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May 21, 2004

The Blame Game

Diana West:

There is a strange pathology in the September 11 commission that goes beyond the Bush-bashing grandstanding of the old days (remember Richard Clarke?), back when the president of the USAG (United States of Abu Ghraib) was taking it on the chin for not having enacted serious measures, pre-September 11, to stop Islamist terrorists — such as putting women's underwear on the heads of racially profiled Muslim men at airport check-ins, I suppose. In the commission's findings, there now emerges a weird sense that what happened on September 11 — when out of the most heavenly azure sky, al Qaeda simultaneously launched four air attacks on American cities — was something the Big Apple should have planned and drilled for to the point of preventing all casualties. Indeed, according to commission thinking, it is almost as if New York's response to al Qaeda's attacks created all the mayhem in the first place.
The most egregious example of commission scapegoating concerns the stalwart service on September 11 of Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph W. Pfeifer. Chief Pfeifer arrived at the north tower six minutes after seeing the first jet strike, helping to bring order to the fearful chaos in the lobby and direct rescue units to the upper floors. He also sent his only brother, Fire Lt. Kevin Pfeifer, up the stairs. "We spent a couple of seconds looking at each other," Chief Pfeifer told the New York Times. "He didn't say anything. It was just a look." Lt. Pfeifer was among the 343 members of the NYFD who died in the inferno.
Now, two-and-a-half years later, Chief Pfeifer is being raked over September 11's coals for a command decision he made to switch radio channels from a stronger signal the chief says wasn't working that morning, to a weaker, functioning alternate, thereby losing the ability to communicate with all units, and thereby failing to learn immediately when the south tower collapsed. The commission finding is that an unnamed chief — Chief Pfeifer — was mistaken: The better, stronger radio channel was indeed working. The chief robustly disagrees. He also points out that even with the weaker radio signal, he was able to direct the evacuation of the north tower for a hellish hour — plus until it, too, collapsed. His actions saved the lives of countless civilians and firemen.
When commissioner Bob Kerrey asked World Trade Center director Alan Reiss whether he was "angry" (is this "Oprah"?) the FBI didn't reveal more about al Qaeda before September 11, Mr. Reiss, according to the New York Post, "shot back" he was angry at "19 people in an airplane," not the FBI.
Nineteen men in an airplane is right. Of course, if the "chatter" before September 11 had been listened to, these men would have been racially profiled right off their flights. That's the only logical conclusion of any serious inquiry into how September 11 might have been prevented — one to which the September 11 commission will never get.

It's time to call a halt to the activities of the 9/11 commission. I've said it before, but it bears saying again: there is no point in assigning blame for not foreseeing a surprise attack. Especially when we, as a nation, would never have countenanced the security measures needed to detect and head off such an attack. And we need to face the truth: even after 9/11 - even knowing what we know now - that the lives of 3,000 innocent people can be snuffed out in a few horrible moments by madmen, we still are not willing to countenance those measures.

We don't want racial profiling. We hate the Patriot Act. The vast majority of Americans are too lazy and complacent to read it and think about whether it is warranted in the new world in which we find ourselves. We want to be protected without inconvenience or discomfort. We certainly don't want to pay for this protection - it takes away from our schools, our entitlements, our luxuries.

So we need to implement those measures we are willing to live with (which we were doing long before the 9/11 commission came along).

And we need to learn to live with uncertainty and risk. Welcome to the real world, America. Sooner or later the ADD Nation will get another wakeup call to briefly focus our attention before we go back to our regularly scheduled lives. Maybe next time we'll have enough sense not to blame our protectors.

- Cassandra

May 21, 2004 at 08:15 AM | Permalink


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The logic of it is so simple, even a government educated southern hick son of a teenage mom like me gets it. To prevent 9/11, we would have at least had to put in place the types of security we have now, and maybe more. After 9/11, the same people blaming Bush for not doing that pre-9/11 are criticizing him for doing the same thing post-9/11.

I don't dispute that there are serious issues to debate over many of these measures. I think I am probably to the left of many readers here on the whole enemy combatant thing (which, BTW, has nothing to do with the Patriot Act). But don't criticize for not doing something then that you don't even support now.

Posted by: KJ at May 21, 2004 9:55:02 AM

You know, there is that Bible verse that keeps running through my mind about a dog returning to its vomit.

Learn the lessons of 9-11. It is the old gun control argument rehashed: "How did this perp get this gun when there were laws ALREADY IN PLACE to STOP him?"

Now that we have learned the lesson of 9-11, it is time to live it.

Posted by: La Femme Crickita at May 21, 2004 11:47:36 AM

I think we need a commission to investigate the excesses of the 9/11 commission...

Posted by: Cassandra at May 21, 2004 3:20:51 PM

SOMEBODY QUICK! Aliens have kidnapped the Blog Queen (I said BLOG not BORG) and the pod person wants to investigate the 9-11 commission...AR! No! This is worse than Michael Moore in Alexadra Kerry's Gown!

Posted by: La Femme Crickita at May 22, 2004 6:41:06 AM