Have Americans Learned the Lessons of 9/11?

Today, of course, marks the seventh anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. Coming as it does in the midst of an American Presidential campaign, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on whether Americans have learned the lessons of these attacks, specifically with regards to their vote in the upcoming US election.

So what did September 11 teach us? Fundamentally that—even when your military superiority is so enormous that you are the world’s only remaining super power—no one is impervious to terrorism. Indeed, terrorism has actually come about as a means of attacking and (literally) terrorising an opponent who is too powerful to attack militarily. This in turn obviously means that military force alone is totally insufficient for dealing with terrorism—and as we can’t just deal with it militarily, we clearly have to find another, more effective way to deal with it if we really want to put an end to it.

So how has the Bush administration responded to September 11? By starting two wars! And seven years on, not only is the main perpetrator of the September 11 attacks (Osama Bin Laden) still at large, he seems to have been forgotten about. This is because we are distracted by the quagmire that the wars in Afghanistan and especially Iraq have become, resulting in the deaths of thousands of American and other “coalition of the willing” soldiers, and one can only imagine how many Afghan and (especially) Iraqi civilians. So how are these wars being prolonged for so long, when the US has infinitely superior military capability to anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan? You guessed it: by terrorism. So not only have these wars completely failed to bring the main perpetrator of September 11 to justice, they have actually made the problem of terrorism far, far worse. Surprise surprise surprise.

So how do we deal with terrorism? First of all, we have to deal with the perpetrators for what they actually are: criminals. When Indonesian terrorists killed several Australians in the Bali bombings, we didn’t go to war with Indonesia. Instead, we worked with the Indonesian government to bring the perpetrators to justice—and unlike Osama Bin Laden, they are now sitting on death row. It was the same with the Spanish and London train bombings. Of course, the Afghan government at the time (the Taliban) were not very cooperative, but as with Iraq, the Bush administration was too keen to go to war to give diplomacy a chance to work. And even if diplomacy didn’t work, wouldn’t it have been better to have launched a carefully targeted, covert operation to bring Bin Laden to justice, instead of needlessly wasting resources (and many people’s lives) by attacking the entire country?

Ultimately though, if we want to prevent terrorism from happening again, the only way is to deal with the causes of it. We need to understand why somebody would hate the US enough to sacrifice their own lives by flying planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. To just say “they hate freedom” is totally inadequate, and quite frankly, utterly ridiculous. Everybody wants freedom for themselves—that’s just fundamental human nature. What people really hate is when they feel their freedom is being taken away from them, and—rightly or wrongly—that’s what many Muslims feel the US is doing, particularly by sponsoring Israel to illegally displace thousands of Palestinians and occupy their land. And this is just one reason why many Muslims feel the US is taking away their freedom. Americans need to understand how their government’s foreign policy is adversely effecting not just Muslims, but many other people as well. Otherwise, September 11 will just be the beginning.

So have Americans realised this yet? Sadly, judging from the response to the “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” comments by the pastor of Barack Obama’s church, Jeremiah Wright, it would seem not. As I mentioned in my last post, they weren’t even his words—he was actually quoting (white) US ambassador Peck. Still, many Americans were outraged by the mere suggestion that the US may have brought about the September 11 attacks through its own actions overseas. Yet in his full speech, Wilson gives several factual examples of how the US has—either directly or indirectly—brought about the deaths of many innocent civilians internationally. But it seems many conservative Americans want to ignore the historical facts—as well as the carnage that is going on right now as a result of the US led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan—in favour of some utopian vision that the US can do no wrong, as it is on a mission from God to make the world a better place.

Indeed, the bloody hand of religion is writ large across this entire conflict. This unwillingness of many conservative Americans to see the outside world for what it really is—or indeed to see the problems in their own country—is a great example of why the self delusion of religion is dangerous, however comforting it may be. Terrorism means Americans can no longer afford to ignore what’s going on in the outside world, particularly as a result of their own foreign policy. And of course, the belief of the Muslim suicide bombers that it will lead them to paradise is a major factor in allowing them to conduct these acts of terrorism in the first place. Most damningly of all, the central issue behind this entire conflict—Israel’s illegal displacement of Palestinians and occupation of their land—is of course based on religion as well. The main reason Israel was established where it is now is because that’s where the Bible says it has to be come judgment day. So even if a conservative Christian in the White House doesn’t “press the button” to start the rapture, the preparation for it has already led to intractable conflict in the middle east, and the first attack on American soil.

