Wild Art | 03.16.15

Washington D.C. Metro-goers ride the escalator to the Pentagon on Friday evening.

Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Every generation has its “Where Were You When…?” dates. For my parents’ generation — the most poignant “where were you when” question is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 21, 1963. The moment that, for each American who heard that awful news, is forever seared in their memories.

In my generation’s childhood years, the main such moments were hearing that President Ronald Reagan had been shot, and five years later learning that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. Those were my generation’s defining dates — until Sept. 11, 2001.

That day I was in Washington, D.C. I had just moved back three weeks earlier, returning after a three-year hiatus for graduate school to the city where I had previously lived and worked for several years. My daily commute took me right past the Pentagon, just 200 yards from the spot where the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 would tear a hideous gash into the building. 

On that morning I left the house around 6:45 a.m. for a breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill. Never would I have imagined that within three hours of driving by, the Pentagon would become the first Washington building attacked in wartime since the British burned the city almost two centuries earlier.

After my breakfast I parked my truck on Capitol Hill and took the Metro to my office at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank six blocks from the White House. Shortly after arriving at my desk, one of my interns came over with a quizzical look and said that an airplane had just hit the World Trade Center. Curious, I opened the Washington Post website to a headline saying the same thing but offering no details. My immediate guess was that a small private plane must have accidentally collided with the building. Assuming there was nothing more to the story, I resumed work. 

A few minutes later my intern came running back and said that a second plane had hit the other World Trade Center building. Almost simultaneously, another colleague yelled that “the Pentagon has been hit, we are under attack!” It was simultaneously frightening and surreal as I tried to make sense of the discordance between the possibility that we were in our last minutes of life and the fact that our office felt as comfortable and placid as any other day. There was no smoke or fire, no clanging alarms, no gunshots, no masked men yelling — none of the things that I assumed an attack would bring. 

All that changed minutes later when a few colleagues and I went outside on the roof of our building. Across the river, a black pillar of smoke buried the Pentagon and stretched miles into the sky, magnitudes larger and more terrifying than any fire I had ever seen. I ran back down to my desk and phoned my parents in Tucson. When my mother answered I quickly blurted, “Mom, I just want you to know that I am OK.”  Bewildered, she asked, “What do you mean?” Realizing that Arizona was three hours behind the East Coast and she had just woken up, I told her to “turn on the TV, we’re under attack, I love you and will call back later!”

Now chaos and confusion set in. Someone else ran over and reported that the State Department had just been hit. Another person said that a bomb had just been set off at the Washington Monument. Yet another said that gunmen were attacking the White House. 

None of that was true, yet at the time we did not know, and given the smoke from the Pentagon descending across the rest of the city, any terrible report seemed possible. Nor did we know that in these same moments, the heroic passengers of hijacked United Flight 79 were sacrificing their lives to prevent their plane from decimating another Washington target, perhaps the White House or the Capitol.

I ran into the office of another colleague. He and several others were huddled in front of the television, watching live footage from New York. Suddenly we saw the first tower begin to crumble and fall. None of us said a word; tears rolled down several faces.     

The building manager said it was our choice whether to evacuate the building or stay in place.. Along with many others, a friend and I decided to leave. Outside, a surreal scene confronted us. The streets were packed with thousands of people, deathly quiet, walking with faces pale in collective shock. Uniformed men with assault rifles sternly motioned us down certain streets. We walked for almost three hours until reaching my truck, parked near my church on Capitol Hill. I went inside the pastor’s office where he and several others were watching the news. There we stayed for about six hours, transfixed and horrified. As evening fell the vehicle ban was lifted, so I began to drive home. Minutes later I passed by the Pentagon again, smoke billowing out amid the carnage and rubble. I knew that nothing would ever be the same.

Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.


WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is not extending some housing benefits to same-sex partners of service members even though it legally could because the complex issue requires more review and has triggered concerns among military leaders, senior Pentagon officials said Monday.

A new department memo detailed a number of other benefits that will be extended to same-sex partners, including identification cards that will provide access to commissaries and other services. Some access to base housing is not specifically prohibited and could be offered in the future.

—Compiled from
Associated Press reports

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A Guantanamo Bay prisoner charged in the 9/11 attacks fired one of his military attorneys Monday in an apparent sign of frustration and distrust of his Pentagon-appointed legal counsel.

At the start of what is expected to be a four-day hearing to address pre-trial legal issues, Waleed bin Attash at first refused to speak when questioned by the judge about his desire to dismiss one of his three lawyers, Marine Corps Maj. William Hennessy. He hinted at his motivation later in an exchange with the judge about whether he wished to attend future sessions of the court.

“We have been dealing with our attorneys for about a year and a half and we have not been able to get any trust with them,” the Yemeni said.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.

The changes, set to be announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.

But as news of Panetta’s expected order got out, members of Congress, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced their support.

“It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who will be the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, said, however, that he does not believe this will be a broad opening of combat roles for women because there are practical barriers that have to be overcome in order to protect the safety and privacy of all members of the military.

Panetta’s move comes in his final weeks as Pentagon chief and just days after President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech in which he spoke passionately about equal rights for all. Panetta’s decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.

SAN FRANCISCO — Four female service members filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat, hoping the move will add pressure to drop the policy just as officials are gauging the effect that lifting the prohibition will have on morale.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, is the second one this year over the 1994 rule that bars women from being assigned to ground combat units.

The legal effort comes less than a year after the ban on gays serving openly was lifted and as officials are surveying Marines about whether women would be a distraction in ground combat units.

“I’m trying to get rid of the ban with a sharp poke,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was among the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit and was injured in 2007 when her Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

Hunt and the other three women said the policy unfairly blocks them from promotions and other advancements open to men in combat.

Women comprise 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. The lawsuit alleges that women are barred from 238,000 positions across the Armed Forces.

At a Washington, D.C., news conference, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has opened about 14,500 combat positions to women.

“And he has directed the services to explore the possibility of opening additional roles for women in the military,” Little said. “His record is very strong on this issue.”

American Civil Liberties Union Ariela Migdal, who represents the four women, said Panetta’s actions weren’t enough. She called for an end to the combat ban. “These tweaks and minor changes on the margins do a disservice to all the women who serve,” she said.

“It falls short,” she said. “It is not enough.”

SAN DIEGO — Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn’t follow “unlawful” orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

The Marine Corps is determining if he violated the military’s rules prohibiting political statements by those in uniform and broke guidelines regarding social media. Stein said his views are constitutionally protected.

“I think that it’s been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces,” said former Navy officer David Glazier. “Good order and discipline require the military maintain respect for the chain of command. That includes prohibiting speech critical of the senior officers in that chain of command — up to and including the commander in chief.”

According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform can’t sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.

Last week, Stein said his superiors told him he couldn’t use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message.

Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights. Stein said he respects the office of the president, but he does not agree with Obama’s policies.

“Just because I’m a Marine doesn’t mean I don’t have free speech or can’t say my personal opinion about the president or other public official just like anybody else,” Stein said. “The Constitution trumps everything else.”

Stein said it’s positive when service members are well-versed on the Constitution and current events.

“When we know what we’re fighting for, we fight harder,” he said.

The Marine Corps said Stein is allowed to express his personal opinions, but not in his official capacity as a Marine. Spokesman Maj. Michael Armistead said the Corps is taking a closer look to ensure Stein has not crossed that line.

“At this time, he has not been asked to take down the statement on his page,” he said.

Marine Sgt. Jerret Wright, who liked Stein’s page, said Stein “probably skirted the line a little bit” with his latest message, but his boldness has been refreshing in a community that often feels silenced.

“People assume that we’re zombies with an on-and-off switch, and that we listen to orders and do nothing else,” Wright said.

Military observers point out that the Pentagon policy is necessary in preventing political and religious debates that could divide a unit and disrupt the strong working relationship that is needed to carry out missions, Glazier said.

“There are plenty of examples in the world of militaries heavily involved in influencing political events that have shown that is not conducive to civilian rule of law,” he said.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Marine's Facebook page starts debate on military free speech

A day to remember

In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York moments before collision, seen from the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Photo Credit: William Kratzke | The Associated Press

Editor's Note: This Sunday, people across campus and the country will remember exactly what they were doing ten years ago when two planes hit the Twin Towers and killed approximately 3,000 Americans in a terrorist attack. The Texan asked several prominent campus figures where they were and how they reacted on Sept. 11.

Mack Brown | Head Football Coach

“What I remember about that day, Sept. 11, 2001, is I was sitting in my office watching practice video and [Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations] Arthur Johnson walked in and said, ‘Coach, I just want to make you aware that a small plane has hit one of the Twin Towers in New York.’

And my first thought was, what a tragedy for some airplane to have gotten off course or somebody must have had a heart attack or something to hit the Twin Towers. And then Arthur came back in and said, ‘Coach, I think it’s more than that. Another plane hit the Twin Towers.’ And then I turned on the television and started watching, and from that point forward, we understood that we were under terrorist attack.

My first thought was — with the Bush family living in Austin and one of the daughters being at the University of Texas — what about the safety of our players? What about the safety of their families?

We stopped our meetings immediately, and we got on the phone and started calling and texting our players to make sure that they were OK, trying to get them to this building, trying to get them downstairs so that we could all put some sense into what was going on with our country.
There were some scary moments because it took some time to communicate because so much of our communication was down. It was an open date week, and I do remember we decided not to practice that afternoon and we decided to sit and talk as a team and a football family about what had happened. We talked about the potential impact on them, their children and their grandchildren.

We played Houston the next week, and every one of our players carried a flag for the National Anthem. And since that point, we have carried at least two flags out onto the field. We try to have each of the young men that are carrying the flag onto the field have some sort of affiliation with our armed forces by having a either a relative or a dear friend in the military.

And as you look back ten years ago, our incoming freshmen were eight years old at that time. So we’ll go back through some of the changes in history over that moment this afternoon with our team.”

Glenn Frankel | Director of the School of Journalism

“By the time I left the gym that morning, the second plane had struck the South Tower and everyone understood this was no accident. I rushed to the Washington Post just as the first reports were coming in of the crash at the Pentagon, and the newsroom — already dispatching more reporters up to New York — suddenly faced a massive breaking story just across the Potomac. As editor of the Sunday magazine, I started tearing up our long-scheduled issues and making plans for several 9/11 issues and stories.

At the same time, all of us volunteered for the immediate task at hand. Our half-dozen staff writers hit the streets, while I and four other editors marched over to the national news desk to help process the reams of copy that were soon pouring in.

The Post had literally hundreds of people reporting and phoning in what they were seeing. Some of our reporters and photographers camped out at the Pentagon with firefighters and rescuers for several days. The newsroom was controlled chaos — lots of people moving swiftly between desks, endless hours working and staring at computer screens, all of us with our voices lowered out of respect and awe for the enormity of what we were covering.
I edited two of the longer pieces, one of them an early attempt to put the attacks in perspective.

Many Washingtonians spent the day in panic mode, fearing more attacks; offices closed, sending workers out onto streets that suddenly seemed dangerous. My older daughter, freshly graduated from the University of Virginia and working downtown at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, called to ask if she could come to the newsroom because Metrorail had shut down and she had no way to get home. She sat in my office, watching the TV reports and waiting for the threat to pass. In the newsroom we were too busy to ponder our own safety, but seeing her there somehow helped me stay focused. Sometime in the afternoon, I learned that a woman I knew had been on the Washington flight. The Pentagon burned for days.”

Sherri Greenberg | Interim Director for the Center for Politics and Governance

“I was actually working out at the gym, and the gym has televisions set up in front of the treadmills, and when I walked in, I didn’t know what had happened. I saw on the television what had happened, and as I was watching, the second plane hit the tower.

So I watched this happening on TV and I was absolutely horrified. There were other people there and it was totally silent. We had no idea what was going on, but I’ll never forget just watching it happen. Everybody just stood still watching the tv and watching everything unfold.

It was just a terrifying event, and I had children who were young at that time. They were in school. My husband and I had discussions and the elementary school gave us information abut what they would be telling the kids and how to talk to the kids. When the kids came home, we had to talk to them about it of course, which was really difficult because you need to let them know what happened because of course they’re going to hear about it, but you have to do so in such a way that they’re not terrified.

It was absolutely horrifying. Nobody had any idea what was really happening. I think that we were able to discuss the situation with our children in a way that did not cause them undue stress. I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it right now. As I said, watching that unfold was just a truly terrifying experience. I was with other people and everybody was just frozen and silent. We were supposed to, within a day or two of that, my husband and I were going to take a flight to New York and we did cancel that. We thought it would be too stressful for the kids.”

Kevin Hegarty | Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

“I was giving a financial presentation to Dell Financial Services. I was vice president of Dell at the time before I came to UT. I came to UT in Oct. of 2001, literally a short time after, less than a month later.

I was in the middle of making a monthly financial update, and someone came in and said to turn on the TV, that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York. Somebody started almost kind of laughing because it was so unreal. I’ve never seen a room quieter, you could’ve heard a pin drop. People were just in absolute shock.

We kept the TV on and some people watched, it seemed like for hours, but after about 15 minutes, we began to think of all the people we had in the company who might be in New York. None of us understood the ramifications, but we began thinking of who do we have in the company that might’ve been there because New York is a key financial center and Dell was a huge company.

