View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, April 05, 2004

OK, So I Lied 

Time for one last jab.

Hugh has a post about a NY Times story this morning claiming that the 9/11 attacks were "preventable." Except that the "ifs" you have to string together are so unlikely and so disconnected that almost nobody could truly have prevented them, with the understanding of what they were preventing.

Look, everything is eventually preventable. I'm an amateur pilot. I fly small planes, and I like to look at the accident reports from Cessnas of the same model I'm rated for. Almost always, there's 1) something really stupid, or 2) a confluence of events as time goes on. Number 2) is what we're looking at here.

Take Apollo 13. At the end of the book, Lost Moon, Jim Lovell, the commander of that mission, explains exactly what happened to cause the explosion. It was a sequence of events, a series of engineering mistakes, almost all of which would have required Jeremiah-like insight in order to prevent. He repeats it dispassionately, without malice, without bitterness for his life which he almost lost (he was much more upset about losing the chance to walk on the moon).

I can't expect victims, or relatives of victims to look at it that way. That's why they get our sympathy, but not a chance to make policy. Without proper explanation, I can't even really expect most citizens to see it that way. But this committee was chosen exactly in order to do that. To bring professional judgment to their task, and to look at it without emotion and with their critical faculties.

Messrs. Hamilton and Kean get it. Apparently, it's a little too far above grade-level for the Times.

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