The Aftermath of 9/11 – Has it Been Worth It?

911

Today marks 18 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center changed the world forever, and not for just the States of America. 19 terrorist hijackers primarily from Saudi Arabia – 15 of them held Saudi citizenship, two were from United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon and one from Egypt – seized control of four aircraft flying cross-country routes from Boston, Newark, NJ and Washington, D. C., to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Loaded with jet fuel, the terrorists utilized the planes as weapons, employing training that they had received at flight schools in the U. S. to pilot one plane each into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington and, after an uprising of the passengers on the flight, a forced crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended destination of the White House or Capitol Hill, home of the U. S. Congress.

The results of the 19 terrorists’ actions were immediate and numbing. 2977 people – and not all of them ever had any physical evidence of their existence ever recovered from the wreckage – were killed in the four instances, the worst terrorist attack on U. S. soil in the country’s history (the 1941 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor technically did not occur on U. S. soil as Hawaii was a territory of the U. S. at the time, not a state). And, much like when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the response from the country was swift and powerful. But the question has to be asked – 18 years later in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, has it been worth it?

In the days following 9/11, first responders sifted through the rubble of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania, trying to find any survivors and, when it became apparent that there were no survivors, recover the bodies of those who were killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, the presidency of George W. Bush aggressively moved to act against an unknown opponent. In an address to Congress mere days after the attacks, Bush announced that a “war on terrorism” needed to be conducted and, with the blessing of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, received virtually everything that was asked, including wide-sweeping mass surveillance of citizens of the U. S. (the Patriot Act of 2001) and broad ability to conduct military actions anywhere in the world.

MarineHelo

That thoroughly expected military action is still ongoing. As a part of the actions given to the Bush administration, on September 14, 2001 a broad Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) was granted by Congress. This allowed the Bush administration to immediately attack – without the consent of Congress, who is the body that has the right to declare war against another country – anyone viewed as “responsible for the attacks of September 11” and any “associated forces.” The AUMF has since been used by subsequent administrations.

There has rarely, in the history of the U. S., been two documents that affected the future as much as the Patriot Act and the AUMF. With the Patriot Act, it became possible for the government itself to spy on its own people, something that would have been abhorrent to the founders of the country or, even more recent, those that fought against oppressive governments in Germany, Japan and Italy in World War II. With the AUMF, it basically allowed the government to wage war virtually anywhere in the world in the name of the “war on terrorism;” it has been used to justify military actions by not only the Bush administration but those of President Barack Obama and the current occupant of the White House in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Yemen, Georgia, Syria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia, among others.

But other, uglier actions arose from 9/11. Now called “hate crimes,” attacks against Muslims, Middle Eastern “looking” people, people of Asian descent (Sikhs in particular, who wear turbans that are erroneously confused with being associated with the Islamic faith) and others precipitously rose, blaming them for the actions of the 19 terrorists. This included taunting people in public and burning mosques all the way to killing people, when white supremacists took lives of those that “looked like terrorists” or were “towel heads” in a murderous rampage. It is arguable that these actions go on to this day.

Citizens themselves are not absolved of any responsibilities or blame for the devolvement of society since 9/11, either. If Watergate damaged the image of the country in peoples’ minds, the 2000 election controversy between Bush and former Vice President Al Gore and the actions of 9/11 totally destroyed any belief in a “just” government. These shattered thoughts and beliefs have tumbled over the past two decades into a massive snowball that ravages the psyche of the country in an avalanche of unsubstantiated thoughts and “alternative facts,” weaponized by extremists and employed by those to justify their philosophies.

Beliefs that the U. S. were a part of a “New World Order” (a phrase, ironically, uttered by Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush) brought about the idiotic conspiracy theories that 9/11 was an act by the Central Intelligence Agency and other nefarious operators, both domestic and international, to take freedoms from the citizens of the U. S. The use of fraudulent intelligence by the Bush administration that led to the Second Gulf War and the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein further ripped the fabric of the country. And the virulent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle – that if you didn’t fully support “American” action, then you weren’t a “true American patriot” – contributes even today to the massive schism that exists in our political process.

The costs of the “war on terror” brought by the 9/11 attacks also have to be questioned. The human toll is striking and depressing simultaneously – the U. S. military has seen roughly 7000 deaths and tens if not hundreds of thousands of injuries from operations contributable to the “war or terror.” The civilian cost is estimated to be conservatively 1.3 million deaths, although some estimates set the total closer to four million. And the costs to cultural, religious and historic areas – ISIS has destroyed many sites of antiquity in their version of the “war on terror” – are too numerous to mention.

