planes, and the burning Pentagon was so emotionally gripping, the outrage of the American people so strong, their resolve to protect their homeland and their way of life so determined that who could doubt the rightness of their cause?
Yet from far away in the Middle East, unplugged from the television, getting most news only in summary, I saw not details but broader patterns, patterns that seemed familiar, and unsettling. The sequences were too smooth, too natural, too inevitable, too much like a script.
An unexpected horror, an unprecedented threat, had pulled all America together. An evil villain from Arabia—his next strike could be anywhere!—commands a shadowy network of fanatics sworn to destroy us. Our President vows to drive this evil from the world. Congress rises as one to stand behind him. Allies from around the globe join hands in a coalition. Men and planes and ships, tanks and guns and the latest high-tech gear move off in strength to Afghanistan to crush that evil force, wherever it may be.
In outline: A tragic disaster and a terrifying threat, and to protect all we hold dear and sacred we send our brave young men to — — what by coincidence is the most strategically and economically crucial part of the world. Southeast of Europe … northeast of Africa … south of Russia and the former Soviet Union … west of India and China … and right in the middle of the world’s largest known reserves of oil.
Orwell and the Arabs
As a teenager, I’d been sobered by George Orwell and his negative utopian vision of 1984. Do you remember Emmanuel Goldstein, enemy of the people, the plotting, scheming, deadly mastermind (nonexistent, to be sure) of whom the doublethinking followers of Big Brother were whipped up into constant hatred and fear? How curiously familiar.
Goldstein was Jewish, of course. Yesterday the Jews, today the Muslims.
Now we have our Bin Laden, that deadly mastermind, always plotting and scheming the overthrow of the United States. He’s real. We’ve seen his picture. He hates us. He wants to destroy our democracy. We need to send our troops to go get him—corner him, surround him, smoke him out. Yet the wily Arab escapes us.
What else might be escaping us here?
Global war against terrorism!
Before 9/11, if our President had told the American people we need to rush soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq, would we have acquiesced? Yet after 9/11, to defend our homeland, our democracy, our American way of life—suddenly now all terribly at risk—we stood ready to send men, send planes, send weapons, spend any amount of money. Global war against terrorism!
And note, if you will, that’s it’s a war that has no definable end. It’s not that the emperor can surrender his sword and the war will be over. Even if we kill or capture Bin Laden, now we know it’s no longer enough, for his evil network will live on, threatening our homeland, our democracy, our American way of life. And even if we were to crush Al Qaeda. . . .
In other words: Now that the Cold War is over, the Global War on Terror has begun, and it will require our courage, our fortitude, our patriotism, our sacrifice—for years, for decades, perhaps for a generation or more.
Now we have our soldiers and weapons planted in the Middle East. And we’ll have to keep them there for who knows how long. Because the war on terror will be a long one. And we’ll need to be there “to keep peace in the region.”
But that passage from the Bhagavatam haunts me: The state executive heads “try to equip themselves with all kinds of deadly weapons to bring about a war in a peaceful society. They have no ambition other than personal aggrandizement…”
Could it be true?
A hint from British intelligence
Some months ago, on a flight from the Middle East to America, by chance I found myself sitting next to a tall, strongly built British fellow who, when I asked about his work, told me he worked for British intelligence.
He was stationed in America—on loan, it seems—and was just returning there from Iraq. We chatted a bit, and I floated an offhand comment that perhaps the war in Iraq was less about weapons of mass destruction and more about petroleum. He corrected me: Not petroleum—geostrategy.
I’m sure that wasn’t classified information. And I didn’t probe for any. Nor did I really know what he meant.
I now have a somewhat better idea.
There’s a fascinating book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, formerly National Security Advisor to President Carter, called The Grand Chessboard, published in 1997. There Dr. Brzezinski, obviously a brilliant man, articulates the core of America’s geopolitical agenda.
In essence: For America to retain its standing as the paramount military, political, and economic power in the world it must exercise a controlling influence in Eurasia (the broad expanse of the European and Asian continents).
“About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s GNP and about three fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”
And on the grand chessboard of Eurasia, the fate of the Middle East—southeast of Europe … northeast of Africa … south of Russia and the former Soviet Union … west of India and China … (and right in the middle of the world’s largest known reserves of oil)—is obviously crucial.
