Tuesday, June 28, 2016
I remember 9/11. The horror. The outrage. The feeling of helplessness while I watched the symbols of my culture's greatness crumble with real people inside! Not just Americans, but citizens of the world! It was, "The World Trade Center," after all. Not just "America." Not just, "The Pentagon." This was an attack against "The World!" 2,996 people died on September 11. Besides the US, 62 countries lost citizens in the attacks.
People were jumping off the top of the towers! People like me and the ones I love. Normal Citizens of the World. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Hindus. People. Like you, I immediately saw my loved ones in those towers. In that desperation. In that hell. In that breath away from death. They should not have been there yet. It wasn't their time. It took my breath away.
And what did we do? How did we respond? My daughter called me at work. She was shocked and horrified. Daddy? Did you see what happened? She and I went to New York regularly and considered it a safe place. A welcoming place. A place full of new experiences and science and art and culture and theater and great food and funny people and sidewalks. History, novelty, and lots and lots of nice people. People who loved their city and welcomed visitors. People who gladly extended a helping hand to a stranger. And we loved to be welcomed to their city. To our city. People I'd gladly extend a hand back to in friendship. I have a nephew who lived within blocks of the towers. He saw it crash out his window. How do you process such a monstrosity?
How do you not become a monster in response? This was an attack against the world! Do we attack the world back? Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, was the first world leader to contact President George W. Bush. He offered his condolences and sympathies to the American people, plus an offer. He offered to form a partnership between Russia and the US to hunt down and bring these criminals to justice. Russia had lost over 1,000 people to terrorist attacks and had fought terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We could benefit from mutual cooperation against this attack against the entire civilized world. We could put up a unified, solid front against the forces of chaos and hate and give a resounding “No!” to the workers of terror.
Bush turned him down.
War doesn't remember. War doesn't think. War doesn't feel. War doesn’t commemorate itself. War doesn’t require praise or pardon, reason or remorse, memory or memorials. War doesn't put up monuments. War only kills.
And kills it does. Efficiently. Quickly. Repeatedly. Anonymously. Sometimes brazenly. And sometimes quietly. Always cowardly. Some people profit. Many die. Most suffer.
Former Secretary of State Madame Albright was once asked if the deaths of six hundred thousand Iraqi children was "worth it." "Yes," she said, "It was worth it." Worth what, exactly? What is the ‘it’ that we gained from the hideous deaths of half a million children, which is 125 times the number dead at the World Trade Center? Was it the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, countries which were no threat to us and had nothing to do with 9/11? The creation of a recruiting ground for terrorists? The creation of ISIS? The souring of world opinion until the US is now considered the greatest threat to world peace and security, according to a Pew Research poll? The flood of refugees into Europe, some of them terrorists? Small scale and frequent terror attacks becoming a regularity on our soil? The ascendency of reactionary candidates like Trump and, undoubtedly, future Trumps? Because that’s what we got. That’s the ‘it.’
And that’s just Albright’s calculus from the civilian deaths in Iraq. Then factor in Libya, Ukraine, Syria; drone attacks on Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan; NATO expansion in Eastern Europe; and the installation of nuclear capable missile systems in Romania on Russia’s border. Studies have put the number of Muslims killed at two to as high as four million people, most of them innocent. Most of them sympathetic to the US after the attacks. Most of them our friends.
So. We kill. And kill. And kill. And feel justified and righteous and like we're the injured party. Always US the aggrieved victim. But it wasn't always so. We were once the shining city on a hill. The beacon of peace.
My God, what have we done?