My last big post on the anniversary of 9/11 was in 2010, and I really have little to add to that, other than deep gratitude that we might be getting an indication in the case of Syria that things don’t always have to be like this. Instead, I’m going back, as I do every year, to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 am
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:05 am
I was so buried in my own little world of work and homework today that I didn’t hear about the bombs in Boston until almost five hours after the first explosion. About 4:30 this afternoon, the whole Internet seemed to freeze, so I tweeted from my phone, wondering who had broken the Web. I got answers almost immediately but didn’t see them until much later.
We appear to know little now, and that’s OK. We’ll find out what we need to. I refuse to speculate, except to say this: Whoever set those bombs, whoever killed and wounded those innocent people, is a coward. Of that I’m confident to a moral certainty.
In addition to the Boston Marathon, and tax day, today is the day on which are commemorated the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the American fight for independence. And so it is that I am reminded of two quotes, both by Edward R. Murrow, the broadcast journalist who grew up a stone’s throw from where I type this evening:
“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – 7 March 1954
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.” — 9 March 1954
The cowards who planted the bombs want us to be afraid. But so do many of our leaders. “Be afraid,” they told us after 9/11. “Be afraid,” they told us after 7/7. “Be afraid,” they told us after 3/11. And why not? For the more afraid we are, the more of our freedoms they can take, and the more they have taken already. If you doubt me, look at what has happened to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments after 9/11. And yet we worship the Second as if it were some Aztec idol into whose bloody maw the still-beating hearts of our countrymen must be thrown for appeasement, even as we know that no number of firearms could have prevented what happened today.
But no. Let us not be afraid. Not this time, and never again. This time, let us bury our dead, minister to our wounded, and comfort our bereaved as best we can even though we know for some there is no comfort and never will be. And then let us go live as the best Americans and the best human beings we can be, knowing that the time may come when any or all of us might have to run into the fire, like the cops and firefighters and EMTs did today, whether that fire be caused by a bomb or by the sociopathy of those, domestic and foreign, who would destroy what is best about America and who have run wild for far, far too long.
(Edited to correct late-night grammar.)
Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:52 pm
New York magazine profiles Carol Rosenberg, the reporter for the Miami Herald who has been on the Gitmo beat for 11, count ‘em, 11 years, with no end in sight:
How long do you think you’ll continue covering Guantanamo?
There are people who call the War on Terror the “forever war”; if this is the forever war, then this is the forever prison. I want to stay here for the 9/11 trial, which I think is years away. I feel like I have an institutional knowledge. Everyone else rotates in and out of here. The soldiers come and go, the lawyers come and go, most of the reporters come and go. I feel a responsibility to stay. I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.
Camp X-ray was built for the specific purpose of getting around the Constitution, full stop. The people who created it committed crimes, full stop. And if the people who continue to defend it today aren’t criminals, they’re moral pygmies at best.
Rosenberg (who, earlier in her career, reported for the Charlotte Observer) can’t do anything about that, but she’s doing the next best thing: surrendering a significant chunk of her life, and a lot of creature comforts most Americans take for granted, to tell people what’s going on down there. Metaphorically, she’s almost as much a prisoner as the inmates. She seldom talks much about herself — her tweets tend to be about the court proceedings she covers — but I have a feeling that even if the trials ended tomorrow, Gitmo would be with her the rest of her life.
She’s not a prisoner, of course. Subject to the military’s irregular flight schedules, she can and does return to Florida from time to time. But I suspect that for the rest of her life, a significant part of her psyche and self will be living in those nasty tents, tweeting from a makeshift courtroom, knowing that every conversation, call or email she gets or receives will be monitored.
At some point, years from now, perhaps after the 9/11 trials are over, she’ll check out. But the Eagles were right, and so I suspect the only a part of her leaves Gitmo is via death or Alzheimer’s.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 5:54 am
For my money, still the only thing written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that’s worth revisiting every year. Would to God it weren’t necessary, but take a bow, Sars.
Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:23 am
Fortunately, no one personally close to me died on 9/11. I have friends who were not so fortunate.
I plan to spend today doing homework, reflecting quietly and, if I’m lucky, watching the Panthers lose to Arizona. I have had no time to reflect on 9/11 up ’til now, and although I am oddly eager to read some 9/11 retrospectives, homework comes first.
