Editor’s note: The following article by James Ridgeway was posted originally on September 11, 2001, at 6 p.m. The angry responses from readers, some of them included below, began arriving a few minutes later. We’re republishing the article in full to mark the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Team Bush Swamped by Crisis
Nation looks for leadership after attacks
September 11, 2001
by James Ridgeway
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 11—War has come to our shores, and where is the president? Scurrying around the country in a transparent attempt to keep from being killed by terrorists, when he should be taking charge. The first two times he addressed the country today, George W. Bush was quick to reassure the public he was in constant touch with Vice President Dick Cheney. At least now Cheney can take over and run the country. So long as he doesn’t keel over with a heart attack.
Clinton and Bush and their spaniellike partisans in Congress have spent billions of dollars on airport security, which was taken out not once but at least four times this morning in the greatest terrorist act ever to hit this country, an attack that is being likened to Pearl Harbor. And what about the Pentagon? We spent one third of the budget on the military, and it can’t even put in place a security system to protect its headquarters.
This attack ought to bring the immediate sacking of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the head of the FAA, which has nominal oversight—we stress the word “nominal”—of the nation’s air security system, along with the top executives of the FBI. All were clueless when it came to preventing these attacks.
What are the protectors of our national security doing these days? Erecting a $2 million fence in Washington to protect the IMF and World Bank meetings from a bunch of kids, who the cops claim are terrorists in the making.
The president and his advisors have spent months talking about the need to invest in a whopper system for missile defense, only to stand helpless before the threat from a handful of hijacked commercial flights. They need to get real. This is not leadership.
Letters from 9-11
A Load of Kabul
I was wondering how long it would take for some bonehead to start criticizing President Bush, even in the middle of the worst domestic crisis this country has ever experienced. Someone should point out to James Ridgeway [“Team Bush Swamped by Crisis”] that the Secret Service was responsible for Bush’s “scurrying around the country in a transparent attempt to keep from being killed by terrorists.”
Ridgeway just doesn’t get it: There’s no room for petty partisanship during a time of war. The object is to unify against a common enemy, and Bush is not the enemy. Terrorism is. If Ridgeway doubts that, perhaps he’d be happier in Afghanistan.
Missing in Action
Jim Ridgeway’s Web article on President Bush was absolutely right. I was amazed by the disingenuousness of the press reporting that the Secret Service wouldn’t let him go to Washington. The country needed to see the president, and he hightailed it to Louisiana and Nebraska. The danger was past and he didn’t race home.
Then, when it came time to speak out, we got this “We are a beacon of light” speech. For the entire day there wasn’t a sign of his administration anywhere, except in the form of contrails heading west. We saw Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, George Stephanapoulos, and even Tom Clancy, but we didn’t see Bush Jr., Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, or Donald Rumsfeld. Where the hell were these guys?
The Cost of Loss
I find Jim Ridgeway’s assertion that these terrorist attacks could perhaps have been preventable simplistic. How, exactly? How much would that have cost? In an overtly capitalistic society, whose job should it really be to protect the clients of publicly held corporations such as airlines?
As for the Pentagon, how could the nation have ensured absolute impenetrability of such a facility, especially when its history has been nearly devoid of large-scale terrorism? If such untold government expenditure were in place (and no disaster had occurred on either front), the outcry about the “wasted billions” would have been shrill. Now we see how grisly it is to even think of money over human life.
Raleigh, North Carolina
It’s nice to see that in this time of grave crisis and national danger, with thousands dead and maimed, James Ridgeway has not lost sight of what is truly important—attacking Bush. I can only salute his bold refusal to be swayed by the press of events, the horror of the moment, and the demands of fact. He marches forward with the clarity of his vision: Bush must and shall be maligned! If the slaughter of thousands of innocents must be used to this end, let not “propriety” or “taste” or “truth” sway us from it.