Bush gave orders to shoot down
September 17, 2001 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Bush gave orders to shoot down any planes that didn't turn away from Washington, meaning flight 93 would have been shot down had it not crashed. Both Cheney and Bush have acknowledged they gave the authorization to shoot. Quote from Cheney: "If we ... had the opportunity to take out the two aircraft that hit the World Trade Center, would we have been justified in doing it? I think absolutely we would have."
posted by Potsy (28 comments total)
Damn, damn, damn...I'm glad I wasn't in a position to have to make that decision. In hindsight (natch), it probably was the right decision...and would likely (certainly?) have saved many, many people...but what a horrible decision to even be faced with.
posted by davidmsc at 2:22 PM on September 17, 2001

It's all about the sacrifice of the few vs. the well-being of the many....
Not that hard, really.
Which would you rather read about?
Four planes that got shot down because there might have been terrorists on board?
Or what actually happened?
posted by Jako at 2:27 PM on September 17, 2001

What to say Flight 93 was not shot down ?

The video footage of the crash site is not similar to crash sites of other planes, that crashed periviously in history.
posted by adnanbwp at 2:27 PM on September 17, 2001

What surprises me is that they admitted it. Since the order never had to go into effect, they could have just kept it a secret. I'm not surprised at the decision itself -- I would have given the exact same order.
posted by Potsy at 2:29 PM on September 17, 2001

What a choice...I sure wouldn't want to be the one to push the button and make the decision...
posted by Yardsale at 2:31 PM on September 17, 2001

What surprises me is that they admitted it.

the bush administration is scrambling right now to make the american people feel that they are in control and that our military and intelligence communities aren't completely impotent. they *have* to say this.
posted by rebeccablood at 2:33 PM on September 17, 2001

*Excellent* point Rebecca.
posted by Jako at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2001

potsy, they have to give *some* information about the whole affair. there are so many unanswered questions, but as long as people discuss this order they won't ask for proof why bin Laden is the prime suspect.
posted by arf at 2:39 PM on September 17, 2001

I don't understand, though --

1. A person on the plane said he saw white smoke.
2. Debris was found 6 miles away
3. One of the terrorists had something that looked like a bomb on his chest.

Sounds to me like it was either shot down or the bomb went off.

Or, perhaps the guy on the plane was lying about the smoke, and the debris 6 miles away was just a coincidence.
posted by jragon at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2001

jragon: are you saying that flight 93 was shot down by the gunman on the grassy knoll?
posted by terceiro at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2001

I think that they let this out for a couple of reasons. I don't think this information is particularly controversial or damaging in any way. First, to deter further attacks similar to this specific type in some way. If you are a potential hijacker, you are less likely to try if it is clear that the government is not afraid to shoot down the plane if need be despite the innocent people on board. Second, to give the public some level of comfort in the face of our inability to cope with this situation because of the dramatic change in internal thinking it requires. We can no longer assume safety within US borders. This is an attempt to mollify this anxiety.
posted by bump at 2:49 PM on September 17, 2001

I have a couple of thoughts.

This has changed the nature of hijackings for the future. The chances of death for a passenger in a hijacked plane used to be very low. Atleast I think so.

1) In the case of a hijacking, wouldnt the passengers jump the hijackers because they would be afraid that they would be slamming into some building soon.

2) Then on the other hand, in case of a hijacking, wouldnt the passengers fear that an American Missile is closing in any moment ?

Any case, I would not like to be a passenger on a hijacked plane from now on. Double Tention !!!
posted by adnanbwp at 2:57 PM on September 17, 2001

Ahh, the good old days of being hijacked. I doubt maybe hijackings will occur now, unless the intent is to kill the passengers. "Peaceful" hijackers have to be afraid of the passengers, and wont bother. Although, when was the last time a US commercial jet was hijacked, anyway?
posted by Doug at 3:11 PM on September 17, 2001

Then again (just to play devil's advocate), in keeping with rebecca's right on statement that the administration *has* to say they knew about the plane and were ready to take it out... what if there was no order to shoot down? What if saying there was: reassured a nation that the government was in fact on top of things, and makes Bush, who hasn't been exactly lauded in the media for his leadership lately, more sympathetic? Just a thought.
posted by jenwells at 3:27 PM on September 17, 2001

It's coincidental to me that the plane just happened to go down over an empty field. I don't know the terrain there, but an empty field is exactly what a pilot would be looking for to set down in an emergency (my husband is a pilot)...and is what an Air Force pilot would be looking for to bring down the plane. The latest news reports say the passengers went to attack the guy that said he had a bomb (about half-way down the page), not necessarily the pilot. But even if the plane was shot down, it doesn't negate the fact that the passengers were heroes.
posted by airgirl at 3:44 PM on September 17, 2001

