The Brancatelli File

joe 9/11 PLUS THREE


September 9, 2004 -- Saturday is the third anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I don't care what else is going on--airline bankruptcies, hurricanes, presidential elections--we should be stopping and reflecting.

There are other things I could write about today. But I'm going to stop and reflect. This is what I'm thinking about three years after 9/11. I urge you to sit down sometime in the next few days and write down what you're thinking about.

Maybe it's because I decided to launch this Web site on September 12, 2001, but 9/11 seems like three minutes ago. Except when it seems like three hundred years ago.

I haven't had a decent night's sleep since 9/11. I don't know exactly why, but sleep don't come easily anymore.

Right now, it feels like the terrorists are winning this war. Our lives have changed, but they still move around the world with abandon, killing children in Russia, bombing buildings in Indonesia, taking hostages in broad daylight in Iraq.

How do we feel about the Bush Doctrine of Preemption now that Vladimir Putin says Russia will be striking out at terrorism wherever they decide it is? How are we going to feel if they decide those purported Chechen separatists who thought nothing of killing children were training in Iran or Syria--or Turkey?

I ask again: Where are the honorable Muslim leaders who are willing to stand up against the thugs who have hijacked their religion? Show me in the Koran or the Sharia where it says that you're honoring Allah if you stand silent when people kill children in his name.

I hate the term "homeland security." Fascists and tin-pot dictators in funny costumes with phony medals talk about the "homeland." It sounds un-American and paranoid and it makes me cringe.

Most business travelers I have met in the last three years have yet to come to terms with what happened on 9/11. Most of them are in denial. So am I.

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that the Republicans in Congress are letting the assault-weapons ban expire next week. It's good to know that the next time a terrorist attacks here it could be with a legal super-gun.

I have always thought that both airline safety and airline security were numbers games. We were only as safe or secure as the death toll indicated. So by that standard, we are safer in the American skies from terrorism than we were on 9/11. You and I and every business traveler know the elaborate pantomime we go through at security checkpoints is a farce, but you can't argue with the numbers.

A privacy activist named John Gilmore is challenging the government's right to make us show identification when we travel by air. I thought Gilmore was being frivolous and foolish until the government told a court that the law demanding we identify ourselves was a secret and that it was too dangerous to explain it in open court. Now I'm thinking the inmates are running the asylum.

Vice President Dick Cheney said that we'd be greeted with flowers when we liberated Iraq. Now he says that voting for Kerry would make us less safe in the war on terrorism. That's pretty tough talk coming from a chicken hawk who hasn't been right once in four years.

Somebody really needs to explain to Zell Miller and the smug Republicans that this is America and we vote on who gets to be our Commander-in-Chief. And that we get to vote on it every four years whether they like it or not. And someone really ought to explain to whining Democrats that Ralph Nader has the right to run for president.

A couple of days after 9/11, former New York mayor Ed Koch suggested that we rebuild the World Trade Center exactly as it was before the attack. It seemed like a goofy idea from an old kook back then. But the more I think about it, the more it makes emotional sense.

If we're going to go around invading countries and "liberating" them from the dictators we once supported, can we at least create a branch of national service called the Civil Army? It would be full of electricians and plumbers and civil servants and architects and construction workers. They'd come in behind the armed forces and rebuild the countries we occupy. It's called winning the peace, which is a hell of a lot harder than winning wars.

I vote. Do you? If you do, let's argue. That's The American Way. If you don't, shut up. If you don't participate in the process, you don't have to right to complain. And you sure don't have the right to go around wearing your patriotism on your sleeve. Vote or shut up. Those are your choices.

If the terrorists hit us again at our airports and airplanes, how are we going to explain to the victims and their families that we never did get around to screening all the cargo that is carried aboard commercial jets or that we didn't feel like spending the money to train a large enough core of screeners and sky marshals?

I started planting vegetables in my flower gardens after 9/11. I dunno, somehow growing food helps a little.

9/11 should be a national holiday of remembrance. And by law, everything but essential services should be closed. No 9/11 sales, no 9/11 getaway holidays. Just an honest-to-goodness day of national reflection.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.