Since his disgraceful, unsatisfying, and downright spooky appearance before the 9/11 Commission, Donald Rumsfeld sightings have been scarce as hen’s teeth. A devotee of the Sunday news/talk shows who used to make their rounds so often that his easily-skewered habit of asking himself questions he would then go on to answer while his interviewer struggled to get a word in edgeways had become a comedic staple, Rummy in the last few weeks has been noticably absent. Calls for his resignation were followed by Junior’s ludicrous statement that he wouldn’t fire Rumsfeld because he was ‘one of the best Secretaries of Defense this country has ever had’, an endorsement so far over the top that even without Capitol Hill Blue one would have reason to wonder what he was on.
Gail Sheehy, one of our last few real investigative reporters, doesn’t have an answer as to why that might be but she sure does have a lot of questions about his behaviour on 9/11 that she’d like to have answers to. Like where was he for 2 hours while the planes were crashing into the towers?
“Two planes hitting the twin towers did not rise to the level of Rumsfeld’s leaving his office and going to the War Room? How can that be?” asked Mindy Kleinberg, one of the widows known as the Jersey Girls, whose efforts helped create and guide the 9/11 commission. The fact that the final report failed to offer an explanation is one of the infuriating holes in an otherwise praiseworthy accounting.Rumsfeld was missing in action that morning — “out of the loop” by his own admission. The lead military officer that day, Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield, told the commission that the Pentagon’s command center had been essentially leaderless: “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find” Rumsfeld.
For more than two hours after the Federal Aviation Administration became aware that the first plane had been violently overtaken by Middle Eastern men, the man whose job it was to order air cover over Washington did not show up in the Pentagon’s command center. It took him almost two hours to “gain situational awareness,” he told the commission. He didn’t speak to the vice president until 10:39 a.m., according to the report. Since that was more than 30 minutes after the last hijacked plane crashed, it would seem to be an admission of dereliction of duty.
At the very least. In point of fact, the behaviour of everybody in the Bush Admin who was responsible for reacting to news like this was shockingly lackadaisical. Junior sat in a classroom reading a children’s book for almost 10 minutes, Cheney was on the phone but doesn’t seem to have felt pressed to do anything much, and Rummy was out to lunch. He has never offered any explanation of where he was, what he was doing, or why it took so long for him to respond. Why didn’t he know what the rest of us knew? Why didn’t he do his job?
Why wasn’t Rumsfeld able to see on TV what millions of civilians already knew? After the Pentagon was attacked, why did he run outside to play medic instead of moving to the command center and taking charge? The 9/11 report records the fatal confusion in which command center personnel were left: Three minutes after the FAA command center told FAA headquarters in an update that Flight 93 was 29 minutes out of Washington, D.C., the command center said, “Uh, do we want to, uh, think about scrambling aircraft?”FAA headquarters: “Oh, God, I don’t know.”
Command center: “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s going to have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.”
But nobody did. Three minutes later, Flight 93 was wrestled to the ground by heroic civilians.
How is it that civilians in a hijacked plane were able to communicate with their loved ones, grasp a totally new kind of enemy and weaponry and act to defend the nation’s Capitol, yet the president had “communication problems” on Air Force One and the nation’s defense chief didn’t know what was going on until the horror was all over?
And one more question Sheehy didn’t ask: Why hasn’t the press been all over this? Why is our media so breathlessly riveted to how ‘French’ Kerry is supposed to look when we have a Defense Secretary who doesn’t seem to understand what the word ‘defense’ means? He understands the words ‘pre-emptive strike’ alright. He understands how to start a war that doesn’t defend us from anything, and he knows how to do it on a matchbook cover. But he doesn’t know enough to go to the command center and make decisions that need to be made when the country is actually attacked? And the press couldn’t care less?
This is two scandals in one.