It’s been a dozen years since the attacks on New York and Washington. Since then we’ve been busy avenging the deaths of the 2997 people who died that day. We’ve also discarded moral values, privacy and other freedoms in the quest for some unachievable assurance that it will never happen again.
What happened to America?
Following September 11, 2001, many Americans found Benjamin Franklin’s advice to be hopelessly anachronistic. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
In the wake of 9/11, the government created a mammoth bureaucracy to facilitate the taking of some of our “essential liberties” while making us “feel” safer. In 2002, the Department of Homeland Security received 19.5 billion dollars. For 2014, the President is seeking more than 60 billion.
The Cheney-Bush crowd played on fear, taking us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, creating an American version of death squads to carry out black operations around the world, torturing suspects, holding them in prisons where US law and its guarantees of defense counsel, bail, speedy and fair trials couldn’t reach.
Our national PTSD allowed us to ignore the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children who got in the way of our honor killings. According a Brown University study more than 132,000 civilians died in the first decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not counting refugees who died when unable to obtain medical care, clean water or food. Nor does that include the “collateral damage” in Yemen, Somalia, or Pakistan.
Most disturbing is how little changed with the election of Barack Obama. The candidate who campaigned in 2008 on an anti-Iraq war platform and promised to close Guantanamo doubled down on the commitment Cheney-Bush made to kill our way out of the threat of terrorism.
Though all Americans should, most are unfortunately unlikely to embark on Jeremy Scahill’s 642-page tome “Dirty Wars.” The opening chapters deal with the gross excesses of Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The remaining two-thirds of this well-documented account of the 12 years since 9/11 cover Obama’s role in those “Dirty Wars.”
Americans have a love-hate relationship with truth. We can’t decide whether we are more afraid of terrorists or the relinquishment of certain freedoms. We don’t seem to care much about the extent to which our Presidents hide the truth about how much our government does in Afghanistan and elsewhere at-odds with our moral values. Whether we are for or against torture, targeted killings, official lies, or privacy violations has little to do with the Constitution and more to do with whether it’s our favorite politician who does it.
We have watched without protest as American citizens were assassinated without due process. Suspects have been tortured. Innocent civilians have been massacred. The facts surrounding their deaths covered up. Journalists who have told the truth have been imprisoned under false charges at the instigation of the Obama administration. American government officers who complain are demoted while those who perpetrate these war crimes are elevated.
A high-ranking US military covert operations officer told Scahill, “We’ve gone crazy over this. We’ve had this kind of hysterical reaction to danger.”
Obama and Bush thought they could kill enough Muslims to end the threat. Instead, our policies have served as recruiting tools for the terrorists as otherwise supportive people in those countries were left to see Americans as what St. John described in the Book of Revelation. “Behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”
Google “Majalah,” “Gardez,” or “Abdulehah Haider Shaye”
Americans have, for much of the Muslim world, become the terror we set out to fight on September 11th leaving us to ask the question with which Scahill ends his haunting book, “How does a war like this ever end?”