Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11

I wasn't able to write about 9/11 this morning for reasons I wasn't quite able to decipher. Then I read this piece by Ezra Klein:

I felt a bit conflicted about writing this post. What you want to do is remember an awful crime. What you end up doing is invoking a Republican talking point. That is all that remains of the term "9/11." As Gary Kamiya correctly points out, 9/11 need hardly be remembered: The President won't stop bringing it up. "President Bush used the attacks to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq," writes Kamiya. "And he has been using 9/11 ever since to scare Americans into supporting his 'war on terror.' He has incessantly linked the words 'al-Qaida' and 'Iraq,' a Pavlovian device to make us whimper with fear at the mere idea of withdrawing. In a recent speech about Iraq, he mentioned al-Qaida 95 times. No matter that jihadists in Iraq are not the same group that attacked the U.S., or that their numbers and effectiveness have been greatly exaggerated. It's no surprise that Gen. David Petraeus' 'anxiously awaited' evaluation of the war is to be given on the 10th and 11th of September."

9/11 has been robbed of its significance. It no longer lights up the neurons recalling an American tragedy, but instead activates that understand political strategy. I hate them for that. So this isn't a 9/11 remembrance. We've never been allowed to forget 9/11. Not for an instant. What we have been allowed to forget is 2,974 individuals who perished in that attack, who didn't die because they wanted to invade Iraq or because they thought Republicans were insufficiently competitive in elections, but because they were murdered. Remember them.


I remember talking to my father on 9/11, shell-shocked by what I had seen, but also worried by what I feared was coming. "I hope Saddam isn't behind this." That's what I said, because I knew that if he was, that if the atrocity were the doing of a country rather than a stateless terrorist organization, there was going to be a real war.

I guess I wasn't cynical enough, because it didn't occur to me that our government would use 9/11 to go to war with Saddam even if he had nothing to do with 9/11. I didn't realize that they would use 9/11 to stifle dissent. I didn't realize that six years later, Rudy Giuliani, who did nothing on 9/11 but run around aimlessly, would shamelessly attempt to cash in on it by mentioning it every ten seconds during a run for president. (President!)

Have they no decency?

I also didn't know that six years after 9/11, six years after discovering that it was Osama bin Laden and not Saddam Hussein who orchestrated the attacks, that the hijackers were overwhelmingly Saudi and not Iraqi, that one third of all Americans and 40% of all Republicans would believe that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the 9/11 attacks. (NY Times/CBS poll.)

Let us remember this tragedy for what it was, but also for what it was not. Let us stop allowing politicians to manipulate its memory for personal and political gain.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I didn't realize that six years later, Rudy Giuliani, who did nothing on 9/11 but run around aimlessly, would shamelessly attempt to cash in on it by mentioning it every ten seconds during a run for president. (President!)

Have they no decency?"

A bit unjust to Giuliani - I don't think Time magazine (not usually known for Republican sympathies) would have made him their Man of the Year if that was all there was to it.

And in any case, is what Giuliani doing really any different to the fact that Obama can hardly make a speech or a public appearance without boasting how he voted against the war? This is just what politicians do, but we should at least refrain from criticising our opponents for doing it when we find it unobjectionable when our guys do it. Motes and beams, and all that.

Random (been away for a while, trying to move house. Eeek...)

Jewish Atheist said...

A bit unjust to Giuliani - I don't think Time magazine (not usually known for Republican sympathies) would have made him their Man of the Year if that was all there was to it.

Their man of the year the year before that was... George Bush. They've also had Gingrich, Reagan (twice), Khomeni (!), Nixon/Kissinger, etc.

Oh, and Stalin and Hitler. :-) I'm just saying maybe Time man of the year isn't the best gauge of character.

And in any case, is what Giuliani doing really any different to the fact that Obama can hardly make a speech or a public appearance without boasting how he voted against the war?

Obama is the only major candidate to have been right on the biggest issue of the last decade. Nothing could be more relevant. I see Giuliani as exploiting the emotions behind 9/11 to get scared people to rally behind him. Nobody gets elected president for doing a good job of coordinating fire and rescue teams (which is the most charitable view possible of Giuliani's actions regarding 9/11) -- he's running as the image of the guy who looked tough on 9/11.

G said...

Let us remember this tragedy for what it was, but also for what it was not. Let us stop allowing politicians to manipulate its memory for personal and political gain
--------

Agreed. You do realize that referenced post does just as much harm in this regard as those politicians,

Jewish Atheist said...

How so?

Anonymous said...

So you don't consider Ron Paul to be a major candidate?

Jewish Atheist said...

Nah, he's polling between 1% and 3%. I meant "major" simply as "having a shot in hell." :-)

Jewish Atheist said...

And then we'd have to throw in Kucinich, etc.

Aaron Burgler said...

People of New York liked Giuliani (for cleaning up crime) and that's all that mattered back then. They would have loved him no matter how he reacted to 9/11.

Anonymous said...

"Their man of the year the year before that was... George Bush. They've also had Gingrich, Reagan (twice), Khomeni (!), Nixon/Kissinger, etc.

Oh, and Stalin and Hitler. :-) I'm just saying maybe Time man of the year isn't the best gauge of character."

Person (as it is these days) of the Year isn't supposed to be a judge of character, it's supposed to be a judge of who has had the most impact on that year's news. Hitler in 1938 and Stalin in 1942 (and Khomeini in 1979) can hardly be described as failing to qualify on that basis. The man Giuliani apparently beat out for the title that year for example was apparently... Osama bin Laden. Time apparently justified this by saying bin Laden was just a jerk who'd got lucky, whereas Giuliani did more than anybody else to articulate the suffering and dignity of a grieving nation and help get it back on it's feet (something which really should have been the president's job, if you want to criticise Bush). But of course he wasn't running for president then.

"Obama is the only major candidate to have been right on the biggest issue of the last decade. Nothing could be more relevant."

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. You wouldn't make one president on that basis (not that I accept he was right even then, but...). The fact that this is a guy who can allow his foreign policy to be summed up as "sit down with our enemies and bomb our friends" does not fill me with confidence as to his wider judgement.

"I see Giuliani as exploiting the emotions behind 9/11 to get scared people to rally behind him."

I don't. I think it's a lot more pragmatic than that - he's standing for the Republican nomination after all, and talking about 9/11 is a lot more comfortable for him and his audience than talking about issues such as abortion or gay rights, where he's well to the left of most of the primary electorate (I've said before in these comments that it says something not very nice about the modern Democratic party that somebody like Giuliani no longer feels at home there).

Oh, and he isn't just running on 9/11. He's also running on his achievement on turning around a city that before his time was widely regarded as out of control and is now one of the safest in the USA. Real, serious executive experience in other words. He is not a candidate who seems to believe that the presidency is an entry-level job.

Random

Stephen said...

Have they no decency?

No.

As Atrios would say, simple answers to simple questions...

pjgoober said...

I wish that instead of invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9-11, we had instead significantly decreased (or even halted) muslim immigration and visas.

G said...

It does not choose to remember 9/11 in a constructive way either. It uses it as a way to criticized an apposing parties incorrect usage of it.

Both are wrong and both miss out on an apportunity entirely.