The apparent misdeeds and cover-ups of the administration of George W. Bush related to the terrorist attacks of 2001 remain in historical limbo. Neither presidents, nor the Congress, nor the media have gotten to the bottom of these tragic events. (The 9/11 Commission Report, while providing hundreds of useful details, did not ask fundamental questions and so must be considered in effect a cover-up.) As a result, the American public has not come to closure on the 9/11 attacks or on the anthrax mailings of 2001, nor is there a shared understanding of such a critical issue as the real reasons that the US attacked Iraq in 2003.
These failures have left the field open to wild speculations regarding these events, generally termed “conspiracy theories”, though this term obscures the crucial distinction between elaborate prospective plots involving many actors (silly in the context of an open society) and retrospective cover-ups that government officials who have made embarrassing mistakes are all too prone to engage in (very realistic and plausible). However, it is also true that simple prospective plots involving two or three individuals can occur.
Failure to reach a full, shared understanding of major events that led to unending wars and occupations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia as well as to the undermining of civil liberties has helped to alienate Americans from their government and media, a triumph for America’s enemies. So we must make every effort to establish a clear common interpretation of what actually happened.