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Rumsfeld Did All He Could on Sept. 11

August 26, 2004

Re "Rumsfeld and Bush Failed Us on Sept. 11," Commentary, Aug. 13: From the moment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld received word that an airliner had hit the World Trade Center, he began gathering information and issuing guidance to subordinates. That he did this in his office instead of the National Military Command Center room across the hall is of great significance to Gail Sheehy, but had little bearing on Rumsfeld's exercising of his duties and responsibilities that morning. (The 9/11 commission and congressional investigating committees found evidence undermining Sheehy's allegation.)

Sheehy finds fault with the secretary's brief excursion outside the building to help with the wounded, to "play medic." Most Americans would find Rumsfeld's actions both courageous and human.

Sheehy faults the Department of Defense for not preparing to intercept commercial airliners upon receiving terrorist threat warnings in the summer of 2001. Once those attacks were underway on the morning of Sept. 11, she faults Rumsfeld for not immediately issuing "shoot-down" orders to American fighter aircraft. She apparently does not know that prior to the 9/11 attacks, existing laws, regulations and specific policy directives severely restricted the role of the military to take action within the U.S. The Pentagon had procedures in place to provide escort fighters to hijacked planes, but could do so only if requested by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sheehy's piece betrays some personal or political agenda well outside the rules of fair play and regard for the truth.

Eric Ruff

Special Assistant to the

Deputy Secretary of Defense

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