UQ Wire: Who Owns September 11th?
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Unanswered Questions : Thinking for ourselves.
Who Owns September 11th?
by Nicholas Levis
Friday, March 5th, 2004
NEW YORK CITY. Who owns the imagery of Ground Zero? Who controls its meaning? When is it appropriate for a political campaign to use traumatizing pictures in an effort to influence the vote?
These were the underlying questions conjured when relatives of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and a firefighter involved in the rescue attempts issued an impassioned plea to George W. Bush, demanding he withdraw campaign ads that employ footage of the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center.
Speaking today to an overcrowded hall of press and camera crews at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, Rita Lasar described how she lost her brother in the attacks. He had worked on the 27th floor of the North Tower, and decided not to evacuate after a plane hit the building, but to stay behind with a quadraplegic co-worker and await rescuers. They were caught in the building's collapse.
"Ground Zero is a burial place," Lasar said. Two and one-half years have passed, but: "Any family family member will tell you, for us it's still like the first day." She noted that in a 2002 speech, George W. Bush promised never to use the Ground Zero site for political purposes. "We trusted him, and he broke his promise," she said. "To say we are outraged today is simply the truth. We feel deep sorrow that any politician would seek to gain advantage with these images."
Lasar is a founding member of Peaceful Tomorrows - a group of victims' relatives who since the attacks have warned against perpetuating the cycle of violence by waging war on whole nations.
Bob McIlvaine lost his son, a 26-year-old employee of Merrill Lynch, who worked on the 106th floor. "My son was murdered," he said. "Although I have spoken about this a hundred times since, saying that is always the hardest part to get through." He said he was absolutely outraged that any political party would use Ground Zero for gain. "It makes me sick."
The controversial ads, which suggest that Bush has made the nation safer, are a misrepresentation given how little disclosure there has been about what actually happened on the day, McIlvaine said: "They say our nation is stronger, but people forget the 3,000 who died. Many, many questions have been left unanswered. I am absolutely outraged why these answers have not been given. Instead of parading around telling us how secure this country is, tell us why it was left unprotected."
Tom Ryan, a former firefighter who was with the rescue crews at Ground Zero after the attacks, objected to the images of rescue workers carrying the body of dead firefighters, as used in the commercials for the Bush 2004 campaign. "We are not allowed to see dead soldiers from Iraq. Why are we allowed to see dead firefighters?" he asked.
"It's raw. you relive every moment," Ryan said. Ground Zero "is a sacred ground, and it shouldn't be used for political gain." He noted that he has had respiratory problems since his work at the site, which was still smoking many weeks after the attacks. "Hundreds of firefighters have problems, I don't want any politician exploiting that," he said.
Ryan described as a further contradiction that even as the ads run on television, the White House is still obstructing the investigation of the 9-11 Commission. "At the end we have sixty days?" he asked, referring to the recent hard-fought extension of the 9-11 Commission's deadline - which the White House initially opposed. "Is that enough?"
In response to reporters' questions, Lasar and the other speakers clarified repeatedly that they by no means meant that Sept. 11th should be avoided as an issue. On the contrary, they suggested the real issues of Sept. 11th have yet to be addressed - because of the failure of investigators to credibly answer many of the open questions.
Instead, Lasar's point of contention is specifically with the use of images of the attack, which she called manipulative, and which McIlvaine characterized to one reporter as inspiring fear in an effort to sway the hearts and minds of voters.
"I am not saying (Sept. 11th) is not to be talked about," Lasar said. "Of course we must talk about this. This is what the 9-11 Commission is supposed to do. All we are saying is, don't use sacred ground, don't use the images as a backdrop to change the minds of voters. Don't show the firefighters. It's obscene."
One reporter wanted to know if the speakers were members of political parties. "To tell you the truth, I have no clue what party I am in, or anyone else here," McIlvaine said. He explained that "Peaceful Tomorrows" is not a partisan group, and that the name is from a speech by Martin Luther King.
