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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The 9/11 Commission Report
Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

W.W. Norton, 567 pp, 2004

It's taken a few weeks, but I've read this comprehensive and at times boring as dirt account of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. I don't think it will be last word on what happened that day and events leading up to it, but it's a very good start.

It begins with the actual attack told from several different points of view - passengers and crew on the doomed planes, air traffic controllers, FAA officials, and NORAD and military personnel. It also describes how the President and other government officials were informed and how they responded. For example, Bush knew before he entered the school that a commercial airliner had crashed into one of the Twin Towers, but that's all the information he had. Like myself and many others who first heard the news, he assumed it was an accident.

After that first chapter, the report presents an exhaustive history of al Qaeda, its attacks on U.S. interests throughout the world before 9/11, and how the federal government has dealt with it. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were considered threats by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, but neither could find effective solutions to take them out. Clinton and his administration did make attempts, but never a serious and whole-hearted one.

The truth is, terrorism was not a high priority for either administration before 9/11, for two reasons: The U.S. homeland had not been attacked (the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was considered done because its main perpetrators had been convicted) and the American people didn't consider it a priority. Good or bad, politicians rarely lead or shape public opinion. Instead, they follow it, and they never got any serious pressure from the electorate to deal with terrorism. September 11 changed all that.

So I don't fault Clinton or Bush for the attacks or for not preventing them. The fault lies with bin Laden and all terrorist SOBs who think it's acceptable to murder innocents, and in the recent Russian case, schoolchildren.

The report also includes what the commission thinks should be done in the future, and not surprisingly for a bunch of former politicians and bureaucrats, they want yet another layer of government bureaucracy, headed by yet another bureaucrat, to coordinate and oversee anti-terrorism activities. Before 9/11, several government agencies did not communicate important information that may have uncovered some of the plot. Sometimes information was communicated but it was not complete or accurate. So this new government agency will make sure everyone gets the same information.

That's nice. But I would take a different approach. I would shrink government and reduce its activities so it can concentrate on the important stuff, like killing terrorists. Get the feds out of the retirement and care medical industries. Don't screw around with local education. Don't waste time on pork projects and spending programs. Get back to what you're supposed to - protect the country. Maybe you'll start doing a better job of it.

There is a lot more that the Commission recommends, but I'm not going to cover everything. Read it yourself and make up your own mind. For me, the most valuable part of this report was the blow-by-blow account of what happened that day. Three years later and it's still chilling. It still pisses me of. It should do the same for most folks. 

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