According to popular legend, the egomaniacal tyrant Nero – the last Roman emperor of Julius Caesar’s dynasty – sang and played the lute while the city of Rome burned in the Great Fire, circa 64 A.D.
It was later recorded by royal biographers Suetonius and Cassius Dio that Nero himself was the arsonist and belted out the ancient Greek epic “The Sack of Ilium” in full stage costume while his citizens perished.
These historians speculate that Nero’s motive was to jump-start a plan to renovate certain districts of the city and free up space for a new imperial palace.
However, upon “learning” of the blaze, Nero quickly blamed the Christians and had them arrested and condemned, according to Tacitus, who was perhaps Rome’s greatest historian.
“An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind,” reported Tacitus of the Christians.
Fast forward nearly two thousand years.
President George W. Bush smiled and read “The Pet Goat” to a group of children at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Florida while America’s greatest buildings burned on Sept. 11, 2001.
In the story of “The Pet Goat,” a family’s pet goat eats and destroys everything in its path. Everybody wants to get rid of the goat.
But in a strange turn of events, the goat becomesalocal hero when it pre-emptively attacks a would-be terrorist (a car thief).
Bush, who had been widely criticized in his first year as president for ballooning defense spending and cutting taxes for the über-rich, suddenly found himself the ad hoc tin god and commander-in-chief of a so-called “war on terror.”
Somehow, within hours of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the FBI was able to identify nineteen “suspected” Islamic suicide hijackers, despite documents from United and American Airlines showing no record of them on published passenger lists.
In fact, the BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph reported up to four suspects “alive and well” and living in the Middle East – nearly two weeks after they apparently blew themselves up in the name of Allah.
Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al-Shehri – purported by the FBI to have hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 to New York – told both American and Saudi authorities that “he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened,” according to the BBC.
In addition, Abdulaziz Al Omari – another supposed Flight 11 hijacker who died in the attacks – also piped up in news reports, saying that he was merely an engineer for Saudi Telecom who had lost his passport in 1995 while studying at the University of Denver.
And then, of course, CNN reported that then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik – later arrested for a number of ethics violations and suspected of ties to organized crime – “found” one of the hijackers’ passports several blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center’s collapse.
The idea that a single paper passport could survive an inferno that decimated over 200,000 tons of steel and wait to be picked up amongst some rubble is so unbelievably ridiculous that even Nero would have to pass on it.
As Sam Youssef of British historian David Irving’s Action Report phrased it on September 26, 2001, “A passport in someone’s pocket who is sitting on a plane that explodes will suffer the same fate as the person whose pocket it is in, and the plane they are sitting in: absolute cremation.
Paper passports survive, but massive steel buildings and thousands of people do not, according to the U.S. government.
It must be great to ignore concepts like heat and gravity. One would expect the White House tour to include two-stepping on the ceiling a la Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding” – except maybe with some flaming copies of the recently deceased Bill of Rights (see “habeas corpus”) thrown in, because flammable things don’t burn, right?
Except for steel, of course.
The official U.S. government explanation for the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, as articulated in the reports released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards of Technology, was that fire caused the integrity of the steel beams to weaken sufficiently to allow a progressive collapse.
But, as former Brigham Young professor of physics Dr. Steven E. Jones has noted, steel melts at a whopping 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is nearly 1,000 degrees hotter than any jet fuel-based fire could reach under the most optimal conditions.
And, as former Underwriters Laboratories site manager Kevin Ryan has explained, the steel assemblies in the towers had been certified to withstand temperatures of 2,000 degrees for several hours longer than they did on Sept. 11, 2001.
As Caesar himself would have pleaded (via Shakespeare), “Et tu, Brute?”
Next week, we explore the science of 9-11.
Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]