A reporter asked McIlvaine to specify his concerns about the 9/11 investigations. "I am extremely frustrated, anxious," he replied. "They are stonewalling everything." He recalled "all the commissions in the 1990s" - on which more than 100 million dollars were spent, he said - and compared that to the just 3 million dollars in the original appropriation for the 9-11 Commission. A later appropriation, of 8 million additional dollars, was at first stiffly opposed by the White House.
"We have lots of questions - not one has been answered," McIlvaine continued. "All investigations are compromised, all are political. There is no cooperation" with the investigations by government authorities, McIlvaine said. He said the families had expected the investigations to be run by "independent people," not exclusively by politicians and former members of the government.
"Why do you think that is?" one reporter asked.
"Well, you should tell me!" McIlvaine shot back. He went on to the next question, but whether intended or not, the remark stood as an accusation against the mass media's failure to cover or even acknowledge the many open questions of Sept. 11th and the ongoing controversies in the investigations.
"We get threatening phone calls telling us every day to get over it, to forget about it," McIlvaine said, asking how the families could forget when so much remains unresolved.
It was a non-reporter who had to ask the next question, finally: "What are some of your unanswered questions?"
In rapid-fire phrases, McIlvaine brought up three issues:
• The failure of U.S. air defenses to mount interception attempts of the four Sept. 11 flights, as required under standard operating procedures.
• The 45 minutes of inactivity by Bush during the attacks as he stayed at a Florida school with children, which was covered live on television.
• The government admission that 140 Saudis left the United States in the days after the attacks, and were allowed to fly during the period when all civilian flights were grounded. Among those who left were relatives of Osama Bin Laden and members of the Saudi royal family, whom some in the FBI had wanted to question.
McIlvaine cautioned these questions represented only the beginning of an inquiry.
The Family Steering Committee, which is tracking the work of the 9-11 Commission, recently issued a set of 23 questions they would like George W. Bush to answer in public testimony under oath.
A Daily News reporter spoke up to say that some family members differ views on the issue, and have said they are not offended by the Bush ads.
"It's so hard to deal with this as a family member because it is in your face," McIlvaine replied. "A lot say, I don't want to deal with it."
Question: "How would you like to see Bush talk about Sept 11th?"
"Go to the Commission," McIlvaine said. "That is the forum for it. Why do we use war as a political tool?" He noted the example of John Kerry also using his service in Vietnam as a political tool, and wondered how this was relevant to actual policy questions of the day.
"What matters (about Sept. 11th) is that, until we find out what happened, we will never protect this country," McIlvaine said. "Because the world is at war due to Sept. 11, we are not normal, breathing families who can be left alone. Every single day, we are called upon and reminded."
A final admonishment to Bush: "Find some other way to run a campaign, without stepping on the bodies of the dead."
© 2004 Nicholas Levis
23 QUESTIONS OF THE FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE TO GEORGE W. BUSH
The Family Steering Committee Statement and Questions Regarding the 9/11 Commission Interview with President Bush February 16, 2004
February 16, 2004. The Family Steering Committee believes that President Bush should provide sworn public testimony to the full ten-member panel of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
Collectively, the Commissioners are responsible for fulfilling the Congressional mandate. Therefore, each Commissioner must have full access to the testimony of all individuals and the critical information that will enable informed decisions and recommendations. Before an audience of the American people, the Commission must ask President Bush in sworn testimony, the following questions:
1. As Commander-in-Chief on the morning of 9/11, why didn't you return immediately to Washington, D.C. or the National Military Command Center once you became aware that America was under attack? At specifically what time did you become aware that America was under attack? Who informed you of this fact?
2. On the morning of 9/11, who was in charge of our country while you were away from the National Military Command Center? Were you informed or consulted about all decisions made in your absence?
3. What defensive action did you personally order to protect our nation during the crisis on Sept. 11? What time were these orders given, and to whom? What orders were carried out? What was the result of such orders? Were any such orders not carried out?
4. In your opinion, why was our nation so utterly unprepared for an attack on our own soil?
5. U.S. Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the Director of the White House Situation Room, informed you of the first airliner hitting Tower One of the World Trade Center before you entered the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. Please explain the reason why you decided to continue with the scheduled classroom visit, fifteen minutes after learning the first hijacked airliner had hit the World Trade Center.
