When I read on Yahoo! News about new pictures released by the FBI from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, I had to look into it.
WARNING: Both the FBI Website and the Yahoo! story have images that can be disturbing and/or triggering.
Washington (AFP) – Never-seen photographs from the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon released by the FBI this week show the massive devastation that faced first responders.
Twenty-seven pictures from that day depict the crushed walls, blazing fires and eviscerated interiors of the seat of the US Department of Defense.
American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles International Airport slammed into the Pentagon’s western wall, killing all 64 people on the plane, including the five hijackers, and 125 on the ground.
One poignant shot shows an American flag tangled in concrete-and-rebar wreckage being cleared by a tractor.
As people who visit this site often know, I just released a new edition of my play, The 9/11 Project, meant as both memento of that day and my memorial to all those who lost their lives because of that attack – in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, and in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Would it be too much to call 9/11 the defining event of the early 21st century?
Perhaps, in that other events of the last decade, like the “Great Recession” of 2008, or the election of Barack Obama – and Donald Trump – can be seen as coming from movements and forces in play long before that September morning.
But that moment – and how America chose to respond to it – defined so much of what came after. We went to war supposedly to overthrow governments we accused of developing weapons of mass destruction, of harboring and supporting terrorists; to find how terrorism flourishes in the absence of governments willing and able to keep order. What was meant to be a quick demonstration of American power and resolve became what is now “The Long War.”
Drone strikes and expanded Government surveillance powers have become a point of controversy – are they unfortunate but necessary tools to fight terrorism, or a betrayal of American core values (or are they both?) Even the fear of Muslims and the feeling America has somehow become weaker as it became more inclusive that played such a part in the last election – it all goes back to that September morning.
I began work on what would become The 9/11 Project shortly after the attacks first as a way of dealing with my feelings of shock and grief. From over a hundred songs that would come over the next ten years I selected thirty-three to at first become a three-part album; but the songs suggested a story – or more accurately, a story of stories, stories of ordinary Americans living and fighting in that roller-coaster of a decade – that would become a three-act musical play, and now this latest iteration. As always, my “mission” with this Project is to inspire Americans to spare some thought, to care what those who go to war go through on their behalf, beyond the usual patriotism and platitudes.
In this latest edition I cut the songs to three but kept all the emotional impact. It’s meant to be easier for school, college, smaller professional and amateur groups to produce. Later this year I want to offer a compete soundtrack for the 9/11 Project.
My current goal is to reach out to theater groups across the country, looking to find some that would help me finally bring this story to the stage. The 9/11 Project is currently for sale here and on Amazon; but if you’re with a legitimate theater group, please contact me for more information.
NOTE: The 9/11 Project script does not come with either production or photocopy rights. For those, you will need to contact me.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled history, LOL.
Fifteen years into the War on Terror and I can say there have been some positive developments:
- Bin Laden, mastermind of 9/11, is dead.
- Saddam Hussein, one of the most brutal dictators of our age, is no more.
- Al-Qaeda has been taken apart.
- And despite our worst fears there have been no mass-casualty attacks of a similar scale in the United States.*
- Iran, whose national slogan seems to be “Death To America,” has been convinced to give up its nuclear program in exchange for being allowed to trade with the West.**
- We’re even finally making peace with Cuba!
That said, there can be said there have been victories for the other side, too. Part of bin Laden’s plan for 9/11 and similar attacks was to so enrage the United States that it would lash out blindly, causing death and destruction across the Middle East and Central Asia far in excess of what the U.S. suffered, bankrupting itself in terms of lives and treasure and bringing millions of hurt and angry survivors to bin Laden’s side.
To an extent, that is exactly what happened. It’s been estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost bin Laden a quarter-million dollars at most. Since then, America has spent at least a trillion dollars—and most likely closer to five trillion—to stamp out terror, with no final victory or “end game” in sight. And while we did put an end to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the disruption we caused when we brought down the Taliban and Hussein’s regime—combined with local sectarian strife and the outrage caused by our drone bombings—created ideal conditions for the growth and spread of even more extreme, outrageous groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. ISIS has gone even further, publishing flatly that its goal is to support and encourage terrorist attacks until the West goes after all Muslims—not just the people plotting and carrying out attacks—and effectively drive the Muslim world into ISIS’ army.
At home, we’re quickly reaching the point where we’re starting to wonder whether this whole war was even necessary, or if we could have achieved our goals through better means. Aside from the massive cost—five trillion dollars?!—over 7000 of our people have been killed in combat, and more than 50,000 more came home wounded physically, psychologically, or both. Even today, 20 veterans commit suicide daily, unable to come to terms with what has happened, what is happening to them. Our use of drones to assassinate known and suspected terrorist leaders—often killing everyone around them, innocent and guilty alike—trouble consciences around the world; and people in this and other countries are worried about the ways our own societies are changing in this fight on terror: Do we have any right to privacy? Do we have to allow our governments to monitor and record all electronic communications? Do we have to have cameras everywhere we go? Could all this massive amount of information on all of us be misused? Would it even stop any future terrorist attacks, anyway?
…and recent terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, and Nice, France have shown that you don’t need huge, complicated, expensive attacks to spread mass terror—a “lone wolf” going on a suicidal blitzkrieg can be horrifyingly effective. Nice showed a terrorist doesn’t even need a gun! Think of the past few days when airports have been evacuated due to reported gunshots—but there were no shooters, a false alarm. In one case an airport was evacuated for one guy just sitting there in a Zorro outfit waving a plastic sword!
And don’t get me started on the changes to airport security—In all my life I’ve never felt more like singing “Next time, take the train.” <g>
Ugh. I didn’t mean to be so depressing. These last 15 years have been a hell of a ride, though, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop anytime soon. For example, though hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed in the years after 9/11, American Muslims fight alongside us against all kinds of terror, Muslim extremist or not. Americans elected—and re-elected—an African American to the Presidency, and it looks like we’re about to do the same for a woman! This has naturally made a very, very loud minority angry, but they are a minority, and they look to become an even smaller minority in the future!
But most of all, from what was once a scene of twisted metal, wreckage, and horror, a new, even prouder tower has risen above the New York skyline. The new One World Trade Center—94 floors, 1,776 feet tall—it is as much a monument to those who lost their lives on 9/11 (and the aftermath) as it is a functional, state-of-the-art office building. Most importantly, it was designed with lessons learned from the old World Trade Center buildings, with a super-strong reinforced concrete core—strong enough to resist truck bombs either at street level or in the below-ground parking structure (remember the 1993 attack?)—containing broad fire-protected stairwells big enough to allow the entire building to be quickly and safely evacuated at the same time fire crews are climbing up—if it gets hit by another airliner! I bet even Godzilla couldn’t knock this building down!
OK, I think I’ve gone on long enough. Tony and I are putting the final edits to a new version of my 9/11 Project play, with all but three songs removed to make it more practical for schools and community theater groups to put on. I hope to interest the college theater scene with this play.
It amazes even after all this time, there still isn’t any real aren’t any other projects—of which I’m aware—to bring the feelings and memories of 9/11 to the stage. I guess somebody has to be the pioneer—why not me?
*The closest attacks in terms of casualties outside the Middle East I can think of are the much smaller attacks in London, Spain and Mumbai (I remember it being called Bombay). There was a horrible attack in Norway but it was caused by a “homegrown” terrorist and not Islamic extremists. Bear in mind though—the vast majority of victims of terror attacks are other Muslims—Muslims belonging to groups other groups are at war with, or who don’t want anything to do with the extremists and their beliefs. Groups like ISIS and Boko Haram don’t really care about other Muslims except as either a money supply or potential “cannon fodder.”
** There are those who say we shouldn’t trust the Iranians—and we shouldn’t—but the only likely alternatives were either another ruinous invasion and war, or worse, a 3-way nuclear arms race between Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia!
(image: an 1895 lithograph of Munch’s iconic “The Scream”. Some 45 prints were made before the printer re-purposed the lithograph stone. From the Wellcome collection via Wikipedia.Tony thought this was most appropriate.)
UPDATE 6/19/2016: There were “only” 49 people killed at “Pulse,” the nightclub Mateen shot up. Profiles of the dead here. Trump blames Obama for not having a time machine to prevent Mateen’s parents from emigrating to the U.S. Obama tells Trump to STFU.
103 people gunned down in an Orlando gay nightclub. 50 dead, possibly more to come. The deadliest mass shooting in American history. The sole suspect, Omar Mateen, is the 29-year old American-born son of Afghan immigrants. Supposedly, he called 911 after he began shooting to pledge allegiance to ISIS. Rather than surrender to authorities, he chose to go down in the orgy of violence he began.
