9/11 – A Personal Perspective

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Pretty heady stuff, that Preamble. As we approach the ninth anniversary of America’s wake-up call to the new world of global terror, it seems appropriate to focus on the fourth objective of The Constitution of the United States.

Prior to 9/11, seventeen individual government entities were tasked with the gathering of intelligence in support of America’s national security. You’d think that should be sufficient to accomplish the objective. But it wasn’t, because the agencies were acting like a pack of wild dogs snarling over bones as they each protected their individual “work product” rather than share it. Typical bureaucratic squabbling ruled the process in an orgy of self-preservation.

In one of the most egregious examples of pervasive incompetence, the Phoenix memo was ignored. It sent a very clear warning up the chain of command that flight schools in Arizona were training persons who wanted only to learn how to fly the Boeing 757 jetliner. Hello? You don’t need to takeoff or land? Maybe we should look into that.

But we didn’t. And those very individuals, teamed with others, all of whom had entered the US without raising suspicion and were living here for an extended period, pulled off the most spectacular and effective terrorist attack in the history of the world. And how did they do that?

Learning to fly an airliner doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get on it with the ability to take control. The US government knew full well, as did the terrorists, that the Boston Logan International Airport had a security system best described as “Swiss cheese” by Mary Schiavo, then Inspector General of the United States Department of Transportation.

Terrorists got jobs with the catering company that supplied the airlines. The planners picked four closely spaced flights going long distances, which requires lots of jet fuel. The caterers knew the assigned seats of each of their compatriots and slipped box cutters into the seat-back pockets in front of each terrorist. In a coordinated attack, they slit the throats of flight attendants to create instant shock and awe and quell rebellion within the cabin. Once in control of the airplanes, they altered course to their targets.

In terms of the WTC attacks, there’s a reason they aimed the airplanes where they did. Thousands of gallons of jet fuel burning within the buildings weakened the steel support structure so that it would begin to buckle. Once the massive weight of the floors above the impact point moved even the slightest bit, inertia ruled. Like a pile driver, the upper floors crushed everything below.

This did not have to happen. We had all the dots and failed to connect them because the government of the United States failed to execute its fourth responsibility as defined by the Preamble to the Constitution. And it doesn’t matter what political party was in power at the time, because this tragedy waiting  to happen didn’t develop overnight. It grew like a cancer, detected but ignored.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed the making of another quagmire and likened it to “the mother of all bubblegum on our shoes.” I used the plural of “shoe” for a reason: Iraq and Afghanistan. We send our men and women in uniform to bleed upon foreign soil primarily because of 9/11, and following that colossal failure, once again put ourselves in the position of having no chance for long-term success.

And for what? To remake the world in our image by serving as champions of freedom and democracy around the world? Like the Preamble to the Constitution, heady stuff, but all the good intentions can’t overcome the reality.

We’re there because we’ve decided it’s what’s best for us. To stay close to the source of so much black gold after years of rampant consumption and lack of vision with regard to alternate energy sources have handed the single most critical factor affecting America’s security to those who hate our guts.

So, nine years later, how are we doing? I think the time has long passed for all Americans to put down their newest portable electronic gadgets long enough to ask that question of ourselves, our government, and our nation.

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