Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

Kunduz 911

Watching the shifting U.S. responses to criticism of the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan makes one marvel at the gall and efficacy of changing narratives to duck responsibility. What if others used the same techniques?

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The Killing of Osama Bin Laden: Seven Questions Americans Should Ask Now

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has unleashed a ferocious debunking of the official Obama Administration narrative, dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” of the 2011 assassination by Navy SEALS of Osama bin Laden. Everything you think you know about the killing of the Al Qaeda leader accused of ordering the 9/11 attacks, Hersh asserts, is total bullshit.

For its part, the White House is kind of sort of denying Hersh’s alternative history.

“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” Hersh writes in the London Review of Books.

Here are the seven things Hersh’s piece makes one wonder about:

Osama Bin Laden Seymour Hersh allegationsOne: According to Hersh, the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency kept bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad between 2006 and 2011, kind of the way the Burmese junta did to hot dissident lady Aung San Suu Kyi. So when the SEALs came to kill him, it was less like bad-ass, well, SEALs, than shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway, they hid America’s most wanted man ever from us. Why are we paying the Pakistanis $1.6 billion a year? If we paid them $2.6 billion, would they be nicer to us?

Two: According to Hersh, careful intelligence gathering, torture, tracking that courier guy, none of that stuff led to bin Laden.

It was greed: ISI agent Amir Aziz walked into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with evidence bin Laden was in ISI custody. “Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up,” Hersh says. He adds: “The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.” If you came into what we must assume is a significant share of $25 million — even if it’s just $5 million — wouldn’t you retire? Are all Pakistanis workaholics?

the killing of osama bin ladenThree: Hersh says there was no firefight, that bin Laden never resisted, much less got off a shot. “The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme,” he says.

What about when the assassinations are executed with drones? Does the Obama Administration pretend drone victims first have to point a gun at the drone before the Hellfire missiles are loosed?

Four: After the raid, the SEALs were ordered to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so the public wouldn’t learn that the rubout was a cowardly act of, one might say terrorism. “On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private,” Hersh wrote.

But two SEALs did talk, including Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the book “No Easy Day” (which was actually a walk in the park for all involved, excepting UBL and his family). Is it a violation of your NDA if you squawk, but it’s a lie, and it’s the same lie as the government’s?

Five: “Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers.” Hersh says there was never a “trove of terrorist information” because bin Laden was a prisoner, no longer the tactical head of Al Qaeda.

If the tapes weren’t terror stuff, what were they? Where are the videos now? Note to Langley: if there’s a VHS version of the 1988 cult movie “Tapeheads” in the bin Laden trove, do get in touch — I’ve been looking for that one.

Six: Remember the Pakistani doctor, still in prison, accused of using his vaccination program as a ruse to collect UBL’s DNA? Hersh says he did nothing of the kind — that the CIA threw him under the bus to cover for Aziz. “A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’” What did Afridi do to get picked as a scapegoat? Is this what happens when you refuse to contribute to the Abbottabad Fraternal Order of Police fundraiser?

Seven: Hersh says “the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place… there had been ‘no burial at sea.’ added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials.’” There was also what Hersh terms “a complication”: “some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed.”

Do terrorist body parts often rain from the sky in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Were any goatherds, or goats, bonked on the head by bin Laden bits?

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Seymour Hersh on Bin Ladin Capture: 86-ing “Zero Dark Thirty”

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Seymour Hersh has published a blockbuster expose that asserts that most of the narrative of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was wrong. Bin Laden was a prisoner of the ISI since 2006. He never resisted. Seal Team Six was never in danger. The body was never buried at sea, nor were there Muslim rites. Will Kathryn Bigelow remake her film?

bin ladin so much for zero dark thirty

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Thank You For Your Service

Journalist Seymour Hersh publishes a blockbuster expose behind the killing of Osama bin Laden, which turned out to be more like shooting fish in a barrel since bin Laden was a prisoner of the Pakistanis. Despite all this, Seal Team Six retains their official status as heroes of the nation.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: “Selma” and Hollywood’s Sleazy Perversion of History

Movies are the historical record.

