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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Note From a Madman on 9/11

Monday, September 11, 2006


Recapping My Day: 9/11/2001

Timeline in brief:
08:46 Flight 11 hits North Tower.
09:02 Flight 175 hits South Tower.
09:06 Bush told of 2nd crash.
09:38 Flight 77 hits Pentagon.
09:59 South Tower collapses.
10:06 Flight 93 crashes into field.
10:28 North Tower collapses.

-Thanks to 911chronology.com

Trying to start a business. That's what I was trying to do on the morning of September 11, 2001. Like every morning, I went into my office, which I shared with my brothers, Michael and Perry, on West 35th Street, right off of the corner of 7th Avenue. There is no television in our office and the radio is switched off. We arrived at about 7:30AM. Sometime before 9:00AM, my wife, Hillary, calls to tell me that a plane, which we all assumed was a small aircraft, has hit one of the Twin Towers, The World Trade Center.

Perry puts the radio on.

We're listening to a live report on one of New York City's all news radio stations to a reporter describing the smoke billowing out of the tower to his left. I remember my first thought: "Was anyone other than the pilot hurt?" It was followed by "Maybe he (the pilot - remembering that I still thought it was a small plane, and that it was an accident) was the only one killed." Those thoughts were chattered a few minutes later when the radio reporter says something like, "Oh My God! Another plane has just hit the OTHER TOWER!"

That was the moment the three of us realized that this was a terrorist attack. I called my wife and asked her to pick up the kids at school. She was already on her way. I then called my old employer to make sure that everyone was alright. My first job as a network engineer was with a company who handled the network at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop of the World Trade Center. No one was there that morning, but a lot of nameless faces crossed my mind.

I went downstairs to see what was happening on the streets of midtown Manhattan. They were eerily silent, much like a Sunday morning in the NYC's garment center. I walked from West 35th Street to West 38th Street. There was a television in the window of a restaurant there. I watched the two burning buildings through the bars on the eatery's gate for a few minutes and went back to my office. I had nowhere else to go.

Traffic was stopped coming into Manhattan from every artery. The Holland and Lincoln tunnels were closed from New jersey as was The George Washington Bridge, the only bride from New Jersey into New York City. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and all of the East River Bridges (The Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens borough/ 59th Street Bridge) and all of the little Bronx bridges were closed as well. There was no getting into or out of Manhattan unless you wanted to walk.

My brothers and I, with the original shock over, went uptown to my brother Michael's apartment on West 104th Street. We made the three-plus mile drive in record time. There were few cars on the streets of Manhattan and even less if you were to exclude the multitude of empty taxis. Driving the last few blocks on Broadway, it was hard not to notice all of the restaurants that opened as sidewalk cafe's. The diners were few and far between. The look of Manhattan's Upper West Side was surreal. On this bright, sunny day, there was hardly any movement at all. No cars on the road; no taxis picking up passengers; no Nannies with their charges in baby carriages. The silence was deafening.

Michael, Perry and I went upstairs to Michael's apartment. That's when we heard of the plane hitting the Pentagon. Moments later, the first tower falls.

Next we hear rumors of more flights that might have been hijacked around the nation. There was a rumor that a plane was heading toward the Sears Tower in Chicago. We heard that a plane crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. We didn't know what to think. The was no national leadership. There was no face out there for our nation to see. As it turned out, President Bush was on Air Force One ducking possible planes as missiles and Dick Cheney was doing his best Al Haig impersonation, telling all who would listen that he was in charge. It became clear that all of this was sheer pandemonium and the lines of national security were broken. Fortunately, New York City's mayor Rudy Giuliani came forth and showed real leadership, even if it was only targeted in lower Manhattan. At least he was visible and as vulnerable as the rest of us. It meant something.

We spent the rest of the day watching the news. I tried calling my family in Sayreville, New Jersey, a working class suburb about 35 miles southwest of New York City. I wanted to go home and explain what was happening to my fourteen year old daughter, Bonnie and my nine year old son, Jason. The phones worked only sporadically so calling was a crap shoot.

I watched the real-time camera outside of the Lincoln Tunnel streaming live on the Internet to see when I should leave to go home. Once I called my friend Mitchell who had also driven in that day and was a stuck as I was to tell him when the traffic started moving. that occurred at about 4:00PM. He was staying at his aunt and uncle's apartment on the East Side. We both headed for the Lincoln, which connects Midtown Manhattan near the Jacob Javits Convention Center and Union City, New Jersey. I got there minutes later, but they had closed the tunnel again. Someone had said that there might be a bomb in there. I headed back to my brother's apartment. he wasn't surprised to see me.

We watched some more TV news.

At about 9:00PM the Lincoln opened up again. I drove downtown, again, and was turned away, again. This time, however, instead of heading back to my brother's apartment, I headed north to the George Washington Bridge where I had my most surreal experience in a most surreal day. I headed north on Broadway, avoiding the West Side Highway. (I had visions of being stuck on that roadway all night long, with no exit for escape.) I new that if I got stuck on Broadway, I'd have the ability to turn around and head back toward Michael's place. But there were no cars to be found and I made the trip from the closed Lincoln Tunnel to the George Washington Bridge in a matter of minutes. As I made the left turn onto the entrance ramp to the bridge, I noticed something odd: There were no other cars on the bridge, except for a small Port Authority of New York and New Jersey car with its yellow lights blinking like a warning sign. Just the two of us.

As I crossed the toll plaza, I focused my eyes on the beginning of the long line of vehicles which were backed up as far as my eyes can see. I kept driving, heading for the New Jersey Turnpike. The line of cars didn't end. The northbound turnpike had turned into the longest parking lot I had, and have ever seen.

Passing my way down through the turnpike's southbound western spur, I was spared watching another line of cars lining up for that closed entrance to new York. The eastern spur of the turnpike is how you get to the Lincoln. I was sure it was a mess as well.

I kept traveling down the turnpike, listening to the radio advisories. They said that the road may close for spot inspections at any minute. The express lanes were closed, forcing me, and the small handful of other drivers onto the "truck" lanes. I passed under the Goethals Bridge, which connects Elizabeth, New Jersey to New York City's Staten Island. The line of cars that were backed up on the turnpike for this crossing was almost as equally as long as the GWB. Although I couldn't see it, I assumed that the Outerbridge Crossing, the other New Jersey to Staten Island crossing, was just as bad.

I got home pretty fast and spent the rest of the evening with my family, trying my best to explain what I didn't quite understand myself. My daughter told me that her former locker partner, Lindsey, had a brother who worked at the WTC. No one had heard from him. We later found out that he was one of two Sayreville War Memorial High School Alumni that were killed that day. There were four Sayreville residents who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and were, today, memorialized, at Sayreville's new 911 memorial. My daughter, who has had her own medical problems this past year, made the rip and laid flowers at its base.

My niece, Courtney woke on September 11, 2001 ready to celebrate her 17th birthday. her father, and my brother Dennis was born on December 7, 1950.


On Monday, September 10, 2001, after working a whole weekend, I sent out a mailing for Greenberg Consulting, LLC. I was targeting businesses in Lower Manhattan. After a few weeks had passed I had received a total of one call. On the tri-fold flier I had sent out was a picture of the World Trade Center as taken from a boat on the Hudson River.

Finally, at about midnight on September 12, 2001, I went to bed.

-Noah Greenberg

AFTER 9/11
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-register Newspapers, Inc.

Five years after 9/11, is America any safer from unprovoked terrorist attacks than it was on that sunny September morning?

Numerous polls in the weeks leading up to the anniversary indicated that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the U.S. is no more safe–or is actually *less* safe–than it was prior to 9/11.

Most cite the war on Iraq as the reason.

In recent weeks, the President has been traveling across the country talking to carefully selected Republican audiences about why the escalating and increasingly bloody war on Iraq is important to U.S. national security. It doesn’t seem to be working. Even Bush’s base appears to be wavering in their support for the war. Critics of the war have become more vocal and more bi-partisan. Among the recent critics: the Pentagon itself, which has said Iraq could be spiraling into civil war, as evidenced by increased violence. On average 100 Iraqis are dying every day in attacks and bombings in Iraq. (International critics of the war have assessed that civil war has been in play for months now.)

