Today is a day of nearly universal (at least within the US and Western nations) reflection on the airplane bombing of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I was married in the World Trade Center on August 25, 2001. Mine was one of the last weddings in the Twin Towers famous restaurant Windows on the World. What was most striking about that day was that, just like today, the weather was perfect. The sky was blue and cloudless. The air was cool, but not chilly. It was a perfect September day in New York. It was the type of day that let you know the humidity of August was gone and that the more comfortable days of fall were here.
Of course that feeling didn’t last. There are some other feelings that I had on that day which have not stood the test of time either. I don’t know that I’ve ever grappled with the sense of outrage and pain that I felt on that day. I have, however, come to look at these unique bombings by Saudi nationals as a complicated political move that has had consequences unimagined on September 10, 2001. While three thousand plus lives were lost on that day, many times more than that have been killed in their names.
In some respects, these men and women have become martyrs for a cause that was never their own. If human life is sacred (I’m not so sure that it is), then the lives of innocent Iraqis and Afghans has to mean as much as the lives of Americans. If the perpetrators of this unique bombing were neither Iraqis nor Afghans (but citizens of a regional ally), it is almost impossible to reconcile the moral pontification that flows from Washington. Truly honoring the dead would require the United States government to get to the root of the problem. Neither the elected nor appointed representatives of this government, generally speaking, have any intention of doing such a thing.
Americans were swept in the emotion of the moment and the overwhelming parochialism of their education and information networks. Iraq became a target for all the wrong reasons. Five years later, the hope of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton supports this illegal war against an innocent and sovereign people. She is joined in her opportunism by wealthy arbiters of life and death like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. These architects of destruction cannot explain how their actions are tied to the events five years ago. They cannot provide a picture of success or a timeline for achieving their aims. All that is left to be done is to continue cashing checks to the tune of $4 billion per month while compromised Democrats like Hillary Clinton hope that Americans forget who she really is on September 12th.
Some conscientious people are keeping tabs on the decisions made by the United States government. The body count continues to grow. And, if human life is sacred (I still don’t think it is), how can any of us forget who Hillary really is on September 12th or who the men and women of this administration have been since their assumption of global leadership. The game of human sacrifice continues. Leaders who purport to desire the spread of democracy could begin their most earnest efforts in Saudi Arabia. But this administration will not (cannot) do that. Leaders who purport to increase security should speak to the root causes of insecurity.
Security for Americans, though, will be hard to come by when the United States has an ironclad agreement with an anti-democratic regime in Saudi Arabia to provide protection in exchange for a commitment to sell oil exclusively in dollars. Saudi Arabia is the goose that laid the golden egg. Iraq once threatened to go off the reservation – to sell oil on international markets in non-dollar currencies. Iran has threatened to do the same. While Americans sit and mourn the loss of life on September 11th, it is equally important to question the reasons given for why we are where we are. Is it possible that the Saudi protection deal is what allows the United States to carry an enormous national debt? Is it possible that the debt is actually subsidized by every country that needs to import oil (China?)? Why else would the central banks of Japan and China buy so many US dollars? What does this have to do with your tailgate party or your football tickets or your SUV or your plasma television or the resentment of the world’s poor or the unremitting desire of the poor to immigrate and seek a piece of pie?
It will take more than tears of sorrow and believing that you share a common sense of loss with international victims of terror to bridge the gap. These simple questions demand answers by an informed polity. Americans have a long way to go and will not be able to count on the leadership of Republicans like Halliburton helper Dick Cheney or Democrats like Hillary Clinton. It’s time for a new direction predicated on new questions and new answers.