The World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex will be an imposing edifice wedged in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It will serve as the primary "gateway" to the underground area where the names of the lost are chiseled into concrete. The organizers of its principal tenant, the International Freedom Center (IFC), have stated that they intend to take us on "a journey through the history of freedom"... To the IFC's organizers, it is not only history's triumphs that illuminate, but also its failures. The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond. This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona.
The public will be confused at first, and then feel hoodwinked and betrayed. Where, they will ask, do we go to see the September 11 Memorial? The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation will have erected a building whose only connection to September 11 is a strained, intellectual one. While the IFC is getting 300,000 square feet of space to teach us how to think about liberty, the actual Memorial Center on the opposite corner of the site will get a meager 50,000 square feet to exhibit its 9/11 artifacts, all out of sight and underground. Most of the cherished objects which were salvaged from Ground Zero in those first traumatic months will never return to the site. There is simply no room. But the International Freedom Center will have ample space to present us with exhibits about Chinese dissidents and Chilean refugees. These are important subjects, but for somewhere--anywhere--else, not the site of the worst attack on American soil in the history of the republic.
Who's behind the IFC?
The driving force behind the IFC is Tom Bernstein, the dynamic co-founder of the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex who made a fortune financing Hollywood movies. But his capital ventures appear to have funded his true calling, the pro bono work he has done his entire adult life--as an activist lawyer in the human rights movement...
The public has a right to know that it was Mr. Bernstein's organization, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, that filed a lawsuit three months ago against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Human Rights First that filed an amicus brief on behalf of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, an American citizen who the Justice Department believes is an al Qaeda recruit...
In fact, the IFC's list of those who are shaping or influencing the content and programming for their Ground Zero exhibit includes a Who's Who of the human rights, Guantanamo-obsessed world:
• Michael Posner, executive director at Human Rights First who is leading the worldwide "Stop Torture Now" campaign focused entirely on the U.S. military. He has stated that Mr. Rumsfeld's refusal to resign in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal is "irresponsible and dishonorable."
• Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, who is pushing IFC organizers for exhibits that showcase how civil liberties in this country have been curtailed since September 11.
• Eric Foner, radical-left history professor at Columbia University who, even as the bodies were being pulled out of a smoldering Ground Zero, wrote, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." This is the same man who participated in a "teach-in" at Columbia to protest the Iraq war, during which a colleague exhorted students with, "The only true heroes are those who find ways to defeat the U.S. military," and called for "a million Mogadishus."
• George Soros, billionaire founder of Open Society Institute, the nonprofit foundation that helps fund Human Rights First and is an early contributor to the IFC. Mr. Soros has stated that the pictures of Abu Ghraib "hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself."