The 2 9/11s by Helen Torres

The September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is as impressive as it is nefarious. A day of infamy immortalized within our souls as we witnessed over and over again on television the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We discovered we had became a victim of our freedoms. If I never see the military police patrolling Grand Central Station or the gigantic cardboard display at the entrance plastered with pictures of hundreds of smiling souls, or any other vestiges of September 11, its remembrance will live on eternally for it was the day America fell victim to a maliciously covert operation.

I will defend her to the end

Her earthy scent engulfs me and I cannot escape

She sheds tears of sadness and cannot understand

how such a beautiful day can instantly turn into hell


Her gift of strength and immeasurable valor will take her where she needs to go

and those responsible for her tears must pay with blood

There shall be no pardon or prisoners

Only death because

She is my America


--- H Torres


After the initial shock of the attack I started to get angry. I could not fathom that we had been attacked so easily and I felt violated and afraid. Where was our CIA and FBI and did they even have a clue? As I walked down Fifth Avenue I thought to myself so this is what it feels like to run for safety when all hell breaks loose because terrorist have invaded your country. But as frightening as it is, the terrorists lived among us and were plotting to hijack planes and destroy our buildings right under our noses. As jolting as a slap in the face, we realized that our national security system needs major revamping to prevent Sept. 11 from happening again.

In 1973, twenty-eight years ago, on Sept. 11 – an eerie coincidence – it was Chile who was the recipient of a surprise attack by its military commandeered by Gen. Augusto Pinochet and backed by the CIA. While in the Presidential Palace, Mr. Allende addressed Chile via telephone link through the only radio station that had not been silenced by the military raids:

“This will surely be the last time I speak to you. Magallanes Radio will be silenced, and the reassuring tone of my voice will not reach you. It doesn’t matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be with you. At least, your memory of me will be that of a man who was loyal to the country …I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will be able to transcend this sad and bitter moment, when treason tries to force itself upon us…I’m sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain,…it will be a moral lesson that will punish the felony, cowardice, and treason [of the Armed Forces].” (Allende 1998).

Sadly, since our own September 11 occurrence, America can empathize and appreciate the rhetoric of the last few moments of life knowing that your death is imminent. Jeremy Glick had a 20-minute conversation with his wife before he and other passengers charged three hijackers on a Newark flight bound for San Francisco. It is believed that flight was aiming for a landmark in Washington. Due to the bravery of those passengers, the plane crashed into a field south of Pittsburgh instead of the hijacker’s destination. Mr. Glick’s last words were:

“Lyz, I need you to be happy.”

Mrs. Glick takes comfort in the last words they spoke because it provided closure to hear her husband’s voice for the last time and to know he would be a hero. It was one of the few moments of glory in the midst of all the abhorrence. (Newman 2001).

The hatred of Chile’s democratically-elected socialist government by the Nixon Administration and the national security advisor, Henry Kissinger always existed. (Petras 1975). Since the early 1960’s, American policy in Chile was directed at one objective – to keep Salvador Allende from coming to power. (Halperin et al. 1976). Mr. Hurtado who currently resides in Chile and was a secret service police during the Frei administration (1964-1970) was fearful for his life. During Frei’s administration and about the time Allende would be president, a colleague of Mr. Hurtado’s was reported missing. The rumors that there would probably be more disappearances under a new administration, lead him to flee Chile without hesitation seeking exile in Peru and later Venezuela before arriving in the United States. Washington believed that the Allende government posed massive problems for the U.S., for regional stability and for pro-U.S. forces in Latin America and the entire Western Hemisphere. Henry Kissinger at a secret June 1970 White House meeting said:

“I don’t see why we need to standby and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people” (Muñoz, Portales, p. 43).

From the day of the coup until well after Pinochet quit the presidency, Chile was a society ruled by fear. To instill fear had been the objective of a policy that seized people off the street for sessions of torture and then released them to pass the word about the punishments that awaited the dictator’s opponents. The press and the publishing houses, which had supported the constitutional government, disappeared and the rest made sure that they did not bring out anything that could upset the dictator. (O’Shaughnessy 2000). Pinochet’s regime included arbitrary arrests, raids on private homes, imprisonment, executions and torture. Yet he audaciously justified the brutality by claiming to have freed Chile from the evil hands of communism. More than 3,000 people were killed or tortured under the Pinochet regime between 1973-1990. (BBC News 8/10/2001).

