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Remember September 11
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This is an archive of Mahablog articles dedicated to September 11.

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September 11, 2002
 
(Note: I wrote this to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11. But a year later nothing much has changed, except that the Iraq War moved out of the planning stage. So here it is again.)
 
I'm not ready to move on. 

This isn't real. That's what we all said. I said it too, as I watched from a high-rise building on West 17th Street and saw the mighty towers of the World Trade Center collapse and disappear into dust.
 

Two days later I was back in Manhattan, looking for what was real. I walked to Times Square and saw flags and expressions of raw defiance on construction sites. Lamp posts were festooned with home-made signs: Have you seen this person? Have you seen my wife? My husband? My child? Please? The faces on the signs were of robust, whole people. The faces were relaxed, full of trust, alive.

 

I took a 9 train to Chelsea. I had been on a 9 train Tuesday morning, when someone said a plane had struck the World Trade Center. How awful, we said. I hope not many people are hurt.

 

But on Thursday morning no one spoke, except for a man talking to himself. Its not unusual to find men talking to themselves in the subways, but they are usually homeless men who smell of urine. This was a clean man in a good suit, and he wore a gold watch, and his hands shook, and he was talking to himself because he was terrified. He sat and muttered and trembled, and those standing and swaying around him, hanging on to the bars, left him alone. Whatever was real to him must have been terrible.

In the weeks that followed there was much speechifying and memorializing of This Terrible Thing, and much glorifying of the dead and the living and the flag. I looked for a transformation from what we had been before to something better and grander.
 
But it didn't happen. We pinned flags and ribbons to our clothes, but they were the same old clothes. We bought bleeping souvenirs like NYPD golf caps and bumper stickers and various special commemorative editions. We packaged September 11 and put it on our national trophy shelf, with the Alamo and Iwo Jima and John Wayne. We stood around our backyard grills, beer in hand, and said yeah, that was awful. I hope they get that bin Laden guy. How do you like your burgers cooked?
 
After September 11 Americans donated money and blood in record amounts, because we wanted very much to do something. But although we were ready to make any sacrifice and bear any burden; our leaders urged us to shop, spend, eat, travel, and enjoy ourselves for America. Don't allow September 11 to interrupt your life, we were told. Just go on as if nothing had happened. And, on the whole, that's what we did.
 

On the other hand, politicians and ideologues made good use of September 11 to support their agendas, whether those agendas had a connection to terrorism or not. They are the same old agendas from before September 11, just a little more urgent. Cut taxes. Buy guns. Support our political party. Fear people who are different from you.

A year has gone by, and we are preparing to wallow in remembrance of that which still doesn't seem real. But instead of passively tuning into All September 11, All the Time, we need to look at what has not been said and what has not been done and what we are rapidly forgetting.

First, we must look to the war on terrorism. The Bush Administration wants to invade Iraq, although it has not been able to prove that Saddam Hussein is connected to the September 11 attacks. At the same time, a number of news stories report that al Qaeda, although wounded, has not died but has gone underground and continues to be a threat. Most of its leaders, including Osama bin Laden, may still be alive. At the very least, the Bush Administration must tell us why we are to leave one job unfinished to begin another.

Second, we must have a thorough investigation of September 11. Recently, a BBC special report ("Clear the Skies," presented by Gavin Hewitt, BBC2, September 1, 2002) said that on September 11 the entire U.S. mainland was defended by only 14 planes, only four of which were in the northeast.
 
However, other news stories have revealed that last summer there were many warnings, albeit unspecific, of a terrorist threat. In July 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft, among other administration officials, began using chartered government planes instead of commercial airlines because of a "threat assessment." Yet the administration did nothing to increase security for the citizens of the United States. The American people deserve an explanation.

And third, I urge a rededication to the principles upon which our great nation was founded. Each of us has a duty to our country to be informed and to pay attention to what our government is doing, both here and abroad. And our elected officials, including the President, are accountable to us. We must not let them forget that.

On September 11, I intend to walk behind the pipers down to Ground Zero to pay my respects. Lower Manhattan looks so much smaller and shabbier than it used to. When I close my eyes I can still see it the way it was, especially on a blue-sky day, when the towers gleamed in the sun and the city all around was bright and grand. And I can still see the people in the World Trade Center, flowing up and down the escalators and through the broad corridors, past the pretty shops and the restaurants, past the deli with a long line for coffee, past the flower and magazine stands, going up to their offices or down into the subways or outside into the prosperous streets.
 
