You trip over one fundamental idiocy of the 9/11 conspiracy nuts in the first paragraph of the book by one of their high priests, David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor. "In many respects," Griffin writes, "the strongest evidence provided by critics of the official account involves the events of 9/11 itself…. In light of standard procedures for dealing with hijacked airplanes…not one of these planes should have reached its target, let alone all three of them."
The operative word here is "should." One central characteristic of the nuts is that they have a devout, albeit preposterous, belief in American efficiency, and hence many of them start with the racist premise that "Arabs in caves" weren’t capable of the mission. They believe that military systems work the way Pentagon press flacks and aerospace salesmen say they should work. They believe that at 8:14 am, when AA Flight 11 switched off its radio and transponder, an FAA flight controller should have called the National Military Command center and NORAD. They believe, citing reverently (this from high priest Griffin) "the US Air Force’s own website," that an F-15 could have intercepted AA Flight 11 "by 8:24, and certainly no later than 8:30."
They appear to have read no military history, which is too bad because if they had they’d know that minutely planned operations–let alone responses to an unprecedented emergency–screw up with monotonous regularity, by reason of stupidity, cowardice, venality and other whims of Providence.
According to the minutely prepared plans of the Strategic Air Command, an impending Soviet attack would have prompted the missile silos in North Dakota to open and the ICBMs to arc toward Moscow and kindred targets. The tiny number of test launches actually attempted all failed, whereupon SAC gave up testing. Was it badly designed equipment, human incompetence, defense contractor venality or… conspiracy? Did the April 24, 1980, effort to rescue the hostages in the US Embassy in Tehran fail because a sandstorm disabled three of the eight helicopters, or because agents of William Casey poured sugar into their gas tanks in yet another conspiracy?
Do the military’s varying attempts to explain why F-15s didn’t intercept and shoot down the hijacked planes stem from predictable attempts to cover up the usual screw-ups, or because of conspiracy? Is Mr. Cohen in his little store at the end of the block hiking his prices because he wants to make a buck, or because his rent just went up, or because the Jews want to take over the world? Bebel said anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. These days the 9/11 conspiracy fever is fast becoming the "socialism" of the left.
My in-box overflows each day with fresh "proofs" of how the towers were demolished. I meet people who start quietly, asking me what I think about 9/11. What they are actually trying to find out is whether I’m part of the coven. I imagine it is like being a normal Stoic in the second century AD going for a stroll in the forum and meeting some fellow asking, with seeming casualness, whether it’s possible to feed 5,000 people on five loaves of bread and a couple of fish.