If you asked any normal person to describe the September 11 terror attacks, the word “unbelievable” would be one of the first adjectives to spring to mind. Unbelievable, as in defying comprehension.
For a small but loud group of people – people I am somewhat reticent to write about for fear of inviting a deluge of emails from wackos – the September 11 terror attacks are unbelievable in a different way. They are unbelievable because, they argue, terrorists did not hijack planes and fly them into the Twin Towers. Instead, they believe the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, either a controlled detonation or a joint operation masterminded by the United States itself to justify a war against Islam. Some of them argue that Osama bin Laden didn’t exist, or was not behind what happened, despite his appearing in a film claiming full responsibility.
It is not so much an opinion as a diagnosable mental illness, but there you go. They think it’s the truth, and that’s why they give themselves the silly name of “truthers”.
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Eleven years yesterday since the murder of thousands of innocents in New York and Washington. Eleven years and 36 days since President Bush received a disturbing daily intelligence memo entitled: “BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S.”.
The world has known about that memo’s contents since August 2004, when the Bush Administration declassified the document for the 9/11 commission.
Yesterday, though, there were further revelations (and accusations) that the Bush White House’s treatment of the Al Qaeda threat before 9/11 was grossly negligent in an opinion piece in a major American newspaper.
Author and journalist Kurt Eichenwald wrote in The New York Times:
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It’s the 11th anniversary of September 11. Almost 3,000 were killed in the terrorist attacks. Two giant impressions, above, remain at the site as a memorial. The names of the deceased are dotted around the waterfalls.
As President Obama put it last week, Osama Bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda’s leadership decimated and a new tower is soaring above New York. The new One World Trade Centre building is taller than the Empire State.
Re-read some of our coverage of the 2011’s 10-year anniversary: US correspondent Paul Toohey on hope, Punch writer Dan Piotrowski on growing up in the age of terrorism, architect Phillip Vivian’s take on the “dignity and humanity” of the original World Trade Centre towers and Ant Sharwood’s letter to his son, whose birthday is on 9/11.
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Overnight, Tony Abbott promised to allocate $75k lump sum compensation payments to victims of overseas terrorist acts. The money is earmarked for people with ongoing physical injuries or mental trauma, and the dead’s next of kin.
On face value, it is a thoughtful measure. You might also argue that it’s a clever jump on any similar plans the government may or may be set to announce as the 10th anniversary of the first Bali bombing looms.
Mr Abbott plans to backdate the compensation to cover the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, London in 2005 and Jakarta in 2004 and 2009. In total, around 300 people will be eligible. Every decent Australian would agree this will be money well spent.
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A woman is summarily executed in front of 150 cheering men, as a man read from the Koran, and said: “Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it’s the wrong way. It is the order of Allah that she be executed. We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her. Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her.”
The authorities blame the Taliban, the hardline Islamic group who ruled Afghanistan until 2001, for the murder of 22-year-old Najiba, accused of sleeping with one Taliban member while being married to another.
The video is shocking. The idea that such a repulsively evil thing can be done so openly, so close to Kabul, with so many witnesses eagerly watching, even more so.
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Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit column. In a world full of bunkum, it’s often hard to narrow the field down – but today there is a clear winner. Mark Wahlberg and his funky bunch of bollocks.
The brother of a NKOTB member, actor, producer and all round ripped guy told the Men’s Journal he could have totally sorted out those September 11 terrorists. He was meant to be on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre. He told the journal:
“If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’”
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It’s tempting – very tempting, in fact - to dismiss conspiracy theorists such as the 9/11 ‘truthers’ as tin-foil hat wearing nutters. And there is a substantial element of crazed paranoia out there which invites such frank contempt.
But there are interesting and telling reasons so many people have come to believe that al Qaida had nothing to do with September 11, that the US Government was responsible for the attack or at the very least knowingly let it happen in order to trigger a war.
The UK’s Telegraph newspaper ranked September 11 as number one in its listing of the greatest conspiracy theories, trumping the moon landing, Roswell, Jesus’ bloodline, and the JFK assassination.
The political impact, the copious amounts of footage, and of course the internet have bolstered the truther movement to the point where polls consistently show that one in three Americans believe in it to some extent.
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The lack of comprehension for the atrocity committed on September 11 is such that it has taken 10 full years for it even to begin to sink in. In many ways, this is the first anniversary of September 11.
One woman from the Red Cross, handing out water and tissues down at the Ground Zero memorial, was asked what was different about this anniversary to the others.
She said on the first anniversary, she saw so many women wheeling in babies. On this day, a decade on, as the families gathered at the memorial in lower Manhattan, there were no prams or strollers.
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Ten years ago to the day, Australians woke up to discover that the world had started to end overnight. At least, that’s how it felt.
No one had any idea of what was happening that morning, or why it was happening. Especially the kids.
In September 2001 I was 10 years old. That morning I remember rolling out of bed at around 7:30, nothing on my mind but the Milo I was about to have and the game of CrazyBones I was going to play at lunch.
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On this sad anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in post-war history I am reminded of the prophetic words spoken by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation in 1961: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”.
Eisenhower was the supreme commander in western Europe who had led America to victory against one of the most evil regimes in history, a man who had witnessed the depths of human depravity, and wanted finally to warn us that the war machine which had been created to defend freedom in WWII could equally be used for the opposite purpose, and that it was up to the American people to guard against this possibility.
Eisenhower coined the phrase “military industrial complex” which became the catch-cry of the anti-war movement of the 1960s, describing an economic and political fusion of power involving armaments manufacturers, construction companies, banks, democratic governments and puppet dictatorships.
