[lit-ideas] Citizenship in Emergency-partial text

  • From: Scribe1865@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 01:20:20 EDT

from http://www.bostonreview.net/BR27.5/scarry.html
Why citizens were able to stop the terrorists while the military couldn't. 
First posted on another list, but I thought readers here would be interested as 
well. Complete and extensive footnotes available at the Boston Review Web 
site. I have cut sections of her essay for space reasons. -Eric
Citizenship in Emergency

Can democracy protect us against terrorism? 

Elaine Scarry 

For the past year, we have spoken unceasingly about the events of September 
11, 2001. But one aspect of that day has not yet been the topic of open 
discussion: the difficulty we had as a country defending ourselves; as it 
the only successful defense that day was carried out by the passengers on 
Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. The purpose of this essay is to 
that difficulty, and the one success, and ask if they suggest that something in 
our defense arrangements needs to be changed. Whatever the ultimate answer to 
that question, we at least need to ask it since defending the country is an 
obligation we all share. 

Speed and Security 

The difficulty of defense on September 11 turned in large part on the pace of 
events. We need to look carefully at the timelines and timetables on that 
day. But as we do, it is crucial to recall that the word â??speedâ?? has been 
at the 
center of discussions of national defense for the last fifty years. When we 
look to any of our literatures on the subject, we recall that the word 
has been at the center of discussions of national defense for the last fifty 
years. When we look to any of our literatures on the subject, we find in the 
foreground statements about the speed of our weapons, of our weaponsâ?? 
systems, and of the deliberations that will lead to their use. 

Throughout this period, the heart of our defense has been a vast missile 
system, all parts of which are described as going into effect in â??a matter of 
minutesâ??: a presidential decision must be made in â??a matter of minutesâ??; 
presidential order must be transmitted in â??a matter of minutesâ??; the speed 
of the 
missile launch must be carried out â??in a matter of minutesâ??; and the 
must reach its target in â??a matter of minutes.â?? 

The matter-of-minutes claim is sometimes formally folded into the names of 
our weapons (as in the Minuteman missile) and other times appears in related 
banner words such as â??supersonicâ?? and â??hairtrigger.â??1 Thousands of 
separating countries and continents can be contracted by â??supersonicâ?? 
missiles and 
planes that carry us there in â??a matter of minutesâ??; and thousands of miles 
separating countries and continents can be contracted by focusing on the 
distance that has to be crossed not by the weapon itself but by the hand 
that initiates the launchâ??the distance of a hair. 

â??Speedâ?? has occupied the foreground not only of our descriptive statements 
about our national defense but also our normative statements. Our military 
arrangements for defending the country have often been criticized for moving 
increasingly outside the citizenryâ??s control. The constitutional requirement 
for a 
Congressional declaration of war has not been used for any war since World War 
II: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the war in former Yugoslavia were 
all carried out at the direction of the president and without a congressional 
declaration, as were the invasions of Panama, Grenada, and Haiti.2 Speed has 
repeatedly been invoked to counter ethical, legal, or constitutional objections 
to the way our weapons policies and arrangements have slipped further and 
further beyond democratic structures of self-governance. 

This bypassing of the Constitution in the case of conventional wars and 
invasions has been licensed by the existence of nuclear weapons and by the 
s formal doctrine of Presidential First Use, which permits the president, 
acting alone, to initiate nuclear war.3 Since the president has genocidal 
power at his personal disposal, obtaining Congressâ??s permission for much 
lesser acts of injury (as in conventional wars) has often struck presidents as 
needless bother.4 The most frequent argument used to excuse the setting aside 
of the Constitution is that the pace of modern life simply does not allow time 
for obtaining the authorization of Congress, let alone the full citizenry. Our 
ancestors who designed the Constitutionâ??so the argument goesâ??simply had no 
picture of the supersonic speed at which the countryâ??s defense would need to 
take place. So the congressional requirement is an anachronism. With planes and 
weapons traveling faster than the speed of sound, what sense does it make to 
have a lot of sentences we have no time to hear? 

Among the many revelations that occurred on September 11 was a revelation 
about our capacity to act quickly. Speedâ??the realpolitik that has excused the 
setting aside of the law for fifty yearsâ??turns out not to have been very real 
all. The description that follows looks at the timetables of American Airlines 
Flight 77â??the plane that hit the Pentagonâ??and United Airlines Flight 
plane that crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers successfully disabled the 
hijackersâ?? mission. Each of the two planes was a small piece of U.S. ground. 
Their juxtaposition indicates that a form of defense that is external to the 
ground that needs to be defended does not work as well as a form of defense 
is internal to the ground that needs to be protected. This outcome precisely 
matches the arguments that were made at the time of the writing of the 
Constitution about why the military had to be â??held within a civil frameâ??: 
about why 
military actions, whether offensive or defensive, must be measured against the 
norms of civilian life, must be brought into contact with the people with 
whom one farms or performs shared labor, or the people with whom one raises 
children, or the people with whom one goes to church or a weekly play or movie. 
Preserving such a civil frame was needed to prevent the infantilization of the 
countryâ??s population by its own leaders, and because it was judged to be the 
only plausible way actually to defend the home ground. 

When the plane that hit the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in 
Pennsylvania are looked at side by side, they reveal two different conceptions 
national defense: one model is authoritarian, centralized, top down; the other, 
operating in a civil frame, is distributed and egalitarian. Should anything be 
inferred from the fact that the first form of defense failed and the second 
succeeded? This outcome obligates us to review our military structures, and to 
consider the possibility that we need a democratic, not a top-down, form of 
defense. At the very least, the events of September 11 cast doubt on a key 
that, for the past fifty years, has been used to legitimize an increasingly 
centralized, authoritarian model of defenseâ??namely the argument from speed. 

American Flight 77 

American Airlines 77 was originally scheduled to fly from Washington to Los 
Angeles. The plane approached the Pentagon at a speed of 500 miles per hour.5 
It entered the outermost of the buildingâ??s five rings, ring E, then cut 
ring D and continued on through ring C, and eventually stopped just short of 
ring B.6 Two million square feet were damaged or destroyed.7 Before September 
11, the Pentagon was five corridors deep, five stories high, and in its 
overall shape, five-sided. Three of the Pentagonâ??s five sides were affected 
(one had 
to be leveled and rebuilt; the other two were badly damaged by smoke and 

One hundred and eighty-nine people diedâ??64 on the plane, 125 working in the 
Pentagon. Many others were badly burned.8 Thousands of people work in the 
Pentagon.9 Two factors prevented many more people from being killed or badly 
burned. First, the building is stacked horizontally, not vertically like the 
Trade Center towersâ??it is built like layers of sedimentary rock that have 
turned on their side and lie flush with the ground. Second, one of the 
sections hit was being renovated and was therefore relatively empty of people 
the plane entered. 

While we continue to lament the deaths and injuries, and while we continue to 
find solace in the fact that the number of deaths and injuries was not 
higher, one key fact needs to be held on to and stated in a clear sentence: on 
September 11, the Pentagon could not defend the Pentagon, let alone the rest of 

The U.S. military had precious little time to respond on September 11 (and 
this fact has been accurately acknowledged by almost everyone, both inside and 
outside the country, who has spoken about the day). But by the standards of 
speed that have been used to justify setting aside constitutional guarantees 
the last fifty years, the U.S. military on September 11 had a luxurious amount 
of time to protect the Pentagon. They had more than minutes. The pilots of 
the F-15s and F-16s that flew on September 11 made no mistakes, displayed no 
inadequacies, and showed no lack of courageâ??but what they tried to do now 
to have been a structural impossibility. 

One hour and twenty-one minutes go by between the moment FAA controllers 
learn that multiple planes have been taken and the moment the Pentagon is 
Controllers hear the hijackers on the first seized plane (American Flight 11) 
say â??we have some planesâ?? at 8:24 a.m., a sentence indicating that the 
from which the voice comes is not the sole plane presently imperiled. The 
information that â??some planesâ?? have been taken is available one hour and 21 
minutes before the Pentagon is hit by the third seized plane at 9:45 a.m.10 

Fifty-eight minutes go by between the attack on the first World Trade Tower 
(at 8:47 a.m.) and the crash into the Pentagon (9:45 a.m.). This means that for 
almost one hour before the Pentagon is hit, the military knows that the 
hijackers have multiple planes and that those hijackers have no intention to 
those planes safely. 

The crash of American Flight 77 into the Pentagon comes fifty-five minutes 
after that plane has now itself disappeared from radio contact (at 8:50 a.m.). 
So for fifty-five minutes, the military now knows three things: 

1. the hijackers have multiple planes; 

2. the hijackersâ??far from having any intention of landing the planes safelyâ??
intend to injure as many people on the ground as possible;11 and 

3. Flight 77 has a chance of being one of those planes since it has just 
disappeared from radio. 

When, six minutes later, the plane loses its transponder (so that its radar 
image as well as its radio contact is now lost), the chance that it is one of 
the seized planes rises. 

By the most liberal reading, then, the country had one hour and twenty-one 
minutes to begin to respond. By the most conservative reading, the country had 
fifty-five minutes to begin to respond.12 The phrase â??begin to respondâ?? 
not mean that an F-15 or F-16 could now attack the plane that would hit the 
Pentagon. At the one hour and twenty-oneâ??minute clock time, the plane that 
eventually hit the Pentagon is only four minutes into its flight and has not 
yet been hijacked. It means instead that a warning threshold has just been 
crossed and a level of readiness might therefore begin: at one hour and 
minutes, fighter pilots could be placed on standby on the ground with engines 
running; at fifty-five minutes, fighter planes could be following the third 
plane, as well as any other planes that are wildly off course with radio 

One hour and twenty-one minutes and fifty-five minutes are each a short timeâ??
a short, short time. But . . . by the timetables that we have for decades 
accepted as descriptive of our military weapons, by the timetables we have 
accepted as explanations for why we must abridge our structures of 
the intoxicating timetables of â??rapid response,â?? the proud specifications 
eight minutes, twelve minutes, four minutes, one minuteâ??by these timetables, 
the September 11 time periods of one hour and twenty-one minutes or of 
fifty-five minutes are very long periods indeed. 