This unwillingness of many conservative Americans to see the real problems of their country and the rest of the world also means they have a tendency to focus on irrelevant trivialities instead, usually over so-called “moral” issues. Perhaps the most famous example of this in recent years was the attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton, over a damn blow job! For goodness sake, we now have a President who sent the US to war in Iraq on a lie, which has in turn sent thousands of Americans to their deaths. Yet these conservative Americans consider a blow job to be more important than the most serious thing a President can do: sending their country to war on—let me repeat this—a lie, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans. It is very obvious that it was a lie—if Bush had really thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he would have been afraid to attack them, in case Saddam Hussein actually used them to defend himself. This is exactly why the Bush administration won’t do anything about North Korea, because they actually do have such weapons!

Hell, the Republicans will even completely fabricate falsehoods to smear their opponent, and many conservative Americans just blindly lap it up—and sadly, the conservative American media are very happy to whip it up as well. Take the latest media storm over Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comments. As can be seen in this video, it is not only an expression that the Republicans are happy to use themselves, but Obama is very clearly referring to the policies John McCain—not, as the Republicans and the conservative media falsely claim, a personal attack on Sarah Palin. As can be seen in the video I’ve put up at the start of this post, Obama has made every effort to correct this falsehood, and to get people focused on the real issues of this campaign. Yet many conservative Americans want to believe Obama is “immoral”, so they will simply ignore the facts, and blindly accept whatever fits in with their preconceived notions. Once again, this is a great example of how dangerous the self delusion of religion really is—when people just believe what they want to believe instead of accepting the facts, they can believe anything, no matter how blatantly untrue it may be.

It is outrageous to me that the instigators of this “moral outrage” not only have a value system that thinks nothing of sending thousands of American soldiers to their deaths—let alone the countless innocent civilians who are killed as “collateral damage”—but they are even willing to lie to support it. Just as the Catholic church responded to accusations of priests molesting little boys by lying and covering it up, so too do the Republicans lie to claim the “moral high ground” in election campaigns. How dare the people who support this speak of “morals”—this is as utterly immoral, reprehensible and hypocritical as it gets. Only religion could make people self delusional enough to think this way.

Please heed the lessons of September 11—use your vote to tell the Republicans enough’s enough!

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AsianFashionPolice

AsianFashionPolice’s avatar

Stick to modeling and looking good….not politics!

  
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“Only religion could make people self delusional enough to think this way.”

Yes, exactly. Religion is not the only reason that people do bad things, but it is the primary reason that people do bad things because their appeals to Fantasy Land are not only encouraged, but respected.

  
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@AsianFashionPolice – You are very welcome to just skip to my pictures if you want (and I respect that), but I feel too strongly about these issues to not say anything!

@Ian Andreas Miller – Thanks again for your comments! In the immortal words of Philip Pullman: “Bad people will naturally do bad things. Good people will naturally do good things. It takes religion to make good people do bad things”.

  
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Very well said!
Nietzsche discussed “The Will to Believe.” All too often, in America, this translates into a will to remain stupid.
Americans have a very ego-centric view of the world in the sense that we think everybody else in the world aspires to what we have, and therefore they want to be (or should want to be) “just like us.” This attitude prevents us from understanding the deeper cultural problems, which transcend but are certainly not apart from, the material problems of developing nations, who are trying to outgrow the crippling legacies of their colonial past. This is highly ironic, since we were the first country to assert our independence from our colonial “masters,” but where the rest of the world is concerned, we just don’t get it.
There’s more to it than just the blinding influence of a material-centric, “fundamentalist,” highly conservative brand of Christianity, which Flannery O’Connor lampooned so well in “Wise Blood” as “the Church of Jesus Christ WITHOUT Jesus Christ.” Racism also plays a large part in it. Only time will tell just how much progress we have made since Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…” speech.
One of the things that makes the people on the U. S. coasts different from the people in “the heartland” of America is that the latter don’t do too much traveling abroad. They don’t do this because they don’t WANT to. What’s to see in another country? What’s to be learned from another culture? Doesn’t everybody want to be “just like us”?
No! They don’t.

  
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Otis R. Needleman

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@AsianFashionPolice – WELL put! Sachiko means well, but she’s terribly naive.

  
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@Otis R. Needleman

The naive ones are those who cannot connect the dots as Sachiko (and many, many, many others) has done. Talk to those of us who served in Vietnam and quickly learned the lessons from that war that she talks about in the context the post 9-11 rush to war. Talk to the members of Iraq Veterans Against the War who learned lessons from this war. Naive? Her brain is working and she is thinking clearly.

