Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on 9/11

(Photo by Joel Meyerowitz.)

I already wrote my piece on 9/11 for this year, but wanted to highlight a few other pieces. Gary Kamiya's exceptional Salon article, "The Real Lessons of 9/11," has justifiably received a great deal of attention. Some highlights:

Sept. 11 is a totemic date for the Bush administration. It justifies everything, explains everything, ends all argument. It is the crime that must be eternally punished, the wound that can never heal, the moral high ground that can never be taken...

Democrats have effectively challenged the reign of nature and instinct in the domestic realm. But they cower when it comes to war. They are afraid to criticize the irrational, instinctive nature of Bush's "war on terror" because they believe their political Achilles' heel is the perception that they are "weak on national security." They are afraid they'll be seen as wimps. Beaten down by Republican propaganda that asserts that America's only choice is between the GOP's macho John Wayne and the Democrats' dithering Hamlet, they pathetically don their cowboy hats and tank helmets, a tactic that actually reinforces the very image of weakness it is intended to dispel. Unchallenged by the Democrats, the right wing's master narrative about American power and the need to carry a big stick has carried the day...

The angry bigotry that drove the war rings out loud and clear in the right-wing battle cry: "They attacked us, so we had to attack them." The recent TV ads run by war supporters repeat this theme: "They attacked us," a narrator says as an image of the burning World Trade Center appears. "They won't stop in Iraq." The key word here, of course, is "they." Just who is "they"? For Bush's die-hard supporters, "they" simply means "Arabs and Muslims." Cretinous rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage play to this crowd, demanding that we nuke the evil ragheads. For the establishment, "they" is not quite so explicitly racist. "They" refers not to all Arabs and Muslims, but only to the "bad" ones. The "bad" guys include al-Qaida, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the militant Palestinians. And, of course, it used to include Iraq (and may again). Anyone who makes this list is eligible for attack by the U.S.

What makes these wildly disparate entities so evil and so threatening that we're prepared to attack them without cause? Simply that they reject the U.S.-Israeli writ in the Middle East -- and that they're Arabs or Muslims...

Sept. 11 was a hinge in history, a fork in the road. It presented us with a choice. We could find out who attacked us, surgically defeat them, address the underlying problems in the Middle East, and make use of the outpouring of global sympathy to pull the rest of the world closer to us. Or we could lash out blindly and self-righteously, insist that the only problems in the Middle East were created by "extremists," demonize an entire culture and make millions of new enemies.

Like a vibration that causes a bridge to collapse, the 9/11 attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character. Many more Americans have now died in a needless war in Iraq than were killed in the terror attacks, and tens of thousands more grievously wounded. Billions of dollars have been wasted. America's moral authority, more precious than gold, has been tarnished by torture and lies and the erosion of our liberties. The world despises us to an unprecedented degree. An entire country has been wrecked. The Middle East is ready to explode. And the threat of terrorism, which the war was intended to remove, is much greater than it was.

All of this flowed from our response to 9/11. And so, six years later, we need to do more than mourn the dead. We need to acknowledge the blindness and bigotry that drove our response. Until we do, not only will the stalemate over Iraq persist, but our entire Middle Eastern policy will continue down the road to ruin.

Hell, just read the whole thing. Kamiya sums virtually everything up, marvelously. (Also check out Hilzoy's characteristically thoughtful reaction.)

On the bigotry angle, as I wrote in a RWCW installment last December:

I’ve long thought that Cheney’s statement: “If we’re successful in Iraq . . . then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” is one of the most disingenuous, deliberately misleading and racist statements I’ve ever heard (use “bigoted” if you prefer). Not only does Cheney indirectly claim that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, he uses “geographic base” to conflate all Middle Eastern countries, or at least our “enemies,” which would include the country that produced most of the 9/11 terrorists - our erstwhile ally, Saudi Arabia. Because, y’know, who can really tell them apart? (Certainly not Trent Lott!)

Over at A Tiny Revolution, Jonathan Schwarz re-linked his 9/11/05 post, "Today Is The Fourth Anniversary Of An Enormous Opportunity." It's a scathing piece. After a tragedy, most people mourn. Some try to connect, re-connect, or try to nurture some reawakened spark of hope and goodness (really the only genuine, human "opportunity" possible in the face of a horrible event). Others see that tragedy and try to exploit it.

On that note, I find myself very tired of the intellectual shallowness, emotional poverty, spiritual emptiness and aggressive, unrelenting, vile hackdom of the right-wing and all hawks on 9/11 and world affairs. Hilzoy sums it up with more grace, class and eloquence, saying that she's:

...Tired of people who act as though any attempt to understand people in the Middle East and how we might best respond to them is a sign not of plain common sense but of weakness. (Here is a sentence from Kamiya's article: "It was vital that we think clearly about our response, who attacked us, why they did, and what our most effective response would be." And here's how Flopping Aces glosses it: "In the Left’s twisted world, they would rather fall to a knee and bow a head to their Islamic master, although they either don’t know it yet or won’t admit it.") And tired of the insinuation that minding, or even noticing, the fact that we have thrown aside our ideals for nothing is a sign of hating my country.

But I bet I'm not nearly as tired of this as the average Iraqi. And I bet I don't mind the uses to which 9/11 has been put -- the deployment of it for partisan ends, which I find obscene -- nearly as much as someone whose husband or wife or child or father or mother was murdered that day.

It's time for this to stop. It's time for us to recover our honor, try to help put our country back together again, and mourn 9/11 the way it deserves to be mourned: soberly, thoughtfully, seriously, for itself, and not in the service of any extraneous end.


(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

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