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For the vast majority of people, images of the World Trade Centre in New York, and in particular its destruction, are permanently etched into their psyche.
While we understand a great deal about why the towers collapsed structurally, and the political motivations behind the attack, curiously very little is known about their architect and architecture.
So who was the architect of New York’s World Trade Centre, and what did his building represent at the time it was built?
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Whether you like it or not, multiculturalism is here to stay. I don’t use the word in the political sense, of multiculturalism as an ideology, a doctrine or a social vision. I use it as a general descriptive term, in the absence of any other, to reflect the reality of life in the suburbs of Australia, where for every Tom, Dick and Harry there’s a Mustafa, a Tran and a Nkosana just around the corner.
In the ten years since September 11, 2001, it’s the Mustafas who have been the source of the greatest unease in countries such as ours which have been built on successive patterns of immigration.
Those us who can’t comprehend the concept of flying a plane into a building to make a political point have quite understandably rounded our contempt on those who seek to excuse or explain such murderous conduct.
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Nathan Edwards was the first Australian photographer at Ground Zero on September 11. He wrote this piece for The Punch when Osama bin Laden was killed.
For the past six months I’ve been sifting through hundreds of photographs that captured the anonymous heroes of September 11. I’ve spent countless hours tracking down those New York firefighters who put their lives on the line as the ten year anniversary looms.
But it wasn’t until the news that Bin Laden had been killed - a decade later - that I had flashbacks to the day that changed the world. I was the only Australian photographer at Ground Zero capturing the horror around me.
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It’s a brave or foolish American who turns his back on God. But that’s what New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has done.
He’s told security at the official 9/11 Ground Zero ceremony, on Sunday morning, to watch for an eccentric yet convincing bearded gent, possibly wearing flowing robes, who’ll be looking to crash the party.
It is a strange day when God is not invited or invoked at a day of national mourning or celebration in the US. But Bloomberg has decreed that no religious leaders will attend the ceremony, where the names of the 2,983 who were killed on September 11 will be read aloud by family members.
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OK, little guy. There’s no point sugar coating this so I’ll say it straight. You’re born on kind of an awkward day in history, a day which has come to symbolise a whole bunch of bad stuff. I wish it were otherwise, but that’s how it is.
You were due long before September 11, but like the stubborn little thing you are, you took your time. Your poor mother was so big she looked like she’d swallowed a wombat. Then finally, out you popped. A whopping, healthy, 4.9 kilo boy, born on the fifth anniversary of the world’s worst act of terrorism.
Son, there are some scary images I’m finding it tough to shield you from this week. Believe me, it’s the hardest thing in the world to explain why a bunch of guys flew those planes into those office towers and killed all those people.
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There are many things I remember about 11 September 2001.
Like almost all New Yorkers on that day, I remember the crisp fresh air and the blue sky unbroken by clouds. I remember going to work, thinking about the busy day I had ahead of me.
For me, that day was just another day. Another day at work as a human rights activist. And then the first plane streaked across New York’s crisp blue sky, flying too near, too low, too fast and too loud.
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It was not until I recently heard an art historian visiting Australia to talk about Guernica – the iconic anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso – that I connected the dots of why the 9/11 attacks had such a penetrating impact on the global community.
Art historian Professor Timothy J Clark was explaining in a Sydney Ideas lecture why Picasso’s depiction of the world’s first terrorist air-raid continues to have political currency in the post-9/11 era, despite the existence of more “real” forms of media than existed in 1937.
Clark said that in essence Picasso managed to communicate what it is really like to be bombed. He told me after the speech that “Guernica wouldn’t have its continuing political relevance if it didn’t somehow manage to wrench the material reality of suffering out of that black and white virtual world”.
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Jamie Larcombe is the fifth Australian Army combat engineer to be killed in action in Afghanistan. He is also the first to be shot during a firefight rather than blown up by an insurgent’s improvised explosive device (IED).
The engineers are a tight-knit and dedicated group of soldiers who bring a raft of skills and a great deal of courage to the fight against the Taliban. The Darwin based 1st Combat Engineer Regiment has now lost two of its best within a fortnight following the death of Corporal Richard Atkinson at the hands of an enemy bomb maker.
In addition to the five KIA they have also suffered much higher rates of injury as they take the lead role whenever a patrol leaves the security of an operating base.
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News that our Diggers have rejected Kevin Rudd’s pessimistic view of the war in Afghanistan is no surprise.
A foreign minister who derides the French and German contribution to the conflict as nothing more than ‘organising folk dancing festivals’ when each nation has suffered nearly 50 casualties is insensitive and out of touch.
Like our European friends Australia’s participation in Afghanistan is part of a broader international effort that is making considerable progress.
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It is fair to say that there is a growing sense of unease in Australia about our commitment in Afghanistan. Twenty-one Australian soldiers have now died.
The latest casualty, Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, was laid to rest just nine days ago. Five hours after his burial his widow Beckie gave birth to their second child.
Beckie’s friend, Courier Mail journalist Jane Fynes-Clinton, wrote a heartfelt but forthright column about the broader meaning of this family’s private tragedy. She argued on behalf of her friend that Australia should honour Jared’s memory by staying the course in Afghanistan.
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Welcome to Sunday at The Punch
George W Bush declared the beginning of the “War on Terror” on this day in 2001. BBC World News reported his message also included a warning to the people of the United States to be “patient” and that “any action could be a monumental struggle”. Got something to say? Share it here.
Welcome to Friday @ The Punch
It’s been eight years today since the series of terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre in New York. Three commercial airliners deliberately flew into all three buildings destroying them and killing a total of 2,750 people.
Where were you on the day of the attacks? What impact did it have on you? Share your thoughts here.
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