Panama has it’s own conspiracy theories when it comes to politics, highlighted in the recent political turmoil brought to a head by the land grab deal in Paitilla the likely breaking point for Juan Carlos Varela.
Patrick Cockburn in The First Post writes on a bigger conspiracy theory that has survived for 10 years.
We're homing in on the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. One in seven Americans and one in four among those aged 16-24 believe that there was a vast conspiracy in which the US government was involved. But across those 10 years have the charges that it was an "inside job" – a favored phrase of the self-styled "truthers" – received any serious buttress?
The answer is No.
Did the twin towers fall because they were badly built as a consequence of corruption, incompetence, regulatory evasions by the Port Authority, and because they were struck by huge planes loaded with jet fuel?
No, shout the conspiracists, they "pancaked" because Dick Cheney's agents – scores of them – methodically planted demolition charges in the preceding days, inserting the explosives in the relevant floors of three vast buildings, (moving day after day among the unsuspecting office workers), then on 9/11 activating the detonators. It was a conspiracy of thousands, all of whom, party to mass murder, have held their tongues ever since.
Take the plane that struck the Pentagon. Many conspiracists say it wasn't a plane but a missile. Eye-witnesses of a large plane hitting the Pentagon are contemptuously brushed aside. There are some photos of the impact of the "object" – i.e. the Boeing 757, flight 77 – which seem to show the sort of hole a missile might make. Ergo, the Pentagon wasn't hit by a 757 but by a missile.
And yet images exist of the 757 plane hitting the Pentagon, taken by the surveillance cameras at Pentagon's heliport, which was right next to the impact point. Chuck Spinney, now retired after years of brilliant government service exposing the Pentagon's budgetary outrages, tells me: "I have seen them both – stills and moving pictures. I just missed seeing it [the moment of impact] personally, but the driver of the van I just got out of in South Parking saw it so closely that he could see the terrified faces of passengers in the windows. I knew two people who were on the plane. One was ID'd by dental remains found in the Pentagon."
This won't faze the conspiracists. They're immune to any reality check. Spinney "worked for the government". They switched the dental records. The Boeing 757 was flown to Nebraska for a rendezvous with President Bush, who shot the passengers, burned the bodies on the tarmac and gave Spinney's friend's teeth to Dick Cheney to drop through a hole in his trousers amid the debris in the Pentagon.
Of course there are conspiracies. The allegations that Saddam Hussein had WMD amounted to just such a one. I think there is strong evidence that FDR did have knowledge that a Japanese naval force in the north Pacific was going to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor. It's quite possible Roosevelt thought it would be a relatively mild assault and that it would provide the final green light to get the US into the war.
It's entirely plausible to assume that the FBI, US military intelligence and the CIA – as has just been rather convincingly claimed again in the latter instance – had penetrated the al-Qaeda team planning the 9/11 attacks; intelligence reports piled up in various Washington bureaucracies pointed to the impending onslaught and even the manner in which it might be carried out. The history of intelligence operations is profuse with examples of successful intelligence collection, but also fatal slowness to act on the intelligence, along with eagerness not to compromise the security and future usefulness of the informant, who has to prove his own credentials by even pressing for prompt action by the plotters.
Sometimes an undercover agent will actually propose an action, either to deflect efforts away from some graver threat, or to put the plotters in a position where they can be caught red-handed.
There is not the slightest need to postulate pre-placed explosive charges to explain why the towers collapsed at near free-fall speeds. As Pierre Sprey, a former plane and weapons designer who knows a great deal about explosions, told me: "To ensure the collapse of a major building requires very sizable demolition charges, charges that are large enough to do a lot more than emit the 'puffs of smoke' cited as evidence for the explosives hypothesis.
"Take a look at live and filmed explosive building demolitions. Each explosion is accompanied by a very visible shower of heavy rubble and a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Just that fact alone makes the explosives hypothesis untenable; no demolitions expert in the world would be willing to promise his client that he could bring down a tall building with explosions guaranteed to be indistinguishable from the effects of an aircraft impact."
Herman Soifer, a retired structural engineer, summarized the collapse of WTC Buildings 1 and 2 succinctly, in a letter to me, remarking that since he had followed the plans and engineering of the Twin Towers during construction he was able to explain the collapses to his wife a few hours after the buildings went down.
"The towers were basically tubes, essentially hollow. Tubes can be very efficient structures, strong and economical. The Trade Center tubes effectively resisted vertical loads, wind loads and vibrations and could probably have done very well against earthquakes. However, the relatively thin skin of the hollow tube must be braced at intervals to prevent local buckling of the skin under various possible loads, otherwise the tube itself can go out of shape and lose its strength.
"For their interior bracing, the thin-walled tubes of the Trade Center towers depended primarily on the interior floors being tied to the outer wall shells. These floor beam structures were basically open-web joists, adequate for the floor loads normally to be expected. These joist ends rested on steel angle clips attached to the outer walls.
"As the floors at the level of airplane impact caught fire, the open web joists, which could not be expected to resist such fires, softened under the heat, sagged and pulled away from their attachments to the walls. Their weight and the loads they were carrying, caused them to drop onto the next lower floor, which was then carrying double loads also becoming exposed to the heat. Then that floor collapsed, and so it went. But as the floors dropped, they no longer served as bracing for the thin-walled main tubes.
"This loss of bracing permitted the walls to buckle outward in successive sections and thus the house of cards effect."
The conspiracists' last card is the collapse of the adjacent WTC building number 7 some hours after the morning attacks. But here again, as with the Twin Towers, the explanation offered by the US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is more than adequate.
"Collapse was caused by the rupturing of the building's metal framework due to the thermal expansion of its floor beams, which were heated by uncontrolled fires because the water main that supplied the building's fire suppression system had been cut by the collapse of WTC 1."
The NIST team said that the smallest blast event capable of crippling the critical column would have produced "a sound level of 130 to 140 decibels at a distance of half a mile". Yet no noise this loud was reported by witnesses or recorded on videos. Sound at 130 to 140 decibels is about as loud as humans can tolerate.
High grade steel can bend disastrously under extreme heat. As discussed in Wayne Barrett and Dan Collin's excellent book Grand Illusion, about New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, helicopter pilots radioed warnings nine minutes before the final collapse that the South Tower might well go down and, repeatedly, as much as 25 minutes before the North Tower's fall.
What Barrett and Collins brilliantly show are the actual corrupt conspiracies on Giuliani's watch: the favoritism to Motorola which saddled the firemen with radios that didn't work; the ability of the Port Authority to skimp on fire protection; the mayor's catastrophic failure in the years before 9/11/2001 to organise an effective unified emergency command that would have meant that cops and firemen could have communicated; that many firemen wouldn't have unnecessarily entered the Towers; that people in the Towers wouldn't have been told by 911 emergency operators to stay in place; and that firemen could have heard the helicopter warnings and the final Mayday messages that prompted most of the NYPD men to flee the Towers.
That's the real political world, in which Mayor Giuliani and others have never been held accountable. The conspiracists disdain the real world because they wanted to promote Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons to an elevated status as the arch demons of American history, instead of being just one more team running the American empire, a team of more than usual stupidity and incompetence (characteristics I personally favor in imperial leaders). There are plenty of real conspiracies in America. Why make up fake ones?