Tag Archives: ground zero mosque

9/11 and truth

Let’s start with some pure, unvarnished facts.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 followers of Osama bin Laden boarded four commercial U.S. airliners. Five boarded American Airlines Flight 11 in Boston, ostensibly en route to Los Angeles (two of those five actually started their journey in Portland, Maine, flying from there to Boston). Five more boarded United Flight 175, also in Boston and also bound for LA. Another five took their seats on American Flight 77,  which was taking off from Washington, D.C., and also heading to Los Angeles. And the final four boarded United Flight 93 in Newark, New Jersey on the way to San Francisco.

Less than two hours after the first of the terrorists had boarded his plane, all four had crashed and just short of 3,000 people were dead.

All that is true, and much more. What happened nine years ago today changed everything, as the Bush administration liked to say, and not nearly enough of it was for the better. In fact,  very little was.

For one thing, we had our first “who could have anticipated” moment from the Republicans, as in “who could have anticipated that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings?” Why, the intelligence community, who, just the month before, had told President George W. Bush that bin Laden was thinking about such a thing.

With the hijackers at the controls, Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s north tower. Moments later, my newsroom got the news that a plane had slammed into the tower at 8:46. We had video up fast and spent the next few minutes wondering how a pilot could make a mistake like that. The smoke obscured the size of the hole in the building, but we were trying to get a better look 17 minutes later when Flight 175 hit the south tower. At 9:03 that Tuesday morning, we knew we were looking at a terrorist attack.

It was not an easy thing to deal with. Even though we saw no bodies immediately, the death toll, we knew, would be high. We struggled to come to grips with what we were seeing, but we were all professionals. We soon put our feelings on the back burner somewhere and focused on the task at hand.

And then we heard the Pentagon was on fire. Flight 77 had struck there, and at least one more plane was missing. I can’t even recount all the rumors that followed about what planes were where that day. Somewhere along the way, someone spotted the smoke from Flight 93 — which we learned later had been brought down by revolting passengers — billowing up from a field in Pennsylvania. Later — much later — we hear from Khalid Sheikh Muhammed himself that the Capitol had been its intended target.

Flight 93 came down just minutes after the south tower fell, and the north tower came down less than a half hour later, sealing the fate of rescuers and the hoping-to-be-rescued alike.

I cannot describe what that hour and a half was Iike, between the first strike and the north tower’s collapse, partly because it’s all a blur and partly because I fear dredging up some of the feelings I suppressed that day and the days that followed — feelings that haunted my dreams and nightmares and some of my waking hours in the weeks and months to follow.  Even now, I sometimes feel a chill when I catch a view of a building near where I work, one with a vague resemblance to the WTC towers, and cannot keep my mind from imagining a jet flying into the mirrored walls.

All of that is fact, although some of it is personal, not things you would know unless you knew me, personally, and I had told you. You would have to know me very, very well. I am telling you this much, now, so you can, perhaps, understand some of what my colleagues went through. I wasn’t there. I saw it all on raw video feeds, live, as it happened, and in the halting words of my colleagues, emergency workers and witnesses who were there. I can’t imagine how they sleep at night, even now. I can’t imagine how many real journalists — not the pretend journalists who pontificate from behind avante garde desks on any number of television shows originating in Washington or New York — sleep at night, spending so much of their time covering disasters. The floods, the hurricanes, the fires. But worse of all are the stories about man’s inhumanity to man — 9/11, the Holocaust, the Kosovar and Rwandan genocides.

9/11 pales in comparison to the others but for one thing: It happened in one day, in one 90-minute period. A beautiful blue fall morning, and then fire and smoke and dust and screams and death.

Likely, you have your own stories — where you were, what you were doing at the precise moment you learned about the attack. Like I remember those things about when I learned about the JFK assassination. Now I have two of those things, impressed indelibly on the network of my nervous system and likely to flair into my thoughts unannounced.

As a result of those incidents, the United States entered into war in Afghanistan, shrunk some of the civil liberties of its own citizens and began fostering a slow, simmering bigotry that, for a short time, most Americans tried to fight off.

Bush had a golden opportunity to heal the serious divisions caused by the Republicans non-stop, eight-year-long attack on Bill Clinton simply because he was a Democrat who had the audacity to win the presidency.

He squandered it. But that should have been obvious from the start when he won election by virtue of being appointed by the Supreme Court and promptly claimed a mandate to do whatever the fuck he wanted and to hell the with other half of the country.

All of whom were promptly labeled traitors and terrorist sympathizers after as 9/11, doubled down on March 20, 2003, when Bush did what he’d been planning to do since before the election — he invaded Iraq.

