August 23, 2005

Monumental Mistake


From the New York Daily News: Another insult to America's heritage at Freedom Center (via Take Back The Memorial).

A global network of human rights museums is urging the International Freedom Center to downplay America in its exhibits and programs at Ground Zero, the Daily News has learned. ...

"Don't feature America first," the IFC has been advised by the consortium of 14 "museums of conscience" that quietly has been consulting with the Freedom Center for the past two years over plans for the hallowed site. "Think internationally, where America is one of the many nations of the world." ...

[T]he Freedom Center said on its Web site and newsletter that it had "drawn inspiration" and received "important practical advice" from the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience.

"We have many, many advisers who have given us lots of advice," Richard Tofel, Freedom Center president, said last week. "Some of it we've taken and some of it we haven't -- that's the nature of advice." ...

"No one in the civilized world would ever defend what happened on 9/11," said Sarwar Ali, the coalition's chairman and a trustee of the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

"But what happened after 9/11 -- with restrictions placed on human rights and the cycle of revenge and the allegations of human rights abuses in prisons -- must also be explored," Ali said in a call from London. ...

Coalition members gathered for their annual conference at a Holocaust site in the Czech Republic in July 2004 -- and assailed the United States for "reasserting its power in an arrogant way," the conference report shows.

Among its suggestions for the place where the United States was attacked and nearly 3,000 innocents massacred: "The Freedom Center must signal its openness to contrary ideas."

Philip Kunhardt, the Freedom Center's editorial director, was in attendance at a session called Bringing Conscience to Ground Zero and was given this advice: ...

n "Use reports from human rights organizations to examine contemporary abuse of rights."

n "Involve the United Nations, UNESCO and other international bodies."

n "Use the museum as a venue for international meetings, where all views are welcomed and considered." [Emphasis added]

From a related Daily News editorial: Making a mockery of Ground Zero.

The coalition's annual report ... certifies that 9/11 families were right to warn that the Freedom Center was being taken over by bash-America propagandists. It also shows, again, that Gov. Pataki had no clue what he was doing in giving the Freedom Center and a second cultural group, the Drawing Center, a franchise at Ground Zero.

Take Back The Memorial continues its petition drive (which is over 40,000 signatures) and is staying on top of all developments, including the withdrawal of the Drawing Center and the withdrawal of backing for the memorial by the Uniformed Firefighters Association. In a New York Post commentary, UFA President Steve Cassidy wrote:

What we are seeking is that which is morally correct -- a fitting memorial erected at Ground Zero that reflects the memory and sacrifice of the victims, the rescuers and their families and all affected.

Tim Sumner of 9/11 Families For America also writes:

As I sit here watching the National Geographic documentary Inside 9/11 and once again hear the voices of firefighters -- including my wife's brother's -- on the FDNY audio tapes from the World Trade Center's South Tower, the anger rises once more.

I highly recommend Inside 9/11, which airs again on Thursday, Sept. 8 and is available on DVD. Also recommended: A&E will rebroadcast The Anatomy of September 11th on Sept. 1 and 7 -- it's a documentary I saw in 2002 and remember as being an excellent, detailed account of those who survived WTC attacks (and it is no longer available on video).

For other survivors' stories, The New York Times has posted over 12,000 pages of testimony from 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians: Oral Histories From Sept. 11 Compiled by the New York Fire Department.

UPDATE I -- Aug. 24: Take Back The Memorial is holding a rally at Ground Zero on Saturday, Sept. 10. See their site for details.

Also, here are our past cartoons on the topic of the WTC 9/11 memorial and the International Freedom Center:
Culture Complex
Step Right Up
Art of Desecration
Sense of Proportion

UPDATE II -- Aug. 27: Here's an excellent overview and editorial by George Koch and John Weissenberger at the National Post: Remember The Victims (via Real Clear Politics and 9/11 Families for America).

As author Dennis Smith noted in The New York Daily News, if 9/11's victims can't claim this space, they won't have anything, as more than 1,000 of them left no physical trace. As one victim's father said, "A five-year-old can understand it."

There seem only two possible reasons for the IFC to attach itself to 9/11: to gain legitimacy by association, or to redirect how 9/11 is remembered. "Myths which are believed in, tend to become true," Orwell also wrote. At Ground Zero, the fight is about which "myth" captures the American people's imagination -- the simple facts of who died, how and at whose hand; or something darker, a "narrative" suggesting that perhaps, after all of America's ambivalent history, it was finally Americans' turn to suffer.

(Note: I am flattered that one of my comments is mentioned in the article. The National Post subscribes to our cartoons.)

Posted by Forkum at August 23, 2005 04:36 PM