The Eleventh Day

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by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

"Scratch the surface of a middle-aged 9/11 Truther", wrote Jonathan Kay in his recent "Among the Truthers", "and you are almost guaranteed to find a JFK conspiracist". And at first glance it's easy to see his point. In my experience most truthers believe there was far more to the assassination than a lone gunman, and veteran JFK researcher Jim Fetzer gained considerable publicity for the cause when he questioned 9/11 on TV back in 2006.

When I first heard that author and fellow JFK researcher Anthony Summers had written a book on 9/11, then, I suspected it would follow the usual recipe. Take some ideas from Nafeez Ahmed, add a sprinkling of Griffin, stir in a few convenient entries from The Terror Timeline, garnish with impressive footnotes, and you're done: another identikit truther-friendly book.

But how very, very, very wrong I was.

First, The Eleventh Day is not just a list of the usual truther talking points. It focuses far more on a detailed sequence of events taken from original source documents, and interviews, many of them new. Controlled demolition, "no plane at the Pentagon" and similar issues are hived off to a couple of chapters, a mere 28 pages out of 600.

And second, while this plainly limits what the authors can cover, they nonetheless leave no doubt regarding their views. Words like "preposterous", "fatuous" and "callous" appear in response to particular truther claims, before they tell us that 'subject to any serious probing, the suspicions raised by Professor Griffin and his fellow "truthers" simply vanish on the wind'.

This isn't an empty opinion, either. The authors interviewed and contacted many people throughout the project (including Daniel Hopsicker, History Commons' Erik Larson and Kevin Fenton, and John Judge), and say they have "read as much" [of the Commission documentation released by NARA] "as is feasible", only to report that it "provides no support for the naysayers".

The Eleventh Day doesn't give the 9/11 Commission a free pass, though. Rather, the authors say:

What were those mistakes, and where was the wrongdoing? That's discussed in-depth in the latter part of the book.

Unanswered Questions

Summers and Swan believe there are two areas where the "9/11 Commission fudged or dodged the issue: the full truth about U.S. and Western intelligence before the attacks; and whether the terrorist operation ten years ago had the support of other nation-states or of powerful individuals within those nation-states".

As they discuss these issues so some familiar stories appear, with perhaps a different twist. Did US officials really meet with bin Laden in a Dubai hospital in July 2001? Probably so, they say, though also quoting a former head of the Security Intelligence department of France's DGSE as saying "we did not consider it as something abnormal or outrageous. When someone is threatening you, you try to negotiate. Our own service does it all the time. It is the sort of thing we are prepared to do."

There are also thoughts on what the intelligence services may or may not have known about the hijackers, pre-9/11, and why exactly it was that the CIA didn't share information on Mihdhar and Hazmi with the FBI, a move which may have stopped the attacks (the authors wonder if they were monitoring the pair, perhaps hoping to recruit them as informants.)

Attention is also paid to the possible Saudi role in the attacks (and the 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry Report which appear to be on this issue), and there's also some discussion of the bin Laden/ ISI connection (which is right up-to-date with a page or two on bin Laden's death).

I'm summarising considerably here; this is a lengthy and detailed book and I don't have the time to do it justice. For more information, try Miles Kara's review, the Vanity Fair adaption or Leonard Lopate interview.

Or, if you simply want to know whether you should buy it, my answer is yes, with a single reservation.

If you're simply looking for a resource which will provide new material to address truther claims, then this probably isn't the book for you. As I mentioned earlier, "9/11 truth" makes only a brief appearance in The Eleventh Day. The authors clearly decided there were more important topics to fill their pages than endless discussions about whether the hijackers really were on the manifests, and similar issues: and they were right.

If you're looking for something more detailed, though, a well-documented account of the run-up to the attacks, the perpetrators, the day itself, and what came later, as well as a lengthy piece on "unanswered questions", then you'll find this a very interesting read. It deserves its place alongside 9/11 books by Peter Lance, Lawrence Wright, John Farmer and so on, and has more than enough new material to justify its inclusion in your library.