Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cakes and candles not necessary


Today is the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Sure, it seems like it's been a lot longer; but time flies when you're having fun, right?

I'm not much for anniversaries, because they're more symbolic than anything. Anyway, I doubt anyone is really going to wake up today and say, "So 9/11 was exactly five years ago? Gee, I haven't thought about that in a while!" Trust me; no one in the world needs a mark on the calendar to remember that horrific day.

I'm not going to relate my personal tale of where I was that day. First off, I was asleep for most of the destruction. Second, who really cares what some college student from Lafayette, Louisiana, was doing at the time? I was fortunate to spend most of my day running errands in perfect weather, going to school (where my only class of the day was cancelled) and then work. The biggest impacts on my day were listening to live coverage of the chaos on NPR (including an asphyxiating reporter) and seeing no planes in the air that day. This was in stark contrast to two days before, when I worked a triathlon at the local airport and watched nearby planes take off, one after another, into horrendous storm clouds.

Big whoop, right? No doubt that snippet of information has added profoundly to your understanding of 9/11. Still, one event that happened to me in the aftermath is kind of noteworthy and--dare I say it?--slightly amusing.

Within days of the attacks, UL planned a campus-wide vigil. I was running late, and got there right as it started. As I walked toward the site, I found myself walking alongside a large contingent of foreign students. Turns out I had walked straight into a march of some kind. Bystanders flanked the procession, a mixture of other international students and gawking Caucasians. The silence was eerie, especially considering I couldn't see the sign that the lead marchers were carrying. There had been anecdotal evidence of racial clashes at school over the past few days, so for all I knew it could have been a protest against the vigil. All I knew was that I was walking alongside a silent group of people who either stood for everything I did, or who diametrically opposed all of it. And I wouldn't know the answer until I reached the vigil and gauged the general population's reaction.

When we reached the quad, a gaggle of cameras awaited. Uncertain of what I was marching for, and wanting to not diminish/abet that cause one way or the other, I jumped to the side. I hit a gate chain and nearly tripped in front of thousands of people. Fortunately for my ever-fragile ego, all of them were focused on the message brought forth by the marchers, which I was now at an angle to read:


I shouldn't have worried. But didn't we all worry in those days?

The flipside of this outpouring of support was a vocal release of the racist and chickenhawk tripe that even the most ignorant ranter would normally keep to themselves, or speak only behind a hood. More than once, "We're at war!" was spoken with something best described as lust. As much war talk as I had to hear from the armchair conservatives after 9/11, and as much ultra-nationalism as we saw in the ensuing days, I also saw an unprecedented outpouring of peace. It's often been said that national tragedies bring out both the best and the worst in people, and 9/11 continues to do so. I think the back page from the Sept. 19, 2001 Vermilion encapsulates the spectrum of thought (such as it was) at the time:


This was during one of my hiatuses from the paper, so my input was not requested. But I was fortunate enough to publish a column about it the following year. Published on Sept. 11, 2002, my column was titled simply, Today, One Year Later. An excerpt:

As for the government’s handling of the crisis, I give them in A+—in failing spectacularly. This assault was the perfect opportunity to show the world how justice is done right—the American way!

Instead, our esteemed leaders went the medieval route, with daily doses of Constitution shredding. Evidently, the current strategy is to out-terrorize the terrorists, even if the alleged “terrorists” are American citizens whose only contact with a bomb was seeing the movie “Battlefield Earth.”

In this bizarre pinball game of a year, the U.S. government has careened out of control with power, with only the flippers of a concerned American public keeping them on the playing field. But like any pinball machine, the field is slanted, and the ball slips through the flippers once in a while. In other words, the government, much like a pinball, does what it wants if we let it. Tilt!

The positive stories of this past year, and there are multitudes of them, lie in the regular people of America: the firefighters, the police officers, the working class and everyone else involved in the collective caring of a nation. These selfless patriots became unified not through some abstract concept of “fighting terror” or revenge, but through bringing hope and comfort to the afflicted.

In the face of Dick Cheney's war-no-matter-what comments, recent reports of Iraq's non-involvement in the 9/11 attacks and Osama bin Laden's evident getaway, it appears that the hard-liners refuse to learn anything from the lessons of the past five years. In response, I can only reiterate what I said at the end of my one-year column, which I could just as easily write today:

Hopefully the American people will continue to have their hearts in the right place and government belligerence won’t force us into yet another “where were you when you heard…” incident. Let’s hope we never have to remember where we were ever again.

21 comments:

Hillary For President said...

