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War on Terrorism (Politics)
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Is Ossama bin Ladin Dead?

Has he been dead for years?

Was he truly responsible for 9/11?

A number of things always disturbed me about the video in which Bin Ladin takes credit for 9/11, discovered shortly after the downfall of the Taliban. The tape contained not one single surprise -- not one single bit of new information. Everything was exactly as expected and exactly what was hoped for. The tape was perfect.

    1. I was particularly struck by the "Bin Laden" figure crediting part of the mission's success to his own knowledge of structural engineering. This was something that I had specifically heard from several "talking head" analysts in the weeks following 9/11. What were the chances that Bin Laden would bring such a thing up in conversation? He behaved as though responding directly to American media speculation, but he was supposedly speaking with some Saudi Sheik.

    2. The "Bin Ladin" figure also mentions that some of the hijackers did not know the specifics of the mission until the day of the attack. This was another detail on which the western press had speculated -- though some had wondered if there were hijackers onboard who did not even know they were on a suicide mission. Bin Ladin seemed again to be picking up on this theme. He clarified that, yes, some of the hijackers did not know what the purpose of the emission was but, no, all were aware it was a suicide mission.

    3. In every known interview/recording made prior to this tape, Bin Ladin denied direct responsibility. This tape was exactly the evidence the CIA was hoping to find. And presto -- there it was.


For all these reasons -- but especially the first two -- I felt real discomfort as I watched the video tape. That discomfort has never left me, though I have for years at a time ignored it. What would it mean after all? That the CIA faked the tape? If not the CIA, then who?

Of course, I have also been an avid reader of the writing of Laurie Mylroie, an expert on Iraq once so respected she was selected as Bill Clinton's advisor during his first presidential campaign. Now-a-days, her reputation is in ruins, due to her insistence that Iraqi intelligence was behind 9-11 and Bin Laden was only ever a front group. She had actually connected Iraq to the first World Trade Center bombing back in 2000, in her book Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America.

Make of that conspiracy theory what you will. Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to dismiss it.

But the reason I raise this matter is a point made in an article I read just today.

In life, as in math, you must judge the function of a factor in any equation by factoring it out and seeing if the equation still works. Factor out Osama [bin Laden]. Chances are, 9/11 still happens. Factor out al Qaeda too. Maybe 9/11 still happens. The other bombing plots sure happened without it. But if you factor out the KSM [Kalid Sheik Mohamed] group, surely there is no 9/11, and without the KSM group, there is no way al Qaeda would have become a household word.
-- Ossama Bin Elvis


The KSM group is composed of a few, closely related Baluchs (from Baluchistan, Pakistan). The same family spawned both Kalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramsi Yuseff, the masterminds of each of the two attacks on the WTC. The KSM group "carried out the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and every other act for which al Qaeda became known."

To me, this seems a perfect epistemological analysis. One must conclude on its basis that, whatever else may be true, the power of al Qaeda is a myth built around what was essentially a Baluchistani/Pakistani core (Milrorie believes this group had no motive to attack the U.S. but she claims Iraq long relied upon the region for recruits into its intelligence service).
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Grant



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Bin Laden gave up a life of riches to lead a very austere and unsuccessful terrorist life in the years prior to 9/11. But the first thing he did after the Twin Towers fell was to deny any responsibility for it!

Then, once he starts being blamed in the media, he changes his tune and starts releasing very poorly made videos. And why so few videos? It's not that difficult to make a video, even if you live in a cave. If I was OBL, I'd release a new video each month, with a greatest hits compilation at Christmas.

It just shows the stupidity of the average American and Briton and how easy it is for the establishment to get them to believe anything.
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Grant



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Another thing probably gives you discomfort but you don't want to mention it in case we think you're a looney tune. Why did the Twin Towers fall? Why have no buildings fallen like this before or since? Why did WTC 6 fall when no plane even hit it?

The official story is that in each case the top collapsed with such a force that the structures underneath gave no resistance. But as far as I am aware, no engineer has ever been able to provide a computer model showing how this could have occurred. Hundreds must have tried because nowadays you wouldn't even need a super-computer. The WTC wasn't that complicated a building. Where is the computer model of the collapse?
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Brian Ambrose



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Some interesting questions, definitely. But why would the CIA pin the blame on Bin Laden when it would have fitted the US's foreign policy better to have pinned it on Saddam? It would at least have been a fig leaf for the absolute disaster that the invasion of Iraq became, not to mention the embarrassing "er, hmmm, no wmd found yet but they must be around here somewhere...".

Buildings collapsing... It makes no sense that three, count 'em, buildings collapsed in a way that has never happened before, and one of 'em wasn't even hit by a plane. And yet, there are independent seismic monitors, with records available, that show there was no bang prior to the buildings' collapse, which should very much have been in evidence if there had been controlled underground explosions to destroy them.
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Mick Harper
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The Third Building Theory (and the First Two Buildings Theory come to that) fall down, no pun intended, at the same point all conspiracy theories do. How do you persuade hundreds of people to keep quiet when any one of them would earn millions by spilling the beans?

