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Monday, September 11, 2006


Then and Now - 5 Years After 9/11

It is not just another day. 9/11 left permanent scars on us and our society. After the speeches and memorial services are over we will, at times, pause to think about where we were and what we were doing on that fateful morning five years ago. We will think of what took place and we will think of where we are today in terms of global terrorism. 2669 of our soldiers have died (25 of them during the first 10 days of this September) in the war in Iraq. What did they die for -- what has their deaths achieved ? See Mark Fiore's animated strip.

Knowing what we do now, are we safe -- safer than we were in 2001? Has power been abused by our government in the name of war against terror? There are no simple answers. When it comes to abuse of power in the domestic front the worst example is the attack on Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights that has been carried out under the USA Patriot Act.

The Fourth Amendment
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Here are excerpts from articles that deserve atttention:

Vanished Towers, Vanished Leadership
The Washington Post

Five years later, you look at the rancid state of our politics, the decline in America's standing in the world and the behavior of our national leadership, and you want to shed tears for your nation. This year, so much of what's being said about the events of Sept. 11 is about the political survival of the Bush administration."

Washington Post
Body Count in Baghdad Nearly Triples
Morgue's Revised Toll for August Undermines Claims by Leaders of Steep Drop in Violence

BAGHDAD, Sept. 7 -- Baghdad's morgue almost tripled its count for violent deaths in Iraq's capital during August from 550 to 1,536, authorities said Thursday, appearing to erase most of what U.S. generals and Iraqi leaders had touted as evidence of progress in a major security operation to restore order in the capital.

The Changing Faces of Terrrorism

The oft-repeated statement 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' reflects genuine doubts about what constitutes 'terrorism'. Sir Adam Roberts surveys the ever-changing definition of terrorist activity, including mass murder of civilians exemplified by the events of September 11.

Washington Post
Confirmation of CIA Prisons leaves Europeans mistrustful

PARIS, President Bush's transfer of terrorism suspects out of secret CIA prisons to the Guantanamo detention facility would do little to repair transatlantic distrust that has grown in recent years, political analysts in France and other European countries said Thursday.

"How willing a really liberal Democrat is to listen to George Bush -- that's about how willing the French are," said Nicole Bacharan, an expert on French-American relations at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris.

by Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker
Issue of 2006-09-11

After the calamity that glided down upon us out of a clear blue sky on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001—five short years ago, five long years ago—a single source of solace emerged amid the dread and grief: a great upwelling of simple solidarity. Here in New York, and in similarly bereaved Washington, that solidarity took homely forms. Strangers connected as friends; volunteers appeared from everywhere; political and civic leaders of all parties and persuasions stood together, united in sorrow and defiance. In certain regions of the country, New York had been regarded (and resented) as somehow not quite part of America; that conceit, not shared by the terrorists, vanished in the fire and dust of the Twin Towers. The reconciliation was mutual. In SoHo and the Upper West Side, in the Village and the Bronx, sidewalk crowds cheered every flag-bedecked fire engine, and the Stars and Stripes sprouted from apartment windows all over town. New York, always suspect as the nation’s polyglot-plutocratic portal, was now its battered, bloody shield.

The wider counterpart to our traumatized togetherness at home was an astonishing burst abroad of what can only be called pro-Americanism. Messages of solidarity and indignation came from Libya and Syria as well as from Germany and Israel; flowers and funeral wreaths piled up in front of American Embassies from London to Beijing; flags flew at half-staff across Europe; in Iran, a candlelight vigil expressed sympathy. “Any remnants of neutrality thinking, of our traditional balancing act, have gone out of the window now,” a Swedish political scientist told Reuters. “There has not been the faintest shadow of doubt, not a trace of hesitation of where we stand, nowhere in Sweden.” Le Monde’s front-page editorial was headlined NOUS SOMMES TOUS AMÉRICAINS, and Italy’s Corriere della Sera echoed, “We are all Americans. The distance from the United States no longer exists because we, our values, are also in the crosshairs of evil minds.” In Brussels, the ambassadors of the nineteen members of NATO invoked, for the first time in the alliance’s fifty-two-year history, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, affirming that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” and pledging action, “including the use of armed force.”

