On 9/11/2001, George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Christine Todd Whitman sent a message to New York: Drop Dead.
The fallout now taints us all.
Amidst the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush and Giuliani saddled up their bullhorns and raced down to the smoldering World Trade Center to shout out a single "patriotic" demand: re-open the stock market!
And to hell with the health of the good citizens doing the clean-up. Ditto the rest of us downwind.
The public health outcome has now become visible: those brave and caring people who marched onto the site to do what needed to be done are starting to die in droves.
The New York Times says less than a third of them were wearing respirators. Giuliani is getting a long overdue bashing for letting this happen. With all his swagger, Rudy imposed a single demand above all: the Financial District must re-open. That people would die doing it was known but never mentioned. Giuliani had his priorities.
Bush's Environmental Protection Agency knew full well that the airborne fallout from the smoldering the World Trade Center was absolutely lethal.
Then headed by the "green" nuclear power advocate Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA knew the cancerous clouds pouring out of the site were a toxic brew of lethal chemicals, the likes of which the world had not seen since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
The WTC towers were among the last buildings to be lined with large quantities of asbestos, an infamous agent of lethal lung diseases, including cancer.
But they also contained countless computer screens, light fixtures, calculators, telephones, network servers, paging systems, copy machines and much more high-tech office equipment laden with mercury, lead, arsenic and too many other toxic metals to list here. The chlorine-laden plastics, carpeting, concrete, chemical cleaners, furniture, metal struts, window glass --all were pulverized and vaporized into a horrific cloud of murderous dioxins, furans, powdered glass and noxious soot whose killing powers were hideous.
Whitman, Giuliani and Bush were told all that --and then waged a conscious campaign to make sure the rest of us didn't find out. Our callous, corrupt, corporate-controlled media of course complied.
The upshot was a rapid "clean-up" of this horrific site. The first whirlwind we now reap is an escalating rate of sickness and death among those who did the work.
Contrary to law and common sense, most of the clean-up crews were allowed to work without protective garments and breathing devices. Years of investigations must now probe how available (and effective) this equipment really was, not only for those doing the grunt labor amidst the ashes, but also for the tens of thousands of good souls who came downtown to bring them food, coffee and consolation.
As the tragedies spread, so will the lawsuits. Whatever millions of private dollars might have been saved by the rapid re-opening of the Financial District will be paid for many times over with billions of public dollars to compensate the health costs of official negligence.
But there is far, far more. For all those who labored amidst the WTC rubble, thousands more proceeded to live their lives in Manhattan and elsewhere downwind with no warning of how dangerous it really was to merely breath the air there.
Whitman's EPA knew the particulate fallout that blanketed the region was extremely lethal. Tens of thousands of homes, businesses and public buildings were coated in toxic ash.
At very least, all downwind buildings should have been intensely monitored. Many should have been fitted with advanced filtration units. All carpeting, furniture, walls and fixtures should have been repeatedly tested and cleaned. And then cleaned again. And then cleaned yet again.
Some buildings might never have reopened. And the stock market might have stayed shut longer. Such things cost money.
But who can tell us now how many automobiles, subway cars, public buses, offices, living rooms, bedrooms, public spaces and infants' cradles were saturated with poisonous WTC powders? How many pregnant women breathed in nano-particles that crossed the placenta into the bodies of children now five or six years old?
What will become of these innocent victims of the Bush-Giuliani-Whitman decision to not warn the public of what was in our air, water and food?
In fact, the sick and dying WTC clean-up crews constitute the mere tip of a public health disaster made unforgivably worse by this willful and malicious official neglect.
The diseases and deaths now surfacing from the immediate WTC area are the barest of beginnings. They indicate that far more people will likely die from the toxic 9/11 fallout than perished in the buildings that horrible day.
Characteristically, soon after the WTC attacks, Bush attacked the Clean Air Act on behalf of Republican utility investors who would contribute his 2004 war chest.
And now Whitman pushes a "renaissance" of nuclear power plants. Reactor fallout is one of the few substances even more lethal than what spewed into New York amidst her criminal silence. Had those 9/11 jets crashed into the Indian Point reactors 45 miles north of the WTC, would she also have hidden the ensuing death toll?
Whatever the answer, she now peddles her EPA "credential" to push still more of those infernal, infinitely vulnerable machines, as if 9/11 never happened.
And Rudy Giuliani, the super patriot who put re-opening the stock market so far ahead of the health of his fellow Americans, wants to follow Bush into the White House. Perhaps those who find themselves in his presence should don respirators. Better late than never.
Bush, Giuliani and Whitman have built careers around their "patriotic" responses to 9/11/2001.
But countless New Yorkers --and other downwind Americans-- now suffer and die as a direct result of their irresponsible, self-serving negligence. It is a public debt that can never be repaid.
Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030 (www.solartopia.org). He is senior editor of www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared.