Major questions remain unanswered one year after 9/11.
By Ted Rall, AlterNet
One year has passed since Sept. 11. Yet we, the American people, still don't know exactly what happened. There are still no plans for a public investigation of how more than 3,000 Americans lost their lives, of what could have been done to prevent the attacks or reduce their impact.
Secrecy has been the watchword of the obsessively inscrutable Bush Administration. So preoccupied is the Administration with keeping the people's business away from the people that, rather than spark a national discussion of what went wrong and what we could do better, these public servants are asking members of Congress to take lie-detector tests — to find out who's been leaking plans to attack Iraq.
Without a doubt, military intelligence requires secrecy. But there is no conceivable national security interest in keeping Americans in the dark about Sept. 11. A crisis whose first few weeks were marked by patriotic unity rapidly devolved into a divisive "war on terrorism" marked by opportunistic assaults on the Bill of Rights, old-fashioned oil wars and a cynical neo-McCarthyism whereby those who questioned Bush and the Republican Party were smeared as "anti-American." United We Stand bumper stickers aside, the terrorists have skillfully turned us against each other: citizen against immigrant, Republican against Democrat, Christian against Muslim. Secrecy only deepens those divisions.
To hell with closed-door Congressional hearings. America needs a full, open, publicly televised investigation into 9/11, and it needed it last October. Using the post-JFK assassination Warren Commission as a model is a start, though that panel's lack of openness fed conspiracy theories that continue to cause Americans to distrust their government four decades later. The best way to avoid alienating the public from its public servants is to keep an investigation 100-percent transparent.
During times of crisis both the electorate and the elected forget that this country belongs to the people. As American citizens and taxpayers, therefore, we deserve — and should demand — honest answers to the following still-unanswered questions:
Before the Attacks
What did Bush know and when did he know it? A few months ago it was revealed that, while vacationing in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 6, 2001, Bush had received an "analytical report" warning from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that a terrorist attack was imminent. What was the exact nature of that warning? How detailed was it? Should Bush have cut short his vacation and headed back to Washington? The administration has stonewalled on this issue, but they can only allay suspicions of a September Surprise by coming clean now about the briefings he received before 9/11.
Did Echelon cough up the 9/10 warnings? The
National Security Agency acknowledges that it "intercepted" two messages
(one said "tomorrow is zero hour") from terrorists indicating that
the next day, Sept. 11, would be the date of a major attack. Unfortunately,
those messages weren't processed and evaluated until it was too late,
on Sept. 12. The NSA maintains a sophisticated voice- and keyword-recognition
computer system called Echelon. A former NSA director told the French
magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that Echelon uses automation
to monitor every phone call, fax transmission, e-mail and wire transfer
in the world. Did the 9/10 warning come from Echelon? Is Echelon being
used to monitor ordinary Americans? Is there any way to speed up the
rate at which the NSA processes important intercepts?
Why didn't our Air Force shoot down the hijacked planes? Air traffic controllers lost contact with all four aircraft within minutes of takeoff. Two were off course and ignored controllers for more than an hour and a half, yet the mightiest air defense network in the world failed to prevent the suicide bombers from striking their targets. Did overworked air traffic controllers fail to notice the errant planes? How long did it take them to get the word to military authorities? Did a bureaucratically inept Air Force fail to react quickly enough?
Why were only 12 jets patrolling U.S. airspace? According to The New York Times, only 12 Air Force National Guard planes, most of them on the ground, were assigned to patrol the entire continental U.S. at the time of the attacks. Whose judgment determined that this level of protection was adequate? What would happen in the event of a nuclear first strike against the U.S.? Would an increased budget have increased that number, and what is our current field strength?
What is American policy concerning hijackings? Had an Air Force jet successfully intercepted one of the doomed flights, would its pilot have been ordered to shoot it down? If so, would that order have had to come from the President, or would a lower-ranked official be sufficient? If a shooting were authorized, would it ever be implemented over a densely populated area? Passengers need to know where they stand before they board a plane.
Was United Flight 93 shot down over Pennsylvania? The Pentagon has neither denied shooting down Flight 93 nor confirmed that its heroic passengers caused the flight to crash while trying to wrest its controls from the hijackers. The flight was airborne some two and a half hours before crashing outside Shanksville, leading many to speculate that it was fired upon to protect the White House or other likely targets in Washington. It seems unlikely that a cockpit voice recording of a struggle between passengers and jihadis exists; if it did, why not release such an inspiring artifact to a public hungry for inspiration? All 9/11 flight information, including any Flight 93 recordings, ought to be given to the media. And it's time for the military to indicate whether or not it, rather than the passengers, brought down the jet.
