Friday, September 29, 2006


Congress and President Bush have just given a "thumbs up" to this sadistic practice, even if the victims are completely innocent of any crime

“"The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights." ... "this [subsection (ii) of the definition of 'unlawful enemy combatant'] means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to 'hostilities' at all."

Marty Lederman and Bruce Ackerman, on the recent legislation proposed by President Bush to legalize torture, indefinite detention without trial or due process, and denial of access to the courts.

There comes a time when many if not most of us faced with an insurmountable task will throw up our hands and give up. It could be that room that needs cleaning which is so full of clutter- much of which has to be sorted and saved, most of which can be thrown away. It could be the task of losing the weight that comes with age or whipping our bodies into the condition we took for granted back in the day. It could be trying to get another human being to see reason (especially difficult if it’s a spouse, a significant other, or my Republican friend Glenn.)

But lately, for me and many other thinking people with a sense of history and a conscience, it’s been dealing with the fact that the great majority of our 435 Congressmen and 100 Senators, doing the bidding of an elected President, seem to have lost their minds and are willing to throw the Constitution, freedom, and all sense of human dignity and civilization down the drain. All for short term partisan gains.

There are some exceptions, but even those one would most expect to fight the good fight- men like John McCain, who had enough courage to defy his North Vietnamese captors during years in a prison camp- have caved into their need to satisfy the right wing red meat voters who will decide the Republican Presidential nominee in 2008.

But this is about more than just the legalization of torture and giving unprecedented authority to the executive to define the laws of human rights. More than that is the incredible fact that for the first time in our country’s history, all 230 years of being a nation, we have our legislators debating how much sadistic, useless pain to inflict on helpless prisoners, many of whom have proved to be completely innocent of any offense. We have the highest officials in the land now voting to legalize the practices of stacking naked prisoners in piles or subjecting them to dog attacks on their naked genitals. Drowning them within seconds of death. Depriving them of sleep for days on end, and forcing them to stand in cramped positions- just like the infamous “Tiger Cages” which the North Vietnamese inflicted on captured American airmen like John McCain.

My disgust with this country, with the elected officials who not only secretly authorized these practices but who now have passed laws permitting them and immunizing their practitioners from civil or criminal liability, who have thrown out the ancient writ of habeas corpus which permitted prisoners to challenge the legality of their confinement in a court of law- my disgust knows no bounds. Another writer expressed it better than I ever could:

“Who are these people? Who are these useless hanks of bone and fat that call themselves Senators of the United States? Let’s call them what they really are, let’s speak the truth about what they’ve done today with their votes on the bill to enshrine Bush’s gulag of torture and endless detention into American law.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Sold our liberty to keep their coddled, corrupt backsides squatting in the Beltway gravy a little longer.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Cowards and slaves, giving up our most ancient freedoms to a dull-eyed, dim-witted pipsqueak and his cohort of bagmen, cranks and degenerate toadies…

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Traitors to the nation, filthy time-servers and bootlickers, turning America into a rogue state, an open champion of torture, repression and terror.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Threw our freedom on the ground and raped it, beat it, shot it, stuck their knives into it and set it on fire.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
If there was an ounce of moxie left in the American system, these white-collar criminals would be in shackles right now, arrested for high treason, for collusion with a tyrant who is gutting the constitution, pushing terrorism to new heights and waging an unholy, illegal war of aggression that’s killed tens of thousands of innocent people and bled our country dry.

There is no honor in them. There is no decency, no morality, no honesty – nothing but fear, nothing but greed, nothing but base servility. Cringing, wretched little creatures, bowing to the will of a third-rate thug and his gang of moral perverts. This is their record. This is their doing. This is the shame they will have to live with. And this is the darkness, rank, fetid and smelling of blood, that now covers us all.”

Chris Floyd, from “Thunder on the Mountain - the Murderers of Democracy.”

As a Jew, I grew up with the knowledge that our time in any nation in the history of the world was always limited. We were short timers, so to speak. Welcomed to Egypt were Joseph and his brothers, then made slaves. Conquerors of the land of Israel in the time from Joshua to David, but later carried off in captivity to Babylonia in the sixth century, B.C.. Freed by the Maccabees in 165 B.C., conquered by the Romans a hundred fifty or so years later. Dispersed throughout the world. Restricted as to geography and trade, then finally kicked out of England, France, and finally Spain in 1492 when the last of the Moors were driven out by King Ferdinand of Columbus fame. Killed in pogroms in Russia and eastern Poland at the turn of the last century (sending my grandmother to America). Murdered by the millions by the Nazis in the period from 1939 to 1945, Holocaust deniers be damned.

