Today is the third anniversary of one of America's greatest tragedies, which we have given a tacky nickname--"9-11." I think that started when some tasteless talking head referred to it as "9-1-1," and things went downhill from there. And as unfortunate as I think calling September 11 "9-11" is, the cute irrelevance of the name does fit the national response to the terrorist attacks of three years ago.
After an initial period of grief, we needed a thoughtful response to what had happened to us. Why was so much hatred directed at the United States? What--if anything--could possibly be done to make Islamic terrorism unpopular in the world? Who could help put a stop to it?
Instead, we screamed "U.S.A.!" as though we were behind in a soccer match. We stuck American flags all over cars and trucks, and Proud To Be American
signs in the windows of businesses. The very people who--in the 60's, arrested citizens for wearing American flag pants--went to work manufacturing and selling thousands of American flag pants, shirts, pajamas, scarves, stadium blankets, shoes, jewelry, pens, jackets, lawn banners, teddy bears, and car mats.
Saudi Arabia gave us most of the terrorists, but that country--despite its toxic repression of anything not sanctioned by the government--was turned to as a "friend." Our airlines gave us easy boarding of known terrorists, who then used planes to commit horrific acts against us, but the only action taken toward those airlines was to bail them out. Our intelligence agencies, bogged down in bureaucratic incompetence and petty conflicts, responded by punishing whistle-blowers.
Republicans were quick to blame President Clinton for not getting rid of Osama bin Laden. Clinton planned three assassination attempts on bin Laden, but called them all off because he receieved information that significant numbers of civilian deaths would occur. For choosing to save the lives of Afghan citizens, he is called incompetent. The current White House, on the other hand, was warned that Al Quaeda was the top threat to national security, and its response was to cut the budget for counterterrorism programs.
In this Alice In Wonderland
black-is-white White House world, Bush has emerged as the person people say they trust to "fight terrorism." The person who, in the 2000 election, didn't know what the Taliban was. The person whose administration cut the counterterrorism budget. The person who--a few weeks before September 11--ignored an urgent Al Queda memo while he was on vacation. The person who surrounded himself with PNAC members when he took office (never has that phrase had more meaning). The person who waited weeks to "smoke out" bin Laden, then later denied that bin Laden was the issue. The person who--surprise, surprise (see PNAC mention above)--was obsessed with attacking Iraq before September 11 ever occurred, and who moved quickly to do so, safe in the knowledge that Americans hated Arabs but had no use for facts.
Bin Laden is still at large. Thousands of people--both American and Iraqui soldiers and Iraqui civilians--are dead or maimed. The Taliban is in Afghanistan, terrorizing citizens, and the Northern Alliance is terrorizing women and girls. There is still no protection for airplane cargo holds. Sibel Edmonds and Valerie Plame have vanished (not that they were ever really there) from the news. And let us never forget that in 1984--with full knowledge that Saddam Hussein was using mustard gas laced with a nerve agent--President Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to seal diplomatic relations between Iraq and the U.S.