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Most Americans have not been paying attention to the bureaucratic wrangling and political jockeying that has plagued the construction of the World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. But it’s not just New Yorkers and developers and 9-11 families who should care.

A good portion of the project is federally subsidized. All of us have not only a financial stake, but also a moral stake, in protecting the honor of the victims – and the dignity of our country.

A Blame America Monument is not what we need or deserve. But it looks like one is already in the works.

In a startling op-ed printed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Debra Burlingame exposed the “Great Ground Zero Heist.” Burlingame is on the board of directors of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and the sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which terrorists crashed into the Pentagon on 9-11. She reports that the World Trade Center memorial will encompass a “cultural complex” whose primary tenant will be something called the “International Freedom Center.”

According to an IFC fact sheet, the project “will be an integral part of humanity’s response to September 11.” An educational and cultural center will host exhibits, lectures, debates and films “that will nurture a global conversation on freedom in our world today.” Tellingly though, as Burlingame notes, early plans for the center that included a large mural of an Iraqi voter were scratched in favor of a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Johnson when the designs went public. So much for nurturing that global conversation.

The center’s “civic engagement network” will connect visitors to “service” opportunities. Translation: Left-wing activist recruitment center. As the fact sheet notes, “leading NGOs [non governmental organizations] will be offered outposts at the Center to reach out to its visitors.”

On its face, the project may seem fairly unobjectionable enough (putting aside how far afield it all seems from the task of remembering the victims and heroes of 9-11) – until, that is, you take a closer look at the chief movers and shakers behind the project.

Tom Bernstein, a deep-pocketed Hollywood financier and real-estate mogul, is the primary driver behind the IFC. Bernstein’s longtime friendship and business partnership with Yale classmate George W. Bush gives cover to his radical activism as president of Human Rights First. The group opposed Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the administration’s preventive detention policies and has joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in mau-mauing the Pentagon over alleged prisoner abuse.

Among the many supposedly respectable scholars consulted on the project is Eric Foner. He’s the unhinged Columbia University professor who reacted to 9-11 by griping: “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.” The IFC’s list of scholars and advisers also includes left-leaning elites such as Henry Louis Gates at Harvard University; Stephen B. Heintz, IFC secretary and president of the Rockefeller Bros. Fund; Walter Isaacson, chief executive officer of the Aspen Institute; and Michael Posner, executive director of Human Rights First.

Burlingame also reports that Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, “is pushing IFC organizers for exhibits that showcase how civil liberties in this country have been curtailed since September 11.” Then there’s billionaire Bush-basher George Soros, who Burlingame reports is an early funder and supporter of the IFC and whose spirit infuses this grievance-mongering enterprise.

Do we really want Ground Zero to be the playground of anti-war financiers, moral equivalence peddlers, and Guantanamo Bay alarmists? As Burlingame told me yesterday, “Ground Zero belongs to all the American people. If Ground Zero is lost, whether through negligence or malfeasance, it will be a loss that is felt for generations to come.”

Richard Tofel, IFC president, is minimizing dissenters. In a statement, he told me that “we understand that a few do not” agree with the project’s stated mission of promoting the “cause of freedom.” The question is not whether most Americans support a monument to freedom, but whether they will stand by while saboteurs convert it into The Ultimate Guilt Complex.


Voice your opinion at the memorial website.

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