And so this country would, I knew, inevitably as the course of history flowed, become a tyranny, as despotic as any slave state or totalitarian government in the world. I or my descendants would have to pack our bags, leave again for a place where freedom still exists. The end of our freedom here could never be imposed by others- the shackles would be willingly placed on us by our own selves. The beginning of the end would start with calls to our sense of patriotism, and ironically enough, a fervent cry to protect our “freedoms” from “them.” Dark foreigners (never blondes- maybe that’s why our nation quickly got over the dislike for Nordic Germans after WWII but kept our hostility towards the Japanese for years after) will threaten us, and once unreasoning fear and panic have set in, we will respond by throwing out everything our political ancestors held most precious. The Writ of Habeas Corpus. The right to a fair trial, with an impartial jury. The assistance of Counsel for the defense. The privilege against compelled self incrimination. All of the precious rights embodied in the 1791 Bill of Rights to our Constitution, added within bare historical moments of the formation of what would quickly become the greatest nation in the history of the earth. Not greatest for our military and economic might, wondrous as they were. But for our system of laws. Checks and balances. Freedom valued over order and conformity.

Why is Habeas Corpus important? Glenn Greenwald, a First Amendment scholar, reminds us of our history, pointing out that Justice Jackson wrote in a concurring opinion in Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 533 (1953):

“Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The judges of England developed the writ of habeas corpus largely to preserve these immunities from executive restraint.”

Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to Thomas Paine said: "I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

Patrick Henry wrote: “Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings--give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! ...Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.”

And so the slippery slope has just tipped a little steeper with the passage of a law which disgusts and scares any of us who cling to the hope that one day our nation will regain its sanity, will once again be an international beacon for freedom, and not the most hated nation on earth, less and less free as each year draws to an end.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


“WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.”

New York Times, September 24, 2006.

So what else is new? The United States invaded Iraq in March of 2003, has spent more time there than it took us to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II (from December 7, 1941, through Victory in Europe Day in May of 1945 was three years and five months), and the only statements we get from the President of the United States in recent days are that Iraq had “nothing” to do with the 9-11 attacks, and that we will stay in Iraq until we “win.” Win what, I ask? How do you “win” when you aren’t even fighting a conventional war against an enemy in uniform with geographic positions which can be taken in battles?

You can’t “win” a war against terror any more than you can win a war against crime, blitzkreig, drugs, or any other inanimate object or intangible tactic. That’s as plain as anything else in life, yet our press and at least 35 percent of American adults think that there is such a thing as a “war on terror.”

What is clear at this juncture is that the Bush Administration has no clue about anything involving Iraq, terrorism, Al Qaida, or protecting America’s ports and borders. Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t prevent Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld, vice President Richard Cheney, or President George Walker Bush, from addressing hand picked audiences of people in uniform or veterans who used to be in uniform. They have anointed the War in Iraq as the metaphorical equivalent of the fight to liberate Europe from the Nazis. At the same time, they have labeled those in opposition as “cut and run” defeatists who are the moral equivalent of appeasers like Britain’s 1938 Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who handed Czechoslavakia to Hitler without a shot being fired.

A more accurate metaphor would be to describe the Bush Administration as arsonists who see a small flame lit by Al Qaida and pour millions of gallons of gasoline on it to ignite and inflame the whole Moslem world. And the sober professionals who put together the National Intelligence Estimate have ratified what those of us with an ounce of common sense have figured out ever since the Bush Administration started beating war drums in the summer of 2002: invading and occupying Iraq will solve few problems and create new huge ones. On April 19, 2003, a scant month after the invasion, I wrote the following in an e-mail to one of the family members of a Marine in my son’s unit:

“Why the UN should take over is simple- whether or not they do a better job, the perception among the people in the region will be hugely different regarding a UN sponsored trusteeship of the country. It simply is in our national interest to have a respected international organization take over the rebuilding of Iraq. The sooner American and British soldiers are out of there, the less likely that terrorists or suicide bombers will attack our loved ones there or here. And a quick exit will defeat the absurd arguments that we are a colonialist country seeking to exploit Iraq's oil.”

