Posts about Terrorism

Do not build it. Not there.

Now New York’s Uniformed Firefighters Association has pulled its support for the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

In a letter dated July 27, 2005, the union cited its objection to the foundation’s support for the International Freedom Center and the Drawing Center to be located at the final resting place of many of the rescue workers and victims of the attacks.

“We must never forget that 343 firefighters perished during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11,” said Steve Cassidy, UFA President. “Currently, our membership and our 9-11 families believe that the memorial design will take away from the memory and sacrifice of the firefighters who bravely gave their lives during the most horrific terrorist attacks our country has had to face.”

This is a damned shame. If the IFC had self-respect — if, indeed, it were not trying to force its agenda onto this hallowed ground — then it it would withdraw from this site and allow it to be a memorial and it would find another site anywhere in New York for its debates. If the LMDC, Pataki, and Bloomberg had any courage, they would make it so. It was a mistake to invite political debate to be part of the memorial and it is an equal mistake to then try to curtail — to censor — that debate. And it is a final mistake to try to put the families in the position of censor by making them the bad guys when this was not their error.

But, instead, they and The New York Times editorial page try to … what’s a slightly lighter word than demonize? blame? hide behind? … the 9/11 families and Debra Burlingame. The paper said:

Mr. Pataki has not been able to force the founders of the Freedom Center to back out, but he has managed to talk the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which includes several staunch defenders of the center, into establishing a new six-week process for approving its plans.

There is nothing wrong with asking the Freedom Center to provide more detail about how it intends to govern itself and what programs it intends to create.

Well, actually, there is. If you have to ask the IFC not to be offensive and to prove it, then you’re censoring them before the fact; you’re trying to get them to define politically correct for you. If they were not at this place, you’d never think of asking them that. That is the issue Pataki, Bloomberg, and the LMDC didn’t think through when they invited a debate society to a funeral. The Times continues:

And everyone presumes that a center so close to the memorial for the victims of 9/11 will be sensitive to its location. But this new appraisal of the center’s plans may mean little more than subjecting them, essentially, to the veto of Debra Burlingame, the family member who began the Take Back the Memorial movement.

Stop. Debra and the families did not ask to be in the position of censor, for that position never should have existed and would not exist if New York’s leaders had thought about what they were doing.

Right after Debra exposed what was happening here in her Wall Street Journal op-ed, I spoke with her and we agreed that she and the families should not want to edit the site or the committee but instead should just remind officials that the memorial should be a memorial, and urge that the debate should happen elsewhere. That has been their constant stand. So The Times’ characterization of Debra and the families — and the position the LMDC and The Times try to put them in — is most unfair. The paper continues:

But neither Ms. Burlingame nor her followers can be allowed to dictate the future of the entire area. That has a place in the heart of the nation as a whole, and its use must reflect not only the nation’s spirit, but its commitment to its basic principles.

And neither should the odd member of the IFC or Bloomberg or The Times.

The real story in Iraq

Kit Seelye reports on a rather curious meeting of newspapers editors asking the Associated Press whether they — and thus we — are getting the full story in Iraq: that is, not just the bombing but also the building.

Some editors expressed concern that a kind of bunker mentality was preventing reporters in Iraq from getting out and explaining the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls.

“The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we’re making progress in Iraq,” Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question.

“It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place,” she said. “But there’s a perception that we’re not telling the whole story.”

Mr. Silverman said in an interview that he was aware of that perception. “Other editors said they get calls from readers who are hearing stories from returning troops of the good things they have accomplished while there, and readers find that at odds with the generally gloomy portrayal in the papers of what’s going on in Iraq,” he said.

Well, it’s good they’re asking … a bit late in the party of public perception, but at least they’re asking. I also would have been curious to hear the same questions asked of papers, including The Times, that have their reporters in Iraq. [insert full disclosure here]

One thing they can do is turn soldiers and bloggers there into contributors. No, they’re not journalists. Yes, they have a viewpoint (what human doesn’t). But they have eyes and ears where the American news organizations do not.

Do not build it. Not there.

On Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show this morning, guest host Marty Goldenson and guests talked about the 9/11 tapes and then the 9/11 memorial, recounting the controversy about putting the International Freedom Center and the Drawing Center there and then limiting — censoring — what they could say. I felt compelled to call in and said that though I don’t speak for the 9/11 families, I am with them here and wanted to make it clear that no one is saying these centers should not be built — but they should not be built there. Pataki, Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. bought themselves this peck of trouble when they decided that this is a place for political debate. It is not. It is a place for a memorial.

It so happens that this weekend, I exchanged email with Debra Burlingame, who has led familes on this, trying to maintain the memorial as the memorial. We both talked about how hard — but necessary — it was to hear the just-released 9/11 tapes. My comments here (nevermind the troll’s comments). Debra wrote:

The recent release of thousands of pages of FDNY survivor transcripts and audio recordings of radio transmissions bring the reality of that day back. I have to steel myself to listen to the audio. I only read three of the transcripts before I had to stop. They are very tough to read. These people struggled so hard to stay alive, to help others get out. And they struggled in the dark, choking and bleeding, to find their way to safety and light. How can anyone read these accounts and still think their stories should be hidden underground, in the dark–for all eternity–at Ground Zero?

We continue to believe that the story of 9/11 will inspire people from all over the world. We believe that the a 9/11 museum which shows this simple contrast–between the destruction wrought by religious fanaticism and the saving grace of brotherly love–will win more “hearts and minds” than any grandiose symposia put on by politicians, activists and academics at an International Freedom Center.

Well said.

My latest post on the IFC here.

Why bother?

Now the Transporation Safety Administration suggests it might stop checking for razor blades, “small” knives, and explosive shoes.

The Transportation Security Administration will meet later this month to discuss the plan, which is designed to reduce checkpoint hassles for the nation’s 2 million passengers. It comes after TSA’s new head, Edmund S. “Kip” Hawley, called for a broad review in hopes of making airline screening more passenger-friendly.

An initial set of staff recommendations drafted Aug. 5 also proposes that passengers no longer have to routinely remove their shoes during security checks. Instead, only passengers who set off metal detectors, are flagged by a computer screening system or look “reasonably suspicious” would be asked to do so, a TSA official said Saturday.

Any of the changes proposed by the staff, which also would allow scissors, ice picks and bows and arrows on flights, would require Hawley’s approval, this official said, requesting anonymity because there has been no final decision.

No, the point is not to be passenger-friendly. The point is to be hijacker-hostile.

I thought bureacracies grew stupid over time. This one started stupid.

The 9/11 records

It was very hard driving home yesterday, listening to the 9/11 tapes just released under the Freedom of Information Act.

When they came out, I went to The Times site and read some of the interviews with the heroes who were there and read some of the transcripts of their radio calls from that day. There are moments of bravery and generosity and fear there, moments of essential humanity. As inspiring as that is, it is also hard to read, hard to remember.

But the sounds were so much harder. NPR played moments from the tapes with firefighters calling dispatch, reporting the events. And so I heard the sounds of the day again. The day had a look: from its bright sunshine and white clouds to the frightening orange of the jet fuel exploding to the black of the cloud of destruction to the white of the dust of the aftermath. The day had a smell, too: flat, like an electrical spark. The day even had a taste, of the dust. And the day had a sound and these tapes dredged that sound up from a still-raw corner of my memory: The sound was sirens everywhere… and adrenalin (I did not recognize my own voice on the message I left my wife after the first plane hit; some of these emergency workers were also talking as if they had no time left to talk)… and an absence of all the normal sounds of the city… and even the sound of air thick with the dust. The tapes brought that back, they erased the time and distance and made the day real again and it was hard again.

: Most people here know that I started this blog because I was at the World Trade Center that day. But some don’t and because I haven’t written about September 11 in sometime, I’m mentioning it again, to give context to what might seem to some to be my emotional response. Here are my taped recollections of the day, recorded some weeks afterward.

Martin Luther Rushdie

Salman Rushdie bravely — yes, bravely — calls for a reformation in Islam:

What is needed is a move beyond tradition — nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadi ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows of the closed communities to let in much-needed fresh air….

It ought to be fascinating to Muslims everywhere to see how deeply their beloved book is a product of its place and time, and in how many ways it reflects the Prophet’s own experiences.

However, few Muslims have been permitted to study their religious book in this way. The insistence within Islam that the Koranic text is the infallible, uncreated word of God renders analytical scholarly discourse all but impossible. Why would God be influenced by the socioeconomics of 7th-century Arabia, after all? Why would the Messenger’s personal circumstances have anything to do with the Message?

The traditionalists’ refusal of history plays right into the hands of the literalist Islamofascists, allowing them to imprison Islam in their iron certainties and unchanging absolutes. If, however, the Koran were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages. Laws made in the 7th century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st. The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities.

Broad-mindedness is related to tolerance; open-mindedness is the sibling of peace. This is how to take up the “profound challenge” of the bombers….

Yes, it is the reformation Christianity needed (and in some quarters needs still) against the fundamentalism, the literalism, that supports the authority of the self-chosen few.

Angry young men, my ass

Oh, how I wish that Jon Stewart put up videos and transcripts of his segments. Last night, he poked holes in, stomped on, buried, and burned the conventional media wisdom that suicide bombers in London and around the world are “angry young men.”

(My older angry-young-men post here but that’s on the old site, so comments are closed; post on the new site with comments here.)

: LATER: Ben Hartman emails news that the video is up: “For now it’s on the Comedy Central site,
just click on the “War on Terrour” link under Latest Headlines. Move the time indicator to about 3:30 and I believe you’ll find the clip you’re looking for. ” Thanks, Ben.

Blowing up the hand that feeds you

Hateful Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed has lived well off the dole in England. The moocher cleric is due for a government angioplasty — no doubt because he clogged his arteries eating well in the land he would destroy. And there’s more:

He receives £331.28 a month in incapacity benefit and £183.30 a month in disability living allowance because of a leg injury he suffered in his teens.

Both payments will continue for at least six months while he is abroad, as long as he plans to return, as will the housing benefit on his home in Edmonton, north London, and his council tax benefit.

His wife, who remains in Britain with their seven children, can also continue to claim a benefits package thought to be worth at least £1,300 a month. Bakri drives a Toyota people carrier worth £30,000, paid for under a scheme called Motability.