Tag Archives: Dick Cheney

On 9/11, Rumsfeld Fiddled While Cheney Ran the Country

In her interview with last night with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, author of a new autobiography, Diane Sawyer asked him about a tough decision he had to make on the morning of 9/11. Was it not difficult, she asked, to order military pilots to shoot down passenger jets that the government believed to be hijacked and headed targets in Washington–maybe the White House, maybe the Capitol. For a moment, Rumsfeld dropped his generally arrogant stance, and instead looked as if he were about to cry as he recalled the agony he went through in making the decision.

It might have been a poignant moment, were it not for the fact that Rumsfeld didn’t make the decision. It was Vice President Dick Cheney who made the decision. And it was Cheney who was running the country with a confused Rumfeld watching from the sidelines.

When the nation is threatened, it is the President, the  Commander-in-Chief who must make the decision to engage the military. Under the law, he orders the Secretary of Defense to implement his commands down through the military chain of command.  While President Bush was being shuttled around from bunker to bunker, on the morning of September 11, 2001, supposedly out of cell phone contact at times, Rumsfeld was next in line. But Rumsfeld’s role on 9/11 has always been a mystery. In his new book, on page 339, the former secretary of Defense casts a little light on what he did that morning .

Feeling the Pentagon shake when American Airlines Flight 77 hit at 9:38, and seeing the smoke, Rumsfeld, by his own report, rushed into the Pentagon parking lot, which was in chaos amid frantic rescue efforts and treating the wounded.  Then he returned to his office. He  spoke briefly to Bush, who was on Air Force One flying around somewhere in the southeast, who wanted to know about the damage to the Pentagon. From there Rumsfeld went to the military command post in the basement. And there, he writes, heeding the advice of General Dick Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who wa also in the room, he raised the threat level to a state of alert, and launched  fighters to protect Air Force One. Rumsfeld was supposed to be removed to a secret site, but he says he was “unwilling to be out of touch during the time it would take  to relocate me to the safe site.’’  

Shortly afterwards, he writes, “the Vice President reached me by phone.’’ Cheney reportedly told Rumsfeld, “There’s been at least three instance here where we’ve had reports of aircraft approaching Washington…A couple were confirmed hijacked. And pursuant to the President’s instructions I gave authorization for them to be taken out.”

In fact, there is considerable doubt as to when Cheney actually received “the President’s instructions,” and considerable evidence that he acted on his own volition, as even the timid 9/11 Commission report makes clear. But in any case, his orders clearly violated the military chain of command–something Rumsfeld failed to point out, according to his own account of the subsequent conversation.

“Yes, I understand,” I replied. “Who did you give that direction to?”

“It was passed from here through the [operations] center at the White House,” Cheney answered.

“Has that directive been transmitted to the aircraft?”

“Yes, it has,” Cheney replied.

“So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instruction at  this present time?” I asked.

“That is correct,” Cheney answered. Then he added, “[I]t’ my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.”

“We can’t confirm that,” I told him. We had not received word that any US military pilots had even contemplated engaging and firing on a hijacked aircraft.

“We’re told that one aircraft is down,” I added, “but we do not have a pilot report…”

As it turned out the only other aircraft that crashed had not been shot down. It was  United Airlines Flight 93, a hijacked plane that went down in a field near Shankville, Pennsylvania.’’

This from the man directly charged under the law with putting into action the orders from the Commander-in-Chief. The Vice President is nowhere listed in the chain of command and has no authority to act. In the above passage, Rumsfeld himself describes how he essentially was a bystander that morning, with little or no input in the crisis. Our multi-billion-dollar Defense Department and its chief were unprepared, incompetent, and  ignored as Cheney seized the reins and ran the country.