Would that a high ranking member of the Bush Administration with decision making powers had made the same point and followed through on it. Iraq would not now be in the throes of a civil war, over 2,000 Americans would be alive, another 15,000 would not have been grievously wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis would be alive to enjoy the fruits of democracy and freedom.

An Exit Strategy to phase out American Troops without Leaving Chaos or Civil War

Unlike the Bush Administration and every nationally prominent Democrat, I have a plan to exit Iraq without “cutting and running” or conceding defeat. President Bush claims that a specific deadline with a detailed timetable for withdrawal will send a dangerous message to “the terrorists” and other vague enemies that we can be driven out by their tactics. That’s a curious concern for an Administration which has made no secret of its complete disdain for foreign opinion, overwhelmingly against us on this issue, and which maintains that this White House “creates its own reality.” In fact, simple logic tells us that if President Bush really intended to remove American troops once the insurgency was quieted and democracy installed, the smartest tactic for the “terrorists” would be to lay low, pretend to go along with the program, give our troops a chance to leave, then come out of hiding and attempt a coup or instigate a civil war.

Since President Bush has continually maintained that we were going to leave anyway (a statement belied by the billions of dollars we have spent fortifying the Green Zone, constructing our new armed fortress of an embassy, and building permanent military bases), one can hardly see how a detailed exit plan harms our interests. Meanwhile, staying in the country without a firm exit date has provoked more suicide bombings and an increasing number of American casualties. Every benchmark- the June 2004 handover of “sovereignty,” the January 2005 elections, the October 2005, vote on the Constitution- which was supposed to create an environment for success in Iraq, has instead been followed by increased violence and further escalation towards a civil war.

I propose a phased six month pullout of American combat troops from central Iraq- the Sunni triangle- leaving enough troops in the north to protect the Kurds from invasion and in the south to protect the oil fields. As soon as possible (no more than another 12 months) we should replace them with an international peacekeeping force like the one on the Israel-Lebanon border. In central Iraq and Baghdad, we should bring in Arabic speaking Muslim peacekeepers, preferably from our allies Jordan and Egypt, to replace American troops. This area is where our religion and our lack of understanding of language, culture, and ethnicity, has cost us lives and the goodwill necessary to do an effective job of peacekeeping.

We should internationalize Iraq’s oil fields, dedicating half of their revenues to rebuilding Iraq- none of which may be used for procuring arms. The money can go to non-governmental aid organizations with a better track record of disbursing aid than the Halliburton Corporation. The other half should go to repay America’s bill for the war and compensate the victims of Saddam Hussein. Whatever else Iraq’s constitution provides, we should impose requirements on the country that it never have a standing army or air force, that it have a government free of religious influence, and that every person in the country be guaranteed the same rights to free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and democracy that we enjoy here.

I wish the people of Iraq well. My son is proud of the work he did there as a Marine, and in no way should the Democrats or Republicans follow a “cut and run” strategy or a “declare victory and leave” plan that leaves the country in chaos, a Somalia in the heart of the Middle East. However, President Bush does neither Iraq nor America any favors by keeping a large force of American troops there indefinitely with no rational exit strategy and no clue as to what is fueling popular support for the insurgency- namely, the constant irritant of American, English speaking, (mostly) Christian troops.

As I wrote during a run for public office in 2004:

“Many if not most of the people of Iraq do not want to have freedom handed to them by an American army of occupation. If the Iraqi people are to value and treasure freedom the way we do, then they are going to have to earn it.”

Monday, September 18, 2006


The resemblance between Maggie Gallagher, a columnist who secretly took money as a paid shill for the Bush Administration, and a large toad is purely coincidental

(Following is a paraphrase of actual testimony given in a recent Lee County case in which Ms. Louisa Lasher was offered as an “expert witness” by the State on behalf of the Department of Family and Children Services in a legal proceeding to take custody of an infant from the parents.)