OGM,

YOU ARE SO RITE. I meen, at WAR!! how crazy is those neocons to fight the most holy Mislams?? WHat we need to do is like this:

1. SHUT UP
2. START TO PAY ARE TRIBUTE TO THE MISLAMS. AS DHIMMIS IS ARE DUTY.
3. BACK THE HECK OFF OF IRAN. THEY ARE MISLAM!!!!!!!! WE HALF NUKE, WHAT KIND OF MORON THING THEY SHOULD NOT??
4. BUSH = IMPEECH.
5. HILLARY = ELECT
6. WORLD PEECE

I MEEN, IT ONE THINK TO THING WE CAN BEET COMMUNISM, IT IS VOID OF HOLYNESS, BUT TO THING WE CAN BEET MISLAMS!!!!! HOW CARZY IS THAT?

Ian McGibboney said...

HFP, I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to wake up and read comments such as yours.

Nick said...

I'm still waiting for when you decide to start correcting Hillary's spelling, much like you enjoy correcting mine.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, the difference is that I have some hope for you.

Cajun Tiger said...

The difference between your editorial column and Nick's is so telling but not surprising one bit.

Ian McGibboney said...

Yes, indeed! Mine was a careful critique of governmental measures in 2001-02, and a tribute to the people who made a difference after the disaster. Nick's was half bloodthirsty and half cribbed.

Not surprising, indeed.

Pondering American said...

Perhaps you can direct me to this careful Critique of Governmental measures in 2001-2002. I think I missed it lol
"Instead, our esteemed leaders went the medieval route"
Uhm not therewith daily doses of Constitution shredding. Evidently, the current strategy is to out-terrorize the terrorists, even if the alleged “terrorists” are American citizens whose only contact with a bomb was seeing the movie “Battlefield Earth"

Still looking

"In this bizarre pinball game of a year, the U.S. government has careened out of control with power, with only the flippers of a concerned American public keeping them on the playing field. But like any pinball machine, the field is slanted, and the ball slips through the flippers once in a while. In other words, the government, much like a pinball, does what it wants if we let it. Tilt!"

Not there either but I am getting a urge to watch a John Travolata movie and play pinball



"

Ian McGibboney said...

What you are criticizing are my literary embellishments. I can understand that, because I was very heavy-handed with those in my early columnist days.

On the other hand, I also make mention of the hidden prejudices that 9/11 brought out in some people; the willingness of Americans to give up civil liberties in exchange for a feeling of safety; the moral ambiguity from both sides of the conflict; the increasing police state within our borders; the misleading rhetoric coming from both the government and the private sector in the form of TV spots; use of flags and magnets as the main form of sacrifice among civilian Americans; and squandered opportunities by our government to not stoop to the terrorists' level in terms of conflict resolution.

These examples (and many others) were very fresh in everyone's mind in 2002, and thus needed no introduction. You would have seen them too, if you had bothered to read the whole column instead of the wrap-up I posted.

Hillary For President said...

Whatever Ian say is rite. He know that Bush is are WROST. PRESDENT. EVER. and who will be all time best presdent>? that rite. It will be Hillary Clinton.

you will see.

Phillip said...

I'm appalled that after five years we haven't heard anything about Venezuela's involvement in 7/11 and Hugo Chavez's connection to Al Quaeda. Doesn't anyone know how much combustible liquid freedom they have?

Cajun Tiger said...

"the moral ambiguity from both sides of the conflict"

Therein lies the reason libs are always seen as weak on national defense. There is no moral equivalence between us and terrorist as much as you may try to equate the two. America never TARGETS innocent civilians while that is the main target for murderous terrorist thugs. Your hatred for Bush blinds you to the real evil in the world and tries to assign similar blame where there is absolutely no similarity.

It is very sad that you would even suggest that America is the same or even worse than terrorist thugs.

Ian McGibboney said...

As usual, you're twisting my words. I'm saying that no one's all right or all wrong. I'm sure it's very comforting to think that everything the United States does is right and that the terrorists are doing these things just because they are barbarians. But it's not that simple. Maybe if our solutions were more in line with the complexity of the situation, we wouldn't have most of the world hating us right now.

My point is this: we had the opportunity to prove that our way of life and our justice system were the best way to deal with conflict. But instead, we reacted by being just as bloodthirsty as they were. We went to war as a first resort, arrested and detained people without charge or counsel and shredded our own civil liberties at home. And we've killed far more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan than the terrorists ever did here.

Is that a talking point to you? In any case, it's the truth. This is not how America's supposed to react.

Cajun Tiger said...

No twisting whatsoever...you just proved it again...there is NOTHING right about what they are doing. To even suggest that they have any moral grounds for their actions is wrong.

