“9/11” Birthdays & Consequences by Paul Von Ward (written 9/11/09)
History is always personal. As I watched the World Trade Center towers implode on television September 11, 2001, my 62nd-birthday was darkened by the terror in lower Manhattan. Birthday joys gave way to grieving for the souls being ripped from exploding planes and burning buildings.
Heart-broken, my mind, trained by 30 years in military service and foreign affairs, kept focusing on the bigger picture. As part of an article circulated worldwide during the emotional roller-coaster ride of that day I wrote:
...As we seek justice...understanding...revenge, [and] the path to a better future, let us remember that whatever we do...will come back to us many fold. As we do unto others, so we do unto ourselves.... To honor the dead we must strive to create a world in which justice and peace are the birthright of all people.... To be truly human we must rise above the emotions that divide, accept our part of the responsibility for the whole and learn from today how to create a better tomorrow.
Today, eight years later, the worst of my fears have been realized. America focused on blood-letting revenge. Our government squandered international support for an effective search for the real terrorists. We citizens failed to demand focus on the individual criminals. We now reap what we have sown.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq under false pretenses earned us at a minimum scorn and, at worst, a billion-fold increase in enemies. In my part of the Georgia woods, only a stupid person would poke a stick in a hornet’s nest without having a good plan for what to do when the hornets come boiling out seeking revenge. Central Asia has proven to be filled with hornets.
Letting fear and anger prevail over reflection, without taking a breath to call upon our deeper wisdom, our nation made two grave mistakes. We did not stop to learn enough about the suicidal hijackers, their sponsors, and covert sources of support. We failed to see the long-term implications of a policy of “Lone Ranger/Tonto vigilantism.” The short-term results were disastrous.
Then by re-electing the ideological Bush administration, we Americans made the Earth more dangerous for ourselves and others than it was before 9/11. Continuing huge military actions instead of rooting-out individuals and small groups of fanatics spawned a plethora of new jihadists and anti-American groups. Warfare that slaughtered innocent civilians, destroying homes and cultures, created enemies where none existed before.
The Bush administration emphasis on a military campaign, with officials arrogating so-called war powers, and fear mongering rhetoric from the government and popular media conditioned citizens to passively accept an expansion of centralized control over the way we think and live.
Now we see the new Obama administration, elected to change America’s direction in the world, continuing the same flawed policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This new (really old-thinking) Washington team also maintains the centralization of power and limits on our civil liberties crafted by the Bush administration. It continues the profligate military spending of the public treasure, mortgaging the futures of our grandchildren.
If the results of the last eight years are unnecessary military and civilian deaths, a weaker and poorer nation, less overall security and fewer civil liberties, and the animosity of much of the world, who has benefited from the U.S. official response to 9/11? By now it should be clear that only the military-industrial-security (MIS) complex still takes home the bacon.
Foreign observers might logically conclude that it was the aim of America’s political leadership to help serve the terrorists’ ends. Not only has America’s international security been undermined, the vitality of domestic institutions has been sapped. The constitutional rights of citizens and the balance of powers in Washington have been grievously weakened. The rise of autocratic powers must have our Founding Fathers’ souls turning in the grave.
However, it is up to citizens living today to try to get our nation back to its ideals. Unfortunately, demagogues (prodded by the MIS complex) have polarized our society to the point that groups shout slogans at each other without realizing that the wool is being pulled over their eyes. Until they reach out and get together to revive our common goals, we will continue to be indentured to the elite who benefit from a war-impoverished society.
[Paul Von Ward (a former minister, U. S. naval officer and American diplomat) can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com or on the web site <http://www.vonward.com>.]