9/11 -- The "Gift" That Just Keeps Giving
Let me say at the top that by putting the word "gift" in quotes, I am alerting you to the fact that I don't mean that word to be understood as it normally is. There was a significant loss of life on that day. There was a significant short term price that New York had to pay economically. And were some broader economic consequences, especially to the airlines. But the biggest cost was the damage to the psyches of the American people. This last thing was the only real victory the terrorists had on that day for people tend to personalize threats from from outsiders. We hear that a there was a house invasion in a neighborhood near ours and we go out and buy a gun for protection.
The gift on 9/11 was to George Bush. He has milked the 9/11 attack of all he can get out of it. Were I a friend or family member of someone who died that day, I would be furious at his cynical use of that attack. A reference to 9/11 is Bush's Easy Button. He evokes it whenever he wants to scare Americans into going along with his military plans or his dismantling of our freedoms at home. He used it to go to war in Afghanistan. That was an easy sell once people learned that Al Queda kept training camps there. And Bush used it to get us to support the invasion of Iraq, a war that was defended by a set of arguments all of which were predicated either on a lie or a falsehood. After Saddam was ousted, Bush continued to evoke our memories of 9/11 to justify a continuation of that war. And the other night, in an act of political desperation, he evoked it again to get us to go along with his "new plan" for winning the war in Iraq. As I told you in my last blog, Bush's vanity would not allow him to back away from "winning" the war in Iraq, that is, installing a democratic government capable of maintaining order inside the country. But only two things have changed. First, he wants to send more Americans to Iraq -- more targets of IEDs, more targets of RPGs, and more targets for snipers. Second, he is telling a new lie -- that the Shiite government of Iraq is both fully resolved and capable of terminating the sectarian violence with a little help from its American friends.
This latter goal depends on our embedding American troops with Iraqi troops to assist them as they secure the neighborhoods of Baghdad of Sunni and Shiite death squads and disarm the various militias. I can think of little that would be more dangerous than being an American soldier embedded in an Iraqi military unit that has divided loyalties and may even include members of Sunni and Shiite death squads, including, for instance, members of Al Sadr's militia.
Bush already knew that he had lost the confidence of the American people before the last election, but he defiantly stumped for his war policies. He must have thought that his Easy Button would help the Republicans maintain their majorities in the House and Senate.
Fortunately the American people had caught on to Bush's shtick. Bush's Easy Button didn't work. And now in an act of unimaginable arrogance, he thinks that evoking the threat of terrorist attacks initiated from within an Iraq ruled by militant Islamic fundamentalists, something that would be of Bush's own creation as I'm sure you know, he hopes to persuade us to invest more American lives and taxpayer money in what is, at best, a gamble much like going "all in" with a deuce and a seven. No thanks.
It is important for Americans to put the 9/11 attack in proper perspective. There was an earlier attack on the World Trade Center. Not many Americans died and it didn't affect the American psyche even though it was the sort of thing that could happen again. Timothy McVeigh's attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City hit Americans hard. A lot of people died. And it, too, was the sort of thing that could happen again. Yet, no one much talks about the danger from crazy people like the Oklahoma City bomber. The 9/11 attack killed a lot more people than did the Oklahoma City attack but this attack, unlike the earlier attacks on the WTC and the Murray Building, left a festering wound on the psyches of the American people. These murders were committed by people most Americans know little about and that fact must be part of any account of the fear that resulted from the 9/11 attack.
There have been a number of terrorist attacks before and since 9/11. None have been on American soil though there seem to have been some attempts. It is in this context that the 9/11 attack must be understood. It killed a very large number of people insofar as terrorist attacks go. But by now we have lost as many Americans in Iraq as we lost on 9/11. In the same year, there were more than 42,000 automobile deaths in the United States, more per month than died in the 9/11 attack. I don't mean to minimize any one of the 9/11 deaths individually. I mean only to put the event in perspective. It shouldn't have scared Americans as much as it did. Even the economic damage was slight viewed in the long term.
Americans need to understand that 9/11 was a criminal act. It did warrant the Invasion of Iraq and to my way of thinking, assuming the intelligence was sound, it warrants military attacks like the recent one in Somalia. But, in general, the fight against terrorists is best done, not by invading Arab countries, but by using the forces that we normally use to fight crime and by using greatly expanding the use of human intelligence in countries that provide support for terrorist activities. The Brits and other Europeans have been quite successful in ferreting out terrorist plots. I also believe that we should very greatly expand our various Special Forces. But most of all, we must never allow an American President exploit our fears the way George Bush has so cynically done.