It seems so real.
 
Copyright 2002 by Barbara O'Brien. Please do not republish the entire article without notifying the author.

August 7, 2003
 
Recently a couple of high schoolers in Oakland, California, got into trouble for threatening to assassinate President Bush.
 
I'm glad they got into trouble. If those had been my kids, I would have smacked them.
 
Why? Because I don't want to live the rest of my life with Holy Martyr Shrub.
 
Knock him off now, and he'll become Saint Dubya of Blessed Memory. There will be posters and T-shirts picturing Shrub Ascending to Heaven on the back of a bald eagle. There will be no end of bad country-western songs about how He's Gone to That Big Oval Office in the Sky.
 
Don't put me through that, children. I don't have the strength.
 
Anyway, death would get him off the hook. What I really want is to question Bush sharply, preferably on national television. Prime time.
 
I want to know what he's hiding about the Saudis. I want to know why the Treasury Department won't tell the Senate how often the Bush administration rejected recommendations to penalize Saudi organizations suspected of financing terrorists.
 
That's how stupid it's gotten, people. First, the Senate wanted to know which Saudi organizations were suspected of financing terrorism. The Treasury Department responded by saying such a list might compromise the investigation. Now, I think this is BUSH-wah, but at least it's an excuse.
 
But now Senator Susan Collins, the Republican chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, wants to know how many times the Bush Administration acted to protect the Saudis. And the Treasury Department won't say.

The information sought by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, could reveal whether the administration was more reluctant to designate Saudi organizations as supporting terrorism than organizations from other countries. ... The dispute is the latest between the Senate and the White House over whether the administration has been trying to conceal information suggesting Saudi links to terrorism. [Ken Guggenheim, "Senator Rips Gov't on Saudi Money Probe," The Associated Press/Atlanta Constitution, August 7, 2003]

Even while the fires were still raging at Ground Zero, dedicated investigators sniffed out details on Saudi-Bush business connections. This information is easily available on the Web. However, none of it ever makes it to prime time.
 
Some examples: William Rivers Pitt at truthout has done masterful work revealing the Carlyle Group connections. Read more about this at Bush Watch  and in this January 2002 article in Red Herring. See also Joe Conason's recent article, "Saudi Secrets Are Safe With Bush." And don't miss this New York Times article, "Report on 9/11 Suggests a Role by Saudi Spies."
 
The White House would not permit the congressional report on September 11 be released until 28 pages dealing with Saudi Arabia were censored. I want to sit the President down in an uncomfortable chair and question him hard about what's in those pages.

"I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on "Meet the Press." "My judgment is 95% of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know." ...

Quite an embarrassment if the censored pages reveal that the Bush administration covered up the Saudi connection to the terrorist attacks.

Obviously alluding to Saudi Arabia, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sunday, "High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11." [Robert Scheer, "Read Between the Lines of Those 28 Missing Pages," Alternet, July 30, 2003]

I watched the World Trade Center towers burn and collapse from a high-rise building on West 17th Street. I had a clear view. And I have no intention of moving on.

The President of the United States puts his personal business loyalties ahead of the United States of America. That's plain as day, even without the 28 pages.

Why else would the White House refuse to admit how many times it has rejected recommendations to penalize Saudi organizations suspecting of financing terrorism? Why else would the Bush Administration cover up evidence of favoritism to the Saudis?

There is no other explanation. And I don't want George W. Bush martyred. I want him alive, and held accountable.

I want the American people to know what he's done.

Featured Quote
 
What kills the President is that every time Harken comes up, Democrats get to retell the story of how he made his money. And this, basically, is the story of the spectacular unfairness with which moneymaking opportunities are lavished on the politically connected. It is the story of a man who has been rewarded for repeated failures by having money shot at him through a fire hose. It is the story of a man who talks with a straight face about having "earned" a fortune of tens of millions of dollars, without having ever done an honest day’s work in his life. [Christopher Caldwell, "Who Bought Bush's Stock?" New York Press, undated]
 
 
 
 
 
The Doctor Is In:
 
 
 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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