“Q. What college did you attend?
A. Purdue University.
Q. Where is that located?
A. West Lafayette, Indiana.
Q. What year did you graduate college?
A. I don’t recall, but I could look on my resume....
Q. M’am, please don’t look at the document in your hand. I would like to see if you can remember when you graduated college?

A. I’m not sure...
Q. What years did you attend?
A. 1960 to 1962, then I was on probation and had to leave.
Q Academic probation?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you tell me the decade in which you graduated?
A. I’m not sure. I think it was in the 2000’s. 2001, I think.
Q. Would you check your resume now and tell me the year you graduated.
A. Oh, it was 1984.

Q. M’am, on direct examination you testified that you received a Masters in Psychology from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology, is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. And where is that located?
A. In a building on the north side of Atlanta.
Q. What was the subject of your Master’s thesis?
A. I didn’t have to do one.
Q. Can you name any of the professors who taught you at your school?
A. No, I can’t recall any.
Q. Did you have any particular professor who was your mentor or your advisor?
A. No.

Q. You testified that you have appeared as an expert witness several hundred times in Georgia courtrooms. Could you name one court in which you appeared, were qualified as an expert, and testified?
A. No.
Q. Not one?
A. No.”

At the end of this cross examination, which took over half an hour, the judge refused to allow the “expert” offered by the State to testify regarding an alleged rare psychological condition of mothers known as “Munchausen’s by Proxy Syndrome.” As the witness left the stand and walked past the counsel table, she audibly said to the defense lawyer “Congratulations, you won that one.”

A week later, the State’s lawyer casually mentioned to the defense lawyer that he knew he was in trouble when he saw the witness’ hair. With her frizzy, unkempt hair and frumpy sack dress over her rotund body, she was only a battered shopping cart away from resembling a typical bag lady.

In spite of her poor memory and lack of legitimate credentials, Ms. Lasher maintains a website in which she claims to be an expert and offers to testify for a price: She also offers her book for sale, “ Munchausen by Proxy: Identification, Intervention, and Case Management.” The problem with that is when she was cross examined about her book, she couldn’t even name her editor. “Bob” was the best she could come up with, and he lives “somewhere on the West Coast” she recalled. Time after time, her only responses to questions were that she didn’t have her “lists” or other documents with her, so she couldn’t answer the question.

The judge who shooed her off the witness stand without allowing her to testify was gracious, but the question that has to be asked is how many times she has testified in cases and caused parents to lose their children as a result? And how many other frauds are out there masquerading as experts, collecting fees, and conducting forums and seminars?

This fraud was caught and sent scurrying from the courtroom before she could wreak irreparable damage to an infant child. What is more disturbing is that there has been a gradual erosion between fact and fiction, reporting and advertising, in our society as a whole. It’s hard to read the Albany Herald’s editorial page without thinking that they have decided to run their fiction contest as an every day feature, starring national “pundits” who are in reality paid lackeys of different corporations and think tanks with a point of view that is dictated by their masters.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, oil companies and coal companies paid “scientists” to try to muddy the waters on global warming. Rather than attacking the theory directly, they used their credentials (and the tens of thousands of dollars they received from the polluting companies) to challenge the statistics and argue that there wasn’t enough proof available to justify signing on to the Kyoto treaty or taking active measures to reduce the amount of carbon based fuels like gasoline and coal which are pumping huge amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the air. Last year I noted in a column that Dr. Robert Balling, Dr. Patrick Michaels, and Dr. Siegfried Frederick Singer were three “scientists” who for years publicly and strenously disagreed that global warming exists. They argued that any increase in temperatures was not caused by CO2 emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil- all while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by entities such as German and British coal companies, Exxon, Shell Oil, the Kuwait “Institute for Scientific Research,” and OPEC. By the late 1990’s, Balling had already received $300,000 and Michaels had pocketed $200,000 for their television appearances and op-ed columns intended to derail any attempts to deal with global warming.

In the wake of superkiller hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left behind- which reputable scientists have said would not have been nearly as bad had the Gulf of Mexico been only a degree or two cooler- those paid shills have skulked away into their ratholes, leaving the rest of the country to pay the tab for cleaning up a mess which might have been avoided if the nation had acted sooner to reduce CO2 emissions.