The transition from the moment Flight 77â??s radio is off (at 8:50 a.m.) to the 
moment it disappears from secondary radar (8:56 a.m.) is crucial, for it 
begins to confirm the inference that this is one of the hijacked planes.13 A 
sequence of confirmations now follows. While the FAA controllers have been 
to reach the plane, now the airline company also discovers its inability to 
reach Flight 77 on a separate radio (shortly after 9 a.m.)14 At 9:25 a 
Barbara Olson, places a phone call to her husband in the U.S. Justice 
Department, Theodore Olson, stating that the plane is under the control of 
hijackers.15 Because the passenger is well known to the Justice Department 
listener, no 
time need be lost assessing the honesty and accuracy of the report. This means 
that twenty minutes prior to the moment the Pentagon is hit, the Justice 
Department has direct, reliable voice confirmation of the planeâ??s seizure. 

So for twenty minutes prior to the hitting of the Pentagon, the military is 
in the position to know three things (the third of which differs decisively 
from what it knew at the fifty-five minute marker): 

1. the hijackers have multiple planes; 

2. the hijackers intend to injure as many people as possible; 

3. Flight 77 is certainly one of the hijacked planes: it has disappeared from 
radio, has disappeared from secondary radar, has disappeared from the company 
radio, and has been described to the Justice Department as â??hijackedâ?? by a 
passenger whose word cannot be doubted. 

The steadily mounting layers of verification listed in number 3 continue. At 
9:33 a.m., an FAA air traffic controller sees on radar a â??fast moving blipâ?? 
(or â??fast moving primary targetâ??) making its way toward Washington air 
this level of verification comes twelve minutes prior to the planeâ??s crash 
into the Pentagon. At 9:36 a.m. an airborne C-130 sees the plane itself and 
identifies it as a â??757 moving low and fast.â??16 This further confirmation 
nine minutes prior to the collision. No one can suppose that in nine minutes 
planes could be scrambled and reach the hijacked plane (even if we have, for 
decades, listened dutifully to descriptions of much more complicated military 
occurring in nine minutes). But certainly the layers of alert, of scrambling, 
of takeoff, of tracking, could have begun one hour and twenty minutes 
earlier, or fifty-five minutes earlier, not nine minutes earlier. Nine minutes 
presumably the time frame in which only the last act of military defense need 
carried out by the fighter planesâ??if there is any reasonable last act to be 
taken, a question to which I will return. 

During much of its flight, American Flight 77 was over countryside (rather 
than over densely populated urban areas).17 The six successive layers of 
verification need to be spatially displayed so that we can begin to picture 
where the 
plane was during each of them: 

loss of radio (55 minutes remain)
loss of transponder (49 minutes remain)
loss of contact with the airline company (approximately 36 minutes remain)
a passenger calls the Justice Department (20 minutes remain)
a radar image is seen moving toward Washington whose source is not using its 
officialâ??secondaryâ?? radar (12 minutes remain)
a C-130 sights a Boeing 757 flying fast and low (9 minutes remain)
Assuming an airspeed of 500 miles an hour, we can infer that at the time we 
learn that both the radio and the transponder are off (the second layer of 
confirmation), the plane would be 441 miles from Washington with many miles of 
sparsely populated land beneath it.18 By the fourth confirmation (Barbara 
phone call), it would be 180 miles from Washington. By the sixth 
confirmation, that given by the C-130, the plane destined for the Pentagon 
would still be 
81 miles from Washington and the possibility of minimizing injury to those on 
the ground would be rapidly vanishing with each passing mile. 

Again, the point here is not to say, â??Why couldnâ??t these airmen shoot down 
the plane?â?? Time made that extremely difficult. But much smaller units of 
have been invoked to explain our battle readiness over the last fifty years 
and to license the centralization of injuring power rather than a decentralized 
and distributed authorization across the full citizenry that is, according to 
the U.S. Constitution, our legal right and our legal responsibility to 
protect. There is a second profound reason the act could not be (ought not to 
been) carried outâ??the problem of consent, to which I will return when we come 
Flight 93. 

Let us see what actions the military undertook during this time. The country 
has fourteen National Guard planes responsible for defending the country. Five 
of those planesâ??two F-15s from Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod and three 
F-16s from Langley in Virginiaâ??were called into action on September 11. These 
planes were not the only military planes in the air that day. Once the 
Pentagon was hit, the FAA ordered all aircraft to land in a beautifully 
choreographed landing of 4,546 planes over a period of three hours. When the 
FAA announced 
the order, 206 military planes were in U.S. airspace (most engaged in routine 
exercises, actions unconnected to the immediate defense of the country); 
ninety remained in the air after the grounding (their duties have not been 
into the public record).19 But it is only the five National Guard planes that 
were called into action against the seized passenger airliners that will be 
described here. 