Later, before the 911 commission, Rumsfeld  provided a rather astonishing explanation for his behavior:

The Department of Defense…did not have responsibility for the borders. It did not have responsibility for the airports….And the fact that I might not have known something ought not to be considered unusual. Our task was to be oriented out of this country…and to defend against attacks from abroad. And a civilian aircraft was a law enforcement matter to be handled by law enforcement authorities and aviation authorities. And that is the way our government was organized and arranged. So those questions you’re posing are good ones.And they are valid and they ought to be asked. But they ought to be asked of people who had the statutory responsibility for those things.

In his book, Rumsfeld laments the fact  he did not resign after Abu Ghraib. In truth, he should have resigned or been fired for failing to protect the nation in the face of the worst attack since Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. Government, Brought to You By Big Oil

Long may she wave: The flag of the United States of Oil

Oil companies have begun to “weigh strategies to fight off tougher regulations” in the wake of BP’s spill to end all spills, the New York Times reported earlier this week. Supposedly, the companies are nervous because of President Obama’s angry takedown of the oil industry last week, as well as rumblings in Congress, where there are now efforts “to extend bans on new offshore drilling, strengthen safety and environmental safeguards and raise to $10 billion or more the cap on civil liability for an oil producer in a spill.”

Frankly, I don’t buy it. I’m quite willing to believe, as the Times story says, that the petroleum industry’s lobbyists have kicked into high gear. But I can’t believe the companies are really all that worried. Ever since John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870, the federal government has pretty much given the oil men exactly what they wanted, when and where they wanted it–from oil depletion allowances to tariff protection to cheap leases on the federal public domain (which includes the outer-continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster). Periodic government attempts to contain or regulate the industry have been little more than temporary annoyances, rather than major obstacles to Big Oil’s power or profits. This is hardly surprising, considering the kind of influence the oil companies wield at all levels of the U.S. government.

In 1911, for example, the U. S. Supreme Court found that Standard Oil, which was then controlling 85 percent of the industry, had violated anti-trust laws and conspired against the public good. “For the safety of the Republic,” the Court declared, “we now decree that this dangerous conspiracy must be ended” within six months. Standard Oil was broken up into a few dozen closely related smaller companies–the only result being that the nation’s energy lifeline was controlled by a cartel instead of a monopoly.

Another serious stab at regulation began in 1938 with the passage of the Natural Gas Act, which again tried to combat monopolistic pricing by giving the Federal Power Commission (predecessor to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) the authority to set “just and reasonable rates” for the transmission or sale of natural gas in interstate commerce. In 1954, in the Phillips decision, the Supreme Court held that the federal government should also regulate the price of natural gas at the wellhead–that is, at the point where the gas comes out of the ground. For the better part of a decade, the government fiddled around doing nothing, but then in the early Kennedy administration, the FPC came up with an area pricing plan. Although the focus here was on gas, everyone knew it was a warning shot at the oil industry, which owned and controlled most of the natural gas. To price gas, it would be necessary to get at the oil industry internal documents, revealing such things as the amounts of reserves, costs, and the like.

Immediately, the big oil and gas companies warned we would run out of gas if prices were not raised to stimulate greater production. In 1974, during the (largely manufactured) energy “crisis,” the FPC took the first steps to undercut its own proposed regulations by giving in to industry and hiking prices. Under Jimmy Carter, the government began the formal process of deregulating gas, a policy which carried forward under Reagan and both Bush’s as part of the Republican right wing’s drive against regulation. Once the government gave in, the gas shortage disappeared and today we are supposedly awash with gas. All this was accomplished by industry manipulation of production and reserve figures—the same thing that has happened during all oil “shortages.”

In the wake of the BP disaster, it’s become abundantly clear that the oil industry itself has been writing the rules for offshore drilling, and not federal regulators at the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. “Nearly 100 industry standards set by the American Petroleum Industry are included in the nation’s offshore operating regulations,” McClatchy reported last month. “The API asserts that its standards are better for the industry’s bottom line and make it easier to operate offshore than if the Minerals Management Service set the rules.”  