More recently, columnists like Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, regular “conservative” essayists featured in the Herald and syndicated nationally, appear to have been bought and paid for by America’s largest retailer, which is systematically fighting local governmental efforts to upgrade pay and benefits for its huge work force. It’s understood when Cal Thomas, Lowry, Goldberg, David Brooks, et al., carry water for the Bush Administration (we are winning the war in Iraq and democracy is just around the corner, don’t you know!), but when they start stumping for large American corporations, they have crossed the line into Maggie Gallagher and Armstrong Williams’ territory. As CNN reported in March of 2005:

“The Government Accountability Office plans to investigate payments from the Bush administration to syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher, a GAO spokeswoman confirmed Monday. The congressional investigative agency will try to determine whether the Department of Heath and Human Services broke any laws when it paid Gallagher to help promote a marriage initiative, the spokeswoman said.

The GAO is already investigating a $240,000 contract with syndicated columnist/radio host Armstrong Williams from the Department of Education. Williams was being paid to promote the No Child Left Behind law.

Gallagher and Williams have apologized for not disclosing the payments to their readers.”

The sad truth is that lies and fraud pay, and apparently pay well if you are an intelligent college graduate with a modicum of writing ability and a willingness to prostitute yourself for a spot on an editorial page or a paid gig as an “expert,” whether it is on Munchausen’s syndrome, global warming, or winning the war on terror. Our only protection against these hypocrites and frauds is an active and free press. Sadly, Albany’s only daily newspaper has abdicated that responsibility, and its readers are the poorer for it.

Monday, September 11, 2006


We all have our memories of the morning of September 11, 2001, and the only event I can recall in my lifetime which was comparable was Friday, November 22, 1963- the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On 9-11-01 the whole country stopped. We shared the same emotions: horror, fear, anger, resolve. We felt a communal bond, which lasts in some part to this day. Southerners who never failed to mock or denigrate New York and its denizens were proud to wear FDNY or NYPD shirts and put aside their historic differences after modern day reality intruded.

I came to September 11th from a slightly different perspective. I’ve never been a government employee. I was never privy to secret information about terrorism at home or around the world. No one briefs me and the knowledge I have is and always has been freely available to all.

But when I got a phone call from my son, Ben, the morning of September 11th, my immediate reaction was that Osama Bin Laden was behind the attacks by hijacked airplanes and that a foreign terrorist attack had occurred on American soil for the first time since the British burned the White House during the war of 1812. Ben called me on his cell phone from inside the barracks of his Marine Reserve Unit in Washington, D.C., on the Anacostia River, just across the Potomac from the Pentagon. The huge plume of smoke from the 9:43 a.m. crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon was clearly visible to Ben and his fellow Marines. Ben called me several times that day to update me on his situation. At some point I predicted to him that we would have American troops on the ground in Afghanistan within 90 days.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Ben’s reserve unit would soon be activated, and I thought that there was a good chance that at some point he would be on the ground in Afghanistan. I missed my mark by 16 months and several hundred miles. His unit was activated in January of 2003 and sent to Kuwait, where they awaited a “go” order to invade Iraq which came on March 20, 2003.

As I spoke to my son that terrible day, I immediately flashed back to the weekend in August of 1998 when I had driven over 800 miles from Albany to Annapolis, Maryland, to see Ben and his Naval Academy Class of 2002 graduate from their plebe summer ordeal. As I arrived at the Naval Academy, every American flag in sight was at half mast. Earlier that day, Friday, August 7th, over 250 people were killed and 4,000 were wounded when our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, were bombed by members of Al Qaida.

Although it was clear to me and any other rational observer that we were at war with the same group which had killed six in the unsuccessful attempt to bomb the World Trade Centers in 1993 and had killed seventeen American troops in Khobar barracks in 1996, that summer President Clinton was in the midst of fighting off the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing over his lies about sex in and out of the White House. At the time, Clinton’s response was limited, strangely enough, by perceptions created by a satirical movie released earlier that year- “Wag the Dog.” The movie, based on Larry Beinhart’s novel “American Hero,” posited the scenario of an American president embroiled in a sex scandal who distracted the nation by concocting a war against Iraq on false pretenses.

