In recent days, we’ve seen America’s best – and worst.
Let me start with the best.
US intelligence and their sophisticated military killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida who concocted the distorted political theology that led to the murder-suicide mission of September 11, 2001.
In that attack – the deadliest terrorist attack in US history – 19 al-Qaida members, intoxicated by al-Zawahiri’s words, hijacked four commercial airliners. Agents first murdered the pilots and most flight attendants of each airliner, allegedly slitting their throats. Then, after taking control of the jetliners, they crashed two into the twin skyscrapers of New York’s World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and a fourth into a Pennsylvania farm field.
Nearly 3,000 innocent people died. The 19 hijackers, who also died, believed they were doing God’s will and earning a place as martyrs in “paradise”. Or so al-Zawahiri told them.
Meanwhile, LIV Golf at Trump National Bedminster
Fast forward to now. While al-Zawahiri’s death this week brought justified and immense satisfaction in most non-terrorist countries, it also left behind a sobering dose of irony – not to mention outright shame. here in New Jersey.
While al-Zawahiri was killed last Sunday morning in Kabul, Afghanistan, by a missile fired from a US drone, some four dozen professional golfers in Bedminster, New Jersey – on a course owned by former President Donald J. Trump – were paid lavish sums of money to basically put on a golf show while rock music was played. The money for the LIV golf tournament – whose slogan is ‘golf, but stronger’ – came from Saudi Arabia, which the FBI now concludes was the same source of logistics and financial support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 2001.
Golfers see no problem there. Neither does Trump. In fact, Trump, who specifically blamed the Saudis on Fox News in 2016 for the 9/11 attacks, changed his mind as he stood in the heat and humidity of his golf course in Bedminster, and with an undetermined amount of Saudi money. channeled into his business empire.
“Well, nobody got to the bottom of 9/11,” our former president told reporters.
Nobody? Trump apparently hasn’t read the thousands of FBI documents that point fingers at the Saudi government, specifically its intelligence service and Ministry of Islamic Affairs, not to mention its embassy in Washington, D.C. The FBI points the finger at least a dozen Saudi Arabian officials – including the Saudi ambassador to the United States in 2001 – as playing a role in the 9/11 hijackers.
When asked, golfers mumbled their version of the “thoughts and prayers” we hear from distraught gun rights supporters when mass shootings occur. The golfers said their “hearts go out” to the families.
But these golfers weren’t about to put their putters away and drop out of the LIV tournament. They seemed more in tune with Trump, who told golfers to ‘take the money’ despite criticism over Saudi Arabia’s ties to 9/11 and other human rights abuses including the murder by Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Such is the worst of America. Fortunately, we also tasted the best.
More Mike Kelly:9/11 families mourn again as Saudi LIV tournament kicks off at Trump’s golf course in NJ
More Mike Kelly:Trump and LIV Golf finally brought 9/11 to Saudi Arabia’s attention – for now
Haunted and Relentlessly Drawn to Stories of 9/11
For two decades I have followed the story of 9/11. My journey began by crossing the Hudson River on a tugboat on the morning of 9/11, 2001. It then took me to Malaysia, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Washington, DC, Iraq and US Naval Base from Guantanamo Bay. , Cuba.
But what keeps bringing me back to this story – and often haunts me – are the people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. On that Tuesday in September 2001, when smoke and ash blotted out a golden sun and stained a cloudless sky, children lost fathers and mothers, husbands lost wives, and wives lost husbands. Parents have lost sons and daughters. Many of us have lost friends.
In the New York metropolitan area, many of us have been only two degrees of separation since 9/11. Either we lost someone we knew or we knew someone who lost someone. This tragedy was not just something we heard about in a book or newspaper with a distant date. Death was near and personal.
That’s why it’s worth listening to Juliette Scauso.
She was just 4 when her father, Dennis, a New York firefighter who lived with his wife and four children in Huntington Station, Long Island, was killed in the rubble of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. Like more than 1,000 of the nearly 3,000 people who died at the mall, rescuers never identified Dennis’ body. All they found, according to the Better Angels website, was his mutilated fire helmet.
His daughter, Juliette, is now 25 and studying to become a doctor at Trinity College Medical School in Dublin, Ireland. Back in America for the summer, she took the time to travel to Bedminster to offer a voice of reason amid the cacophonous cloud that seems to shroud Trump and his supporters whenever a question of truth and morality is raised. posed.
Scauso joined three dozen other 9/11 survivors and relatives of victims in Bedminster for a sort of protest against Trump and golfers. When she walked over to a bank of news microphones to speak, she described the father she lost – a pilot and animal lover, who baked Mickey Mouse pancakes and used duct tape to reattach the heads to her broken Barbie dolls.
And then Scauso posed the question that now hangs over this uneasy alliance between Saudi money, greedy golf and a seemingly indifferent Trump, whose failing golf empire is bolstered by an influx of money from the same nation that would have helped kill his father.
“How much money does it take to turn your back on your country? Scauso asked, adding, “Or the American people?”
Moments earlier, Scauso had pointed out that “my father was not the kind of person who could be bought.” And again addressing her message to Trump and the golfers, she said: “I just want you to know that if you were here that day my dad would have come to save you without hesitation.”
Dennis Scauso died along with 18 other men from his fire station in Maspeth, Queens, which was home to two of the FDNY’s most elite units, Hazardous Materials Company 1 and Squad 288. Today, a memorial in a nearby plaza tells passers-by that “Squad 288/Hazmat 1 suffered the greatest loss of firefighters of any FDNY fire station” during the 9/11 attacks.
But the memorial doesn’t tell the whole story. After the death of these 19 firefighters, more than 50 children were forced to grow up without their father.
One of these children is Juliette Scauso. Amid the moral circus that engulfed New Jersey last week, she asked the right questions.
She’s the best in America.
Mike Kelly is an award-winning columnist for NorthJersey.com as well as the author of three critically acclaimed non-fiction books and a producer of podcasts and documentary films. To get unlimited access to his insightful thoughts on how we live life in New Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Trump’s LIV Golf and the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri