Thursday, September 07, 2006

Five years of terror & lies

Sept. 11. Where were you? What were you doing that morning?

There probably aren’t too many Americans who don’t know. Sept. 11 is the Nov. 22 of a new generation. (And there are probably too many young Americans who don’t know what that means.)

I was sitting at my open kitchen window, sipping a mug of hot coffee, looking up at a cloudless cobalt sky, feeling peaceful and content. I remember inhaling the sweet morning air deeply, relishing it, feeling relaxed and being slightly annoyed by the ringing telephone that jarred me out of my reverie shortly before 9 a.m.

Much of that Tuesday is, quite honestly, a blurry memory, haunting images jumbled in my mind. But the emotion comes back clearly, as clear as the blue sky that morning: in a word, fear. All hell was breaking loose. Thousands of people surely had perished. Nobody seemed to know what was really going on. Who wasn’t terrified that day? That was, after all, the objective of the people who attacked us and they achieved it. They robbed our sense of security.

Sept. 11 is a turning point in our nation’s history. It is a pivotal date not only for what happened that day but for how our response to the events of that day shaped America’s — and the world’s — future.

Our response included heroism: police officers and firefighters rushed into the burning buildings immediately following the attack; volunteers from outlying nearby areas, such as ours, rushing to the scene to help with the grim recovery effort, remaining there for weeks on end; men and women in the military, and those who signed up in answer to what happened that day, shipping off to Afghanistan, and later, to Iraq, to fight the enemy that brought terror to American soil. The way Americans, New Yorkers in particular, came together after the attacks — to search for survivors, recover remains, mourn our dead, comfort the grieving, clear the rubble, pick ourselves up and move on — inspired awe and respect throughout the world.

But our response also included deceit and manipulation, which, from the vantage point of five years down the road, we can now see with clarity, if we are willing to look. We dishonor the memory of those who perished in the attacks and those killed fighting in the war that followed, if we refuse to see it for what it is and speak out.
Our government lied to us.

When the federal EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman reassured us that the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe, she was not mistaken. She was lying.

When the president told us that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were perpetrated by people linked to Saddam Hussein, he was lying. When he told us that Hussein was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, he was lying.

When the Bush administration, just a month and a half after the attacks, pushed the so-called Patriot Act through a panic-stricken Congress, it was manipulating us, capitalizing on our fear to wrought fundamental change in our 225-year-old democracy. In the name of “homeland security” and “patriotism,” we have sacrificed many of the basic rights that made the United States of America a free nation. The Soviets would be proud of what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft have accomplished: warrantless wiretaps, searches and seizures, supported by no more than the mere suspicion of relevance to a terrorist investigation; the imposition of gag orders that criminalise revealing that a search has occurred; the right to detain a suspect indefinitely without even a hearing of the charges against him. That’s just a sampling of the wounds inflicted on American democracy by the current government as America lay injured, grieving and terrified in the weeks following the attacks.

And then there’s the war waged not to bring to justice the “evildoers” who attacked us, as the president told us, but for some other reason: a personal vendetta against the man who plotted the assassination of the first President Bush, perhaps, or to secure a strategic presence in an oil-rich region, which just happened to benefit, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the financial interests of key decision-makers in our government.

Whatever the real motives for the decision to invade Iraq, one thing is clear: Saddam Hussein, who sits in a jail cell today, was not responsible for or connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, nor was he manufacturing weapons of mass destruction to use against us in future acts of terror. Those were lies mouthed by the president to rally the support of — to manipulate — a frightened nation. The man who is responsible for those attacks remains free and still directs a global terror network organized specifically to destroy America. Americans, meanwhile, continue to die in a war that is woefully lacking in political or moral justification. And our government says there is no way out.

And the manipulation continues, as evidenced by the president’s recent rhetoric shamelessly invoking the specter of terrorism to rally support for the GOP in November’s congressional elections.

Five years after Sept. 11, I continue to feel terror and outrage — not only about the attacks but also about what the United States government has done to the world, to its own people and to our future in the wake of the attacks.

