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By David Vonplon
ZURICH - In the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, old and new Internet conspiracy theories are cropping up in high places in Switzerland. A new website, www.911untersuchen.ch, went online earlier this month with demands from a group of Swiss politicians, academics and media figures to re-open investigations of the 2001 events.
A statement by former Bernese cantonal councilor Dori Schaer says the issue of whether the U.S. government deliberately let the attacks go ahead, or indeed even staged them, remains unanswered. While Schaer considers outrageous the idea that the George W. Bush administration would deliberately sacrifice nearly 3,000 people to reach its political goals, she apparently doesn't exclude it out of hand.
Bernese national councilor Alec von Graffenried, a member of the Green party, says he believes the Bush administration was "capable of practically anything."
"That's why it should be allowed to raise critical questions, without being dismissed as a conspiracy theorist," he says.
Swiss public relations consultant Klaus J. Stöhlker says in his statement on the website that the "moral neglect" of the United States is obvious, and that he finds the claims made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more believable than those of U.S. leaders.
"All that's missing is proof that what Ahmadinejad said at the UN was right: that the United States knew ahead of time about the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York," Stöhlker says.
Journalist Roland Jeanneret ("Anyone familiar with George Bush's view has every reason to doubt") and security expert Albert A. Stahel ("I have a lot of questions I want answers to") take a more moderate approach, but they too call for clearer answers as to who bears responsibility for the events of that day.
U.S. Embassy protests
Daniele Ganser is a Swiss historian and researcher who wrote a chapter in theologian David Ray Griffin's book 9/11 & American Empire. Griffin was one of the best-known critics of the official version of 9/11 events. On the website, Ganser argues that all three versions - the "surprise" theory that is the official version, as well as the versions that the administration let the attack go ahead or even planned it - are all actually conspiracy theories. The U.S. Embassy has protested Ganser's views.
Bernese blogger Stefan Schaer, who launched the online initiative, says that one of his objectives in doing so is to give people like Ganser a credible place to air their views, "where people who are taken seriously come out and say that they too would welcome elucidation."
Most security experts, however, remain skeptical. Although he too thinks the U.S. government is capable of dirty political tricks, Karl Haltiner, a military sociologist at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), says he also believes that democracy in the United States is solidly anchored and that the press is free. After the tragic events, he explains, investigative journalists pounced on the case, yet came up with no credible indications of a conspiracy.
German terrorism expert Rolf Tophoven believes that theories that the Bush administration staged or at least did not prevent 9/11 from happening are "pure nonsense."
"If you really want to know how the incident was planned and carried out, read what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said after his arrest. He was pulling the strings," says Tophoven, who isn't surprised that the 10th anniversary of the tragedy should drudge up a lot of murky theorizing.
"Some people in Germany are actually making a lot of money with this paranoid nonsense. And in Switzerland, I'm sure the press will give the stories a good run," he says.
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Read the original story in German here.