Biden Speaks at Shanksville Memorial

Vice President Joe Biden spoke this morning in Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed eleven years ago.  I wasn’t invited to cover the event (again, I suppose criticizing this President for war crimes and civil liberty violations gets you knocked out of events).  Two years ago I got up at 2 AM and drove the four hours to cover First Lady Michelle Obama in Shanksville and it was a sobering experience.  I interviewed some family members of those who perished that day as the nation was attacked by Al Qaeda.

We also should commemorate the awful American supported terrorism in Chile which happened on this date years earlier.  On September 11, 1973 freely elected Socialist President Salvadore Allende was overthrown in a violent coup backed by the CIA and overseen by Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Augusto Pinochet was put in power and 60,000 Chileans were executed or “disappeared” for political activity.  What happened to us on 9/11 should be kept in perspective with what we’ve done elsewhere.  When attacks like the World Trade Center are done and Americans ask “why do they hate us?” this is one of the many answers.

Pinochet was a brutal dictator who murdered scores of his fellow citizens.  On his deathbed in London, justice was finally served and he was extradited for war crimes.  The entire CIA operation which helped put him in power was done for U.S. multinational business interests.  IT&T was infamous this time as Ford Motor Co. was in neighboring Argentina.

The Vice President’s remarks today:



Flight 93 National Memorial

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

10:30 A.M. EDT

    THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Superintendent — Jeff, you’ve done a remarkable job here.  And the thing I notice when I speak to you about is you’re invested in this place.  It sort of has a — sort of stolen a piece of your heart.  And that’s why I’m confident that all that you plan will happen.

    Patrick, you’re keeping the flame alive, and keeping the families together is — from my experience, I imagine you all find solace in seeing one another.  There’s nothing like being able to talk with someone who you know understands.

    And it’s an honor — it’s a genuine honor to be back here today.  But like all of the families, we wish we weren’t here.  We wish we didn’t have to be here.  We wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this.  And it’s a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today.

    Last year, the nation and all of your family members that are here commemorated the 10th anniversary of the heroic acts that gave definition to what has made America such a truly exceptional place — the individual acts of heroism of ordinary people in moments that could not have been contemplated, but yet were initiated.

    I also know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous a day in your life, for each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary.  For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns; the lingering echo of that phone call; that sense of total disbelief that envelops you, where you feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.

    My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch.  And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him.  For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face.  You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips.  And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

    I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten.  They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.  And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever.  That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional.  And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.

    I said last year my mom used to have an expression.  She’d say, Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and someday it will be summoned.  It’s remarkable — remarkable — how it was not only summoned, but acted on.

    Today we stand on this hallowed ground, a place made sacred by the heroism and sacrifice of the passengers and the crew of Flight 93.  And it’s as if the flowers, as I walked here, as if the flowers were giving testament to how sacred this ground is.

    My guess — and obviously it’s only a guess; no two losses are the same.  But my guess is you’re living this moment that Yeats only wrote about, when he wrote, pray I will and sing I must, but yet I weep.  Pray I will, sing I must, but yet I weep.

    My personal prayer for all of you is that in every succeeding year, you’re able to sing more than you weep.  And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.


Kelly: Contraception the New Pearl Harbor, 9/11

Don’t you love these religious zealots who think they use their religious freedom to curtail your rights?  Mike Kelly, a car dealer who is now the Congressman for northwestern Pennsylvania equated contraception with both Pearl harbor and 9/11 today.  Maybe Missa Eaton can send him back to ripping off consumers instead of insulting our intelligence.

Birth control has given women control over their lives, allowed them to gain some measure of equality and escape a life of being pregnant constantly.  It has enabled women to be in the workforce, have professional lives while also being able to engage in healthy sex without worry.  The pill liberated women.  Mandating that health plans cover contraception the same way they cover Viagra seems logical.   Congressman Kelly, in his Dark Ages mindset, disagrees.  Small minds make bad Congressmen.

“I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked,” he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “One is Dec. 7, that’s Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that’s the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

9/11: A Retrospective

The tenth anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks upon us is the proper time to take stock of the last decade and evaluate our responses, our victories and our failures.  They were mostly failures.  The only good thing which came out of that fateful day was the sense of unity and purpose which united all Americans in our shock and grief.  Unfortunately that was exploited for blatant political exploitation by the Bush Administration.

As we examine the criminal acts perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden’s crew the first question we must ask is why we responded militarily instead of legally.  These were criminal acts and not acts of war.  Only sovereign states can initiate acts of war and no sovereign state was directly invovled in 9/11.  Afghanistan’s role was minor actually and the devastation we’ve wrought in that nation for ten years is entirely out of proportion to their culpability.

When we look at how we should have acted the lesson of India and Mumbai is the proper course.  Rather than running off in heated fashion and dropping bombs they treated their 9/11 attacks as a criminal matter and brought the perpetrators to justice.  The appetite for violence and war in America and our culture drove us to violence.  We set off to destroy every country possible and mangled each effort.  We destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and made thousands of new enemies in the process.

We ruined our reputation as a freedom loving people spending $4 trillion on a failed invasion of Iraq where we slaughtered a million civilians and displaced another four million.  We invaded Afghanistan and created the world’s largest drug state enriching warlords and creating a government which may be the most corrupt in history.  We have fostered environments for raising anti-American extremists with every new drone attack and now have several hundred thousand Americans in a nation with less than 100 active Al Qaeda.

The way we went about our responses to 9/11 were stupid, counter effective and dangerous to our long term strategic national security.  We opened an off shore torture center in Cuba and rendered prisoners to the likes of Ghaddafi and Assad for torture.  Now we have the gall to condemn them for their brutality.  We sided with Somali warlords against their own people and now we have pirates hijacking our merchant ships.  We destroyed our own freedoms and liberties because we were told 9/11 happened because “they hated our freedoms.”  I suppose shredding the Bill of Rights is going to make us safer?

Now the President can order the assassination of an American citizen.  He/she can order the indefinite detention of a citizen without habeas corpus, a lawyer, a right to a fair trial or any trial at all.  The state can enter your home and search without any probable cause you committed a crime.  All of your communications are intercepted and searched for key words.  Your financial transactions are open for government examination and privacy is a thing of the past.  They can even attach a gps to your vehicle and track all of your whereabouts without a court order.   Welcome to post 9/11 America:  Big Brother Nation.

This was all done under the insult of having “a pre-9/11 mentality” if you opposed the ending of liberty.  “Patriots” dared even to wrap themselves around a flag (not the stars and stripes by the way) and claim to be defending those freedoms they just removed.  They stood on the constitution as their leaders trashed it.  Anyone who stood up and opposed these dictatorial new powers was branded a traitor by their corporate owned media which grandstanded all of the wars, all of the evils and all of the tyrannies newly inflicted post 9/11.

Osama Bin Laden’s strategy was to bankrupt America the way he drove the Soviet Union into the annals of history.  Thus far he has succeeded.  Instead of spending $4 trillion rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports, mass transit, water and sewer systems, broadband access, electrical grids and clean energy sources we pissed it down the black holes of Iraq and Afghanistan.  We enriched warlords instead and turned a blind eye as heroin production flooded our streets and poisoned our youth.

We turned thousands of young Americans into paraplegics, inflicted TBI and PTSD on them and now will be faced with caring them for them for the next fifty years instead of building our nation and expanding our horizons.  We supported corrupt governments which ave alienated their own populations against us, dropped bombs on countless civilians and killed women and children in the name of saving their souls.

Meanwhile our corporations reported record profits facilitating the war effort.  We privatized our military making war an international profit making enterprise for which no end is on sight.  We now depend on private contractors open to the highest bidder for our national security, corporations without loyalty to any state, any people, any cause other than profit.  No wonder we have endless war when there are endless profits to be earned?

These are the legacies of 9/11.  This is post 9/11 America.  It didn’t have to be.  We could have chosen the path India took and we could have lived up to our ideals and remained that shining light on the hill.  Instead we chose, and proudly did so, to extinguish everything for which we built, designed and sought for as a nation.  When those towers fell so did America.  Bin Laden won because he destroyed who we were and bankrupted us as a country.

The next ten years we face a decision:  do we pursue more of the same or do we finally stand back, examine what has failed and choose a smarter course of action?  Do we invest in our own country or continue pouring trillions into the fat bank accounts of warlords?  Do we continue supporting failed wars and failed puppets or do we choose instead to focus on our own failing state?  These are serious questions but no one seems to be asking them.

I remember being in Shanksville last year and talking with the families of those who perished on Flight 93.  They deserved better.

Bin Laden Won

Osama Bin Laden may be dead and his remains dispersed in the sea but he has won his war against America.  When the United States defaults on its debt August 15th (this is when $500 billion of Treasury Bonds come due) he will have succeeded in his goal of bankrupting our country.  At that point “backward” Afghans and Arabs will have brought down both world superpowers.

The Al Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001 were aimed precisely at particular targets chosen because of their significance:  The Pentagon and the World Trade Center.  The Defense establishment was a target because the U.S. had been initiating numerous wars and invasions (Panama, Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc) and stationed troops in Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia.  America’s history of military adventurism, something Republicans call “American Exceptionalism, from Cuba to the Philippines to Mexico have angered the rest of the world’s people’s to no end.  Osama’s choosing of The Pentagon for one of his targets was not by accident.

The economic and financial imperialism and tyranny centered in New York and forced on dozens of countries through IMF and World Bank austerity is why the World Trade Center was attacked.  Wall Street bankers have a long record of enabling American companies, backed by the CIA, to destabilize and take over foreign nations and make thousands of progressives, labor union leaders and others “disappear” (read The Shock Doctrine for details).  Standing very high on the southern tip of Manhattan Island the twin towers were a far better particular target for Bin Laden than, say, the Goldman Sachs building.

The long range goal of those infamous planes was the American economy.  Osama wanted to bankrupt the United States.  George W. Bush readily cooperated by launching not one, but two, wars which he stupidly chose to finance rather than raise taxes for which to pay.  Americans at the time would have willingly agreed to pay but the moron in the White House told us to go shopping instead.

Now the bills for these wars is coming due and Americans are refusing to pay.  Is it just because Bin Laden is dead and we think we can walk out on the obligation?  Do we think we’re too good to pay our bill?  The massive deficit run up by the last three Republican presidents (Reagan, GHW Bush and George W Bush) with tax cuts and adventurous wars comprises 93% of our total national debt.  Republicans refuse to tax the rich to pay for their wars though and are preparing to default.

The poor already paid for those wars, “exercises”, invasions and actions.  They paid with their lives, their limbs, their sanity, their blood.  Each one brought new investment opportunities for American corporations and their rich shareholders.  The bill is now due and it is time to pay.  You however are being shouldered with the bill.  You, if you aren’t filthy rich, will be taking the brunt of the bill through decreased government programs, educations cuts, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts and even Veteran Services.  Those poor souls crippled in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama and elsewhere will see less care and coverage for their war injuries.  Heck, someone has to pay and the rich refuse.

Osama Bin Laden is smiling somewhere.

Bush/Cheney Made 9/11 Political

The killing of Osama Bin Laden Friday and announced last night is political.  Though it is a victory for America George W Bush and Dick Cheney also made it a victory for Obama and Democrats.  They did it by politicizing 9/11.  Their 2004 presidential campaign was all about making 9/11 political and in one infamous campaign stop VP Cheney told the nation that the election of Democrat John Kerry would endanger us all.

“If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again — that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney said.

Even today Karl Rove took credit for the kill for Bush claiming that he gave the kill order.  His faulty logic is based on the assumption that President Obama simply “reaffirmed” the order.  Obviously George W Bush wasn’t in the Oval Office last week to give the command order to launch the Navy Seals operation which killed Bin Laden aka “Geronimo.”  The message “Geronimo KIA” went to Obama, not Bush.  If you use Rove’s insane logic then one must credit Bill Clinton with the kill since he first gave an order to kill OBL.

Democrats didn’t politicize 9/11 Bush and Cheney did.

Bush didn’t prioritize getting Bin laden after allowing his escape in Tora Bora.  “I don’t spend much time on him” was this quote in 2002:

Bush was mostly interested in creating endless war to provide as total a control package for himself as Commander in Chief, enrich his rich campaign donors in the defense industry and funnel those profits back to GOP campaigns.  killing Bin Laden was counter to his agenda so it didn’t happen.  Barack Obama made getting the Al Qaeda leader the foremost priority of the war in Afghanistan.  In doing so he proved Cheney’s lie.  It took a Democratic President to get Osama.  He’s no longer Bin Forgotten.

Bin Laden Press Briefing

I was watching the Phillies-Mets game when a push notification came into mu iPhone saying President Obama would be making an unusual late night announcement on TV.  My immediate thought was that we’d killed Ghaddaffi in the recent strike in Libya.  A few minutes later I got another notification via NBC News that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  That was soon confirmed by other multiple sources and the White House Media Affairs Office notified me there would be a background press briefing.  Background means no one can be identified personally, the information can only be attributed to “Senior White House officials.”  In an unusual move the White House has provided a transcript of the call this morning.  The first part is basic background so I’ll go directly to the meat of the information for you:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As you heard, the President ordered a raid earlier today against an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Based on intelligence collection analysis, a small U.S. team found Osama bin Laden living in a large home on a secured compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad.  The raid occurred in the early morning hours in Pakistan and accomplished its objective.  Osama bin Laden is now no longer a threat to America.

    This remarkable achievement could not have happened without persistent effort and careful planning over many years.  Our national security professionals did a superb job.  They deserve tremendous credit for serving justice to Osama bin Laden.

    Bin Laden was a sworn enemy of the United States and a danger to all humanity; a man who called for the murder of any American anywhere on Earth.  His death is central to the President’s goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda and its violent allies.  He was responsible for killing thousands of innocent men and women not only on 9/11, but in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombing, the attack of the USS Cole, and many other acts of brutality.

    He was the leader of a violent extremist movement with affiliates across the globe that had taken up arms against the United States and its allies.  Bin Laden’s most influential role has been to designate the United States as al Qaeda’s primary target and to maintain organizational focus on that objective.  This strategic objective, which was first made in a 1996 declaration of jihad against Americans, was the cornerstone of bin Laden’s message.

    Since 9/11, multiple agencies within our intelligence community have worked tirelessly to track down bin Laden, knowing that his removal from al Qaeda would strike a crippling blow to the organization and its militant allies.  And last September the President was made aware of a compound in Abbottabad, where a key al Qaeda facilitator appeared to be harboring a high-value target.  He received regular intelligence updates, as was just mentioned, on the compound in September, and he directed that action be taken as soon as he concluded that the intelligence case was sufficiently strong.  A range of options for achieving the mission were developed, and on Friday he authorized the operation.

    Now I’ll turn it to my colleagues to go through the intelligence.

    SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  First I want to point out that today’s success was a team effort.  It was a model of really seamless collaboration across our government.  Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us, and today, in this critical operation, we were able to finally deliver.

    The operation itself was the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work.  Officers from the CIA, the NGA, the NSA all worked very hard as a team to analyze and pinpoint this compound.  Together they applied their very unique expertise and capabilities to America’s most vexing intelligence problem, where to find bin Laden.

    When the case had been made that this was a critical target, we began to prepare this mission in conjunction with the U.S. military.  In the end, it was the matchless skill and courage of these Americans that secured this triumph for our country and the world.  I’m very proud of the entire team that worked on this operation, and am very thankful to the President for the courage that he displayed in making the decision to proceed with this operation.

    With that, let me turn to my colleague to give you details on the intelligence background.

This is long so click below for the rest.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target.  The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist that was hiding there was Osama bin Laden.

    What I’d like to do is walk you through the key points in that intelligence trail that led us to that conclusion.  From the time that we first recognized bin Laden as a threat, the CIA gathered leads on individuals in bin Laden’s inner circle, including his personal couriers.  Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan.

    One courier in particular had our constant attention.  Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.

    Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden.  They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden.  But for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location.

    Four years ago, we uncovered his identity, and for operational reasons, I can’t go into details about his name or how we identified him, but about two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated.  Still we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived, due to extensive operational security on their part.  The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.

    Then in August 2010, we found their residence, a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad.  The area is relatively affluent, with lots of retired military.  It’s also insolated from the natural disasters and terrorist attacks that have afflicted other parts of Pakistan.  When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw — an extraordinarily unique compound.  The compound sits on a large plot of land in an area that was relatively secluded when it was built.  It is roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.

    When the compound was built in 2005, it was on the outskirts of the town center, at the end of a narrow dirt road.  In the last six years, some residential homes have been built nearby.  The physical security measures of the compound are extraordinary.  It has 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire.  Internal wall sections — internal walls sectioned off different portions of the compound to provide extra privacy.  Access to the compound is restricted by two security gates, and the residents of the compound burn their trash, unlike their neighbors, who put the trash out for collection.

    The main structure, a three-story building, has few windows facing the outside of the compound.  A terrace on the third floor has a seven-foot wall privacy — has a seven-foot privacy wall.

    It’s also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it.  The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.

    Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance.  We soon learned that more people were living at the compound than the two brothers and their families.  A third family lived there — one whose size and whose makeup matched the bin Laden family members that we believed most likely to be with Osama bin Laden.  Our best assessment, based on a large body of reporting from multiple sources, was that bin Laden was living there with several family members, including his youngest wife.

    Everything we saw — the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior, and the location and the design of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like.  Keep in mind that two of bin Laden’s gatekeepers, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, were arrested in the settled areas of Pakistan.

Our analysts looked at this from every angle, considering carefully who other than bin Laden could be at the compound.  We conducted red team exercises and other forms of alternative analysis to check our work.  No other candidate fit the bill as well as bin Laden did.

So the final conclusion, from an intelligence standpoint, was twofold.  We had high confidence that a high-value target was being harbored by the brothers on the compound, and we assessed that there was a strong probability that that person was Osama bin Laden.

Now let me turn it over to my colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Earlier this afternoon, a small U.S. team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound.  Considerable planning helped prepare our operators for this very complex mission.  Senior officials have been involved in the decision-making and planning for this operation for months, and briefed the President regularly.  My colleague has already mentioned the unusual characteristics of this compound.  Each of these, including the high walls, security features, suburban location, and proximity to Islamabad made this an especially dangerous operation.

The men who executed this mission accepted this risk, practiced to minimize those risks, and understood the importance of the target to the national security of the United States.

I know you understand that I can’t and won’t get into many details of this mission, but I’ll share what I can.  This operation was a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimize collateral damage and to pose as little risk as possible to non-combatants on the compound or to Pakistani civilians in the neighborhood.

Our team was on the compound for under 40 minutes and did not encounter any local authorities while performing the raid.  In addition to Osama bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid.  We believe two were the couriers and the third was bin Laden’s adult son.

There were several women and children at the compound.  One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant.  Two other women were injured.

