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What’s Up With That?

Posted on January 24th, 2010   

Early in January the Huffington Post reported on International Living’s 30th annual “Quality of Life Index.” France ranked #1 and the image used as that country’s national symbol was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The United States placed seventh and symbolizing us wasn’t the US Capitol or the Empire State Building; it was the missing World Trade Center pictured below!

Lower  Manhattan

The dithering at Ground Hero has profoundly damaged our image and standing. The lack of resilience and resolve on display at the World Trade Center is the de facto face of America today and, if the anti-WTC ever gets built, we will fully deserve the B-minus ranking.

It would be hard to imagine a worse message to send the world than a 1776-foot tombstone and the “largest manmade falls in North America” — whose roar will recall the horrifying sound of crumbling towers — instead of the simple, stirring memorial that belongs there. They might as well include a neon sign flashing “Second-Class Country.”

A headline about a mock-up of the morbid memorial falls in the 1/23/10 New York Post read: “9/11 shrine’s cascade of grief begins flowing!” Who thinks we’ve become the kind of country that enshrines grief? Whose doing is that? Not the people’s — that’s for sure.

After a suicide-commando attack in Kabul, The Economist’s Democracy in America blog on January 18th pointed out that local Afghans were responding by quickly erasing the attack. It went on to compare Israeli terror incident response policy to the “broken windows” theory of policing and concluded:

The best way to discourage that kind of attack is to snuff it out, clean it up, and pretend it never happened… Speaking of which, and getting back to the city where the “broken windows” theory first became prominent and where this whole mess started in the first place: how’s that Freedom Tower coming, New York? Cripes.

The American people deserve to know why our nation’s response to the attack on our country at the World Trade Center is defying the standard counterterrorism strategy we employed at the Pentagon — quickly repairing the damage and “restoring it to its pre-attack state.” Returning the familiar profile of the Twin Towers to the New York skyline is, by definition, the only way to rehabilitate the scene of the massacre and deprive our enemies of their bragging rights. The peope know that. So, why don’t our leaders know that?

Why would we do the exact opposite, rewarding the vandals with something permanent they can point to and take credit for? It’s particularly odd since so many of the WTC players — Mayor Bloomberg, Larry Silverstein, PR giant Howard Rubenstein, Daniel Libeskind and his patron, Ronald Lauder, Mayor Giuliani, and even George Pataki — are all admirers of the country that wrote the book on counterterrorism? Surely they value Israeli expertise and guidance in this matter.

And why is the man who made the “broken windows” theory the centerpiece of rescuing the city once before, standing back while a giant trophy is handed to our enemies? Why is Rudy Giuliani holding Mayor Bloomberg’s coat while our country’s reputation gets bashed? As the saying goes: What’s up with that?

Those questions need answers we can believe in. Equating activity at the site with “progress” is the height of cynicism. The situation is a national disgrace and it falls to officials in Washington to get to the bottom of the bizarrely illogical project — because state and local officials have betrayed our trust and forfeited their right to run our World Trade Center.

If officials are so proud of their decisions and think the current plan makes sense, let’s go beyond the generalities and get some testimony on the record. What is Homeland Security’s position on the departure from a widely recognized best practice? Where is the General Accounting Office’s certification of the feasibility of a project in which the American taxpayers are so heavily invested? What is the General Services Administration’s justification for agreeing to lease almost half of a building the markets clearly want no part of?

When a leading UK publication, in a blog on Democracy in America, links to a local New Jersey online article, looking at Israeli counterterrorism protocol, in order to criticize US actions, isn’t it time for a real question-and-answer session? The Economist blog included a link to the report in the New Jersey Jewish News on a program at a local college last summer, “where Israeli doctors, emergency responders, and post-disaster planners shared their grim experiences with terror and its aftermath with counterparts here.”

Dr. Isaac Ashkenazi, a professor of disaster medicine at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva and a consultant to Harvard University and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that terrorists wage “symbolic violence… to create a sense of vulnerability. They always try to take our resilience down.”

Ashkenazi suggested a timetable for helping a community bounce back quickly from a traumatic event. “In 20 minutes you clear the site of victims. In 60 minutes, all victims are treated in hospital. In three hours the area is completely clean of flesh and blood, but more important, in four days the area should be completely reconstructed.”

The scope of the destruction at the World Trade Center makes the challenge far more complex but no less straightforward. If officials have good reasons for violating the principles that work everywhere else against the very same enemy, shouldn’t we know what they are? Especially when what works everywhere else is what works for the American people?

The most plausible reason for stubbornly pursuing the current irrational course is to mask widespread bureaucratic “bungling” — to put it mildly — but this is surely the wrong time and the wrong place for that.

If the slumbering media will wake up and start digging for truth, instead of ignoring the family of elephants in the room, our real recovery will take off like a rocket. Once the facts start surfacing it shouldn’t take long for Mr. Spielberg to discover that he can’t make a documentary about “Rebuilding Ground Zero” because nothing is being re-built. Disfiguring the World Trade Center and misappropriating the name is hardly the kind of story he specializes in.

What is being inflicted on this country at the site of our deepest wound is bordering on criminal, because officials are in effect misappropriating billions of tax dollars and treating good-faith objections with outright contempt.

Powerful interests control the press — anyone who doubts that should read New York Magazine’s Mike Bloomberg Owns This Town“. They have succeeded in distorting the picture. But if we don’t back down, they will not succeed — and the United States Congress is the proper place to look for reinforcement.

The World Trade Center has become the prime example of what happens when powerful corporate interests try to drown out citizens’ free speech. We can make an open-and-shut case for why the real World Trade Center should be rebuilt, but as long as honest debate is suppressed in the media and high-powered public relations teams paint a rosy picture of a foul mess, we are outgunned — the good news is our aim is perfect.

(c) 2010 The Twin Towers Alliance | May Be Reprinted Without Permission

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