Americans experience the Vietnam War by watching “Apocalypse Now,” slavery in “12 Years a Slave,” and D-Day through “Saving Private Ryan.” A lot more Americans watch historical movies than read history books. Which, when done well, is not a bad thing. I’ve read countless books about the collapse of Nazi Germany, but the brilliantly-acted and directed reenactment of Hitler’s last days in his Berlin bunker depicted in the masterful 2004 German film “Downfall” can’t be beat.

When a film purports to depict a historical event, it becomes the only version of what most people believe really happened. So, as we move further into a post-literate society, misleading historical filmmaking isn’t just a waste of 2-1/2 hours.

It’s a crime against the truth.

The Ava DuVernay-directed film “Selma” is at the center of controversy, both due to its semi-snubbing by the Oscars – viewed as backtracking from last year’s relatively racially diverse choice of nominees – and accusations that it plays loose with history.

Former LBJ aide and Democratic Party stalwart Joe Califano fired the first shot with a Washington Post op-ed. “Selma,” wrote Califano, “falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.”

He’s right.

Robert Caro’s magisterial four-volume biography of Johnson portrays him as a deeply flawed man, but one whose passion to push for desegregation and an end to discrimination against blacks informed his political career throughout his life, though it wasn’t always obvious to his detractors.

It was only after JFK’s assassination brought him to power – actually, a movie portraying Kennedy as reluctant to support civil rights would have been accurate – that he had the chance to push through both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which he did aggressively and quickly, despite what he famously predicted would be the loss of the South to the Democratic Party for a generation or more.

Johnson gave J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI too much latitude, which Hoover used to harass King, but there’s no evidence that, as the movie depicts, it was LBJ who ordered Hoover to send audiotapes of King having sex with other women to his wife. And let’s be clear: every important conversation in the Oval Office was being taped. We have the transcripts. We would know if that had happened.

Califano takes his defense of his former boss too far when he says “[the march on] Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Otherwise, the facts are on his side: the LBJ in “Selma” is not the LBJ King knew.

Fans of the film argue that it doesn’t matter.

“Did ‘Selma’ cut some corners and perhaps tilt characters to suit the needs of the story? Why yes — just like almost every other Hollywood biopic and historical film that has been made,” the media writer David Carr writes in The New York Times.

Yes, in a movie the story is the thing. It’s hard to imagine “The Queen” — about the inner workings of the British monarchy and its relationship to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana — working without a lot of made-up dialogue between the principals. However, the great detail of these obviously private conversations signals to the audience that they don’t come out of a transcript, and that we must be witnessing a fictionalized account.

There comes a point, on the other hand, where so many corners get cut and so many characters get tilted that a film ceases to resemble history and enters the territory of complete fabulism and, in the case of “Selma” and LBJ, retroactive character assassination.

The clash between MLK and LBJ – King pushing, Johnson resisting – isn’t merely some extraneous detail of the script in “Selma.” It’s the main plot of the film.

It didn’t go down like that, yet thanks to this BS film, a generation of Americans will grow up thinking that it did.

Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post repeatedly calls “Selma” “fiction.” As in: “film and other fiction.” To her, apparently, film is always fiction. But it’s not.

Like books, film is a medium.

Film can be nonfiction.

Film can be fiction.

“Califano’s approach,” she writes, “besides setting a [sic] odd standard for how fiction ought to work…suggests that we should check fiction for inaccuracies.”

As usual, the crux of the debate boils down to an inability to agree on definitions of terms. For those like Rosenberg who believe that everyone knows movies are just for fun, it doesn’t matter that “Schindler’s List” depicts showers at Auschwitz spraying water rather than Zyklon B — even though that never happened, and thus serves to understate one of the horrors of the Holocaust. To the all-movies-are-fiction crowd, “Zero Dark Forty” is cool despite its completely false claim that torture led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“This is art; this is a movie; this is a film,” director DuVernay told PBS. “I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.”

That’s sleazy. Truth is, her film is being marketed as fact, as she knew it would be. And it’s doing better because of it.

Audiences need a ratings system to separate films that purport to recount actual historical events from those like “Selma,” which are fictional tales using historical figures as hand puppets.

