By Christopher Cudworth
We remember where we were when the images first came to us on TV screens. I stood in my living room before work wondering just what I was watching. Then I called my boss to let him know that I was concerned about my kids in school. Natural, normal responses to tragedy unfolding.
When it was all through and the skies were silent above Illinois and everywhere else in America, it was evident things were about to change in America. But how?
Then came our government’s response to the 9/11 attacks. Loud, angry words were spoken by our President George W. Bush. Yet he seemed as perplexed as he was determined about the events unfolding on his watch.
At the time, claims were made that we could never have seen it all coming. But then it came out that administrative insiders and advisors to the President had indeed warned that terrorists were planning a strike, possibly by flying planes into buildings.
For a focused set of reasons, those warnings had either been ignored or dismissed, or both. It has been theorized and then proven unequivocably that the Bush administration had a game plan for an attack and invasion of Iraq. Those goals were established and clear before the 9/11 attacks even occurred.
It was the opposite of wagging the dog. The tails wagging in Washington were those happy that they now had a ready-made excuse to carry out their plans for a takeover in Iraq. The goal was also to kill or remove Saddam Hussein.
Linking these goals to the fight against terrorism was easy enough. Play on the fears of average Americans and don’t give them too much information. Just enough to scare the daylights out of them. Playing up the risks of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq was the key. So they went with that, and American people largely bought it despite the work of International inspectors who informed the world there were not WMDs.
To sell the story the Bush administration paraded General Colin Powell before the nation and simultaneously dumped cooked up intelligence in the laps of Senators and Congressman longing for answers about America’s true risks on the world stage. They all lent their authority to go to war because America was essentially in a state of perpetual panic.
A very few resolute and rational voices could barely be heard above the warmongering. Men like John Kerry stated that all we needed was a police action in the country to help keep terrorism at bay. Use the international community to secure good intelligence. Everyone is on our side…
Bush and Company would have none of that touchy-feely stuff. They wanted to hit someone and hit them hard. The perpetrator of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, had been allowed to slip out of our grasp on Afghanistan despite big bombs and boots on the ground.
The blood that would spill in his place would be that of American soldiers messing around in a destabilized Iraq. Our patriotic young men and women enter the theater of war without question. That is their job. Never mind the politics. They signed up to fight if needed and fight they would.
4000 soldiers died in those years of fighting in Iraqi. Thousands more sustained lifelong injuries.
Yet we hid those war dead when they were brought home in caskets. We hid the money thrown at shady partners eager to take American dollars in exchange for intelligence. Entire pallets of money went missing. Lost to who know who? We even hid the true costs of the war outside the budgeting process by which American government is supposed to conduct itself in terms of accountability.
The whole venture in Iraq was a tortuous journey of conservative ideology gone bad. We were supposed to be welcomed as liberators and were not. We were supposed to be out of Iraq in a year or so, and were not. We were supposed to behave like true Americans engaged in democratic nation-building and instead we tortured and persecuted our captives in shameful ways.
All of this occurred under the watch of a President who claimed during his campaign that he would clean up government and somehow run a better ship than his predecessor Bill Clinton.
It would be more than a decade later that President Barack Obama would order the strike that took out Osama bin Laden. It was necessary because during his term as President George W. Bush admitted that he just didn’t think about Osama bin Laden much. Not anymore.
Cleaning up the mess made by Bush in Iraq and the Middle East has not been possible in more than 13 years since the 9/11 tragedy led to our misdirection of funds and warmongering that was the war in Iraq. The new method of the conservative right is to place the blame for conditions of Iraq on the shoulders of Obama. They blame him for pulling our troops out of the country. They claim that has led to further destabilization and even the rise of new types of terrorists in ISIS, the Islamic State nutballs who emerged as a new nemesis for the United States.
But those of us who never bought the lines doled out by Bush and Company do not readily buy the new threats being issued about ISIS by the Obama administration either. We don’t let terror warnings overwhelm our greater sense of purpose and true and honest patriotism. Not jingoism. Not war for religion or Bush’s daddy’s honor. On top of the ideological, political motivations of the Bush crew, all those other reasons for war were heaped on the pile. All that was surreal as well.
Rather than politicize our current threats, we expect instead that our President and his advisors will act to deter those specific threats and not turn them into an excuse to carry out some unrelated and perhaps dangerously political agenda because of some trumped up notion that some thinktank version of political theory is better than clear-eyed pragmatism.
If Obama leads us off course in that regard, chasing some doctrine about which the rest of us know nothing about, he deserves the same order of disdain as George W. Bush. There was no excuse for the way that President behaved in office. None at all. Not even 9/11 gave him and Dick Cheney to run off with our resources and our military in pursuit of revenge and oil and some notion that America automatically harbors a higher world order.
Yes, the threats we face in the world are real. 9/11 taught us that. But the response to those threats is what really counts. Lying about the reasons to go to war is no way to conduct America’s business. The real tragedy of 9/11 was not just that thousands of people died, but that the politicization of that tragedy seemed unavoidable.
We should do everything possible to ensure that we don’t make those kinds of mistakes again. Because it’s apparent that there are also other forces within and outside our government, including those in the CIA and other agencies that ran off with Reagan’s legacy in the Iran-Contra affairs, that care not what the American people really think.
This is not about partisan politics at all. This is about finding ways to protect America from itself, and finding ways to stop those who would act on their own accord but not respectfully on our behalf. We’ve been down that path a few times now. The silent skies above America after 9/11 should have given us pause and time to think. What is all this noise really about? Can we even hear ourselves think when the wings or war come roaring overhead?