NEW YORK — Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told a federal commission yesterday that instead of assigning blame for the September 11 attacks, especially to New York emergency teams, every effort should be made to prevent another terrorist attack.
“Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us,” he told the 10-member National Commission on Terrorists Attacks Upon the United States. “Our anger and blame should be put on one source alone: the terrorists who killed our loved ones.”
Mr. Giuliani, who won national praise for his leadership on and after September 11, 2001, delivered the off-the-cuff prelude to his prepared remarks a day after harsh criticism from panel members against the response by New York police, firefighters and emergency crews.
Applause broke out, but later so did the cries of protesters objecting to what they perceived as a soft line of inquiry. Officials ejected some of them from the hearing at the New School University, just 1.5 miles from the World Trade Center site.
“My son was murdered because of your incompetence,” shouted Sally Regenhard, who lost her son in the World Trade Center. A member of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, she has been an advocate for an updated radio communication system.
Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the attacks, said, “This was not a time for Rudy Giuliani to talk about all the great things he did on 9/11. He can save that for his talking tours. He should have told us what went wrong and what we should do now.”
Asked later about the protesters, Mr. Giuliani, who attended many funerals of those who died, said he has known since the attacks that people would react to the rescue operation differently, “and that’s what you saw in that room.”
“Some are appreciative, and others are angry and think more people could have been saved,” he said.
Commission member John F. Lehman, who during Tuesday’s session described the city’s emergency-services response on September 11 as a “scandal not worthy of the Boy Scouts,” pressed Mr. Giuliani about installing “an unambiguous command system” instead of one that encourages turf wars between agencies.
Mr. Giuliani responded: “The mayor is in charge. All of these agencies are mayoral agencies. The mayor is in charge. That’s why people elect the mayor.”
In a press conference later, the man dubbed “America’s mayor” said he was upset over Mr. Lehman’s remarks at the opening session. Asked whether Mr. Lehman should apologize, Mr. Giuliani said, “It’s up to him, but it would probably be a good idea.”
He praised the city’s “superb command structure” in place at the time.
“There was no problem of coordination on September 11, 2001, because it was bigger than everybody involved in it. So nobody was asserting ego — that the fire department should take over, that the police should, the mayor — everyone sublimated their ego to how big it was.”
Meanwhile yesterday, a September 11 commission staff report had better things to say about what happened at the Pentagon.
The report says the emergency response at the Pentagon was “mainly a success,” attributing that in part to the “strong professional relationships and trust” among the teams, in contrast to the charges about a “battle of the badges” in New York.
The report also noted that many of the Washington area’s police and fire departments already were jointly preparing for trouble at the World Bank meetings when the terrorists struck.
After his testimony, Mr. Giuliani hammered away at his main point: No one could have performed the rescue operation better than the city’s police officers, firefighters and emergency-management teams that handled the disaster.
“There was no city in the United States that was as prepared or able to deal with it as well as New York City,” he said.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who succeeded Mr. Giuliani, urged the commission to change the formula governing funding for homeland security. He said that New York ranks 49th among the states in per-capita funding for homeland security.
“This commission must challenge Congress to follow the Bush administration’s lead and stop treating homeland security and bioterrorism preparedness funding as political pork,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “They should be allocated on the basis of the real risks we face.”