War: March 2004 Archives


Ray Sanchez has found New York City transit's Achilles heel, or at least the one vulnerability which is most likely to endanger the lives of the millions of people who use the system every day - a vulnerability which would be devastating after a terrorist hit, since survivors may then have to get out of the tunnels to remain survivors.

It has long been known that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit have problems communicating effectively with its customers. This was most evident anytime transit officials were asked to explain fare increases and service cuts.

But in a time of train bomb massacres, it is becoming disturbingly apparent that the people who run the New York subway system also have difficulty communicating with one another - including when lives are at stake.

Read Sanchez's report on Annie Chamberlin's experience February 29.

But stupidity and incompetence, if not criminal malfeasance in this post 9/11 world, is not limited to New York's planners and administrators. The Bush administration budget for the upcoming fiscal year calls for $5.3 billion for transportation security, but only $147 million of it is allocated for everything other than air security. That $147 million is supposed to cover ports, roads, bridges, tunnels, power plants and rail systems.

And what is it we're now told we have to pay for an Iraq war which had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism, fear of which the administration hopes to use to maintain its power? Was it $100 billion? But much more important, I'm thinking that so far the cost is the nearly 600 American lives alone, and the thousands (again only the American count) injured or maimed.

We shouldn't tolerate the use of terror for political purposes. The Bush regime and its lieutenants have to be thrown out before we cash in more than just our freedoms in exchange for a tin security.*



The evidence could be stacked up forever, but one inarguable fact reported today in the Washington Post [via Atrios] should alone be enough to demolish any remaining illusions about either the sincerity or the competence of the gang in the White House, above all when it's a question of protecting us from terrorists.

In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows.

. . . .

The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks.

. . . .

"Despite multiple terror warnings before and after 9/11, [Bush] repeatedly rejected counterterrorism resources that his own security agencies said was desperately needed to protect America," said David Sirota, spokesman for [the Center for American Progress, a liberal group run by former Clinton chief of staff John D. Podesta], which plans to post the documents on its Web site today.

[image from the myria network]

at the New York Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, the night of its opening to the public

"Vietnam," author Myra McPherson has written," was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America."

[from the New York Vietnam War Veterans Memorial site],

I've been to the New York Vietnam War Veterans Memorial beginning on the day it opened and a number of times since. Until 1987 I lived just one block away and I passed it at least once every day. At first it was never unattended, but visitor traffic has declined in recent years, and sometimes the small park triangle it occupies in the oldest, and during the day the busiest, part of the city is completely empty.

Even since moving uptown I've returned, often with friends visiting New York, and I'll be going again, since the letters of a war's American participants etched there in the glass are among the most profound modern testaments we have of the stupidity of both the governed and those who presume to govern them.

[tip: probably best to visit after dark, when the wind-swept day's trash is less visible, and the inscriptions are lit from within the glass monoliths]

Apparently not enough of either group has been visiting lower Water Street at Coenties Slip lately, or the letters which appeared in the NYTimes on Sunday might never have been written. Their authors all died in Iraq since last fall.

Read and you will surely weep.

What follows is an excerpt from among several letters to his mother written by Specialist Robert A. Wise, 21, of Tallahassee, Fla. Specialist Wise was killed six months later, on Nov. 12, by a homemade bomb while on patrol in Baghdad.

Thursday, May 8

Rumor has it that we'll be on a plane home June 22, so keep your fingers crossed. I'm really going to need your help setting up a budget when I get home and making sure I stick to it. I know the only way I'll complete my goals of paying off my car and getting all of that furniture for our house by the end of the year is by paying attention to what I spend my money on.

Well, I'm runnin' out of things to write about. I love you and I miss you. Tell everyone I said hi, and one day I'll get home.

P.S.: There's no place like home (click)
There's no place like home (click)
There's no place like home (click)
Damn, it didn't work again!

Since no one seems to be able to stop the senseless slaughter from this end, perhaps a mutiny would actually be a reasonable approach.

[image from the official site itself]

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, today

Apparently yesterday's antiwar demonstration didn't begin and end in Madison Square yesterday.

