Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years After 911: A Bad Recipe for Democracy

5 Years After 911: A Bad Recipe for Democracy

At a ceremony at the Pentagon this morning, Vice President Dick Cheney called this a "day of national unity." Looking back five years, the call Mr. Cheney raised for unity landed flat and hollow. No doubt, all of our hearts, our healing thoughts, and our prayers are with our fellow Americans who lost loved ones in the 9/11 tragedy in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our common human values unite us on such a day. We are united in compassion. When it comes to matters of government however, I believe that our leaders should have seen to it that the unity that they hawk like the new barkers of the modern-day Infomercial was not just an annually-found sentimental essence of a long lost passing fancy, but instead they should have helped to forge a perennial unity among American citizens.

It should not have to take a day like 9/11 to remind us that, in America, we were once united for a brief time. A heavily partisan and  politicized foreign policy drove us apart and caused the world to separate themselves from us not long after that ill fated day.

It should not be overlooked that it was free citizens of a peaceful country who were on the front line that day. It was a time of innocence and false security. Before 9/11, our President's administration knew we citizens were in peril - that the aviation system was under great threat - but they chose not to cause us to "panic" and bought our distrust with their deliberate silence. When the question "Are we safer five years later?" is asked and the President tells us that we are safer because of a war in Iraq, the great paradox - is, based upon what we know about the clandestine nature of this fear-mongeringadministration, we citizens have no clue - and no trust that the Bush administration or many of our Congressional leaders have a real grip as to whether or not we're at more risk than we were five years ago.

A war in Iraq has not changed the threat that hangs over innocent civilians here or anywhere in this world. It has fractured important alliances and confidences. The president and vice president repeat again and again that we fight terrorists in Iraq so we won't have to fight them here at home. Consider the impossible reconciling of the question of freedom, security, and sheer geography. If you asked an American traveling to Topeka, Kansas or Birmingham, Alabama if they feel safer now than five years ago, you'd probably get a positive answer. If you asked that same American traveling to London, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, Rabat (Morocco), Singapore, Jakarta, Jerusalem, New York City, or Los Angeles, the answer would indubitably change. Americans who travel to major international cities  are at great risk, and they know it. What does freedom mean when the security provided by your nation's foreign policy confines you to remain  within the borders of your nation for that promise of freedom and security to be fulfilled? If you add the fact that our civil liberties are restricted at a time of an undeclared, unsuccessful, and terrorist-recruiting series of wars within a war that has no end in sight, what you have is a grave danger - not only to the safety of Americans, but also to the health of their American democracy.

It's a bad recipe for American democracy. The proof is in the pudding.

The truth is that we citizens of America are less free and secure now than in just about any period in American history. It took five years for the fallout and the government's disgrace to be realized.

Five years ago, innocent American citizens wandered through the smoke and the darkness at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. A new kind of soldier was born on that day in America. The first of our kind was seen in the actions of everyday citizens like Edgar Emery, a hard-working American who died a hero's death at the Trade Center while escorting five co-workers, including one who'd had just completed a round of chemotherapy, into a stairwell and walked down 12 floors, reaching the 78th floor and the express elevator, with Mr. Emery giving encouragement all the while. Being your brother's keeper took on a whole new meaning. When a stranger with a backpack stands next to you in the subway, the new awareness that you are in The Army of the Millions - not born of fear, but by information - is palpable. There were once hundreds of fundamentalists whose ideology and resentment toward the West  drove them to entertain the thought of killing innocent human beings. Today, there are thousands more emboldened young men and women who are ready to join the Islamic fundamentalist cause, thanks to a war-myopic administration in Washington, D.C. and a Congress that has failed to listen to the democratic voices of the people they swore to represent.

In a nation with leaders who wished to strengthen and empower citizens, there would be no fear mongering. We wouldn't hand out medals to people like former CIA chief George Tenet, who'd failed our nation miserably and who had been indecisive when we needed him to be decisive; then reticent when we desparately needed clarity from him about WMD in Iraq. We'd fight fundamentalists tooth and nail, but we wouldn't politicize secret CIA prisons and we wouldn't publicly expose our CIA agents because we'd understand that politicizing war only weakens our chances of beating the enemy in a vicious game. That vicious game is not meant to be the kind of game that has to be turned into horror stories to cow frightened and helpless-feeling citizens into duct-taping their windows and cowering in a corner (unless they're feeling brave and patriotic enough to go to the mall and shop). Five years after 9/11, we realize that the elected leaders of America don't trust or respect the views of their own constituents. Since we have but ourselves to rely upon in this new struggle which eats away at our base emotions, it seems that a good government would have empowered us and trusted us with facts and education rather than stoking the fires of fear within us for five wasted years. A strong nation is a nation whose citizens participate in making their communities safe and watch out for one another. We are the soldiers we never asked to be, but fate has conscripted us to our own self-defense.  

Although we citizens are divided on political questions, we are all caring people who are are still groping through the smoke and darkness of 9/11, thanks to a foreign policy that solves nothing and serves as a recruitment vehicle and an isurance policy for more terror; an administration who has deliberately misled us; Congressman who have ignored our concerns; and a government that has frightened us rather than strengthened us.  

On Meet the Press yesterday, Dick Cheney made excuses for staying a failed and disastrous course in Iraq. He said, if we change the course, what is Hamid Karzai going to think? What about Musharraf? I'd like to ask Cheney, "What about the people of your nation who appeal to their representatives every day for an end to a senseless strategy to "fight terror" in Iraq, whose government never had a connection to 9/11? In a representative democracy, no one seems to be listening to the new soldiers of America - the citizens.

It's a bad recipe.

Meanwhile, it's five years later and disappointed 9/11 widows (called "witches" and "harpies" by Republican darling Ann Coulter) still wait for the truth and they no longer believe that the intelligence agencies failed, suspecting instead that the failure lied in the hands of Pentagon leaders who did not pass along information to law enforcement.

It's a bad recipe.

One year ago, Hurricane Katrina showed us that we didn't care enough about our nation's infrastructure, which is one of the most important necessities for a strong civil society. Katrina proved we were not prepared for catastrophic emergency. All the rhetoric and promise about Homeland Security making us safer was swept away with the great flood.

It's a bad recipe.

President Bush had the comfort and support of the world on September 11, 2001, and he squandered it. He lacks the humility that the leader of a powerful nation needs to succeed.

It's a bad recipe.

The culture of U.S. torture and fear permeates the nature of our society and the way the world sees us.

It's a bad recipe.

The Iraq war has cost this nation 177 million dollars a day and the President has never called upon the nation for any kind of personal sacrifice. Instead, ideas that promote the elimination of taxes for the wealthiest put more burden upon the working class in America.

It's a bad recipe.

Poverty in America is on the rise while the Bush economy grows, taking on third-world characteristics. We see a staggering amount of concentrated wealth that recalls to us the memory of the pre-Depression days.

It's a bad recipe.

We are all Americans.

That is the message our leaders should be sending to us, but I'm not hearing it. Instead, we still have Donald Rumsfeld staying the same failed course which is disconnected from 9/11/01 and we get leadership in whom we lose more faith by the day, even though the Secretary of Defense is coddled by the Bush Republicans. 2662 Americans have been sent to their deaths in Iraq, a Muslim country that did not attack us and a war metaphorhas been used to win elections for those same Bush Republicans.

A bad, bad recipe.

On 9/11/06, we are crying for a new Betty Crocker. Unity is not gelling. If the cake is going to set, someone needs to take the poisonous ingredients out of the recipe.