  
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Otis R. Needleman

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As usual, Sachiko blames the USA for everything bad that has ever happened in this world. It’s easy for Sachiko to talk. She knows only how to enjoy freedom, not what it takes to defend it. Better people than her, Australian and American, fight and die for her freedom to post her pics and her blog. Figure the odds of Sachiko running her business under Islamic law. Figure her life under the Taliban – no wonder we keep after those Taliban scum.

Sachiko likes to slam religion, at least Christianity and Judaism, but she seems to say nothing about the cancer called Islam. Remember, it wasn’t Jews or Christians flying planes into buildings seven years ago. Moslems flew those planes. Jews and Christians don’t seek to expand their religion through force of arms, but Moslems do… it’s their way or the highway.

Of course the USA learned something from 9-11. First, we need to beef up out internal air defenses. From what’s been done I don’t believe Moslem terrorists will ever be able to repeat what they did on 9-11. Second, we need to work better together to identify and defeat terrorist threats.

Sachiko wonders about the election. Well, wonder no more. Americans will NOT vote for ANY Presidential candidate who appears soft on fighting terror. The USA isn’t Spain, where a cowed electorate gave terrorists what they wanted after an attack. No, expect John McCain and Sarah Palin to be elected. And for what it’s worth, one of Sarah Palin’s sons is in the Army and left today for Iraq. One of John McCain’s sons, a Marine, has already served in Iraq.

Speaking of the Iraq war, if it was based on a lie, then why were there so many UN resolutions regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? Was the world wrong, or did certain things just happen to make it to Syria?

Far as Wright goes, he is a despicable man. His theology has been anti-American all along. I believe he is a servant of evil.

Sachiko, I am sure you are not a bad person, but you haven’t a clue about what makes people who don’t think like you tick. I am certain you consider me “unenlightened”, but I don’t care. If you REALLY want to get a handle on America, visit here for a few months and travel all over, not just the coasts. Go to the Midwest. See Texas. Check out the South. Otherwise, you’re just blowing hot air.

  
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Otis R. Needleman

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@zhuxiu – Sorry, bud, I served too..over 20 years, 70′s to the 90′s. Two tours in Korea. Sachiko can connect dots, it just doesn’t result in the same picture.

  
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Originally Posted By Otis R. Needleman
As usual, Sachiko blames the USA for everything bad that has ever happened in this world. It’s easy for Sachiko to talk. She knows only how to enjoy freedom, not what it takes to defend it. Better people than her, Australian and American, fight and die for her freedom to post her pics and her blog.

This is absolute rubbish, and I’m sure you know it. I am appealing to Americans to vote for Barack Obama, as I honestly believe it is the best thing for America, as well as the rest of the world. I write this stuff because I care, not because I “blame the USA for everything bad that happens in the world”. This is a classic tactic of the conservatives: “you either agree with everything we do, or you’re against us”. Well I’m sorry, but the US constitution (and democracy itself) was founded on the fundamental principal of being able to openly question the government. If we think the government is doing something wrong, we have the right to say so. It is you who is trying to destroy your own hard won freedoms, by trying to suppress the most fundamental principle of them – freedom of speech.

Figure the odds of Sachiko running her business under Islamic law. Figure her life under the Taliban – no wonder we keep after those Taliban scum.

Sachiko likes to slam religion, at least Christianity and Judaism, but she seems to say nothing about the cancer called Islam. Remember, it wasn’t Jews or Christians flying planes into buildings seven years ago. Moslems flew those planes. Jews and Christians don’t seek to expand their religion through force of arms, but Moslems do… it’s their way or the highway.

For one thing, I do make a point of the fact that it is belief in Islam which made it possible for these terrorists to sacrifice their own lives. For another thing, I’m talking about the US election here, so I am focused on the issues as they apply to Americans. Sadly, there aren’t any elections in Islamic countries for me to comment on, so I am unable to help Muslims in the same way I can Americans.

And it is outrageous to say that Christians in particular do not try to expand their religion through force of arms – they have done this many times throughout history. Also, many people believe – for several good reasons – that this was a major part of the motivation for invading Iraq. Given the belief system of Bush and others in his administration, this isn’t difficult to believe at all.

Speaking of the Iraq war, if it was based on a lie, then why were there so many UN resolutions regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? Was the world wrong, or did certain things just happen to make it to Syria?