I suggest that the MPAA institute the following ratings:

Rated H for Historical: a film that makes a good faith effort to recount history accurately.

Rated S-H for Semi-Historical: a film that relies on devices like made-up dialogue and encounters, but whose basic plot line reflects history to the best of our knowledge.

Rated H-F for Historical Fiction: a film in which anything, including the basic plot line, can be made up out of whole cloth.

If the movies are going to lie to me, I deserve to know before shelling out my $12.50.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Praise for bin Laden’s Killer Exposes Americans as Barbarians

 

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France is grappling with the damage to its reputation as the global capital of intellectualism after the nation’s minister of culture sheepishly confessed that she doesn’t read books. “Barbarism is here,” declared the writer Claude Askolovitch. “If one can be culture minister without reading, then we are mere technocrats and budgeters.”

Oui.

Evidament.

At least there are still some among the French who care about their nation’s image.

Here in the United States, the face of barbarism appeared in the banal form of Robert O’Neill, a former Navy SEAL who claimed on Fox News to have been the SEAL Team Six member who shot the fatal shots that killed Osama bin Laden.

O’Neil is very proud of himself. “Standing on two feet in front of me, with his hands on his wife’s shoulders behind her was the face that I’d seen thousands of times, UBL,” O’Neill told Fox. “Very quickly I recognized him and then it was just pop, pop pop.”

Military men, including some of O’Neill’s former comrades, criticized him for speaking publicly about a classified operation, going against SEAL tradition. Others questioned whether he really fired the fatal shots.

But no one went after him for being, you know — a first-degree murderer. (Since four other people were killed in the raid, it’s probably closer to the truth to say mass murderer.)

What happened to America? We used to have morals. We celebrated Rosa Parks. Assassins were scum.

As recently as the 1980s, a right-wing president, Reagan, signed an executive order banning political assassinations. Which is exactly what the bin Laden rubout was.

There was never any intention to try to capture bin Laden alive. To the contrary — an eyewitness, bin Laden’s daughter, says the Al Qaeda leader was captured alive, then blown away, mafia-style. The man — in this crime, which is what it was, we have to call him the victim — was certainly unarmed. We’ll never know for sure, since no medical examiner got a peek at the victim’s body before it was dumped into the ocean.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden diminished what little was left of America’s moral authority. Calling it “justice” was a mockery of law and due process. It also denied his victims their right to see the facts about his alleged — since he was never tried, we have to say alleged — crimes revealed in open court.

As Geoffrey Robertson wrote at the time: “The U.S. is celebrating summary execution, rationalized on the basis that this is one terrorist for whom trial would be unnecessary, difficult, and dangerous. It overlooks the downsides: that killing bin Laden has made him a martyr, more dangerous in that posthumous role than in hiding, and that both his legend and the conspiracy theories about 9/11 will live on undisputed by the evidence that would have been called to convict him at his trial.”

The operation was, without question, illegal. If the U.S. were a nation of equal justice under the law, everyone involved, from O’Neill to the president, would face murder charges.

I don’t care how you feel about bin Laden. Assassinating him was disgusting, might-makes-right bullshit.

If anyone in the media agrees with me, however, I can’t find them.

“If [O’Neill] killed bin Laden, then he deserves the recognition that comes with it. … I say, ‘Well done, O’Neill, tell it like it is and let them howl. They’ll criticize you no matter what. Hooyah,'” wrote an editorial writer in the otherwise charming town of Saint George, Utah. Time magazine called the shooting of an unarmed suspect (while invading a foreign country, by the way) an “action that warrants…acclaim.”

Don’t forget the hit film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which portrayed the bin Laden murder — as well as the torture that preceded it — as heroic.

What happened to us?

Top Nazis, responsible for a lot more deaths than 9/11, were put on trial at Nuremberg. Just two decades ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that a state-sponsored assassin would garner praise for his role in a “wet op” (as long as he really did it).

Or that a president would brag about ordering it. (“Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Vice President Biden crowed.)

Or that said president would enjoy a bump in his polls as a result (as opposed to a knock on the door from the FBI).

ISIS? Mere pikers.

Barbarism, c’est nous.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama a “Reluctant Warrior,” My Ass

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David Ignatius is to The Washington Post what Thomas Friedman is to The New York Times, the 50-yard line of the world as seen by political elites. Like Friedman (but minus the Mustachioed One’s tortured syntax and penchant for airport-to-Four-Seasons taxicab policy briefings), Ignatius mirrors the views of our wealthy, powerful and oblivious leaders at any given hour of the day.

Like the president and his advisors and Congress and the Pentagon brass, he never spies a crisis abroad that couldn’t be improved by firing explosives at it. Long after everyone, including even the media, tires of the carnage (in Iraq, in Afghanistan, etc.), he continues to defend it until the war’s approval ratings dip into fractions of a percentage point, at which point he pivots, bravely arguing that intervention is a mistake.

At this writing, we are at the start of America’s war cycle: (post-beheading video) anger, bombing, more bombing, withdrawal.

Obama’s bombing campaign against ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria is in its larval form. Which means Ignatius is cheerleading what the U.S. does best: turning living human beings into corpses.

Ignatius, a right-winger, is more pro-war than pro-Republican. Which earns the president official Ignatian praise as — no, really! — a “reluctant warrior.”

Obama, writes Ignatius, “certainly didn’t go looking for another war in the Middle East.” He “contorted himself almost to the breaking point to avoid one.” He “had no choice.”

Ignatius approvingly cites fellow Iraq War neo-con Stephen Hadley (last seen in the desert searching for Saddam’s WMDs, rather than in prison where he belongs): “Hadley noted that Obama’s stance as a reluctant warrior will help him reassure foreigners and Americans alike that this isn’t a reckless, unilatateral U.S. crusade,” Ignatius writes.

Beware of warmongers bearing the “no choice” argument. In matters of war, especially against a foe like ISIS deemed by U.S. government’s own professional intelligence analysts to pose no imminent threat to the U.S., there is always a choice.

To war or not to war?

You might also want to be wary of warmongers whose last war, and the one before, and the one before that, didn’t work out well — guys who are always, reliably wrong. Though, to be fair to Iggy, that’s also true about most of his colleagues.

More galling than Ignatius’ Lucy-and-the-football “no, really, this time really will be awesome” here-we-go-again shtick is this “mainstream” columnist’s belief that Americans can’t remember the last five years of U.S. history.

When it comes to killing, Obama is anything but reluctant. To the contrary — he makes George W. Bush look like a dirty peace hippie.

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 by running against the “stupid war” against Iraq. Once in office, however, he issued order after order extending said stupid war with tens of thousands of soldiers and U.S. private “contractors” (corporate mercenaries).

Obama doubled down in Afghanistan with the failed “surge” of additional troops.

It’s pretty much forgotten now, but in 2011 Obama went in deep against Libya, assassinating dictator Col. Moammar Gaddaffi with a drone. The collapse of Gaddaffi’s government opened a vacuum instantly filled by Benghazi-based radical Islamist militias and sparked a civil war that has reduced a formerly viable nation to a failed state.

Speaking of drones…

Does anyone need reminding that Obama aggressively expanded Bush’s illegal program of drone assassinations in Yemen, east Africa and Pakistan, killing thousands of people, 98% or so of whom have been innocent civilians? Or that, rather than grant the victims of the 9/11 attacks justice in the form of a trial, he ordered the assassination and midnight body dump of Osama bin Laden?

From Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to now Iraq all over again, Barack Obama is as much of a “reluctant warrior” as Genghis Khan.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Professionals Behaving Badly

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The Drone Memo’s Hack Author Should Be In Prison. Instead, He’ll Be a Judge.

Conservatives say, and this is one of their more successful memes, that poor people are immoral. The proles have sex and kids out of wedlock and expect us (i.e., upstanding middle- and upper-class patriots) to pay for them. They steal Medicare and cheat on welfare. They don’t follow The Rules (rules written by, let’s just say, not them). Which makes them Bad.

This was always hogwash, of course. Though it is true that poverty causes people to do bad things, class and morals are uncorrelated. But who’s worse, the poor thief or the wealthy person who refuses to pay him a living wage?