SYRIA-CONFLICT-HERITAGE-PALMYRA

The human costs are arguably the most important thing, but the financial costs of continuing the “war on terrorism” are approaching astronomical figures. Since 2001, it is estimated that the three U. S. presidential administrations that have conducted the “war on terrorism” have spent $7.6 TRILLION pursuing terrorist targets around the world and added $2.4 TRILLION to the U. S. budget deficit. This isn’t counting what other nations, including our NATO allies, have spent in their support of the actions following 9/11.

What has all of this brought to the U. S. and the world? “Terrorism” is something that can never truly be snuffed out. It is an action that dates back to biblical times (a Jewish group called the Sicarii would use concealed daggers to execute their targets in large crowds before slipping away and the Hashhashin, an Islamic sect, were a terrorist group in the 11th century that employed terrorist killings – the group’s name is where the word “assassin” comes from) but, in recent history, has moved from a “nation-state” action to a tool used by an individual political, religious or social group that has no traditional physical base of activity. It is one of the reasons that al-Qaeda (the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11), despite the protestations of the current administration, continues to thrive around the world.

And what has been the collateral damage from the aftermath of 9/11? In the U. S., we have raised a generation of children that know nothing but “war” and a misguided view of “patriotism” that is foisted by some who use that “war” as a political tool. In the world, there are people who have seen their families affected by the bombs of some far-flung U. S. drone attack, the bullets from a U. S.-made weapon or the ravages of imprisonment for “being (insert your religion or nationality here)” that has permanently implanted anti-U. S. sentiments in their minds. And the money that has been spent on the pursuit of “war” hasn’t been spent on areas to improve life for EVERYONE, significantly impacting all facets of life around the world.

On this 18th anniversary of 9/11 and in the future, as the costs both human and financial continue to rack up, we all must ask ourselves – “Was (Is) it worth it?” The nationalism that is becoming prevalent in the world nowadays can be directly traced back to 9/11 and it is something that has to be combated because it will only acerbate terrorism throughout the world. When it comes to the aftermath of 9/11, everyone has to have the ability to examine this question and plenty of other ones truthfully and come up with their own answers because this current situation cannot be continued in perpetuity. The current situation also cannot be allowed to flourish, lest it destroy civil society and plunge the world into an anarchistic state or theocratic or fascist rule. There is no such thing as “total security” and these thoughts present not only the people and leaders of the U. S. with a complex challenge but the world as well.

911Memorial

Advertisements

Obstructionism Isn’t a Governing Style

ScaliaChair

On Saturday night, I was preparing to go to a basketball game when the news came down. It was reported out of Texas that Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more conservative Justices in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States, had passed away in his sleep at a hunting lodge in Texas. Justice Scalia reportedly was found dead on Saturday morning and the hunting lodge was so remote that news of his passing wasn’t announced until late Saturday afternoon.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised about this news. I didn’t take any particular glee in the announcement, however, although some did (and, for some of them who were directly affected by Scalia’s stance on several critical Supreme Court decisions such as gay rights and abortion, I can understand that). I decided to wait for a bit before making any sort of pronouncements or addressing any thoughts on the issue – 12 hours seemed about right in my opinion. If only some others would have taken the time to employ the same tactic.

MitchMcConnell

Virtually as soon as the word came from that ranch in Texas where Justice Scalia had been hunting, the Republican Party began to obstruct the thought of President Barack Obama putting someone in Scalia’s seat. The Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, literally said an hour after Scalia’s passing, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” when other people – including ideological opponents of Scalia’s including New York Senator Chuck Schumer and current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid – were offering condolences to the family. Another Senator, Utah’s Mike Lee (another Republican), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, didn’t even have the guts to respond, instead sending a lackey, spokesman Conn Carroll, to say that the chances of President Obama putting someone in Justice Scalia’s seat was “less than zero.”

The odious remains of the clown car known as the GOP Presidential nominees (more on this later this week) sounded like a bunch of harp seals in responding about the subject on the Sunday morning talkers. On Twitter, Texas Senator Ted Cruz remarked that “Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him and the nation for the Senate to ensure that the next President name his replacement.” There is plenty of evidence that negates Cruz’s statements as Presidents have, since the creation of our nation, nominated Justices up until they left office.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was especially ripped by the Sunday hosts for his incredibly stupid statements that he made on the subject. Apparently someone in the Rubio camp informed Super Mario that, when a sitting President is down to the final year of his Presidency, he just quits being President and lets shit fall where it may. On Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd directly said to Rubio, “Do presidential terms end after three years?” when Rubio said, “In the last year of a president’s term…there should not be Supreme Court nominees put into lifetime positions.”

