Several years ago I read a book titled The Girl on the Stairs: The Search for a Missing Witness to the JFK Assassination, by Barry Ernest. Ernest carefully evaluates the Warren report’s analysis and conclusions, both in his research and in his writing. His treatment of the Warren report is as thorough as any I’ve seen. He wants to understand why the Warren Commission wrote its report the way it did, as well as inconsistency between evidence and conclusions. The missing witness, Victoria Adams, takes a central place in Ernest’s story, but the Commission’s report occupies his efforts even more.
If you pick up a couple of other books published during the last several years, Brothers by David Talbot and JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass, you’ll find references to the Warren report much more sparse. These authors take up the assassination in a different way. They are not as concerned with forensic evidence as is Barry Ernest, nor do they see the Commission’s work as a necessary starting point for understanding what happened on November 22, 1963.
The forensic evidence, so poorly analyzed by the Warren Commission, is an important part of the assassination story, but it isn’t the only part. It’s also not the most important. To persuade other people your theory of a case explains a the crime better, tell a story that establishes motives for the murder. The most important evidence and analysis support weave a story about actors’ motivations. Douglass in particular takes care to tell a story like that. Forensic evidence can tell you what happened. It cannot tell you why it happened.
The same observations apply to analysis of 9/11. Who did it, and why? The standard narrative says Islamic terrorists carried out the attacks because they hate us. Does that motive account for what we know? As we evaluate evidence related to that crime, we want to analyze it so as to tell a story about why it happened. We want to know why everyone involved with the crime carried it out. Based on evidentiary analysis almost fifteen years after the attacks, we do not have a satisfactory or compelling answer to that question.