John O'Neill was the chief of counterterror at the FBI until late summer of 2001. He was one of the few people who took the threat of terrorism by Osama bin Laden seriously. By the summer of 2001, he was so frustrated by the politicization of the intelligence agencies - and their ineptitude - that he resigned to take a job at the World Trade Center. There he died, heroically trying to prevent the loss of life. As we reach the anniversary of 9/11, the Bush machine will doubtless try to turn this into a celebration of Dubya's "heroic" leadership. Remembering John O'Neill is part of remembering that the Bush Administration has, in fact, failed. By distributing this song, we can do our little bit to help the nation learn the truth about 9/11: that opportunities to prevent 9/11 were missed because the intelligence agencies were politicized and misused in the Republican effort to "get Clinton."
The Ballad of John O'Neill
Lyrics by Joel, 8/18/02 (Copyright 2002)
Recorded by D. Ziems, 9/2/02
Based on Meeting of the Waters (folk melody)
Modifications of lyrics and melody. D. Ziems
The John O'Neill Story
Why You Should Care
In golden September, when life's blood runs strong
At the height of a good life, not a second too long
Winter's shadows fell over the national crown
Al Qaida's brash killers brought John O'Neill down.
John had pixy eyes and the hands of an earl,
From his wide joker face, who'd know the man was so bold?
His mind was keen-whetted, his heart hunter-fierce,
Like Conn of Feidlimid, of Erin of old.
He courted the ladies, too well to stay wed.
He left Christine and chased skirts wherever they flared.
Debts piled up willy-nilly and yet in the end,
The Bureau was the mistress he faithfully married.
John followed bin Laden to Lagos and Yemen,
Where those cowards killed seventeen men on USS Cole,
And he was in the Big Apple on that fateful nine-eleven,
When the gash was ripped deep in our nation's own soul.
Monday nights, Irish cops ganged together at Elaine's.
Drinks, a feast, Jeanne O'Connor crooning out melody.
Cigars, and some few drinks at the China Club then.
And, much too late, scapegrace back to Valerie.
In the memo from Phoenix, the agents told all
With ears to hear of men studying how to fly.
Strangely, they didn't care to learn how to land.
John O'Neill got the message, and so he was canned.
Angry, he left the Bureau. They had turned away
From nabbing crooks and tracking the terrorists down,
And became, once again, like in J. Edgar's day,
Political tools, boudoir cops all around.
On September eleven, he drove Valerie
In the old Buick LeSabre to the Fashion Week meet,
Then on to his first day as security boss
At the World Trade Center-- the day it was lost.
O'Neill phoned up his Val at nine-seventeen (“I'm safe”)
Then hurried into Tower One to set up command.
Then into Tower Two to save lives of those trapped.
He was lost in the rubble when the building collapsed.
Yet rose up his spirit from the holocaust's heart.
Death could only delay John from trying to save.
By death himself made angel, he grasped others by hand.
And led them to Zion in a far better land.
Ever since nine eleven, our leaders have failed.
They've refused to tell us the truth, they've lied and they've railed.
They played politics with the courts and the Bureau and John.
Blood is red on their hands, may they reap what they've sown.
Plaster saints hang upon walls, but heroes are clay.
They are regular people, hearing their call one day.
Now that John's done his service, where have they all gone?
… Look in the mirror. They're you and me alone.