Posts from May 2002

Who’s the cynic?: Pardon me

Who’s the cynic?
: Pardon me for thinking it’s cynical of Dick Cheney to warn that another terrorist attack is imminent.

Classic CYA.

So now whenever whatever attack happens, the White House can say that they did warn us this time — even though the warning is utterly nonspecific, utterly unhelpful, utterly uninformative (because they don’t know much more).

You could say I’m the cynic for saying this. Or you could say that Cheney et al are the cynics.

Children of WWII… Kennedy… Vietnam…

Children of WWII… Kennedy… Vietnam… 9.11
: As I write this, I am watching Path to War on HBO. It is the story of Lyndon Johnson’s reputedly reluctant escalation of the Vietnam War. I’m watching this as if it were fiction. I keep hoping it will turn out differently, that Johnson will stop and do the right thing, that he will pull back, pull out, end it before it’s too late. Of course, he does not. And that changed the lives of my generation. Too many died. Many fought. And many of us fought against the war. I never had to make my hard decision between jail and Canada; going to war was not a choice. I was let off by my low age and high lottery number. Even so, Vietnam made me much of what I am today. It molded my morality. It threatened to tear into my family. It knocked the foundation out from under my respect for authority. It tainted my perspective on patriotism. It made me into a pacifist. It defined my age.

I was talking Friday with the best newspaper editor I know — my boss now and again — about children today and how 9.11 will affect them and mold their lives. My wise friend wasn’t sure that this would define their age; he said the story is not over yet. I believe it will define them though I agree that it is certainly too soon for them or us to know how.

When John Kennedy was killed, I was in third grade. Of course, I remember the scene: A black minister worked as the custodian — to earn enough to support his family and church — in my school — a Friends school, as it happens — and we saw his face at our door, crying, telling the teacher what had happened as we were shuttled onto buses to go home. I knew this was important but I did not know what it meant, none of us did for decades, not for a generation. The same was true of Vietnam. The symptoms are too many and too obvious to list but it took a generation for them to become obvious. And this story, too, is not over.

I believe that today’s children will be the generation of 9.11. Read the Washington Post on the “heirs to a nation’s pain,” the children of the victims. Read about our well-meaning outpouring of sympathy and respect that often makes the pain sharper for them.

Virtually nothing is more devastating for a child than a parent’s death. How much greater the grief, though, when it seems on constant public display?

The pain is felt in each single heart.

All 4-year-old An Nguyen knows now is that his father is gone. It could take him years to grasp why.

Most mornings, he bounds happily into his preschool classroom, eager to write, draw, paint, sing. But if any of the other boys or girls do not show, his smiles and mood dissolve. An’s father, Navy contractor Khang Nguyen, never came back. What if they don’t either?

But for the future, this is but the first snowflake on the mountain. The avalanche is yet to come. I cannot predict what impact this will have on this generation, on their safety, politics, patriotism, religion, morality, their lives; these changes cannot be obvious today. But they will reach far, from the children of the victims, to the children of the survivors, to the children of the soldiers, to the children who witnessed this, to every child.

I look at my own son and daughter and wonder how they will remember this time, how they will interpret the impact on them and their family and nation. I don’t know yet. I may never know.

Imagining evil
: Thomas Friedman says the press has the story — as my father would say it — bassackwards:

The failure to prevent Sept. 11 was not a failure of intelligence or coordination. It was a failure of imagination. Even if all the raw intelligence signals had been shared among the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the White House, I’m convinced that there was no one there who would have put them all together, who would have imagined evil on the scale Osama bin Laden did.

Osama bin Laden was (or is) a unique character. He’s a combination of Charles Manson and Jack Welch

The view from here: This

The view from here
: This is the view from my office in Jersey City (classy, eh?), a block away from the Al Salaam mosque, where the blind Egyptian cleric and his cronies plotted the first attack on the World Trade Center.

This week, Dish, the satellite TV service, put up a new billboard (which you can’t see well enough to read but you couldn’t read most of it anyway: it’s in Farsi).

It’s advertising all its Arab channels — Al Jazeera, I assume: “From the Middle East to your living room in America.”

Oh, good, just in case you’re missing all those incendiary reports and secret messages from bin Laden.

What could have been done
: They used to call it “spin” in Washington. It’s really just a meme. And the meme of the day — heard from Air Fleisher (that’s actually a typo but then I enjoyed it), Conde Rice, and most anybody on FoxNews — is that nobody could have known that Arab hijackers would have “turned planes into missiles.”

That may be true but it’s also a bogus argument: What, if you knew that they were going to hijack but weren’t going to try the suicide bomb thing you would not have tried to stop them? Of course, you would have. But you couldn’t because you didn’t — to use the Democrat’s meme — “connect the dots.”

What could have been done if the dots had been connected?