Pinochet’s character has centered on what might be called opportunism. He saw the chance for almost unlimited power and on various occasions he claims to have been guided by God. In 1974 he stated:

“I believe that we all came into this world to achieve something. And I think that that’s got to be done well. God put us there and gives us a role. One has got to accomplish that work well, however insignificant the job He gives us.” (O’Shaughnessy, 84)

He believes he felt he was living through an apotheosis. (O’Shaughnessy 2000).

General Pinochet was quoted in October of 1981:

“Not a leaf moves in this country if I am not moving it. I want that to be clear!” (Spooner, p. 163)

And in December 1985 was quoted:

“I do not tolerate arbitrariness or injustices or abuses of power. Each time I have had knowledge of some action in this sense, I have ordered measures to be taken.” (p. 113) (Spooner 1994)

It is this dogmatic approach that kept Pinochet in control of Chile for 17 years. Although Pinochet was not the smartest man, he positioned himself as head of the military and in March of 1988 appointed himself a senator for life. (ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2001).

On the same day as the collapse of the World Trade Center, a lawsuit was filed in Washington by the family of Chilean military commander Rene Schneider who was killed during a botched kidnapping attempt 31 years ago. The family is seeking more than $3 million in damages from Henry Kissinger, Richard M. Helms and other Nixon administration officials. (Washington Post, 9/11/2001). The family chose to sue after carefully reviewing documents that became public over the past two years. The documents, he said:

“made me realize that my father’s death is perhaps the one crime perpetrated outside the U.S. that most clearly links back to the U.S. government, the CIA and Kissinger in particular. I don’t want revenge. I want the truth to be established.”

CIA Director, William E. Colby admitted that CIA activities were undertaken with express authorization of the White House at all times, and included: strenuous efforts to influence the outcome of the 1970 presidential election; attempts to bribe members of the Chilean Congress to prevent Allende’s inauguration; penetration of all major Chilean political parties; and continuous “destabilization” efforts. Colby’s revelations concerning covert U.S. activities contrast sharply with the public statements of highest-ranking policymakers according to whom U.S. policy was essentially one of noninvolvement and nonintervention in the internal policies of Chile up to and including the military coup. (Petras 1975).

What truly happened in Chile during the Pinochet regime will not be revealed until 2003, when all declassified government documents will be released to the public. Whether Mr. Kissinger is lying about this culpability remains to be seen. But if we are to learn any lesson from our mistakes it should be to admit that we have made a few and simply fix it. Passing the blame to others is not only a waste of time, it creates animosity which leaves the doors wide open for more mistakes. Immigrants that have fled countries with authoritarian governments remain critical of any abuse of power or attempt at censorship from those who think a united, unquestioning country makes a nation stronger. They are careful not to equate the brutality of Latin American dictatorships to the Bush administration’s measures to restrict civil liberties, they remain vigilant to the warning signs probably more so that most Americans because they’ve lived it. (New York Times, 12/9/01).

It has been almost three decades and the emotional impact of September 11 on Chileans is still very much alive. Just this week, the novelist Isabel Allende (Salvador’s Allende second cousin) was asked what came to her mind when she heard the date Sept. 11. Without hesitation Ms. Allende said that she thought of her native Chile and what had happened there on September 11. She divides her life starkly into two: before and after the 1973 coup. She says:

“I never imagined such a thing was possible in Chile, which had such a solid, 160-year old democracy – it was called ‘England’ of Latin America. It was a revelation that there were concentration camps and torture centers all over the country. It had been there in the shadows, the brutality and violence, but for me, it was like waking into a nightmare.” (The Guardian 2000)

Our government has responded steadfastly embarking on a mission to amend existing policies and implement new polices. For example, the Antiterrorism bill was approved (98 to 1 vote) by the Senate on October 25, 2001, signed the next day by President Bush and said that the bill would “help law enforcement to identify, to dismantle, to disrupt and to punish terrorists before they strike.” The bill includes the following provisions: (1) increased penalties for committing acts of terrorism or for harboring or financing terrorists organizations; (2) a bioterrorism provision that makes it illegal for people or groups to possess substances that can be used as chemical weapons for any purpose; (3) detention of immigrants suspected of involvement in terrorism (individuals may be held for up to seven days for questioning); (4) roving tap wire so that any phone a suspected person uses can be monitored (currently, a separate authorization for each phone was needed); (5) search warrants; (6) monitoring of computers; (7) the sharing of intelligence and criminal information on investigations by intelligence officials; (8) the Treasury Department can now require banks to determine sources of large overseas private banking accounts; and (9) American banks are barred from doing business with offshore shell banks which have no connection to any regulated banking industry. These are the majority of the provision, which set the tone, and direction of the Bush Administration. (New York Times 10/26/2001)