America’s professional class has traditionally enjoyed a privileged position at the top of middlebrow America’s aspirational hierarchy. At the core of our admiration for doctors, lawyers and bankers was the presumption that these learned men and women adhered to strict codes of ethics. Doctors healed, lawyers respected the law and bankers didn’t steal.

When they did, there’d be hell to pay, not least from their brethren.

Evidence abounded that the clay content in the professional class’ metaphorical feet was no lower than anybody else’s. Thanks to recent developments, not least since 2008’s save-the-banks-not-the-people orgy of featherbedding at taxpayer expense, the fiction that we should look up to the technocracy is dying fast.

Not only are some physicians crapping on their Hippocratic oath by carrying out executions of prisoners and participating in the horrific torture of innocent concentration camp inmates, the associations charged with enforcing professional ethics sit on their old-boys-club hands. Big-time judges, depicted in movies as moral giants who love to get medieval on evil dirtbags whether in the mafia or the CIA, act like wimps instead, grumbling under their mint-flossed breath as they sign off on the federally-funded insertion of needles into innocent men’s penises.

Thurgood wept.

I got to thinking about the fall of the professional class after hearing that the White House has finally relented in its incessant stonewalling on the Drone Memo. Finally, we peons will get a peek at a legal opinion that the White House uses to justify using drones to blow up anyone, anywhere, including American citizens on American soil, for any reason the President deems fit.

When the news broke, I tweeted: “This should be interesting.”

I’m a cartoonist, but I can’t imagine any reading of the Constitution — left, right, in Swahili — that allows the president to circumvent due process and habeas corpus. I can’t see how Obama can get around Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12333, even after Bush amended it. Political assassinations are clearly proscribed: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (Yes, even bin Laden.)

I have no doubt that David Barron, who is a professor at the very fancy Harvard Law School and held the impressive title of Former Acting Chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and who furthermore is President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, did his very bestest with his mad legal skillz to come up with a “kill ’em all, let Obama sort ’em out” memo he could be proud of.

Still, this topic prompts two questions:

What kind of human being would accept such an assignment? Did anyone check for a belly button?

How badly would such a person have to mangle the English language, logic, Constitutional law and legal precedent, in order to extract the justification for mass murder he was asked to produce?

I haven’t seen the drone memo, but Senator Rand Paul has. Whatever legal hocus-pocus Barron deployed didn’t convince Paul. “There is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a president is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court,” Paul said in a statement.

I’ll bet my next couple of paychecks that Paul is correct — and that Barron’s sophistry wouldn’t withstand a serious court challenge, not even before a panel of a dozen Antonin Scalias. After all, we’ve been here before.

Shortly after 9/11, Dick Cheney and his cadre of neo-con fanatics ordered the White House Office of Legal Counsel, the same entity behind Barron’s drone memo, to come up with a legal justification to give Bush legal cover for torturing suspected terrorists. When they emerged, the Torture Memos were roundly derided by legal experts as substandard, twisted and perverse readings of the Constitution, treaty obligations and case law. Read them. You’ll see.

In 2010, the Justice Department decided not to file charges against Torture Memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee on the grounds that the two men weren’t evil — just dumb. (Can’t they be both?) The Torture Memos, they ruled, were shoddy. That, I’m as sure as I can be about something I haven’t seen yet, will be the case with the drone memo.

As with Yoo and Bybee, both of whom went on to prosper in the legal profession rather than warm the prison cells they both richly deserve, Barron probably won’t lose anything as the result of his work on the drone memo. He’ll be a federal judge.

Yet another heavy stone on the grave of America’s once-vaunted professional class.

(Ted Rall, staff cartoonist and writer for Pando Daily, is author of “Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the New Middle East.” Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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9/11 Memory Hole

13 years after the attacks, the 9/11 Memorial has opened at the site of Ground Zero. Among other criticisms, the facility has been drawing fire for an exorbitant $24 admission fee, behind which lie the remains of the victims of the attacks, thus monetizing their deaths. A gift shop will also sell T-shirts.

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