It is reported that this year the commemorations for 9-11 will be “low key”. The names of the dead will be read. Bells will toll. Moments of silence will be observed. I didn’t lose a friend or a family member on 9-11. I imagine it is a rare day that goes by when a loved one doesn’t remember that dreadful day. I imagine life is never “low key”.
The same mourning is played out across the globe. For every person lost in the attack on the twin towers there have been thousands of deaths around the world. The brunt of America’s retribution fell on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks of 9-11. America’s attack on Iraq was based on lies and fabrications. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions have died. Millions are refugees, their families dispersed on the wind. Babies are born each day with horrendous birth defects. Children die from cancers and diseases unheard of prior to America’s attack. President Obama often claims credit for ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home. Yet the war is not ended for those who served. Every day 22 veterans and service members kill themselves in the United States. Suicide is at epidemic levels, the death toll surpassing those killed on 9-11. No one claims credit for this. And Iraq is in chaos. Car bombs and suicide bombers kill dozens on a nearly daily basis. One thousand people died in July alone. The war is not over, though America has moved on.
Those responsible for the illegal war on Iraq remain free. Their lies have been exposed. Their crimes are obvious. Rather prosecute these men and women, Obama said he believed “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” There is expediency in looking forward, especially when your administration will take up the policies of your predecessor and continue to act in unlawful and immoral ways. Drone attacks now kill in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The President reviews a “kill list” on a weekly basis. Targeted assassination is the norm. Innocent men remain imprisoned in Guantánamo. Libya is decimated after our humanitarian intervention.
Syria, already in shattered from war, is now under threat of an American attack. After two years of watching the carnage unfold, an American red line has finally been surpassed. In the lead up to bombing, there has been little looking ahead and many calls to never forget. Hitler has been conjured by Kerry, Clinton, Obama and the media pundits, as usual, when America wants to demonize a “brutal dictator” like Ahmadinejad, like Hussein, like Gaddafi and now Assad. Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons (supplied by the United States) against Iran has also been called upon as evidence of Assad’s depravity. There has been no mention of America’s use of chemicals. No mention of dropping Agent Orange on Vietnam and the ongoing health crisis in that country four decades later. No mention of napalm (for this John Kerry should hang his head in shame). No mention of the chemicals sprayed over wide swaths of Latin America in our endless “War on Drugs”. No mention of white phosphorus used on civilians in Fallujah. Our “never forgetting” has its limits, you see, as does our “not looking backwards”. Quoting Kerry, “Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.” Unfortunately our morality has its limits as well.
President Obama claims our ideals, principles, and “world leadership” are at stake in Syria.
Laying out his moral justification for a cruise missile attack, on the eve of Sept 11th, Obama had the audacity to claim, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”
With humility and resolve Americans should deal honestly with our past, with our present, and with our dire future. With modest effort and risk we can make the future safer for all children. We can do this by simply demanding accountability of our leaders and recognizing the only thing that is exceptional about America is our inability to see other’s lives as valuable as our own.
No one forgets the loss of loved ones at the hands of their oppressors. No one forgets their child’s (or their parent’s) suicide when they return from war. Loved one’s memories are long and children inherit the stories. Looking forward does not erase the past, except perhaps in the “victor’s” history books.
In time, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Obama will find their places in history alongside Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, and Bush. Each and every one of them are hypocrites, liars, and war criminals. And as the world has paid for the criminal acts of 9-11, we Americans will one day pay for our countries crimes.
Johnny Barber recently returned to the US from Gaza. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.