Less that a week later, on October 30, 2001 and with little public notice, the Justice Department instituted a policy of monitoring communications (without getting approval from a judge) between people suspected of terrorism and their lawyers. The Justice Department said communications between inmates and their lawyers would be monitored when “reasonable suspicion exists to believe that a particular inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of terrorism.” Charles Fried, who is a Harvard Law professor agrees that the Justice Department’s policy was a reasonable way for officials to try to prevent attacks. (New York Times, 11/13/2001). Still there are those that believe the policy is a blatant violation of the Constitution and that we are doing what we condemn other countries for. It is probable that if September 11 had not occurred, this policy would have not been approved but post-September 11, more changes are imminent and clearly essential.

A “new” policy implemented is military tribunals, which have been resurrected for the first time since World War II. Military tribunals were first approved by the Supreme Court in 1801 when those accused of plotting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln were also tried and convicted by a military court. A military order signed by President Bush on November 13, 2001 calls for trying any foreigner charged with terrorism to be tried by a military tribunal. Under this order the President himself would determine who is an accused terrorist.

“The accused in such a court would have dramatically fewer rights than a person would in a court martial,” said Eugene R. Fidell, the president of the National Institute of Military Justice.
(New York Times, 11/14/2001, p. A1, B8)

Some say that this military order is the most pragmatic approach but others wonder whether we are witnessing nothing more than an oligarchy. Three months after the attacks there is seemingly much disagreement between our government officials about whether military tribunals should be used to try foreigners. Military tribunals play a major role in ensuring we do not jeopardize national security and a small price to pay for our safety. The terrorists had been planning this attack for at least two years and the FBI has revealed that all 19 hijackers came into the country legally and only three of their visas had expired. How does this happen? Nadine Strossen, president of the A.C.L.U. says:

”People are very concerned, at least in the abstract. They say they are willing to give up their freedoms for national security if they are getting something in return. But they are not sure they are getting something in return.”

Since September 11, the attorney general has discovered that liberals are not a monolith, that one can believe in the A.C.L.U. and national security, that one can want privacy protected and still be a patriot. (Dowd 2001).

Three months after the terrorist attacks, the government indicted Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent. He is charged with: (1) conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, (2) to commit aircraft piracy, (3) to destroy aircraft, (4) to use weapons of mass destruction, (5) to murder U.S. employees and (6) to destroy property. Four of the six counts carry a maximum sentence of death. (New York Times, 12/12/2001). Surprisingly Mr. Moussaoui will be prosecuted in federal court and not in a military tribunal. Administration officials said that the decision to prosecute Mr. Moussaoui in federal court followed a contentious debate between the Pentagon, which wanted to try him in an overseas military tribunal, and the Justice Department, which has secured convictions in several important terrorist cases in American courts. (New York Times, 12/12/2001). This is a mistake. Mr. Moussaoui is a foreigner and he is suspected of being the 20th hijacker on September 11. There are two significant provisions in determining whether the crime is an appropriate one for a military tribunal. One is that the suspected individual is a foreigner and the second is that the individual is suspected to be involved in terrorist acts. Mr. Moussaoui meets both. Unfortunately, it seems that all it takes is a little pressure and criticism for rules to suddenly change.

When deemed “appropriate” we have all turned our faces or have been hypocrites. For instance, after we assisted Pinochet take control in Chile, we were not the least bit concerned about the human rights violations occurring in Santiago. Henry Kissinger stroked and bolstered Pinochet, and assured him that he would not be punished for violations of human rights. (3/8/99 September 11 is more than just a day of infamy, it is a day that has tremendously affected our economy, destroyed our families and robbed us of certain simple freedoms. We desperately need to find the right balance between fighting this war aggressively and thoroughly perhaps even bordering on invading some civil liberties if need be. Just as skillfully as we participated in the overthrow of President Allende, certainly we can maneuver the overthrow of the Taliban and hunt down bin Laden (a video tape was released just a few days ago that confirms he was responsible for the terrorists attacks) wherever he is hiding. However, we need to be consistent in our measures, otherwise, we become an international joke. We cannot afford to take a nonchalant approach to how we say we are going to prosecute terrorist suspects and the manner in which we ultimately prosecute them. This sends a confusing message about our abilities and our policies in dealing with prosecuting foreign terrorists. We owe it to our servicemen and intelligence and other Americans who risk their lives everyday to capture the enemy.

At the same time, we must continue taking stringent measures that will ensure our safety at home. We have known for a long time that our airports need better security. It seems we are always very eager to fix the problem immediately after a tragic event and eventually revert to our carefree ways and policies. We get comfortable again and become easy prey. We were attacked with our own planes by terrorists living among us, they used our flight schools and every opportunity and resources available to them to destroy us. Let us not make the mistake of underestimating the enemy time after time. They looked to us for the means and supplies that they could not afford. Look around you. Is there anything that if used differently could be used as a weapon? The thought sends chills up and down my spine.

Jonathan Alter, a journalist for Newsweek said:

“…we should resolve never again to ignore convincing warnings of threats to our national security. In March of this year, the Rudman-Hart Commission on National Security issued its report, saying unequivocally that the biggest threat to the United States was terrorism (p. 52).

We had a wake up call in February of 1993 when the World Trade Center was bombed. We realized then our vulnerability to international terrorism but then came Sept. 11. What is it that we have not done? My hope is that by implementing military tribunals by abiding by the antiterrorism bill we can accomplish more than we have in the past in fighting terrorism. We call ourselves the best country in the world because of our freedoms but sadly, in this instance, having such freedom allowed 19 terrorists to seize our planes and use them as massive destruction weapons. Our children in nearby schools witnessed bodies flying out of the burning towers and body parts everywhere. Mike Frankel, a nineteen-year old student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, stood at 199 Church Street, just behind the police lines, talking to his mother on his cell phone:

“Ma, I saw 50 people die. I saw the buildings drop right in front of me. I came out of school and saw people jumping out of the buildings. I saw everything.” (Newsweek, p. 64).

When are we going to get it? We are living in a different time, the unthinkable has happened to America and making up new rules as we go along does not need to be a bad thing. I believe that the majority of America is on board when it comes to capturing and punishing those responsible (except for a few pacifists here and there). It should be our lifetime mission to end terrorism. We can only do that by monitoring. Robert S. Mueller III, the FBI director, said law enforcement officials had decided before Sept. 11 that they lacked authority to obtain a court-approved intelligence warrant, known as a F.I.S.A. document, to search Mr. Moussaoui’s laptop computer. It was later found to contain data concerning flight training. When asked if the bureau could have headed off the attack by investigating Mr. Moussaoui more extensively, Mr. Mueller said:

“All I can tell you is that the agents on the scene attempted to follow up aggressively. The attorneys back at the F.B.I. determined that there was insufficient probable cause for a F.I.S.A., which appears to be an accurate decision. And Sept. 11 happened.” (New York Times 12/12/2001)

I would hate to think that if the antiterrorism bill had been implemented immediately after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, instead of a month and a half AFTER Sept. 11, however slim those chances may have been, that Sept. 11 could have been prevented.

Dr. Carolyn Neberger, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School says:

“This is a loss of innocence for Americans. We as a country have been living as though the catastrophes in the rest of the world don’t apply to us, disaster doesn’t happen on our soil. But from now on, we can no longer deny that we are vulnerable.” (Newsweek, p. 42)

Let’s move onward and upward and by helping our government use the new privileges so that we can close the gap that has been open for too long. We will never be the same nation so let’s not try to keep playing by the same rules. Times are different post Sept. 11 and we owe it those fighting this war for all of us and to the thousands of Americans and foreigners to lost their lives to the wrath of the evil doers.

The affects of September 11, 2001 also reached Chile when it reported the first case outside the U.S. to also be touched by the war on terrorism. U.S. officials confirmed that a letter sent from Switzerland to Chile was tainted with anthrax. (New York Times, 11/24/2001). Mr. Hurtado confirmed what the newspapers reported because a few weeks ago, when he was trying to enter the U.S. embassy, the building was temporarily closed.

Now that we know how easy it was for the terrorist to finagle themselves into our country, our airports, our planes and society, are we ready to fight back with a specific purpose of securing our national security and do we have a strategy that will carry us safely into the next decade? We need to think of our children and the kind of world we want for the future of this country. The message we received on Sept. 11 cannot be taken lightly. America is still the home of the free and land of the brave. Just because we want to impose policies that allow us to better protect our citizens does not mean our President wants to be the next Pinochet. But how much more carnage is needed before we make a bold and drastic move towards making America better than it was before Sept. 11?





I have God on my side

Only he replaces my anger with perseverance

The truth in his words will guide me to my peace


I have God on my side

For he too has been persecuted

No apologies for our beliefs

Nothing will change, and to surrender, a sin

As the rays of culpability shine on me, I stand tall and ready

Always a lesson to learn

Secrets of the soul never be told

I shall carry my cross valiantly



Come praise or criticism

resurrection is imminent

I have God on my side


-Helen M. Torres



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