Best Buy Book in Town

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(Host) There’s a book that commentator Madeleine Kunin recommends. She says that it’s more than just another “good read.”

(Kunin) At $10 a piece, it’s the best book buy in town. And perhaps, the most important. I’m talking about the 9/11 report, officially known as the Final Report Of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, by former Governor Thomas Kean, the chair and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, the vice chair.

For one thing, it’s a good read. Unlike most other government reports, not a speck of dust is likely to fall on the pages of this best-seller – the reader wants to turn them too quickly. This is elegant and clear prose backed up by amazing details and meticulous research, is worthy of any first rate historian.

The first chapter, quoting one of the hijackers, is called “We have some planes.” It provides a second by second description of the terrorists boarding the four planes and highjacking them. It reads like a terrific thriller. But the thrill wears off when we remind ourselves that every word is true.

If you’re curious to know how Bin Ladin achieved his present power in the Islamic world, you will find some answers here. I quote: “It is the story of eccentric and violent ideas sprouting in the fertile ground of political and social turmoil. It is the story of an organization poised to seize its historical moment. How did Bin Ladin – with his call for indiscriminate killing of Americans – win thousands of followers and some degree of approval from millions more”

This is what the report goes on to explore. The book is also frightening in its honesty. I quote: “No President can promise that a catastrophic attack like that of 9/11 will not happen again… But the American people are entitled to expect their government to do its very best. They should expect that officials would have realistic objectives, clear guidance, and effective organizations.”

The commission wryly observes, “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies,” and then asks that we create new structures and mind sets to bureaucratize imagination.

Some have criticized the commission for not finding fault with President Clinton, President Bush, or the Congress. Others have rightly pointed out that there would not have been a commission if the relatives of the victims of 9/11 had not persevered against the president’s opposition.

We must thank them and praise the ten commission members for their extraordinary bi-partisanship. They have given us a great gift – their knowledge, their fear, and their call to action.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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