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9/11: America Ungoverned

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    Asalamu alaikum, 9/11: America Ungoverned BY MICHAEL VENTURA The Austin Chronicle October 5, 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5 8:40 AM

      9/11: America Ungoverned


      The Austin Chronicle
      October 5, 2001

      The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, and Newsweek agree the first plane
      hit at 8:45am EST; The New York Times says 8:48; The Wall Street Journal,
      "about 8:50." The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and The Wall
      Street Journal report the second plane hit at 9:03; Time and The New York
      Times say 9:06. According to The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, and The
      Wall Street Journal, the South Tower collapsed at 9:50; but The New York
      Times puts it at 9:59 and Newsweek at 10:00 -- an extraordinary disagreement
      about an event everyone watched. These sources almost unite about the
      collapse of the North Tower, but not quite: 10:28, say The Los Angeles Times
      and The New York Times; 10:29, Time and Newsweek; USA Today puts it at 10:30
      and The Wall Street Journal at "about 10:30."

      In the shadow of the atrocity, these details have no importance. Still it's
      striking that a historian, comparing the most authoritative news sources in
      America, will be unable to discover the exact moment of these terrible
      events -- though by the time the second plane hit, every news organization
      in the country was fixed upon the World Trade Center. If such (seemingly)
      easily verifiable details are already lost to history, how much trust can be
      put in reports about, say, Osama bin Laden -- a figure known mostly from his
      own propaganda (certainly not to be trusted) and from our seriously flawed
      intelligence services? Also, there have been virtually no reports about
      other terrorist networks (with whom we are, after all, going to war). As I
      write, Americans still have zero dependable data upon which to base opinion
      about our government's actions. This, in itself, is terribly dangerous.

      There were two horrors on September 11. The first and greatest was the
      attack itself. The other horror is something about which America seems now
      to be in denial: On a crucial day in its history, our nation appeared to be
      not only abysmally uninformed but ungoverned.

      We can only hope our government's actions that day don't prefigure our

      Shortly after the first plane hits, President Bush gives a curt, tentative
      statement and disappears. About 11am EST, an hour after the second tower's
      collapse, Newt Gingrich is the first to liken this attack to Pearl Harbor.
      At 11:39 Fox's Edie Donahue states the shocking truth: "The target this
      morning is America. The enemy, at the moment, is unknown." Soon after that,
      the first live press conference by anyone in authority is given by whom? One
      Joseph Lawless, the security director responsible for Boston's Logan
      Airport, from which two hijacked planes took off. Then, a little after noon,
      Yassar Arafat speaks: "We are completely shocked." I am far more shocked
      that Arafat is addressing my country at length before my president does.
      Minutes later, New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani gives a live statement -- the
      first live on-camera response from an elected American official since the
      towers collapsed two hours before. He is calm, determined, honest,
      unscripted. While he speaks, the caption-line is still giving President
      Bush's only quote thus far: "an apparent terrorist attack." No one knows
      where Bush is. No one knows where Vice-President Cheney is. At 12:47 CNN's
      Judy Woodruff reports: "It has been difficult to get in touch with members
      of Congress. It seems like there's no game plan in operation."

      At 12:39 word is that Bush has landed at a base near Shreveport, La.
      Incredibly, at 12:51, there is footage of a Taliban news conference by one
      Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel. It is difficult to absorb that Arafat and the Taliban
      have weighed in before Bush. Five minutes later ABC reports that in
      Shreveport "the president looked grim. His eyes were somewhat red." The only
      hard information is that there are no national security people traveling
      with the president. ABC's Peter Jennings, breaking protocol for news
      anchors, says forcefully that the country needs words from its president in

      1:08: More than three hours after the second tower collapsed. A taped
      message from President Bush. But the sound isn't transmitting, and the image
      is jerky. Then the image goes backwards. Then it goes off. ABC reports that
      a big helicopter landed at the Capitol, people got in and flew off; it's
      unknown who they were or where they went. 1:12: CNN shows a split screen. On
      the left, a taped Bush is saying, "We will do whatever is necessary to
      protect America and Americans"; on the right, footage of the second plane
      smashing into the tower. I'm no Bush fan, but I'm shocked at this display of
      open contempt.

      Bush is already in the air again, whereabouts unknown, by the time his
      footage is shown. Later a lame excuse is given that Bush didn't go live in
      Louisiana because there was no uplink, though everyone knows that Air Force
      One can uplink to anywhere in the world. There will also be reports, later
      discredited, that Air Force One was somehow a target. Which doesn't explain
      why Bush, at an Air Force Base, could not get into the rear seat of a
      fighter-bomber and, with full fighter escort, proceed to D.C. -- from
      Shreveport he could have gotten there in a half hour. What is going on?

      1:38: Senator Biden gives a live interview to ABC (to my knowledge, the
      first by an elected national figure): "If we have to alter our civil
      liberties, change our institutions, then we've lost the war." Biden says
      Bush is definitely headed back to D.C. But at 1:51 CNN reports that Bush is
      definitely not headed back to D.C. At 1:53 on CNN, Senator Dodd understates
      mightily: "You haven't heard as much from some of the leaders as you might

      2:35: Guiliani live again: "The number of casualties will be more than
      anyone can bear."

      2:55: Fox reports that Bush's political advisers want him in D.C., but the
      Secret Service wants him underground at N.O.R.A.D. in Colorado. Then a
      flash: The president has landed in Nebraska, and "some reporters are being
      taken to an undisclosed location where they are to be given a briefing by an
      undisclosed official." 3:16, Fox: Two aircraft carriers are en route to
      protect New York City, Marines are en route to D.C. 3:22, Dan Rather: What
      has happened "is the fate of power, power and the nemesis, which is always
      generated by power."

      3:30: Confirmation that Bush has landed at the Strategic Air Defense Command
      base near Omaha, Neb. ABC's Ann Compton, traveling with the president, is on
      the phone to Peter Jennings, whose inflection says it all: "Annie, can you
      hear me? What are you doing in Nebraska?"

      When he asks where Bush is, she replies, "He disappeared down the rabbit
      hole, Peter."

      A minute later Jennings is talking to George Stephanapoulos, former member
      of the Clinton White House, and he asks: "Does the president have any say at
      the moment, basically, if the Secret Service says go here or go there?"
      Jennings knows what we all know: The president is the Commander in Chief;
      the Secret Service answers to him; he, and he alone, is responsible for
      where he is. Stephanapoulos stutters as the question and its silent answer
      hang in the air. He improvises as generous a response as he can. The point
      has been made.

      On my table, as I watch, is the Newsweek that hit the racks the day before
      (and disappeared from the racks the day after). The cover is Bush, and the
      headline: "The Secret Vote That Made Bush President -- The Untold Story of
      the Supreme Court's 5 to 4 Ruling."

      3:48: For the first time an administration official, White House counsel
      Karen Hughes, gives a live statement: "The president, vice-president, and
      speaker of the House are all safe." It is astonishing that this late in the
      day the White House has nothing more to say.

      4:33: Air Force One, the president aboard, is headed back to D.C.

      6:00: Fox's conservative Brit Hume says, "We didn't know he [Bush] was going
      there [to Nebraska]. Perhaps he didn't know either." Thirty-five minutes
      later Hume adds, "There have been remarkably few official statements." At
      6:38 Air Force One lands at Andrews Air Force Base in D.C. At 6:41,
      Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gives a live press conference -- nearly nine
      hours after the towers collapsed, a cabinet-level official finally speaks.
      7:13, James Woolsey, former CIA director: "It is clear now the United States
      is at war. The question is with whom." 7:16, Attorney General John Ashcroft
      weighs in. 7:24, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority
      Leader Tom Daschle, along with many other Congressional people, all break
      into "God Bless America." 7:53, CNN's Jeff Greenfield: "We are going to wake
      up tomorrow in a different America. Our luck has run out."

      8:31: Nearly 12 hours after the attack began, 10 and a half after the towers
      collapsed, President George W. Bush reads a speech live from the Oval
      The attack was an atrocity. The reaction that day, at the top levels of our
      government, was disgraceful. There has been every effort since to erase that
      impression, and one can only pray that it isn't all show. Americans
      understandably have chosen to forget that part of the horror of September 11
      was that America seemed ungoverned. Like it or not, these are the
      individuals we must trust to do what's necessary. But it's difficult to get
      over the impression that we are governed by frightened people, who don't
      know what they need to know, and whose first concern is their own safety.

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      "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was
      not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
      speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the
      Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for
      me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Pastor Martin Niemoller
      regarding the Nazi reign.
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