So don’t look for anything new from me on this today. Some stuff I’ve said about it in the past holds up pretty well, particularly this and some of this. If you want to skip the media orgy entirely but not ignore the occasion, then I cannot recommend highly enough Sarah Bunting’s “For thou art with us,” an elegiac first-person account written just days after the attacks by a New Yorker who was in lower Manhattan that morning.
UPDATE: If you run across anything you think is really worthwhile, leave a link in the comments. Thanks.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 10:07 am
That’d be Tom Coburn, the physician-turned-senator who seems to think having “M.D.” after his name entitles him to inordinate amounts of deference even when his behavior is both insane and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.
Right now, Coburn is the main obstacle to passing the Zadroga 9/11 act, which would compensate 9/11 first responders for health problems related to their exposure to toxins at the World Trade Center site on and after 9/11. These people responded with incredible bravery to try to rescue people in the Twin Towers. Hundreds of them died in the attempt, and many of the survivors are now seriously ill, even dying, because of the risks they took on.
Coburn doesn’t want them to get that help, and whatever his real reasons are, he’s lying. He claims he objects because the bill is being rushed through at the end of the session without a committee hearing. In fact, it has been pending for more than a year, has already been brought to the floor once, and did indeed get a committee hearing in June of this year before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, whose members include … Tom Coburn.
“First, do no harm,” Dr. Coburn. If you don’t want to pass this bill because you think it’ll mean smaller tax cuts for zillionaires or something, at least be enough of a grownup to say so. Don’t lie to the American people about it.
One other thing: It’s worth remembering that this guy was considered one of the more reasonable members of the ’94 Gingrich revolution — not because it wasn’t true, but because it was.
One other other thing: The so-called liberal media has been shamefully absent on this story. It has taken Jon Stewart’s flogging this issue like a rented mule on “The Daily Show” for it to get anywhere, and even the White House knows it.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 8:03 pm
… from Jon Stewart:
Republicans, if you don’t owe 9/11 responders health care, at least you owe them royalties.
Burn in hell, the lot of them. Republicans who voted against the health care, I mean.
Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:01 pm
Saturday, September 11, 2010 3:34 pm
On most anniversaries of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Flight 77, I have been much more about sorrow than anger.
Not today. Today I’m pissed.
A recent confluence of events is emerging into a mosaic that depicts the destruction of some of what’s most valuable about America. Our Fourth Amendment in particular, and many of our essential rights in general, are under attack by our own government at all levels by officials of both major parties.
This not only could have been avoided, it should have been. But as a country, we panicked; constitutionally speaking, we filled our pants. Worse, and even less defensibly, some who didn’t panic sought to exploit the fears of those who did and, disregarding Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warning — They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety –we let them get away with it.
- After the government’s surveillance abuses of mid-century, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Amended several times thereafter, the provision provided a constitutional avenue for us to keep an eye on friend and adversary alike while protecting the rights of U.S. persons at home and abroad. Just as important, it established both civil and criminal penalties for violations of the rights of U.S. citizens. But when The New York Times disclosed serial violations of the act by the Bush Administration, neither Congress nor the Justice Department took any action. Worse, Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the government’s illegal surveillance of U.S. persons.
- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act hasn’t been updated since 1986 and currently leaves our privacy vulnerable.
- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently approved police putting GPS tracking devices on suspects’ cars without a warrant.
- Police are buying the same body scanners used in airports to use for searching people on the street … without a warrant or probable cause.
- Here in North Carolina, the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association is seeking access to the state’s prescription-drug database — without a search warrant.
- The widespread and growing use of National Security Letters — administrative subpoenas (that is, subpoenas issued directly by an executive-branch government agency without judicial-branch review or oversight) that also typically include a gag order forbidding the subject from discussing the letter/case.
I could go on, but you get the picture: The three branches of the federal government are colluding with weak, unscrupulous and/or uninformed citizens to gut the Fourth Amendment by ignoring the plain meaning of the text:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In short, if you want a search, get a warrant, and if you want a warrant, you provide probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and you swear to that probable cause on penalty of perjury, and you explain exactly what it is you’re looking for — no fishing expeditions allowed. Memo to our courts: Where are the strict constructionists when we need them?
This is a basic and easy-to-understand rule. In fact, it has been under assault for most of the country’s history by law-enforcement officers who cheerfully perjured themselves, swearing to things “upon information and belief” when lacking the former and lacking any basis for the latter, and never suffered legal consequences. More recently, however, it has been under assault by politicians who knew what they wanted to do and also knew that what they wanted to do was unconstitutional by the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment, so they set up NSLs and the like as a kind of legal window dressing or fig leaf. And illiterate and/or dishonest judges have let them do it.
This must stop, and I can think of no better tribute to the Americans of all races, faiths and political orientations who died in the terror attacks of 9/11 than to start rolling back the destruction of our rights, particularly our Fourth Amendment rights, that began in their name the minute they could no longer speak for themselves.
You don’t have to burn a copy of the USA Patriot Act, although frankly, I like the symbolism. Holding your elected officials accountable would be a start. And I don’t just mean voting out the ones who have done the wrong thing. I mean impeaching them for violating their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution.
Thursday, August 5, 2010 8:32 pm
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|I Give Up – 9/11 Responders Bill|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|I Give Up – 9/11 Responders Bill|
Saturday, September 12, 2009 8:02 am
Every year on 9/11, I go back and read Sarah Bunting’s first-person account of being in lower Manhattan when the planes hit the towers, and her subsequent one-day odyssey home.
Like everyone else born before, say, 1997, I have my own memories of that day. But for the fact that they are mine, they are not remarkable. Unlike many with more compelling stories to tell, I lost no one on 9/11. Writing about my memories, at least now, seems like it would be the equivalent of coasting on someone else’s grief.
It’s not that I don’t grieve. I do. But I mourn more than just the loss of lives that day, though that loss was enormous.
I mourn what has happened since, as unity and a sense of national purpose gave way to divisive politics, a misbegotten military campaign and governmental lying and lawbreaking of such scope that a century from now historians will still be uncovering new evidence of misdeeds.
I mourn not only the blood but also the treasure — what we could have done for ourselves as taxpayers, or for the least among us, with much of the money we have spent since 9/11.
I mourn the loss of the opportunity to capture the man behind the attacks, the loss of the opportunity to show the world why we believe our system of justice is the best in history.
I mourn the lost opportunity to unite the world as it had not been united since World War II, and perhaps ever.
We tell ourselves that they attacked us because they hate us and that they hate us for our freedoms. And yet, in the wake of the attack, so many of us were willing to trade those freedoms for even the illusion of safety that it makes me wonder whether we are, or ever have been, as strong a nation as we like to think.
For true strength does not reside in the caliber of one’s weapons or the truculence of one’s public statements or the number of diplomatic bridges one is willing to burn.
No, true strength manifests itself in living out the principles we profess. True strength resides in our willingness to uphold the rule of law, to use force when we must and only when we must, to look out for one another, even across national borders, as we did in those days just after 9/11 and must re-learn to do before circumstances force it upon us once again.
No hijacked jetliner can destroy that strength. No terrorist can destroy that strength. The only people who can destroy that strength are We, the People.
But facing these realities isn’t the point of what Sars wrote. Her point was no more or less than her coming to grips with her own experience. She wrote about it to acknowledge it, to try to make real that which her mind had not yet accepted as real in the first hours after the attacks. And it matters because all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, had to fight the same battle and yet each of us had to do it by him/herself, alone but for his/her God, in his/her own way. Some of us fight it still.
That battle was important enough to be remembered, to be reminded of. That’s why I go back to Sars’s blog every 9/11. I’ve happily scampered over battlegrounds from Gettysburg to Cowpens before and no doubt will do so again, but for this one event, for me, re-reading Sars’ account is more meaningful, more of an honor to those who lost their lives, than trekking to a place I’ve never been to listen to someone speak in hushed tones about people I never knew.
And maybe this will be the year she finds Don.
Friday, September 11, 2009 8:46 am
Sunday, June 28, 2009 8:42 pm
You know that iconic photograph from 9/11 of the three firefighters and the American flag? Well, that flag has gone missing.
Quasi-relatedly, a less-well-known but equally striking photo.