Why didn't federal law require reinforced cockpit doors? This common-sense proposal had been adopted by carriers in other countries years earlier, but not in the U.S. Did the airlines lobby against the move because of increased costs? If so, which airlines? And which federal officials and/or members of Congress are criminally responsible for jeopardizing the safety of the flying public for the sake of a few bucks?
Who locked the roof doors at the World Trade Center? During the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, hundreds of workers escaped smoke by going to the roofs. On Sept. 11 hundreds died when they went up dozens of flights of stairs only to find those same roof doors locked. Why did city fire officials order those doors locked between 1993 and 2001, and more importantly, why didn't they post notices through the World Trade Center complex to advise that roof doors would now be locked? Prosecutions may be in order for criminal negligence.
Who skimped on FDNY communications? Scores of New York firefighters died in the stairwells of the World Trade Center after they'd been ordered to evacuate the buildings — because they couldn't hear those orders on their antiquated radio system. The fire department had requested up-to-date equipment years earlier. Which city officials refused to allocate the necessary funding, causing firefighters to die needlessly? Do the FDNY and other urban fire departments now have better communications?
How much asbestos was released by the World Trade Center collapse? The WTC was one-third completed when builders stopped using asbestos fire retardant, which means that the equivalent of four normal-width 60-story skyscrapers full of a banned carcinogen was pulverized and released in a cloud that blanketed lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Environmental Protection Agency has never come clean on what may eventually become known as America's Chernobyl, but New Yorkers deserve to know the full extent of their exposure.
Why was the Pentagon so vulnerable? Not only did Defense Department employees perish at the Pentagon, the attack revealed that even the headquarters of American military power can be successfully targeted. Does the Pentagon have a surface-to-air missile system that could avert similar catastrophes in the future? If not, one should be constructed.
What about the other knives? After American planes were grounded, investigators found box cutters attached under seats on Delta flights out of Boston's Logan airport and from Atlanta bound for Brussels. Was anyone ever arrested in connection with would-be hijackings of these other flights? What were the intended targets of those aborted hijackings? Were those box cutters, and those on the four hijacked flights, placed there by personnel who service aircraft ("These look like an inside job," a U.S. official told Time magazine) or were they smuggled aboard through lax security checkpoints by would-be hijackers?
Were there other plots? American officials have questioned thousands of individuals in connection with 9/11. Have they uncovered other schemes intended for that day, or for later on?
Aftermath: The War on Terrorism
Did anyone take responsibility or make demands? It's difficult to imagine that the group that carried out an act as expensive and carefully planned as 9/11 chose not to claim credit for it. Furthermore, terrorist organizations typically make demands — requests for changes in policy, say, or the release of political prisoners. Secretary of State Colin Powell initially promised to provide proof of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda group's leading role as instigators of 9/11, but has since reneged on that pledge. Moreover, that assertion doesn't fit bin Laden's known methods; rather than plan or carry out operations himself, he usually agrees to fully or partially fund plots conceived and executed by other Islamist groups. If the Bush Administration received communiqués from a group or groups claiming responsibility for 9/11, Americans need to know that.
When did the U.S. decide to invade Afghanistan? As recently as April 2001, the Bush administration funneled millions of dollars in aid to the Taliban in order to reward the hardline Islamic regime for virtually eliminating opium production. By June, however, relations had cooled noticeably and invasion plans were being prepared. Would we have invaded Afghanistan if Sept. 11 hadn't happened? Were there any discussions between future U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai and the Bush administration before or immediately after 9/11?
Where was Osama bin Laden on 9/11? Afghans told reporters that bin Laden and his entourage fled Afghanistan for Kashmir on Sept. 10, yet military officials were saying as late as January that the world's most wanted man was holed up in the Tora Bora region. Did the U.S. really know where Osama was on 9/11, and if so, where was he? Why weren't American commandos inserted into Afghanistan or Pakistan in order to apprehend him? If the U.S. knew that he had left Afghanistan, is this why we refused to negotiate with the Taliban for his extradition?
How many civilians died in Afghanistan? Perhaps the most deliberately underreported story of 2001-2002 was the number of Afghan civilians killed by American bombs, missiles, mines and bullets. (Estimates begin at CNN's conservative 3,500.) While the Pentagon's argument that it is difficult to track these things from satellites and high-flying planes rings true, there's no doubt that they know more than they care to admit. We deserve to know how many innocent people our tax dollars have killed, and how many of their relatives now have reason to despise America.
