Report of bin Laden’s death spurs questions from conspiracy theorists

May 2, 2011

While much of America celebrated the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden, the Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists still had questions. For them and a growing number of skeptics, the plot only thickened.

Could the public trust bin Laden’s DNA samples? Where was bin Laden’s body? Why was the most wanted mujaheddin on Earth buried in an undisclosed location in the northern Arabian Sea? Why was the news announced mere weeks after President Obama’s campaign kickoff and just days after his birth certificate was released? Why so late on a Sunday night?

Within minutes of the news of bin Laden’s funeral at sea, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail lighted up with conspiracy theories from around the globe, asking questions, pointing out discrepancies, motives, counter-motives, coverups and counter-coverups, comparing photos and videos, voice recordings and FBI most-wanted pinup posters.

“This has not put a single of the 9/11 questions to bed,” said Steven Jones, a retired Brigham Young University physics professor and contributor to the 9/11 Truth Movement. Jones, along with other members of the movement, a loose coalition of people who distrust Washington’s version of the attacks, say the collapse of the twin towers is best explained as controlled demolition.

“As a scientist, I try to look at the evidence I can get,” Jones said.

It started with the “9/11 truthers,” who, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, wondered why 110-story towers crashed and military jets failed to intercept even one airliner. They formed organizations. They held rallies. They filed many Freedom of Information Act requests.

They wrote books and studied the physics of the towers crumbling.

“I don’t know how you can have closure, when there are hundreds of contradictions to the stories that you were told. The story doesn’t end here because we are told bin Laden is dead,” said Mike Berger, who works with 911Truth.org, an organization founded to examine facts around the attack. “We are living in an endless war of trillions of dollars being spent without any responsibility.’’

Alex Jones, a radio personality out of Austin, who gives voice to the 9/11 Truth Movement and runs the Web site Infowars.com, sent out a Web headline that screamed, “Red Alert. Inside Sources: Bin Laden Corpse Has Been on Ice for Nearly a Decade.”

The “king of conspiracy,” as he is known by the media, pointed out discrepancies that went instantly viral. He lists FBI officials and counterintelligence leaders from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have said for years that bin Laden was dead. Former Council on Foreign Relations member Steve R. Pieczenik even told Jones on the air in 2002 that bin Laden had been dead for months.

“Obama just relaunched his election bid, and nabbing bin Laden is the main kickoff campaign rally. Things aren’t going well. So they are bringing back an old staple. They need a hero. It’s the Orwellian archtypical bearded scary bad guy who is going to get us, so don’t worry, the government got the bad guy,’’ said Jones in a telephone interview after his syndicated self-titled afternoon radio show. “This isn’t Elvis, man. The government lied to us about WMDs.”

But Elvis didn’t die during the Facebook era, when Web pages such as “Osama bin Laden NOT DEAD” go up instantly. “There’s something fishy in the waters where they supposedly dropped him. A picture of him dead wouldn’t have hurt,” reads an entry by one contributor.

“They saved Che Guevara’s fingertips to prove it was him,” said Ted Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden, N.J., who has written extensively on psychology and terrorism. “But Muslim tradition says you bury the body right away. The issue is, our society goes through a traumatic event of 9/11, and this comes 10 years later, so it’s not timed very well for our national mourning or anger. But the conspiracy reaction is a way of thinking that’s much more common today, and people are accustomed to it because of the Internet. There’s no screening process. People may also be going into an automatic response.”

At different moments in American history, such as after the deaths of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, the country becomes more prone to conspiracy theories because there’s so much hurt and anger, Goertzel said.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who became a symbol of the opposition to the war, went on her Facebook page today to broadcast her theory.

“I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL, you’re stupid,” Sheehan writes. “Just think to yourself — they paraded Saddam’s dead sons around to prove they were dead — why do you suppose they hastily buried this version of OBL at sea? This lying, murderous Empire can only exist with your brainwashed consent — just put your flags away and THINK!”

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