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Posts Tagged ‘September 11’

Topics For Third Presidential Debate – This One’s On Foreign Policy

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Bob Schieffer of CBS News is the moderator for the final presidential debate which takes place tonight, October 22, at 9:00 p.m. ET in the Lynn University auditorium in Boca Raton, Florida.  Schieffer chose and announced the topics which will be addressed – subject to late-breaking news.  They are, in random order:

America’s Role in the World

Our Longest War – Afghanistan and Pakistan

Red Lines: Israel and Iran

The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism I

The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism II

The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s Word

The issue of what happened in Benghazi, Libya in September 11, 2012 is likely to come up in at least one if not several of the different topic areas.  President Obama will seek to put a definitive end to the questioning about how his administration handled the crisis, and presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney will seek to lay out the inconsistencies in the narratives presented by this administration over the course of the six weeks since the tragedy.

The consequences of the “Arab Spring” is likely to come up during at least one of the topics, as will the question of whether or not terrorism is being routed by President Obama’s policies, or whether it is in the rise, in part because of the president’s policies.

The decision to leave Afghanistan and the continued drone policy favored by President Obama is also likely to be discussed tonight.

Israel is most likely to be discussed in the “Iran Red Line” topic, and each candidate will try to show why he is the candidate whose policies will be most effective in protecting Israel and promoting regional stability.

An economic aspect of foreign policy may come up in the form of a question about the European financial crisis and what role the United States should play in addressing that problem.  In addition, questions about the economic fallout of China’s ever-growing and influential role in the global economy is sure to further highlight the stark differences between the two candidates.

The format will be six 15-minute segments addressing each of the different topics.

Bob Schieffer has been with CBS News for more than 30 years.  He has covered all four major beats in Washington – the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Capitol Hill.  Schieffer has covered every presidential race since 1972.

Clinton Takes ‘Responsibility’ for Benghazi, But Not Blame… (Video)

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton told CNN during an interview in Lima, Peru on Tuesday, Oct. 16, that she takes “responsibility” for what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2011.  But, she said, “what I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game.”

What?

If you’ve said you take responsibility for something, there is no “gotcha” or “blame game,” your acknowledgement means that you are the one to be blamed for the failure, that you are responsible for the consequences of the failures that occurred under your watch. So the question may remain whether the Secretary can credibly deflect responsibility from President Obama for the failure that led to the murders of American personnel in the most dangerous part of the world on the anniversary of the single worst attack on our country in history, not whether or not someone is to blame.

Blaming public officials for a failure so colossal that our Ambassador and others who were serving our country were murdered, that the buildings in Benghazi, Libya  – which are the iconic representations of the United States of America – were invaded, looted and destroyed, is exactly the right thing, not a “game” and not to be ridiculed and not to be avoided, even if a national political campaign is taking place.

Has Clinton explained why the U.S. State Department refused to provide additional security when experts involved knew it was needed and made the requests? Has she explained why the man she personally chose to be the U.S. Ambassador to Libya received death threats and yet no additional security was provided? Has she explained why the sensibilities of the Libyans who might be offended if the American security assigned to the Benghazi consulate had bullets in their guns trumped the sensibilities of the American family members whose loved ones died because they were not protected?

Clinton said,

In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there’s always going to be confusion. And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We’ve gotten more detail, but that’s not surprising. That always happens.

But Clinton’s direct subordinate Charlene Lamb, the person from the State Department with direct responsibility for the consulates, testified at the House congressional Oversight Committee hearing last week that she was in contact with the Benghazi consulate from almost the first minutes of the assault.

That means the State Department knew virtually immediately that there was no protest-gone-wrong outside the consulate, what there was, was a well-planned attack.  As Lamb’s testimony made clear, There was no violence inspired by a movie deemed insulting, there was violence inspired by anti-American hatred.