[Footnote: Michael Torke and A.R. Gurney collaborated on a short opera, "Strawberry Fields," inspired by the site and the memorial. Gurney tells a wonderful story and Torke makes it sing, in order that, as one character sings, "the sounds of life drown out the fear of nothingness." The one act forms part of the trilogy, "Central Park," the work of three teams of composers and librettists.]

in Madison Avenue this afternoon

What if they threw a demonstration and everbody came, except the media? Would you be able to get people into the streets next time? Think about it, while you search for coverage of the massive antiwar demonstration in New York today, and especially if you're looking in the New York Times. See bloggy for the story about the missing story.

Is the conservative U.S. establishment still afraid to show the popular opposition to a disastrous goverment and its disastrous foreign adventures, even when those disasters have finally become so obvious? Does it think a crude media blackout will discourage its critics? And, more important, will it?

While I'm also thinking just now that the demonstrators who marched out to Versailles in 1789 didn't need the NYTimes to help them bring their own king back to Paris, where he was capitally eliminated a few years later, I have to admit that the French have generally been much more courageous about seeing that their governments remain responsible than we have.

Later this afternoon I expect to have a gallery of about two dozen photos up on this post, taken while we marched with Palestinians and Jews Against the Occupation.


UPDATED: Photos are now here; captions will arrive later on Sunday.


UPDATED: Captions are now atteached to the photos.

I think this was supposed to be a positive image

No reason for putting this up this at this particular moment. I just neglected to post this wonderful rant I found in Newsday when it first appeared, over ten days ago. It's been in my head ever since, and I thought that finally letting it out here might let me move on [I don't like to have to think about Giuliani. I really, really don't].

Jimmy Breslin [omigosh, someone I know was actually surprised to hear he was still around when I mentioned his name recently!] has no love for our former mayor, and he's not shy about writing about the man's bogus reputation as somehow divine, even when his column is really about another cheap charlatan, George W. Bush.*

He was a nobody as a mayor and in one day he became a hero. This sudden career, this door opening to a room of gold, all started for Rudolph Giuliani when his indestructible bunker in a World Trade Center building blew up. He had personally selected it, high in the sky, and with tons of diesel fuel to give emergency power.

And Guiliani walks on. He walks from his bunker, up Barclay Street and went on television. Went on and announced his heroism and then came back every hour or so until he became a star, a great figure, a national hero, the mayor who saved New York.

Most of this comes from these dazed Pekinese of the Press. Giuliani was a hero with these news people. He did not pick up a piece of steel or help carry one of the injured off.

He made the trade center his private cathedral. Police commanders were terrified of letting you in. There was only Rudy, who flew his stars, Oprah and the like, down to see it.

Breslin begins this March 7 column, with characteristic restraint, "In his first campaign commercial. George Bush reached down and molested the dead."

[Image by Joe McNally, from "Faces of Ground Zero"]

throngs escaping underground New York, February 29, 2004

It's worse than we could have imagined.

Ray Sanchez wrote another excellent column in Newsday on Monday, about disaster preparedness in the New York transit system. A second piece appears today. They're both very scary.

After February 29, and the reporting of Sanchez, we could no longer fool ourselves that the MTA knew what to do in the event of a subway emergency, even two and a half years after 9/11. Now, thanks to Sanchez's columns, we know that the city's Office of Emergency Planning (OEM) isn't interested in the MTA. But that's not all. It also seems that the various parties who have to work together in real emergencies can't even work together to plan for emergencies.

MEANWHILE: I've been "de-gayed" and "de-clawed" by Time Out

On a related note, I can report an interesting follow-up to my own experience, or at least to my report of that experience. Last week Time Out/New York included a surprisingly and offensively glib (careless?) piece on the fire which shut down a number of subway lines two Sundays back, injuring some passengers and frightening, even terrifying, many others. I felt I had to call them on it, so I went to my keyboard.

Last night I found that some form of my letter appears at the top of their current "Letters" section. Unfortunately neither the original article nor the letter can be found on their site, but since they made some very interesting changes in my text, I'll try to illustrate here what happened twixt my laptop and their hard copy.

I admit that I was kinda thrilled with the novelistic title they slapped at the top of the letter, "Tracks of my fears," and when I first read the five inches of printed text I thought they might not have cut my original letter at all. Then I checked, in what I thought was just an excess of conceit, and I uncovered some interesting edits.

I should have expected the subjective, fairly arbitrary word or syntax changes I saw, but what I found more interesting is that they decided to totally eliminate my partner Barry. Gee, I'd hate to think that you can only be queer, ok, even "gay," in Time Out if you're in the entertainment listings.

