It was at our community swimming pool that a new friend asked if I worried about nuclear disaster. That was years ago when I had one child on the cusp of adolescence and another just a few months old. I remember telling her that nuclear annihilation was too huge for me, that I worried about the safety of my children, accidents, illness, and sudden infant death syndrome. I inherited a worry gene from my mother that filled my head with images of all kinds of panic producers, including things like flame-retardant pajamas that either didn’t self-extinguish or were carcinogenic. I blocked the cataclysmic events that could eliminate entire civilizations, because they were too much to bear given all my other anxieties.
I thought of this on September 11, 2001 in a similar but slightly different way. There were people all over the world, unable to move their gaze from the television set because of the events unfolding in lower Manhattan, a field in Pennsylvania, and in Washington DC. But there were others, plenty of others, who were on the verge of collapse in hospital waiting rooms or at the bedside of a child who was dying of leukemia, a brain tumor, third-degree burns, or some other horror. To these people, their immediate family tragedy submerged our national one.
On December 3rd, a US congressional report revealed that a biological or nuclear attack is likely to occur within the next five years somewhere in the world.
Upon hearing this, I thought of our reaction to 9/11, the demand for revenge, George Bush’s aggressive and inflammatory language, the accusations, war with Afghanistan, and, eventually, the aerial bombardment of Iraq, leading to the occupation of a country with absolutely no connection to the events of 9/11. Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have resulted in the deaths of more than 4800 US servicemen and women and an unimaginable number of Afghan and Iraqi civilians, men, women, and children. Those who have escaped our bullets and bombs but have seen their family members killed or maimed and their country in ruins must surely hate us. And not because they are jealous of our way of life. Instead, they hate us because we are greedy imperialists who believe it is our manifest destiny to claim the resources of other countries.
Soon, a new administration will have an opportunity to either call the shots or stop them.
During the campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama criticized the Bush Administration’s Iraq war as an inspiration for terrorism. Yet, he refers to Afghanistan as the “right war” and has threatened Iran and Pakistan. Does this mean that as president, Barack Obama will continue a foreign policy that inspires terrorists?
If he does, the US congressional report will be a reminder of “Osama bin Laden determined to strike within the United States,” that chilling revelation that George Bush ignored before slouching off to Crawford for one of his many vacations.
My children are grown now. I no longer have to think about safely mothering them to adulthood. They are already there.
But I am worrying about the rest of their lives and what the next five years may bring. Will a conquest-oriented foreign policy deliver to them the unthinkable–a nuclear or biological attack that could either vaporize them instantly or kill them slowly and painfully?
Let’s pressure our leadership to address the reason we are despised and make restitution to those who we’ve treated so inhumanely. We could start with the people of Afghanistan and the Iraqis. But until we end the US policies that support Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, we will accomplish nothing but the encouragement of more hatred and, therefore, more terrorists plots against us.
Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com