John Lilburne's journal reacting to the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Centre.


About John Lilburne







1053 Wed 12 Sep 2001

About 12 hours ago two aircraft crashed into the World Trade Centre. I was not watching then, but I was watching live when the two towers collapsed. I watched the coverage until about 0200 this morning.

Everyone seems to be coming to grips with what has happened and what response there should be. The author Tom Clancy was interviewed on CNN, making the point that suicide bombers tend to be religious, motivated by hopes rewards after their death. This also came through in a movie I saw a few weeks ago, The Siege. So I think one of the responses will be a call for a more rational approach to religion.

1127 Wed 12 Sep 2001

Last week I looked at a magazine in the local newsagent "Eye Spy". I have looked up its website: In the last page update (time GMT): Wed Sep 12 05:58:32 2001 they have: "CIA believe that only terrorist group that could have launched such an attack is headed by Osama bin-Laden."

1207 Wed 12 Sep 2001

I searched for "Osama bin-Laden" and have read two articles about him. A 1998 interview is on

It is frightening stuff. Here is part of what he said:

     The crusaders continued their slaughter of our mothers, sisters and children. America every time makes a decision to support them and prevent weapons from reaching the Muslims, and allow Serbian butchers to slaughter Muslims.
     You do not have a religion that prevents you from carrying out these actions and therefore you do not have the right to object to like treatment. Every action solicits a reaction. It is a punishment that fits the crime. At the same time, our primary target are military and those in its employment.
     Our religion forbids us to kill innocents-children, women who are not combatants. Women soldiers who place themselves in the battle trenches receive the same treatment as fighting men.

President Bush concluded his statement:

The resolve of our great nation is being tested. Make no mistake. We will show the world that we will pass this test.

God bless.

It is a considerable challenge.

1655 Wed 12 Sep 2001

This afternoon I read the next chapter of "Crimes of Obedience" by Kelman and Hamilton. It seems very relevant today: "Responsibility in Authority Situations". It begins with the question: "Who is responsible for a crime of obedience?". Today the world is looking for who is responsible for the planes flying into the World Trade Centre. The hijackers performed the action, but they are dead. Who gave them their orders? Who supported and harboured them? Here are a few extracts from Chapter 8:

Assignment of responsiblity in a chain of command is more difficult than in the case of a single individuals who commit misdeeds. (page 204)

Chains of command entail a moral and legal paradox: The greater the range of outcomes for which a superior can be held responsible on grounds of what what was expected, the weaker the evidence becomes that the superior is causally responsible for any given outcome. (page 207).

Depending on the case and the number of steps in a chain of command, we might find that the subordinate is blamed, that the superior is blamed, that both are blamed, or that neither is blamed. (page 208).

So-called corporate crimes, illegal or immoral acts perpetrated by or in the name of corporations, have proved elusive to study, to understand, and to prosecute in part because of the chains of command that characterize such crimes. (page 208).

The defenses simply shift from a denial of personal causation, at the top, to a denial of initiative at the bottom of such hierarchies. Perhaps everyone is responsible, but in ways different enough to diffuse and defuse anyone's liability. (page 209).

Today's attack is being compared to the one on Pearl Harbour. I often listen to recordings I have of Winston Churchill.

Here is a quote of his:

"We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy." Speech made to the Canadian Parliament, December 30, 1941.

Years ago I read "The Causes of War" by the Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey. I remember him saying that one of the causes is uncertainity about relative strengths, which can only be determined by fighting. Another quote of Churchill's I remember is: "What sort of people do they think we are?" It mattered for Churchill and matters for us. Osama bin-Laden made it clear what sort of people he thinks we are, in his interview. The answer is uncertain.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 12 September 2001.


Links to other sites: with statement by Archbishop Pell today

Statement by Archbishop Chaput