No one realistically expected that the mood of fellow-feeling and coöperation would long persist in the extraordinarily powerful form it took in the immediate wake of September 11th. The normal divisions of American politics and society were bound to make themselves felt again, and whatever the United States did in response to the attacks would provoke the tensions and misunderstandings that inevitably accompany the actions of a superpower in distress, no matter how deft its diplomacy or thorough its consultations. But it was natural to hope that domestic divisions would prove less rancorous in the face of the common danger, and that international frictions could be minimized in a struggle against what almost every responsible leader in the world recognized, or claimed to recognize, as an assault on civilization itself.

What few expected was how comprehensively that initial spirit would be ruined by the policies and the behavior of our government, culminating in, though hardly limited to, the disastrous occupation of Iraq. This shouldn’t have been so surprising. George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 as a “compassionate conservative,” one who recognized that government was not the enemy, praised bipartisanship, proclaimed his intention to “change the tone in Washington,” and advocated a foreign policy of humility and respect. None of that happened. Nine months into his Presidency, an economic policy of transferring the budget surplus to the wealthy, a social policy hewing to the demands of the Christianist far right, and a foreign policy marked by contempt for international instruments (the Kyoto protocol, the anti-ballistic-missile treaty) and the abandonment of diplomatic responsibilities (the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear activities, the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate) had pushed Bush’s job ratings lower than those of any of his predecessors at a like point in their tenures. September 11th offered him a chance for a new beginning, and at first he seemed willing to seize it. Although the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was not as widely backed at first as is often assumed (particularly among many on the European left and some on the American), it is now almost universally supported in the Western world, with some forty countries involved and NATO troops carrying an increasing share of the military burden. But then came a reversion to form, and Iraq.

In “America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked,” based on ninety-one thousand interviews conducted in fifty nations from 2002 to 2005 by the Pew Research Center, Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes write that while “the first hints that the world was becoming troubled by America came soon after the election of George W. Bush,” and that “whatever global goodwill the United States had in the wake of the September 11 attacks appears to have quickly dissipated,” after the Iraq invasion “favorable opinions had more than slipped. They had plummeted.” It’s grown worse since May, when the book was published. The most recent Pew findings show that “favorable opinions of the U.S.” have gone from eighty-three per cent in 2000 to fifty-six per cent in 2006 in Britain, seventy-eight to thirty-seven in Germany, and sixty-two to thirty-nine in France. The majorities saying that the Iraq war has made the world more dangerous are equally impressive: sixty per cent in Britain, sixty-six in Germany, and seventy-six in France. On this point, the United States is catching up. The most recent CNN poll, taken in late August, found fifty-five per cent of Americans saying that the Iraq war has made them less safe from terrorism.

Last week, the Administration launched a new public-relations campaign aimed at marketing the war in Iraq as the indispensable key to the struggle against terrorism. The Vice-President and the Secretary of Defense gave speeches attacking the war’s opponents (a category that includes, if that same CNN poll is to be believed, sixty-one per cent of the American public) as the contemporary counterparts of the appeasers of Nazism. President Bush, as one of his contributions to the P.R. campaign, granted an interview to Brian Williams, of NBC. As the two men, shirtsleeved in the sun, strolled together down a bleak New Orleans street, Williams wondered if the President shouldn’t “have asked for some sort of sacrifice after 9/11.” Bush’s reply:

Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are. You know, we pay a lot of taxes. America sacrificed when they, you know, when the economy went into the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think Americans have sacrificed.

And so we have. Not by paying “a lot of taxes,” of course; we pay less of those than we did before, and the very, very richest among us pay much, much less. But we have sacrificed, God knows. “The military occupation in Iraq is consuming practically the entire defense budget and stretching the Army to its operational limits,” John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission, wrote in the Washington Post a couple of days after Bush’s interview. “This is understood quite clearly by both our friends and our enemies, and as a result, our ability to deter enemies around the world is disintegrating.” That’s a sacrifice. And here’s another: our country’s reputation.


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