June 28, 2004


Families of 9/11 are 'the rock stars of grief' says sister of Pentagon pilot (Julian Coman, 27/06/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Among the activist leaders of 9/11 families' groups it is safe to say that Debra Burlingame - whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon - is not a uniformly popular figure.

Ms Burlingame, a staunch Democrat, has become the first public 9/11 "dissident" - a vocal critic of the "blame game" being played over the al-Qaeda attacks - and an unlikely defender of George W Bush. For good measure, the outspoken former lawyer describes some of the bereaved 9/11 families as America's "rock stars of grief".

"I've practically been thrown out of meetings," she says. "They've gotten very angry with me. But I've decided it's very important that another voice is heard in the September 11 debate." [...]

In blistering attacks last week on the 9/11 Commission and those who lobbied for it, she described the high-level hearings as a "Beltway soap opera - awash in politics and finger-pointing". Even more provocatively, in an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Ms Burlingame accuses prominent 9/11 activists of holding an unjustified "contempt for all the people whom they feel contributed to a loss of life on the day their loved ones didn't come home".

For good measure, she also states that the 9/11 families "are not a monolithic group that speaks with one voice". The activist organisations, she says, have been indulged too much. Standing by a memorial in Manhattan to the September 11 victims, with her back to Ground Zero, Ms Burlingame says: "I first felt the need to speak out when 'The Families of September 11' group protested against the use of images of Ground Zero in Bush campaign advertisements. The idea that relatives of victims 'own' September 11 and its images, and can give or withhold permission to use them, is frankly ridiculous.

"People held back from criticising the relatives because of who they were. But what's happening is that this prominent group of activists have become the rock stars of grief in this country. I think people are getting sick of them because they are being so demanding. I can say it because I'm a relative too."

Like the argument that folks who haven't served in the military don't deserve an opinion about war, the notion that these folks have a special moral claim when they speak on politics is vile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2004 9:32 AM
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