Monday, September 12, 2011
Amid all of the commentary that has come out over the past week or so about remembering the 9/11 attacks, I thought I'd write about 9/12.
Why write about 9/12? Because, while Americans have tended to remember 9/11 in terms of American victimization and American loss, a lot of the rest of the world remembers 9/11 for what came later.
Yes, we lost 3,000 people in an unspeakable act of violence. But, in our grief, we allowed our military to be used to attack and occupy a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. Estimates at Iraqi casualties stemming from our invasion range between the low hundreds of thousands to over one million.
Americans remembered 9/11 at football games and elsewhere this weekend, but how selective was this memory?
The editorials and features which ran over this past weekend often focused upon the heroism and bravery that were exhibited in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. And this heroism and bravery should be talked about. But these tributes ignore the fact that our national response was, in other ways, considerably less stellar.
After 9/11 Americans were afraid, and did what frightened populations often do: make bad decisions. Stung by the humiliation of having our towers knocked down, we attacked a smaller and weaker country for no good reason. The prospect of terrorizing other people's lives seemed insignificant next to the concerns, supported by flimsy evidence and half-baked logic, that Iraq posed a threat to the United States. The post-9/11 "unity" that is now nostalgically remembered in tributes also contributed to a suspension of our critical faculties regarding information, now known to be false, that our government was telling us about Iraq.
And then, in 2004, we apparently cared so little about these consequences that we re-elected the people who did this.
The tragedy of 9/11 is not a uniquely American one. This is the case not only with regard to the people who died on 9/11, but also--and especially--those who have died since then. The decisions that were made in the wake of 9/11 were deadly ones, and should not be forgotten any more than the attacks themselves.
I therefore think that one of the best ways we can remember the people who died in the attacks is to also remember the many more people people who died as a result of our government's response to the attacks. 9/11 should not only be commemorated in terms of American victimization, but also as the starting point of a cycle of violence from which we have still not managed to extricate ourselves.
If there ever is another 9/11, let's hope that for the next 9/12 we'll be a lot smarter than we were for the last one.