During the raid, we lost one helicopter due to mechanical failure.  The aircraft was destroyed by the crew and the assault force and crew members boarded the remaining aircraft to exit the compound.  All non-combatants were moved safely away from the compound before the detonation.

That’s all I have at this time.  I’ll turn it back to my colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan.  That was for one reason and one reason alone:  We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel.  In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance.

Shortly after the raid, U.S. officials contacted senior Pakistani leaders to brief them on the intent and the results of the raid.  We have also contacted a number of our close allies and partners throughout the world.

Sine 9/11, the United States has made it clear to Pakistan that we would pursue bin Laden wherever he might be.  Pakistan has long understood that we are at war with al Qaeda.  The United States had a legal and moral obligation to act on the information it had.

And let me emphasize that great care was taken to ensure operational success, minimize the possibility of non-combatant casualties, and to adhere to American and international law in carrying out the mission.

I should note that in the wake of this operation, there may be a heightened threat to the homeland and to U.S. citizens and facilities abroad.  Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden’s death, and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the United States.  But the United States is taking every possible precaution to protect Americans here at home and overseas.  The State Department has sent guidance to embassies worldwide and a travel advisory has been issued for Pakistan.

And without a doubt, the United States will continue to face terrorist threats.  The United States will continue to fight those threats.  We have always understood that this fight would be a marathon and not a sprint.

There’s also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.  It is a major and essential step in bringing about al Qaeda’s eventual destruction.

Bin Laden was al Qaeda’s only (inaudible) commander in its 22-year history, and was largely responsible for the organization’s mystique, its attraction among violent jihadists, and its focus on America as a terrorist target.  As the only al Qaeda leader whose authority was universally respected, he also maintained his cohesion, and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is far less charismatic and not as well respected within the organization, according to comments from several captured al Qaeda leaders.  He probably will have difficulty maintaining the loyalty of bin Laden’s largely Gulf Arab followers.

Although al Qaeda may not fragment immediately, the loss of bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.

    And finally, it’s important to note that it is most fitting that bin Laden’s death comes at a time of great movement towards freedom and democracy that is sweeping the Arab world.  He stood in direct opposition to what the greatest men and women throughout the Middle East and North Africa are risking their lives for:  individual rights and human dignity.

    MR. VIETOR:  With that we’re ready to take a couple questions.

    Q    One question.  You said “a small U.S. team.”  Were these military personnel, can you say, or non-military?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Can’t go into further details at this time; just a small U.S. team.

Q    Good morning.  Can you tell us specifically what contact there was with bin Laden at the compound?  You referred to someone using a woman as a shield that was not bin Laden.  But how was he killed?  Where?  What occurred at the compound?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As the President said this evening, bin Laden was killed in a firefight as our operators came onto the compound.

Q    Thank you.  Just to go back to what you were talking about with the attacks in response to this operation, are you hearing any specific threats against specific targets?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No.  But any type of event like this, it is very prudent for us to take measures so that we can ensure that the security measures that we need to institute here and throughout the world are in place.  This is just something that we normally would do.  We don’t have any specific threats at this time related to this.  But we are ensuring that every possible precaution is taken in advance.

Q    Yes, hey, how are you doing?  My question would be, what was the type of the helicopter that failed?  And what was the nature of that mechanical failure?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Can’t go into details at this time.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We didn’t say it was mechanical.  

Q    Was bin Laden involved in firing himself or defending himself?  And then any chronology of the raid itself?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  He did resist the assault force.  And he was killed in a firefight.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you for taking this call.  Can you give me a comment on the very fact that Osama bin Laden was just in Islamabad — and has long been (inaudible) Afghanistan (inaudible) also from India, that Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere near Islamabad?  What does it signify, that?  Does it signify any cooperation or any kind of link that he had with establishments in Pakistan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As the President said, Pakistani cooperation had assisted in this lead, as we pursued it.  So we’re continuing to work this issue right now.  We are very concerned about — that he was inside of Pakistan, but this is something that we’re going to continue to work with the Pakistani government on.

Q    But the very fact you didn’t inform the Pakistani authorities — did you have any suspicion that if you informed them, the information might lead somewhere?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  An operation like this that is conducted has the utmost operational security attached to it.  I said that we had shared this information with no other country, and that a very, very small group of individuals within the United States government was aware of this.  That is for operational security purposes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would also just add to that that President Obama, over a period of several years now, has repeatedly made it clear that if we had actionable intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, we would act.  So President Obama has been very clear in delivering that message publicly over a period of years.  And that’s what led President Obama to order this operation.  When he determined that the intelligence was actionable and the intelligence case was sufficient, he gave us high confidence that bin Laden indeed was at the compound.

Q    Thank you.  What is going to happen next?  And what is the U.S. going to do with bin Laden’s body?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.  This is something that we take very seriously.  And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.

MR. VIETOR:  Great, thanks.  Just to remind everyone, this call is on background, as senior administration officials.  We have time for one more question, and we’re going to go to bed.

