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A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 10/01/2006
The 9/11 Report

We look forward to a national debate on the merits of what we have recommended, and we will participate vigorously in that debate.--The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 2004

The final line of the 9/11 Commission Report. Almost funny, isn't it? Almost. There was no national debate, of course.

It's been said that Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was one of the most unread bestsellers of its time. It's pathetic and depressing that the same can be said about the 9/11 Commission Report. Never mind that the document is actually available for free.

But I know, I know. It's true people infrequently appreciate what they don't pay for, and in this case people actually purchased the 9/11 Commission Report and still didn't read it. The problem is that for our visual-stimulation, sound-bite-needy society, the document is just too long and too boring. Well, unless you're named after a major French city, writer Sid Jacobson and illustrator Ernie Colón have gone and done us all a favor by giving us a graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 Report that's short, easy-to-read, and picture-filled.

9/11 Report

As usual, the book is better, but the 9/11 Report graphic novel is a faithful abridgment that should be popular even among magazine buffs, and the seriousness of the subject should attract even the self-consciousness hard asses who think they're too old or cool for comics. The graphic novel even has a few extras, like the abysmal report card issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, rating the government's appalling progress in making the country safe (the grading consists overwhelmingly of Cs, Ds, and Fs).

When you're done, you can come to the same conclusion I did.

As opposed to the Cracker Jack conspiracy theories, the 9/11 Report paints a believable portrait of what happened that fateful day in 2001. You see, the 9/11 catastrophe isn't owed to some convoluted and insidious plot by our own leaders, but to humanity acting at it's most retarded. The 9/11 Report painfully chronicles a collaboration between egoism and ineptitude that resulted in a lack of coordination and communication among the agencies responsible for our safety and the deaths of thousands of people.

Sure, there are people trying to cover things up--chiefly their egos and irresponsibility as those things led the CIA and FBI to play little power games with each other that resulted in clues of the impending attacks going unnoticed. Then there's the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command's incompetent exchanges that rendered orders and actions useless. We see the Bill Clinton administration claiming it emphasized the threat of Al Qaida to George W. Bush, and we see the Bush administration denying those assertions.

In short, we see the same imbecility, laziness, and lack of moral integrity that was responsible for the devastation and inhumanity witnessed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a disaster that caused even more devastation than 9/11 and has been treated even more disgracefully.

One might ask if these judgments are too severe. Indeed, they may be, for the errors of 9/11 are all too familiar, all too human. All of us are guilty of acting equally inanely in our own moments of surprise and panic. But when Americans systematically evade responsibility for the chain of events that brought our country to its knees, and when Americans evade even the obligation of educating themselves about how those events transpired, these are times for harsh judgment.


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