Is Seahawks coach Pete Carroll a 9/11 truther? That all depends: Does badgering a former four-star general about whether 9/11 was real make one a truther?
Here's what happened, according to a couple sources: Late last spring, retired general Peter Chiarelli, who had just finished his term as the Army's vice chief of staff, visited Carroll at the Seattle Seahawks headquarters. Chiarelli was expecting a pleasant meeting. After all, the pair had what important businesspeople tend to call synergies: Chiarelli—who grew up in Seattle—is a big Seahawks fan. His post-military work concerns traumatic brain injury research, a cause of some significance to the NFL. And both have plenty of experience leading groups of men on grand American stages.
The sit-down between Chiarelli and Carroll started off normally enough. They talked about the team, and then about head trauma. Chiarelli, who commanded the American forces in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II, talked about the brain injuries he had seen there. But Chiarelli's mention of Iraq sent Carroll in another direction: He wanted to know if the September 11 attacks had been planned or faked by the United States government.
In particular, Carroll wanted to know whether the attack on the Pentagon had really happened. Chiarelli—who was the top-ranking Army official inside the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into its western side—explained that it had. He said he had lost many colleagues. But Carroll didn't stop there. He ran through the whole 9/11 truther litany.
"Every 9/11 conspiracy theory you can think of, Pete asked about," said Riki Ellison, the former NFL linebacker who now runs the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance and introduced Carroll to Chiarelli. Ellison, along with Seahawks offensive line coach Pat Ruel, was at the meeting as well. "And he didn't stop at 9/11—he had lots of questions about the role of the military today." (Carroll does seem to have some fondness for the military. He lectured at a military-sponsored "conference on small unit excellence" in 2009, and last year Ellison connected him with Army soldiers at Camp Carroll in Korea.)
Carroll isn't crazy, Ellison said. He's just skeptical. "Pete grew up in California during Vietnam, and during Watergate. That's just the perspective he brings to the table."
So did the discussion last year turn hostile? A source close to Chiarelli, one who wasn't present when he spoke to Carroll, told us that it did. He said the general had to leave the room because Carroll had rankled him so thoroughly. Ellison told us that that wasn't true, that the discussion had remained friendly and "fun" throughout. A spokesman for Chiarelli at his foundation, One Mind for Research, did not respond to repeated phone and email requests.
Ellison said Carroll did only what anyone else would do: "Pete had a four-star general in the room, one of the army's top guys. Why wouldn't you push the envelope?"