We need to make peace with the world

9 September 2006 - 11:00pm HST

wreckage of the Twin Towers in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center

What 9/11 Means to Me
by Linda Pascatore on 9 September 2006

On the morning of 9/11/01, I was awakened by a phone call at 4 am from my son in Honolulu. He had been roused by his housemate whose father worked at the World Trade Center. The father had called to tell his daughter he was safe, before she woke to the tragedy on the news that morning.

When my son said that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked by planes, my first reaction was that he was mistaken, that it was not possible. I woke my husband, and we switched on CNN to footage of the towers in flames. Within a short time came the footage of the tower collapsing. The scene was horrific. It led us to wonder who could hate us that much.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I expected a period of introspection about our country and it’s policies in the Middle East. I expected a search for an understanding of how we came to make such enemies, and how we should deal with them.

Instead, I heard an immediate call to arms by our President. We would have a “War on Terror”, and hunt down terror in all its forms. That is an impossible task. A “War on Terror” is a war without end. There have always been actions that fall within Bush Administration’s very broad definition of “Terror”. In fact, if Bush had been a British official in 1776, I am sure he would have labeled the American Revolution a terrorist action, and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be major terrorist leaders to be hunted down and shot. Any group that is overwhelmingly outnumbered or overpowered by its enemies resorts to guerilla tactics and so called terrorist actions, as the American Revolutionaries did.

The next action our administration and congress took was the Patriot Act, which represents a tremendous erosion of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights that the United States was built on. Somehow Bush convinced the congress and the people that taking away our democratic rights here at home would “make the world safe for democracy”. It is unbelievable that we legislated illegal surveillance, wiretapping, privacy violations, searches and arrests. Many warned that we were moving in the wrong direction, but our country was overpowered by fear, and we willingly gave up rights for a false sense that we would be safer.

Then the Bush administration instituted a most damaging policy of flouting international law and violating the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners. While claiming to be bringing democracy to the world, they violated the most basic human rights. The United States, which had been respected as a world leader, had become a rouge nation to be feared by all.

Those international fears were justified when we attacked Iraq in a preemptive war. War should only be justified when it involves defending your own nation or close allies from unprovoked attack by another nation. There is no excuse for the illegal, unjustified war against Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction and no Iraqi involvement in 9/11 or with Al Quaeda. Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator just doesn’t fly. There are dozens of brutal dictators in the world, some openly supported by the US. The United Nations should be censoring us for the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country.

So, what do I believe we should have done in response to the 9/11 attack? I think we should have taken some time to do some studying and some soul searching. We should have taken a good look at both our enemies and ourselves.
What are our enemies thinking and feeling? What are their issues? What do they want? I believe that the young men drawn to Al Quaeda feel that they have no power and no respect. Their religion and their traditional lifestyles are threatened by Western values and influences. The territory of Israel that was taken from the Palestinians has always been a source of trouble in the region. I believe that the people of the Middle East want an equitable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue. They also want to be left alone: they don’t want any US military presence in their countries.

I believe we should change our focus in the Mideast. We should change our role from a military one to one of a friend and resource. Instead of military bases and corporate development of oil resources, we should be there to offer support to impoverished regions. We should use a Peace Corps style approach to help communities help themselves by building wells, schools, hospitals, etc. One of the reasons that Hezbollah is so popular in Lebanon is because it is providing just those kinds of services to the people.

What about the United States? What do we stand for? What kind of image are we cultivating in the world? I believe that our country was built on the principals of basic human dignity and human rights, with a democratic voice and justice for all. We are lucky to be a resource rich, educated, developed country. We should be a shining example of liberty, justice and generosity. We should not only guarantee our own citizens the basic human rights granted in the constitution, lately eroded by the administration, but we should extend these rights in our dealings with all human beings on this planet. We should not force democracy on anyone, but be a living example of true democracy in action.

We need to repeal the Patriot Acts. We need to take special war powers from the Executive Branch, which has upset the balance of powers. We need to treat our citizens and all the citizens of the world, including prisoners, in compliance with the human rights guaranteed by the World Court, the United Nations, and by our own Constitution.

We need to make peace with the world. We need to stop playing God, obey International Laws and Treaties, and treat other nations with respect as equals. Finally we need get our priorities straight, withdraw from this War Without End, and work with other nations to save the planet from environmental destruction.



We lost the IraqNam before 911

9 September 2006 - 10:00pm HST

The north tower at the WTC collapses on 9/11/2001

9/11-V: IraqNam and The WTC
by Juan Wilson on 9 September 2006

[Author's Note:This is a rambling story. I apologize. I am sifting through almost forty years of memories that join the the Vietnam War, the World Trade Center, and the War in Iraq with an obsolete American way of life.

It seems we are repeating a series of blunders that will lead America to a future train wreck. My sense is that the US has already lost the War in Iraq, and we don't know it yet. Something like that happened in Vietnam 35 years ago. In 1972 we had withdrawn virtually all our troops. Civilians refused the draft and soldiers refused to fight. Yet,it was not until 1975 when network TV showed the roof rescue from the US Embassy in Saigon that it occurred to America that we had been defeated.

The themes below bounce back and forth between historical and current events and ideas about "War & Oil" and "Real Estate Deals". I’m trying to get a grasp myself and I ask you to read between the lines.]

The Sixties
War & Oil
In 1967 America was caught up in the height of Vietnam War. Almost 500,000 soldiers were deployed. The war was unpopular abroad and divisive at home. President Johnson said we could have “guns and butter” but in fact we were punching ourselves out in and endless guerrilla war halfway around the world. We were losing the War on Poverty and were not winning any "hearts and minds" in Vietnam... but gas was cheap.

Real Estate Deals
I began architectural school in the fall of 1967, right after the “Summer of Love”. At that time the Empire State Building, in New York City, was the tallest building in the world. That distinction would not last long. In Chicago a new building was going up, The John Hancock Center, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

For almost a century there had been an architectural rivalry between New York and Chicago. Since the 1880's Chicago had been considered the birthplace of the modern skyscraper.

The Chrysler Building in New York

None the less, New York had, from about the turn of the century, retained the honor of being the home of the tallest building in the world. There was a series of famous buildings, including the Woolworth Building (792 feet, erected 1913), Chrysler Building (1,046 feet, erected 1930) the Empire State Building (1,250 feet, erected only a year later in 1931).

All these buildings, besides being tall, were interesting and ornamented. That would not be the way of buildings built in the next few decades. But hey... that’s business.

War & Oil
1968 was the year of the Tet Offensive and the Mai Lai Massacre: two signs that the Vietnam War was already lost. The Tet offensive demonstrated that the US forces were vulnerable simultaneously throughout Vietnam, even in our fortresses and embassy grounds.

The Mai Lai Massacre demonstrated that frustrated US troops were capable of any horror imaginable and the results would only be more enemies for us to deal with. But gas was cheap.

Real Estate Deals
In Chicago the John Hancock Center was just about completed, at 1,130 feet high. The Hancock Center was a big tapering box. It was 120 feet shorter than the Empire State Building but if you counted the Hancock antenna spire it was the tallest building in the world at 1,499 feet. The antenna of the Empire State Building was a mere 1,472 feet to its top.

Not to worry! New York was still in the game. At that time the World Trade Center (WTC) was was already under construction. The public pretext for building the WTC was for New York City to take back the crown of "First City" from Chicago.

The real reason for the WTC was real estate money. The “design” architect was Minoru Yamaguchi, but he didn’t do much more than “tart up the whore”. The real architects of the WTC were Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Yes SOM was working both sides of the NYC - Chicago rivalry.

The John Hancock Center in Chicago

In July of 1969 Woodstock and Apollo 11 (the first moon landing) competed for attention. That year my architectural class visited the pit that was the site of the Twin Towers. It was a 16 acre hole 70 feet deep down to bedrock granite.

Supported high above the floor of the site, on timber and steel framing, were two pre-existing sealed NY-NJ Port Authority subway tunnels that crossed east to west and dived under the Hudson River to reach New Jersey. People in the subways never knew they were flying through the air.

The footings for the central core and perimeter skin of the WTC were down already. We saw lead pads several inches thick that were laid down as cushions wherever structural steel would touch down on the foundation piers. These pads were about receive the columns and be shadowed by the towers that were to rise above them for the life of the buildings... as it was for only 30 years... a third of their design life.

The North Tower of the World Trade Center under construction

The class also visited the offices of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and were given a review of WTC drawings by the Project Architect. At that time he had been working with a team on the drawings and their coordination for over a decade. His hair had turned gray over the course of the years working on the WTC. By the time the second tower was complete the construction of the WTC would have taken up a large proportion of his career.

The Seventies
Real Estate Deals

In 1973 I was about to graduate from architectural school and the WTC was completed. Next to the Hancock Center, the World Trade Center was butt ugly. The pedestrian plaza between the towers was a cold and windy place. The angles between the wall of the towers funneled the wind coming down the Hudson Valley into a screaming banshee across the plaza. In winter it was uninhabitable. It was grand neo-fascist architecture.

The Twin Towers looked like two monstrous holiday gift boxes of premium vodka sitting on a concrete plate. The architectural critics were not kind at that time, or since.

The Twin Towers looking up from the plaza

Eighteen years later, when the buildings were burning down, the plaza sound system still pumped out garish muzak as the people jumping from upper windows of the towers exploded loudly on the pavement.

War & Oil

October 1973 was the beginning of the OPEC Oil Crisis. The western world had a preview of the Peak Oil Collapse. Gas was scarce. Prices soared and people were literally killing one another for a place in line to “fill ‘er up!” Gas wasn’t so cheap.
In 1973 the interminable Paris Peace Talks resulted in only small contingent of US military personnel remaining inside Vietnam. The Vietnam War was finally winding down. And gas was cheap.

Real Estate Deals
The Sears Tower had just been completed in Chicago in 1974. It was a group of nine adjacent towers of varying height and arranged in a square. The highest tower reaching 1,450 feet high. The WTC was number two and the failure of the WTC as a business venture was becoming obvious.

They say “if you build it, they will come”. Well, that did not happen with the WTC. Much of the floor space in Twin Towers was vacant and the State of New York and New Jersey, who had built the thing, had to rent it to public agencies and government there own departments to justify keeping the lights on. The WTC was a white elephant as big as Stamford, Connecticut, that dampened the whole NYC office market. America was in the early stages of “stagflation”. The economy would stall and inflation was about to run rampant.

War & Oil
It was not until the helicopter evacuation of the US Embassy from Saigon in 1975 that retreat and defeat in Vietnam became obvious. We had lost the Vietnam War years earlier, but it had not been registered.

In 1979 the Soviets entered Afghanistan to maintain the puppet regime of Babrak Karmal. Kabul was threatened by islamic insurgents; the Mujahedden.

The Eighties
War & Oil
The United States, still locked in the Cold War with the Russians, was hurting still from the loss of the Shah of Iran to Islamic Fundamentalists. The US fully supported the Mujahedden "terrorists" in Afghanistan, including foreign fighters like Osama Bin Ladin. We supplied the Afghans with rocket propelled grenades, shoulder fired anti-aircraft rockets, and all the techniques we knew on fighting an insurgency against an invading imperial army that had lots of tanks and air support. The lessons were not lost on Osama.

Real Estate Deals

The 1980’s were the Reagan years and brought a more “positive” attitude from Washington towards business. Investment firms were flourishing and the World Trade Center was finally living up to its name. There was a boom in real estate in Los Angeles and New York that some people called a bubble. So what if 1984 was upon us. Gas was cheap.

In 1884 I was renting a small house in Connecticut 60 miles away from the WTC. I was commuting to NYC to practice architecture. Unless there were two professionals bringing in a $100,000 a year it was impossible to buy a house.

Our house was near Long Island Sound and one afternoon, as I looked to the south-west towards New York, I realized I was looking down the length of the Sound all the way to the city. There were two bumps on the horizon that I became convinced were the top floors of the Twin Towers. According to a geometric calculation, a straight line of sight would have had to go through the earth to align with the tops of the towers. It seemed that seeing the towers would be impossible. But in taking into effect the "bending" of light through air, it turned out it was possible that the tops of the Towers would appear above the horizon of the Sound even 60 miles away. None of my neighbors had much confidence in this observation. Since 9/11 I have not been back to Connecticut to see if the bumps are gone. The US economy tanked in 1987 and gas was not cheap.

War & Oil
IN 1989 the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan with their tails between their legs. Not long afterwards, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) disintegrated in a miraculously peaceful wreck and we were “The Only Superpower”.

beefed up site security at the WTC after 1993 bombing

The Nineties
War & Oil

The first Gulf War was our first exercise as a Super Power. We didn't know it, but the first Gulf War was the opening battle between the US and Al Queda. Without realizing it, we had profoundly offended fundamentalist moslems with our basing of troops in Saudi Arabia. Our troops were non believers and included women, drinkers and worse. Many conservative Moslems, including Bin Ladin, thought we had defiled their holy lands and religion by our mere presence there.

The attacks on the World Trade Center began with the truck bombing in the basement of the Towers in 1993. It was a serious attack, but the buildings survived. The attackers did not have a structural grasp of the buildings unique characteristics. After a few years we forgot about is and it was business as usual. Gas was cheap.

Real Estate Deals
The last time I was in the World Trade Center was shortly before the truck bombing in 1993. I was there for lunch at a restaurant named “American Harvest”. The restaurant was appointed with heavy solid furniture. There were thick linens and heavy silverware. I was at American Harvest for lunch. The New York Times said of the place;

"It's the showcase restaurant at the Vista International Hotel in the shadow of the World Trade Center, and bills itself as a star-spangled celebration of home-grown provender prepared with allegiance to our culinary heritage.

The execution, however, is shaky at times. Some of the dishes are fatuous and ill-conceived. Take the charcoal-broiled fillet of salmon, for example. It was rosy pink in the center and delicious on its own, so why gussy it up by embedding the flesh with harsh-tasting juniper berries? Moreover, the lemon mayonnaise was bland. The rack of lamb, three juicy double chops, was abused with a coating of acrid, raw mustard seeds. O.K., maybe the Pilgrims didn't garnish salmon steaks with juniper berries and lemon mayonnaise, but why be persnickety and spoil the party?

An all-American theme extends to the decor of the three dining rooms, featuring an old-fashioned hanging quilt, glass display cases filled with colorful folkloric wooden carvings, and a giant oil painting of fruits and vegetables. Tables are well separated and the noise level is low, making this a good spot for business entertaining.

The most noticeable flaw is service. On my first visit two hapless young waiters tried to cover the entire place, with disastrous results. Whenever one of them entered the room, the scene resembled a Presidential news conference in which everyone seated wildly gestures in hopes of being acknowledged. Needless to say, the delays were agonizing. What's more, our young server had the irritating habit of referring to customers in the third person"

I happened to be lunching with an eccentric millionaire and his financial aide. Not something I did often. We were at American Harvest to chat up a business idea that was to be pitched at a group of ex-ATT research engineers and administrators. I was in way over my head. I was there for lunch. The restaurant was almost empty. A handful of Korean businessmen seemed to be having a good time with the difficulty of ordering. I don’t think any of the restaurant staff who served us were native born Americans, and I came to realize that the American Harvest was not so much about serving American food to American businessmen as place for foreign businessmen to taste the bounty of America while plundering the world. There was something surreal or vicarious about the whole experience.

