View Full Version : For A Moment, 9/11 Widow Not Alone

04-25-2005, 08:59 PM
For a moment, 9/11 widow not alone

Monday, April 25, 2005 - 06:30 PM

by Bob Braun -- Monday, April 25, 2005

WASHINGTON --Speaking truth to power can be fearful, futile and frustrating. Power has a way of winning, even over truth. That's why it's called power.

Yet there are moments -- bright, shiny, and, sadly, often illusory moments -- when truth, or those who try to speak it, seem to enjoy a little glory. It happened to Kristen Breitweiser of Middletown at a ceremony here the other day.

She won an award, a "truth-telling" award, for her work in lobbying for the creation of the 9/11 commission. "The entire world needs to know," said U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who introduced her at the awards luncheon at the National Press Club, "that there is not a more courageous and fearless lady than Kristen Breitweiser."

Breitweiser, whose husband, Ron, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, is probably the best known of the so-called "Jersey Widows" or "Jersey Girls." The others are Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, and Patty Casazza, who recently moved to New York from Colts Neck.

There would not have been a 9/11 commission without the work of these widows and others who joined them. And, disappointing as the panel's work was, it would have been even less informative without the pressure they applied to its members.

"I simply wanted to know the truth of why my husband died," said Breitweiser, who has a 5-year-old daughter.

It's difficult now, after two years of revelations and the publication of the commission report, to appreciate how much was learned of that day because of the widows' work. The warnings, the bungling, the failed intelligence, the lapses in airport security, the inept defense, the confused emergency response, the firefighters' nonworking radios.

And it's difficult to accept much is still unknown, a point made by Breitweiser, who noted, while Congress held hearings on steroids in baseball, it would not on why the Federal Aviation Administration failed to heed more than 50 warnings about terrorist hijackings -- a detail of extraordinary import omitted by the 9/11 commission.

There was something about the awards ceremony that was both inspirational and discouraging. Breitweiser was in extraordinary company. Honored, too, was Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker journalist who broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam 36 years ago -- and the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq just last year.

In the audience were Daniel Ellsberg, a past winner of the same award, whose leak of the Pentagon papers may have changed the course of American history -- and certainly changed constitutional law. There, too, was another award recipient -- Joseph Wilson, the former diplomat whose fact-finding trip to Africa for the Central Intelligence Agency revealed that, despite the assertions of our government, Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not buy nuclear materials from Niger.

What they all have in common is not only their willingness to reveal truth, but also demonization by the political right. As if the revelations about My Lai, Abu Ghraib, the origins of the Vietnam war, and the failure of intelligence about Iraq -- the revelations, not the reality -- were, at worst, unpatriotic, or, at best, partisan acts.

The attacks on Breitweiser began midway in the work of the 9/11 commission when conservative columnists and radio commentators denounced her and other widows for their criticism of President Bush's initial refusal to cooperate with the panel.

Now inured to such attacks, Breitweiser was worried when it began. The young woman, who said she voted for Bush in 2000, left her home for a while, fearful she and her daughter might become targets.

"I don't understand," she said back then. Repeatedly.

Breitweiser, 33, is a much different woman now. Savvier, less fearful, more cynical -- and more political. The self-described "stay-at-home mom" -- she's also a lawyer but never practiced -- joined the Kerry campaign, along with other 9/11 widows.

The award itself came from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute, affiliated with The Nation magazine, a journal of the left. Calvin Trillin, the essayist who writes satirical poetry for The Nation, whimsically described it at the lunch as "pinko" -- a characterization that would be seconded by the publication's critics on the right.

So the truth of 9/11 -- like the truth of My Lai and Abu Ghraib and so many other events of contemporary history -- has been transformed into the stuff of political debate.

That's a loss for all of us. Avoiding another disaster like 9/11 requires a steely objectivity, a rigorous analysis, independent action. Partisanship is an opaque lens, an unreliable vehicle for action, a confused guide.

But don't blame Breitweiser or the other widows, most of whom were, like her, suburban Republicans before their husbands were killed. What might have trumped the almost inevitable partisanship, what might have stanched the debate, was the publication of a strong and courageous report from the 9/11 commission.

A report that itself spoke a powerful truth to power.

It didn't happen.

Bob Braun's columns appear Monday and Thursday. He can be reached at rjbraun@webspan.net or (973) 392-4281.

© 2005 The Star Ledger
© 2005 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

It should be noted that the Nation magazine published a rather negative review of David Ray Griffin's first book, The New Pearl Harbor. And now here the Nation honors Hersh who has done some excellent 9/11 investigative journalism without themselves ever having followed any of the trails identified in the New Pearl Harbor. Worse yet, their man David Corn who attended many of the 9/11 Commission hearings has not dared touch the many omissions and distortions so well documented in Griffin's second book, "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions & Distortions" nor has The Nation. Shame. They follow the 9/11 Commission in their refusal to fully examine the large body of evidence that now shreds the official story of 9/11 and demands that we look within to powerful complicit forces in those attacks and the policies which fostered and protected Al-Qaeda.

See: http://www.interlinkbooks.com/Books_/911CommRep.html
See: http://www.interlinkbooks.com/BooksW/war_on_truth.html

Kudos to Kristin and her colleagues on the Family Steering Committee (FSC and all who helped get the Commission established. Let's hear from them again now that we know the Commission failed to get it right and failed to answer MOST of the FSC questions (this, according to Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken themselves). Enough about draconian or 'feel good' recommendations that only reshuffle a corrupt deck, it's time for real answers to the question the Commission refused to address. It's time for hearings on the Hill by members who have the courage to stand up and simple tell the truth: The 9/11 Commission failed in its primary mandate: "The provide a full accounting of the facts and circumstances surrounding the attacks of September 11th" and they failed to follow the 'road map' that Commissioner Gorelick said they families had provided them in their very comprehensive questions.