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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How the Democrats Can Become Relevant Again

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the Republican Party could become relevant again with a few tweaks to their mentality. At that time, I made the statement that the same could be said for the Democratic Party. “But why,” you might ask, “the Democrats have had the White House for the past eight years, they’re controlling everything.” In reality, the Democrats are in control of nothing and need to retool their inner workings if they are to be relevant in the coming years.

As I did with the GOP, I actually sat down and looked at those candidates that are vying for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President. It’s a pretty sorry lot if you look at the choices:  the frontrunner in this year’s race was SUPPOSED to win in 2008, but she (yes, that’s right, a female “Leader of the Pack”) failed to engage on a “personal level” with voters who looked past her towards a young, dashing black man and chose him…oh, by the way, she also has more baggage in her campaign bus than the Allure of the Seas has when it sets sail; the second place choice for the Democrats is a self-admitted “democratic socialist” (which sounds about as possible to me as a person who is “socially liberal, fiscally conservative”) who is saying all the right things regarding changing things in the United States but provides hardly any insight as to what those changes would be if he were elected President; the third place contestant comes off his past two jobs in Maryland and Baltimore, where there has recently been more than enough turmoil in the streets between the citizenry and those in law enforcement potentially caused by his policies, and a few more never-weres who aren’t even registering on the radar. Hell, even the sitting Vice President of the United States, someone who should have the inside track to the nomination after a two-term President leaves office, is reluctant to join this field.

Democrats don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to recent times in the office of the Presidency. While many like to bash Jimmy Carter as “the worst President of all-time,” he actually did something that no other President has done:  kept us out of a war. That one plus (OK, let’s give him two…an attempt to bring peace to the Middle East with an agreement between Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat), however, was heavily pounded by an economy that tanked in the late 1970s, skyrocketing gas prices, the taking of the U. S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students hell-bent on a religious takeover of the country and a general “malaise” (Carter’s words, which he bore as an albatross for his entire presidency) that fell over the United States.

Carter was such a disappointment as the President of the United States that the GOP took over for three consecutive terms in the office, something that hadn’t happened (one party controlling the White House) since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President during World War II (add in Harry Truman and the Democrats controlled the White House for 20 years during that time). It would take a transformative figure to break the Republican logjam and, when he did break through, it set the spike in the center of the two parties and, to a further extent, the nation as a whole.

Bill Clinton was young, he was telegenic, he did things with his campaign that no other politician had done before (going on a late-night talk show and playing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the saxophone while wearing shades? Groundbreaking, some would say…an embarrassment, others would claim). These attributes – along with his experience as Governor of Arkansas – ushered Clinton into the White House beside Hillary Clinton (who is the Democratic frontrunner in 2016, the Democratic answer to Jeb Bush on the Republican side), who was to have a sizeable impact on the policies of the Clinton Administration.

Clinton would go on to win two terms because, at least in the first term, he got things done. The economy, aided by the surge in computer technology in Silicon Valley, boomed throughout the 1990s as it seemed everyone had all the things desired by the people. There were some on the Republican side – a rising breed called “neocons” – who didn’t see Clinton’s success as a good thing and set about destroying it in its tracks before another Democratic run could get started.

The last four years of the Clinton Presidency was dogged by accusations against not only the President but also the First Lady (give the GOP credit there, they knew that Hillary had her eyes on the White House as the leader of the Free World even back then). An illicit relationship between Clinton and one of his interns led to only the second impeachment of a President in U. S. history, one that was easily squelched but has since damaged the relationship between the two parties. The spike set back in 1996 was firmly driven in and, add in the Gore/Bush election of 2000 and the animosity raised by that, one would wonder how we get anything done anymore (and many would say we don’t).

There are several ways that the Democrats can woo back independents and maybe even some Reagan Republicans to ensure that the party stays viable. All they have to do is change some of their tenets and a more centrist party will be the result.

First off, Democrats, government and spending isn’t the answer to everything that goes on in Washington, D. C. An article in the Washington Post points out the difficulties in one of the pet projects for the Democrats, subsidized housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development points out that 2.6% of those in housing subsidized by the U. S. taxpayer have exceeded the income limits to be eligible for such housing but haven’t moved out. In one case, a New York family of four makes nearly $500,000 but pays slightly more than $1500 for the three bedroom apartment subsidized by the government. Worse yet, a single person with assets of $1.6 million was still in a $300 one bedroom apartment in Oxford, NE, paid for with help from the government.

Now, 2.6% isn’t much when compared to the 1.1 million families that are in this situation, but the inaction by the government is problematic. Instead of having a plan in place to move people from these situations – like other social programs, meant to be temporary not permanent – the government says they won’t do anything because a policy isn’t in place.

It is time that the Democrats actually look at things on an individual basis – education, drug policy, law enforcement, and the military (at the minimum) – and determine why the money being spent isn’t doing more for the cause. In the case of education, it is obvious that spending more on the situation isn’t helping, so why aren’t we looking at successful nations (such as Japan) and implementing some of their programs. Every student isn’t a “priceless jewel” in the making; sometimes a student just isn’t cut out for accelerated learning programs and a college education. Sometimes that same student will achieve far more by going into other fields than picking up a piece of paper that says they are great at philosophy.

Tightening up the spending in many areas – rather than pitching cash on things that require no changes – is a great first step, Democrats.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gets a lot of grief over this, but the Democrats are more than likely the ones to be bitching about every little breach of “political correctness” that occurs. While sometimes necessary, there are times when Democrats will whine about a term used in a joke, which should be a bastion of verbal discussion that is far removed from political correctness. Comedian/political commentator Bill Maher spoke about this last year when, after comparing the situation then to the 1990s, said the following:

“In 2014, political correctness is making a comeback, and now with the Internet, it’s easier than ever.  In the 90s, you had to at least get off your ass to be in a fake group with hurt feelings. You needed signs, you needed petitions. You had to feed Al Sharpton. Back then, getting worked up over nothing was a lot of work.”

“But now, it seems like all the Internet exists to do is point at the latest person who said the wrong thing, so the rest of us can feel morally superior.  And that’s not what the Internet is for.  That’s what college is for. Now social media is all about ‘gotcha.’  A homophobic businessman, or a sexist cartoonist, or a college president who fat-shamed his dog by naming it Waddles…You can’t purge everybody who doesn’t evolve exactly on the timetable you did.

Things haven’t changed much over the last year. What Maher and many are saying is that the Democrats should grow a pair and quit worrying about every perceived slight that seemingly happens.

Finally, the Democrats cannot be complacent in the belief that the ‘melting pot’ that is the United States will continually be counted on to support their causes. In the Hispanic community, it is estimated that 55% are Catholic; as such, some of the Democratic policies in place may not be in line with some Latinos’ mindset. Hard work is rewarded in the Hispanic, Asian and Indian cultures rather than accepting a great deal of assistance from the government and these blocs are growing vastly in the U. S., perhaps viewing the Republican side as a more viable one.

If the Democrats do these things, then they will be set for the next 50 years, at the minimum, with a viable hand in the political landscape. If they continue to neglect things, especially spending (yes, it is time to cut some of the social programs that are available, along with Social Security and the military), then it will be difficult for the U. S. electorate to hand them the checkbook for the country. Without that change alone, Democrats may win elections from simple numbers but won’t be in position to enact any budgetary guidelines because they can’t handle how to spend the money.