Is the government spying on American citizens? Not only is the federal government asking postal workers and meter readers to report on anything unusual they see in our homes, anecdotal evidence suggests that opponents of administration policy are being targeted for wiretaps and other forms of harassment and intimidation by government intelligence agencies. Obviously there is no place for such retro-Cold War behavior in this country; the FBI, CIA and NSA must reveal and cease all such unconstitutional activities against Americans.
Why doesn't the Bush administration want a real investigation of 9/11? The House and Senate, whose intelligence committees are now meeting in private, are considering bills that would set up limited, closed-door independent investigative panels, but Bush has stymied even those watered-down efforts at openness, arguing they "would cause a further diversion of essential personnel from their duties fighting the war." What is he hiding? Americans pay George W. Bush's salary, and Americans deserve to know what he's doing.
A 9-11 reflection on grief and resolution.
By Christopher Forrest McDowell, PhD
Like millions of people in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, I experienced what is called "vicarious psychological trauma." All my unresolved wounds from 16 years of domestic terrorism as a child by an alcoholic father were re-activated by the familiar fear for lack of safety and peace in an armed world. The collapsing of the Twin Towers symbolized two distinct turning points in my life: my loss of innocence as a child, and my loss of naiveté as an adult. Unfortunately, my new trauma plunged me into the depths of eight months of depression that almost cost me my family and a 20-year marriage.
As an adult of the new millennium, I sought sanctuary from the world in similar ways as my post-World War II childhood: sitting in reflection for hours in my room in a specific chair; listening to inspiring music; finding solace in simple activity like reading, writing, or playing my guitar; praying and meditating; and being in nature.
However, my current grief and depression allowed me to become a student of terrorism, curious about how others find refuge from it. To my shock, the media only used the term "sanctuary" to describe the asylum given bin Laden by his kind in his flight from the allied military front. A gross misuse of a beautiful word meant to describe a very special place — a sanctus sanctorum — of refuge, safety, comfort, and peace! This misappropriation was made more stark in light of the fact that millions of U.S. citizens, in their fear for safety, sought a renewed haven in religion (church attendance skyrocketed), family intimacy (new marriages, pregnancy, and counseling dramatically increased), home security, and community. Nevertheless, my dismay deepened when the people who most needed sanctuary from war and abuse — the Afghan women, children, elders, and other innocent citizens — were only given the depraved term "collateral damage."
I know another form of collateral damage from war: soldiers and enraged men who take the war into their homes. Spousal abuse exploded after Vietnam and the Gulf War. The recent spousal homicides at Fort Bragg are being linked to soldier's stress. And of course, my father relived WW II everyday (as I am sure many veterans did) through his alcoholic rages.
As I coped with my personal depression after 9-11, I rediscovered the solace of walking. I saw details and heard sounds of everyday life in a new way. I caught serendipitous activities of human and animal life. I observed both the subtle and stark changes of nature over the seasons. I rediscovered the simple connecting with neighbors and neighborhood. I felt my aging body flex and limber up. I watched my breath fall into the rhythm of my step, my step into the inward chanting of a hopeful prayer. I watched my thoughts, judgments, opinions, desires, and emotions rattle for attention in my mind. I invited my deceased father and all tyrants to walk with me on one side, and on the other all those great and humble figures who have fought for the dignity of life and the human spirit. Walking, in short, gave me a new sense of compassion for life.
I believe the greatest human needs today are for a sense of safety/security, comfort, and peace — sanctuary within our homes, our land and gardens, our communities, and our dignity. We need to know we can find daily refuge amidst a troubled world. To put it into practice is simple:
• Show respect, reverence, and compassion for life without judgment.
• Live more simply so that the less fortunate may simply live.
• Give a kind, loving, and caring thought, word, or deed everyday for your family, a friend or stranger, an animal, and nature.
• Identify a place in your home, yard, and community that gives you solace and regenerates your spirit, and spend time there.
• Create time everyday for reflection, prayer, meditation, spiritual practice/study.
• Study and walk your grief/loss to discover its good
Above all, do not ignore your grief. Fortunately, my childhood trauma led to my life work as a wellness practitioner: helping others create a sense of sanctuary in their daily lives. Invite your human woundedness for a walk and find the good within it. You might discover a deeper state of daily sanctuary for your soul: a place in your heart to love and forgive, and a place in your mind for peace.
|REMEMBERING KEN KESEY, MIXED MEDIA BY TOM GERALD.|
Art on Sept. 11.
By Lois Wadsworth
For Tom Gerald, last Sept. 11 was more than a national tragedy. The event set in motion a creative outpouring that claimed all his attention for months. Personal loss combined with grief over the attack demanded artistic expression. He left the UO Bookstore, where he had worked for many years, to devote himself to painting. The thematic work Gerald produced during this period can be seen in a series of paintings, eleven, part of a mixed media exhibition of his work at Provenance Sept. 6-30. The work incorporates found objects into acrylic paintings on canvas or recycled plywood.