Add to the criticism by both progressives and conservatives, the findings of a bi-partisan report. On September 8th, the Senate released its Intelligence Committee report which stated unequivocally that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and had no links whatsoever to al-Qaeda.

The report explores various alleged threats to the U.S. by Iraq–and refutes them, point by point based on CIA, DIA (Domestic Intelligence Agency) and other intelligence efforts. (Although much of the report remains classified, a significant portion can be examined online.) Not only does the report clarify that there was never any link or alliance of any sort whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, but it also notes Hussein attempted to have Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of a faction of al-Qaeda in Iraq since the U.S. invasion, killed
Also refuted by the report: The often reiterated assertions by the Bush Administration hierarchy that members of al-Qaeda, under the aegis of Osama bin Laden, were trained in chemical and biological warfare tactics by Saddam Hussein. (This falsehood is still referenced by Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Rice, despite both of them having known for more than two years that it is not true.)

Although the information that Saddam Hussein had no connection to either al-Qaeda or 9/11 is not news to anyone closely following the war (including the NSA, CIA and FBI) it becomes one more damning document amidst the plethora of evidence that the Bush Administration misled the American people as well as the Congress by linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks as a rationale for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It is made more damning by the fact that in this part of the report (the first was released two years ago), Republican members of the Committee have voted to release information to the public about the failures of the Bush Administration to properly investigate false claims prior to leading the country to war.

Thus, not only was there no link found by any U.S. or allied intelligence agency between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but a new and exhaustively researched book on bin Laden and the formation of al-Qaeda makes clear that Saddam Hussein was an enemy of al-Qaeda. It also establishes that bin Laden loathed Hussein, in part for the invasion of Kuwait, which precipitated the first Gulf War, and in part for Hussein’s secularism, because bin Laden is a staunch believer in Islamist dominance.

In *The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,*by *New Yorker* staff writer, law professor and foreign policy expert, Lawrence Wright, the antipathy between bin Laden and Hussein is made perfectly clear—as is the case for how the Bush Administration both failed to stop al-Qaeda and, with the invasion of Iraq, exploded sectarian violence in the region.

And there can be no question that the violence has indeed exploded in Iraq and will likely spread to–or from–Iran. There can also be no question that President Bush has been pointing to Iran as a potential flashpoint in his recent speeches about Iraq and that Bush’s rhetoric about Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sounds alarmingly similar to the words he used to describe Saddam Hussein in the months before he started the war on Iraq.

But is Iran any more of a threat to the U.S. than Iraq was?

If there is a threat, it’s one that had been created by the U.S. forcing an alliance between two nations that were, until recently, sworn enemies. Iraq and Iran were long at war with each other. But the two nations have now bonded–mostly against the U.S.–since the Islamic fundamentalist Shi’as became the ruling majority in Iraq. (Under Saddam Hussein, Sunnis, although not the demographic majority, ruled. Osama bin Laden is Shi’a as is Ahmadinejad. Iran also has a Shi’a majority. Hezbollah, the group that led the offensive against Israel when Israel invaded Lebanon two months ago, is a radical Shi’a militant group which the U.S. has classified as a terrorist faction in both Iraq and Iran.)

Prior to the U.S. invasion, Iraq was the only secularist nation in the region. Saddam Hussein was no theocrat. Iran and Afghanistan–both under extremist Islamic rule (as they continue to be)–were theocracies. Although a dictatorship, and a brutal one, under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi society was more similar to that of the U.S. than it is today, under sectarian rule.

Extremist Islamist philosophy is what precipitated the 9/11 attacks, as well as the attacks in London and Madrid. Extremists like bin Laden, outraged by U.S. secularism which they consider an affront to Islam, are intent on establishing theocratic Islamist rule. Such governments are the antithesis to democracy, as was the case with Afghanistan under the Taliban. Theocracies are especially oppressive to women and anyone who is not Muslim. Women are executed for being raped and for adultery. Anyone professing a religious belief other than Islam is also executed or forced to convert. Iraq is on the verge not of democracy, but of theocracy, and Afghanistan has returned to its theocratic roots. So has Iran.

