9/11 fell on Saturday this year, and few US cable channels missed the opportunity to turn the preceding five days into “all 9/11, all the time”: A terror-themed riff on the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” Proof that the anniversary of al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, DC has finally jumped the shark (i.e. “sp[un] off into absurd storylines or unlikely characterizations”) came in the form of a National Geographic Channel special, “Giuliani’s 9/11.”
Treating former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani as an expert — or worse yet a moral authority — on the 9/11 attacks is repugnant. He personifies both the negligence that made that day so very deadly and the doubling down on hubris which constituted the political class’s response.
Giuliani was elected shortly after al Qaeda’s 1993 truck bomb attack on the World Trade Center. Priority cited by emergency responders to that attack? Equipping them with radios that worked.
Eight years later, their radios still didn’t work. Maybe it was bureaucratic inefficiency. Maybe enough “facilitation” money hadn’t crossed the right palms. Maybe it just slipped through the cracks — after all, there were marijuana smokers to arrest and businesses on Times Square to shut down. Whatever the reason, 343 firefighters who couldn’t hear the order to evacuate the twin towers paid with their lives for Giuliani’s failure to get the job done.
He did get one thing done, though: He established a central command post from which to handle large-scale emergency operations. Jerome Hauer, the city’s Director of Emergency Management, recommended locating such a headquarters in Brooklyn, where it would be “not as visible a target as buildings in lower Manhattan.” Instead, Giuliani chose not just lower Manhattan, but “Ground Zero” — the World Trade Center complex. Specifically, the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7, which quickly became uninhabitable on the morning of 9/11 and collapsed that afternoon.
The dust at Ground Zero literally hadn’t settled when Giuliani sentenced thousands of cleanup workers to chronic respiratory illness by publicly lying about air quality in the “Ground Zero” area. By this time he was already grandstanding at taxpayers’ expense, angrily turning down a $10 million disaster relief donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who had gently suggested that the US government might want to reconsider its interventionist foreign policies if it didn’t like getting whacked by angry Arabs.
The grandstanding continued (with brief breaks to make pseudo-“private sector” money as a lobbyist/”consultant” for clients like Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez) from 2001 through Giuliani’s elimination from the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nomination race. Democratic Senator (and eventually vice-president) Joe Biden aptly characterized Giuliani’s campaign pitch for every occasion: “A noun, a verb, and 9/11.” The man who had hoped to ride the updraft from the World Trade Center fires to a position well above the level of his own incompetence was soundly rejected by all but the most bellicose single-digit percentage of his own co-partisans.
Sadly, while most Americans seem to now recognize Rudy Giuliani for the ineffectual, opportunistic lowlife he is, few understand that he and his story represent the rule, not the exception.
He’s the face of the political class: A species of parasites who will pick your pocket, use the proceeds to throw their weight around until something blows up, duck and cover so that it blows up in your faces rather than theirs, stand tall again to shift the blame, then cite the whole thing as the reason they need more power, more authority, more money.
Giuliani’s career is perhaps the purest distillation of 9/11 as parable, but it was the bald statement of another politico which caught my attention during cable’s “All 9/11, All the Time” extravaganza.
Then National Security Adviser, later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned that on the morning of 9/11, her secretary had crossed out all of the day’s appointments in the office calendar and scrawled “America attacked” across the page. “And every day after that,” says Rice, “was 9/12.”
That sentiment is the philosophy of political government in a nutshell — every day represents another to memory hole the mistakes of the past, justify the atrocities of the future and expand the power of the state.
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