But for the murder of our husbands on 9/11, we would not have gone to Washington to fight for an independent 9/11 investigation. Our involvement in national security would have begun and ended at the voting booth, like most citizens. But for the initial failure of our leaders and elected officials to create an independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the terrorist attacks, we would not have not been forced to publicly fight for it.
An important part of that fight required us to demand the attention of our elected officials by speaking out in the media. Sadly, in many cases, such public pressure (and its possible effect on Election Day) is needed to inspire elected officials to do the right thing. That is not my opinion. That's reality. Had President Bush and Congress impaneled an independent commission on their own, we would not have needed to lobby Washington. Likewise, had Congress thoroughly investigated the attacks and not limited its investigation into intelligence-only areas, we would not have needed to fight for the 9/11 Commission.
We wanted the 9/11 attacks investigated thoroughly and competently so that fewer terrorist attacks would succeed in the future and more lives would be saved on the day of the next attack. When you study the events of 9/11, you learn that many more lives should have been saved, and many damages and injuries could have been mitigated. We wanted to hold the government accountable so that, going forward, our nation would be better prepared for future attacks and disasters.
Fighting for national security--securing the homeland or wanting to make the nation safe--ought to be an unassailable objective, similar to the Amber Alert, Megan's Law, and providing body armor for the troops. Regardless of who the messenger raising these issues might be, the goals are inarguable because they are pure, true, and right. Will these issues receive more focused attention if the message is delivered by people who speak passionately because they have been personally affected? Yes, absolutely. But it's the issue that is unassailable--not the people espousing that issue. If your conservative Republican friends are on the wrong side of the issues, that's their problem.
Ann, the Jersey Girls are moms. We have children. Perhaps one day if you have a child, you may understand the sense of duty and obligation that parents feel toward their children to provide them with a safe and secure environment, both in the present and the future. There were many, many times when we wanted to give up. We were tired and frustrated. But we didn't. The reason? Our children. We were left as their sole protectors; we wanted them to know that even though their fathers were brutally killed, they could be and would be safer living in America.
You complained to many interviewers that they hadn't taken the time to read your book. But did you take the time to look at the Family Steering Committee Web site (www.911independentcommission.org)? You might discover that we shared some of the same disappointments, concerns, and grievances that you have expressed with regard to the 9/11 Commission. The difference is that we made those concerns known while the Commission was doing its work--that is, when it could have made a difference. Why didn't you?
We could have used some more support back then, when we were fighting against individual commissioners' apparent and very possible conflicts of interest and the need for more hard-hitting hearings. We needed more help in fighting for an extended deadline, so as to remove the Commission's final report from the politics of the 2004 election, and a budgetary increase so the Commission could complete its unfinished work on questions about Able Danger. (You see, I did read your book.)
But frankly, I wonder how much you really know about the 9/11 Commission. You don't seem to understand that President Bush picked Tom Kean to be the chairman--not the "co-chairman." You don't seem to be aware that Philip Zelikow was the Commission's staff director or of why that position was so important. You also seem ignorant of the fact that Zelikow had served previously on the Bush National Security Council transition team and on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. (Do you even know who the current members of PFIAB are or what PFIAB does? Probably not.) I wonder whether you even know that Zelikow is currently serving as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Special Counsel. Finally, and most important, are you aware that the White House exercised the "final edits" on the Commission's report? Tell me, Ann, how does that add up to a Democratic whitewash?
Because I was one of twelve family members who lobbied fiercely for an independent commission, I was invited to meetings in the White House and on Capitol Hill. I testified before Congress, as well. I wish you knew about the battle that occurred behind the scenes because then you might not make silly statements such as "nobody could ever debate the Jersey Girls." Ironically, it is because we kept most of those meetings confidential that you probably don't know how nastily certain elected officials behaved behind closed doors. Trust me, we were countered, rebutted, and challenged in almost every meeting we attended. Did we go on the record about those incidents? No. We could have, and I can assure you that some of your conservative Republican friends would not have come off well.
When I kept my mouth shut about the way a certain Republican official spoke to me merely because it would have made people in your party look bad, was I being "political"? I'm sure there are some Democrats who would say yes. Did that mean I was being manipulated by your right-wing friends? No. It meant that I had a job to do and I found no reason to distract attention from our cause by dragging people through the mud. There was plenty that I could have spouted off about then, and there still is to this very day. But I don't--mostly because my mother and father taught me to rise above bullies rather than stoop to their level.
