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Conspiracy Theory

Matthew Continetti | The Weekly Standard | Monday, June 21, 2004

Conspiracy Theory

MY INTRODUCTION to conspiracy theorist Mike Ruppert came at the Take Back America conference in early June, when I met Steve, a bearded man in a lumberjack shirt and worn jeans who runs Creative Spirituality booksellers, a roving book mobile that specializes in stocking book sales at meetings of progressive activists.

As I waited for a breakout session to begin I browsed through Steve's book racks, looking at the collected works of former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, at Ambassador Joseph Wilson's The Politics of Truth, at the most recent offerings of Eric Alterman and Michael Moore. Finally my eye settled on The New Pearl Harbor, a book by David Ray Griffin, who teaches at the Claremont School of Theology, and who, his bio says, "is the author and editor of more than 20 books."

The New Pearl Harbor is a skeptical take on the "official account" of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based on the work of Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, Paul Thompson, and Thierry Meyssan, the author of 11 Septembre 2001: L'Effroyable imposture, the French bestseller that argued that an American missile, not an airliner, hit the Pentagon on September 11. Griffin goes on to suggest that the Bush administration knew about the attacks in advance--indeed let them happen. The book caught my eye because it was being sold--displayed quite prominently, in fact--at a conference where Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, George Soros, and other Democratic eminences appeared.

I picked up a copy and headed over to the cash register, where I introduced myself to Steve, whose eyes grew wide when he saw the book I was carrying. "That's a great book," he said. "You know, it's doing very well on Amazon.com." (As of June 17, incidentally, The New Pearl Harbor ranked 583 on Amazon.)

"I'm eager to read it," I said.

"Do you know who Mike Ruppert is?"

I shook my head.

Steve reached into an unmarked basket of videotapes that lay at his side next to the cash register. He said, "He was the guy who uncovered CIA drug running in L.A. And he was kicked off the force because of it." He picked up a tape and held it up so that I could see it clearly, tapping the blue case with his index finger. The white label read "The Truth and Lies of 9-11." "This tape has everything that's in this book" (meaning The New Pearl Harbor), Steve said. "And more. I think it's a great companion."

I asked if the tape was for sale as well.

"Five dollars." Steve's eyes were watery. He clutched the tape, holding it out to me, as though it were a holy book. All this was terribly important to him, it seemed.

I bought the book and the tape and went to the next breakout session.

THE TRUTH AND LIES OF 9-11 is a videotaped lecture Mike Ruppert delivered at Portland State University on November 28, 2001. The lecture is 138 minutes long, but feels much longer. The production values are not high. The audio cuts in and out. Sometimes Ruppert mixes up the transparencies that he displays on his overhead projector. When he's not using transparencies he uses a dry erase board to spell out the names of all the former CIA directors and their connections with Wall Street. When he's not using the dry erase board he shows video clips from politicians and academics, including Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Barbara Lee of California, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, and professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott of U.C.-Berkeley.

It's quite a motley crew of guests and experts. But then Ruppert has been in the business of uncovering conspiracies for sometime. He has a reputation. When I called Ron Paul's congressional office on Thursday and asked a spokesman if Paul had ever talked with Ruppert, the spokesman knew immediately who I was talking about. "Ruppert's very aggressive," he told me. "He came around and spoke to a few different members." As for Rep. Paul's appearance on The Truth and Lies of 9-11, in which it is alleged that the September 11, 2001, attacks had been planned for over a decade by the U.S. government, the spokesman said he had never seen the tape, and "I'm sure [Paul] hasn't even seen the videotape," either.

MIKE RUPPERT was born in 1951. He is lucky enough to make a living from something he cares passionately about: conspiracies. Specifically U.S. government conspiracies (though the tangled plot he unravels in The Truth and Lies of 9-11 also involves the Mossad, Pakistani intelligence, and the Saudi royal family). In a 2002 interview with the Vancouver Province, Ruppert said the first conspiracy he uncovered was in the 1970s. This involved an old girlfriend who wouldn't see him on weekends. Ruppert thus inferred she was a CIA agent, or possibly "also involved with the mafia." One day his girlfriend disappeared for good; shortly thereafter Ruppert lost his job as an LAPD detective. Scrambling to make ends meet, he got a job at a 7-Eleven in Los Angeles.

At the convenience store, Ruppert stumbled upon the conspiracy that would make him famous in the shadowy world of Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations watchers. The CIA, he determined, was behind the drug trafficking industry in the United States, particularly in blighted urban communities like South Central Los Angeles. The topic consumed him for decades. He devotes considerable attention to it--an hour and a half, in fact--in The Truth and Lies of 9-11. As a publicist for the idea Ruppert was immensely successful. The idea that the CIA was behind the crack cocaine epidemic achieved the status of urban myth, and resulted in the apogee of Ruppert's career. This came in 1996 when Ruppert lashed out at an old, quiet John Deutch at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles about CIA narcotrafficking. The event was broadcast on C-SPAN.