Q    Do you have a sense of the vintage of the compound and how long bin Laden had been there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The compound has been in existence for roughly five years, but we don’t know how long bin Laden lived there.  We assess that the compound was built for the purpose of harboring him.  But again, don’t know how long he’s been there.

MR. VIETOR:  Great, thank you all.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.

                     END            12:24 A.M. EDT

oh yes, the Mets won in 14 innings 2-1.

Update:  As more information comes to light we know the operation was conducted yesterday by about 25 Navy Seals.  One helicopter crashed during the operation.  A woman used as a shield was killed.  How brave was it to grab a woman and try to use her to keep from getting shot?  This sort of tells us exactly what sort of men with which we were dealing.

Osama’s body was prepared and buried in the North Arabian Sea.  Pictures were taken.  Obama decided against an earlier missile attack so there would be proof of death.  The insane controversy over his birth certificate. reportedly was a factor in that decision.  It might have been impossible to convince the crazies that Osama had actually been killed.  Unfortunately this put soldiers at risk.

Once the courier was established it took tradecraft to follow him over months and determine the location of the compound.  Then it took months of surveillance to establish OBL’s presence there.  Inmates at Gitmo were questioned about the identity of the courier and it was learned he was a trusted confidant of OBL.  It seems torture wasn’t needed to gain this valuable intelligence.

Once the compound was ID’d the fact it was without phone or internet in spite of its size and nature were red flags.  Bin Laden knew he had to eliminate any communications chatter which could be intercepted by the NSA.  What this did was necessitate couriers.  Finding him was a matter of finding them and tracking them to the compound.  Old fashioned spycraft.

Afghanistan: Mission Accomplished

Eight years from the day CinC George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq the mission in Afghanistan finally ended with the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Senior White House officials held an unusual late night conference call to brief the press tonight.

Bin Laden, often referred to as Osama Bin Forgotten because Bush diverted the nation’s military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts to Iraq instead of pursuing the actual mastermind of 9/11, has been declared dead by President Barack Obama.

An initial report from reliable Producer Matthew on Twitter says a CIA attack outside Islamabad, Pakistan killed 25 people including Bin Laden.  Islamabad is a major Pakistani city and it is likely the country’s intelligence agency, longtime close allies of the Taliban, knew of his presence there.  The attack happened about a week ago and the White House delayed the news pending DNA confirmation.

Update:  Here’s the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, taken last September 11th.

Flight 93 crash site

Update II:  The President’s remarks last night (just in from the White House):



East Room

11:35 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.  The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty seat at the dinner table.  Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father.  Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.  Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.  We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe.  And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort.  We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.  In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.  And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.


Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.  I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.  And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam.  I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.  Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we’ve done.  But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.  Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.  They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.  And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror:  Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.  The American people do not see their work, nor know their names.  But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.  And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.  I know that it has, at times, frayed.  Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are:  one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.

                       END               11:44 P.M. EDT

On How To Honor The Brave, Or, Why We Hate Republicans

( – promoted by John Morgan)

We are coming down to the end of the 111th Congress, and we are all surprised that a number of things actually got done: a nuclear arms reduction treaty appears to be on the verge of approval, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed; we have new health care and financial reforms (admittedly, they’re imperfect solutions, but…), food safety reform, a better way to do student loans, and a credit card reform act that’s forcing issuers to spend thousands of labor hours to develop new and better ways to work over consumers.

And yet there is one important bit of legislation that is still being blocked by Republicans, and, amazingly enough, it’s a bill that would provide health care and compensation for those people who ran down to the World Trade Center site on September 11th, and for months thereafter, in the effort to rescue and recover victims, and to restore normal operations in the city after the attack.

Yes, folks, you heard me correctly: the Party of waving flags and “Second Amendment solutions” and tri-cornered hats and Rudy (“noun, verb, 9/11”) Giuliani is now engaged in a desperate battle to screw over the very 9/11 first responders that you would think they would be…well, putting up on a stage somewhere next to Rudy Giuliani.

“…no! You hear me? You go to Hell! You go to Hell and you die!”

–“Mr. Garrison”, as “Mr. Hat”, talking to “Kyle”, from the television show South Park

It’s HR 847, also known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, that we’re talking about here, and it’s intended to provide health care coverage and compensation for the police, firefighters, trade workers (lots of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, operating engineers, steelworkers, and others worked on the site after the planes hit), and nearby residents who have been experiencing a litany of cancers, heart disease, respiratory, and neurological problems over the past several years.

Who, you might ask, is James Zadroga, that they should name an Act after him?

He carried NYPD badge number 6663, and Detective Zadroga was one of those who was part of the initial World Trade Center response that morning; they were able to get about 25,000 people out of the buildings alive and basically unhurt.

He was actually inside 7 World Trade Center as it began to collapse, but he got out of there that day; according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website he spent another 470 hours sifting through the debris.

