The 9/11 legacy: Americans’ support for perpetual war in the Middle East

On September 11th, 2001, I rolled out of bed and headed to the shower before my morning classes. The living room television was on and I paused in the hallway watching a New York skyscraper burn and listening as news anchors theorized. “Wow. What idiot pilot was flying that low?” was my first thought, my second a silent prayer for anyone inside. En route to class, I said nothing about the burning building to my friend, thinking it was another chaotic accident the media would cover ad nauseam. I don’t remember how much time passed before the student aide interrupted our lecture with a frantic whispers into our teacher’s ear, but I’ll never forget the look on his face. Even writing this now, I get chills recalling his instant horror slide into calm instruction.

“Students, class is dismissed. The country is under attack. Gather your things and head home.”

THE COUNTRY IS UNDER ATTACK

Horrified, I was the first out the door. The hallway was full of confused students, desperate teachers and tangible fear, but I wanted to see what those reporters had discovered. Was the plane in that tower the attack he was referencing? There had to be people in that building. People at work on a Tuesday. That was all I could think while sprinting for the media lounge, cutting through churning crowds and a baseball field. The room was packed.

Being petite, I navigated to the front of the room and crammed next to a stranger, staring wide-eyed as my fellow Americans stood hopelessly on skyscraper ledges, holding hands before jumping to their deaths. Shocked gasps and cries filled the room and none of us could look away. Together, with hundreds of other students and faculty, I watched the second tower fall. I watched the brave people of New York run for their lives. As those ominous clouds swallowed all in their path, the street reporter lost her race with the wall of debris. When that camera fell, no one in the room made a sound.

All we could hear was the eerie whine of an emergency vehicle somewhere in the distance. The consistent droning waned until there was only silence. After the camera crew recovered, they began roaming the ashes, capturing haunting images of zombie-like, soot-caked people wandering aimlessly, searching for friends and water. I couldn’t watch anymore.

It is difficult to reflect clearly on the myriad of emotions I experienced on that day, but the most prevailing was definitely shock. I wanted to know who had done this to those people. In the months and years that passed, as more details emerged my shock transformed into anger at my government for not protecting the people of New York, and by proxy, all Americans. As they exploited the tragedy to seize power and invade sovereign nations, that anger has fueled my life-long disgust for political opportunism, corruption and propaganda, for war. 9/11 jaded me, and rightfully so.

Because of the events of this day, the US has been embroiled in two wars it has yet to win. Despite that an entire generation of men and women that served in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan have been eternally affected by the first boondoggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the thousands lost and tens of thousands wounded aren’t enough for the war machine. Politically, they appeal to our fear, our horror and shock and we are less free and in greater danger than ever before. The domestic police state marches forward, seizing freedoms and trampling on what few rights remain protected by “law”, but we must prepare for war abroad before another vague threat materializes at home!

 

After President Obama’s non-sensical speech last night, we are beginning another war in the Middle East. This time, it’s not the nuclear threat from Iran or the murderous regime in Syria. It is the horrifying threat of the growing Islamic State, a state that threatens our “allies” in the region more than they do the United States. Where are the cries for diplomatic insistence that foreign aid to those countries cease until they rally to defend themselves? The Islamic State wants their people, their resources and their regimes to topple, too.

Scant to be found. I see very little outcry and rage as when Washington rallied for an interventionist war against Assad’s Syria or Iran. Few are demanding that if intervention is inevitable that a plan be in place, a justification of the threat, and a concern for the regional and international repercussions. 

Just a short time ago, Americans struggled to understand why Syria’s brutal, complicated civil battles necessitate US military intervention. Now there is little regard for the concept of blowback, an inevitability even General Stanley McChrystal warned was certain when intervening in that region. Today, many labeling themselves “pro-life” and “conservative” are beating the drums of war alongside Washington using the same revolting, irrational talking points and false dichotomies that were the cornerstone of the Bush Administration’s grotesquely arrogant, failed foreign policy. “You’re either with us or against us!”

The American people have learned nothing these past 10 years. Because despite the lofty words of policy architects, perpetual war for perpetual peace is not a worthy ambition. Military resources are not statics. Battles, soldiers, bombs and wars are not merely considerations of policy. American tax dollars and military families are not endlessly expendable in pursuit of slippery enemies that also threaten the regional powers, powers that expect US resources to solve their problems. If the goal here were truly to stifle the growth of the Islamic State, Obama wouldn’t advocate arming the weak Syrian rebellion and instead step back as the lesser of the very evil states, Assad, crushes the insurgency enslaving moderate Syrians to Sharia Law.

But that would be too rational for the clucking warmongers and their militarist minions.

As my fellow writer Tom Mullen succinctly stated, “Islamic factions constantly play the US government like a fiddle. They did it under Bush. They continue to do it under Obama. They draw the US military into ancient tribal conflicts that have nothing to do with what the blockheaded Americans think they do. The Americans overthrow the ruling tribe and then pat themselves on the back when the opposition cheers them, until those same people start fighting the Americans as invaders five minutes later. And the US keeps doing it over and over. And 80% of the American public mindlessly repeats their talking points, supports it all, and even “thanks the troops” for perpetuating it. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.”

Tragic indeed. Despite all of that shock, anger and later rage experienced after 9/11, I can’t support perpetual war and neither should any human being that cares for their fellow man. Further, allowing cronies and crooks on Capitol Hill to manipulate our emotional response to a tragedy to advance a disastrous agenda is unconscionable. They couldn’t have committed the crimes, invaded sovereign nations, murdered millions of innocents, embroiled US soldiers and Marines in fruitless, soul-crushing conflicts without our shock, anger and horror. Stop giving it to them.

Until then, on September 11th, I do not just mourn for the loss of the innocent lives at Ground Zero, for the amazing first-responders that ran into certain death to save their fellow man, nor just the people at the Pentagon or that Pennsylvania field. I do not just mourn with the families they left behind and those at home and abroad caught in the maelstrom of the 9/11 aftermath. I also mourn for September 10th, for the loss of reason, liberty and justice. I mourn for the 22 veterans that murder themselves daily, for the survivors that languish in filthy, incompetent veteran’s hospitals as a new generation prepares for their fate. I mourn for the death of America, a suicide “we” brought about ourselves.

Today, I grieve for the death of peace while fearing the sorrows have just begun.