In his recent travels, President Bush asserts in speeches that the war in Iraq is going well (although he does acknowledge that it isn’t going as well as was expected). Bush also claims that Iraq is establishing a democracy under the U.S. occupation.

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. The U.S. has allowed Shi’a death squads to perpetrate hideous violence against Sunnis in Iraq. Torture and execution in the dead of night are a daily commonplace in and around Baghdad, just as they were under Hussein. U.S. forces occupying Iraq have done nothing to or are powerless to stop these death squads or to enforce any rule of law. Nor has Bush or any other member of the Administration decried these actions. Which begs the question: What are American troops actually doing in Iraq, other than being killed and maimed at a rate of several a day, if they aren’t maintaining law and order?

Also in his latest round of speeches, Bush has made parallels between the war on terror and Hitler. Bush has asserted that the fight against terrorism, in which he insists Iraq is the nexus, is much like the battle fought against Nazism in World War II.

Set aside the fact that the U.S. watched for several years as Hitler took his *anschluss* and *blitzkrieg* across Europe, felling nations as he went, and did nothing. However, if the war against terror is similar to the war against Hitler, and Americans are expected to consider the fight against terror, with Iraq as the centerpiece just as Germany was the centerpiece in WWII, then where is the mobilization for this war? More than half a million troops were deployed to Europe for the fight against Hitler. (Only 150,000 have been sent to Iraq, 40 percent of whom are National Guard and reservists.)

During WWII, America was asked to sacrifice and wage its own war at home, with rationing and other commitments to lessen the burdens on the nation’s economy and resources. There were nightly blackouts, gas and food rationing and women worked in munitions factories to aid the war effort.

If, as the President asserts, the war on terror, with Iraq at its heart, is the same as the war against Hitler, what exactly are Americans doing to contribute to ending that war? If we are truly expected to believe that this war is the same as the war against Hitler, who had occupied all of Europe and had set his sights on England when the U.S. finally entered the war, then why aren’t we really fighting the war? (It should be noted that the only nation in the region where the U.S. is at war that has been overtaken by so-called terrorists is Iraq–and that happened *after* the U.S. invasion utterly destabilized the government. Afghanistan has also seen a resurgence of terrorism, post-US. invasion.)

If the war on terror, which Bush has conflated to the war on Iraq (and possibly a war on Iran), is the same kind of noble cause that will make the world safe for democracy, as President Roosevelt characterized WWII, then why hasn’t a draft been instituted (since there has been a huge fall-off in military enlistments since the war began, which means the same troops are just being cycled again and again into Iraq), why aren’t Americans being asked to conserve resources, particularly oil and gas, why isn’t there a true mobilization of forces against al-Qaeda and other sources of terror?

Is the President once again misrepresenting the facts as he and his Administration have done continually since 9/11? The Bush Administration has refused to take responsibility for failing to heed the warnings about bin Laden passed on by the Clinton Administration (as evidenced by the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission Report). The Bush Administration has perpetuated the fiction that weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) existed in Iraq–or were found–a contention the Vice President continues to assert on occasion and which Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) made during his appearance on Meet the Press on September 3rd, but which had been refuted with finality by both the Pentagon and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

These misrepresentations about the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq made repeatedly by the Bush team in the past five years since 9/11 and the three and a half years of the Iraq war, have resulted in a confused American public.

A full 65 percent of Americans, for example, believe that Saddam Hussein orchestrated 9/11: yet he had nothing to do with that event. But an equal percentage of Americans feel the war in Iraq is going badly and that American troops should come home.

Although most Americans know the war on Iraq is going badly, they don’t know why. And if anyone–the current Administration or the one that will be elected in 2008–is to fix the problems of Iraq and the subsequent rise in terrorism which could, at some point, impact the U.S. directly as it did on 9/11–understanding *why* Iraq has gone so badly is important.

In an almost off-hand aside during a press conference last week, President Bush acknowledged that “the terrorists” had changed their tactics, which was making the war on terror more difficult.