But despite Secretary Clinton’s efforts to use her claim of responsibility as a shield to block further inquiries and to cast any efforts to do so as electioneering and playing “gotcha,” at least some Republican members of congress have made clear the president is ultimately responsible for both the tragedy and its cover-up.

In a letter released Monday, October 15, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) stated,

the events of September 11 were preceded by an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi, including a bomb that was thrown into our Consulate in April, another explosive device that was detonated outside of our Consulate in June, and an assassination attempt on the British Ambassador. If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the President informed. But if the President was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of September 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred. The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there.

What’s more, the laying of blame for the tragedy on an American-made film for which this administration repeatedly apologized to the Muslim world also needs to be explained

the separate issue of the insistence by members of the Administration, including the President himself, that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video, long after it had become clear that the real cause was a terrorist attack. The President also bears responsibility for this portrayal of the attack, and we continue to believe that the American people deserve to know why the Administration acted as it did.

To mangle a tag phrase from a popular 1970 movie, responsibility means always having to say you’re sorry.  And in this case there remains much more to be said.

9-11: A Note with Five Words & Two Numbers

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

H/T Shai

Among the nearly 3000 people who were murdered by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001, was Stamford, CT resident Randolph (Randy) Scott, a husband and father of three.  Scott was killed when United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., near the floors of the offices where he worked.

Scott’s family believed he had died instantly.

However, ten years after the attack, a note thrown out the window of the South Tower shortly after impact – discovered by a guard near another building and eventually placed on display at a 9/11 museum – was identified, using DNA tests on blood found on the paper, as having been written by Scott minutes before he perished.

The following was reported by the Stamford Advocate today:

“I spent 10 years hoping that Randy wasn’t trapped in that building,” Randy’s widow Denise, 57, said recently during an interview in her Stamford home with two of her three daughters, Rebecca, 29, and Alexandra, 22.

“I thought he was killed instantly,” Rebecca interjected.

Randy Scott’s daughters fought tears as his message again triggered new mental images.

In a steady tone, their mother explained the power of the note. “You don’t want them to suffer. They’re trapped in a burning building. It’s just an unspeakable horror.”

“It tells people the story of the day,” Denise said.

In just five words and two numbers.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Towers of Twilight: Reflections on the Attacks of September 11th

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

In the first few years it seemed as if they were still there, stark lines rising into the sky, tall shadows falling on the streets, a missing space that your eyes filled in without even thinking. You walked past, and your eyes said, “Of course they’re there. They’re always there” and for a moment you saw them as they were, grey ghosts of steel rising above the rubble. You saw the city as it was and then you remembered that city is gone.

Manhattan, that far down, is a lonely place. It is not a human place, but a huddle of buildings where men and women commute to and from, its stores are there for office workers to shop at, its sidewalks go dark when the trains head out to New Jersey again turning it dangerously low rent. That is what made the pretense of a Ground Zero Mosque, in a neighborhood where you can hardly find enough Muslim residents to start a game of Buzkashi, so nakedly dishonest.

But the site has always attracted its share of exploiters. On a good day you can see South American and African vendors peddling commemorative patriotic knickknacks and on a bad day the Truthers show up howling their contempt for the site. Tourists stop by and pose for snapshots with their families. Office workers walk by without thinking. The site, like the towers, is just something that’s there. And lately even the vendors and Truthers hardly bother showing up anymore. Like so many others, they have already moved on to exploiting the next tragedy and the next outpouring of grief.

The neighborhood had grown less grim over time. The 99-cent stores and shops selling used clothing have given way to cafes and chain stores. The months during which the entire area was closed down, in part or in whole, took its toll on local businesses, but over time they bounced back. And so has the city.

Tonight and the night before as the towers of light cast blue beams across the sky, we remember but memory is a destructive medium. Each year the memories grow fainter. At lunch counters people ask each other where they were that day and exchange stories. But the stories grow fainter each year and the memories of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or stumbling through the ash or handing out sandwiches to rescue workers have grown dimmer too.