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the MMS approved “categorical exclusions’’ from environmental review for BP’s offshore wells in the Gulf, including the Deepwater Horizon. Congressional probes already suggest Minerals Management worked in collusion with BP and other oil firms to increase offshore production without regard to safety or environmental standards. Over the last month, the litany of MMS’s failures, and its more than “cozy” relationship with the oil industry, has been extensively documented by the press (including MJ’s Kate Sheppard, here and here).  With government oversight of this caliber, we ought to stop wondering how a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill could happen, and start wondering where it’s going to happen next.

Failure to devise any sort of meaningful regulation of the oil and gas business means that we really don’t know what the industry does, or where or how. Information on the country’s reserves are left in the hands of the companies, not the federal government. Since the US Geological Survey, which is supposed to map the public domain never had the money to do the job right, large parts of the public lands have not been thoroughly mapped by anyone but the companies that exploit it. Relying on industry data has resulted time after time in false information–as in the case of gas in the 1970s energy crisis–to inflate or deflate the amounts of oil and gas reserves.

Beyond failing at its own oversight function, the workings of the MMS also make it difficult for independent analysts to assess what is really going on. Earlier this week, a coalition of scientific societies underlined the problems in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:  

Without a transparent and ethical process for dealing with scientific research and scientific conduct, the science that is performed at DOI may be called into question. This will not only harm the reputation of DOI, but will threaten the conservation of the nation’s treasured natural resources.  To ensure that science is being used properly to implement natural resource decisions, science should not be suppressed, scientific misconduct should be punished, and scientists who report suppression or other scientific misconduct should be afforded whistleblower protections.  Additionally, the science that informs natural resource decisions must be clear, transparent, and subject to independent peer review.

Such changes are unlikely to be implemented even in the wake of the BP spill. The secrecy surrounding federal energy policy was underscored by the confidential meetings organized by Dick Cheney with the oil and gas industry, as part of the Vice President’s “task force” to design a new national energy policy in the early years of the Bush Administration. Those meetings, the details of which remain hidden from the public—their confidentiality supported by the courts—are the most glaring recent example of energy policy formed in secret, and in collusion with the energy industry. In other words, in America, the oil companies not only write their own regulations and perform their own oversight; they also set energy policy and draft laws.

In addition to having their way with the executive and legislative branches of government, the oil companies have largely triumphed over the judicial system as well. Government policy plays into oil company interests not only by letting them do as they please, but also in limiting their liability when things inevitably go wrong. On “Meet the Press” last Sunday, White House energy advisor (and former Clinton EPA head) Carol Browner repeated the pledge that BP would pay all cleanup costs for the spill. This is true, as far as it goes, and BP too has promised to pay for the cleanup. But you can just see lawyers haggling in court over what constitutes a cleanup cost.

In addition to the outright cleanup costs, BP also  faces cost of  up to a total of  $75 million for damages not associated with the oil spill itself—such things as fishing and tourism. That amount would be woefully insufficient in this case. Finally, some of the $1.6 billion stashed in Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund could be spent in a cleanup. This fund is made up of industry taxes of 8 cents per barrel, and there is a cap of $1 billion on how much of that can be withdrawn. The House  recently undertook efforts to raise the cap and increase the industry taxes going into  the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. But since this Trust Fund is created by taxing oil, you can be sure that one way or another, the cost will be passed on to consumers, rather than coming out of oil company profits.  

Finally, the Supreme Court could decide to give a special parting gift to BP, as they did to Exxon following the Valdez spill. In that case, an Anchorage jury brought in a verdict of $5 billion in punitive damages against Exxon. In 2008, after nearly two decades of litigation, the Supreme Court reduced the damages to $500 million–a tenth of the original verdict. The decision, written by Justice Souter, cited ”the need to protect against the possibility…of awards that are unpredictable and unnecessary, either for deterrence or for measured retribution.” It’s hard to believe five Supreme Court Justices believed that $5 billion wouldn’t be a more effective “deterrent” to future negligence than $500 million. But apparently, the highest court in the land wanted to make sure that a jury of citizens didn’t go overboard in demanding responsible behavior from America’s favorite industry.

