GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkKeith Olbermann's 9-11 Essay: This Hole In The Ground
10:16:26 PM

As I alluded to earlier, some of what I've been seeing and hearing in the past few days of lead-up to the 5th anniversary of 9-11 has made me quite angry. I'm not as angry as Keith Olbermann, however. This essay is a scorcher. He's an unapologetic left-wing critic of the Bush administration and you can even label him "far left" if you want, and I won't argue the point. If "This Hole In The Ground" is Olbermann going over the top, so be it. One thing you can be sure of is that it's genuine. The genuine anger comes across in the transcript, but even more so if you watch the video. This is what Ray Nagin would have said a few weeks ago if he was more articulate and was more willing to direct his anger where it really belongs. Although it centers on something much more symbolic than the very concrete things that have been building my anger these past few days, it hits the same mark -- dead on, at the source of my anger.

Transcript is here. Video here (but it may require you to install stuff you don't want, so you might want to look for it on YouTube over the next few days. Update: YouTube video is below.


Brief excerpts follow.

... of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful


When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

Udpate: It's on YouTube now.

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Comments :v

1. Chris Whisonant09/12/2006 07:17:24 AM

I think New York City has left that hole in the ground. It's pretty much that simple. They've gone back and forth on different plans, etc... but I guess even a building project in a single city is also the President's fault. Words can't describe...

2. Richard Schwartz09/12/2006 08:42:17 AM

@Chris: Words do describe, Chris. They describe brilliantly. It's known as symbolism. The hole in the ground is front and center, but it is the least important point in the essay. It exposes, via the metaphor of the hole in the ground, the symptoms of the massive mis-allocation of attention and resources this administration has committed, and the wasted opportunity that this administration has squandered. Instead of fighting terrorists, and instead of providing the leadership needed to both rebuild and make us stronger, this administration has pursued an expensive and horribly executed war in Iraq, based entirely on lies. Or based entirely on incompetence -- take your pick. The latest stance, taken by Cheney this weekend, boils down to "we were dead wrong in everything we said, but we were right in what we did". (If it weren't so infuriating, it would be laughable.) Instead of capitalizing on the bipartisanship and the support that was theirs for the taking after 9-11, and instead of undertaking the sacrifices needed to rebuild and (more importantly) to secure our country, and instead of capitalizing on international good will to fight a truly global war on terrorism and build alliances against future threats, what did we get? Consolidation of power in the executive, secret CIA prisons, rendition and indefinite detention, warrantless domestic spying, alliances that are destined to fall apart once the people of our allies get to have their say and replace their leaders, and egregious foreign policy mistakes whose repercussions will be felt for generations to come. There's plenty of blame to go around for that physical hole in the ground, Chris, but there's only one place to point for the whole sorry state of affairs that it symbolizes.

The administration was quick to capitalize on the symbolism of that hole in the ground in the days after 9-11, and as long as that hole in the ground remains they will undoubtedly continue to take whatever advantage of it that they can. That's not to say that they want it to remain forever or that they are directly responsbile for it still being there as a physical hole, but the metaphoric hole is their doing. What Olbermann is doing, Chris, is reclaiming the symbol, and showing what else it symbolizes. That's what words decribe.

3. Chris Whisonant09/12/2006 08:57:08 AM

Have we had another attack on US soil since 2001? "We are safer but not yet safe." Had your party done it's job for 8 years instead of appeasing the terrorists and considering it just a law and order problem, then we may not even be where we are now. So remember when you point a finger at "us" that 3 more are pointing back at "you"...

4. Chris Whisonant09/12/2006 09:01:15 AM

And for the record, here are Cheney's remarks from Meet the Press.

We have spent billions on homeland security. You can always find more you can spend funds on, but the fact of the matter is, I think we have done a pretty good job. And I don't know how you can explain five years of no attacks, five years of successful disruption of attacks, five years of defeating the efforts of al Qaeda to come back and kill more Americans. You have got to give some credence to the notion that maybe somebody did something right. I think we did. I think we did a lot right.

And I think part of what we did right was to take the fight to the enemy, to treat this as a war, not a law enforcement problem, which is the way these kinds of things had been treated before we arrived. To actively and aggressively go after the state sponsors of terror, as we did, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq. To aggressively go after those places where the terrorists might be able to lay their hands on that deadly technology they'd like to use in that next attack.

I think we got it right. I can't say it's perfect. Obviously, you can always look back and find things you'd like to do differently or do better. But on the broad overall strategic sweep of what we did, what we set out as our objectives, the strategy we pursued to get there, I think we have done a pretty good job.

Remember, too, that the Democrats haven't offered anything but rhetoric. That's partly why Kerry lost - he just said we need to do better and work with other nations. But he never actually gave a plan of action!

5. Greg Simmons09/12/2006 09:11:49 AM

Richard, I know you'll rail against me, but that's ok. Unfortunately, I believe the saddest thing in <i>OUR</i> post 9/11 world is all of the misplaced anger. The anger displayed by many on ALL sides of the argument, I believe is aimed at various politicians (President Bush, former President Clinton, Republicans, Democrats, etc) because the true target of the anger, Terrorism, is thus far untouchable. It is so easy to lash out at symbols that are tied to a specific event. To make <i>those people</i> "responsible" for what happened. To heap blame upon all those that have "done wrong". But where does that get us?

I used to think I was angry about the whole mess (9/11 to today), but I'm really just saddened that the terrorists have so far won. What better way to defeat our country than to create dissension among us? What better way to begin destroying our way of life than to infuse our lives with tension and unease?

Listen to Olberman's rant, listen to yours, listen to some of mine, listen to others....what do you hear? Anger, contempt, etc? But for event that was <b>5 YEARS AGO</b>. Why is that hole there? Because the American People have kept it there. It's in our hearts. We are angry at "THEM ", but "THEY" have no face. But our leaders do.

I believe we can't / won't move on until we choose to. Thus far we've chosen to wallow in our misery over it and scream, "It's THEIR fault!" Pick your "their".

Richard, the terrorists are still succeeding, they've created an enemy we will be hard pressed to defeat. Ourselves.

6. Bruce Perry09/12/2006 10:09:49 AM

@3, assuming that there have been no attacks since 9/11 due to president Bush's actions is a logical fallacy called false cause or "post hoc ergo prompter hoc". For example, the invisible magic dust I put on my server keeps it from crashing. My server has never crashed. Therefore, the dust works. Want to buy some?

Actually, a lot Homeland Security money has been misallocated. Per capita spending on security in rural red states is high. Per capita spending on big cities and major ports (including NYC, the site of 9/11) is low. Why aren't we defending areas experience has shown us are vulnerable?

7. Bruce Perry09/12/2006 10:11:16 AM

Forgot the details on false cause:

8. Richard Schwartz09/12/2006 10:13:51 AM

@3,4 Chris: It's a global war, right? That's what the President says. So it's not just attacks on our soil that matter. There have been successful attacks in Spain, in London, and elsewhere. And btw, I already have the MTP transcript bookmarked. I'll reserve my remarks on that for a post later -- the one I was planning all along to make ever since I remarked about my growing anger over the weekend. I held off on it on Sunday night, and the Olbermann essay served as a much better thing to highlight yesterday. If I have the time, I'll write what I need to say up tonight.

@5 Greg. You're absolutely right. They are succeeding. And the buck stops with our current leadership.

9. Timothy Briley09/12/2006 10:16:06 AM

So you're the one guy left watching Olbermann. His viewership is microscopic.

10. Greg Simmons09/12/2006 11:32:07 AM

@8 Unfortunately, you just proved my point. The blame game seems to be more important than moving forward.

The buck could've stopped at many points with various leaders. That's not the important thing here, unless blame is your focus.

Regardless of which side you're arguing, being an armchair President is sooooo easy. Also, hindsight is the only vision that's 20/20. To me it's only valid if you argue for or against the subject within the framework of the time, NOT based on hindsight.