Simple: Iraq’s attempts to build weapons of mass destruction had been thwarted by the UN, and this was their position when the US invaded Iraq – hence their lack of support for the US-led invasion.

Far as Wright goes, he is a despicable man. His theology has been anti-American all along. I believe he is a servant of evil.

This is a classic tactic of the conservatives as well: “if you say something we don’t like, you’re anti-American and a servant of evil”.

Sachiko, I am sure you are not a bad person, but you haven’t a clue about what makes people who don’t think like you tick. I am certain you consider me “unenlightened”, but I don’t care. If you REALLY want to get a handle on America, visit here for a few months and travel all over, not just the coasts. Go to the Midwest. See Texas. Check out the South. Otherwise, you’re just blowing hot air.

I actually stayed in LA to study psychology for a few years, and I also stayed in Texas as well as visiting Arizona and New Mexico on one trip, plus on another trip I went to Nevada, then Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and then finally Minnesota. Any more suggestions?

  
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@Firefly – Thanks for your very insightful comments Firefly – I think they’re really on the money!

  
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I have to disagree with Shachiko on Afghanistan, I think Al-Qaeda being so deeply embedded with the Taliban made it necessary to go full bore into Afghanistan (I wasn’t too sad to see the horror that was the Taliban pushed away either). But this is something that reasonable people can have different views not.

What isn’t reasonably debatable is the disaster of going into Iraq. It really shows the complete lack of brains on the part of the Administration that they pursued this course.

At a time when we needed to surge our full military might on Afghanistan (and parts of Pakistan too) to swiftly bring an end to Al-Qaeda, we pulled much of our forces over to deal with a completely contained threat. And it was fully clear even back then that the US Administration was just “seeing what it wanted to see” in the intelligence reports.

Further, at a time when we most needed win the “hearts and minds” of people who might be leaning toward supporting Al-Qaeda, we unnecessarily invaded another predominately Muslim country.

And we ignored most of the rest of the world (including most of our own population) to do it!

Sachiko put it quite well. People, whatever their religion, naturally fear death. The people who are ready to die for their cause are the ones who feel there is no hope. They feel their enemy is someone who can’t be reasoned with, can’t be stood up to with conventional force, and can’t be stopped. So they feel they might as well be dead, since things can’t improve in this life. But as long as they’re going to die, why not go out “striking a blow” against this enemy. Oh and here is an organization offering to help you do just that, and promising rewards in afterlife…..

By going into a SECOND war with our huge forces, unnecessarily, and over the rational objections of just about the whole world, the US basically proved them right. The USA really is an unstoppable power that does whatever it wants and can’t be reasoned with. And that was our huge mistake.

  
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Originally Posted By Craig
I have to disagree with Shachiko on Afghanistan, I think Al-Qaeda being so deeply embedded with the Taliban made it necessary to go full bore into Afghanistan (I wasn’t too sad to see the horror that was the Taliban pushed away either). But this is something that reasonable people can have different views not.

Thanks for your comments Craig! It is very possible you are right about this, although I do think the Bush administration should at least have tried other options first, such as what I suggested. If they didn’t work, go to war then. But war should always be the last resort, not the first course of action.

  
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Sachiko, I agree with you about the idiocy of Bush, the cynicism of his advisors, and the naivety of the American peope.

It’s also notable that this ‘patriotic’ US government was quite content to neglect its wounded soldiers until it became a media scandal. True patriots would never treat Iraq veterans with contempt. Cowards and liars who hide behind the flag are another matter. I was astonished when I found the ‘Chickenhawk’ list of top Republicans who’d dodged service in Vietnam. And these people smeared Kerry, a brave man who put his life on the line. Amazing hypocrisy.

That said, I don’t agree that Obama has much of a chance. I think millions of white American – Democrats and independents – who say they support him won’t actually vote for a black candidate. The polls are wrong. But maybe there’ll be a big surge among black (and Hispanic?) voters.

  
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One thing that many are missing in this current campaign is that fact that so many are NOT being polled. Since polling groups mainly use landlines in their efforts, as one who works with youth on a daily basis, I can tell you they all have cell phones and are texting each other constantly. They are not polled, unless someone happens to ask them questions on the street.

Many are also highly organized in support of the Obama campaign. And, as youth turnout did increase over the past two elections (2004 and the midterm in 2006), it is hoped that they will come out in even greater numbers this time around. Also, one heartening aspect is the fact that we seem to see minimal to no racial or ethnic impact among young people. They say to me, ” we don’t think about race or gender on the issues, since we have longterm friends from all different backgrounds and we are used to seeing women in positions of authority.” We shall see.