Gerald said he was inspired by Native American singer and songwriter John Trudell's practice of "including something old in his music to remind him of who he has been." So Gerald worked into his art the objects he found on the streets and alleys around the university area, such as bottle caps, a crushed beer can that had been run over many times, pleated cardboard scraps. He used found foil chewing gum wrappers to make the two gold/silver, narrow vertical columns of Souls, the work on EW's cover this week. Gerald said such objects are like a nexus, a connection or link between the past and present.
"We have an opportunity to figure out who we are after Sept. 11," Gerald said. "It's our obligation to do so." The ruptured, misshapen beer can "looked like an open maw to me," he said, referring to its gaping quality. He used the can in Nexus and painted a highly energized shape emerging from its opening. It's a dream-like evocation of the attack.
"I came out of my house that morning into a peerless blue sky, like the sky was in New York, and I realized that nothing could protect us anymore," Gerald said. He came home that night to paint a Mark Rothko-inspired piece of two yellow ocher columns against a blue background.
|BLOOD MOON , MIXED MEDIA BY TOM GERALD.|
Compare the relative simplicity of the first work to the tumultuous emotions of a later painting, (and my favorite), Fighting Out. Gerald said he had such a sense of loss as he worked on this painting that it took him a full six weeks to paint it. Strong vertical blue columns with a boiling surface are set against a background of diverse shapes and colors, where thin blue brush strokes contrast with multiple levels of paint. Small red shapes add to the picture's complexity and pleasing composition.
Blood Moon, shown here, marks a returns to simplicity where ghost-white columns stand in front of the ruined hulks of a skyline, the moon as mute witness. And Remembering Ken Kesey, seen here, is a joyous piece with two vertical columns in a Jackson Pollock-inspired splatter of yellow, orange, blue and green. Gerald incorporated a yellow Dixie cup from Kesey's funeral into this colorful piece.
Gerald's painted meditations offer us the opportunity to reflect on our personal and collective feelings about Sept. 11. It's my hope that these personal images may enlighten us about the pictures we all carry with us from television. The artist will be present at the reception at Provenance's gallery downstairs from 5:30 to 9 pm Sept. 6.
A Community Remembers
Eugeneans are remembering the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the year following with numerous gatherings and events including a "Week of Dissent," reflections on the conflict in Israel, and a "Day of Community for Peace and Justice." Here are the details available at press time:
Week of Dissent. The events begin with a community picnic in memory of 9/11 at 6 pm Saturday, Sept. 7, in Maurie Jacobs Park by the Valley River Bike Bridge. At 4 pm Sunday at Foolscap Books (West 8th and Monroe) will be a discussion on "Raising Children in a World of Terror." At 6 pm Monday is "Resistance in Our Lives" with Eugene Playback Theatre at Monroe Park. Cascadia Media Collective is planning a video showing and discussion at 7 pm Sunday at "My House" on West 5th and Van Buren. The whole schedule and more details have been posted at http://portland.indymedia.org and are available on paper at Foolscap Books and New Frontier Market (West 8th and Van Buren).
From Sept. 11 to the West Bank. Joe Gessert and Liv Dillon witnessed the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and coping with that event took them to Israel's West Bank in March as members of an international group planning to plant trees and rebuild demolished houses. They will speak of their experiences at 7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St. This event is co-sponsored by Eugene Middle East Peace Committee, Eugene PeaceWorks, Oregon PeaceWorks, and Women's Action for New Directions. The event is free, with optional donations asked.
|PEOPLE GATHERED IN DOWNTOWN EUGENE SEPT. 14 TO HONOR THE DEAD.|
Day of Community. A coalition of local organizations is sponsoring a "Day of Community for Peace and Justice" beginning at 6 am Sept. 11 and ending 24 hours later, at the Federal Building Plaza in Eugene. The peace vigil is "dedicated to the memory of all who perished on that day and in the war that followed, and in honor of their grieving survivors still coping with their losses," say organizers. The event includes a hospitality tent with refreshments, an informal art exhibit and areas for anyone wishing to commemorate and express responses to 9/11 through art, writing, fasting or other means. A candlelight vigil will be held beginning at dusk Wednesday. The event is free with optional donations for expenses accepted.
This event is sponsored by a coalition of individuals and organizations including the Justice Not War Coalition, Eugene PeaceWorks, Lane County Pacific Green Party, Oregon PeaceWorks, Faith in Action Committee, and Voter March LLC in association with The Families of September 11th, Global Exchange and the United for Peace Coalition.
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