April 14, 2004

Jersey Girl Fatigue

The 9/11 Widows: Americans are beginning to tire of them.

.... The core group of widows led by the foursome known as "The Jersey Girls," credited with bringing the 9/11 Commission into being, are by now world famous. Their already established status in the media, as a small but heroically determined band of sisters speaking truth to power, reached ever greater heights last week, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made her appearance at a commission session--an event that would not have taken place, it was understood, without the pressure from the widows.


But the best known and most quoted pronouncement of all had come in the form of a question put by the leader of the Jersey Girls. "We simply wanted to know," Ms. Breitweiser said, by way of explaining the group's position, "why our husbands were killed. Why they went to work one day and didn't come back."

The answer, seared into the nation's heart, is that, like some 3,000 others who perished that day, those husbands didn't come home because a cadre of Islamist fanatics wanted to kill as many of the hated American infidels in their tall towers and places of government as they could, and they did so. Clearly, this must be a truth also known to those widows who asked the question--though in no way one would notice.

Who, listening to them, would not be struck by the fact that all their fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands' and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York? In the public pronouncements of the Jersey Girls we find, indeed, hardly a jot of accusatory rage at the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. We have, on the other hand, more than a few declarations like that of Ms. Breitweiser, announcing that "President Bush and his workers . . . were the individuals that failed my husband and the 3,000 people that day.


Nor can anyone miss, by now, the darker side of this spectacle of the widows, awash in their sense of victims' entitlement, as they press ahead with ever more strident claims about the way the government failed them. Or how profoundly different all this is from the way in which citizens in other times and places reacted to national tragedy.

From August 1940 to May 1941, the Luftwaffe's nightly terror bombings killed 43,000 British men, women and children. That was only phase one. Phase two, involving the V-1 flying bombs and, later, rockets, killed an additional 6,180. The British defense, was, to the say the least, ineffectual, particularly in the early stages of the war--the antiaircraft guns were few, the fire control system inadequate, as was the radar system. Still, it would have been impossible, then as now, to imagine victims of those nightly assaults rising up to declare war on their government, charging its leaders, say, with failure to develop effective radar--the British government had, after all, had plenty of warning that war was coming. It occurred to no one, including families who had lost husbands, wives and children, to claim that tens of thousands had been murdered on Winston Churchill's watch. They understood that their war was with the enemies bombing them.


Yesterday's session of the 9/11 Commission brought an appearance by Attorney General John Ashcroft--a reminder, among other things, of various intriguing questions posed by some of Ms. Breitweiser's analyses (delivered in her testimony before the 2002 congressional committee) of the ways the Sept. 11 attack might have been foiled. If the Federal Aviation Administration had properly alerted passengers to the dangers they faced, she asked, how many victims might have thought twice before boarding an aircraft? And "how many victims would have taken notice of these Middle Eastern men while they were boarding their plane? Could these men have been stopped?"

A good question. One can only imagine how a broadcast of the warning, "Watch out for Middle Eastern men in line near you, as you board your flight," would have gone down in those quarters of the culture daily worried to death about the alleged threat to civil rights posed by profiling and similar steps designed to weed out terrorists. Consider, a veteran political aide mordantly asks, what the response would have been if John Ashcroft had issued a statement calling for such a precaution, prior to Sept. 11.

Posted by Ithildin at April 14, 2004 12:41 PM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

It's about time that someone called them on the carpet for their nonsense...

Posted by: Paul Jané at April 14, 2004 1:06 PM

My nephew is a NYFD captain and by the grace of God was out of town on 9/11 or we would be mourning his loss. I couldn't imagine my niece joining a group such as this. But then she lives with the danger of his loss everyday of her life. Police and firefighter families across the nation are widowed each year by the failure of our government to control crime or enforce safety laws, yet they don't attack their government.

When any of us lose a parent, spouse or child our friends and collegues extend tenderness and concern, but eventually they expect us to carry on, to rise above anger and grief to get on with our lives.

Americans of all political stripes admired Jackie Kennedy because she didn't become a professional widow, she didn't allow her loss and life to become a political cause. I don't think she ever publicly commented on the Warren Commission. She got on with her life on her terms, that's what Americans do.

One wonders what the Jersey widows will do after the 9/11 panel adjourns and they lose their media platform?

Posted by: feste at April 15, 2004 8:37 AM