By Craig McKee
It was supposed to be the centerpiece of the “9/11: Advancing the Truth” conference taking place near Washington D.C. in September.
A three-way debate about what happened at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 would offer members of 9/11 Truth movement the opportunity to watch as conflicting positions were presented and contrasted by leading advocates of those positions.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
As someone who believes that the evidence showing that no large plane hit the building is conclusive, I thought a debate on the subject might be helpful to make that clear to more people, especially those who have been misled into thinking that the question is unresolved.
I knew there would be a trade-off, of course, which is that it could appear to elevate the importance of the “plane-impact” position – importance that isn’t supported by the evidence. But I still think that under the right conditions a debate could still be beneficial, despite the fact that after 12 years this discussion shouldn’t be necessary anymore.
The thing is that it’s not just important that the evidence for a faked plane crash be conclusive (which I believe it is), it must be seen to be conclusive. Unfortunately, the small clique that has tried its best to lead the movement away from the truth concerning the Pentagon has convinced some that we just don’t know for sure what happened, and we probably never will. This is false, but unfortunately it’s a perception we have to deal with.
So, what happened to the conference’s real raison d’etre, its reason for existing in the first place? In addition to the concern I alluded to above, the conference centerpiece has been damaged because of baffling communication and organizational “issues.” I have first-hand knowledge of this, as I’ll explain.
The Pentagon session’s prospects for success have been further battered by the plan to issue some kind of consensus statement at the end of the two-day conference. If organizing-committee member George Ripley gets his way, this statement will focus on a demand that the government release all evidence about the Pentagon on 9/11 that it has been withholding. This, as I wrote in my first article on the Washington conference, is a horrible idea. It would demand that the perpetrators release evidence of their own guilt, and it would ignore that this evidence would almost certainly be inauthentic.
I do want to make it clear that the focus of this article is the Pentagon session, which will take up part of the conference’s second day. I’m not saying that there aren’t some excellent speakers lined up for the conference (including Kevin Barrett, who will moderate the Pentagon session), and I’m not saying I won’t watch the sessions with interest. I’m also not ignoring the fact that organizing a conference like this involves tons of work and few rewards.
But the key to the whole event was supposed to be the Pentagon. And it seems that the things that had to be done to ensure the success of this part of the event were not done (or were done clumsily). In fact, with things like the consensus statement, it was pretty much guaranteed that the event wouldn’t come off as billed.
The key to making this session succeed was representation from Citizen Investigation Team (and/or Pilots for 9/11 Truth). CIT has presented compelling evidence showing that the large plane that approached the Pentagon did so on a flight path that was inconsistent with the damage allegedly caused. Because of this hugely important evidence, CIT has been a lightning rod for unfair and dishonest criticism by those who seem to want to keep us all from agreeing about what happened.
Since it was essential that CIT be involved, this should have been of paramount importance to the organizers, particularly chief organizer Matt Sullivan. This is why it is so bizarre that CIT seems to have been treated as an after-thought without being given prompt answers to reasonable questions asked by CIT’s Craig Ranke.
Ranke was first approached by DC 9/11 Truth member Sheila Casey in April about whether he would be interested in appearing at the conference (this was an informal approach, not a formal invitation). Despite Ranke’s importance, his invitation would not come for another three months, long after many others had been approached. Ranke had responded to the April feeler by asking a variety of questions of organizers, including who else was being invited, who had confirmed, what the topics would be, what the objective of the conference was, and where the funding was coming from. He never got any answers.
Even while he was considering the formal invitation, which came on July 1, Ranke’s picture was put up on the conference web site as a featured speaker. He wrote to Sullivan on July 8 asking that the picture be removed and that he receive answers to his questions – the past ones and some new ones – including whether others listed as speakers on the site were also unconfirmed. He received a phone message from Elaine Sullivan that did not acknowledge the email or the questions, but just asked to discuss the conference.
In a statement released on the CIT web site on July 31 in which he declines the conference invitation, Ranke goes on to explain what happened after his July 8 email (I suggest reading the statement to get the full CIT position on what happened):
“Six more days went by, and that response never came. Meanwhile, they fraudulently left my name and picture on their page as a “Featured Speaker”. Then, finally, on July 15, I got a voicemail from Matt asking for my “final answer” as to whether or not I would participate in the conference while still not answering any of my questions.”
About the Elaine Sullivan message, he writes:
“Given the circumstances and the fact that they were already misleading people about my status (and likely the status of others) on their website, I was no longer comfortable talking to them on the phone, which could later be more easily misrepresented by them.”
Prior to declining his invitation, Ranke raised concerns about the three-way debate format; questions were also asked about how it would function by Dwain Deets, representing the position that a large plane did crash. Organizers reacted by dropping the debate format and substituting three 50-minute presentations followed by a panel discussion.
Now to be fair, organizers did try to replace Ranke with someone who supports CIT and who has been vocal in support of the “no-plane-impact” position. In fact, I was one of those, as was Shelton Lankford of Pilots for 9/11 Truth. We have both declined.
In an effort to salvage the Pentagon session, Matt Sullivan himself will deliver what is being referred to as the “CIT position: no plane hit the Pentagon.” This title is a problem in itself because the “no plane hit the Pentagon” position does not belong to CIT. In fact, it goes back at least to 2002 and Thierry Meyssan, and it includes many fine researchers and groups since, including Pilots for 9/11 Truth.
CIT, however, has made an essential contribution to the case for a faked plane crash, particularly by establishing that the official flight path is false and the damage path staged. But calling the position theirs suggests a degree of isolation that doesn’t exist. It’s not CIT against the whole Truth movement, it’s the majority of the Truth movement (including CIT) against the small number who say that a large plane crashed at the Pentagon.