Here’s something else the website says about the man:

“Shortly after finishing his rescue and recovery work at the World Trade Center, Detective Zadroga developed a chronic cough, shortness of breath, acid reflux, and was plagued by headaches. Within months he required oxygen tanks to breathe as well as other medicines to slow the deterioration of his health. His condition continued to worsen and Detective Zadroga was granted a 75% pay disability pension on November 1, 2004.

Detective Zadroga died on January 6, 2006, as a result of respiratory disease, black lung disease, and mercury on the brain. His death was directly linked to his work at Ground Zero.”

So why is a New York City cop’s biography an issue?

Well, for a variety of reasons, Zadroga, and others in similar situations, aren’t getting their health care paid for; this is often because their health insurers claim that this is an industrial insurance problem. (The industrial insurance folks, by the way, are fighting 40% of those claims.)

Beyond that, lots of the victims are losing the ability to work altogether, which means they’re getting by on either unemployment or disability payments, which means they’re in danger of losing their homes and cars and the ability to continue their former lives.

And, of course, some of these folks have died, and there are claims that have been made by survivors.

The Zadroga Bill would compensate these folks for what happened to them-and you wouldn’t think helping out the cops and firefighters and volunteers who helped dig out the World Trade Center site would be that big a deal…especially since all those Republicans are so big on supporting the troops and waving the flag and landing on aircraft carriers and accomplishing missions and all that kind of stuff.

As it turns out, that’s not the case.

Instead, every single Senate Republican, with the exception of Illinois’ Mark Kirk, has chosen not to support the bill.

And to really show just how ironic they could be, Republicans chose Senator (and Doctor) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to announce that he would personally block the bill to provide “healthcare for heroes”:

“…this is a bill that’s been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”

(We are obligated to note that Coburn’s “end of the year” comment is a giant load of hooey: In June, the Senate Health Committee held a hearing on the bill; Coburn is a member of that Committee but he did not show up for the hearing.)

So with everything else getting done in the lame-duck session, what’s the problem with helping cops and firefighters and volunteer cleanup workers?

At first, of course, Republicans demanded that rich people had to get their tax cuts first, then they said they couldn’t support closing tax loopholes to pay for the bill. After that, Fox News tried to get roughly 20 Republican Senators to come on and explain their objections.

Every one refused, a fact Shepard Smith brought to the attention of the Fox Nation by naming them all on the air. In fact, things are so bad that Smith and Chris Wallace had this exchange of opinions one night:

Smith: “Who’s going to hold these people’s feet to the fire? We’re able to put a 52-story building so far down there at Ground Zero, we’re able to pay for tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them and it’s not going to stimulate the economy. But we can’t give health care to Ground Zero first responders who ran right into the fire? You know how do they how do they sleep at night after this vote on uh ground zero first responders from 9/11? Are they going to get that done or are we going to leave these American heroes out there to twist in the wind?”

Wallace: “Well, it’s a good question and it’s a national shame. The idea that, you know, the people who were there were the first responders after 9/11 and have had health problems as a result — you would think if you are going to take care of all of these other things – and they were gonna pass these earmarks and name buildings and post offices after people – that they would take care of some authentic American heroes. But, that I don’t know what the deal is and whether they will get to that or not.”

Smith: “[T]hese people ran to ground zero to save people’s lives and we are not even going to give ’em medicine for the illness that they got down there? It’s disgusting – it’s a national disgrace – it’s a shame – and everybody who voted against it should have to stand up for and account for himself or herself. Is anybody going to hold them accountable?”

To his credit, Rudy Giuliani has been out there this past week, working the media, calling for the bill to pass:

“This should not be seen as a Democratic or Republican issue. It shouldn’t even been seen as a fiscal issue. This is a matter of morality, it’s a matter of obligation…”

So what can you do about all this?

It appears there may be a vote today; the more pressure we exert, the more shameful it becomes to be Tom Coburn, John Kyl, and Mitch McConnell-and if you want to give a Christmas gift to a bunch of real, live, genuine heroes, here’s your chance to do it.

Tom Coburn’s Washington DC Senate office phone number is 202-224-5754, and I’m sure the staff would love nothing better than to spend the entire day hearing what y’all have to say about this situation. When you’re done, Jon Kyl’s Washington number is 202-224-4521-and for those who wish to make a statement with art, he accepts faxes as well, at 202-224-2207.

It’s hard to imagine how Republicans can top screwing over rescue workers at Christmas-but with a bit of effort and imagination, I’m sure it won’t be long before Dana Perino is on “Fox and Friends” defending something even more heinous in the name of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

These are indeed interesting times, and I just can’t wait to see what’s next.

Does God send natural disasters as punishment?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Flight 93 Videos

Here are some interviews I did Saturday in Shanksville following the memorial service for Flight 93.

