Remembering 9/12, the Bigger Tragedy

The eagle we let get away.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. I don’t want to add to the grief, the anguish, or the anger over 9/11. I want to talk instead about 9/12, a day in my view that should have become more important than 9/11. What, after all, can one really say about 9/11? That it was horrific? That it was unfair? That those responsible for it are barbaric? That it shattered the lives of survivors? That it shocked the nation? Tick all those boxes, but in my mind there was an even bigger tragedy: the squandering of 9/12.

Do we remember 9/12? We should. On that day nearly all of the world stood in solidarity with the United States and was ready to commit to a unified war on terror. The exceptions? Iran and Palestine, especially the latter. Lest we forget, thousands of Palestinians danced on the streets in celebration of the attacks. So what did the U.S. do? We blew it. We allowed jingoism, hypernationalism, and a cadre of evildoers in our own midst lead us astray. We made Osama bin-Laden into a hero and turned erstwhile allies into skeptics and enemies. We reelected a faux “war president” (or was it “elected” him for the first time) and allowed him to ruin the US economy, destroy American prestige, and trash what was potentially the greatest political alliance in human history.

Can we finally admit that the biggest security challenge facing the United States was the Bush administration? The idiotic decision to go to war against Iraq was based on personal pique, not credible evidence. We called it Operation Iraqi Freedom, but much of the rest of the world called it what it was: reckless cowboy adventurism. The cost has been enormous. As of September 12, we’ve spent nearly $800 billion on Iraq. Go to http://costofwar.com/en/ and watch America’s financial security melt away. If one factors in hidden costs such as the spike in oil prices since the Iraq invasion, interest on the national debt, weapons depletion, administrative costs, and other such like, the true cost is over $3 trillion—a sizable chunk of that debt Republicans created and over which they now cry crocodile tears. It has also cost 4,792 U.S. and “coalition” lives as of today, a figure that exceeds the loss of life associated with 9/11 by 1,816.

“Coalition” deserves to be put in quote marks. Other than assistance from Britain under the vacuous Tony Blair, the military alliance was a lie from the get-go, unless one actually believes that nations such as Tonga, Albania, Mongolia, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic are lean, mean, fighting machines. But at least there were 40 of them at one time; now there are none—not even Britain. Unlike the United States, citizens elsewhere demanded that troops be withdrawn. Talk about tragedies! I feel very badly for those who died, but there is simply no way to avoid it: Americans died in vain. There is no, as in zero, connection between their mission and American freedom. We may call them heroes if it makes us feel better, but history will judge them “victims” and add them to the 9/11 toll.

There is also the matter of over 100,000 Iraqi dead. It will be decades before any semblance of normality has a chance of being restored in Iraq and who would be surprised if an Islamist government emerges from the chaos. Was Saddam Hussein a horrible man? Yes. Was Iraq better off under him? Yes again. Was the US better off under Saddam? Yes a third time. As the old adage goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Congratulations Bush/Cheney/Rice—your stupidity created a power vacuum that destabilized the region and strengthened the two groups who like the US the least: Iranian clerics and Hamas. It also put more stress on our greatest ally: Israel.

These days we’re busy patting ourselves on the back for Arab spring; that is, the blind faith that democracy is about to bloom in the desert. Really? Has it escaped our collective notice that many of the groups seeking to topple their governments are those who don’t actually like the United States? Last week’s attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo and the steady stream of rhetoric coming out of the region suggests that Arab spring is giving way to Anti-Semitism fall. Much of it is led, of course, by Iran, the nation we made the de facto regional power by taking out its only serious regional rival: Iraq. Don’t get me started on the number of previously nonexistent terror groups that got their start, recruits, and sustaining capital because of the US invasion of Iraq.

Let’s not forget to add Hamas to the hates-America list. Palestine surges forward in its plan to bring an immediate-statehood plan before United Nations. It’s led by Hamas and please spare me the “it was democratically elected” line; Hamas led the 9/11 celebration ten years ago and would be even happier to witness the sequel. The US will surely veto Palestinian statehood under a Hamas government, but if the UN even debates the topic without making Israeli recognition a prerequisite for discussion, I say pull out and redevelop that valuable New York City real estate upon which the UN currently sits.

The UN probably will debate Palestinian statehood if, for no other reason, the US opposes it. Suggested movie title: “Hey, Dude, Where are My Allies?” Just who does stand with the US these days? Europeans have a debt crisis of their own, but no one worries about the impact of the value of the U.S. dollar on the Common Market economy. Nor do they sit around and wonder how the U.S. can help resolve conflicts in Asia Minor or the Balkans. The Chinese politely ignore overtures to pressure North Korea; Russia gives her tacit blessing to crackdowns against Syrian dissidents. And a single word sums up the manner in which the global war on terrorism has collapsed: Pakistan.

I mourn for those who died on September 11, but I keen and wail for the victims of September 12. We had a moment and we let it slip from our grasp.

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