Sunday, September 11, 2005

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the attacks on our country that mark the dividing line between 'then' and 'now'. The hallowed ground upon which the Twin Towers once stood was thrown into bureaucratic miasma, and their memory has long since been tarnished and, most despicably, exploited to justify the suffering of many thousands more.

The whole thing makes no sense. The victims of the Iraq war, which was billed to us in part as somehow related to the atrocities commemorated this day four years past, by now number well into the tens of thousands, including the nearly 2,100 American soldiers dead from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are all responsible for this, as we live in a democratic state, and with each passing day of inaction we add another of complicity to the bastardization of the deaths of nearly three thousand people. They didn't know they would die to become martyrs for a grand design to remake the world and, in so doing, replicate their suffering and death among people blessed with petroleum. We failed the opportunity to stop this madness, a fact conceded by the President himself, who referred to last year's election as our "accountability moment". Not, of course, that there was anything Kerry could have done. (Remember that dolt?)

But, after all, why am I talking about a war that has embroiled 140,000 of our soldiers in a fiercely sectarian hellscape? It need not have any relation to the attacks remembered today. Ideological enemies Hussein and bin Laden never had any collaborational relationship, spelled out by the 9/11 Commission in its final report. What possible interest would Saddam have had in working with Osama? His Iraq was nothing more than a contained, failing state, destroyed by decades of war and sanctions. Hussein would've no doubt wanted to hold onto whatever was left, minus the fanciful stockpiles of WMD; no use, then, sharing secrets with a crazed, religious zealot, one who despised Hussein and his regime.

Al Qaeda attacked us four years ago today. But now the terrorist group is more a state of mind that any centralized organization, with 'affiliate' jihadist fronts springing up throughout the world. One of the more prominent observations made immediately following the September 11 attacks was a dire need for 'moral clarity'. (I believe former "drug czar" and avid gambler William Bennett published a book calling for that sort of thing.) But no such clarity has ever been established, and the water is muddier than ever. Some ethical standard would be damn nice right now.

Let's start with a common definition of terrorism, one that applies to all actors. Here's one: "Premeditated acts of violence, directed at noncombatants, for the purpose of political change." Simple. The problem with such a definition is it implicates actions for which we are responsible. But so be it. We are the example for the world to follow, are we not? That fabled shining city on a hill? Do we not have a Christian President? Jesus instructed to treat others as you would have them treat you, the Golden Rule. Spraying cluster bombs over suburban Baghdad and leveling Falluja does not bode well for us, no matter what end we seek. One does not equate ends and means; that's an ancient truism.

What I mean to say by all of this is we've adopted a tragically simplistic worldview that leads us to band together for an apocalyptic global battle for the salvation of Muslims' souls. Or 'democratization' of the Middle East. It's a matter of semantics. The question that remains from the ashes of ground zero is, What future do we want, for us, our children and grandchildren? Whether it's a choice between freedom and fear or survival and hegemony, the constant obstacle to global progress and happiness is, in the end, the irrationality that exists within all of us.

All we have is our power; with that responsibility we can do whatever we want, and therein lies the problem and the solution. A system where a twentieth of the global population assumes the mantle of a world mission to save and reconstruct the rest of the world is a path of self-destruction and, ultimately, doom. We can stop this. Hope and freedom are precious. Violence will not put an end to violence; neither will passive exhortations to 'wage peace'. The free people of the world will find a way. It may not be ours, but perhaps one that will turn the tide of tyrannical regimes and this whole ugly 'Age of Terror'. Is that the role of our country alone? Obviously not. Rather, it is the obligation of all who do not wish to live in fear and desperation.

Someday justice will be done. To that end I am optimistic.

No comments: