It’s September 11, do you know where your freedoms went?

The last 2 years I’ve reposted the letter I sent out via e-mail to all my friends on September 11, 2001. It made the rounds, ending up in the DDN under someone else’s name. I also mentioned it the day that the US death toll in Iraq surpassed the number of dead on Sept 11. You can read those posts, and the commentary here:

And while it’s an amazing accomplishment for State security that we haven’t been attacked on our continent since, it’s nothing to be overjoyed about. Contrary to popular opinion, terrorism isn’t war. Terrorism is a judo-like strategy to have a few triumph over a lot. It’s the David with a slingshot taking down Goliath—only in modern day terms-—David is now much more insignificant, and Goliath is a global superpower.

In terms of an effect on our psyche, our freedoms, our economy and our military—by all accounts, 9/11 and our reaction to it—has been a triumph for Bin Laden and an absolute failure on our part.

Those are hard words to choke down, so let me explain before you go all patriotic/Limbaugh on me.

Bin Laden and his followers have joined the superpowers on the world stage. Men without a country, men without a flag, men without that many followers—are now a reason we expend billions of dollars on things that don’t end poverty, end illiteracy, end cancer or AIDS or produce clean energy. We spend our money on bomb sniffers and the salaries of shoe checkers at airports, we spend it on building watch lists on American citizens and we charge on in a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

We now imprison people without any regard to our highly held Constitution, and engage in torture in the name of “Freedom” only showing our worst side to those who may have questioned our integrity before. We’ve killed a lot of Iraqis to “save” them from a man who also killed lots of Iraqis, and then offered to build roads, schools and hospitals in their country while letting ours have bridges and levees that fail.

We’ve watched the global economy go into the dumpster—affecting every American who survived 9/11 to feel some of its pain, as our housing prices drop, our cost of fuel and food go up, while we continue to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way half-way across the world with no plan to leave. Our Nation has gone into debt at a record pace with numbers in the trillions—all to “avenge” an attack by 21 people on our country.

We are now in an election battle royale, spending billions—yes BILLIONS—to decide between which man will lead us away from this. Yet, we’re too busy talking about flag pins on lapels, pledge of allegiance, a name so funky that it’s almost funny and lipstick on a pig, instead of how do we put this all back into perspective.

If you read what I wrote back on 9/11, you know I was mad as hell. I wanted to take on Bin Laden, a man I called a petty punk, face to face, in a duel—but it was a duel of ideals, not of chest-thumping testostorone. It was of our American dream vs. his nightmare of a world turned upside down, where his vision trumped those of all our ideals of freedom, of personal choice, of responsibility to treat each other with respect.

It’s been 7 years. Who do you think won this battle? I usually root for David and the underdogs—but, especially today, I’m rooting for Goliath to make a comeback.

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4 Responses

  1. tg September 11, 2008 / 9:38 am
    Nicely done, David. Unfortunately it’s sad, but true.
  2. Gene September 11, 2008 / 11:34 am
    “We are now in an election battle royale, spending billions—yes BILLIONS—to decide between which man will lead us away from this. Yet, we’re too busy talking about flag pins on lapels, pledge of allegiance, a name so funky that it’s almost funny and lipstick on a pig, instead of how do we put this all back into perspective.”

    Funny – you brought up the non-issue of how many houses John McCain has………. you are part of the BS problem.

  3. Stan Hirtle September 12, 2008 / 12:50 am
    So where are we 7 years after the 9/11 attacks?

    One obvious answer is that Americans are much more cowed by and compliant our own power structure. After years of stripping to board airplanes, accepting surveillance, torture and for a while at least, racial profiling of Moslems, you do not see challenge to or resistance of authority, at least of the national security apparatus. Who said anything about heavy handed tactics at the recent political conventions? Or the treatment of Bruce Ivins, the anthrax suspect?

    The leader on a white horse reverence for George W Bush has mostly passed as his lack of competence and thoughtfulness have become obvious. We will see how much political influence 9/11 still has, but despite Bush’s poor poll numbers the pro-war candidate for president is in a tie in the polls and has the momentum. Perhaps if Obama was more than half European descent and looked the part, that would not be true. But it also suggests that Americans have not yet moved 9/11 from the major emotional trauma of generations to seeing it as a terrible but contained act by a small and violent band.

    My best analogy to post 9/11 America remains the Untouchables movie, where the gangster Al Capone has been betrayed by an uppity underling, so he gathers his underlings around a table and proceeds to beat one of them (the guilty party? We never know for sure. It doesn’t really matter) to death with a baseball bat while the other’s watch. Capone is announcing that even though someone challenged him, he is still the most violent hoodlum out there. Bush was Capone and Saddam the underling.

    Where has the Iraq war gotten us? Obviously we have wreaked hell and havoc on the people of that country. 800,000 killed? 1.2 million? No one knows for sure. Saddam was hanged and there are no WMDs. The heavy rates of murder, sectarian cleansing and violence of a couple of years ago came down, due to some combination of Bush and McCain’s manly troop surge, the sense of Iraqi leaders like Sadr to avoid a bloodbath, the flight of many Iraqis from danger to refugee status, and the fact that that level of violence was not sustainable. The US sided with traditional Sunni leaders in their power struggle against younger “al Qaeda” insurgents. The US is primed for long term occupation to police the oil, having built enormous permanent bases and embassies. However even the US backed government wants the US to set a timetable to leave, if the war isn’t too important to leave to the Iraqis. The abuses of occupation and well publicized prisoner abuse and torture have made many enemies for the US. Violence may be at lower intensity levels but it continues on a regular basis, and there are few signs that Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are prepared to bury the IED and govern a country together. Occupation is not a long term answer. Domestically, candidate Palin is the latest to tell the public that victory is in sight, if only we don’t let Obama throw it away. However, whatever victory means, a US occupation is unlikely to result in any sort of lasting peace.

    The war in Afghanistan has gotten a new lease on life. The Taliban were routed but are making a comeback. On the other hand a more pliant Pakistan has been joining forces with the US to attack the Pashtun tribal areas. America would like to succeed where the British and the Soviets failed. Bin Ladin, who seems more pundit than mastermind these days, will no doubt be killed or die at some point. Obama has taken up the Afghan war as the right war to be fighting, but it faces the same problems faced in Iraq, namely that we are occupying a country with a tradition of resistance of invaders, ethnic divisions, warlords, a drug economy and in many places a cultural affinity for the Taliban’s brand of strict religious conservatism. Efforts to make friends by rebuilding and modernizing the country have not happened or been effective.

    This Afghan war may get a fresh dose of enthusiasm to replace Iraq in the American psyche. No doubt Americans will not tolerate an al Qaeda friendly Taliban in power there again. But if American can not break it off with war, then war may break us off. The country is squandering billions on these wars while our jobs, economy and infrastructure continue to weaken. All the money needed for healthcare, education, infrastructure, fixing poverty and building environmentally friendly industries is going to war. The country is financing the war by borrowing from China and other countries, and hoping this codependent relationship continues in its present form. Meanwhile China and India, with few military burdens, start on the road to economic progress. And the soldiers who fight, get wounded and die come disproportionately from small towns and rural areas high on patriotism and low on other economic opportunity, while the back door draft of “stop-loss” gets people who have too much to lose to say no. And war continues to do its psychic violence on them and us.

    In the meantime the open sore of the region, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, seems to get no better. Palestinians are split and fighting, while Israelis have trouble mounting a government, and millions of Israel’s neighbors continue to reinvent the hatreds of an otherwise discredited anti-Semitism. Israeli settlements continue to expand into the lands historically suggested for a Palestinian state, suggesting an eventual fait accompli ending the possibility of two viable, and ideally interdependent, states. American Jews, remembering how the world accommodated to the Holocaust, see Israeli power as a key to Jewish survival, and are much more politically effective than American Arabs and Moslems. This leaves the US as a pro Israeli partisan with questionable ability to influence a peaceful solution.

    And recently the conflict between the US’s ally in Georgia and Russia, provoked by Georgia over provinces that did not want to be part of Georgia, seems to offer the possibility of a double feature, both the Cold War and the War on Terror. Perhaps this is for the benefit of American voters to elevate war over the economy as an election issue, or perhaps just another opportunity for Capone to do his macho thing. And I guess there may soon be an oil pipeline there too.

    Then there is the question of the effect on the soul of America. How much do we really value liberty? How much do we believe in violence as the solution to problems? How much do we value power and control? How much do we fear power and control by others, particularly those who are different? How much are we wrapped up in wealth and status and gadgets and separated from others? How much do we value or even understand peace and community? How much do we tolerate the evil that is the mote in our eye, even as we project evil onto our enemies? Are we willing or able to see ourselves as others see us? Do they see us as Al Capone, and if so, how right are they? Or do we just assume that God is on our side, as opposed to the rest of the world’s?

    There are few if any definitive answers to these questions, as America remains a work in progress, always in a struggle between its ideals and its dark side. The immediate aftermath over 9/11 was an urgency of need to stand up for what is right against whoever threatens it, to become a New York firefighter in our souls. Is this urgency fading too? What are we doing with 9/11? That remains the question.

  4. David Esrati September 12, 2008 / 1:05 am

    Thanks for your well thought out analysis.
    I don’t think God takes sides, but, unfortunately- our country seems to have forgotten that was one of our founding principles.
    I can only hope that the abysmal economy scares even the most die hard guns, god and GOP’rs into realizing that we can’t afford more of the same.
    Rediscovering freedom- well, that may take a lot longer.
    Peace is the only realistic option.

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