Clinton refused to authorize ground troops or even air strikes on the places which American intelligence knew had planned the attacks and trained the attackers- Osama Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, where the fundamentalist Taliban ruled after the fall of the Soviet sponsored government. A few cruise missiles were launched into Afghanistan from the relative safety of ships afloat in the Persian Gulf, and others were launched off the coast of Africa at a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan. Nothing vital was hit, and Al Qaida was left free to plan their next attack, which took place in a port in Yemen, two years later, when the U.S. destroyer Cole was bombed by boat on October 7, 2000, killing seventeen American sailors.

The CIA repudiated the claim that there were prewar ties between Saddam Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda

At the White House the day after President Bush had frozen while reading “My Pet Goat” after being informed of the September 11th attacks, he was questioning National Security Agency Counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke about a connection between Iraq and the 9-11 attacks. Clarke had to respectfully point out to the President the same information which the Senate Intelligence Committee released on September 8, 2006.

“The Central Intelligence Agency last fall repudiated the claim that there were prewar ties between Saddam Hussein’s government and an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a report issued Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The disclosure undercuts continuing assertions by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Republican-controlled committee, in a second report, also sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the prelude to the war in Iraq”

The truth- and every American intelligence professional in the region knew it- was that Saudi expatriate Osama Bin Laden was no fan of Saddam Hussein and vice versa. There was no operational or political connection between Al Qaida and Iraq. In short, Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks- they didn’t plan them, fund them, or encourage them. Not a single hijacker was Iraqi. At least 14 were Saudi citizens, three were from the United Arab Emirates (the country which President Bush fought so hard to put in charge of America’s ports earlier this year), one was from Lebanan, and Mohamed Atta, the reported leader, was Egyptian.

“Egyptian intelligence services had conveyed to the United States the threat, which included a reference to an airplane stuffed with explosives”

In spite of then National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice’s sworn testimony before the 9-11 Commission that “no one could have imagined planes being used as weapons” before the attacks, memos have now been made public that not only was it imagined, there were active plans put in place before the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy in July of 2001, to prevent such an attack. Anti-aircraft measures were taken to protect the President and other world leaders from terrorists using planes as weapons.

“Al-Qaeda, the organization of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, had threatened to kill U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders of the G-8 when they met in Italy earlier this year [2001] in July, The New York Times reported ...

The report of the newspaper has quoted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini.

"We learned of a communique from bin Laden, on June 13, 2001, in which he indicated that he wanted to assassinate the U.S. president and other G-8 heads of state during their summit in Italy this July," the report quoted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as saying in an interview with a French television station on Monday.

... Egyptian intelligence services had conveyed to the United States the threat, which included a reference to an airplane stuffed with explosives.”

Like many Americans, I was scheduled to fly the week of September 11, 2001. My trip fro Albany to my home near Phoenix was slated to depart September 13th. But America’s skies were empty for three days, and my flight didn’t get out until late on the 14th. A six hour trip ended up taking two days, as I had to spend the night in Atlanta when the connecting flight from Atlanta to Phoenix was postponed until the next day.

My wife, Dawn (we’ve since divorced but remain friends) had asked me to fly out and bring her back to Albany. But the whole context of the trip changed after the 9-11 attacks, and I can still hear her voice shaking when we spoke the evening of September 11th. As we drove back across the country in her little Honda Civic, we saw American flags and signs everywhere, affirming our communal bond and our strength as a nation. We drove from Arizona to Georgia, over 2,000 miles but the spirit we encountered and the sentiments were the same everywhere.

Five years later we can bemoan the loss of that spirit. We can decry the partisanship, as one political party has attempted to use the fears and anxieties stirred up to gain and then hold political power. The truth is more powerful than that. Those of us who lived through those days won’t forget the bonds that were forged, the reality of the feelings, among northerners and southerners, big city folk and rural farmers, among Christians, Jews and even Muslims who deplored what insane fundamentalists had attempted to do in the name of Allah. Presidents and their advisors, Senators and Congressmen, will come and go. They will say what they will say, all in an effort to serve their own agendas. But the true strength of our country was revealed in the days following September 11, 2001, and it wasn’t in the ships, missiles, planes, or guns we manufacture.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I got this letter from my cousin Donna who lives in California. You really have to admire the pluck and spirit and good sense of the lady who wrote this letter, and her brother who gave her good advice. Donna writes:

"Dear Family and older friends living independently or friends with older relatives who depend on you so they can live independently, the message is keep on keeping on in your own home as long as possible.