6. Is it normal procedure for the Director of the White House Situation Room to travel with you? If so, please cite any prior examples of when this occurred. If not normal procedure, please explain the circumstances that led to the Director of the White House Situation Room being asked to accompany you to Florida during the week of September 11th.
7. What plan of action caused you to remain seated after Andrew Card informed you that a second airliner had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center and America was clearly under attack? Approximately how long did you remain in the classroom after Card's message?
8. At what time were you made aware that other planes were hijacked in addition to Flight 11 and Flight 175? Who notified you? What was your course of action as Commander-in-Chief of the United States?
9. Beginning with the transition period between the Clinton administration and your own, and ending on 9/11/01, specifically what information (either verbal or written) about terrorists, possible attacks and targets, did you receive from any source? This would include briefings or communications from:
* Out-going Clinton officials
* CIA, FBI, NSA, DoD and other intelligence agencies
* Foreign intelligence, governments, dignitaries or envoys
* National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
* Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar
10. Specifically, what did you learn from the August 6, 2001, PDB about the terrorist threat that was facing our nation? Did you request any follow-up action to take place? Did you request any further report be developed and/or prepared?
11. As Commander-in-Chief, from May 1, 2001 until September 11, 2001, did you receive any information from any intelligence agency official or agent that UBL was planning to attack this nation on its own soil using airplanes as weapons, targeting New York City landmarks during the week of September 11, 2001 or on the actual day of September 11, 2001?
12. What defensive measures did you take in response to pre-9/11 warnings from eleven nations about a terrorist attack, many of which cited an attack in the continental United States? Did you prepare any directives in response to these actions? If so, with what results?
13. As Commander-in-Chief from May 1, 2001 until September 11, 2001, did you or any agent of the U,S, government carry out any negotiations or talks with UBL, an agent of UBL, or al-Qaeda? During that same period, did you or any agent of the U.S. government carry out any negotiations or talks with any foreign government, agents, or officials regarding UBL? If so, what resulted?
14. Your schedule for September 11, 2001 was in the public domain since September 7, 2001. The Emma E. Booker School is only five miles from the Bradenton Airport, so you, and therefore the children in the classroom, might have been a target for the terrorists on 9/11. What was the intention of the Secret Service in allowing you to remain in the Emma E. Booker Elementary School, even though they were aware America was under attack?
15. Please explain why you remained at the Sarasota, Florida, Elementary School for a press conference after you had finished listening to the children read, when as a terrorist target, your presence potentially jeopardized the lives of the children?
16. What was the purpose of the several stops of Air Force One on September 11th? Was Air Force One at any time during the day of September 11th a target of the terrorists? Was Air Force One's code ever breached on September 11th?
17. Was there a reason for Air Force One lifting off without a military escort, even after ample time elapsed to allow military jets to arrive?
18. What prompted your refusal to release the information regarding foreign sponsorship of the terrorists, as illustrated in the inaccessible 28 redacted pages in the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report? What actions have you personally taken since 9/11 to thwart foreign sponsorship of terrorism?
19. Who approved the flight of the bin Laden family out of the United States when all commercial flights were grounded, when there was time for only minimal questioning by the FBI, and especially, when two of those same individuals had links to WAMY, a charity suspected of funding terrorism? Why were bin Laden family members granted that special privilege â€? a privilege not available to American families whose loved ones were killed on 9/11?
20. Please explain why no one in any level of our government has yet been held accountable for the countless failures leading up to and on 9/11?
21. Please comment on the fact that UBL's profile on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives poster does not include the 9/11 attacks. To your knowledge, when was the last time any agent of our government had contact with UBL? If prior to 9/11, specifically what was the date of that contact and what was the context of said meeting.
22. Do you continue to maintain that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda? What proof do you have of any connection between al-Qaeda and the Hussein regime?
23. Which individuals, governments, agencies, institutions, or groups may have benefited from the attacks of 9/11? Please state specifically how you think they have benefited.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission – www.911independentcommission.org
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