11. Richard Schwartz09/12/2006 01:51:08 PM

@9: No question that O'Reilly is still way ahead, but your view of the "one guy left" is ridiculous. Olbermann is not losing audience at all. His ratings are up 37% year-to-year. O'Reilly's are down 20% or 24% depending on what source you use.

12. Richard Schwartz09/12/2006 02:07:23 PM

@10: Well, let's see. The offered choices are "stay the course" or "change course". You agree that the terrorists are winning. That means that our course is wrong. We can either stay on it, and keep letting the terrorists win, or change the course, fight the right war in the right way, and defeat them. We can blame past mistakes by past administrations all we want for the fact that we ended up vulnerable in the first place, but that won't change the course we're on now, will it? Many administrations share the blame for letting us become vulnerable, starting back with Truman, or maybe even with Wilson! But only one administration deserves blame for our current course.

Unless the current administration admits the need to change the course, which to date they haven't done, the only choice for those who actually want to win is to get them kicked out of office. Pointing out all that they have done wrong -- you can call it blame... I don't care -- is a necessary part of that political process.

Perhaps you'd be happy with a friendlier, no blame being thrown around, nation. Do you think we'd be safer? Do you think the administration would do a better job if there was no opposition to any of their policies? There are two possible words to describe that situation. One is "utopia" -- perfect society led by perfect leaders. We're not there. Very clearly we're not there. The other is "dictatorship". We're not there, either.

Where we are is Democracy. It isn't always pretty, particularly in a time of great stress. Blame is part of it.

13. Greg Simmons09/12/2006 02:52:28 PM

@10 Richard, now you are arguing on my behalf? Never did I say our course was wrong. Did I?

I believe that we are on the right course as far as fighting terrorism is concerned. Like I said, being an armchair President (Administration) is easy. I hope your chair is comfortable.

"...fight the right war in the right way..." Huh? I've heard that phrase so often that it's wearing thin. No one who utters that phrase ever provides an alternate course...including in this case.

The other strange thing about this whole thread is the assumption that the Administration is all powerful and is responsible for everything that has happened. Oddly enough, if my Government classes were right, through the concept of the "Balance of Power", it would seem that Congress would carry "blame" here too.

14. Greg Simmons09/12/2006 02:53:42 PM

@ 12...

What a visit to the dentist can do!

15. Bruce Perry09/12/2006 03:26:02 PM

@13, I suspect you're just not paying attention. Plenty of people have ideas on how to fight the war better. Some of them are even in the army and have had a chance to try their ideas. HR McMaster, for example, of the 3rd armored cavalry worked with local leaders and achieved significant local success. His reward, if I'm remembering correctly, was to be promoted out of Iraq to Germany.

If you'd like an itemized list of what's been done wrong in Iraq and might be done differently, try this book

They had an opportunity to do it right, refused to listen to the professionals, and have given us the results we are reaping now.

Want more examples of things we could do better? How about better security for chemical plants and nuclear plants? How about helping the Russians decommision nuclear and chemical weapons?

16. Richard Schwartz09/12/2006 04:38:24 PM

@13 Greg, you said in @5 "I'm really just saddened that the terrorists have so far won". From that, I presumed you thought we are on the wrong course. I'm sorry for that misinterpretation, but it sure doesn't seem logical to me that you think the terrorists are winning but we're on the right course.

Regarding Congress shouldering some of the blame, you won't get any disagreement from me on that. Throw those bums out, too. I don't know if we can unseat our two GOP representatives here in NH, but I cast my primary vote today in an uncontested Dem race for purely symbolic reason: to affirm ahead of time that I'll do all I possibly can to try and unseat them.

17. Jon Johnston09/15/2006 01:14:06 PM

The back and forth comments on this are why five years later there's still a hole in the ground. It's why NOLA is still a complete mess.

We'd rather all argue about blame and talk rather than do something. It's what America is all about. Talk, blog, rant, rave, blather on, rather than build anything.

At least we have someone else other than ourselves to blame - the other side.

18. chenyingying12/01/2016 09:24:00 PM

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