In the days that ensued as we learned more, it was a really great example of how people came together to help others whether it was helping someone at home or helping someone grieve. It was amazing that from such a tragic event could come such unity and support, and it really showed people how human we were and how much we depended on each other.

Needless to say, I did not finish my financial presentation. I remember so many details. It was just so shocking, something we would never have thought would happen happened. You had these monumental buildings come down, one might say they were likely to be damaged but not just taken down like that, and the loss of 3,000 plus lives in one event. I think it burned into peoples minds what they were doing that day. I was the vice president at Dell and I’ll never forget that day.”

This video image provided by Senate Television shows the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, after the Senate has approved an emergency bill to avert a first-ever government default with just hours to spare. (Photo Courtesy of Senate Television)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate emphatically passed emergency legislation Tuesday to avoid a first-ever government default, rushing the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature just hours before the deadline. The vote was 74-26.

It was announced that Obama signed the bill shortly after 2 p.m. Central Standard Time and will make remarks at the White House.

Tuesday's vote capped an extraordinarily difficult Washington battle pitting tea party Republican forces in the House against Obama and Democrats controlling the Senate. The resulting compromise paired an essential increase in the government's borrowing cap with promises of more than $2 trillion of budget cuts over the next decade.

Much of the measure, which the House passed Monday night, was negotiated on terms set by House Speaker John Boehner, including a demand that any increase in the nation's borrowing cap be matched by spending cuts. But the legislation also meets demands made by Obama, including debt-limit increases large enough to keep the government funded into 2013 and curbs on growth of the Pentagon budget.

"We've had to settle for less than we wanted, but what we've achieved is in no way insignificant," said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "But I think it was the view of those in my party that we'd try to get as much spending cuts as we could from a government we didn't control. And that's what we've done with this bipartisan agreement."

Many supporters of the legislation lamented what they saw as flaws and the intense partisanship from which it was forged. In the end, it was a lowest-common-denominators approach that puts off tough decisions on tax increases and cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.

"What troubles me about it is that the bipartisan compromise also represents a kind of bipartisan agreement by each party to yield to the other party's most politically and ideologically sensitive priority," said Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. "In the case of Democrats, it's to protect entitlement spending. ... In the case of Republicans, it's to not raise taxes."

The measure would provide an immediate $400 billion increase in the $14.3 trillion U.S. borrowing cap, with $500 billion more assured this fall. That $900 billion would be matched by cuts to agency budgets over the next 10 years.

The Senate vote was never in doubt after Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and McConnell signed on. But like Monday's House vote, defections came from liberal Democrats unhappy that Obama gave too much ground in the talks, as well as from conservative Republicans who said the measure would barely dent deficits that require the government to borrow more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends.

"This is a time for us to make tough choices as compared to kick the can down the road one more time," said freshman GOP Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The measure sets up a fall drama that promises to again test the ability of Obama and Republicans to work cooperatively. It establishes a special bipartisan committee to draft legislation to find up to $1.5 trillion more in deficit cuts for a vote later this year. They're likely to come from such programs as federal retirement benefits, farm subsidies, Medicare and Medicaid. The savings would be matched by a further increase in the borrowing cap.

There's no guarantee the committee, to be evenly split between the warring parties, will agree on such legislation. But there are powerful incentives to do so because more budget gridlock would trigger a crippling round of automatic cuts across much of the budget, including Pentagon coffers.

And questions linger about the effect the grueling political free-for-all will have on the U.S. credit rating.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told ABC News that he didn't know whether the debt-limit fight would cause America's AAA credit rating to be downgraded. "It's not my judgment to make," he said. Geithner also said he fears world confidence in the United States was damaged by "this spectacle."

Enactment of the measure provides welcome closure for Obama, who has seen his poll numbers sag during the debt-limit battle.

GOP presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann issued statements opposing the legislation.

"As with any compromise, the outcome is far from satisfying," Obama conceded in a video his re-election campaign sent to millions of Democrats.

In a tweet, the president was more positive: "The debt agreement makes a significant down payment to reduce the deficit — finding savings in both defense and domestic spending."

Updated on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.: Headline and minor edits.

WASHINGTON — Defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta will certify that gays may serve openly in the armed services. News of his decision comes two weeks after top military leaders agreed that repealing the 17-year-old ban will not hurt military readiness.

The decision is not unexpected. The Pentagon has conducted months of internal studies and training to gauge how troops would react to the change triggered by a law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December.

The Pentagon announcement is expected Friday, and Obama is expected to endorse it.

Repeal of the ban would become effective 60 days after certification, which could open the military to gays by the end of September.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.