You branded the Jersey Girls media whores, a bunch of celebrity-seeking widows who enjoyed their husbands' deaths. Had your friends--including many elected officials in the Republican Party and conservatives in Washington--not put up a fight, and a very nasty fight, we wouldn't have needed to raise public awareness through the media. So if you want to blame anyone for our appearances on television, you should blame your own coterie, not us. We simply wanted to inform the nation about what needed to be done. And we still intend to do that.
Earlier this year, some of us were invited to appear on television to discuss the verdict in the Zacarias Moussaoui case. We agreed to do that because the U.S. has in custody three individuals with a more direct connection to the 9/11 attacks than Moussaoui. To us, it is important to show the world that we are a nation of laws and that the U.S. can successfully bring terrorists to justice. Does that matter to you, Ann? If so, then you ought to support us in our goal of bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Khallad bin Attash to trial. Our judicial process should hold these madmen accountable for the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.
I am truly puzzled by your accusation that we were operatives of or used by the Democrats. We were never paid for television appearances, we did not drive around in limos, we did not have publicists or PR people, and we wrote all of our own press releases, talking points, letters to the editor, statements, and testimony. (I don't know if the 9/11 family members who chose to support the Republican Party can say the same.) At any rate, your statements are false and defamatory, although that is nothing new for you.
As a public figure I'm in a poor position to hold you legally accountable for your lies. But I will take the time to set the record straight here. The Democrats were nearly the only people in Washington willing to help us. That is not my opinion; it is a fact, notwithstanding a few honorable exceptions, such as Chris Smith and John McCain. We worked with anyone of either party who supported an independent investigation.
For some unknown reason--and as a seasoned right-wing operative maybe you can enlighten us--most Republicans we encountered were completely opposed to learning any lessons from 9/11. It's a shame, too. After all, the Republican Party has been in total control of Washington for the past three years. Had they made true national security a higher priority, perhaps our cities would be better protected against terrorist attacks and disasters. Again, the sorry conditions in our cities and across our nation are a matter of fact, not opinion. Please don't blame me for that failure. Assign the responsibility where it belongs.
Similarly, one of the reasons we are still fighting for national security reforms (and encountered so much resistance in fighting for an independent commission) is that very few people actually read commission reports. They often sit on bookshelves gathering dust. Have you read the 9/11 Commission Report, along with its accompanying footnotes? Have you read the Robb-Silverman report on the Iraq intelligence failures? What about the Joint Inquiry of Congress report on 9/11? How about the Hart-Rudman report? Or even the Bremer report? Probably not. If you haven't, you should, because I think you would find those volumes illuminating.
You have expressed outrage that few of your critics actually read your books. You complain that they merely cherry-pick your most inflammatory comments while missing your overall message. Frustrating, isn't it?
You also wrongly accused us of being in the pocket of former president Clinton. The obvious reason for why we always directed our questions and requests to President Bush was simply because Clinton was no longer in office. The former president had no power to commence an investigation into the 9/11 attacks, nor did he have any power to effect change to make the nation safer after 9/11. That power lay in the hands of President Bush--you know, the guy who in your opinion has supreme authority.
Ann, I don't want to get into a debate with you. It's not because I am afraid of you or your nasty bullying tactics. I'm not going to debate you because we have many, many more important issues to deal with in our country right now.
But I will leave you with this: We live in America, the world's oldest democracy. Democracy can prevail (is that what you and your friends really fear?), but that requires hard work, as President Bush might say. Every citizen in this country is entitled to his or her beliefs, and every citizen is entitled to participate. We still have the right to speak our minds to effect change (within the parameters of the law, of course). So don't try to silence the voices of victims or anyone else, merely because you disagree with them or feel threatened by their political choices. In my opinion, your method of using intimidation and insults to "win" a debate is truly unpatriotic.
Actually, I expect that you will continue to scream and shout and smear as nastily as you want, so long as you think that that kind of behavior sells books. But we have tackled bigger bullies than you and lived through far worse circumstances than your book tour. We're not intimidated by you. We're not running away.
And under no circumstances will we be silenced by your "godless" rantings and ravings.
New York City