Well, if the FBI had listened to its own and if FBI and CIA intelligence had talked to each other — try email, guys — then they could have looked at the enrollment in flight schools throughout the country. They would have seen a pattern, a pattern that would have told them that these people were planning to turn jets into missiles. They didn’t want to learn how to land, ferchrissake. They could have learned that by watching Zacarias Moussaoui. They also would have seen the names of people connected with bin Laden.

Could they have foiled the plot? Maybe.

But I do not blame the White House for not acting (see Andrew Sullivan’s predicatable Bush defense du jour); they get warnings of all sorts all the time.

But I do blame the White House for not revealing the facts long ago (see Nick Denton’s advice: “Hasn’t Bush learned anything from Clinton: it’s always the cover-up that gets you.”).

But blame is beside the point now. What happened happened. What matters is that we cannot let it happen again. We cannot repeat these fatal errors. And the only way to prevent them is to thoroughly investigate who knew what when and what dots were not connected so the next time, we can connect them.

The party meme
: Stephen Green suggests: “Perhaps we should call being too pro-Bush the Sullivan Award.”

The Weblog Foundation: Scroll down

The Weblog Foundation
: Scroll down for reaction. Click here for the complete proposal.
: is an interesting site I found via Die Zeit and I don’t think it has bubbled up among blogs (at least according to Daypop, it has not) and so I pass it on.

The shtick:

Each week, they tackle another Israeli/Palestinian issue with two pieces written from one side and two from the other.

This week, the issue is Palestinian reform.

From their different angles, the pieces from both sides agree that reform is going to end up being a sham. They say that Sharon does not want reform but instead just wants any way to dilute Arafat. They say that Palestinian leaders who are in power don’t want reform; they are using it to try to gain or maintain advantage following Arafat’s detention. They say that free and open elections are needed. Agreement.

A piece from the Palestinian side concludes:

The litmus test for any calls for reforming the Palestinian political system and their significance or seriousness is whether they include calls for regular, free and democratic elections that will empower the public and enforce accountability, transparency and efficiency. Otherwise, any changes are going to be the flawed product of the same people that are responsible for the current situation.

The means of judging demands for reform, whether they emanate from Washington or Tel Aviv or come from Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza, is how they incorporate the Palestinian demand for comprehensive and free elections.

15 pixels of celebrity
: I think that John Hiler has been doing a great job at Microcontent News taking the pulse of this fibrillating medium. Today, go there to chortle about Nick Denton’s caricature.

What didn’t they know and

What didn’t they know and when didn’t they know it?
: Well, I won’t call it Terrorgate. But the FBI’s bungling of warnings about Sept. 11 terrorism bears thorough investigation.

First we found out that the FBI ignored a warning from one of its own agents that Arabs were taking flying lessons — complete with speculation about ties to Osama bin Laden.

And now we learn that the White House had been warned about Arab hijackings before they occurred.

President George W. Bush was told by U.S. intelligence in advance of the Sept. 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network might hijack American airplanes, the White House acknowledged Wednesday night.

Though the FBI’s behavior — its general lack of competence — has been scandalous, this is not a scandal. Obviously, nobody tried to screw this up; nobody tried to hide anything.

Nonetheless, for our safety, for our future, this must be investigated so we can find the problem and fix it!

The FBI is planning a super squad against terror. How it is run should be run must be informed by complete, open, independent, and frank investigation of what was messed up by intelligence and law enforcement officials prior to September 11th. And the administration should ask whether it’s the FBI that should be running this.

I’m not given confidence by this team and its disorganization: We have powerless, silent, wimpy bureaucrat Tom Ridge. We have bumbling Norm Minetta failing to give us security in the skies. We have dogmatic but — let’s be honest — ineffectual John Ashcroft catching no one (remember anthrax?). And we have the FBI (stands for Friggin’ Bungling Idiots) letting valuable intelligence get lost in its lack of a system.

And we have the sure prediction that the terrorists will try again.

Do you feel safe?

I don’t.

Snark attack!
: More snarky words are being written about the Weblog Foundation. No surprise. It’s the Internet. That’s why we love it, eh?

But what does surprise me is that webloggers — or at least some of them — don’t want money, don’t like it, think it’s a bad thing.

I thought we were past defending capitalism (except, perhaps, in Cuba).

But capitalism has able defense from Eric Olsen and Richard Bennett. They do it better than I could.

: More show-off snarkiness from elsewhere [a bozo who apparently doesn’t know how to do permalinks]:

Heh. Excuse my mirth for a second. Bwahahahahahahahahahah! The carpetbloggers want to set up a Weblogging Chamber Of Commerce. This from a fragment of a subculture even more superredundant than indiekid bassists, budding fast bowlers and pop starlet wannabes. Ferfugsake, get a real job you lazy bums and stop whinging! Seriously, I’ve had cause to gather my thoughts on the issue of journalism and weblogging, so I’ll probably splurt it out at some point.

Can’t wait.

: If these guys don’t want money, good. Leaves more for the rest of us…. Insert smug, irritating smiley face graphic here….