My family friend (actually one of my mother's long time close friends) F. , writes the following email. She is blunt and to the point, as is her usual, and there is much truth to what she has experienced. She and long retired husband A. moved from San Diego to Israel to be near their eldest daughter, L. and her large family. With the missiles reigning down from Lebanon, her husband long buried, no longer able to drive and L. under a Doctor's care with medical conditions that F. is unable to tend to, she flew back to CA last month to be in a retirement community her cousin and a close San Diego friend live in. Thought you might like to read over my shoulder, to experience this without having to try it out.

'Letters ask how I'm getting along in the New World.

Better you don't ask. I'm not proud of how I reacted. I came completely demoralized, utterly unglued. I had suffered severe gas cramps on the plane, and by the time we got to LA, I couldn't stand up and my nose bled and I couldn't stop it, and El Al had to put me in a wheel chair to get me up to where they were waiting for me.

That put me in the wrong mood to start with, and even seeing the beautifully designed little studio apartment and the rose garden and fountain outside, didn't pacify me when we got here.

I was not inclined to admire anything, or to appreciate what everyone had done to get me to this place. A few days later my leg went out of joint and I was in bed. Then I developed an allergy to the soap they used on the bed linens, and I scratched myself into ribbons. I could only think of how foolish I had been to leave home. I wished I had never left.

When I was coming out of all that, I went into Culture Crash. I couldn't figure out how to take a shower with this elder-safe plumbing. I couldn't figure out how to use my debit-card at Wal-Mart. I couldn't figure out when to raise my hand to call a waiter in the dining room, and when to get up and fetch something myself. I couldn't figure out how to open safety doors.

Then I became aware of how regimented my life had become. At this hour the halls are cleaned, stay in my room. At this hour the dining hall opens, salivate. At this hour the shopping bus leaves, be on it or do without for a week. Where had my independence gone? I was nobody. I had become nothing. I was angry. I had bought a pig in a poke, a cat in a sack, a gold brick.

I went on feeling angry for about 3 weeks. Nothing was right, everything was wrong. Everything was designed for the ease of the Management, nothing was designed with ME in mind. I wasn't consulted on anything. My cousin and my old friend from San Diego spoke of it as a 5 Star Hotel, with maid service and gourmet dining. They said I was seeing the glass half full, while I saw so clearly that it was half empty. My daughters were upset because I insisted it wasn't my idea to leave home, it was theirs, and I should never have listened.

It was my 91 year old brother who pulled me back from open rebellion. He himself had chosen NOT to go to an Assisted Living Residence--- in fact, his will says that if any heir tries to take him out of his own home, that heritage is forfeited. But he still thinks straight. He pointed out to me that I had traded independence for help and security, because I had no other choice. That now I could be sure of help if I needed it in the middle of the night, but I had to accept living inside group routines if I wanted to be sure of that help. That I could be sure of not being left alone and isolated, but I traded solitude for togetherness. No group, he said, could be managed efficiently as individuals. Help and security would break without the herd format. Independence and safety don't go together. It's one or the other. Like privacy or security.

He was right, of course. Now that I've been here a month, I realize that I'm here because I was afraid to be alone anymore. Like my Uncle H. said when he married for the 4th time, "I didn't want to wake up and find that I was dead and nobody knew it---" Here, I don't have to marry, I can just push a button if I wake up and find myself dead. The hired help will come down the hall and call my doctor in to verify it.

So I'm looking to find ways to feel free even though I'm not. I don't have to sit inside my room all the time, I can walk up the street to look across at the distant mountains, and feel free. I don't have to move mandibles along with 200 other fattening animals in the dining room every meal. I can take dinner back to my porch, and eat to quiet music and feel free. I have my own computer again, and there is lots of freedom in the mind. I can look for freedom and independence in little ways, and maybe I'll get used to communal living by and by.

I think my revolt is over.

I think maybe I can get used to being just another Senior in a California Senior Community, instead of the weird old American lady chasing stray cats off her mirpesset in Rehovot, or listening to trees talk in the empty little corner park on Sabbath mornings.

It won't be easy. But I'll have to try. It's either that, or wake up dead some morning and nobody know it---

regards, F.'”