Obama/Nixon

Most people old enough to remember the intricate details of the Watergate scandal are rapidly approaching geezerhood, if they aren’t established geezers already. (If you were an adult when Nixon resigned, you’re over 50 now.) So readers of Unsilent Generation may be interested in a story posted recently by my colleague at Mother Jones, David Corn.

The Rose Mary Stretch

The Rose Mary Stretch

It seems that a former NSA staffer and amateur historian thinks he has found a way to recover some of the infamous 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes, in which the president and his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, discuss the recent break-in by their team of dirty tricksters at the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate offices.  This gap was discovered when Nixon finally released the tapes, after resisting for months (and firing half of his own Justice Department over the issue in the Saturday Night Massacre). Nixon’s loyal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, later said that she had inadvertantly erased part of the tape by stepping on a pedal while she reached over to answer the phone–a move so unwieldy and implausible that it came to be know as the “Rose Mary Stretch.”

All this cloak-and-daggering in the Oval Office might seem pretty amusing, 35 years after Nixon boarded his plane back to San Clemente–if only history hadn’t repeated itself so many times. There’s a reason why the recent film Frost/Nixon wasn’t seen as simply an overblown tale of two has-beens trying to redeem themselves. When Nixon says, in one of his interviews, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” he could be expressing the credo of the Bush/Cheney White House.  In fact, some of Tricky Dick Cheney’s sinister machinations make Watergate look tame by comparison: Nixon, after all, was mostly just trying to get re-elected, not toss out the Constitution and take over the world.

Things may have gotten better since January 20, 2009. But as John Nichols pointed out in the Nation last week, we’re still a long, long way from the executive branch transparency Obama promised in his campaign. In particular, the Obama White House’s clandestine deals with Big Pharma and other health care industry representatives are starting to sound a lot like Dick Cheney’s secret sessions with oil companies to set energy policy–maybe not quite as bad, but bad enough. And as Nichols puts it, “bad-but-not-quite-Cheney-bad is an unacceptable standard.”

On the Death of Robert McNamara and the Continuing Survivial of Dick Cheney

POETRY AND POLITICS SERIES

Robert McNamara , the former secretary of defense who was–despite his half-baked, late-in-life regrets–one of the primary architects and apologists for the Vietnam War, died last week.

Dick Cheney has played a similar role in the Iraq War, and seems unlikely to have any attacks of hindsight or conscience in his golden years. At the end of June, Cheney offered a damning benediction on the beginning of troop withdrawals from Iraq:  

“I hope the Iraqis can deal with it,” Mr. Cheney said. “At some point they have to stand on their own, but I would not want to see the U.S. waste all the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point.”

Here’s a poem written by British poet G.K. Chesterton in 1922, after the senseless slaughter of World War I had decimated an entire generation. With the substitution of “America” for “England” (and “men and women” for “men”), it can be fittingly rededicated to McNamara, and especially to Cheney, whose dicky heart is still beating.  

Elegy in a Country Church-Yard

The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that ruled in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.

 

Posted by: Jean Casella

Cheney’s Bunker Mentality: The Vice President, the Constitution, and 9/11

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, at least he’s consistent. While he was in office, the Vice President made a practice of exploiting the fear and loss wrought by the 9/11 attacks to advance his own political agenda–and he’s still doing it now. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, according to Dana Milbank’s calculations in the Washington Post, “Cheney used the word ‘attack’ 19 times, ‘danger’ and ‘threat’ six times apiece, and 9/11 an impressive 27 times.”

In this putative rebuttal to Obama speech on national security, Cheney described how he spent the morning of 9/11 “in a fortified White House command post,” receiving “the reports and images that so many Americans remember from that day,” and then declared:

In the years since, I’ve heard occasional speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Since he’s evoking his experience as a rationalization for torture, this might be a good time to review exactly what it was that Cheney was doing in the bunker on that terrible day. Here again, consistency is the rule: A preponderance of evidence points to the fact that Dick Cheney spent the morning of September 11, 2001, violating the Constitution of the United States.

