Drop Dead New Yorkers

CounterPunch - May 22, 2007

Drop Dead, New Yorkers

Bush, Giuliani, Whitman and the Lethal Fallout from 9/11


The fallout now taints us all.

Amidst the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush and Giuliani
saddled up their bullhorns and raced down to the smoldering World Trade
Center to shout out a single "patriotic" demand: re-open the stock

And to hell with the health of the good citizens doing the clean-up.
Ditto the rest of us down wind.

The public health outcome has now become visible: those brave and
caring people who marched onto the site to do what needed to be done
are starting to die in droves.

The New York Times says less than a third of them were wearing
respirators. Giuliani is getting a long overdue bashing for letting
this happen. With all his swagger, Rudy imposed a single demand above
all: the financial district must re-open. That people would die doing
it was known but never mentioned. Giuliani had his priorities.

Bush's Environmental Protection Agency knew full well that the airborne
fallout from the smoldering the World Trade Center was absolutely

Then headed by the "green" nuclear power advocate Christine Todd
Whitman, the EPA knew the cancerous clouds pouring out of the site were
a toxic brew of lethal chemicals, the likes of which the world had not
seen since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

The WTC towers were among the last buildings to be lined with large
quantities of asbestos, an infamous agent of lethal lung diseases,
including cancer.

But they also contained countless computer screens, light fixtures,
calculators, telephones, network servers, paging systems, copy machines
and much more high-tech office equipment laden with mercury, lead,
arsenic and too many other toxic metals to list here. The
chlorine-laden plastics, carpeting, concrete, chemical cleaners,
furniture, metal struts, window glass---all were pulverized and
vaporized into a horrific cloud of murderous dioxins, furans, powdered
glass and noxious soot whose killing powers were hideous.

Whitman, Giuliani and Bush were told all that---and then waged a
conscious campaign to make sure the rest of us didn't find out. Our
callous, corrupt, corporate-controlled media of course complied.

The upshot was a rapid "clean-up" of this horrific site. The first
whirlwind we now reap is an escalating rate of sickness and death among
those who did the work.

Contrary to law and common sense, most of the clean-up crews were
allowed to work without protective garments and breathing devices.
Years of investigations must now probe how available (and effective)
this equipment really was, not only for those doing the grunt labor
amidst the ashes, but also for the tens of thousands of good souls who
came downtown to bring them food, coffee and consolation.

As the tragedies spread, so will the lawsuits. Whatever millions of
private dollars might have been saved by the rapid re-opening of the
financial district will be paid for many times over with billions of
public dollars to compensate the health costs of official negligence.

But there is far far more. For all those who labored amidst the WTC
rubble, thousands more proceeded to live their lives in Manhattan and
elsewhere downwind with no warning of how dangerous it really was to
merely breath the air there.

Whitman's EPA knew the particulate fallout that blanketed the region
was extremely lethal. Tens of thousands of homes, businesses and public
buildings were coated in toxic ash.

At very least, all downwind buildings should have been intensely
monitored. Many should have been fitted with advanced filtration units.
All carpeting, furniture, walls and fixtures should have been
repeatedly tested and cleaned. And then cleaned again. And then cleaned
yet again.

Some buildings might never have reopened. And the stock market might
have stayed shut longer. Such things cost money.

But who can tell us now how many automobiles, subway cars, public
buses, offices, living rooms, bedrooms, public spaces and infants'
cradles were saturated with poisonous WTC powders? How many pregnant
women breathed in nano-particles that crossed the placenta into the
bodies of children now five or six years old?

What will become of these innocent victims of the Bush-Giuliani-Whitman
decision to not warn the public of what was in our air, water and food?

In fact, the sick and dying WTC clean-up crews constitute the mere tip
of a public health disaster made unforgivably worse by this willful and
malicious official neglect.

The diseases and deaths now surfacing from the immediate WTC area are
the barest of beginnings. They indicate that far more people will
likely die from the toxic 9/11 fallout than perished in the buildings
that horrible day.

Characteristically, soon after the WTC attacks, Bush attacked the Clean
Air Act on behalf of Republican utility investors who would contribute
his 2004 war chest.

And now Whitman pushes a "renaissance" of nuclear power plants. Reactor
fallout is one of the few substances even more lethal than what spewed
into New York amidst her criminal silence. Had those 9/11 jets crashed
into the Indian Point reactors 45 miles north of the WTC, would she
also have hidden the ensuing death toll?

Whatever the answer, she now peddles her EPA "credential" to push still
more of those infernal, infinitely vulnerable machines, as if 9/11
never happened.

And Rudy Giuliani, the super patriot who put re-opening the stock
market so far ahead of the health of his fellow Americans, wants to
follow Bush into the White House. Perhaps those who find themselves in
his presence should don respirators. Better late than never.

Bush, Giuliani and Whitman have built careers around their "patriotic"
responses to 9/11/2001.

But countless New Yorkers---and other downwind Americans---now suffer
and die as a direct result of their irresponsible, self-serving
negligence. It is a public debt that can never be repaid.

[Harvey Wasserman helped co-ordinate media for the Clamshell Alliance,
1976-8. He was arrested at Diablo Canyon in 1984 and at Seabrook in
1989. He is author of "Solartopia: Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030,"]