The weakening of steel by the conflagration of large amounts of aviation spirit would bring any (steel-structured) building down.
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Brian Ambrose



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The weakening of steel by the conflagration of large amounts of aviation spirit would bring any (steel-structured) building down.


It was not as obvious as that before the event. Structural engineers were quite surprised that those buildings collapsed in the way they did, those things aren't supposed to fall down in any amount of fire. And the aviation fuel was vapourised and burnt off very early on in the process. That's not to say there's a conspiracy, just proof that even structural engineers can't predict everything, chaos is always there to surprise us.
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Mick Harper
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Structural engineers were quite surprised that those buildings collapsed in the way they did

Yes, this is the very best evidence for a lack of a conspiracy!
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Grant



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The weakening of steel by the conflagration of large amounts of aviation spirit would bring any (steel-structured) building down.


Really? I agree it would make the building look a sorry wreck, but would the building suddenly collapse in seconds? Don't forget, this building was built before the days of computer-aided design. It was massively over-engineered. Also, the fire didn't take place on the ground floor, but at the top of the building.

The official story is that the initial impact hardly weakened the buildings at all, but the fires eventually softened the steel girders. But if that was the case, the top of the building would have gradually rested on the lower floors as the steels buckled. The towers should still have stood - which was certainly what the firemen thought.

It's difficult to debate this without giving the impression that you are some sort of fruitloop, but I still want to see a model showing how this could have happened.
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Grant wrote:
Another thing probably gives you discomfort but you don't want to mention it in case we think you're a looney tune.


No. I didn't mention it because it doesn't strike me as the least bit odd that buildings fall down when hit by passenger airliners.

I've also read the literature and am satisfied no conspiracy is afoot.

Why did the Twin Towers fall? Why have no buildings fallen like this before or since? Why did WTC 6 fall when no plane even hit it?


The answers are available to anyone who wants to look.

WTC 6 was struck by parts of WTC1 or WTC2 when those collapsed. There is a photograph (thank god or we'd never hear the end of it) that shows one of the support pillars of WTC6 completely missing.

There is a difference between how conspiracy theory works its way in the popular imagination and how applied epistemology examines experience for legitimate improbabilities and then tries to rework the facts for a better fit. That said, conspiracy theory is often a signal that something is not quite right with the conventional story (but not always!).

Here is Applied Epistemological Rule #18

For every bad idea, there is an equal and opposite crazy idea.

This phenomenon can be seen in archaeology. Van Daniken and Graham Hancock are the natural offspring of an academic discipline in crisis. For this reason, conspiracy theories can be cues to applied epistemologists, indicating where we should look for flawed thinking (p.s. I actually have enormous respect for Hancock).

The official story is that in each case the top collapsed with such a force that the structures underneath gave no resistance.


The official story (such as I remember it) is that the floor supports on the WTC were never welded in place. This helped afford the building "give" and it's why occupants could feel the building sway back and forth in heavy winds. The heat from the fire caused these overlaid steel beams to contract and weaken which caused them to slip from their moorings. Once the cascade began, the lower floors lacked the resistance to counter the energy.

This theory matches up with the actual stopping point of the collapse as well.

In neither case did the entire building collapse. Eventually, the rubble formed around the base, from the collapse, rose so high it met the rooftop crumbling down. The rubble formed a bulwark at that point sufficiently strong to stop the roof from falling any further. This stabilized the cascade and preserved a few of the lower floors.

Where is the computer model of the collapse?


I suggest you begin with the Popular Mechanics article on the subject..
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Ishmael


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Brian Ambrose wrote:
Some interesting questions, definitely. But why would the CIA pin the blame on Bin Laden when it would have fitted the US's foreign policy better to have pinned it on Saddam?


While we must never rule out the possibility that, in any "conspiracy", the CIA might be the primary actor -- I do not think this likely at all. If the video tape I mentioned is fake, it was either forged internally by Al Quaida members eager to take credit for the attacks (Ayman al-Zawahiri?) or by some other state government -- or a combination of both.

Let's not forget, if Bin Ladin is dead, then we know that some of these tapes have been faked. I personally am convinced the man has been dead for years and most or all of the tapes we have seen post Afghanistan have been phoney. Grant that and we "know" that faking Bin Laden tapes is possible. The question then is only whether any particular tape is fake.

Granted, the post-Afghanistan tapes are all highly problematic -- either voice recordings, or videos that make no mention of current events. The tape that gave me pause initially is one hell of a forgery, if it is that.

And I am certainly not claiming it is! But I do think it worth considering.