The Naughties
War & Oil

Bush-Cheney and Afghanistan's Taliban negotiated for months in 2001 over running a Caspian Sea oil pipeline through Afghanistan. During the course of these negotiations, the two parties were unable to agree upon a deal, Mainly because American oil agents constantly upped the ante on the rather naive Taliban representatives: playing relentless intimidation, bait & switch, and "shell" games. The talks soured right after the US threatened the Taliban to take their offer or else. Cheney was said to have offered the Taliban the option of Kabul "streets lined with gold or bombs" depending on their decision. The Taliban were through with us. The WTC was bombed right after Bush-Taliban oil pipeline talks soured.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 were the culmination of a long effort by Al Queda to destroy America with a psychologically devastating blow. It took them almost a decade, but they succeeded beyond there wildest dreams.

George Bush has frequently evoked a parallel between the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the attacks on the Twin Towers. I think those attacks were not analogous so much to Pearl Harbor as to Hiroshima. The nasty devastating end we devised for WWII was an attempt to break the will of the Japanese. It took two A-bombs, but it worked.

The wreckage of the World Trade Center days after 9/11

Within a matter of a few hours a handful of dedicated Al Queda operatives traumatized America. They destroyed the notion of America as impregnable. They did more than strike down a symbol of world trade in the heart of our mightiest city. They made us so frightened that we were willing to trade our freedom, our moral compass and more for a good night's sleep.

America’s response to 9/11 was to begin “A Worldwide War on Terror”. An endless war with ever increasing numbers of enemies all over the world that involved us in widespread torture and assassination. We had knocked down a hornet’s nest. Now we were kicking around the yard to show how tough we were. The false promise of a middle east democracy has been little comfort.
The real nature of the “War on Terror” had been codified in the “Patriot Act I & II”. It was demonstrated by our actions at Guantanamo and Abu Grab Prison. Human rights were out the window. International law did not pertain.

BushCo was in business with Haliburten, DynCorp and Blackwater. The privatization of warfare, as a mercenary operation, to protect “our oil under their feet” was the order of the day.

Some alternatives strategies might have worked. We could have mounted a persistent “Hunt for Osama” in Tora Bora. We could have made a concerted effort to get off middle east oil. We could have showed Iraq some real generosity and provided some healing.

America was not introspective after the attacks on 9/11. We wanted revenge. We did not want to make changes in our lives. We wanted cheap oil and cheap shopping. We wanted to remain the richest people in the world and be untouchable, even if it meant giving up freedom, independence and friendship. And gas was cheap.

We were willing to live under a fundamentalist, religious and fascist government to feel “secure”, even if it meant collateral damage along the way. Even if it meant killing our own children.

Like the Vietnam War, we lost the “War on Terror” years ago. It was before we had just the right video clip and sound bite to signal the event. I imagine something like the rescue from the Embassy in Vietnam will happen in the Green Zone in Iraq. CNN will be there in December 2008, during Bush's last days in office. The air conditioners will still be on as the last Blackhawk lists off Saddam's palace roof. I don't want to wait that long.

Five years after the attack on the World Trade Center our title as “The Only Super Power” looks pretty hollow. We likely face a protracted downward economic spiral without many friends in the world.

Real Estate Deals
The World Trade Center memorial might have been a 16 acre green park in the heart of a stone city with two reflecting pools at the ghostly footprints of the two demolished towers. Not quite. There just was not enough rentable office in that scheme. The latest round of plans was just announced.

In July of 2001 the real estate mogul Larry Silverstein signed a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. Silverstein now has control and is the developer of the any new World Trade Center. This week he unveiled the designs for three gargantuan skyscrapers (966 feet, 1,255 feet and 1,350 feet high) to be completed in 1212. This is the third attempt at ringing more money out of this tragedy.The estimated cost will be over ten billion dollars. But hey... that’s business.

I'm not sorry the old World Trade Center is gone. I never liked any part of it. I am sorry that people suffered in its destruction and that the community at large did not learn much in the loss.


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