July 13, 2021

A foreword is a piece of writing that serves to introduce the reader to the author and the book, usually written by someone who is not the author or an editor of the book. The foreword to my book, Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored, is written by John B. Cobb Jr.

In choosing someone to write the foreword to Unanswered Questions, I wanted someone who was an American citizen. I also wanted to ask someone I knew who recalled the events surrounding the atrocity, and was closely following the news stories pertaining to the attacks. I wanted to ask someone who was familiar with the work of the 9/11 Commission, and the efforts of family members of 9/11 victims to press their government for an investigation into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

John B. Cobb Jr. is an American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist. He is author of more than fifty books, mostly about process theology, inter-faith dialogue, and more recently the environment. After the release of The 9/11 Commission Report, Cobb was a signatory to an October 2004 petition by one hundred prominent Americans across the political spectrum—and over fifty 9/11 family members—asking for a deeper investigation into the attacks on September Eleventh.

In 2004 Cobb endorsed a book by David Ray Griffin titled The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, stating “This is a must-read for all who want to get past the conspiracy of silence and the mystification that surrounds these events.” In 2006 Cobb endorsed a new book by David Ray Griffin titled The 9/11 Commission: Omissions and Distortions. In his endorsement Cobb wrote “It is rather obvious that the 9/11 Commission aimed more to bring closure than to investigate the anomalies surrounding the event. For the dominant media in the U.S. they have largely succeeded. All the more reason why it is important that its failure even to mention these anomalies not go unnoticed. For those who still seek the truth and hope for a serious investigation of the facts, Griffin’s careful analysis of the report is essential reading.”

David Ray Griffin is a theological colleague of Cobb’s, and cofounded the Center for Process Studies at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California. In addition to over 25 books about theology and philosophy, Griffin has written 14 books about the September 11th attacks.

In 2006 Cobb coauthored 9/11 & American Empire: Christians, Jews, and Muslims Speak Out, with Muslim and 9/11  Truth commentator Kevin Barrett and Jewish theologian Sandra Lubarsky. Cobb’s essay “The Evil that Results from Erroneous Beliefs” argues that if it were proven that the neocons orchestrated 9/11 – including those in the Project for the New American Century – they did so not out of moral viciousness but were instead misguided by a set of false beliefs about American exceptionalism and related matters. Those mistakes, and their outcomes, have caused monstrous evil, wounding Americans’ confidence in their political system. Cobb suggests “an honest attempt to clear the air about 9/11 would probably do more to restore the integrity of our political system than any other one action.”

And in 2006 Cobb also coauthored American Empire and the Commonwealth of God: A Political, Economic and Religious Statement, along with David Ray Griffin, Catherine Keller and Richard A. Falk. Cobb’s own contributions include a chapter on “Commonwealth and Empire.”

As well, in 2006 Cobb wrote an endorsement for David Ray Griffin’s book Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11. For his endorsement Cobb wrote “If you are open to recognizing that the United States behaves much as other great powers have behaved, but you get your information through standard American channels, I dare you to expose yourself to the facts Griffin summarizes, facts that have been suppressed by our newspapers and magazines. If you are one who wants to be a disciple of Jesus, you will have some hard thinking to do about what American Christians are called to be and to do at this historic moment.”

In 2009 Cobb wrote a chapter in Michael Palgrave’s book The Impact of 9/11 on Religion and Philosophy: The Day that Changed Everything. The title of the chapter Cobb wrote was “Truth, ‘Faith,’ and 9/11.” In his chapter Cobb states that there is an unquestioned “faith…that the United States is a fundamentally virtuous nation that is also basically invincible.  All who reside here have benefited from its political and economic accomplishments and owe what is good in their lives to this nation.  Americans enjoy a unique freedom that is worthy of defense at any cost.  This understanding is expressed and supported by the textbooks used to teach our children.”

Cobb summaries that in the aftermath of the decline of the Soviet Union, and the splintering of its former states into new nations independent of Russia, the Cold War was over. America emerged in the 1990s as the lone superpower. But there were those in the military-industrial-complex, and neoconservative politicians and commentators who urged an increase in defense spending.

Cobb points out that “the CIA’s former employee, Osama bin Laden” was immediately named as the perpetrator of the attacks of September 11th, and since America was now engaged in a War on Terror, there was now a “basis for a permanent state of war” which justified “permanent militarization of American society together with the surrender of traditional liberties and the reinstitution of torture.”

Writing in 2009, on the eighth anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, Cobb observed “The story that was told us at the time, and that has been revised and amplified ever since, is, on the surface, both humiliating and implausible.  The world’s most powerful air force was not able to offer any defense against supposedly hijacked civilian planes.  The world’s finest radar system was not able to track one plane coming toward the Pentagon, and the world’s best defended building was unable to offer any resistance at all. Our vast intelligence network provided no warning, as a small band of Saudis, with modest skills at best, planned, prepared for, and executed a truly amazing attack on an apparently helpless or totally incompetent United States. It seems remarkable that the American public dutifully vented its rage entirely on the supposed Muslim attackers and has not even demanded a serious investigation of those to whom we give hundreds of billions of dollars every year to plan and execute our defense, but offered none at all.”

Cobb observed that questions and dissent from the official story about what happened on September Eleventh strikes at the heart of American nationalistic faith. It may be tolerated to concede that officials lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, that were never there to begin with, having been destroyed in the 1990s. However, “to believe that high officials in an American administration of whatever party or ideology would organize a massive attack killing thousands of American citizens would deeply wound the American sense of the basic goodness of the nation…”

Cobb notes that the FBI itself [in 2001 and again in 2006] acknowledged that they had no hard evidence that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with the attacks on September Eleventh. And that is why the FBI had bin Laden listed, in its Ten Most Wanted list, as being at large for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen on October 12, 2000. But startlingly, not the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Expanding his thesis, Cobb refers to the long prophetic tradition in Hebrew scripture and in the Christian faith where “Those in the prophetic tradition believe that power corrupts. It is rare that one attains much power in either state or church without compromises, and the exercise of power tends further to corrupt. This need not be the case to the extent that authority in an organization is distributed, and when there is real accountability for its use.  It is the power that escapes this accountability, or is accountable only to the rich and powerful, that corrupts so seriously.”

Next, Cobb discusses what happened to David Ray Griffin’s Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11. Published by Westminster-John Knox Press, it was attacked in an editorial by The Christian Century. “Since the attack contained no significant arguments, Griffin could ignore it and go about his business.  However, pressure from parts of the Presbyterian community prompted the WJK Board of Directors to issue a moderate apology for publishing the book.  Two WJK editors, who were also officers of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, are no longer employees of the press.” Though Griffin’s book sold over 8,000 copies just months after its publication, official circles within mainstream Christianity in America had no tolerance for Griffin’s prophetic “call to reflection and action.”

Cobb left readers to consider that while it is possible to offer vigorous challenges to Christian orthodoxy regarding any theological tenet, what cannot be challenged in mainstream Christian circles are the unexamined assumptions of nationalistic belief in the inherent goodness of America, and all who would seek to lead it – whether President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff,  CIA, FBI or other key officials charged with keeping America’s defenses secure.

In his foreword for Unanswered Questions, John B. Cobb Jr. has written:

McGinnis’ book is inherently critical of our government. He agrees that the needs of those whose questions he is writing about have not been taken seriously. He tells the story of their repeated frustrations and disappointments.

Speaking simply for myself, I say that people who go to great lengths to keep others ignorant appear to have something to hide. I feel certain that those who have experienced refusal of real information for so long must sometimes share this suspicion.

But McGinnis notes that the questioners are a varied group. There is no consensus among them. He leaves the question of why things have happened as they have for readers to decide for themselves. He just tells us what happened.

John B. Cobb Jr. is one of a number of prominent members of Christian churches in the USA and Canada who have raised questions about the official explanation(s) given by the Bush administration (and subsequent administrations) about what happened on September Eleventh. Others include Walter Wink, biblical scholar and author of Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence. 

The Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin Jr. endorsed David Ray Griffin’s Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 with these words: “Professor David Ray Griffin has a well-deserved reputation for the thoroughness of his research. All Americans who love their country enough to dig into the facts of these critical times will be well rewarded by examining his books. 9/11 truth is a very important issue – one with the power to bring lasting change to our country.”

Another endorsement for Griffin’s book was from The Rev. Carter Hayward, who wrote “Are we brave enough to read this nerve-racking book, one of the most important theological texts of our time? Rooted in the long-standing belief that Christians share responsibility for shaping a more justice-loving world, Griffin makes a strong case that the real ‘conspiracy theory’ about 9/11 is the Bush Administration’s silly notion that nineteen young Arab men could have pulled it off. Griffin helps us wrestle with questions that are almost too much to bear, yet which may empower us, if we dare, to build a more truthful and, over time, more deeply moral nation and world.” And Catherine Keller, Professor of Theology at Drew University, and author of God and Power, wrote “A gripping account of precedents for the current global empire, from the Rome of Jesus to twentieth-century ‘false-flag’ operations…. His wake-up call to U.S. Christians will be evaded at our peril.”

More religious leaders in the mainstream Christian church added their endorsements to Griffins’ Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11. Rosemary Radford Ruether at Claremont School of Theology, wrote “David Griffin has previously made the case for the Bush administration’s complicity in 9/11 and the cover-up of this evidence by the 9/11 Commission. Here, in this important book, he puts these shocking realities in the context of Christian theology and the challenge to the churches. In a profound exploration of the nation and history of the demonic, Griffin suggests that American empire us a culmination of human demonic alienation from God.”

Ray McGovern, CIA veteran analyst now with Tell the Word, a project of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour, Washington, D.C., wrote this about Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, “WARNING: If, like most Americans calling themselves Christian, you prefer the comfort of acquiescing to the official version of 9/11 and the imperial wars it facilitated, DROP THIS BOOK NOW. But if you are open to the grace of honest inquiry and the risk of following the historical Jesus in confronting the evils of empire, this rigorously argued book is a MUST READ.”

And Professor of Religion at the University of Massachusetts, Richard A. Horsley, wrote “Do American Christians want the United States to act like the New Rome, invading other countries to impose its imperial rule and its control of other peoples’ resources? That is just what the U.S. is doing, increasingly so since 9/11, explains  David Griffin. In this gripping summary of evidence for the truth behind 9/11 and the 9/11 Commission report, Griffin makes a compelling case that the imperial practices of the American government have become a destructive force in the world. And he clarifies the biblical and theological basis for Christians to challenge the resurgent American imperialism that often claims divine blessing on its destructive actions.”

In 2004 Douglas Sturm, Professor of Religion and Political Science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, endorsed David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor stating “That 9/11 has become a defining moment in our history cannot be gainsaid. But its exact significance is an exceedingly contentious question notwithstanding the seeming clarity of prevailing accounts. David Ray Griffin deconstructs those accounts with a host of unsolved puzzles strongly suggestive of some sort off culpable complicity by US officials in the event. His book presents an incontrovertible argument of the need for a genuinely full and independent investigation of that infamous day.”

While Joseph C. Hough, President of Manhattan based Union Theological Seminary, added this endorsement: “Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor ought to be read by any American who values our democracy and understands the importance of retaining the basic trust of the people for any such democracy to survive over time.” Hough would have had broad support from other faculty at Union Theological Seminary in order to issue his public endorsement of Griffin’s book. Back in 2004 there was no controversy that ensued at Union after Hough’s endorsement was issued.

Additionally, there are others who have authored books who have been in the forefront of leadership in the Christian church in North America. Dr. Graeme MacQueen, a former professor with the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University, is author of The Anthrax Deception: The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy. MacQueen has also served on The Consensus 9/11 Panel. While James W. Douglass, a Catholic Worker, has endorsed several books questioning the official story surrounding September Eleventh, while publishing JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters.

Followers of Jesus are familiar with his teaching “the truth will set you free.” And so are averse to evidence of falsity, when they are made aware of lies being told. In his book published in 2010 titled The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11, Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, John Farmer writes “In the course of our investigation into the national response to the attacks, the 9/11 Commission staff discovered that the official version of what had occurred [the morning of September 11, 2001] – that is, what government and military officials had told Congress, the Commission, the media, and the public about who knew what when – was almost entirely, and inexplicably untrue.” So, for religious leaders raising questions about the official narrative, there was a solid basis for raising questions.

However, subscribers of mainstream Protestant magazines, as well as Catholic publications, can be forgiven for not noting any public statements by Christian thinkers expressing dissent from the official account(s) surrounding the attacks of September 11th. Aside from the scathing book review of Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by the Christian Century, the pronouncements by Griffin, Cobb and others have seemingly been off the radar of editors in North American Christian circles.

Ray McGinnis

John B. Cobb Jr., “Truth, “Faith,” and 9/11,” Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth, September 2009.