I wrote about the subject in my 2005 book The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11. Based on the 9/11 Commission Report and a number of other sources (all of them public), I offered an account of how Cheney swept aside the Constitution, the laws governing military action, and a host of expert advisors, in the atmosphere of a palace coup. While President Bush was being shuttled around on Air Force One, the Vice President took charge of the country. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Presidential power is supposed to reside not in the Oval Office, but with the man, wherever he happens to be–whether in a remote military bunker or an elementary school classroom, or in the skies aboard Air Force One. But if any locus of government power existed on 9/11, it was not with President Bush, but rather in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, where Vice President Dick Cheney arrived, by his own account, shortly before 10:00 a.m.

Cheney was not alone in the PEOC, but his companions appear to have remained largely silent, deferring in all things to the Vice President. Secretary of Transportation Norman Minetta, who had oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration, made his way to the bunker but didn’t do much there. (He later told the 9/11 Commission that he had ordered all planes grounded at 9:45–but this decision was actually made independently by FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney, who was in his first day on the job.) National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, always highly political and extremely deferential, remained low-key during what should have been a pivotal moment for her office. 

The others who joined Cheney in the PEOC were not experts on terrorism, national security, civilian aviation, or military tactics, but a group of key right-wing political operatives. They included conservative media celebrity and then White House “counselor” Mary Matalin and longtime Bush campaign crony and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes, as well as Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, a leading neocon foreign policy strategist, and Cheney’s wife, Lynne, a powerful conservative ideologue in her own right, who was escorted to her husband’s side by the Secret Service.

Dick Cheney in the White House bunker, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin (standing), Condoleezza Rice and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby. Source: David Bohrer / White House

Dick Cheney in the White House bunker, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, Condoleezza Rice and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby. Source: David Bohrer / White House

According to “counterterrorism czar” Richard Clarke, a lone holdover from the previous administration, the PEOC was connected by telephone to a videoconference going on in the West Wing’s Situation Room. This conference, at various points, included high-ranking officials from the Defense and State Departments, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Attorney General’s office, CIA, FBI, and FAA. Within half an hour of the second WTC attack, teleconferences had also been established by the FAA and the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC).

But the the far more political group in the East Wing’s PEOC seems to have had little use for Clarke’s gathering of experts. In his book Against All Enemies, Clarke reports that someone in the PEOC later told him that attempts to listen in on the West Wing videoconference on speakerphone were impeded “because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN . . . and the Vice President keeps hanging up the open line to you.”

The central decision faced by whoever took command that day, after the WTC attacks were a known fact, was a momentous one: Should the United States military be ordered to shoot down commercial airplanes full of civilian passengers, so that they, too, would not be used as missiles–most likely, it appeared, against targets in Washington, D.C.?

Under the law, in this or any other crisis requiring a military response, the decision to engage the military must be made by the President, as Commander-in-Chief. He gives his orders to the Secretary of Defense, who is supposed to implement these orders by passing them on to the relevant battle commands. In this chain of command, the Vice President has no place whatsoever. According to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, crafted following the Kennedy assassination, the Vice President could claim such a place only if the President were for some reason “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”–and even then, only with the support of the cabinet and concurrence of the Congress.

Even if he’d never read the Constitution, Dick Cheney could not have been ignorant of these rules. The military chain of command is not some remote or obscure formula. Long on the books, it was reinforced and clarified in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, debated and passed while Cheney was a member of Congress. Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush–and surely would have paled at the thought of Vice President Dan Quayle giving out orders to shoot down planes.

