Thirteen years have gone by. Thirteen blood filled years. The number of deaths perpetrated by the United States boggles the mind. The numbers of U.S. deaths, including the first responders dying of cancers and lung ailments, soldiers dying on the battle field, or soldiers killing themselves at home, pales in comparison to the retribution we have meted out across the globe- often to completely innocent victims of our self serving “justice”. Yet our President endorses more bombing, more destruction, and more death. On the thirteenth anniversary, with the carnage stretching from North Africa to Central Asia our President says, “ISIL has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.” He could very easily be describing us.
This time he assures us, it is different. Our service members are less likely to die because there will be no boots on the ground, (he then explains he is sending hundreds of advisers to Iraq). The method is not much different than the policy of murder we have carried out in sovereign countries during Obama’s presidency. We will bomb them. Innocent men, women and children will die. The weapon manufacturers will prosper. Our Congress members will continue to enrich themselves. Opposition to the United States will grow.
The President points to Somalia and Yemen as success stories in the war on terror. He does not mention the street protests embroiling the capital of Yemen as that country teeters perilously close to chaos. He fails to mention Libya, now a failed state after our intervention. Iraq and Afghanistan are spun as success stories now that the troops are coming home, but incredible levels of violence persist.
He claims we are safer because of these interventions and in the next breath says we are in mortal danger.
He says, “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world.” He goes on to claim, “Our timeless ideals will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Though these contradictions make no sense we are asked to accept them, and support them to show our “united front.”
President Obama speaks of living in a time of great change, yet our policies remain mired in violence and coercion. The promise of “change” propelled Obama into office. And change we’ve seen. President Bush has all but vanished, painting paint by number self-portraits in his shower. Cheney’s got a brand new heart and it’s a perfect match, he hasn’t an ounce of added empathy, and he may be even meaner than before. Obama has also changed, his rhetoric morphing into the words of his predecessors. Like Bush, Clinton, the senior Bush, and Reagan before him, he talks of America’s goodness, our endless blessing, our timeless values, and our leadership in the world. He speaks of our pursuit of freedom, justice, and dignity as F-16’s and drones decimate people around the globe. In times of crisis you may find him on the golf course. In due time he may be painting watercolors as well, though for two more years he will paint with a broader brush, his color crimson and his canvas the deserts and gardens of Syria and Iraq.
In New York there is a new museum display, a 9/11 shrine for family members of those who died in the towers is now opened for public viewing. You can go online and do a virtual tour and zoom in on the thousands of personal notes for those who were killed. It is heartbreaking. The multitudes of notes cry out about loss, and memory, and love. I recognize this heartbreak descending across the globe and settling on every village we bomb. Every innocent we kill has loved ones left behind. The shattered lives of 9/11 now echo and multiply exponentially across the globe.
I did not see any notes that call for retribution or endless war. This is the call of our government. Bombing is not the answer. Violence is not the answer. Vanquishing is not the answer. Thirteen years teaches us.
The lessons were not lost on our government. They have proven time and again they simply are uninterested or incapable of pursuing peace. The lessons lost are lost on us, the citizens of America. We are asked to remember our values, but not how they have been abused. We are reminded of our personal goodness, but asked not to apply it to the state. We are reminded of our greatness, but not of our faults. We are told to look ahead and asked to ignore the current enrichment of a few at our expense.
How much longer will we tolerate our government’s endless war? How much longer will we tolerate our failing infrastructure, our failing schools, our failing economy with our leaders promising a brighter future that never comes? How much longer will we tolerate our soldiers returning home only to kill themselves? How much longer will we tolerate the crushing of dissent with our ultra-militarized police forces? The war on terror brought to our streets.
President Obama likens ISIL to cancer. And like a good doctor he warns us that risks are involved. But like a bad doctor, he never tells the patient that they have alternatives to the often-fatal treatment he provides. He never warns the patient their behavior contributes to the cancers spread. He never tells the patient that they can be a proactive, positive influence on their disease.
The President proclaims we “Uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Lofty rhetoric aside, how much longer will it take Americans to recognize that it is our government who offers hate, divisiveness, and destruction to the world? How much longer will we accept the utter devastation of foreign peoples in the name of our freedom? How much longer?
Johnny Barber writes on the Middle East. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.