The FBI is calling this a terrorist act. The President is calling this not only a terrorist act but a hate crime as well. Apparently Mateen was “known” to law enforcement agencies but was never investigated; this may have been his first—and only—actual crime.
As deeply as I’m hurt right now, as much pain and anger I feel over this, as much as I want to expunge the evil Mateen died for from this world I know at the same time what we can’t do—what we cannot afford to do—without handing ISIS an even greater victory.
Remember what IS actually wants—it wants us to come after them—on their terms; they want us to come at them guns blazing, with everything we’ve got. They want us to look at every Muslim in the world as on their side, even when the vast majority despises everything IS stands for. They want us to accuse and oppress all Muslims, everywhere—that’s IS’ recruiting strategy!—so IS looks like their only hope! They want us to bring the Apocalypse—they think they’d actually win! Forget weapons-grade plutonium—IS uses weapons-grade crazy!
So we gotta resist the calls to consider every person from the Islamic world, of Islamic faith or whose family came from those parts of the world as potential or actual traitors in our midst, the way we did with Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor. We must deafen ourselves to those who would damn a seventh of Earth’s souls as subhuman barbarians.
Like the Dark Side of the Force, that path offers what sound like clear and simple solutions but leads nowhere we ever want to go; a repudiation—a rejection—of everything good in us.
OK. I’m done ranting. I’ve had the grief. Now, let the healing begin.
(Working for) Peace,
UPDATE; I just found this story on Huffington Post. Omar Mateen’s father is claiming Mateen wasn’t motivated by religion but because he got upset seeing two gay guys kissing in public. Like that makes a difference ?!!
Friday I watched an interview with Dame Helen Mirren on Charlie Rose about her new movie, Eye in the Sky, co-starring the late Alan Rickman. Based on the trailer, I can’t wait to see this movie. Both Mirren and Rickman are excellent actors and the subject is timely and one that needs to be seriously thought about.
In the movie, an opportunity arises to capture—alive—terrorists #4 and #5 on the Most Wanted list. Before the capture is to go down, the neighborhood and even the house where the terrorists are staying is thoroughly checked out with our latest spy drones—the smallest even look like hummingbirds and insects! (based on real technology being developed right now!) They discover something shocking: the terrorists are laying out suicide vests and huge amounts of explosive for an attack!
They can take the terrorists out right now with a Hellfire missile, but right next door is a little girl playing with her hula hoop—she’s in the kill radius of the missile; meaning if they shoot now they’ll kill the girl and likely her entire family, but if they don’t shoot now—or very soon—the terrorists will get away with their suicide vests and launch attacks to kill dozens of innocents elsewhere.
That moral question: do we put that girl and her family at risk to save other innocent people—do we have the right to put those people at risk—is what drives the drama through the rest of the movie. And it’s not a cut-and-dried decision. As one of the intelligence guys put it, if they go through with their plans and kill eighty people, we win the “propaganda war;” if we shoot and kill that one girl, they do.
For the terrorists, it’s easy. Either you’re a supporter—in which you’d gladly die for the cause–or you’re an enemy and deserve to die anyway. It’s only our side that takes innocent lives into account; only our side takes that standard. Only our side gets held to that standard.
Not that there’s anything wrong or shameful about that—there’s nothing shameful about respect for life! And no, it’s not fair, but who ever said war was fair? Our military is fully aware of the standard to which we are held, and modern weapons, tactics, and training are designed to—as much as is possible—defeat the enemy whilst causing the least harm to civilians we can. We don’t always reach that goal–sometimes we can’t reach that goal–but I’m convinced that’s what our soldiers are honestly striving for.
Like my 9/11 Project, Eye in the Sky is something I hope will start getting people to talk–and I mean honest discussion and debate, not sound bites and insults. Does our “drone war” actually accomplish its stated purpose, to make us safer by eliminating terrorists before they strike? Or does it make us less safe by fueling anger and hatred towards the U.S. and other Western governments? If drone strikes don’t work, what will? If there’s a gulf between the societies these terrorists come from and ours, what could bridge it? If there is an injury we’ve done to these societies—from which terror comes like pus from an infected wound—what can we do to help heal it?
I can’t wait to see this movie. I’m inviting you to respond with your thoughts and ideas. Please keep it civil and respectful!
And please, if you’ve seen the movie, no spoilers!