Conspiracy theories became Ruppert's full-time job. He was inspired by people like David Icke, a Brit who argued that alien lizards, transmogrified into human beings, were running the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He sold tapes of his lectures. He started a newsletter, From the Wilderness, and a website. Here is a representative sample from his website, culled from the day George Tenet resigned as CIA director:

Why did DCI George Tenet suddenly resign on June 3rd, only to be followed a day later by James Pavitt, the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations (DDO)?

The real reasons, contrary to the saturation spin being put out by major news outlets, have nothing to do with Tenet's role as taking the fall for alleged 9/11 and Iraqi intelligence "failures" before the upcoming presidential election.

Both resignations, perhaps soon to be followed by resignations from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, are about the imminent and extremely messy demise of George W. Bush and his Neocon administration in a coup d'etat being executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The coup, in the planning for at least two years, has apparently become an urgent priority as a number of deepening crises threaten a global meltdown.

Based upon recent developments, it appears that long-standing plans and preparations leading to indictments and impeachment of Bush, Cheney, and even some senior cabinet members have been accelerated, possibly with the intent of removing or replacing the entire Bush regime prior to the Republican National Convention this August.

RUPPERT has honed his lecturing skills. He has started his presentations with the same joke since at least 1999: "I'm wearing as many mikes as there are in my living room." (In 1999, incidentally, Ruppert spoke frequently about the possibility that the DEA had captured George W. Bush and his brother Jeb buying cocaine on videotape in 1985.) But he told the Province that his business didn't take off until the war on terror began: "Pre-September 11, I had about 850 subscribers and I was averaging 800 visitors a day to the website, maybe 900," he said. "Now we have 3,200 to 3,300 subscribers and we're averaging almost 9,000 visitors a day to the website." He ends each lecture, including the one videotaped and sold as The Truth and Lies of 9-11, with an advertising pitch. "One easy thing that can be done" to combat the warmongering, profiteering, electioneering cabal at the center of the U.S. government "is to support, with your checkbook, my website," he says.

He is a tall man, mustachioed, with a full, round stomach, glasses, and short thinning hair. Also, he is confident. So confident, in fact, that he offers $1,000 "to anyone who can disprove the authenticity of any of his source materials." He swaggers across the stage, swings his arms, and involves the audience whenever he can in his plot of intrigue, murder, addiction, and nepotism. "This is very difficult," he says to the audience as the lecture begins. "This is very challenging."

And then it's off to the races. "The CIA has dealt drugs in this country for a very long time," Ruppert says. The CIA sells drugs to support the U.S. economy. And "the U.S. government knew these attacks were going to happen and did nothing." And "the Third Reich did not lose the Second World War. It just changed venues." And "the Supreme Court doesn't exist." Also, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage "has been dealing drugs most of his adult life."

The trail of evidence linking the United States government to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is, as one might imagine, labyrinthine. It is also allusive, almost poetic, a revelatory vision seen through some sort of gauze or cheesecloth. Both John Foster Dulles and Zbigniew Brzezinski are involved, as is Richard Grasso, the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. And Ken Lay, too, as well as the company he once ran, Enron, because the SEC was investigating Enron, and "most of the SEC's investigative records were stored in the World Trade Center," and . . . well, you can figure out the rest. Then there is a lot of talk about market capitalization, Jack Welch, orange juice, and a woman named Rhonda.

A basic treatment of Ruppert's theme is: Because the United States is "on the brink of economic collapse," war was required in 2001. That's because the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan endangered the drug trade, which is the foundation of U.S. economic growth. The Taliban, we are told, were committed to eliminating heroin production in their country. To keep production going, as well as to establish an imperium in Central Asia, the government contracted out bin Laden's al Qaeda, who Ruppert argues had a longstanding relationship with the CIA and the Bush family. While Iraq does not figure into the conspiracy, Colombia does, since it "is on the list of countries that this administration is targeting for war because they have oil there too."

It is a sordid tale, strangely told, and as the hours pass in the video, Ruppert screeches and points, working through his chronology and showing his transparencies. As the suspense builds, an alien, vibratory music plays in the background, sounding like a muted mandolin. Ruppert runs through his case quickly, his delivery speed increasing as time passes. He lets Cynthia McKinney utter the penultimate line: "The American people might have a criminal syndicate running their government." (Currently McKinney is running for Congress in Georgia's fourth district.)

Ruppert received a standing ovation on November 28, 2001, and I suspect he still receives them. No doubt he's adjusted his lecture to include the war in Iraq and other, upcoming wars in Iran and Syria. Maybe even North Korea.

The day after I bought and watched Ruppert's lecture, I visited Steve again at the Take Back America conference and asked him how The Truth and Lies of 9-11 was selling.

Steve was defensive. He was defensive because he had been selling the tapes on the cheap, without Ruppert's knowledge, in order "to get the word out," and didn't want to get in any trouble. I told him things would be all right. "We've sold about 25 copies in the past 24 hours," he said. He folded his arms across his chest. "Things are going pretty well."

Matthew Continetti is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.

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