The two National Guard F-15s that took off from Otis Air Force Base on Cape 
Cod attempted to address the events taking place in New York City. They were 
called into action one minute before the first World Trade Center tower was 
by the time the second tower was hit they were 71 milesâ??eight minutesâ??away 
from Manhattan. Should they then have continued down to the Washington area? 
(By this time, the plane destined for the Pentagon had its radio and 
off and was reachable by neither air controllers nor the airline company.) 
The answer is no. The two F-15s needed to stay near New York City, where it was 
reasonable to worry that a third hijacked plane could approach. From September 
11, 2001, until March 21, 2002, New York airspace was protected 24 hours a 
day by F-15s, F16s, and AWACS. 

Three F-16s at Langley, Virginia, received their first order from Huntress 
Defense Section at 9:24 a.m. This is a late start: twenty-two minutes after the 
second World Trade Center tower has been hit, thirty-four minutes after the 
plane destined for the Pentagon has lost its radio, twenty-eight minutes after 
it has disappeared from secondary radar, and fifteen minutes after the airline 
company has failed to reach the plane on its own radio. By 9:30 a.m. the three 
Langley F-16s are in the air traveling at 600 MPH toward New York City. Soon 
they are instructed to change their course and are told that Reagan National 
Airport is the target. They are flying at 25,000 feet.20 The hijacked plane is 
flying at 7,000 feet. They reach Washington, D.C., at some unspecified time 
after the 9:45 collision of Flight 77 into the Pentagon. As they pass over the 
city, they are asked to look down and confirm that the Pentagon is on fireâ??
confirmation that by this point civilians on the ground have already provided. 

There are profoundly clear reasons why the military could not easily 
intercept the plane and bring it down in a rural area. But each of those 
reasons has 
counterparts in our longstanding military arrangements that should now be 
subjected to rigorous questioning. First: Flight 77â??s path was hard to track 
its transponder had been turned off. Yes, thatâ??s trueâ??and so, too, any 
missiles fired on the United States or its allies will surely be traveling 
without a 
transponder; their path will not be lucid; their tracking will not be easy. 
Second, the fact that Flight 77â??s radio was not working couldnâ??t be taken 
as a 
decisive sign that it was a hijacked plane since at least eleven other planes 
in the country had radios not working (none of the others hijacked). Yes, that
â??s trueâ??and with missile defense there are likely to be not eleven but 
hundreds of decoys and false targets that will have to be nimbly sorted 
through. As 
difficult as it was to identify the third seized plane, it must be 
acknowledged that the flight had elements that made it far easier to identify 
than the 
enemy missiles our nation has spoken blithely about for decades: the direct 
voice confirmation provided by the passenger phone call to the Justice 
Department, most notably, will not have any counterpart on a missile attack; 
nor can we 
reasonably expect six layers of verification of any one enemy plane or 

A third crucial explanation for the failure to protect the Pentagon is that 
an F-16 cannot shoot down a passenger plane by arrogating to itself the right 
to decide whether the lives on board can be sacrificed to avert the possibility 
of even more lives being lost on the ground.21 Yes, that is trueâ??and yet for 
decades we have spoken about actions that directly imperil the full American 
citizenry (including presidential first use of nuclear weapons against a 
population that the president acting alone has decided is â??the enemyâ??) 
without ever 
obtaining the American citizenryâ??s consent to those actions. 

Each of these three explanations for why the attack on the Pentagon could not 
be easily averted raises key questions about our longstanding descriptions of 
the countryâ??s defense, and yet so far does not appear to have in any way 
altered those descriptions. September 11 has caused the United States and its 
allies to adjust their timetables only in those cases where the scenario 
closely approximates the events that occurred in the terrorist attack itself. 
In England, for example, â??MI5 has warned Ministers that a determined 
attempt to fly a jet into the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria could not 
be prevented because it is only two minutesâ?? flying time from transatlantic 
flight paths.â??22 

While two minutesâ?? time makes it impossible to defend Cumbria against 
terrorists, two minutes is apparently plenty of time for carrying out missile 
by the United States and NATO allies. Here is a postâ??September 11 description 
of Englandâ??s â??Joint Rapid Reaction Forceâ??: â??A new satellite 
system has been installed to allow planners in Northwood to transmit target 
co-ordinates to the royal Navyâ??s nuclear submarines equipped to fire Tomahawk 
cruise missiles. HMS Trafalgar and HMS Triumph in the Indian Ocean both have 
this system. Within minutes of the Prime Minister giving permission to fire 
Downing Street, General Reith could pass on the orders to the submarine 
nominated to launch the precision attack.â??23 What would be the response by 
democracies if a terrorist now used chemical, biological, or even nuclear 
weapons? In an article describing advice to Tony Blair from his defense 
we learn that â??one of his most trusted advisers believes that a highly 
effective way of preventing such an attack is to threaten states that succor 
terrorists with a nuclear wipe-out, within minutes of such an attack, without 
waiting for intelligence reports, United Nations resolutions or approval from 
â??24 Does the Bush administration have plans in place for such attack? Might 
it be our duty to inquire? 