But Vice President Cheney did, in fact, issue orders for military fighters to shoot down commercial jets on the morning of September 11. He told the 9/11 Commission, and has repeatedly told others, that he was authorized by the President in advance to give these orders. Evidence of this prior authorization is unsubstantiated and contradictory. At their own insistence, Cheney and Bush spoke to the 9/11 Commission together, in private session, and not under oath. And the Commission itself was often timid and circumspect when it came to challenging the administration or getting to the bottom of things. But even the carefully worded account in the 9/11 Commission Report, while it stops short of any conclusions or accusations, nonetheless leaves ample room for doubt.

According to the report, Bush and Cheney kept in touch that morning “not by an open line of communication, but through a series of calls.” The report says Bush told the Commission he was “frustrated with poor communications that morning. He could not reach key officials, including Secretary Rumsfeld, for a period of time. The line to the White House shelter conference room–and the Vice President–kept cutting off.”

Cheney told the Commission that he placed a call to Bush just before 10 a.m., when he arrived in the PEOC bunker. He said that the Air Force was trying to set up a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington, and that he called to establish the rules of engagement for the CAP. Cheney reported telling Bush that the pilots would need authority “to shoot if the plane did not divert.” The report continues: “He said the President signed off on that concept. The President said he remembered such a conversation, and that it reminded him of when he had been an interceptor pilot. The President emphasized to us that he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft.”

Press accounts have also quoted Bush’s later recollections of the conversation. After Cheney recommended that he authorize the shootdowns, Bush declared, “I said, ‘You bet.’ There was a little discussion, but not much.”

The only person who remembers hearing the Vice President speak to the President at that time is the ever-faithful Condoleeza Rice. She testified to the Commission that she “remembered hearing him inform the President, ‘Sir, the CAPS are up. Sir, they’re going to want to know what to do.’ Then she recalled hearing him say, ‘Yes, Sir.’”

The Commission delicately concluded: “Among the sources that reflect other important events of that morning, there is no documentary evidence for this call, but the relevant sources are incomplete.” They added that others surrounding the Vice President, including his Chief of Staff and his wife, “did not note a call between the President and Vice President” at that time. According to one report in Newsweek, some of the Commission’s staff “flat out didn’t believe the call ever took place,” and expressed their skepticism in an early draft of their staff report. And one staff member said that pressure from the White House had led to the report being “watered down.”

Shortly after 10:10 a.m., the bunker began receiving reports of a plane headed for Washington. These reports came from the Secret Service, which was getting information directly from the FAA–incorrect information, as it turned out, since the aircraft in question was Flight 93, which at that moment was wobbling through the skies over Western Pennsylvania as its passengers fought their hijackers for control. An aide told Cheney it was only 80 miles away from Washington, and asked him to authorize a shootdown.

According to the 9/11 Report, Cheney’s “reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, ‘in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing.’” Cheney repeated the shootdown order a few minutes later, after hearing that the plane was now 60 miles out.

The only recorded challenge of any kind to Cheney’s conduct came from Joshua Bolton, then the White House Deputy Chief of Staff. Bolton told the Commission that he “watched the exchanges and, after what he called ‘a quiet moment,’ suggested that the Vice President get in touch with the President and confirm the engage order. Bolton told us he wanted to make sure the President was told that the Vice President had executed the order. He said he had not heard any prior discussion on the subject with the President.” Cheney put through the call at 10:18. This call, made after the order had already been given, is well documented, unlike earlier communications. Bush, of course, concurred with Cheney’s decision.

Due to various communication problems, Cheney’s orders were never received by the pilots over Washington. This is perhaps just as well: Shortly after this episode, at about 10:30, Cheney got word of another plane just five miles away, and immediately gave orders to “take it out.” The Vice President, as it later turned out, had commanded military fighter jets to shoot down a low-flying Medevac helicopter.

In any case, the orders were moot. By the time they were issued, the passengers on Flight 93 had already done what their government failed to do: As their leaders hunkered down in safety, this handful of ordinary Americans had wrestled their plane to a crash landing, sacrificing their own lives in order to protect their nation’s capital and their compatriots on the ground.