Thursday, January 04, 2007

Brian Birdwell: How to Serve Man

One of my "insights" into the September 11, 2001 Pentagon attack, which began to emerge recently, five years after the attack, has promised to be a very difficult piece of the puzzle to share because it is so ugly. I've explored my degree of certainty with the truth, my normal five-percent doctrine, a humility allowance for error, was bumped up, since I combine serious research with what I can only call inspiration, but what others might only call madness.

This Reuters news photo by an unnamed stringer was published this morning, and I take it as a sign to proceed.

"A housing debtor runs after setting himself on fire to protest against Chile's housing system in front of the government palace in Santiago January 4, 2007. The man extinguished the flames by jumping into a pool outside the government palace and was arrested by police. CHILE OUT REUTERS/Stringer(CHILE)

A housing debtor?
I'd throw back Chilean Habitation-Costs-Arrears Performance Artist Survivor Shaman. If anything is art, to me,this man is art, and timing is everything at the Burn Art Gallery. Too bad nobody was ready, willing or able to show off such artistry at the Pentagon on 9-11. It turns out, the injuries storyboard wasn't so hard to produce after all, the various solutions all boiled down to one, the strangely motivated, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell. Writing two years after 9-11 in the conservative Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough, the well regarded author of Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander, displayed a note of skepticism, in Survivor studies the whys of 9/11

"Few inside the [Navy Command] center survived. In fact, in a catastrophe that appeared as if it would produce mass numbers of wounded, just seven inside the Pentagon, including Mr. Shaeffer, were critically burned."

I have little sense about the other six, Wayne Sinclair, Louise Kurtz, Kevin Schaeffer, John Yates, Juan A Cruz-Santiago and Sergeant Janice Jackson, although I will say, Yates and Kurtz came out of the same corridor as Birdwell and were handled in similar fashions, minus the publicity. Kurtz was also on her second day in a new job there. The points of evidence that support my charge against Birdwell, are singularly his.

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell is living proof why recruits are warned never to volunteer in the military. Birdwell did volunteer for duty on 9-11. I submit he volunteered to undergo a controlled burn, as a leading player in the narrative drama, like another headliner, Maj. Lincoln (two memes down) Leiber, Birdwell was chosen for heroism and its aftermath.

Firematics training includes entering a smoke house, entering a burn tent stretches the imagination, but only for its moral horror. I wonder if Birdwell's burns were consistent with his briefings. He suffered a controlled flash burn over 60 percent of his body, half of that being third-degree burns, as reported in his and his wife's Christian burn charity web site

A comprehensive article in the US News & World Report on December 10, 2001, reports that
  • Birdwell survived because he left his office and went to the men's room. His officemate in Room 2E486, Cheryle Sincock, did not survive.
  • Birdwell is the burned man seen with shirt off and hands raised, being loaded onto an ambulance in images taken by Will Morris and Hillary Smith Garrison of the Associated Press. These few images constitute both the the minimum credibility, and the maximum extent of the news images staged for select cameras in front of the West facade of the Pentagon. It was a staged area, not a staging area
  • Birdwell is the only burn victim identified in the official record as having been carried to a triage site. The self-justifying reviews of the medical response in the Pentagon reports is entirely anonymous as to the victims.
  • The President and Laura Bush's "Hospital Salute to a Soldier Injured in the Terrorist Crash into the Pentagon" was a major Karen Hugh's produced media event, fraught with narrative. Bush's holding of his salute for 18 seconds as Birdwell slowly tried to raise his injured arm in return,can still raise a goose pimple.
  • Birdwell's aftermath was assured, if not his afterlife. In retirement, he runs a burn charity with no apparent attachment to credible organizations like the Shriners, .It is a Christian motivational front that promises only to throw real charity dollars into the fire.
  • Birdwell is motivated by an extreme brand of fundamental Christianity, his and his wife Mel's Christian burn charity, and his Christian burn book, Refined by Fire: have a primary purpose to glorify the God of his understanding, his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Larry Dowling of Corbis, who took pictures at the Pentagon on the morning of 9-11, and in the Oval office that evening, took this picture of Birdwell with Norman Minetta.

Birdwell with his wife Mel

I suppose, I should have started with the part about inspiration. The public record was dished out in the same fashion it was planned and created, with a contempt for the hearts and minds of its consumers that can make one choke. Such sloppy work and deliberate muddying of the waters provides a perfect cover. In the case of the Pentagon, the sheer totality of its conception suspended our disbelief. Which is not to say we bought it. We bide our time, and wait for The Big Guy to get to The Big Lie, so that the Big will Die.

At some point, I saw Birdwell in an interview on one of the cable news channels, and his truth became apparent to me, as I saw the consequence of who he had become. By his fruits we shall know him, I believe, is how the New Testament puts it, or maybe it's the Old. Barely able to contain an agitation of resentment, he went through his al-Qaida talking points disconnected from his rage. He described the horror of his treatments, the cadaver skin grafted to his forehead, the maggots introduced to eat the necrotic tissue in his body, and anything that makes leaches seem preferable is pretty awful. But the abstract "enemy" constructed for him to rage upon simply wouldn't take it, as it won't for the rest of America anymore either.

I titled this piece To Serve Man, in honor of an early 1960's episode of The Twilight Zone in which men from outer space come to earth bearing blessings that result in great material abundance and peace.They also bring a book, which the linguists are quick to translate the title of, To Serve Man, which delights the people. They grow fat and happy in response. Attempts at translating the rest of the book are the plot of the episode. Despite the concerns of a few, vacation tours to outer space are offered, giving the populace a 21rst-century version of Roman bread and circuses. The hero decides to see for himself what's up, and joins the line to enter the spaceship, but just as he does, the ingénue races up saying, "We've translated the rest of the book! It's a cookbook!" but the hero gets pushed inside. Perhaps as a kid, this was my first experience with suspense, because I can still feel the thrill at discovering the double entendré. The suspense now is killing me.

The evil is in the church, and it begs the question, who cooks and who burns? Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose your scathing commentary of others has gained you a modicum of success. How easy it is for you to casually refer to Brian Birdwell's horrible experience as though you knew this man personally.