My previous posting regarding Al-Qaeda seems to have attracted a fair amount of interest, some of it for the wrong reasons. Some commentators seemed to think that I was positioning myself with the 9/11 conspiracy theorists who believe that the atrocities committed on that day were an inside job. Of those who seemed to think I was advocating this, some were outraged by my promoting this position – even though I wasn’t – and some seemed to be happy that I was advocating this position – even though I wasn’t.
For the record, I most certainly do not believe that 9/11 was an “inside job” and I am as convinced as I could ever be that it was the work of Islamists. The more pertinent questions, though, are who were these Islamists, what were their goals and in what way have western governments either misunderstood or ignored these questions?
There appears to me to be a whole lot more to 9/11 than the media have generally allowed. This is not a conspiracy theory – it is just media bias which is often incapable of seeing the most of important parts of a story, whilst raising lesser elements to great heights. That version of events then quickly becomes the generally accepted and received wisdom of the day, and those who question it are often treated with a good deal of suspicion.
The standard version of events surrounding 9/11, according to Wikipedia, is that it was “a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda.” 1 And what is Al-Qaeda? Wikipedia tells us that it is “a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden at some point between August 1988 and late 1989, with its origins being traceable to the Soviet War in Afghanistan.” 2
The “Al-Qaeda”/Afghan connection is of course significant because the main response of the US government to the 9/11 attacks was to launch their “War on Terror” by invading Afghanistan.
This was, however, quite an odd response for a number of reasons. Firstly, although some of those responsible for the atrocities may well have trained in Afghanistan, there were mostly Saudis, not Afghans. Secondly, some of the report into 9/11 by the US Congress was supressed for fear that it would endanger the US government’s relationship with the Saudi government. Thirdly, a film showing Palestinians celebrating in the streets shortly after news was received of the attacks was quickly supressed by the Palestinian authorities. To this day I’m not entirely sure whether many people are even aware of its existence. Fourthly, in the weeks that followed the killings, along with invading Afghanistan, George W Bush’s other significant policy decision was to come out in favor of a Palestinian state – something he had not hinted at before 9/11 and something even Bill Clinton had shied away from endorsing.
In other words, whilst much of the world’s post-9/11 attention was diverted to “Al-Qaeda” and Afghanistan, the far more obvious Saudi/Palestinian connections were largely buried. However, in the aftermath the demands of the terrorists were all granted by the US government. For example, a pre-9/11 video shown on Al Jazeera in 2002 had one of the terrorists, Abdulaziz Al-Omari, saying, “This is a message to all the infidels and to America. Leave the Arabian Peninsula defeated and stop supporting the coward Jews in Palestine or you will suffer the bitterness of defeat in the world and afterworld.” 3 What did the US government do in response to the attacks? They endorsed a Palestinian state, withdrew troops from Saudi Arabia two years later, and ordered the invasion of Afghanistan. The first two out of these three things were directly connected to the men responsible and to their demands; the third was largely unconnected, and yet to this day is still held up as the main connection to the attacks.
Let me reiterate, this is not a conspiracy theory – it is just that some inconvenient facts end up being ignored by the media, and so this becomes the story. I don’t believe that the whole truth has yet been revealed about 9/11, but it seems to me that if it ever does, it may well have far more to say about Ramallah and Riyadh than about Kabul and Kandahar.
But all this begs a much wider question about conspiracy theories in general and to what degree Christians should or shouldn’t listen to them. Here, then, are seven brief points to bear in mind when considering this issue:
- To a certain extent, all Christians must believe in the existence of conspiracies. If we believe in the depravity and deceitfulness of man (Jeremiah 17:9), the reality of the father of lies (John 8:44), the fact that God is prepared to send men strong delusion that they should believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11), and that the princes of this world are able and willing to conspire together (Psalm 2:1-2), then put all this together and you are bound to get conspiracies, plots and cover ups.
- As Christians, we ought to strive to be those with understanding of the times (1 Chronicles 12:32). Part of this means retaining a healthy scepticism about what we see and hear in the media and government, rather than blindly accepting all that gets pushed upon us.
- There is a distinction between believing that conspiracies exist and being a conspiracy theorist. As noted above, of course they exist. We do not even have to speculate about their existence as we could delve into the history books and uncover many examples of conspiracies that have later been uncovered. But that is far removed from being a conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy theorist is someone who has gone way beyond healthy scepticism and now has trouble accepting anything they ever hear.
- It is impossible for us to know the truth about everything we hear. Much of what we get fed by government and media is an obvious pack of lies, some of it is obviously the truth and some of is very difficult to discern whether it is the truth or a pack of lies. However, although we are to be a discerning and aware people, retaining a degree of health scepticism and fishing out lies where we can, it really is not our job to uncover all truth, nor are we capable of doing so, and therefore we are not really redeeming the time if we develop obsessions about it. All truth will be revealed on the Day of Judgement, and some of it will no doubt come as a big surprise to us.
- Know that behind every conspiracy is a sovereign God. It was he that used the ultimate conspiracy for his own good purposes (Acts 4:27), and no doubt he is using modern day conspiracies for his own good purposes also. The Bilderberg group notwithstanding, the counsel of YHWH shall stand (Proverbs 19:21)
- How can you tell if you’ve crossed the line between healthy scepticism and conspiratorial lunacy? Well if you find yourself examining passers-by to see if they have the number 666 tattooed on their forehead, you probably need to back off a bit (joke in case you didn’t get it)!
- Above all do not get bogged down in these things. It can be all too easy for us to think that the most important thing in the world is getting our opinions right on what really happened on 9/11 or Pan Am Flight 103 or Sandy Hook. But in the end, God will call us to account for our relationship with our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, our colleagues, our enemies, not for the fact that we happened to have been right about who really killed JFK. Therefore, if you find yourself spending too much time dwelling on these things, go and change your baby’s diaper, or play ball with your kids or buy your wife something nice. Anything to stick a pin in your lofty conspiratorial bubble and bring you down to things that really matter.