We have not killed more civilians than the terrorists have. That is blatantly false. If I were still there, I could give you the exact numbers of civilians accidently killed by Coalition and the ones killed by terrorist INTENTIONALLY!!!

Being you don't think we should have gone to war to defeat the terrorists, please tell me what you would have done after 9-11?

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm not saying they have any moral ground. But they are just as morally invested in their cause as we are in ours. Which is exactly why this war is going nowhere: it's the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, and the continued provocation is just as bad--if not worse--than cutting and running. We may work to a stalemate in Iraq, but I don't see us winning anything.

"We have not killed more civilians than the terrorists have. That is blatantly false."

Have we really killed fewer than 3,000 innocent victims in five years of fighting on two different fronts? Well, I did some research, and it turns out I'm wrong after all. As Bush noted in December 2005:

"THE PRESIDENT: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."

So basically, our actions in Iraq alone have caused 10 times the death toll of 9/11. They may not all have died at our direct hand, but the fact is they're dead. And I can't imagine that every one of them was a terrorist or was killed by Iraqi forces.

"Being you don't think we should have gone to war to defeat the terrorists, please tell me what you would have done after 9-11?"

I consider Iraq and Afghanistan two different fronts. Which is where your blanket assumption falls apart. I agreed with the action in Afghanistan, but didn't about Iraq. I have yet to see a reputable report that Iraq had ANYTHING to do with 9/11, which to me makes all of our actions there unjustified. Not that the distinction between Afghanistan and Iraq ever gets made by the right.

What would I have done after 9/11? Admittedly, probably the same thing that actually got done...at first. But this whole Iraq detour was a farce from the beginning. I never would have done that.

Cajun Tiger said...

No there wouldn't have been 30,000 deaths, if we wouldn't have invaded, Saddam and his psycho sons would have just kept butally torturing and killing 100s of thousands, so if you want to talk lives we have saved lives by freeing them from that despot and 95% of the country is extremely grateful.

And then of the 30,000, nearly 90% are a result of terrorists not Coalition forces. So let's please see some outrage directed at them for a change instead of all at the US, is that too much to ask?

By your logic...Afghanistan and the Taliban didn't attack us, so what justification is there to topple their government.

No one has ever said Saddam had direct links to 9-11. I don't know how many times this has to be said but I'll try one more time for you.
1. EVERY intelligence agency in the world said they had WMDs.
2. The UN issued 17 resolutions for him to do what he agreed to do after the '91 war.
3. At any point he could have stopped by allowing full access to the weapons inspectors, but he was actively thwarting their efforts. Why would he do that if he had nothing to hide.
4. He repeatedly threathened American and our Allies.
5. He repeatedly shot at our fighter jets.
6. More and more evidence is showing that he made overtures to al Qaida
7. 9-11 proved we can't just isolate radicals and they will leave us alone.
8. We acted to enforce the UN mandate being the UN was unwilling and unable to do it.

If we leave before Iraqi forces can secure the nation, it will be a huge defeat and al Qaida will turn Iraq into a haven tons worse than Afghanistan ever was.

As long as libs keep undercutting the President, all it does is emboldens the enemy and weakens the Iraqi citizens who both think we won't have the courage to finish the job.

Ian McGibboney said...

So we had to burn down the village to save it, right? Where have I heard that before?

And from where do you cite these percentages?

The problem that's shading your commentary, CT, is that you think I'm giving the terrorists a free pass because I dare to criticize U.S. retaliation policy.

And you're flat-out wrong about my so-called "logic." I said above that I supported the initiative to remove the Taliban, precisely because they had a hand in 9/11. In fact, I supported their removal during Clinton's term as well, before the average American had any idea what was going on in Afghanistan.

You're also wrong about the Iraq-9/11 connection. It's pathetic how hard Republicans are trying to backpedal on that one, now that their bluff's been called. I suppose that mentioning Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in every sentence in the last five years wasn't an implication of something or other, right? But assuming that the connection was actually never made, then what the hell are we doing there?

Our presence in Iraq, which seems to be predicated entirely on 1991 statistics, has turned Iraq into the biggest breeding ground for terrorists today. In that sense, we made the lies about Iraq true with out actions. Nice going. And I'm supposed to trust our illustrious leadership to keep this fiasco going? Stop trying to paint me (and my side) at the reason for this failure; I have no power! Your boys in the White House are the ones screwing it up.

Cajun Tiger said...

Well when you never criticize the atrocities of the terrorists one begins to wonder.

Find me one Repub leader that has said Saddam was connected to 9-11. No one has ever said that. What is said and what is very accurate to say that in a post 9-11 world, Saddam had to be handled differently. I love how you ask a question i answered in great detail, so if you are curious why we are there, please refer to my previous 8 points to which you failed to address.