The plane that took the Pentagon by surprise could not be stopped despite a 
one hour and twenty-oneâ??minute warning that multiple planes had been 
despite a fifty-eightâ??minute warning that the hijackers intended to maximize 
the number of casualties, despite a fifty-fiveâ??minute warning that Flight 77 
might possibly be a hijacked flight, and despite a twenty-minute warning that 
Flight 77 was certainly a hijacked flight. Yet so confident are we of our 
ability to get information, of our power to decipher complex lines of 
responsibility, of the existence of evil and of the transparency of that evil, 
that we are 
still today talking about the two or three minutes to send cruise missiles and 
even nuclear genocide to foreign populations. This despite eleven monthsâ??
475,000 minutesâ??in which we have been unable to determine who sent anthrax to 
U.S. Senate and various centers of television communication. 

United Flight 93 

United Airlines Flight 93 was a small piece of American territoryâ??roughly 600 
cubic meters in its overall size. It was lost to the country for 
approximately forty minutes when terrorists seized control. It was restored to 
the country 
when civilian passengers who became citizen-soldiers regained control of the 
groundâ??in the process losing their own lives. 
The passengers on United Flight 93 were able to defend this ground for two 
reasons: first, they were able to identify the threat accurately because it was 
in their immediate sensory horizon (unlike the F-16s that hoped to intercept 
the plane that hit the Pentagon, the passengers on Flight 93 did not need to 
decipher their planeâ??s flight path from the outside, nor make inferences and 
guesses about lost radio contact). The passengers were also able to get 
information from unimpeachable sources external to the plane: crucially, they 
did not 
rely on information from a single central authority but obtained it from a 
distributed array of sources, each independent of the others. Second, it was 
own lives they were jeopardizing, their own lives over which they exercised 
authority and consent. On the twin bases of sentient knowledge and 
authorization, their collaborative work met the democratic standard of 
â??informed consent.â??

When the U.S. Constitution was completed it had two provisions for ensuring 
that decisions about war-making were distributed rather than concentrated. The 
first was the provision for a congressional declaration of warâ??an open debate 
in both the House and the Senate involving what would today be 535 men and 
women. The second was a major clause of the Bill of Rightsâ??the Second 
right to bear armsâ??which rejected a standing executive army (an army at the 
personal disposal of president or king) in favor of a militia, a citizenâ??s 
distributed across all ages, geography, and social class of men.25 Democracy, 
it was argued, was impossible without a distributed militia: self-governance 
was perceived to be logically impossible without self-defense (exactly what do 
you â??self-governâ?? if you have ceded the governing of your own body and life 
someone else?) 

United Flight 93 was like a small legislative assembly or town meeting. 
Figure 2 shows the assembly structure. The residents on that ground conferred 
one another, as well as with people not residing on the plane. Records from 
the on-board telephones show that twenty-four phone calls were made between 
a.m. and 9:54 a.m.; additional calls were made from cell phones.26 In 
approximately twenty-three minutes, the passengers were able collectively to 
through the following sequence of steps:27 

1. Identify the location throughout the plane of all hijackers and how many 
people each is holding. We know that passengers registered this information in 
detail because they voiced the information to people beyond the plane: Todd 
Beamer relayed the information to Lisa Jefferson (a Verizon customer-service 
operator); Jeremy Glick relayed it to his wife;28 Sandy Bradshaw to her 
Mark Bingham to his mother; Marion Britton to a close friend; Elizabeth Wainio 
to her stepmother; and CeeCee Lyles to her husband. 

In terms of democratic self-defense, these conversations are crucial (both at 
step one and at each of the seven steps listed below) to preserving the civil 
frame that the founders identified as so essential to military defense. The 
conversations enabled extraordinary events to be tested against the norms of 
everyday life. They were both intimate and an act of record-making: how else to 
explain Mark Binghamâ??s self-identification to his mother, â??This is Mark 
Bingham.â?? He both gave his mother the statement that the plane had been 
seized by 
hijackers (â??You believe me, donâ??t you?â??) and in effect notarized the 
by giving a verbal signature. 

2. Hear from sources outside the plane the story of World Trade Center 
towers. This information was key: it informed the passengers that they would 
certainly not be making a safe landing; it also informed them that many people 
on the ground would also suffer death or injury from their plane. 

3. Verify by multiple sources outside the plane the World Trade Center story. 
Jeremy Glick, for example, told his wife that the account of the World Trade 
Center attacks was circulating among the passengers. He explicitly asked her 
to confirm or to deny its truth: â??Is it true?â?? 

4. Consult with each other and with friends outside the plane about the 
appropriate action. Jeremy Glick told his family the passengers were developing 
plan â??to rushâ?? the hijackers and he asked their advice. Todd Beamer told 
Jefferson the passengers will â??takeâ?? the terrorists (she cautioned: â??Are 
sure thatâ??s what you want to do?â??) Tom Burnett told his wife a group of us 
is going to do somethingâ?? (she urged him to lay low and not make himself 
visible). Sandy Bradshaw told her husband she was at that moment filling coffee 
with boiling water which she planned to throw at the hijackers; she asked if 
he had a better plan (he tells her she has the best plan and to go ahead). 

5. Take a vote. Jeremy Glick described the voting process to his wife as it 
was underway. 

6. Prepare themselves for taking a dire action that may result in death. 
CeeCee Lyles, unable to reach her husband, left on the phone a recording of 
herself praying, then later reached him and prayed with him; Tom Burnett asked 
wife to pray while he and others on the plane acted; Todd Beamer and Lisa 
Jefferson together recited the Twenty-third Psalm. 

7. Take leave of people they love. Each of the passengers who was in 
conversation with a family member stated aloud his or her love for the 
listener; Todd 
Beamer asked Lisa Jefferson to convey his love to his family. The family 
members reciprocated: â??Iâ??ve got my arms around you,â?? Elizabeth Wainioâ??s 
stepmother told her. 

8. Act. 

Many passengers described the plan to enter the cockpit by force. Not every 
passenger assumed death was certain. Jeremy Glick left his phone off the hook, 
telling his wife, â??Hold the phone. Iâ??ll be back.â?? Todd Beamer also left 
phone line openâ??either because he expected to come back, or as an act of 
record-keeping. The two open lines permitted members of the Glick household 
and Lisa Jefferson to overhear the cries and shouts that followed, indicating 
that action was being taken. CeeCee Lyles, still on the phone with her husband, 
cried, â??Theyâ??re doing it! Theyâ??re doing it!â?? Confirmation is also 
by Sandy Bradshawâ??s sudden final words to her husband: â??Everyoneâ??s 
running to 
first class. Iâ??ve got to go. Bye.â??29 

The passengers on United Flight 93 could act with speed because they resided 
on the ground that needed to be defended. Equally important, they could make 
the choiceâ??formalized in their public act of an open voteâ??between certain 
and uncertain (but possibly more widespread) doom. They could have hoped that 
the hijackers would change their planned course; they could have known that 
death by either avenue was certain, but one avenue would take them to their 
deaths in several minutes (rushing the hijackers and crashing the plane) and 
other avenue would perhaps give them another half-hour or hour of life 
(waiting for the plane to reach its final target). They could have chosen the 
many people have chosen a delayed death when given the same choice. It is, in 
any event, the right of the people who themselves are going to die to make 
the decision, not the right of pilots in an F-16 or the person giving orders to 
the person in the F-16â??as both civilian and military leaders have repeatedly 
acknowledged since September 11. 

It may be worth taking note of the fact that the hijackers themselves 
correctly foresaw that the threat to their mission would come from the 
passengers (â??
citizen soldiersâ??) and not from a military source external to the plane. The 
terrorists left behind them multiple copies of a manual, five pages in 
The manual is a detailed set of instructions for the hours before and after 
boarding the planeâ??â??an exacting guide for achieving the unity of body and 
spirit necessary for success.â?? The ritualized set of steps includes: taking a 
mutual pledge to die; carrying out a ritual act of washing, invocation, and 
prayer; and dressing according to prescribed recommendations on the tightness 
looseness of clothing. 

The manual does not tell the terrorists what to do if an F-15 or F-16 
approaches the planes they have seized.31 It instead gives elaborate 
instruction on 
what to do if passengers offer resistance. We should not ordinarily let 
ourselves be schooled by terrorists. But terrorists who seek to carry out a 
successfully have to know what the greatest threat to their mission isâ??and 
handbook indicates that the great obstacle was perceived to be first, the 
passengers, and second, the reluctance the hijackers might feel to kill any 
resisting passengers. They are instructed at length and in elaborate detail to 
any resister and to regard the killing as â??a sacred drama,â?? a death carried 
out to honor their parents. (That the hijackers would unblinkingly crash into a 
skyscraper taking thousands of lives yet balk at the idea of killing people 
hand-to-hand and therefore require detailed counseling to get through it is 
perhaps no more surprising than the fact that we listen every day to casualty 
rates brought about by the military yet would not keenly kill in hand-to-hand 


I have intended here to open a conversation about our general capacity for 
self-defense. I have compared the fate of the plane that hit the Pentagon and 
the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. The military was unable to thwart the 
action of Flight 77 despite fifty-five minutes in which clear evidence existed 
that the plane might be held by terrorists, and despite twenty minutes in which 
clear evidence existed that the plane was certainly held by terrorists. In 
the same amount of timeâ??twenty-three minutesâ??the passengers of Flight 93 
able to gather information, deliberate, vote, and act.32 

t to the country if such people would now begin to share those views with the 
public. But such views can in no way preempt or abridge our own obligation to 
review matters, since the protection of the country falls to everyone whose 
country it is. 

