The sad legacy of 9/11

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:00 am

We recently observed the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. How time flies. It’s a good time to reflect. A decade later, can we really say we’ve “won” anything? Are Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan really more stable? Is the region better off? Is America more respected in the world as a result of its actions, or just more feared? Are we safer? Do you know? Do you care?

America is bleeding money in wars while the economy at home falls apart. We would be wise to ask a few questions. As our social, political and economic seams rip, would it not be prudent to end these seemingly endless wars and use the money for primary, secondary and higher public education financing, healthcare, aid to the homeless (many of whom are veterans), lowering the debt, etc.? If you’re wondering how much war money I’m talking about, try more than $1,000,000,000,000. I wrote out all the zeros to emphasize the point. No, you’re not miscounting — there are 12. The actual number is well over $1.2 TRILLION! Staggering.

Politicians and pundits say, “It’s not that easy. It’s more complicated than stopping wars and using the money to help our children, elderly, veterans, students, poor and disabled.” Really? I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just think they’re liars. But, we keep letting them get away with it.

We are now steeped in an ongoing celebration of American adventurism and empire all in the name of “making the world safe for democracy.” Or maybe we’re doing it just because we can. I’m not sure anyone really knows or cares anymore. After all, these wars are not being fought on American soil. There are no curfews for Americans in there own communities like the ones we imposed on the Iraqi people. There are no predator drones doling out “collateral damage.” By the way, though many don’t realize it, predator attacks have increased appreciably under the Obama administration.

We have now normalized the abnormal. This state of war has simply become the way of things. Most of us virtually undress every time we go through security at airports without protest. We watch almost dispassionately as ABC scrolls the names of those “killed in Iraq and Afghanistan” at the end of its Sunday morning news program “This Week.” Saddam Hussein is dead. Osama bin Laden is dead. Most of their lieutenants and family members have been tracked down, deposed or killed. But, like the Energizer Bunny, America keeps going and going and going. No end is in sight.

Those who saw Barack Obama as a president who would end the wars have been wrong. In fact, Obama has not left Iraq. He has escalated American troop presence in Afghanistan. He has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay. When evaluated dispassionately, one must admit that the Obama administration has continued the policies of the Bush administration where these wars are concerned.

As activist Cindy Sheehan observed, before Obama, the American anti-war movement was on life support. His election all but killed it because so many people misguidedly believed he would be an anti-war president. Like so many faiths placed in Obama, this one was foolish. Of course, Obama’s defenders continue to argue that “he needs time.” I would remind them that his first term (and possibly his presidency) is almost over. Unfortunately, the best parts of it to date were Election Night 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009.

In the midst of all this madness, we have become a country that validates dangerous people like Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. A madman (Rick Perry) is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. The fanatical Tea Party is now a political force that cannot be ignored. The “great savior” Obama is now compared to Jimmy Carter. For those of you who are depoliticized or ahistorical and do not understand the gravity of this comparison — it’s not good.

Immediately following 9/11, Noam Chomsky penned a dispatch called “On the Bombings.” He closed the piece with the thought that America had a choice: try to understand why many in the world community oppose us or continue to forge ahead in our hubris. He believed that if America refused to try to understand others, “much worse lies ahead.”

Well, here we are 10 years later, and yes — it has gotten worse in so many ways. You all celebrate. I think I’ll restrain myself.