Pretexts for war
Would the men who lead America in pursuing its objectives invade a sovereign Middle Eastern country on the pretext of combating global terrorism? Now that we know for sure that Iraq’s fearsome weapons of mass destruction never existed, the answer seems clear.
For countries to attack one another on a pretext is nothing new. Other countries do it, and certainly America as well.
The notion that American leaders had foreknowledge of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor is still a subject of dispute. That American Marines in 1893 invaded Hawaii on the pretext of "protecting American lives and property"—but actually to secure a monopoly on the sugar crop—is mainline history. And other such examples (the Spanish-American War comes to mind) are not hard to find.
That remark still haunts me: The state executive heads “try to bring about a war in a peaceful society. They have no ambition other than personal aggrandizement. . .”
I have nothing against America. Great country. But if I’m to believe the Bhagavad-gita—which I do—America (like every other country in the world) has two kinds of people: the godly and the demonic. And when leaders with demonic ambitions prevail, the limit of the villainy to which those leaders may go defies our power to describe, or even fathom.
“The demonic, their minds crippled, their souls lost, promote ghastly, noxious, horrible deeds that bring destruction to the world.”
The words of the Bhagavad-gita
Yes, I believe that. I don’t trust conspiracy websites, or videos that purport to show the World Trade Center exploding from within, or the Pentagon being hit by a missile rather than a plane, or theories that the world is run by a handful of men sitting somewhere in New York. How can we know? 2
But I do trust the Bhagavad-gita. So I don’t trust men who’ve dedicated their lives to consolidating power and money. Once you get to a certain level—once you’re talking about billions of dollars and whole countries full of resources—the stakes get too high for me to trust that power-seekers and plutocrats act mainly for global benevolence. I’m sorry.
In the words of the Gita, “They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime need of human civilization. And for that end they’ll pull money together by any despicable means.”
What is there they wouldn’t do? For wealth, for power, for lust, kings and heads of state have killed their fathers, sold their sisters, locked their brothers in the Tower. What is there they wouldn’t do?
What levels of loss?
Would the leaders of America invade a sovereign Middle Eastern country on the pretext of combating global terrorism? We’ve answered that already, haven’t we? We know from the war in Iraq.
But for whatever the purpose, would America’s leaders sacrifice innocent civilian lives? We know that too.
After undertaking an on-the-ground survey of deaths in selected areas of Iraq and using the results to reckon the total deaths in the country, a team of researchers wrote in the November 2004 issue of The Lancet, the London-based medical journal, “Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
Further, most of those deaths were from violence, “and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”
And still further: “Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children.”
That of course is beyond the 1,835 fatalities in the US-led coalition as of this May (1,655 of them American) and the 12,348 Americans reported by the Department of Defense as wounded in action.
Presumably, American political leaders who plan for war have reasonably accurate estimates beforehand of what the military and civilian casualties will be. And for the goals they hope to achieve they must think the losses worth it.
What other losses might be worth it?
One of three things had happened
As I thought more, back in 2001, about how strange America looked from my perch in the Middle East and I thought about the World Trade Center attack and the global war on terror, and as I thought about how certain vested interests stood so much to profit—from oil pipelines, from defense spending, from hidden agendas—it looked to me like one of three things had happened:
- That evil renegade Osama Bin Laden had demolished the World Trade Center, and American political and military leaders had taken the opportunity to do precisely what they must have been hoping to do all along: send off their armies to secure military and political primacy in the Middle East.
Or else—could people really do these things?—
- Not willing to wait for a pretext, forces within or affiliated with the American government had themselves engineered the attack.
Or else perhaps a third alternative:
- “We’re going out of town on Tuesday, Osama. The key is under the mat.”
In the logic of war…
I might put the question like this: Would persons of a demonic character sacrifice two big buildings and the lives of 3,000 American civilians for the opportunity to secure political, military, and economic primacy in the oil-rich and geostrategically crucial Middle East?
Back in 1997, Dr. Brzezinski had written:
“It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being.”
The italics are mine. The thoughts are his.
I’m not criticizing Dr. Brzezinski or accusing him of anything. He is known as a political and military realist, and he’s just stating facts. But in the pursuit of power, what might persons of a demonic nature do? The Gita says of them, “They don’t know what they must do, nor what they must not.”
Two big buildings, 3,000 civilians. In the logic of war, not much.
According to the Gita, “The demonic person thinks: ‘So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will grow in the future, more and more. He is my enemy and I have killed him, and I shall kill my other enemies also. I’m in control. I can enjoy. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. I am wealthy and aristocratic. Who else is there like me? I shall sacrifice, I shall give charity—and I shall rejoice.’ In this way, such persons are deluded by spiritual ignorance.”
With insights from the Gita (and our friend from the CIA)
Well, there you have it: one man’s odd view of 9/11, seen from a distance and with some insights from the Bhagavad-gita.
What will I do about it? Not much. I’m not going to go off on a campaign, or devote my life to hopeless investigations, or hold hands in a circle with conspiracy theorists. The history of politics has always been a history of lies. Whatever happened on 9/11, my goals in life are the same, and they have nothing to do with staying forever in this material world.
But as long as I’m telling you the story, I might add one more little item.
I have a friend who under colorful circumstances developed an intimate friendship with a former CIA officer, a man who’d spent twenty-six years with the agency and had a one-dash-one security clearance (as high as you can go). And that man, without unprofessionally disclosing details, would sometimes tell a bit about his life with the CIA.
Since the agency’s job, he said, was to gather intelligence, at least in part for national security, the people there were naturally strong for schemes that would help them keep closer tabs on American citizens: things like internal passports, for example.
The problem, he said, was that as soon you’d try to move an inch in that direction, Americans would start hollering about infringements on their civil liberties, and so you’d have to back off.
And therefore, he said, the agency had this in mind: Employing “the strategy of tension” (create a problem so that people will embrace your solution), they intended to create an incident that would have the American people begging them to increase internal security.
And I tell you this only because my friend told it to me, about a year or so before two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.
2. “A handful of men in New York” aside, since the writing of this essay sober presentations of fact have obliged me to become less dismissive of suggestions that, for example, the collapse of the twin towers may have involved deliberate controlled demolition. For a summary of such ideas, see The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, emeritus professor of philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont School of Theology.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A.C. Bhagavad-gita As It Is. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1983.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A.C. Srimad-Bhagavatam. Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1972–8.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York: Basic Books, 1997.
Carew, Tom. “My life with the mujaheddin.” The Sunday Times (London), September 23, 2003: News Review.
Griffin, David Ray. The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2004.
Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to John Norvell Washington, June 14, 1807.
Macaulay, Thomas Babington. The History of England from the Accession of James II. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1849.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four, a Novel. London: Secker & Warburg, 1949.
Roberts, Les, et al. “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.” The Lancet 364, no. 9448 (2004): 1857–1864.
Apart from the scriptural content of this article, you might have further questions about relevant material facts.
Among the websites that question the US government’s official version of the events of 9/11, many are afflicted by careless speculations and sophomoric rhetoric.
Here is a site that is careful about its evidence and its arguments:
- WTC7.net. The collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 provides a good starting place for a deeper look at empiric facts.
Here is another:
- Journal of 9/11 Studies. A peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
On the other hand, among sites that look skeptically at critiques of the “official version” of 9/11, perhaps this is the best:
- 9/11 Myths. If you’re going to “look deeper at empiric facts,” best to look at both sides.
In 2009 a team of well-credentialed scientists studied samples of dust produced by the destruction of the World Trade Center. They discovered in all the samples distinctive red/grey chips. From extensive tests, the team concluded that the red layer is “a highly energetic pyrotechnic or explosive material.” Their report, published in the peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal, is online here: Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe.
Also worthy of attention is the personal story of Barry Jennings, a New York City official who on 9/11 narrowly escaped from WTC Building 7. In a video interview, he later told of his experience. On 9/11 Mr. Jennings was the deputy director of the Emergency Services Department of the New York City Housing Authority. His account (as well as what happened afterward) raises significant questions about the fall of the building.
You can see the uncut video interview and find out more at Barry Jennings Mystery. Though this is an “advocacy site,” questioning the official account of 9/11, at the top of the page it does a fine job of documenting Mr. Jennings’s story, a story neglected by the mainstream press.
Gupta Nama Dasa, American by birth, is a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
This article was first posted on September 6, 2005.
© 2005 Gupta Nama Dasa