Not a cocoon

Not a cocoon

: Underlying the 9/11 Commission’s unrelenting coulda/shoulda/woulda criticism of government action before, during, and after the 9/11 attacks is an unstated — and dangerously wrong — assumption:

That government could and should prepare to protect us against every possible form of attack.

Oh, would that that were possible and true. But it’s neither. This is, instead, a rhetorical trick makes it so damned easy to turn the 9/11 attacks into a hammer to attack ourselves.

Yes, sure, it sounds good to say, for example, that if the orders had been communicated only 13 minutes earlier, fighter jets could have shot down the passenger jets the terrorists had turned into their bombs. It makes it sound as if our government messed this up. It makes it seem as if our government now shares some responsibility for the horrid toll. But let’s be realistic! There was not enough time; there was no way to know where there jets were going until it was quite literally too late; and imagine the consequences if one jet had managed to follow Cheney’s order to shoot down civilian Americans.

Under the logic of the 9/11 Commission, though, government should be preparing for every contingency. By this thinking…

: Every parcel carried by every passenger on every train should be searched in detail lest some murdering terrorist nutjobs, like the ones in Spain, should decide to set off exploding backpacks on the 5:55 to New Rochelle.

: All our mail should be hermetically sealed in case some murdering terrorist nutjob choose to fill a half-dozen letters with magic anthrax dust.

: Every building should be retrofitted to keep traffic at least a half-mile away lest some murdering terrorist nutjob choose to drive a trick filled with explosive fertilizer to the front door and set it off.

: And, moving from experience to speculation, Times Square — the epicenter on every media map of possible fallout from a dirty bomb — should just be shut down in case it should attract a murdering terrorist nutjob as a symbolic target. Ditto Disneyworld. Ditto every mall. Ditto Wall Street. Ditto Hollywood.

: And every American should be equipped with gas masks and geiger counters and bulletproof vests and steel necklaces to guard against beheading by murdering terrorist nutjobs.

: And every American should be told never to go overseas, lest we be targets of murdering terrorist nutjobs there.

That is the logic of the 9/11 Commission. They would expect government to turn America into a cocoon. They would expect the impossible. And they are holding government to that impossible standard.

This is not to say that we cannot learn many lessons from 9/11 and do many things better when, God forbid, we are attacked again. But that’s not what the Commission is doing. Instead, it is using “mistakes” of 9/11 to beat up many in power, from the Bush Administration down to the NYPD.

And media reporting of those “findings” only amplifies the effect: COULDA/WOULDA/SHOULDA shouted from the headlines.

Now the truth is — as some reasonable souls say — that the only real way to fight terrorism is not to unreasonably armor our facilities but is to stop the terrorists from coming into this country and conspiring and arming themselves. By that logic, we should be applauding the Patriot Act and a government commission should be recommending a Constitutional amendment to take away any ambiguity and allow government to spy on, hunt down, capture, question — and, yes, even strip naked and mock — terrorists. But we don’t want that, do we?

I resent this. Not to sound egocentric about this, but in a sense, I of all people should be hanging on the words of the 9/11 Commission. I came within minutes or feet of death that day. I’m paranoid and nervous for me and my family.

But, in fact, I am first and foremost grateful for the good work of the NYPD that day; because of them I did survive. I wish the Commission would also spend more time — they have spent some — praising what was done right that day, for we can also learn lessons from that. And I do not — I cannot reasonably — blame government, top to bottom, for what happened to us that day. They cannot protect us from every possible nightmare concocted by murdering terrorist nutjobs; they simply cannot.

The 9/11 Commission has perverted its work and, in my view, committed the unpardonable sin of politicizing 9/11 and turning the attacks of mudering terrorist nutjobs into a litany of things we did wrong, things that are our fault.

No, 9/11 is the fault of murdering terrorist nutjobs and the only solution to this is to hunt down and capture or kill every one of them we can find wherever we find them — yes, even in Saudi Arabia, even in Iraq, even in Pakistan, even in New Jersey. I wish I heard the Commission giving us a few more suggestions about how to do that.