More particularly, September 11 called into question a key argument that has 
been used to legitimate the gradual shift from an egalitarian, all-citizensâ?? 
military to one that is external toâ??independent ofâ??civilian control: the 
argument from speed. The egalitarian model turned out to have the advantage of 
swiftness, as well as obvious ethical advantages. This outcome has implications 
for three spheres of defense. 

1. Defense against aerial terrorismSeptember 11 involved a partial failure of 
defense. If ever a country has been warned that its arrangements for defense 
are defective, the United States has been warned. Standing quietly by while 
our leaders build more weapons of mass destruction and bypass more rules and 
more laws (and more citizens) simply continues the unconstitutional andâ??as we 
have recently learnedâ??ineffective direction we have passively tolerated for 
years. We share a responsibility to deliberate about these questions, as 
surely as the passengers on Flight 93 shared a responsibility to deliberate 
how to act. The failures of our current defense arrangements put an obligation 
on all of us to review the arrangements we have made for protecting the 
country. â??All of usâ?? means â??all of us who reside in the country,â?? not 
â??all of us 
who work at the Pentagonâ?? or â??all of us who convene when there is a meeting 
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.â?? What the Chiefs of Staff think, or what 
at the Pentagon think, is of great interest (as are the judgments of men and 
women who by other avenues of expertise have thoughtful and knowledgeable 
assessments of security issues); it would be a benefi. To date, the egalitarian 
model of defense is the only one that has worked against aerial terrorism. It 
worked on September 11 when passengers brought down the plane in Pennsylvania. 
It again worked on December 22, 2001, when passengers and crew on an American 
Airlines flight from Paris to Miami prevented a terrorist (now called â??the 
bomberâ??) from blowing up the plane with plastic explosives and killing 197 
people on board. Two Air Force F-15s escorted the plane to Boston and, once the 
plane landed, FBI officials hurried aboard; but the danger itself was averted 
not by the fighter jets or the FBI but by men and women inside the plane who 
restrained the 6'4" man using his own hair, leather belts, earphone wires, and 
sedatives injected by two physicians on board. 

When a passenger plane is seized by a terrorist, defense from the outside (by 
a fighter jet, for example) appears to be structurally implausible from the 
perspective of time, and structurally impossible from the perspective of 
consent. The problem of timeâ??time to identify that a plane has been seized, 
time to 
identify accurately which plane it is, time to arrive in the airspace near the 
seized planeâ??was dramatically visible in the case of the plane that hit the 
Pentagon, even though much more time and more layers of verification were 
available that day than are likely to be available in any future instance. The 
difficulty was visible again on January 5, 2002, when a fifteen-year-old boy 
took off without authorization from Petersburg-Clearwater International 
Airport, crossed through the airspace of MacDill Air Force Base (the 
for the U.S. war in Afghanistan), and then flew into a forty-twoâ??story Bank 
America skyscraper in Tampa, hitting at the twenty-eighth floor. Two F-15 
fighter jets â??screamedâ?? toward him from the south, but reached him only 
after he 
had completed his twenty-five minute flight.33 The time problem was visible 
once more on June 19, 2002, when a pilot and passenger in a Cessna 182 
accidentally crossed into forbidden Washington Monument airspace, flew there 
for twelve 
miles (coming within four miles of the White House), and then crossed out 
again before armed F-16s from Andrews Air Force Base could reach them. 

Even if the nearly insurmountable problems of time and perfect knowledge can 
one day be solved, how can the problem of consent be solved? There is no case 
in war where a soldier is authorized to kill 200 fellow soldiers; how can an 
airman be authorized to kill 200 fellow citizens? How can anyone other than the 
passengers themselves take their lives in order to save some number of the 
rest of us on the ground? During the seven months that F-15s and F-16s, armed 
with air-to-air missiles, flew round the clock over New York and Washington, 
what instructions did they have in the event that a passenger plane was seized? 
What instructions do they now have for their more intermittent flights? Are 
such instructions something only high-ranking officials should be privy to, or 
might this be something that should be candidly discussed in public? 

It seems reasonable to conclude that on September 11 the Pentagon could have 
been defended in one way and one way only, by the passengers on the American 
Airlines flight. This would have required three steps: that multiple passengers 
on the plane be informed about the World Trade Center towers;34 that the 
passengers decide to act or instead to abstain from acting; and that, in the 
that they choose to act, they be numerous enough to successfully carry out 
their plan. As far as we know, none of these steps took placeâ??in part 
as far as we know, there were not multiple passengers on board who knew about 
the World Trade Center towers. It is possible that one or more of these steps 
took place, even though they have not been recorded. 