Even on home turf with Fox News, host Chris Wallace drilled Rubio when he asked if any President should be able to make second term Supreme Court appointments. “I’m not saying it’s illegal,” Rubio said. “I think we should wait until after November before we move forward on confirming any justice to the Supreme Court.” Wallace then administered the smack down to Rubio – the last time that such a situation occurred was under President Ronald Reagan when he nominated – and the Senate confirmed – Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1988. “It doesn’t really matter what Reagan did back in ’87,” Rubio snottily – and incorrectly – said.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the obstructionism of the Republican Party in this particular circumstance.

Unfortunately, since the Republican “neocon” insurrection that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment over a blowjob at the tail end of the 1990s, the politics of obstructionism is all the people of the U. S. have received. Whether it is the Democrats in control of the Congress and a Republican in the White House or vice versa, it seems that no one wants to actually govern this country anymore. The politics of – well, actually being political – have been pushed aside for partisanship, “point scoring” and bullshit “line in the sand” positions rather than actually trying to lead the nation. As a result, not a damn thing is getting done.

We like to think of our nation as a great example of something that should be the target for other people and other nations to be. Instead, we’ve become a fucking joke in that we cannot even meet in a room to hear about a budget plan for the upcoming year, sit through a President’s State of the Union speech without yelling out bullshit or even give that President the common decency of allowing him his Constitutional right to nominate a person to the highest Court in the land.

President Barack Obama: Inauguration Day 2009

If you don’t like the President, that’s your prerogative. You can allow him to nominate his candidate for the Supreme Court without being derogatory towards the man and the office. Then you can demonstrate your obstructionism (and your disrespect to doing your job) to the citizens of the United States, either by not meeting with the candidate or not holding hearings for said candidate. Then it is on YOU to explain to the citizens of the country why someone who was OK as a judge when they were reviewed and approved a few years previously (because trust me, the Obama Administration isn’t going to pick someone that hasn’t already been approved by the Senate previously and probably by close to a unanimous vote) is suddenly not good enough to be a Supreme Court Justice.

This is the point where the obstructionism may fall apart. The GOP is staking their hill on this Supreme Court seat and it could very well lead to their downfall. With a third of the seats in the Senate up for grabs in November – including some in battleground states that the Republicans need to maintain their grasp on to hold the majority in the Senate – it is possible that a divisive issue could swing the vote one way or the other. Such a subject as naming a Supreme Court Justice – or the resulting blocking of said Justice – could motivate a sizeable bloc of voters to come out against a particular party (in this case, the GOP) and end their Senate majority.

The other question is why would the GOP try to stake this hill? If they are successful in delaying the selection of the Supreme Court Justice until after the November elections, they have to win said election to be able to put in someone they prefer; those odds do not look good at this time (odds makers have pretty much every combination of Democrat versus Republican with the Democrat winning). The next Democratic President could nominate Obama, which would be anathema to any Republican, worse than any nominee that Obama could come up with. There is also the chance that, should a Republican win, Obama could put through a Supreme Court replacement once the new Congress is seated and before the new President takes over (tricky, but extremely possible).

Now conservatives are going to cry that “Reid was obstructionist to Republicans when he was in charge,” and they’d be right. But what was he going to put forward from a Republican House…one of the 50-odd passages repealing the Affordable Care Act? Bills that stripped away through the riders on the side other rights that President Obama had fought to earn for women, gays and other groups that Republicans love to oppress? Repeals of Planned Parenthood funding? Tell you what…when both sides start passing bills straight up, without any riders that bastardize the original purpose of a bill, then you can talk about not having them considered by the other body in the legislative branch.

DestroyedUSCapitol

Both sides need to realize that obstructionism is not a governing style. It is time that people actually look at who they are voting for and put people in the Congress (and get rid of these Tea Party nutbags who pretend to be “small government” but are basically religious zealots masquerading as small government practitioners) that will work together – rather than against each other – and put someone in the White House who will actually come down to Capitol Hill and sit in the office of the leader of the opposing party and find common ground to lead the nation. Furthermore, the Congress itself needs to get off its ass and move – and do its job rather than hiding behind “listening to the American people” as a reason to not do anything. It could start with doing something as simple as putting someone in the seat of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.