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A 9/11 Retrospective

World Affairs, National Security

I'm sure lots of folks have or will comment on this the tenth anniversary of what happened on September 11, 2001. This is perhaps a different look.

I was getting off the elevator at Moreland Medical for a routine cardiologist appointment when a lady getting on asked if I had heard what happened to the World Trade Center in New York. I said no, I hadn't and she told me that an airplane had flown into one of the towers. I said something about how terrible and went on to my appointment. Not until I was driving home with the radio on did I realize what had happened. I was in disbelief, followed by intense anger.

Today, there is a tendency to view 9/11 as a great tragedy. This is the wrong word. It was an outrage of Biblical proportions. Yes, there were literally thousands of individual tragedies, but the event was a pure, unprecedented outrage. The target was civilians; not one active member of the military was targeted in the World Trade Center by our enemy. The Pentagon was also attacked, killing a few military among many civilian employees.This enemy, militant Wahhabist Islam in the personage of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda, in total violation of the Geneva Conventions, simply decided to attack and kill American civilians for reasons of pure hate and nothing else. Sadly, this heinous act was justified by him in the name of religion.

This enemy wears no uniforms or other identification and represents no nation. He represents a religion--actually a distortion thereof. He operates completely outside the Geneva Conventions that address military combat. In the past, wars began with one nation's military attacking another's. Civilians were not the target and the Conventions were adopted to insure this. For the first time in history, to my recollection, a combative entity preferentially targets civilians. In the past civilian deaths in war were considered "collateral', regrettable victims of attacks on military-industrial targets. Not here. They (we) were the primary target.

This is new ground in war, and war this is, make no mistake. Militant Wahhabist Islam considers us obstructive infidels and thus legitimate targets for elimination. In a grotesque distortion, we in the West are impediments to Islamic expansion (Jihad) and thus are legitimately subject to death. (Note that I am not indicting all of Islam, only the extremist militant Wahhabi version.) Thus, this confrontation is with an enemy who is not subject to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions subscribed to by nearly all of the civilized world. (There are two Protocols added in an attempt to cover "insurgents", but most nations, including the U.S. have not signed them.)

As a result of the outrage of 9/11, we embarked on a war with Afghanistan and its Taliban government that unwisely sheltered al Qaeda's headquarters. This attack was certainly justified, but al Qaeda is long gone and in disarray, and we're still fighting the indigent tribal Taliban under some misguided idea of nation building. This makes no sense. What makes even less sense is the expansion of our military actions into Iraq, where we still are, and now Libya which is completely senseless. There was some justification, largely mistaken as it turned out, for deposing Saddam Hussein. Libya is completely irrational. At least we finally got bin Laden, after he became isolated and essentially innocuous.

We are wearing out our military, especially our absolutely crucial air power, to depose a dictator who foreswore terrorism many years ago and posed absolutely no threat to us. The whole business has spiralled out of control, all initiated in response to 9/11. I maintain this militaristic nonsense dishonors the memory of that outrage.

Anger at our sworn enemy, a radical sect of Islam demanding fundamentalist Islamic theocracy and implementation of draconian Shari'a law, a system totally anathema to our concepts of freedom and democracy, is certainly justified. No moral code requires one to allow another to destroy him. However, we must be careful not to swing too wide an arc with our sword. There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Many are misguided into disliking us, even vehemently, for reasons that I think even they do not clearly understand. Perhaps it is a ridiculously long-lived resentment of the Crusades of the 13th Century, or perhaps simply a fear of a competing religion. However, this is not hate and is not a justification for reactionary fear and hate. Hate is a serious word regrettably all too thoughtlessly employed.

So, if some Muslims do not condemn the 9/11 outrage to our satisfaction, this is not justification for anger or--that word again--hate. We certainly should be vigilant and impersonally suspicious of young Mid-eastern men entering our country, and observant of suspicious activity. Fairly-applied profiling is simply prudent given the nature of terrorism. But, over it all we should be tolerant and above all, fair. Muslims too have a right to be here, so long as they are peaceful as the overwhelming majority are. So, amidst the outrage, let us remember the priniciples of Christian morality.

In that vein, I would like to close by quoting a familiar prayer, at the risk of offending some of you fine reader/commenters. Believe it or not, I subscribe to it completely while still being outraged and angry at what happened ten years ago on September 11, 2001, a day that will--and should--live in infamy.

Let us not, however, let that evil poison our outlook on our life and time. Recall the words of Desiderata: "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

     where there is hatred, let me sow love;

     where there is injury, pardon;

     where there is doubt, faith;

     where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O devine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved, as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.


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