This was the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. How many people are still moved by that date, how many less so than were in 1822 or 1862? The anniversaries that we hold on to are the ones that mean something to us. And what does September 11 mean to us? What did it mean to us eleven years ago and what does it mean to us now?

The fundamental narrative of war is, “We were attacked and we fought back.” It’s the same story for everyone regardless of how true it may be. But it is mostly true in this case. We were attacked and we tried to fight back. But we weren’t attacked on September 11. We were attacked long before then. That was just the date when one of the attacks got out undivided attention and the enemy elevated itself above a petty nuisance.

To walk through the darkness toward the towers of light is to pass through a city of shadows. In a stray glimmer of light reflecting from a storefront or a puddle you can still see the old MISSING posters and see khaki trucks tearing apart the street asphalt. You can still see glimpses of a city that was still reeling from the incomprehensibility of what had happened to it. It isn’t reeling anymore, instead the incomprehensibility has become routine.

New York City is used to tragedy. Terrible things happen here all the time. The oldest photos of the city show the same stunned faces, the legs lying in a puddle of blood, the gawking children and the police frowning at something we cannot see. And relentlessly the blood is washed away, the tears are dried and the city moves on. September 11 left behind more blood, more broken legs and more frowning police than ever before… but the ashes have still been dumped in a landfill, the tears dried and the city moved on.

Pamela Geller Cancelled by Federation in Los Angeles

Monday, June 25th, 2012

An event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles featuring controversial anti-Islamist Pamela Geller was cancelled on Sunday, just hours before it was to take place.

Geller was to present her assessment of the “motive behind Islam’s war on the Jews, the war against Israel and the 1,400-year-old hatred of Jews living in Muslim lands” to a local chapter of the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA).

However, according to an interview given to the Los Angeles Times, Geller said the Jewish Federation “cravenly submitted to Islamic supremacists who wanted to suppress free speech” and cancelled her event.  However, according to the LA Times, an interfaith coalition of Jews, Muslims, and Christians issued a statement expressing its concern over the Federation’s invitation of “one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes” to speak.

After a short and heated interchange with Geller opponents who had come to confront her with questions during the event, Geller and remaining attendees moved to a hall a few miles away, where she gave her presentation.

Geller became a fierce activist against what she calls the “Islamization of America” following the jihadist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2011.  She has been a vocal opponent of plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque as part of a World Trade Center memorial.

While Geller has developed an ardent following, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have classified her organization, Stop Islamization of America, as a hate group.

Painting Trauma And Relief: Hopeful Holocaust Paintings

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Rays of Hope: An exhibit by Rebecca Schweiger


July 10-September 17, 2006


Holocaust Museum and Study Center, Spring Valley, N.Y.


(845) 356-2700



 

 

        For American artists, the attacks on the Twin Towers are a particularly difficult subject matter. One feels a responsibility to capture the events of 9/11 (they are too important to ignore), but there is a lot at stake in painting the burning towers. If the depiction fails, it runs the risk of trivializing the tragedy. Painting, like any other language, ought to be able to communicate any idea if it is used correctly. But trauma is often the toughest thing to capture, whether in words, paint or music.

 

         Art Spiegelman’s ambitious graphic novel, “In the Shadow of No Towers” (reviewed in these pages on November 17, 2004), presents the artist’s response to 9/11. Spiegelman sees trauma as inspiring – “disaster is my muse!”- but he worries that he draws too slowly to keep up with the news. “I’d feel like such a jerk if a new disaster strikes while I’m still chipping away at the last one,” he says. On one page, he draws “some guy on Canal Street” who is painting the towers; but when he looks up, “the… model had moved.”

 

        Spiegelman is not the only artist obsessed with 9/11. In just the last few months, Paul Greengrass’ “United 93″ (2006) and Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” (2006) have explored the attacks in movie form. But Rebecca Schweiger’s oil painting “September 11″ is a different sort of memorial. In “September 11,” Schweiger uses a palette of red, white and black, in a mixture of drips and textures that evoke spider webs. The painting appears to bleed and explode at once, and the only stable parts of the towers are the tops, which resemble a thick black letter em.

