The 21st century has been a total disaster for peace, privacy and freedom. The hostile takeover of the United States went from covert to overt at the turn of this century, when for the second time in U.S. history, the Supreme Court decided the winner of a presidential election. And, for the fourth time in U.S. history, a candidate who did not win the popular vote became president. Those who did vote for Bush cited factors such as “he’s the kind of guy I’d like to drink a beer with” among the reasons for their support. Never mind the fact that Bush is a recovering alcoholic who, for all intents and purposes, isn’t supposed to be drinking beer. It’s anyone’s guess as to what the great War President was on at the Dallas police memorial service in July of this year, but I doubt his behavior was the result of something as benign as beer. Perhaps another of his vices, a bit of the old Devil’s dandruff?

The “terror attacks” on September 11, 2001, have sadly been the defining event of this century so far. From the PATRIOT Act to the endless global war on terror, our world has never been the same since. This is a good to time stop and ask yourself: Are we safer today than we were on 9/11? Is the world a safer place? Are we better off today than we were 15 years ago?

Of course, the answer to all three questions is an emphatic NO. But does it matter anymore? After all, 15 years later, more than a few people seem to have forgotten many of the core elements of the official conspiracy theory proffered by the U.S. government:

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was living in Tokyo, Japan. As the terrible events of that day began, my wife and I were at home watching a movie on TV. If I recall correctly, it was the film version of Stephen King’s Needful Things. Near the end of that movie, there is a scene where an entire small town is out in the streets trying to kill one another. It is the kind of Hollywood gore and violence that most of us consume without a second thought. A carefully crafted illusion of mayhem and chaos designed to be “entertaining.”

Right in the middle of this fictional fight scene, our phone rang. It was my mother calling from the U.S. She asked if I was watching TV and did I know what was going on? “America is under attack!” she declared in her typically melodramatic fashion. I asked my wife to change to a different station. That is when I realized that every channel on Japanese television (except the one we had been watching) was showing images from lower Manhattan. Suddenly, the death and destruction we had been enjoying had gone frighteningly real-world.

All I could see was a huge cloud of brownish-white dust. Particularly memorable was what appeared to be millions of sheets of paper floating in the air and covering the ground. What kind of explosions and fire are able to melt steel, pulverize concrete and utterly destroy steel-frame structures without burning or destroying paper? And why was there so much dust? Where did the towers go?

It was just before 10 p.m. local time in Tokyo, and both towers had already been destroyed. Unlike most people in the U.S., I had totally missed the event as it unfolded live on TV. All Japanese broadcasters were showing U.S. cable news media live feeds and commenting over the images. No matter what channel I turned to, the coverage was pretty much the same.

I stayed up all night watching replays of the footage that has since been permanently burned into our brains. Instead of watching the events unfold in real time, I got the highlight edition, with images of the second tower being hit and the twin towers being destroyed over and over again in a kind of rote memorization for the subconscious, inflicting mass psychological trauma.

I finally managed to fall into a fitful sleep in the early morning hours, and not unexpectedly, I had a nightmare of a plane hitting a building. Instant PTSD? I don’t remember if it was Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but I recall standing in the living room of our apartment watching the carnage on TV in what seemed to be infinite replay, when for some reason a thought popped into my head:

Did America do this to itself?

The only way I can account for this thought is the identical way in which the twin towers were destroyed. From the very beginning it seemed like an impossible coincidence. At that time I didn’t even know that jet fuel and office fires cannot burn hot enough to weaken or melt structural steel. I was unaware that no high-rise building before or after 9/11 has ever collapsed due to fires, despite the fact that other buildings have burned longer with more widespread and intense fires affecting more floors. I had no idea the buildings fell at free fall speed through the path of greatest resistance, which defies the laws of physics as well as the laws of motion as described by Isaac Newton. All I knew was it simply didn’t look right. Maybe Dubya’s faith in “gut feelings” is not entirely unwarranted?

The term “inside job” had not yet entered my consciousness. However, I also remember thinking that if there are no terror attacks of a similar nature in America in the next, say, 10 years or so, then it would be even more likely that America did this to itself. Surely, this attack was only the beginning?

Yet here we are, 15 years later. There has been no major attack on the scale of a 9/11 (so far). Instead, we have these highly suspicious “mass casualty events” that we are supposed to believe are terrorism, either directly perpetrated or inspired by the Islamic boogeymen de jour: Al-Qaeda, IS, ISIL, ISIS, Al Nursra, Daesh, etc., ad nauseum. Don’t get me wrong, I hope America never experiences another 9/11. But given the current state of the world today, even without subsequent terror attacks on the scale of 9/11, things have nevertheless continued to go downhill. The world is coming apart and war looms on the horizon. If exceptional America’s greatest military in the history of the world can’t restore order, doesn’t that indicate that we are in serious trouble? The only thing the U.S. has succeeded at over the past 15 years is the creation of real enemies who truly hate America, where perhaps none existed before.

For many years after 9/11, I choose to bury my head in the sand. I didn’t want to know. I tried to focus on the positive, I tried to kindle hope in my heart. But that Pentagon security camera footage kept gnawing at my sunny disposition.

Instead of confirming the official narrative, it raised more questions than answers. Where did AA77 go? There is no way fire can evaporate the titanium turbines used in jet aircraft engines. The wingspan and fuselage of the plane was larger than the hole it purportedly left behind. The grass in front of the hole was left untouched and immaculate. And where was the black box? Nothing at the site indicated a plane had hit the Pentagon.

My suspicions grew deeper still when taking a closer look at the Shanksville, PA, “crash” site. I happen to have a morbid fascination with airplane disasters, and have spent countless hours watching documentaries and programs about plane crashes and the investigations into their causes. I have seen a tremendous amount of actual crash footage, and even to a layman such as myself, it is patently obvious UA93 did not crash at Shanksville.

The seemingly endless progression of lies, propaganda and bullshit was so sickeningly obvious, I eventually decided to spend some time taking a serious look at what all these crazy “truthers” and “conspiracy theorists” were on about. If they were all full of shit, their arguments should be prima facie absurd, full of holes and easy to debunk, right? If what I am after is the truth, I should consider every possibility. I should challenge my assumptions and take a dispassionate and critical view of every explanation for the events of 9/11, no matter how seemingly ridiculous, uncomfortable or even downright terrifying they might be.

The only way to wake up from the collective mind control we have been subjected to for the past 15 years is to do our own research. Anything less is dishonest and lazy, demonstrating a lack of intellectual curiosity and a naive willingness to take deep events like 9/11 at face value without ever applying skepticism or critical thought.

9/11 was more than a terrorist attack. It was a crime. Yet it was never investigated as such. Crimes are committed for a variety of reasons, but one of the most basic questions we ask when investigating a crime in an attempt to understand motive and identify the perpetrators is: cui bono? Who benefits?

Make no mistake, a great many people, institutions and organizations benefited from 9/11. How do we know this? Simple: follow the money.