Please do keep in mind however that the CIA as an organization was systemically opposed to the invasion of Iraq. They had no interest in providing the president with any additional "fig leafs" for the Iraq invasion than those in which they were already heavily invested. Iraqi WMD was a CIA paradigm. The CIA has also for many years invested itself in a model of terrorism that makes of it a force independent of state sponsorship.

There are paradigms in state-craft, just like everywhere else, and they have precisely the same effect.

BTW -- no one is saying the KSM group is responsible instead of Al Quaida. What is claimed is that the KSM group within Al Quaida was really that operational force behind all of the anti-western violence with which Al Quaida as a whole has been credited. Its a matter of specificity. And a matter which raises many additional questions starting with, what makes the KSM group distinct from the Al Quaida organization?
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Grant



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The official story (such as I remember it) is that the floor supports on the WTC were never welded in place.


What! These were the tallest two buildings in the world and they never welded the steel together!

The heat from the fire caused these overlaid steel beams to contract and weaken which caused them to slip from their moorings.


I thought steel expanded on heating.

I suggest you begin with the Popular Mechanics article on the subject..


This article easily debunks the looney tune ideas, but still provides no convincing model for the collapse.

If the collapse happened the way that Popular Mechanics says, 9/11 was the greatest civil engineering disaster in US history. Hundreds of US skyscrapers should be pulled down because they would collapse in the event of a serious fire.
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Mick Harper
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Hundreds of US skyscrapers should be pulled down because they would collapse in the event of a serious fire.

The nux. This was the very first time in human history that a skyscraper was subject to a 'serious fire'. Which was why everybody was so taken by surprise. The exact same thing happened in the Falklands War when for the first time ever a modern steel ship was exocetted -- the blast was survivable but the exocet fuel burning up and melting the steel wasn't. And the experts were equally taken aback. Naval architects simply hadn't designed the factor in!

Consider just how 'serious' an ordinary fire is compared to several thousand gallons of burning aviation spirit being dumped. So, yes, there is a need to keep a watch out for errant aeroplanes (or exocets) but ordinary skyscraper fires...no.

PS I think something similar occasionally happened during the Kamikaze attacks of 1945 but, typically, no notice was taken. The Applied Epistemological point here is that sailors are so inured to bombs and shells that they are temperamentally disqualified from considering aviation fuel.
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Ishmael


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Grant wrote:
What! These were the tallest two buildings in the world and they never welded the steel together!


It was intentionally. Conterintuitively, it makes the building stronger in terms of long term endurance. That's my understanding. Tall buildings tend to wobble and weldings would crack. They do the same thing with bridges.

I thought steel expanded on heating.


Yes. I imagine you are right. But the weakened floor beams contracted because they bent downward like bows (sagging in the middle). This made them shorter in length, and so they no longer spanned the distance from one side of the building to the other. Result: Floor caves in. And that floor lands on the one below which is also bent like a bow. And that floor lands on the one below it which is also bent like a bow. And so on.

The collapse eventually falls to a point where the floors are not bending, but by that time so much kenetic energy has accumulated, it doesn't matter. There's not enough strength in the beams to resist the combined mass. Only when the level of the accumulated rubble is reached is the avalanche finally arrested.

This article easily debunks the looney tune ideas, but still provides no convincing model for the collapse.

If you are bothered by it, then think one up. But clearly the buildings did collapse and, just as clearly, it wasn't a "controlled demolition". Applied Epistemology excludes implausible realities.

9/11 was the greatest civil engineering disaster in US history. Hundreds of US skyscrapers should be pulled down because they would collapse in the event of a serious fire.

I rather think it's obvious that sky-scrapers tend to collapse at exactly the rate at which they get struck by passenger airliners. It's precisely 3 for 3 and no more (everyone forgets that the Pentagon also collapsed).

Really. The kind of things people will say.
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DPCrisp


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The exact same thing happened in the Falklands War when for the first time ever a modern steel ship was exocetted -- the blast was survivable but the exocet fuel burning up and melting the steel wasn't. And the experts were equally taken aback. Naval architects simply hadn't designed the factor in!

I think you'll find the ship was aluminium, which itself caught fire (in a way that steel doesn't)... and the Exocet's fuel is neither here nor there (innit?) coz it's a missile with a warhead... by the way.
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Mick Harper
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Perhaps this is true in detail but the general point is that the Exocet presented sailors with a new force that their ships were not designed to cope with. And that therefore a relatively small force was unsurvivable.

Ships are designed to withstand concussive forces (from armour-piercing shells and bombs) and can do amazingly well. But a puny Exocet (which, remember, the designers had armed with a conventional explosive warhead not fuel!) proved sufficient. The designers of the Exocet were doubtless as surprised as Al-Qaida to discover that modern constructive metals burn better than they explode.

The AE point is to observe how modern navies take this news on board (geddit?). They won't! So much is invested in current design philosophy (and so seldom do ships actually go into action) that nothing will happen save some tinkering at the edges.
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