 

         But Schweiger’s piece is not as simple as blood and explosions. Schweiger, whose work is currently on display in Spring Valley, N.Y., also evokes hope and relief in her work. She has some regular aesthetic haunts to which she keeps returning again and again: desert, mercy, repentance, names, “essence,” souls, dark and light, and creation.

 



“Angels and Butterflies.”  Photocourtesy of Rebecca Schweiger


 

         According to the artist’s statement on Schweiger’s website, her work addresses a range of subject matters no less ambitious than “faith, passion, intensity, soul, desire, sadness, elation, energy, freedom, rage spirit, learning, growth, anxiety, celebration, illness, healing, survival, death, love, memory, longing, light and ultimately personal growth and hope.” It would seem that the artist’s work must be taken not as depicting one emotion, but an entire range of emotions – even, often contradictory emotions.

 

         Ani Mitgagat” (I am longing) is an oil and sand painting on canvas, which uses a palette of red, white and black forms, evocative of spiderwebs like “September 11.” The painting is dark (blood red and dark black) about the extremities, but light in the middle, almost like a flashlight cutting through the darkness. Longing implies both hope (that the object of the longing is attainable) and sadness, as the person longing has yet to attain the desired object. Although there is no text in Schweiger’s painting, the Ezekiel (16:6) quote, “in your blood shall you live” could be appended to it.

 



Hand of G-d.” Photocourtesy of Rebecca Schweiger


 

         Many of Schweiger’s works explore optimism in the manner of “Ani Mitgagat.” Painting titles range from “Rebirth” (a mixed media painting that resembles a large egg) to “Waves of Life and Everlasting Light” to “Infinity: Heaven and Water,” (a water scene in blues, yellows, pinks, greens and reds). But though Schweiger’s happy paintings are pretty in palette and would make good living room decorating material, they are ultimately far less interesting than her work that delves into pain and tragedy.

 

         Har Sinai” in many ways resembles the 9/11 painting. The mountain seems to explode (parts of Sinai look metallic, like a skyscraper), evoking the Midrash that G-d held the mountain over the Jewish people, threatening them that the desert would be their tomb if they did not accept the Torah. Though beautiful, Sinai was a threatening space; anyone or any animal who tried to climb it would be stoned or “shot”. Schweiger captures that fear and danger embedded within the beauty, and her palette is more expansive than in “Mitgagat” or “September 11,” using not only black, red and white, but also pink and yellow.

 

         “Sbarros 2001″ is a similar venture into the domain of terrible beauty. In August 2001, a suicide bomber murdered tens of people at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. Schweiger’s memorial to those victims incorporates red, black and white swirls, with white forms dripping off the canvas. The canvas almost looks like a slice of pizza, but the dripping whites and the burnt black forms suggest something is deeply amiss. In the top right corner, Hebrew words (that appear to be names) intermingle with the dripping forms.

 



“Separation.”  Photo – courtesy of Rebecca Schweiger


 


 

         A key to unraveling the paintings’ mysterious ability to memorialize tragedy in beautiful ways is Schweiger’s almost kabbalistic conception of shedding layers. “Shedding Layers” features two terrains. On the top is a mountainous region (which looks like a blue cheerleader’s pompon). Underneath the blue, raw canvas emerges – which Schweiger has stained yellow and scrawled upon in blue letters. The upper region literally looks like it is being unzipped or peeled back to reveal its innards.

 

         This mapping of layers becomes a palliative technique in “Shedding Layers Healing Wings.” In this painting, a large red, yellow, pink and blue bird seems to dissolve in the wind, as it stands atop a violent-looking jumble of chaotic colors, shaped like barbed wire: deep blues and reds, ochres, whites and blacks.

