"With the great mass of people structurally remote and psychologically
hesitant with respect to democratic institutions, those institutions
themselves attenuate and become, in the fashion of the vicious circle,
progressively less accessible to those few who aspire to serious participation
in social affairs. The vital democratic connection between community
and leadership, between the mass and the several elites, has been
so wrenched and perverted that disastrous policies go unchallenged
time and again." - The Port Huron Statement, 1962
America considers itself to be the light of the world. Our freedoms
and democracy are a beacon to all those nations and peoples who suffer
injustice, who have no voice, who yearn for the liberties we so casually
took for granted before the attacks. If we are to continue to be the
light of the world, we must forgive them even as we seek our justice.
We must rise above the hatred that brought them into war with us.
If we do not, we become them. If we do not, they win, even if we
kill them all.
September 11th was a national trauma on the level of the assassination
of John F. Kennedy. Along the way, we saw bravery on a scale unmatched
perhaps since a June day in 1944, when average Americans ran through
a hail of steel and fire on a beach in France. What the police and
firefighters ran through on September 11th was no less deadly. What
our soldiers currently face in Afghanistan is likewise proving to
be deadly, as well.
Yet we must be cautious as we appraise the time that has passed since
that wretched day. For all the good that has come from a nation united,
there has been a larger surge of dangerous misdirection, folly and
polished ugliness passing itself off as patriotism.
We must remember that no explanation for the events of September
11th have been forthcoming. 9/11 was many things, but above all it
was an intelligence failure of spectacular dimensions. The CIA, FBI
and NSA were all caught flat-footed, and not one official has come
forward with an explanation. We have been told the attack came because
certain individuals in the world hate our freedom, and that is all
we know. Demands by the families of 9/11 victims that an open and
independent investigation be immediately undertaken have been rebuffed
by the Bush administration. Instead, a secret committee of congresspeople
meets behind closed doors.
Bush and Cheney pressured Senate Majority Leader Daschle on the eve
of Bush's first State of the Union speech to avoid too many piercing
questions into why 9/11 happened. These are the two men whose chief
responsibility it is to ensure that such an attack never comes again.
Ostensibly, the War on Terror serves that purpose. The war, however,
cannot correct institutional flaws within our security apparatus.
If we do not dig deep and hard into the reasons behind why 9/11 was
allowed to happen, we leave ourselves open and vulnerable to another
attack. This is unacceptable.
We must put pressure on the White House to avoid blocking any investigations
that seek answers to this most vital of questions. If they do not,
we must demand from them an explanation of their motives. We must
also look hard at the War on Terror itself. It remains an undeclared
war, and yet more and more resources are being poured into it. Bush
announced some new steps to be taken in this fight. Chief among them
was his intention to push the battle into fully one third of the nations
on earth. This is unilateralism on an unprecedented scale, and pushes
his "With us or against us" rhetoric onto truly hazardous ground.
Americans demanded action after 9/11, and they have gotten it. Yet
we must examine the dangers inherent in an open-ended and ill-defined
global engagement. As we polish our nuclear weapons and claim the
right to invade whatever nation we wish, all the while sinking deeper
into a murky quagmire in Afghanistan, it appears we have gotten far
more than we bargained for. An explanation of what shall define victory
in this fight, and a setting of clear parameters, is required.
We must look to define patriotism. Senators Tom Daschle and John
Kerry chose to question, in the mildest of terms, the direction of
this war. Mr. Daschle stated that if bin Laden, the purported author
of this horror, fails to be captured and convicted for his crimes,
the entire war itself will have failed to achieve its goal. They were
pilloried on all sides for this, and their commitment to America called
into question. It seems the White House would like nothing more than
to marginalize Congressional oversight, in defiance of the Constitution,
and will stoop to whatever hyperbole is available to do so.
On every car and every porch flutters an American flag, symbol of
pride and strength for the people of this nation. Bumper stickers
make declarations of unity, and lapel pins speak wordlessly for citizens
who still weep at the thought of the dead and the lost. Those symbols,
so proudly displayed, represent a nation racing towards ignominious
defeat. We are losing this war, not because of the actions of a clever
enemy, but because of dangerously poor leadership in Washington D.C.
As William Shakespeare said, "When valour preys on reason, it eats
the sword it fights with." In the end, we may all be forced to eat
the sword being wielded in so cumbersome a fashion.
Our bombs in Afghanistan are not bringing to justice those who perpetrated
the acts of September 11th, and are creating more enemies who will
fight to see us die. The Justice Department has stumbled about like
fools trying to ascertain the source of the anthrax threat with no
notable success. Our tax dollars, vitally needed to defend the economy
and the country, are being spent to reward corporations for their
support of the GOP agenda. Our airports remain sieves through which
more deadly threats may pour unchecked. Our homes and private communications
are made of glass.
The world paused as we passed the one year anniversary of 9/11. Americans
must take that moment of quiet and stretch it out. We must look around
and determine whether this nation is forging the proper course. The
world is a dangerous place, as the crater in Manhattan clearly shows.
If we are to make it less so, then a hard appraisal of our actions
to date is required. The greatest defeat of all would be if our course,
begun with such fanfare and support, brings us into a world where
9/11 seems mild by comparison. We are a fair piece down that road
None of this matters to the dead. They trusted the President and
his people to take care of the business of security, and knew nothing
of the conflicts of interest inherent in a mob of energy company CEOs
running the store. If America is to move intact through the minefield
of the 21st century, we must redefine the threat that faces us. It
is not the shadow men with the deadly eyes that cause us to lie awake
at night, but the treason of divided loyalty along the halls of power
That infection has led us to global war. The cure is not to kill,
to invade, to make war and excuses. The cure is the understanding
of consequences, and the cleansing of our sacred governmental institutions.
When entities like Enron control our foreign policy, blood runs in
rivers down our streets. The best interests of the people are not
represented, but are in fact completely disregarded in pursuit of
new markets and profit.
Victory will be found by exposing, in public and for all the world
to see, the roots of our common catastrophe. In the aftermath of September
11th, it was the expectation and the demand of all that we stand together
as one, in the name of the common good. Victory will come when our
government and foreign policy meets this goal.