I refuse to believe flt. 93 was shot down. Eyewitnesses report engines functioning and no sign of smoke/fire/damage before impact with the ground. Okay, I was surprised to hear that debris has been found miles away, but from the reports I've read, that debris is light stuff such as paper, fabric, etc., which (if true) could easily be carried by wind and smoke from the fire.
posted by msacheson at 3:53 PM on September 17, 2001

Jenwells: There was definitely an order. In fact, it wasn't even a particularly well kept secret.

Most people with any sort of ties to higher-ups in the military knew about it the same day. Even most radio stations and a handful of television stations were speculating that fighters had been scrambled on intercept courses for the remaining planes.

The one question I have is why all the original reports about the onboard 911 calls referenced an explosion on board and where those reports have went to now.
posted by tsitzlar at 3:55 PM on September 17, 2001

Apparently the plane crashed in a very rural part of Pennsylvania. I don't really know that part of the state, however. It doesn't surprise me too much that the plane was reduced so much to rubble. It's quite presumptuous to say "the crash site is not similar to other planes that crashed previously in history". Most that are televised are (presumably) unintentional crashes, where the pilot would have done as much as possible to save the aircraft. This one occurred at very high speed, and apparently intentionally.

If the plane were shot down, chances are that either witnesses would have seen something or the crash site would reveal hard evidence (not just "it looks different"). I heard a report that all debris was located downwind of the crash site. This would suggest that the plane was not hit before it landed, because in that case there would have been debris released before crashing.

As for how pieces were found up to six miles away, I don't know, but damn, the thing was probably going 500mph or more...
posted by caveday at 4:02 PM on September 17, 2001

Oh, by the way, excellent SF Chronicle article about the ill-fated flight and what transpired (some new facts & stories included).
posted by msacheson at 4:06 PM on September 17, 2001

Notice that this SF Chronicle does not state that the hijackers were Arabs. They only mention "a man speaking in broken English".
posted by arf at 4:17 PM on September 17, 2001

arf, is your comment meant as praise that the story does not make assumptions, acting instead on facts, or what? I agree with you, I just want to talk out what you're saying a little more, thanks.
posted by msacheson at 4:28 PM on September 17, 2001

What's interesting to me is the in this particular case is the public response. Knowing what we know, we can accept now that shooting down those planes would have saved lives. However, what if the govt. had shot down those planes and prevented them from crashing into buildings? We probably would be angry and skeptical and calling for the heads of those who made the decision. I get so frustrated when the govt. lies or covers-up or simply keeps certain facts from us. Then I hear about this whole thing and I can see why they might be justified. I can already hear the indignation rising at the thought that the Pennsylvania plane may have been forced down.
posted by amanda at 4:32 PM on September 17, 2001

C'mon, the so-called "tough decision" is obvious and doesn't even really qualify as a decision.

Except...if a plane is headed toward the WTC or the White House, and the military shoots it down...where does it go? Can they destroy it sufficiently that what hits somewhere won't do as much or more damage than the crash would if they hadn't interfered?
posted by rushmc at 4:33 PM on September 17, 2001

amanda, I agree. Sort of a no-win position (as far as PR) for the g-men here.
posted by msacheson at 4:35 PM on September 17, 2001

Msacheson, I just miss facts. What does the public know by now? Not much. Call me paranoid, but to get a clearer picture I prefer to look for the parts the reports miss out.
posted by arf at 5:00 PM on September 17, 2001

understood, arf.
posted by msacheson at 5:11 PM on September 17, 2001

Two non-missile/bomb possibilities for the white smoke:

1. Someone opened a door causing rapid decompression of the cabin. The outrushing air would have water vapour in it that would condense forming a cloud, and lots of papers and things would get blown out of the cabin.

2. Someone in the cockpit doing weird things with the controls might have been able to cause a compressor stall or engine surge in an engine, which makes a loud boom and blows an alarming puff of smoke out the back of the affected engine(s).

Not saying this is what happened, but it illustrates some other possibilities to chew on before the facts are known.
posted by cardboard at 5:14 PM on September 17, 2001

Planes are designed to do certain things. Big planes can do less than small planes. If that thing was pointed at the ground with it's engines on full then bits of it are going to come off and land miles away.
posted by vbfg at 3:44 AM on September 18, 2001

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