But one of the main problems in the so-called war on terror is one of definitions. Who *are* the terrorists?

We know that bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian national, is a terrorist who founded al-Qaeda in 1988, and has repeatedly attacked the U.S., whom he blames for problems besetting Islam. It was bin Laden who planned and executed the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Africa, which killed and maimed hundreds. He was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, which killed and maimed hundreds. And bin Laden orchestrated 9/11, which killed and maimed thousands.

We know that 15 of the 19 hijackers who perpetrated 9/11were Saudis like bin Laden and the rest were Egyptians.

Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are allegedly America’s allies. The first Gulf War was fought to support Saudi Arabia. And the U.S. gives more foreign aid to Egypt than to any other nation except Israel: a billion dollars per year. Yet both nations are dictatorships (Saudi Arabia is titularly a monarchy, and Egypt proclaims itself to be a democracy, but does not hold elections), both harbor terrorists, both foment terrorism.

We know that bin Laden has been hiding in Pakistan–another dictatorship and another nation allegedly allied with the U.S. in the war against terror–but last week it was revealed that the Pakistani government had stopped looking for bin Laden (if they ever were, a topic on which President Musharif continually refused to comment).

So who are the terrorists, exactly? The three main exporters of terrorists who have injured and killed Americans, are the three nations listed above, all of whom the Bush Administration insists are allies of the U.S. So why are our alleged friends fomenting terrorism that kills Americans?

The Bush Administration refers to those leading the opposition in Iraq (opposition to the U.S. occupation and opposition to the establishment of a democratic rather than theocratic government) as “insurgents.” What is an insurgent? Are they the same as terrorists? Are they al-Qaeda? Who are they?

The Bush Administration has never explained.

During the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, there were no terrorist groups in Iraq. Now there are several terrorist networks and, of course, the insurgency—whatever that is.

Five years after 9/11, America is at a crossroads when it comes to terrorism. Most Americans can’t give a definition of what terrorism is or how it might effect them in their daily lives. Most families who lost loved ones in 9/11 feel the government has done nothing to remedy the circumstances that led to that event and the 9/11 Commission echoed their feelings with its findings.

Unlike on September 12, 2001, when the majority of the world held America in its heart, today the U.S. is viewed as a dangerous and unpredictable aggressor, not just ready but eager to wage war on any nation that disagrees with its philosophy.

How did we get to this place? George Bush led us here: He has caused America to being universally reviled, even by our allies. Bush led us into a war based on lies and which has no seeming purpose nor end. Bush continually flogs the tired axiom that fighting terrorists abroad will protect us at home, but the British and Spaniards fought alongside the U.S. in Iraq --and terrorists attacked them at home. In fact the terrorists who attacked them attacked them were citizens of those countries and cited the war on Iraq as their rationale.

Five years after 9/11 we are no safer. But if there is one thing we as a nation should have learned since that fateful September morning, it is that inflammatory rhetoric breeds volatility and retribution.

Bush and his fellow Republicans waging this war on Iraq and the war of words on Iran have not made us safer. The U.S. has made no new friends since 9/11, but we have made numerous enemies. How many more enemies can we afford to make before we risk another 9/11?

Come November we can begin to wage our own war against terrorism by voting out those who have made America and the world so very unsafe. Bush and his team must go, because if the threat of terrorism wasn’t real before, Bush and his supporters have made it real now. And the only way to stop it is by ceasing to feed the flames. In five years Bush hasn’t managed to capture bin Laden–the man responsible for 9/11 and other atrocities against Americans. In five years Bush hasn’t managed to make this nation safer despite acknowledging (September 7th) that his Administration tortures people for information on terrorism, despite acknowledging that his Administration wiretaps thousands of ordinary Americans, despite acknowledging that the terrorists have the upper hand and we are not winning the fight.

Iraq is lost. Afghanistan is lost. Thousands of American lives have been lost in 9/11 and in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time to stop the rhetoric before it leads us into Iran and more lost lives. It’s time to remember the men and women who died on 9/11 and recognize that more American bloodshed will not avenge their deaths.

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-Noah Greenberg