The transcript the feds released this week of the final minutes of Flight 93 proves that President Bush brazenly and consistently lied to the American people about how that flight ended. The transcript shows that the Arab hijackers chose to crash the plane into the ground after the American passengers stormed the cockpit. There is no guarantee that the transcript is accurate, and the government has already been caught fabricating evidence at terrorist trials in the post 9/11 era. But the government’s own version of events damns Bush. The transcript was available in early 2002, if not earlier, and was shown at that time by federal officials to some of the survivors of the people killed when Flight 93 went down.
Bush turned the 9/11 attacks into a moral allegory. He continually invoked the story of Flight 93 to persuade Americans of the need to reform their lives. In a speech at a Lacrosse, Wisconsin high school on May 8, 2002, Bush announced:
"I think the most telling event on September 11th, and one that I hope a lot of people remember, is what happened on Flight 93. Basically, what I’m saying is, it’s important to serve something greater than yourself in life. It’s important to serve a call greater than yourself and a cause greater than yourself. Flight 93, we had average citizens flying across the country, and they realized their plane was fixing to be used as a weapon on the Nation’s Capital. They called their loved ones on the phone. They said a prayer and told them they loved them, said a prayer, and they drove the plane in the ground to serve something greater than themselves. That’s the American spirit I know. That’s that sense of sacrifice that makes this country so strong."
Everyone not comatose during all of 2002 likely heard Bush’s Flight 93 spiel:
On March 18, 2002, Bush, speaking to factory workers in O’Fallon, Missouri, declared that Flight 93 would help launch a new "period of personal responsibility."
In Knoxville on April 8, 2002, Bush declared, "Flight 93 told me a lot about America. . . . It is that spirit that is alive and well in America, and it’s that spirit that makes me so optimistic about the future of this great country."
At an April 29, 2002, California political fundraiser, Bush invoked Flight 93 as proof of the "new culture" of "serving something greater than yourself in life" and claimed that "Out of the evil done to America is going to come incredible good" because "we are such a good nation."
The next day at another fundraiser, Bush declared that "Flight 93 really, in many ways, epitomized the best of America."
At yet another Republican fundraiser, this one in Florida on June 21, 2002, Bush declared that Flight 93 was "the most compelling story, of course, in my judgment, after 9/11 or during 9/11."
And on September 17, 2002, at a school in Nashville, Bush expanded his parable to include the love of freedom: "It’s a lesson of people loving freedom so much and loving their country so much, that they’re willing to drive a plane into the ground to save other people’s lives."
Yet, at the least, there was never any evidence that Flight 93 passengers chose to commit suicide (as opposed to fighting to capture control of the plane from the hijackers).
Bush’s obsessive focus on Flight 93 shifted public attention to heroic citizens and away from incompetent bureaucrats. But Bush had no excuse not to know that his Flight 93 allegory was a sham. FBI director Robert Mueller told a closed congressional hearing in 2002 that Flight 93 crashed a few minutes after one of the hijackers "advised [Ziad] Jarrah [the hijacker piloting the plane] to crash the plane and end the passengers’ attempt to retake the airplane." An August 2003 Associated Press report noted that the FBI’s interpretation, "based on the government’s analysis of cockpit recordings, discounts the popular perception of passengers grappling with terrorists to seize the plane’s controls." No one did more to popularize the bogus version of events than Bush.
How many Americans, hornswoggled by Bush’s lies about Flight 93, volunteered to join the military and ended up dying for Bush’s lies on Iraq?
Post 9/11 America shows what happens when a nation worships its leader and permits him to tell one lie after another, distorting facts and manipulating the public’s emotions. If Bush had not been treated so respectfully after 9/11, he could not have easily lead the nation to war against Iraq. If Bush had not been permitted to exploit government failure, the government would not have become much more powerful.
James Bovard [send him mail] is the author of the just-released Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, and Terrorism & Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil. He serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation.