9/11: Valor and Shame
Cross-posted from Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
This afternoon I watched a DVD of United 93, a very good film released earlier this year about the one aircraft hijacked by Al-Qaeda on 9/11 that failed to reach its target (most likely the U.S. Capitol). The plane went down in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
According to the best testimony we have, the aircraft went down after what the 9/11 Commission report terms a"passenger revolt" broke out at 9:57 a.m.:
During at least five of the passengers' phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted.
At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows:"Everyone's running up to first class. I've got to go. Bye."
The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.
In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.
Five seconds later, Jarrah asked,"Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded,"No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said,"In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled,"Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said,"Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He then asked another hijacker in the cock-pit,"Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied,"Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."
The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said,"Pull it down! Pull it down!" The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.
Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.
How much would I rather have had a story like United 93 aired on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks rather than a mini-series devised by partisan film-makers and promoted in a partisan fashion, yet sold to the public as a faithful account of the years preceding 9/11. It demonstrably is not. From Media Matters:
The first part of the ABC miniseries The Path to 9-11, which aired on September 10, included a fabricated scene that depicts Clinton administration officials declining to authorize the CIA to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. ABC retained the controversial scene despite the fact that it is contradicted by the 9-11 Commission report -- which ABC originally cited as the film's basis (although following criticism of the film's numerous inconsistencies with the report, network officials have since minimized that claim) -- and has even been disputed in recent days by conservative media figures such as Richard Miniter.
Eric Alterman has it right:
Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them? Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us? Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us? Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded? Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape? Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC? Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country? Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets -- and were attacked last time -- unprotected? Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre?
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