UnknownI was 17 the day Oswald shot JFK, 21 the year RFK and MLK were killed, 39 when the Challenger blew up. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was 54.

The wounds these events inflicted felt like they’d never heal. Somehow, though, the assassinations faded into history. Challenger, too. As for 9/11, well, it’s getting there. Pulling out of Afghanistan, that bottomless pit of evil and corruption, closed the chapter for many Americans.

It’s not quite closed for me. Twenty-two years on, one scar’s still tender to the touch: the failure of our intelligence agencies and leadership to prevent an attack anyone could have seen coming (and many did, including me). Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote in February 2014:

In 1995 a bomb went off prematurely in a Manila apartment and Philippine authorities uncovered what came to be known as the Bojinka Plot. An Islamist terrorist named Ramzi Yousef, assisted by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, planned to kill the Pope during a visit to the Philippines, plant bombs on 11 jet airliners, and hijack a 12th airliner in order to fly it into CIA headquarters in Virginia.

It’s not like the Bojinka Plot wasn’t in the news. I knew about it at the time; so did everyone who was paying attention. The part that got my attention was the terrorists’ plan to hijack an airliner and use it as a flying bomb against a ground target in the USA. That was a new and scary terrorist tactic. My first thought was “What if they try that flying-airliners-into-buildings trick again some day?”

That was in 1995, and I was just some dumb shit reading about Bojinka in the papers. We pay people to watch for plots like this and take action to prevent their execution. But just a few years later terrorists led by the very same Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hijacked four airliners in the USA and carried out the 9/11 attacks. What did President George W. Bush have to say afterward? C’mon, repeat it with me:

“It’s hard to envision a plot so devious as the one that they pulled off on 9/11,” Bush said in a January interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw. “Never did we realize that the enemy was so well organized.”

Well, some of us envisioned it. Some of us realized it. … I’m not a 9/11 truther, but all this is verifiable fact. We did know. We were warned. And we did nothing.

Have we gotten better at predicting and heading off terrorist attacks? I’d like to think so, and evidence suggests we’ve foiled many planned attacks by foreign terrorists. Domestic terrorism, though? Maybe, but we badly fumbled the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021. Of course the then-leader of our government orchestrated that attack and knee-capped military and intelligence agencies to keep them from getting in the way, so maybe we can take a Mulligan on that one.

So maybe I’ll lighten things up a bit with some hot takes:

Don’t know about you, but my social media feeds are full of “abandoned places” posts with photos of aircraft boneyards, shuttered amusement parks, empty schools, hospitals, lighthouses, crumbling villas. I always wonder if people actually try to find and explore these sites. Because nothing’s ever really abandoned. Somebody or something owns these places. And they don’t want you crawling around in them.

A1 Steak Sauce lovers, I welcome your hate:

Dear people who emphasize “love” by spelling it “loveee,” don’t you realize that spells “lovey”? There’s a relationship between the way words look and what they sound like. Do people who type “opps” when they mean “oops” ever bother to read what they write out loud? As Tara said on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (episode 15, season 5), “I go online sometimes, but … everyone’s spelling is really bad, and it’s … depressing.”

I studiously avoided the Delta Airlines diarrhea story. They scrapped the plane, right? Right? But sometimes you can’t hide from reality. Donna came home from grocery shopping last week and told me someone dropped a deuce on the floor in front of the meat counter at the Davis-Monthan AFB commissary. And that she wound up cleaning it up because no one else would. It’s enough to drive a person back into quarantine … well, me anyway.

Every now and then I notice 3D photos on Facebook. I have an iPhone 14 Pro with the latest and greatest camera, but can’t for the life of me find a “3D” button. When I Google how to do it, all I find are long-ass YouTube videos that somehow fail to explain how it’s done. They tell you to use portrait mode and move the camera around while focusing on the object you’re photographing. As in, how exactly? Move the camera around while pressing the shutter button? Nope, that doesn’t work. Move the camera around while taking separate pictures? Nope, that doesn’t work. Maybe it’s an Android thing. Well, at least I found the controls for manipulating lighting and depth of field. How’s this one? Personally, I think it slays.


2 thoughts on “22 YEARS LATER

  • Great post! Missing the mark on intelligence is not new. In his book on Pearl Harbor, At Dawn We Slept, Gordon Prange point out that we knew the Japanese code for going ahead with the attack was “East wind rain” and we decoded a message with that on it but it was never circulated to the right place to do anything about it.

    When the first intelligence agency was created in WWI the response was gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail so it was shut down prior to WWII.

    Does anyone think there were no clues leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing?
    This country talks a better game than it plays.

  • I had a friend who tried to spell “uh oh” as “oughtto” or some such. It took me more than a minute to figure out what they were trying to say, and when I did I was just depressed.

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