 

         In the third painting of the series, the bird has disappeared altogether, leaving simple forms in its place. “Shedding Layers: To Live Again” is a very colorful painting (light green is introduced to the black, blue, red, white mass), which suggests rebirth after the outermost layers are removed. Like the mythical phoenix, which was said to burn to ashes, and then reemerge from the destruction, Schweiger’s bird disintegrates into color and form, only to reemerge alive.

 



“To Be Free.”  Photo – courtesy of Rebecca Schweiger


 

         The phoenix model might be the best way to respond to capturing tragedy in art. It is a tremendous irony of life that even after both the September 11 attacks and the Sbarro bombing, the sun rises the next morning and the birds sing. To capture the enormity of the tragedy, and yet to reveal the hope and rebirth embedded within, Schweiger uses an almost schizophrenic palette (black, blood-red, deep blue on the one hand, and pink, yellow and grass-green on the other) to show the beauty that lies beneath, if we can only shed our outermost layers.

 

         For more information about Rebecca Schweiger and her art, please see www.rebeccarts.com.

 

        Menachem Wecker is a painter and assistant editor of B’nai B’rith Magazine in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com


 

Painting 9/11 With Whiskers And A Tail (and a Cigarette): Art Spiegelman’s ‘In The Shadow Of No Towers’

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

Perhaps far more important than the question of “why paint tragedy?” is the question of how to paint it. The importance of remembering and commemorating calamity dictates monumental art, but this realization yields no technical vocabulary on how best to accomplish this in a considerate, respectful manner without veering to the trite or the patronizing and offensive.

Previously in this column, in an essay on MAUS, Richard McBee cited Elie Wiesel’s questioning of the inherent stuff from which monuments derive. He argued that certain holocausts are simply too horrific for aesthetic investigation. James E. Young has presented a similar critique of memorials, though he distinguishes between the literal sort and a more post-modern ilk that crumbles in an act that depicts the catastrophe, rather than creating a mimetic structure that merely impersonates it.

Art Spiegelman is no stranger to these provocative discussions. In “MAUS: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History,” Spiegelman drew a comic of the Holocaust with rodents for protagonists, and in “MAUS II: Here My Troubles Began” he did it again. His new graphic novel, “In the Shadow Of No Towers” is a pictorial study of the events of September 11, 2001, told with falling shoes and boots, and characters who wake up in the middle of the night yelling, “The sky is falling!” The mice from MAUS are back, and the main character is Mr. Spiegelman himself, always with a cigarette in his mouth.

The pages of The Shadow are big, thick slabs of cardboard, suggesting a children’s book configuration, but even a cursory read reveals a very complicated meditation on storytelling, trauma and disorientation that demands a sophisticated readership.

Not only does The Shadow insist on politically perceptive readers, it also assumes that readers are literate in classical, comic book forms. In a series of seven plates at the end, Spiegelman reproduces old comic books pages from George Herriman’s provocative 1913 comic Krazy Kat to Gustave Verbeek’s 1904 cartoons in the Sunday New York Herald called Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo. Spiegelman offers little in the way of comprehensive guide for comic book amateurs; his two page manifesto which seeks to explain the history of comic books while standing on one foot will help jog the memory of experts, but will prove fairly useless to the beginner.

The move of insisting on familiarity with the vocabulary of comic books in general and certain characters from MAUS in particular is one associated with much of post-modern and creative non-fiction literature. In Moby Dick, Melville delivered a text that simultaneously explored a fictive narrative and a scientific meditation on whales and whaling that embedded entire chapters of encyclopedic trivia about marine biology.

Joyce’s Ulysses rallied a similar strategy, and it necessitated absolute familiarity with all of Joyce’s books: the character Stephen returns from a funeral in Ulysses that he has set out for in Dubliners. This Melvillian and Joycean mode of reading proliferated in the literary scene in the middle and late part of the century, and it is very much at play in Spiegelman’s novel.