While Ranke was asked late in the game to speak, Pentagon researcher Barbara Honegger, who is part of the conference organizing committee, appears to have been aware that she would be participating in the Pentagon event for months before Ranke was formally invited. Honegger agrees with Ranke that no large plane crashed at the Pentagon but she also believes an unmanned drone crashed near the heliport. While Honegger does have her supporters, I am not aware of anyone who endorses her drone thesis.
Elaine Sullivan says Ranke’s formal invitation didn’t come until July because it was believed that he would be more likely to agree to attend if his pro-plane-impact debate opponent were already in place. While I somewhat see the logic here (given that so many CIT opponents had not responded to debate challenges in the past), I think this turned out to be a critical error. It created the impression that Ranke was a last-minute consideration instead of central to the whole event. It also left very little time to replace him once he declined.
One could have predicted that people like Kevin Ryan, David Chandler, Frank Legge, Jonathan Cole, Jim Hoffman, and the rest of the anti-CIT and anti-Pilots for 9/11 Truth cabal would never debate Ranke because they know that the bankruptcy of their position would be revealed. Matt Sullivan declined to tell me who had been invited to give this presentation, but he did tell me that Ryan said no to the conference altogether because he wanted nothing to do with a debate on the Pentagon.
So the task fell to former CIT supporter and now plane-impact convert Dwain Deets whose reversal on the Pentagon has left many baffled because it was done on the flimsiest of grounds. And when I say flimsy, I’m being generous. Truth be told, Deets is only there because the format required that someone take that position; he really has no business making any presentation on the Pentagon based on the arguments we’ve heard from him so far.
Meanwhile, I was invited on July 23 to make a presentation representing the no-plane-impact position, which I understood was being offered to me because Ranke had not been heard from and therefore was being assumed to have declined. In his statement, Ranke points out that he had not declined and that he was still waiting for answers to the questions he had asked. (A note: prior to giving Matt Sullivan my answer, I posed several questions as well, particularly about the fact that Barbara Honegger was originally slated to make two presentations about the Pentagon. I never got an answer or even an acknowledgement of these questions.)
At this point I was still hoping that the whole event would come off, and I didn’t know what had been going on between Ranke and the Sullivans. In fact, I spoke to Ranke in early July, and although he had significant concerns about the conference, he was still considering going at that point.
But here’s where it gets weird:
As it turns out, Shelton Lankford of Pilots had been invited on June 28, three days before Ranke was. Lankford is a vocal CIT proponent and would be a logical replacement for Ranke if he were to decline. So why invite him first?
I exchanged more than 10 emails over a three-day period recently with both Matt and Elaine Sullivan (yes, they are married and live in the same house) to get some simple answers to clear questions about why Lankford and Ranke were both invited so close together. The result left me wondering whether I was explaining my questions poorly or whether I was receiving deliberately slippery answers. (Elaine opened her last email with: “You’re driving me nuts!!!” I was upset that she got to use that line before I did.)
After several emails back and forth, it became clear that Elaine was saying the Lankford had been invited to get “input from Pilots for 9/11 Truth” and NOT to be part of the debate. This was the first I or anyone I’ve talked to had heard about there being a speaker PLUS three debator/presenters. I spoke to Lankford by phone as we both considered whether to accept, and he did not indicate that he had been offered the opportunity to speak separate from a debate.
There are problems with Elaine Sullivan’s explanation of the invitations.
Here’s how the invitation to Lankford was worded:
“We write to you now to invite you as a featured speaker on the subject of the attack on the Pentagon, which is scheduled for Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 9:30am, as part of a debate “Understanding the Pentagon Attack”.
And here’s the wording of the invitation to Ranke:
“We write to you now to invite you as a featured speaker on the subject of your work, which is scheduled for the morning of Sunday 9/15, as part of a debate about what happened at the Pentagon on 9/11/01”
Based on these two invitations, one invitee is supposed to understand that he is being invited to speak SEPARATELY from the debate portion of the session while the other is supposed to understand that they are being asked to be PART of the debate. And yet the wording is almost identical. Very odd. How can the details of what is being proposed not be made crystal clear, especially since we’re talking end of June, beginning of July? These were formal invitations, not preliminary “feelers.” How could this be the result of a communications breakdown between two organizers who live in the same house (Elaine had approached Lankford while Matt was dealing with Ranke)?
Further complicating things was the fact that Lankford missed the email in his inbox on June 28 and only found out about it after I was invited on July 23 At that point, he responded and was asked by Elaine Sullivan to take my place should I decline. I told Lankford that he should take the spot ahead of me because he was asked first and his knowledge and experience as a pilot would be a great advantage.
Learning about where Ranke officially stood (as per his July 31 statement) definitely played into my and Lankford’s final decision not to participate. I had also been concerned about getting a passport in time and having time to prepare a presentation that would meet the highest standards I was capable of. Given the late invitation, I was not convinced it could be done.
So the event will go ahead with Sullivan, Honegger, and Deets. And, unfortunately, it is unlikely to resolve anything. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t be interesting to watch.
I still would like to see a debate, or debates, but in the short term and not continuing indefinitely into the future. The time for debating the evidence should be over; it’s time to put our efforts behind the game-changing case that a faked plane crash at the Pentagon proves conclusively that it was an inside job.
But for those short-term encounters I think one-on-one works better than three at one time. I think both Ranke vs. Honegger and Ranke vs. Deets could be revealing and useful. And I think they could actually happen.
What you WON’T EVER SEE is one of the “respectable” names who have attacked CIT like Chandler, Ryan, Cole, Legge, or Hoffman agreeing to debate Ranke. They know full well that the emptiness of their position would be exposed once and for all.