I also feel shame. When the president lied, I believed him. I wanted desperately to believe him, to believe that America had in no way provoked what had happened, when I knew full well that failed American foreign policy had set the disaster in motion decades before and continued to fuel the anger and hatred of terrorists like bin Laden. Our failed policy continues to fan the flames — the invasion and occupation of Iraq has done more for the resolve of Islamic fundamentalists than even the “victory” of Sept. 11.

Surely we haven’t seen the last of terror on our shores. But are we willing to see the blood on our own hands for what happened on Sept. 11, what’s happened in years since and for the horrors yet to come? Maybe it’s still too soon. But by the time we gain clarity and perspective, it may be too late.

10 comments:

Celia Iannelli said...

Hi Denise-

Bravo! Your editorial told the truth. Thankfully, the American people are waking up to realize we were feed lies, manipulation and deceits. The Administration betrayed us- the citizens of this great nation.

9/11 still saddens me - One firefigher on my block ( In Staten Island ) was killed, and a friend from church - her remains were never found. My brother-in-law
escaped - by a twist of fate. He missed his train. He walked into the building as the 1st plane hit.
All his co-workers perished.

Staten Island, because of its proximity to the City, suffered many losses. I lived near a church. For months funerals were held on a daily basis. I particulary remember the sound of the bells tolling - announcing to the world our grief.

lehmann said...

I can only believe that you wrote this to provoke a response but you may not be so pleased to find out that not everybody in the U.S. in suffering from the delusion that we somehow deserved to be attacked, that we are at fault for terrorism and if we had just taken our beating and crawled away we would have a world just like before, just like we did when carter cut and ran during the Iran hostage crisis . That world before 9/11 included terrorist attacks - Uss Cole- murdered Marines , the first World trade ctr. attack which failed but didn't stop the 2nd one years later. The Islamic radicals have a different timetable than we do, they planned their first attack for 10 years they have wanted to destroy America, the symbol of freedom and democracy since Jimmy Carter the worst president we ever had gave into them in Iran and today the President of Iran still exists to threaten us with Nuclear Weapons. Oh I guess we should'nt believe that either? why don't you wait and see if they attack us.
As far as our government lying to us ? I guess Tony Blair and the British were in on this mass conspiracy He was just as adamant about the WMDs and the potential threat. I remember his speeches to Parliament clearly . If we had not addressed Iraq you would be on the attack about what did Bush know and when did he know it. The people who lied were the Iraqi politicos and that coupled with poor intelligence from a crippled Cia all worked to create the belief that Iraq was a threat with Biological weaponry -remember all the Anthrax scares(congressmen running out of ther buildings) and a couple of deaths or was that a ridiculous conspiracy theory as well , Iraq was a mercenary rogue nation run by a madman and he easily provided sanctuary and training grounds for terrorism,THe Alquaeda fighters are in Iraq now- we are fighting them . I have hard time believing the ridiculous idea that no one in the govt. would stop Bush for "avenging " his father. I can't believe that people are actualy saying we shot a cruise missile at the Pentagon and covered up the deaths of the people on that plane and that there were no eye witnesses - oh yeah this must have been what it was like when people denied the Holocaust .
Instead of just spouting rhetoric about govt. officials and how they made a profit- do a little investigative fact finding prove it , many people like yourself spout opinions -back it up . Oil is a single product in a desert nation sold on the open market to brokers without oil there is no economy in the major parts of the middle east. the price is set by supply and demand- economics 101.
I thank god everyday that someone had the good sense to pass the patriot act - and just how has your life or any one you know been adversely affected , if the govt wants to listen to me talk to my sister and argue with my mother thats fine and I only feel safer because of that.wiretaps are still only issued with a special court order look it up on the web.
Leave your little office and go to a county preparedness meeting speak to a suffolk county police officer in charge of disaster preparedness ,Terror attacks are not spoken of in terms of 'if" but "when" , we are in the fight of our lives and for our democratic culture, and typically you are full of criticism but devoid of answers- have the guts to postulate a theory of what else we could have done -stop being part of what the terrorists want and try being part of a solution

Anonymous said...

try reading an investigative journalist report The Third TERRORIST-author and investigative journalst JAYNA DAVIS-www.WNDBooks.com

Anonymous said...