In his introduction to The Shadow – which interestingly enough was serialized in the Forward and the German newspaper Die Zeit – Spiegelman records his predisposition to allegations that the sky is falling and general conspiracy theories, but then he writes, “Only when I heard paranoid Arab Americans blaming it all on the Jews did I reel myself back in, deciding it wasn’t essential to know precisely how much my “leaders” knew about the hijackings in advance. It was sufficient that they immediately instrumentalized the attack for their own agenda.”

Spiegelman told Alana Newhouse at the Forward that, “I grew up being told by my [Holocaust] survivor parents that the world is an incredibly dangerous place, and that I should always be prepared to flee.” In his mind, September 11 came as less of a surprise than “the hijacking of September 11 the Bush cabal that reduced it all to a war recruitment poster.” Spiegelman says, “I never wanted to be a political cartoonist. I work too slowly to respond to transient events while they are happening.. Besides, nothing has a shorter shelf-life than angry caricatures of politicians.”

Incidentally, Honore Daumier’s and Thomas Nast’s political caricatures have lasted quite long on their shelf in the comic book pantheon, and I think David Levine’s will join them, as will Spiegelman’s, and here is why.

Spiegelman’s book is very political. It throws difficult images in the viewer’s face, and bombards the reader from page to page, without providing much time for catching one’s breath. It is deep and heavy, and it tells you wide-eyed that the sky is falling. It asks the questions: who gets to tell a story, how much leeway does s/he have to tell it, and what does it mean to “own” a story? This meditation on trauma and narrative finds its voice in visual form.

Page four features a cartoon wherein a Bush figure and a Rumsfeld figure ride a flying eagle that sports a red, white and blue striped Uncle Sam hat. Rumsfeld has cut the eagle’s neck with his box cutter, while Bush offers, “Let’s Roll!” in a manner that suggests a derivation of “giddy-up!” The eagle asks, “Why do they hate us? Why?” This image floats atop a picture in the left margin of a shimmering, stippled tower – resembling a Seurat or Pissarro painting in temperament – that crumbles into a sea of red, blue, purple and ochre dots. A parenthetical statement offers, “(Amazing how time flies while it stands still.)”

As if that is not enough information, Spiegelman manages to cram in the Two Towers personified as crying infants with towers for hats, and a rescue mission to save his daughter Nadja. At the bottom of the page, Spiegelman tells his wife, “Y’know how I’ve called myself a rootless cosmopolitan, equally homeless anywhere on the planet? I was wrong… I finally understand why some Jews didn’t leave Berlin right after Kristallnacht!” He then passes a painter working on a picture of the burning towers: “They passed some guy on Canal Street painting the towers. Glancing south, they could only see the billowing toxic smoke. The model had moved.”

I quote at length to show both the author’s tremendous style and mood, and also to underscore a new narratorial voice from MAUS. Here is Spiegelman thinking of 9/11 in Holocaust terms, finding himself so attached to a place (he lives in the Village mere blocks from Ground Zero) and a culture – while so resistant to wearing I Love NY tee shirts – that he can relate to German Jews who couldn’t run, but also could not hide. He is disoriented, and every attempt to draw himself out of it recalls a baseball player who simply cannot drag himself out of a slump.

And ultimately, that is why Spiegelman gets to tell the story. He has no answers, and he can barely keep the questions at bay. He takes the confusion and the paralysis and casts it as mice and shoes and ostriches. They are entirely tasteful and deep meditations that convey an almost un-conveyable sense of raw emotion. In that world, like that of Steinbeck, the boundary between mice and men slowly dissipates.

 


Menachem Wecker edits the Arts and Culture Section of the Yeshiva University Commentator. As an artist, he has trained at the Massachusetts College of Art. Menachem may be contacted at: mwecker@gmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/painting-911-with-whiskers-and-a-tail-and-a-cigarette-art-spiegelmans-in-the-shadow-of-no-towers/2004/11/17/

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