In stating that the egalitarian model is our best and only defense against 
aerial terrorism, I do not mean that passengers in any one case must choose to 
act, or thatâ??having so chosenâ??they will be successful. I mean only that 
is the one form of defense available to us as a country, which passengers are 
at liberty to exercise or refrain from exercising. Measures taken by the nation 
that are internal to the plane (locks on cockpit door, the presence of air 
marshals, the cessation of the round-the-clock fighter jets over New York and 
Washington35) are compatible with this form of defense. 

2. National defense in the immediate present. The contrast between the plane 
that hit the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania invites 
consideration of the need to return to an egalitarian and democratic military 
only in the specific case of aerial terrorism but in all measures we take for 
the nationâ??s defense in the present year. Some may argue that we cannot 
generalize from one day. Can we generalize from zero days? One day is what we 
What makes this non-risky is that rather than requiring us to come up with some 
new system of government, all it requires is returning to, and honoring, the 
framework of our own laws. 

Since September 11 we have witnessed many actions taken in the name of 
homeland defense that are independent of, or external to, civilian control. 
residents have been seized and placed in circumstances that violate our most 
basic laws; the war against Afghanistan was underway before we had even been 
given much explanation of its connection to the terrorists, who were all from 
Saudi Arabia or Lebanon or Egypt or the United Arab Emirates and not from 
Afghanistan; that war now seems to be over even though we donâ??t know whether 
eliminated the small circle around Osama bin Laden, for whose sake we believed 
were there; we are now tripping rapidly ahead to the next war, listening 
passively to weekly announcements about an approaching war with Iraq that has 
visible connection to the events of September 11; the presidentâ??s formulation 
this future war sometimes seems to include (or at least not to exclude) the 
use of nuclear weapons and the animation of our nuclear first-use policy.36 The 
decoupling of all defense from the population itself lurches between large 
outcomes (presidential declaration of war) and the texture of everyday life. 
According to the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the 
federal agency called the National Communications Systems has â??proposed that 
government officials be able to take over the wireless networks used by 
telephones in the event of an emergency,â?? thereby pre-empting the very form 
defense that did work (the citizenry) and giving their tools to the form of 
defense that did not work (the official government).37 

We are defending the country by ceding our own powers of self-defense to a 
set of managers external to ourselves. But can these powers be ceded without 
relinquishing the very destination toward which we were traveling together, as 
surely as if our ship had been seized? The destination for which we purchased 
tickets was a country where no one was arrested without their names being made 
public, a country that did not carry out wars without the authorization of 
Congress (and the widespread debate among the population that such a 
declaration necessitates), a country that does not threaten to use weapons of 
mass destruction. Why are we sitting quietly in our seats? 

In the short run, returning to an egalitarian model of defense means: no war 
with Iraq unless it has been authorized by Congress and the citizenry; no 
abridgment of civil liberties; no elimination of the tools that enable citizens 
protect themselves and one another (such as cell phones)â??and above all, no 
contemplated use of nuclear weapons. 

3. National defense in the long run. Europeans often refer to nuclear weapons 
as â??monarchic weaponsâ?? precisely because they are wholly external to any 
powers of consent or dissent exercised by the population. In the long run, the 
return to an egalitarian model of national defense will require the return to a 
military that uses only conventional weapons. This will involve a tremendous 
cost: it will almost certainly, for example, mean the return of a draft. But a 
draft means that a president cannot carry out a war without going through the 
citizenry, and going through the citizenry means that the arguments for going 
to war get tested tens of thousands of times before the killing starts. 

Our nuclear weapons are the largest arsenal of genocidal weapons anywhere on 
earth. These weapons, even when not in use, deliver a death blow to our 
democracy.38 But even if we are willing to give up democracy to keep ourselves 
on what basis have we come to believe that they keep us safe? Their speed? A 
Cessna plane (of the kind that proved impossible to intercept in Florida and 
Washington) travels at approximately 136 feet per second; a Boeing 757 (of the 
kind that proved impossible to intercept as it approached the Pentagon) 
travels at 684 feet per second; a missile travels at 6,400 feet per second.39 
what have we based our confidence about intercepting incoming missiles, since 
problem of deciphering information and decoupling it from false decoys will 
(along with speed) be much higher in the case of the missile than in the cases 
of the planes?40 

Nuclear weapons are an extreme form of aerial terrorism. It is with good 
reason that we have worked to prevent the proliferation throughout the world of 
nuclear weapons (as well as biological and chemical weapons of mass 
destruction). But in the long run other countries of the world will only agree 
to abstain 
from acquiring them, or to give them up in cases where they already have them, 
when and if the United States agrees to give them up. The process of 
persuading Iraq, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, as well as our immediate 
to give them up will commence on the day we agree to restore within our own 
country a democratic form of self-defense.

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Citizenship in Emergency-partial text