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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Repost on 9/11

I get very sad on this day and just don't feel like writing anything new about it. I will repost what I wrote back on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of that horrid event.

I am working on something new.

September 11 Revisited

The tenth anniversary of that horrid day has generated a flood of memories. I hope not to bore my readers with yet another account of "where I was" on that day, but I can't help it.

I was the Charge of a medium-sized American embassy in Asia. The Ambassador was back in the US, and barely missed getting on one of the hijacked flights. It was early evening local time. My wife and I were at the gym at a five-star international chain hotel; I was on the treadmill watching, with no particular interest, the nauseous BBC world news show that was on the gym's sole TV set. The news reader, a pompous and vaguely east Asian woman whom I recall as looking much like a Vulcan from the old Star Trek series, suddenly grabbed her earpiece, and said there was a report of a small commuter plane hitting a World Trade Center tower in New York.  She prattled on about something else, then suddenly the image cut to the smoking tower just as the second plane hit. Along with millions of other people, I watched on live TV as hundreds of people were brutally murdered. A lot of confused reporting began; much cross talk, some silly BBC criticism of US air traffic control and of the NY fire department for responding too slowly.

The gym trainer, an Aussie expat, came up to me and said, "How can two planes hit the same place?" I remember telling him, almost without thinking about what I was saying, "It has to be deliberate." It suddenly dawned on me, after I said it, that, in fact, it must have been deliberate.

I got off the treadmill and went to look for my wife; I pulled her out of her aerobics class, and said "Something is up. We have to go."  I had the bodyguards take us home, and I called our head of security. He was frantically trying to get some logical story out of Washington, but either could not get through, or got contradictory accounts of what was going on: some sort of attack on the Pentagon; a car bomb outside the Congress; another one outside the State Department; and on and on. I told him to get the country team together (heads of section) and to heighten our own security at the Embassy as we could be facing a worldwide attack on US facilities. We all met and talked, and talked, and talked, and could get nothing useful out of Washington.

Adding to the confusion was that the Assistant Secretary of our regional bureau, a political appointee close to a prominent Senator, had run, and I quite literally mean run, with her aide, screaming, yes, screaming, out of her office, into the garage, gotten into her car, and had headed home.  She had abandoned her post at a time of great crisis. The amazing thing was that weeks later, she laughingly told the story herself with no sense of shame or of how that imagery could affect those around her. But then this was the same one who, just a few days earlier, had fired an extraordinarily talented Foreign Service Officer, one of the most knowledgable people I had ever met when it came to South Asia, because he did not seem to take her seriously.  Ah, yes, leadership in action.

The Embassy went on high alert; the next morning I had to tell the Embassy employees what I knew, which was very little other than what was on the news, and to reassure the local-hire staff that, whatever happened, we would not cut and run out on them. They would be looked after.  Afterwards, I remember telling my security chief, "Don't make me a liar on that promise." He nodded.

Endless requests for press interviews; briefings of other embassies and the local government; lots of confusion; condolence calls and visits from all over the host country; all sorts of false rumors and threats. In subsequent weeks, we got hit with a barrage of fake anthrax powder letters; telephoned bomb threats, and so on.

Finally, the word came. Revenge was in the offing. I got instructions to contact the President of a neighboring Muslim country to which our Embassy was also accredited. I was to get permission for US warplanes to overfly his country on the way to bomb Afghanistan. We needed his OK right away, so there was no time to travel and meet him face-to-face. I called him on the phone, and had one of those one-minute conversations that make years of Foreign Service life worthwhile. I remember the conversation vividly.

"Mr. President, we need your permission for our bombers to fly through your national airspace on the way to targets in Afghanistan. We need it right away."

"Would we know when your bombers are flying through our airspace?"

"Your air traffic controllers in [the capital] might pick them up."

"I see. Would my public know that your bombers are there?"

"Not likely unless there is some sort of accident or emergency landing."

"I see.  If I say 'no' what happens?"

"Mr. President, we are going to get justice for 9/11. You are our friend. Please help us in this small way."

"So if I say 'no' you are going to go anyhow, right?  Please, no diplomacy. Tell me the truth in plain words."

"Yes. We are going to go anyhow."

"Ok [laughing] then I will say 'yes' to your planes. Please tell President Bush that I approve."

"President Bush will be very grateful."

18 comments:

  1. 9/11 was a very bad day for America. I said then, and I repeat now, we need to nuke Medina.

    That's the only thing these animals understand.

    Make.It.Hurt.

    If they continue, nuke Mecca.

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  2. 18 years on and I am not sure why I feel so sad today.
    I guess because our country is so fractured, people at each others throats and willing to fight in the streets over our direction. The failed Afghanistan and Iraq wars (and let's face it they are failed).
    What the hell happened that the US is now considering socialism as the panacea to our problems?

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  3. I never tire of your Embassy stories, Mr. Diplomad. They are always appreciated and enjoyed.

    Especially when you relay a scene like the incompetent Asst Sec fleeing for her car. It makes me glad my stillborn FSO career in 2002 did not happen. I just have no patience with people like that.

    -RB, in NoVa.

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    Replies
    1. Agree. The one about the appointee reminds me of "Rules of Engagement."

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    2. RIFfed in 1995 with the Peae Dividend. I felt miserable for a couple years afterwards, even though I got a Ph.D. in political science during that funk. But then came the O years, and I reflected that had I stayed on, I would've felt utterly disgraced to serve under Hillary Clinton.

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  4. It's scary how far this schism built or exacerbated by 9/11 has cleaved this country.
    It was an event that forced uncommitted people to pick sides, and too many picked that of America's enemies.
    One by one, my friends have deserted the America of freedom for the angry embrace of socialism and victimization. They might make $200k, but they're still 'victims of the man'.

