So for my Freshman Seminar HSP (Humanity Scholars Program) the first book we read is the 9/11 Commission Report.
It is one of the most instructive reads I have had in a while. It tells you the story of 9/11 in understated ways and then traces the entire history of the conflict, back to 1988 when Usama (their spelling) bin Ladin founded al Qaeda, back fo the early 50s when the CIA was just getting codified, the whole deal. In 438 pages, not counting 100+ pages of notes and appendixes. And while much of it was fascinating, and I felt reading all of it was in some ways my duty as an American who complains about airport security and government encroachment on civil-liberties. Much of it was boring. However I have included some interesting (I think) quotes below.
*Warning* these in no way, shape or form give an unbiased picture of the content of this book.
WARNING: I found many parts of this upsetting and emotionally painful. We were all effected on September 11th and I want no one hurt because of the content of any of these quotes. Use your own judgment as to whether you want to relieve, in any small way, what happened 6 years and 3 days ago. Please.
“At some point during this period, President Clinton expressed his frustration with the lack of military options to take out Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda leadership, remarking to General Hugh Shelton, ‘You know, it would scare the shit out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.'” (189)
“It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination.” (344)”After the Pentagon was stuck, Secretary Rumsfeld went to the parking lot to assist with rescue efforts.” (32)
“America stood out as an object of admiration, envy and blame. This created a kind of cultural asymmetry. To us, Afghanistan seemed very far away. To member of al Qaeda, America seemed very close. In a sense, they were more globalized than we were.” (340)
“President Bush had wondered immediately after the attack whether Saddam Hussein’s regime might have had a hand in it. Iraq had been an enemy of the United States for 11 years, and was the only place in the world where the United States was engaged in ongoing combat operations.” (334)
“Among Aab, Bin Ladin’s followers are commonly nicknamed *itakfiri*, or “those who define other Muslims as unbelievers,” because of their readiness to demonize and murder those with whom they disagree.” (54)
“‘Paul [Wolfowirtz] was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with,’ [Colin] Powell told us. ‘And he saw this as one way of using this event [9/11] as a way to deal with the Iraq problem.” (335) [Comment: this quote was in the context of cabinet level discussions as to what US should do in responce to the attacks on 9/11]
“The President said he remembered such a conversation [about rules of engagement with hijacked aircraft], and that it reminded him of when he had been an interceptor pilot. The President emphasized to us [the Commission] that he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft.” (40)
“Others nearby were taking notes, such as the Vice President’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who sat next to him, and Mrs Cheney […].” (41)
“The National institute of Standards and Technology has provided a preliminary estimation that between 16,400 and 18,800 civilians were in the WTC complex as of 8:46am on September 11th [before the first plane struck]. At most 2,152 individuals died at the WTC complex who were not (1) fire of police first responders, (2) security of fire safety personnel of the WTC or individual companies, (3) volunteer civilians who ran to the WTC after the planes’ impact to help others or (4) on the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers.” (316)
“The FBI’s job in the streets of the United States would thus be a domestic equivalent, operating under the US Constitution and quite a different set of laws and rule, to the job of the CIA’s operations officers abroad.” (423).
“Other agencies deferred to the FBI. In the August 6 PDB [Presidential Daily Brief] reporting to President Bush of 70 full-field investigations related to al Qaeda, news the President found heartening, the CIA had simple restated what the FBI had said. No one looked behind the curtain.” (352)
“We [the Commission speaking about border reforms] advocate for a system for screening, not categorical profiling. A screening system looks for particular, identifiable suspects or indicators of risk.” (387)
“Some of the saddest aspects of the 9/11 story are the out-standing efforts of so many individual officials straining, often without success, against the boundaries of the possible. Good people can overcome bad structures. They should not have to.” (399)
“The border and immigration system of the United States must remain a visible manifestation of our belief in freedom, democracy, global economic growth, and the rule of law, yet serve equally well as a vital element of counterterrorism.” (387)
And that’s all folks.