The first is of Gerald Bingham father of hero Mark Bingham.  Other press people were asking the questions here:

This gracious lady is the widow of co-pilot LeRoy Homer Jr.

This gentleman arrived from New York and was wearing his FDNY uniform:

The crash site is now part of our National Park system and funds are being raised for the memorial to be built.  Most of the funds raised thus far have been used to purchase the land, pay Rangers to secure and patrol the grounds and provide a temporary visitors center.  These Park officials discuss the Park and explain how and where you can contribute:

“Draw Strength From These Heroes”

Those were the words of wisdom one member of the Flight 93 families had for a small group of high school students to wish he was dispensing advice following this morning remembrance vigil in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  On September 11, 2001 Flight 93 crashed into the field here killing the 40 passengers and crew.  The heroes on that plane commandeered it from the terrorist hijackers to prevent it from being flown into the Capital building in Washington.  Forty everyday, ordinary Americans did an extraordinary act of heroism and bravery and today marked the somber ninth anniversary of their untimely deaths.

Nine years ago I was driving west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I was going to Hagerstown, Maryland to visit my mother.  I stopped at a service area and discovered a group of shocked faces staring at a television set.  I got in my car and turned on the radio.  I was out of the WHYY listening area and had it turned off as I frequently do when I drive.  I got an ABC News station and heard Peter Jennings’ voice describe the tragedy of the towers collapsing and the Pentagon being struck.  There were reports of other potential planes in the sky and so I constantly scanned the clear, beautiful blue sky as I got to Carlisle and headed south of I-81 towards Maryland.  As I got below Shippensburg and began closing on Waynesboro a succession of Pennsylvania State Police cruisers were parked a mile apart in the grassy median facing west.  They were looking for the rogue Flight 93.

Shanksville is about two hours west of Carlisle in driving time, much less on a jetliner flying at 500 mph.  Al Qaeda terrorists had taken over Flight 93 and intended to do major harm and mass murder in our Capitol.  The passengers and crew on board discovered the horrible news about New York and determined their plane wouldn’t become another terrorist missile.  Their final acts of bravery saved countless lives and the destruction of part of our seat of government.  They are remembered in Shanksville, their final resting place, every year on this anniversary.

So it was I was driving west once more on September 11th.  This time I would be in Shanksville and see this hallowed ground, a blank field with a crater where Flight 93 made its final exit.  The families of those 40 sat before me and on the stage were two First Ladies, a Governor, the Secretary of the Interior and other dignitaries.  Laura Bush has become special to the families since her first visit to the site on September 17, 2001 when they were allowed their first access to the location.  Today was her third visit to Shanksville and she has forged a bond with the families.  Today she was introducing Michelle Obama to them inside a wind blown tent on a chilly 40 degree morning.  As the sun rose behind wind turbines on the distant ridge the families gathered once more in privacy, a family of the surviving family members who, over the years have forged a family of their own through a bond none of us will ever imagine.  Joined by Governor Ed Rendell, Secretary Ken Salazar and others they mingled together sharing thoughts and prayers among themselves before taking their place before the stage and facing the field where Flight 93 came to rest.

Laura Bush spoke lovingly of the sacrifices made by the 40 Heroes, words the families have heard before but words which continue to comfort them in their days of grief and this day of remembrance.  Michelle Obama spoke eloquently of the special day, the special people and the meaning of it all.  Ed Rendell compared them with other historical Pennsylvanians who have been heroes.

Following the event we were allowed time to see the family members and the field where a memorial is beginning to be built commemorating the flight and the heroes.  I took a moment to simply gaze out upon the hallowed ground and remember that awful day.  I remember driving through Hagerstown and seeing a hand made sign on the front lawn of a home that said “kill all Arabs.”  Of course that isn’t the answer, war is never the answer.  Hatred and revenge only beget more of the same.  Today the messages were of peace, hope and understanding.  It was a day for reflection and remembrance, not of hate and fear.

I sat and watched as Karl Rove took his seat to my right and wondered if he has had second thoughts about lying the nation into war against Iraq predicated on their mythical involvement in 9/11.  Walking to the site I encountered a conspiracy theorist who maintained she was related to the Bushes, the Obamas, the Gerald Fords and Princess Diana and who said she “knew all the secrets.”  I saw ordinary Americans there to pay homage to the day and to the families, to those who died and those who will come in future years to remember these forty brave souls.  It was a microcosm of America as two Park Rangers sat upon their steeds on the ridge overlooking the event, a testament to the ever present risk that someone may choose this site, this day, to exact revenge of a putrid and perverted sort.  Their sentry was not needed today and I wondered how poignant their silhouette was on another day with jet entrails present in the sky over Shanksville, they too remembering where they were nine years ago.  I got back into my car and, this time, headed east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike forever changed by being there and talking with families, Park Service people, ordinary Americans and the man who gave that wisdom to those young people:  “draw strength from these heroes.”