    - reader #1482

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. If my finger had been on the button, all of the Muslim Middle East would have ceased to exist.
    And if my cooler head would have said no wait, I might have right up until the moment I saw Muslims celebrating in the streets.
    Then I would have mashed the button.

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    Replies
    1. A friend of mine at work, a Pole, growled right after the second tower collapsed that we should just nuke them all right then and there and get it over with.

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  7. I still burn with a white hot anger when I think back on that day and I agree with many of the posters who would have literally gone nuclear as a result of that attack.

    Also, I think it's time for the heroes of Flight 93 (the unorganized militia) should be suitably be rewarded. I suggest Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (equivalent to the DSC) for those people to individually honor them.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_of_Defense_Medal_for_Valor

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  8. "So if I say 'no' you are going to go anyhow, right? Please, no diplomacy. Tell me the truth in plain words." ~~~ "Yes. We are going to go anyhow." WLA

    Thanks again, for sharing your conversation, WLA!
    That response to 911 and follow-up USMILFORS actions & unrelenting perseverance, serves to remind 'We the People' aka *Americans* what our solemn and sacred duty is when confronted by Hellish beasts masquerading as Human beings!

    On Watch~~~
    "Let's Roll"

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  9. Every Sept 11 is very hard for me. I get nervous something will happen again - as it did in Benghazi.

    It breaks my heart to see what has happened to America since 9/11/01. With all that has happened, it is clear to me that 9/11/01 is the day the US capitulated to Islam. America bought the line about the Religion of Peace and 9/11 being our fault because the US is so awful. While we conducted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and ISIS, we lacked the conviction to do what was necessary to eliminate the threat of Islamic terrorism. Unless and until the West gets a reality check and admits that we are in an existential stuggle with Islam, I despair for the future.
    Delilah

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  10. Überdeplorable Psychedelic Cat GrassSeptember 15, 2019 at 7:47 PM

    I was in high school, second period Spanish class. The TV got turned on and saw the second plane hit the South Tower live. The rest of the day we all went from one class to the next and watched TV, even at lunch.

    It's hard, in some respects, to believe the 18 and under crowd weren't alive then.

    On a somewhat positive note, 9/11 did kind of solidify my general career choice: wording in a national security position for fed.gov. I even ended up taking the FSOT 7 times between 2010 & 17 before giving up on the FSO dream. My wife doesn't want to shuffle around every 2-3 years around the world.

    No idea how to put my language capabilities to use. Interned in a US Embassy for 10 weeks which I still contend is the most fun ever had working. Biometric intake in the morning, fraud prevention in the afternoon. Escort duty during the 4th; you get the idea.

    Just got RIFed which took effect on Friday from a certain federal contract; I've worked that contract 3 times in 7 years. I've had enough of it. The federal dream is still ongoing. Got to meet some interesting ppl, see some interesting things, and hear some stories

    Buddy of mine is a DSS SA. He's lovin life. If fed.gov were serious, they'd have ended immigration on 9/12. I second what Anonymous said. It's heartbreaking to see what has happened to our republic since then. Thanks for your 30 years, Dip. Much appreciated.

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  11. All I can say to this is crap. No diplomat is going to tell the head of state that we are going to violate his borders. Doubt me, look at what happened at Benghazi.

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    1. Doubt you? OB's BF! Ha!
      Not surprising, that you've gone and got what remains of your brains polluted by the socio-prog droppings of the anti- American Democrat 5th column!

      FYI, arsewipe, and, {{{now hear this}}} any Diplomat worth his salt will follow "lawful orders" of the CinC!

      Clearly, WLA communicated in no uncertain terms what the POTUS wanted him to say to the "Muslim Prez"! Thank G-d, there are still such Americans in Foreign Service who stand ready-willing, and able, to do their sworn duty!

      Hand Salute, to each and everyone of those Patriots!

      On Watch~~~
      "Let's Roll"

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    2. Really, do tell me the amount of time you worked on the 7th floor or in a command center to utter such remarkable observations of how commands are issued within State and tha National Security community. You clearly have no conception of what it means to violate someone's borders, especially with military units. By the way according to their sworn duty to do so without prior authorization, which was clearly lacking, is a violation of that oath.

      I humbly suggest you quit reading all those dime store novels and speak to someone who has been there and done that. Till then you can hallucinate all you wish about presidents communicating directly with embassies. You think any president speaks with some ambassador? Much less one he has not appointed and is some State pogue?

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  12. My husband is a submariner. His boat was in the process of leaving the Persian Gulf that day. Apparently I was one of the few boat wives who wasn't surprised when the following Wednesday we were told their trip home was delayed. I still think CNN should have faces legal consequences for announcing the names of the boats who fired the initial missiles on 10/7. Far too many people, including my family members think I'm overreacting when I say that they were putting the lives of every family member of the crews at risk. And as one of those family members and the mother of others, I take it very personally.

    I still contend that if we'd taken out Medina and/or Mecca, wed have proven ourselves the "strong horse", and saved many lives, on both sides. Of course I'd also always figured that we'd have to go back to the sandbox from the day it was announced we were stopping at the Kuwait-Iraq border back in '89(?, 90?).

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    Replies
    1. Middle of the Target, Mrs Gryffon!
      Moreover, concur with your contention, that the Islamic State as constituted represents an existential threat to the USA, and will remain so, as long as it continues on a path toward development of nuclear weaponry and terrorist operations directed at America and it's Allies!

      Best Regards to you, your SS husband, and loving family! --
      V/R - On Watch~~~
      "Oh there are no submariners down in Hell..."

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