I am deeply distressed by the 9-11 hearings that are being held in Washington.
This congressional hearing seems to be looking for someone to blame the 9-11 terrorist attacks on. If they can't find legitimate fault with some individual or agency then it would seem that the President will become the scapegoat in the end.
I would guess that he already knows that. It happened on his watch – he will be ultimately responsible.
I find great fault with this reasoning. It is human nature that people always seek someone or something to blame for any crisis that enters into their lives. This is the way our society thinks and acts both on a personal level and on a collective or national level.
The friends and families of 9-11 victims want to know how could this have happened, and who is to blame for allowing it to take place. They want answers. Now the Congress wants those same answers. They want to hold someone accountable.
Unfortunately the real, true answers are not the ones they want to hear. George W. Bush is not to blame, Bill Clinton is not to blame, the military is not to blame, the security and intelligence apparatus of the United States is not to blame. Not one of the above would ever have allowed those terrible terrorist attacks to take place if there had been any way to stop them.
People say it was a failure of intelligence, a failure to act upon clues that were available, a failure of resolve by those in charge. It pains me to see the smug and condescending attitude of Senator Bob Kerrey as he questions and at times belittles the members who are testifying before him. Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that? It's so very easy to see with perfect clarity, years after the fact. It is also easy to string together events into successive links when you can compress time by looking backwards at what has already taken place.
It is easier, perhaps to understand what happened when compared to a sporting event like football. Both teams know what the strategy of the other team is. You know what their tactics are, you even know who their key players are. However, knowing all these things, you still can't stop the other team from scoring. You can't be everywhere at once. You can't have an impenetrable defense for every possible play. If you fumble the ball in the first quarter you don't even know the gravity of that mistake until the game is over. But, when you review the game on Monday everyone knows what went wrong, and you can surely find someone to blame.
When you are in the middle of the game, on the field and in the action, it's tough to have perfect clarity and the ability to make the right decision. Hell, the clock is ticking and the plays are nonstop. You do the best you can with the information you have at that moment and hope the other guy hasn't outsmarted you.
I am not making light of the 9-11 attacks. This is not a Tom Clancy Novel. Sometimes the bad guys win, and there's no way to take it back. There is no hero in the end to make things right. We got clobbered.
Every seems to be saying our security apparatus should have done this, or intelligence should have known that. Let's take a look at the Israelis. They have the best up to the minute intelligence in the world, regarding their enemies. They certainly don't lack for resolve. They know the attacks are coming and they even know what the attack will be. And yet it seems, on a weekly basis, suicide bombers are able to board buses and blow up innocent civilians. And this is in the face of one of the strongest day to day military presences of any free nation on earth.
The good thing is that the Israelis do catch a lot of the bombers and they do foil a lot of attempts while they are still in the planning stages.
Well the truth is, we catch a lot of terrorists also. And we do stop a lot of attacks before they take place. The problem is that the general public is not made privy to most of these successes. There are generally three reasons for this;
#1. We do not want to compromise our sources. You start giving up your informants, you don't get any informants.
#2. We do not want to reveal the means, the technologies and the capabilities of our intelligence gathering resources.
#3. We don't want to give the terrorists any more ideas on how to go around our capabilities.
The down side of all this is that the bad guys still score once in a while.
Ask the Brits about the IRA. Ask the Spanish about the Basque Separatists. Ask the Japanese about the Aum Shinri Kyo. Ask the Germans about Baader-Meinhof.
You have to realize that for every attack, there are hundreds that never make it to completion. The problem is that there are hundreds if not thousands of attacks in the planning process at any given point in time. Some of these will succeed.
The only ones to blame are the terrorists. They are the ones who are responsible for these terrible crimes – not the U.S. Military, our agencies, our government, – our elected leaders.
Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and all the divisions and subdivisions of these militant fundamentalist Muslim groups are the ones to blame.
These terrorists will strike again and the attack will be a big one. It can come at any time and anywhere on earth. There is no way to protect everything, everywhere, all the time.
Hell, these jerks could drive a fertilizer bomb into the middle of a High School homecoming game in Minnesota, or bring a backpack full of dynamite into a high school basketball game in Indiana. The effect would be devastating. Who would we try to blame then? What part of the system would we try to find fault with?
What really bothers me about this apparent inquisition is that there seems a large sector of the American public looking for someone on our side to blame for 9-11.
What we need to do is focus on stopping these bastards and supporting the efforts of those who are risking their lives to keep us safe.
What we can never do is follow the lead of the French and more recently the Spanish governments. Giving in only fuels their cause.
Focus your blame and your anger where it belongs, on the terrorists and the means by which they can further their actions.
They don't need to be appeased – they need to be eradicated.
Ernest Emerson – 3/25/04