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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/3/21

Film Review: 9/11: Inside the President's War Room

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World Trade Center 9/11/01 attack memorial photo
World Trade Center 9/11/01 attack memorial photo
(Image by cattias.photos from flickr)
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9/11: Tell the Children the Truth

by John Kendall Hawkins

Well, here we go again. Another trip down memory lane -- for most of us; and fewer and fewer of us left at the same time. Memory versus history -- one of my favorite topics, and, as it turns out, a recent Atlantic piece discusses the difference (which I'll get to), vis-a-vis teaching the events of 9/11 as history to students who grew up after that rueful day. For them, 9/11 will always be history, and, as we discovered long ago, history is told by the victor. And Howard Zinn.

There are fewer and fewer of us old geezers (I'm 64) around to remember where they were the day JFK was shot. For most people, what happened on November 22. 1963, is part of history now. (But *wink* read the People's version; it has more links to corroborate.) The JFK assassination turned a generation of Americans into 'conspiracy theorists.' Everybody knew where they were when they heard. Everybody weighed in on what happened. The Warren Commission's Gerald Ford said, lone gunman, no magic bullet, 3/5 of the Commission weren't convinced of their own Report. Years later, the House Select Committee on Assassinations said, Nuh-uh, Gerry, it was a conspiracy. We all threw up our hands, and then clapped, when Gerald Ford, the only unelected President we've ever had, fell down a flight of stairs like he'd been shot by a lone gunman, and Chevy Chase made a career out of mocking Ford's clumsiness. To many of us 'theorists', it felt like payback for his lies and unearned ascension.

And I feel certain that my stepfather felt that distance between his memory and my understanding of derived history when he used to get that Navy look in his eyes, us tossing back a few Hi Neighbor 'Gansetts at the kitchen table, and talking Raymond Carver-style, about the Pearl Harbor attack that forced America into WW2. I knew next to nothing about Pearl Harbor, other than the surprise kamikaze ('divine wind') suicide bombings. I could picture that diving, although, of course, not the hari-kari I-get-to-go-to-heaven-and-have-geishas-serve-me vibe.

So here we are again. The 20th anniversary of the events of 9/11 are upon us. And, in the days ahead, the MSM will be framing that history, much of it leaving out what we remember -- those of us who lived it. They will pretend to be authorities on the subject, a pretension born of BAs in communication technique, their projected confidence in the information they deliver amplified in ratio to the privilege-ranking of their alma maters, but remember, as you watch (and I'd advise that you read instead), none of the talking heads was there for the JFK, and some were just kids for 9/11, and none of them are authorities on the subject of what happened before, on, or after 9/11. They just seem to be. One day, AIs will do their work. Yes, that's commentary.

On 9/11, 2001, I was living in England with my pregnant wife and two kids under five years old. We were off on a Chunnel jaunt; taking the car to the Continent and driving through France, through windmill country, and then to Dunkirk Beach. It was said to be an "important" beach for Allied forces during WW2, and the site of a "miracle" escape from the forces of evil known as Nazis, a "turning point" in the war. But that was before my time. On the way home to England, at the border in Calais, in line to board the Chunnel train back, a French guard enthusiastically (too, I thought) told me my country (American passport) was under attack, towers down. That, I'll never forget. And my young kids, strapped in the back seat, don't remember.

Back in Tadworth, Surrey, in front of Sky TV, we watched some of the saturation coverage of the events in New York, the early questions, the lame responses by people -- journalists, politicians -- who didn't know. No one knew where the president was. You could tell it was all confusion. We all had to settle for the mega-headline: AMERICA AT WAR. With whom, we hadn't yet been told. Eventually, we said, f*ck it, let's go for the whole inshallalah. Make it a limited Crusade against Islam -- Shi'ites (the Sunnis -- minus 15 -- are our friends). At least, that's what I heard between the limns of GW Bush's lips when he spoke on TV and told us he'd be "smokin' 'em out." Check it out:

I was thinking of all this stuff and more, as I watched the newly released documentary, 9/11: Inside the President's War Room, co-produced by Apple and the BBC. A soundtrack starts up that says, to me, feel ominous unease, which was like trying and trying to start up an old lawnmower, your shoulder popping out, then the disembodied voice of an air traffic controller tells us there's a hijacked plane on its way to New York, and then a narrator says: "On September 11, 2001, America came under attack." That voice. Who was it? I'd heard it 1000 times before. Jeff Daniels! I'd watched Dumb and Dumber so many times -- I'd always thought he was straightmanning to me (I saw myself as the Jim Carrey character, although, strangely, from a different movie, The Truman Show). Wow, I thought, he does docos, too -- right-leaning ones?

Then they come, one after the other, the cavalcade of liars who lit the fuse to decades of war and misery (and didn't help the climate much) premised on their lies brazenly proffered up to the United Nations and the rest of us, a year or so after 9/11. First up, Dick Cheney, the president pro tem during the critical hours of 9/11 tells us, "Killing thousands of Americans, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor, this was an act of war." Then we get GW's national security advisor, Candi Rice, sweetly telling us, "I felt very much that we had indeed seen the face of evil." Then GW comes on, looking smokingly handsome in his dotage, and he says, "This was a well-organized attack that severely damaged our country."

A plane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Cue the pedestrian screams and oh-gods. Jeff Daniel's voice returns, tormenting me, "It was a defining 24 hours that shaped a presidency, the country and the world." Then back to Cheney, then Powell. And later, toons Turd Blossom, Andy "the" Card, Mike "a" Morrell, and Bush's mealy-mouthed media spokesperson "Aryan Flusher" (who Tarantino is said to have dropped as an Inglorious Basterd at the last minute, as he couldn't find a way to make the tongue lasher follow Donny Donowitz's Louisville Slugger routine: Don't f*ck with the IDF rogues known as the Muscle Toughs.) Shaped us alright, like a fucked up circumcision. And while we're on the subject, and before moving on, riddle me this: Why are the Jews shaping it into a German helmet anyway, or even more worrisome maybe: Why did the Nazis adopt the Jewish dick shape as a protector of headstones? That's the question that keeps me up at night goosestepping and masterracebaiting. Thousand year reich, here I come.

I'm trying real hard to take them seriously, grim and wizened, rehearsed clenches of speech, them knowing that they must have got away with it if GW's buddying up to Ellen Degeneres at a Dallas Cowboys football game, folks on the internet trashing that idea, with quips this typical:

One sarcastic Twitter user said, "So quirky and fun to see George Bush out with Ellen at a Cowboys game after his terrible foreign policy decisions killed thousands of innocent people."

Wild and vicious Rumors then circulated - like hijacked planes -- that Portia walked out on her marriage with Ellen, citing an arrested development in their relationship. Girls can be mean. Let's hope they never join al Qaeda. If California started out as a Amazonian caliphate, why not the world?

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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