You are one sick person if you think that President Bush, his administration and the government is the bigger enemy than the islamofascists.

Quiz time:

Who drove a boat into the US Navy ship Cole off the coast of Yemen that resulted in the deaths of a 17 American sailors?
a.) Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
b.) Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
c.) Men mostly of middle eastern descent between the ages of 17 and 45

Or...

Who threw a man in a wheelchair off of the cruise liner Achille Lauro?
a.) Daniel Boone
b.) Tiger Woods
c.) Men mostly of middle eastern descent between the ages of 17 and 45

Who hijacked four airplanes flying out of Boston, Newark and DC, and flew them into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and were stopped from flying into the Capital or White House killing over 2,700 people?

a.) Robin Hood and his band of merry thieves
b.) The New York Mets
c.) Men mostly of middle eastern descent between the ages of 17 and 45

Get the picture? The quiz questions could go on and on. Maybe there isn't the smoking gun connecting all of the dots (al qaeda, Iran, Saddam, et al) that you insist upon. Or maybe there is but it's being kept secret to protect our intelligence sources. It doesn't matter. The point is it's a war unlike any other as President Bush pointed out when he addressed both houses of Congress on September 22, 2001. There will be battles that we see, and there will be battles we won't in this war. Perhaps you feel that it is your right to know EVERYTHING as an American citizen. Wrong. When it comes to national defense, even the non traditional kind like this, you don't. And if it means we aren't subjected to 9/11 part two, let them lie away if that's what it takes.

Your editorial merely points out problems and failures of this war (is it a failure that we haven't been attacked again?) all the while railing against the Bush administration like you're one of those Democratic operative talking heads on CNN. What are your suggestions?

Here's one... why don't you fly over to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a Friday morning. Head to the nearest radical (aren't they all) mosque, walk inside, and start preaching equal rights for women, the right for Jews and Christians to practice their religion, democracy, etc. In front of the men.

Then see what happens.

Or one that is more realistic. Why don't you apply for a job at the Department of Homeland Security where you can put some of those great ideas you have about preserving every speck of freedom while protecting the country. You make it seem like it so easy for these people to do their job.

Writers like you serve a purpose to the extremists - you're anti-war stance is probably their best weapon against us. I think it was the Soviets during the cold war who referred to you as (appropriately), "Useful Idiots".

Ask the 12 million Iraqis with the purple fingers that voted for the first time if it was worth it....

Cliff Batuello said...

Good on you, Denise. Speaking truth to power is never easy but in these scary times it's become a lot tougher than normal. Your editorial is sure to illicit some crazy responses; there are many who walk goose-step behind a leader and accept no criticism. Certainly true today. Interesting, no? how certain people can twist your words. I didn't 'get' that you said WE were responsible for 9/11. Someone else did. But I suppose that person wasn't aware of what was done in Iran long before the revolution - our removal by the CIA of a democratically elected president and installation of the dictator Mohammed Riza Shah Pahlevi. The tortures he and his secret police force (SAVAK) were guilty of made a lasting impression on the Persian people. Some things are not forgotten. Yes we have much to account for, but who doesn't? I for one, understand the anger so many people abroad have for this country but when someone hurts us I'm the first to call for retribution. But let's be clear about the enemy - Saddam Hussein never was. A vicious dictator who deserved whatever he got, yes, but his removal was the greatest day for those wackos in Iran. On the heels of eliminating the Taliban the Iranian got two presents from us. Of course, the Taliban WAS the enemy. They were protecting Bin Laden and his forces and THAT war was (and is) the right one. Frankly, I'm one of those that believes the only reason we went into Iraq was to feed the monster - the military industrial complex. Our young boys and girls will continue to die to make Cheney and his crew at Halliburton (and Bechtel) all the richer. Whether it's oil or just plain contracts. Remember when we were told it wouldn't cost anything? Iragi oil would pay for the costs. Remember when we were told there was a 'slamdunk' case that Hussein had WMD's? Remember when our government confused the Iraq government with Al Qaeda? Remeber when we said we were going to get Bin Laden? At this point I wouldn't be at all surprised to see another election "surprise" in two years with the capture of Bin Laden. Just in time for the next presidentials . . .

Jim Dinizio said...

Hi Denise,
It's an interesting world you live in. You get to define what a lie is then apply that definition to what ever supports your side of the story. Tell me who is more of a of a threat to your world. Osama Bin Laden or the guy who owns Cross Sound Ferry.

Larry Simms said...

Denise—

I live in Manhattan, subscribe to the NY Times, & read several other periodicals of note. I haven’t seen any 9/11 anniversary pieces more effective than your own “Legacies” column.

I’m aware that it takes considerable professional resolve & courage to take such positions in the conservative community in which you operate […& you do so often].

I’m sure some readers have voiced their objection; I wanted to be sure you know that some of us notice--& appreciate--your integrity, persistence, & courage.

Congratulations, & thanks.

As to who's right...the same night I read your editorial, I watched the Cheney interview. Here's the guy who masterminded the effort to "justify" the war [guaranteed WMDs, guaranteed links between Al Qaeda & Iraq, we'll be welcomed as liberators, Iraqi oil will cover all war costs, etc.], & he flat-out admitted that even though he's been proved wrong on EVERY point & promise, he'd do exactly the same thing today! A stunning example of this administration's disregard for the truth, contempt for the law, & ignorance of the principles on which this country was founded.

Anonymous said...

I thought you people believe 9-11 was an inside job. I also understand that you were once, and perhaps still are, a reporter, i.e., an impartial seeker of facts. Careful! Blogs have a wonderful way of cutting through those false images. Sometimes the last person to realize this is the author.

Brad Berthold said...

Good for you Denise! Crystal clear definition of the Iraq/Bush problem.

As another straight -shooting journalist, Keith Olberman, recently showed, in spite of the just- released Republican chaired Senate Intelligence Committee report saying there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, a goodly proportion of Americans believe otherwise, as, apparently, so do some of your critics.

Why? Because Cheney, Condi Rice, and Tony Snow are STILL insisting there were ties, as Olberman showed on film clips. Olberman called those statements "lies," which is what they are.

Tim Russert's astounding interview with Cheney, as another repondent mentions, shocked with Dick's assertion that if he had it to to over again, "We'd do exactly the same thing." What world is our unfortunate VP living in? His definition of victory in Iraq was a democracy that can stand on its own, is friendly to the United States, etc. etc. Does any sane human being believe that will be the result of our ill-advised Iraq/Middle East policy?

The vicious critics who criticize and name-call in their letters to the editor must be in the pay of the Republican noise machine, asserting falsehoods as "facts," and attacking straw men which have no validity.

Thinking people aren't continually hitting their fingers with a hammer. Rather, they're reacting to the daily outrages of a Bush administration on a course to destroy our nation, which they've alread bankrupted. Check the results of Bush policy on virtually any front. Disaster!

"Thank God for George Bush?" Maybe we should pray to God to send Bush back to the ranch, where all he could destroy is Texas brush.

More people are finally waking up to the baloney being foisted on the American public by this sordid bunch of ill-advised croneys. The midterm elections are a chance for the people to send a message, despite the attempts at smear campaigns,vote-rigging, and other distortions of our right to vote the Rep/Cons will employ.

Enough, already! Let's do it!

larry simms said...

I suppose it's a microcosm of the national debate: one side focuses on verifiable facts & rational arguments, while the other tends toward personal attacks ["you are one sick person"] & flawed logic [we just need to arrest or kill all the "men of middle eastern descent between the ages of 17 and 45" & we'll be fine].

It's also telling that the only posters who lack the courtesy & courage to identify themselves are the ones who oppose the editor's position & support the administration blindly.

To those who call anyone who questions or challenges the government a traitor, I say that's precisely the obligation of a true patriot...& that's precisely what the Founding Fathers did when they brought this country into being.