Don Rumsfeld’s remarks regarding Flight 93 having been “shot down” over Pennsylvania caused a bit of buzz over the weekend. Here’s what he said:
And I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples’ heads on television to intimidate, to frighten — indeed the word “terrorized” is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be.
The lingering questions about Flight 93 have always centered on whether the hijackers crashed the plane into the ground or whether we were forced to shoot it down. Rumsfeld’s comment suggests something I had never heard before–that the terrorists themselves shot down the plane.
That doesn’t make sense and Rumsfeld was clearly tired.
So, was the plane shot down or not? The 9/11 Commission investigated the matter. It concluded that Flight 93 was not shot down, but raised questions about whether NORAD would have been capable of shooting down the plane if the passengers had not brought it down themselves:
NORAD officials have maintained that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93. We are not so sure. We are sure that the nation owes a debt to the passengers of United 93. Their actions saved the lives of countless others, and may have saved either the Capitol or the White House from destruction.
Whatever you believe, the renewed attention to Flight 93 can serve as a valuable teachable moment for both the press and the public. Are combat air patrols equipped to handle another 9/11 today? Is NORAD better prepared than it was three years ago? Are we mentally ready to accept the possibility of a shootdown to avert a terrorist attack? Or will The Unhinged Ones paralyze the government from making such decisions in the future?
Update: The Angry Clam at Patterico’s Pontifications explains Rumsfeld’s syntax.
Update II: The Pentagon says Rumsfeld misspoke.
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