Instead of bringing a divided country together, Bush and the Republicans widened the rift, holding us hostage to fear — fear they fostered.

Those are facts, too, but you wouldn’t know it from listening, watching or reading most of my colleagues. I tell you these things to gently show you how easily facts can be twisted, denied and ignored. Here are some things that are not facts.

The towers were brought down by controlled explosions.
It was an inside job.
Several of the hijackers were later seen alive.
The Pentagon was hit by a missile.
Flight 93 was shot down.

Despite what you may hear from the conspiracy-mongers who believe this shit, none of it is true. Come on, the Bush administration wasn’t competent enough to plan this. Or maybe these dweebs believe Clinton planned it before he left office.

I don’t even know why I’m going on about this, except that all this Quran burning crap finally got to me, just like the scary Muslim terrorist meme that started on September 11,  2001, finally got to Terry Jones and Pam Geller and the rest of the conservatives who have finally loosed their inner Islamaphobe. Nine years later.

What the Reagan Revolution started — economic destruction and the largest divide between the haves and have nots since the robber barons — Bush put the finishing touches on. But then, term limits took him out, and Americans started to see reality. They not only elected a Democrat, but they elected a black Democrat. And at that moment, we had our one and only chance to stop disaster.

Barack Obama squandered it. He tried to make nice with men and women who had no intentions whatsoever of cooperating, who, in fact, had made it clear from the very start that they intended to assure his presidency’s failure. It hasn’t really worked, of course. The Obama administration, while not living up to our dreams and aspirations, has accomplished quite a bit. The world is a better place right now than it was on January 19, 2009.

But you wouldn’t know that listening, watching and reading my colleagues. They’re too busy looking for the scandals, the most minute inconsistencies they can find. And the Republicans, who have spent all their time looking for problems instead of solutions, are happy to provide them with all their hard work. And that’s what passes as “news” these days.

This week, it’s Terry Jones and the Quran Burners. My colleagues have given you the blow-by-blow of everything, right up to Jones’ not really set up meeting with the “iman” in New York who is building an Islamic Community Center too close to ground zero for the conservatives. And by too close, they mean in the United States.

What my colleagues have failed to point out, however, is that the very conservatives who want nothing to do with the “iman’s” First Amendment rights to freedom of religion are all about Terry Jones’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

It’s been nine years since those 19 men, trained and funded by al Qaeda, did their dirty work. And we have learned nothing at all.

Ugly Americans

Mostly, I understand the idiocies and incoherence of the right. I think it’s a load of bullshit, but I understand how they get to these places of pure stupidity. I also understand that it’s their choices that led them there — their completely wrong choices, their frightened and combative decisions on dealing with a changing and complex world.

It’s all about trying to make things simple, like they used to be. Except they never were. Not really.

Take this Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center towers. Down south, many decades ago, at a site they call Ocmulgee, Americans sliced a 1,000-year-old Mississippian burial mound in half for a railroad line. They didn’t think anything of it, just wiped out half the mound and laid the tracks. Simple, right? Sure, for people who believe themselves to be far superior to any other piece of humanity that ever has been or ever will be.

I call that a travesty. A rude, insensitive and outlandish thing to do. And don’t even start with, “well, it was the times … ” Can you imagine if Egypt took down half the Great Pyramid because they couldn’t be bothered to reroute a rail line to avoid it?

But in New York, the very idea of an Islamic cultural center — which will contain a room for Muslims to pray, which is what a mosque is –two blocks away from “ground zero” has ignited some unbelievably ugly and vile garbage.

Now, here, you might get away with “well, the times,” because these times are just plain ugly. Just a day before President Obama threw his support behind the center, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, one of the most repulsive human beings ever to walk the planet, let loose with an N-word tirade that she later apologized for, not because she meant it but because she had to. She did not apologize for the bullshit “political correctness” crap she was trying to make a point about, and neither did Rep. Pete King, Wingnut-New York, when he called Obama’s speech politically correct.

I don’t know about politically correct, but Obama, the constitutional scholar, was certainly constitutionally correct, and he said so. This is about freedom of religion, he said.

Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

King missed the point, of course. Obama, he said, “caved to political correctness,” which is true if, by “political correctness,” you mean “the law.”

King, known for throwing out tons of bullshit he says he got from inside sources that later turns out to completely wrong (but which no one remembers was wrong), seems to think the Constitution is politically correct. Well, yeah, in a way. I suppose you could say it’s the most politically correct document we have. Which makes it kinda strange that he — and thousands of others — who contend that Democrats in general and Obama in particular are “shredding” the Constitution (unlike George W. Bush, of course) would completely ignore it.

Obama, as is his want, tossed a bone to the conservofreaks, saying he was only speaking of the “right” that Muslims have to worship where they please, within the law, and not the “wisdom” of their choices. But then again, it’s not his place to be addressing that issue. And besides, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, did that quite well.

As much as I respect the sensitivities of people, there is a fundamental mistake behind it, and that is how can you — and I can quote any number of some of the people who have commented on it, and what they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound?

Well, the fallacy is that al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another.

It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.

Never mind that there’s a mosque inside the Pentagon (which you may remember and another just a few blocks from the old Burlington Coat Factory.

And never mind, too, the other part of what Nadler had to say.

But we do not put the Bill of Rights, we do not put the religious freedom to a vote. The reason we have a Bill of Rights is that you have your religious rights, your right to freedom of speech for the press et cetera, whether majorities like you or not, frankly.

Of course, none of that means anything to the crackpots on the right. Erick Erickson, the RedState blogger that CNN inexplicably gives precious airtime to, wasn’t nearly so mealy-mouthed. He flat out compared the center in the old Burlington Coat Factory to human sacrifice.

Human sacrifice. Right, Erick. My, but you have such a thin skin if you see that as equivalent to killing someone to appease a god. But then, Christians have done that for centuries, without ever calling it what it actually is.

And it’s not just in New York of course. That’s what they’d like you to believe, that they just don’t like an Islamic cultural center with a mosque so near ground zero (never mind that there has been one there for years). Oh, no. It’s happening in California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Connecticut and who knows how many other places.

Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the American Family Association — which sets up elderly Americans to count the number of “curse” words used on television — called for no more mosques in America.

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero.

“There is no such thing as freedom of religion in Islam,” he said, prompting many of us to wonder if, by “freedom of religion,” he actually means “freedom of Christianity.” And his solution is for Muslims to renounce Islam.

Alas, America has a history of this kind of ugliness. After all, we invaded this continent and took it away from the people who lived here, then called them “savages” when they took offense. President Andrew Jackson, that son of a bitch, had a solution for that too. Drive them all to the wastelands of Oklahoma, which worked fine until oil was discovered there, kinda like how driving others into the Dakota Badlands worked fine until they found gold there.

I won’t go into what happened on Nunna daul IsunyiI – “The Trail Where They Cried,” now known as the “Trail Of Tears.” Or what happened on the “reservations” where native Americans were forced to live. But it was ugly. The same kind of ugly we’re seeing now in the immigration issue and in this ground zero mosque issue.

In a nation where “all men are created equal,” it’s damnably clear that only some are, the ones Sarah Palin calls the “real Americans.”

The ones who are not — native Americans, African Americans, Muslim Americans, gay and lesbian Americans — well, we might as well take “American” off the name. It’s clear the Constitution is only for straight, white Christian Americans. The ugly ones. That’s exactly what they mean when they rally, holding signs that glaringly show they have no idea how government works and shouting “We want our country back.”

So do I. It was a much nicer place before you got here.

I’m sorry. That was such a mean thing to say. But watching and listening to this “debate” — if, by “debate,” you mean “ugly people spouting ugly words about people they know nothing about and care even less about” — I’m perpetually on the edge of anger and heartbreak.

Be that as it may, when it comes down to comprehending the somewhat addled minds of the “real Americans,” this is one I don’t get. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand how it is that so many Americans subscribe to the “freedom for me but not for thee” mantra, nor how disgustingly vile they get expressing that view. It’s anathema to the Constitution they claim to defend.

It’s as if they never learned Rule 1, way back before kindergarten.

Share. And we all know what happens to the kids who missed that lesson. Yeah. They grow up to be bullies, assholes who think they’re better than everybody else and that they have a right to dictate to everybody else how they can be.

Even worse, they stoop to the same intolerance and hatred they claim these others have. Osama bin Laden must be cackling away wherever it is that he’s hiding since George W. Bush forgot all about his vow to “smoke him out.”

I’ve got some big news for these ugly Americans. The world ain’t your oyster. You’re just a common human being, like everybody else, and I do mean everybody. It’s way past time for you overgrown bullies to buck up and grow up.

Hell, if you’d get that damn chip off your shoulders and lighten up, you might find common ground with your fellow common man. You might even *gasp* like it.

Or, just stay the way you are. But remember, like my friend’s mama used to say:

God don’t like ugly.