The percentages are numbers I saw when I was in Iraq, I could probably find them if I googled, but that is the numbers from when I left.

If Saddam didn't have any more WMDs the only lies told were by him being he told all his military that they had them and the rest of the world believed him being he never let us verify that he didn't.

I'm not the one painting libs as the reason we are "losing"...the terrorists do a good enough job in that department.

Ian McGibboney said...

Do I really need to criticize the terrorists' atrocities to make my point about GOP failures in this war? Seems to me that the terrorists' actions go without saying. Indeed, you (like most right-wingers) only want to focus upon them instead of spark honest criticism about how we can handle them. You'd rather I just shut up and trust the American side because they can do no wrong. But that doesn't accomplish anything, aside from reinforce the failing methods of our power-drunk administration. Those of us whose meal-ticket is not in occupying Iraq demand real answers and honest solutions. That can only happen if we are not attacked every time we feel American policy is lacking.

You complain about my failure to rebut your eight points, when most of them are either outdated or have no proof behind them. Point seven, in particular, is a speculative opinion. And point six is flat-out false. None of them explain why we had to hurry up and go into Iraq, at that time, for terrorist-related reasons.

2) There are literally so many Iraq-9/11 quotes from Bush and Cheney alone that I cannot list them here. But here are a few:

"We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases." - President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat; Remarks by the President on Iraq, White House (10/7/2002)

"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help develop their own." - President Delivers "State of the Union", White House (1/28/2003)

"And Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and because we know he has, in fact, developed these kinds of capabilities, chemical and biological weapons. . . We know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization." - Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, NBC (3/16/2003)

Plenty more of these quotes abound at DU. Before you dismiss the source, consider that they get most of their quotes straight from the White House's own transcripts. There's no fudging your way out of this one, CT. The Bush administration clearly made their case for a Saddam-Osama alliance, and used this as a precept for going to war. And when they weren't explicitly saying this, they were implying it by mentioning Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence. Even now, most Americans probably believe a connection still exists. Sad.

Phillip said...

Ian, juxtapose those statements with the ones in which W. says "noone in this administration has ever claimed that Saddam had any connection to 9/11" and... I get a tad confused.

Tiger:

"No there wouldn't have been 30,000 deaths, if we wouldn't have invaded, Saddam and his psycho sons would have just kept butally torturing and killing 100s of thousands, so if you want to talk lives we have saved lives by freeing them from that despot and 95% of the country is extremely grateful."

So you must be chomping at the bit to send American forces to Darfur?

Cajun Tiger said...

Ian...I challenge you to give Iraq/9-11 quotes yet all you give me is Iraq/al Qaida quotes. Nice try.

But being you mentioned them, they are all completely accurate statements. Not sure where you have been the last few months but there have been several unclassified documents that have shown the growing links b/w Saddam and Al Qaida so I don't deny one of those quotes as they are completely accurate.

And it is b/c of those facts that Saddam needed to be taken out of power. If you want to play the quote game, I promise I can find quotes from Clinton, Kerry, Kennedy, etc. saying the exact same thing starting in '98.


Nice attempt in trying to paint me as going to Iraq only for the money and hoping it continues for my personal financial benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth, but if it makes you sleep better at night to believe that have at it.

Phillip...you must confuse easily then b/c no one in his admin has ever said that...not very confusing to me...but to each his own.

I would fully support any effort to send US troops into Darfur. Too bad the Dems are even more silent on that issue than the Repubs or your suggestion might have some merit.

Ian McGibboney said...

Well, THAT took long enough...

CT, I think at this point you're splitting hairs at an atomic level. Does anyone on the planet NOT equate 9/11 with al-Qaida? Minuscule semantics aside, it's clear that the administration did everything it could to equate Saddam Hussein with 9/11. If they did in fact not use those exact terms--which I doubt is true--then they made the association with the intent of providing plausible deniability. But no one's buying it--this administration has made a career out of rhetorical tricks. And not a very good one, at that.

The links between Saddam and al-Qaida are about as compelling as dirt. So one of Iraqi's operatives met with an al-Qaida official? Hell, the United States met with (armed) both Saddam and Osama bin Laden. Does that mean we endorsed 9/11? No, and neither does it diminish al-Qaida's equal hatred of the Hussein regime.

I'll leave you with a rhetorical question addressing one of your other points: why are we involved in Iraq but for the money and resources? It can't be that great of a place to be right now. If I'm wrong, good. But from my perspective, you couldn't pay me enough to go there. And I'm not exactly rolling in dough right now.