Certainly the distortions and misrepresentations of fact from the “honorable” John McCain campaign won’t fly with these young people.

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2008/09/i_approve_this.html

  
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@valdemar – I have to admit that I share your concerns. I find it amusing that Otis keeps trying to turn this into a discussion of who will win this election, but I’m only talking about who I think should win (in the hope I might make a difference), which sadly may be a very different thing. But I remain very hopeful that black voter turn out will make up the numbers, and I also remain hopeful that the very positive campaign Obama is running will cut through the smears, and sway undecided voters.

@zhuxiu – I really hope you are right!

  
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I hope you’re both right about this. I know there’s a general feeling it’s the Democrats’ year. And if young Americans reject the failed, old cynicism of McCain and Co, which their fake ‘maverick’ nonsense, that will be a very positive message to the world. Obama certainly has run a positive campaign, for all the smears, and that shows real political maturity. He’s the sort of American that the world can respect. It’s been a while…

  
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Originally Posted By zhuxiu
One thing that many are missing in this current campaign is that fact that so many are NOT being polled. Since polling groups mainly use landlines in their efforts, as one who works with youth on a daily basis, I can tell you they all have cell phones and are texting each other constantly. They are not polled, unless someone happens to ask them questions on the street.

The thing about polls which always disturbs me is that once you purposefully take steps to get a “random sampling,” you sampling, by definition, cannot be truly random. Likewise, taking pains to make your sampling “representative” raises the question: “Representative of what?”
The only poll that counts is the one we take Nov. 4.

  
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One of the things that makes the people on the U. S. coasts different from the people in “the heartland” of America is that the latter don’t do too much traveling abroad.

Unfortunately, that is complete and utter poppycock. The reasons you don’t see “heartlanders” outside America more is that there are fewer of them. The majority of Americans live on the coasts. Statistics show that a larger percentage of Americans w/ valid passports live in the heartland per capita. Why? PEOPLE ON THE COAST don’t travel, except to Canada and Mexico, because the cities there are so much more diverse, they don’t think the rest of the world is any different than their backyard.

As a heartlander, I find it offensive that those on the coast seem to think so little of us as that. I have spent a great deal of my life abroad. I lived in Australia for a summer on an exchange program, have visited China w/ my wife four times, as a scholar, businessman, & to visit family for extended periods of time, and I currently reside in the UK. Perhaps if the people on the coast spent a little time in the hinterland, they might understand why we have the values we do. Perhaps it is the condescending attitude that people on the coast have towards us that makes us seem bitter and angry. It’s pretty hypocritical of coastal people to tell us to change our attitudes towards the rest of the world when they keep the same old biased, ignorant view of half their own country.

  
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Hi Sagredo,

I’d really be interested to read more of your thoughts on these issues. I’m currently preparing a post on the attitudes of conservative vs. progressive Americans, and you are one of the most intellegent conservatives I’ve come across – so I think I could learn a lot about them from you!

  
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Why thank you, Sachiko! I greatly appreciate that comment. I apologize if I sounded a bit gruff in that last post…I’ve had to deal with that stereotype ever since I moved out of the midwest. I will admit, that in the rural areas, you do find ignorami, but you are just as likely to find them in the urban areas. The types that you find just happen to be of a different sort.

I should tell you that I am not a ‘Christian conservative’: I am an agnostic ( a 6 out of 7, to use Dawkins’ own scale) I also happen to be fairly liberal on a number of social issues (I think I read on your website you support the legalization of prostitution: I happen to as well, as an example) I do, however, understand social conservatives’ views on the subject, even for reasons that have nothing to do with Christian morality.

I am mostly a conservative in the economic sense: I do not believe in government hand outs, either to business or individual, and believe in a small, limited government through low taxation. I won’t go into details here, but if you wish to press further, I would truly enjoy striking up a conversation with you. You can reach me by email, or if you have skype, or yahoo or MSN messenger, you can chat w/ me in real time.

  
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Hi Sagredo,

It seems you are quite progressive on the social issues that really matter, in common with other really intellegent people I know of. Although I don’t necessarily agree with conservative economics (on just about every measure, the most socially healthy countries are the Scandinavian countries, and they have high taxes and big government), I can certainly respect your position. I should point out though: the neo-cons are hardly conservative economically – look at the debt they’ve run up!

  
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