Also, even though I understand that TONY is basically just a [pretty good] entertainment rag and therefore I should not have been surprised by the tone of their article, I think it's significant that they were careful to eliminate my critical reference to their reporter's slant [which was in fact far more facile than I had indicated in my letter].

Finally, I notice that they chose to subtly eliminate my more alarming descriptions of what the situation was like underground, somewhat diluting the letter's basic argument.

What follows below is first what I sent them by email:

Along with almost the entire media establishment of the New York region, TONY missed the real story in the February 29 subway fire and evacuations. Even worse, Ayren Jackson makes light of it in "Talking Points" this week, and you all should know better. The next time might not be so entertaining to your readers.

People were discomforted and terrified, some were injured by smoke, but the real story is what the experience says about New York's ability to cope with a real terrorist incident, or even a disastrous accident. A single homeless man throwing debris can cause people to be trapped for hours in the subway?

My partner and I were confined below ground from 5:30 until 7:30. Our train was apparently one of the more fortunate, since some people weren't free until 9, and many suffered smoke inhalation requiring hospitalization. After the first few minutes of explosion and fire there was little smoke where we were, but many of us were terrified, and we still had to wait over two hours from the time the train was initially halted, more than an hour after we were told help was on its way, and certainly long after the tracks were "no longer juiced", in Jackson's words.

When we were finally permitted to exit, the route involved simply walking out an open subway door, stepping along a 15-foot shelf to an emergency exit, and then climbing a couple flights of stairs to the busy Village street above.

What the experience says about easily-imagined future disasters makes us seriously question living in NYC, and we're crazy about this city.

This is what they actually printed:
Tracks of my Fears

Along with almost the entire media establishment of the New York region, TONY missed the real story in the February 29 subway fire and evacuations ["Talking Points," Out There, TONY 441].

People were discomforted and terrified, some were injured by smoke, so the real story is what the experience says about New York's ability to cope with a real terrorist incident, or even a disastrous accident. A single homeless man throwing debris can cause people to be trapped for hours in the subway?

I was confined below ground due to this incident for two hours. My train was apparently one of the more fortunate, as some people weren't freed until hours later, and many suffered smoke inhalation, requiring hospitalization. After the first few minutes of explosion and fire, there was little smoke where we were standing; however we still had to wait more than two hours from the time the train was initially halted, more than an hour after we were told help was on its way and a long time after the tracks were "no longer juiced." What the experience says about easily imagined future disasters makes me seriously question living in NYC.

On Saturday Barry and I will be in the streets again, along with nobody knows how many others, on the anniversary of Bush's war on the world, sometimes known as "the war on Iraq," or even "the war against terror."

For us it will be the streets of New York, and we will be joining the Palestinian contingent. We should be assembling at 11:15 am on 25th Street between 5th Avenue & Broadway, in what is called Worth Square, named after General William Jenkins Worth and we will be next to the monument to this wretched man's iniquities: He mowed down Native Americans and Mexicans in several Imperial wars on their own lands. We ended up stealing all of the Seminole nation and half of the Mexican. Very heroic, very patriotic, and it had already become an American tradition even before his time.

For more information on the day, go to United for Peace and Justice, "The World Still Says No To War."

Momentum is building for the Global Day of Action against War and Occupation on March 20, 2004 — the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On that day people all around the globe will take to the streets to say YES to peace and NO to pre-emptive war and occupation. In communities large and small around the United States and across the globe, we will call for an end to the occupation of Iraq and Bush's militaristic foreign policies. March 20 will be the first time the world's "other superpower" will take center stage since Feb. 15 [2003].

goldfish on sale at an outdoor bazaar in the center of Baghdad

This is just about the only one of the 49 extraordinary Moises Salman photographs currently on the "more photos" link of the Newsday site which did not make me very angry or just incredibly sad - until I noticed the significance of the date, February 21, 2003.

I love open markets, and I love goldfish. Don't like war.

[image from Newsday Photo/Moises Saman]

E train, soutbound, this morning

I had to get up and touch the paper before I was convinced everything you see on this ad was original (not grafitti). I suspect that the owners of Manhattan Mini Storage are not big on the war(s). I mean, at the very least this weekend soldier had to give up his digs and put his life in storage for George's re-election!

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from March 2004.

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