Late Night: No Elephants, No Parade
So, now it is eight years. Eight years since the sound and vibration of American Airlines flight 11 screaming over my building and slamming into the north tower of the World Trade Center a dozen blocks south sent me running downstairs and into the street. And it was there I stood with my neighbors and watched as all of the drama and horror of the day played out in very real time.
As I commented on a past anniversary, one of my earliest thoughts that day was that with George W. Bush in the White House, flanked by Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft, we had about as bad a collection of leaders for that moment in history as I could possibly imagine. And for the next six anniversaries, that team did nothing to make me doubt my initial instinct.
But now, with the seventh commemoration, the eighth anniversary, I am forced by the very Constitution the Bush gang sought to destroy to contemplate something else.
It seems mundane, but thinking or saying, “This is the first post-Bush 9/11” also feels wildly momentous. But should it?
This is not going to be one of those “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” posts; in a thousand different ways, this September 11th is different—and better different, at that. The call to make this a national day of service instead of a day of national Grand Guignol, fear mongering, and political opportunism is a small thing, but very much welcome. And there are a thousand people in a thousand different government jobs that, no matter how much they piss me off, are still better than Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Chertoff, Paul Wolfowitz, Porter Goss, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, David Addington, John Yoo. . . I could go on and on before I ever needed to refer to Wikipedia.
But this is not strictly a “look at the bright side” post, either. How can it be? One can’t spend a day with emptywheel (the blog, not Marcy herself) and not grow tense and angry as Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, fail at the necessary job of rolling back the secrecy, Constitutional abuses, and mad usurpations of the previous “unitary” executive. One cannot have been working on the fight to actually reform health care without practically chewing through a lip as you watch the current wizards of Pennsylvania Avenue negotiate away any chance of actually helping the un- and underinsured, to instead benefit the Blue Dogs, the ConservaDems, and the balance sheets of Big Insurance.
Today, however, I am really wondering about something at least as troubling, and likely much more visceral. For it was on another anniversary that I wrote about something that intrudes on my thoughts on every 9/11, and on the large majority of the days in between—the blood. You can go back and read my thoughts on those lost in 2001 in the United States, and those lost in 2002, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. . . in Iraq and Afghanistan, but since this is an administration that likes to constantly insist on looking forward instead of back, lets do just that.
OK, I’m looking; are you?
Take a look at Attackerman, and see where Spencer dutifully and honorably notes the deaths of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq practically every day. He will no doubt have to keep doing that through the next September 11. . . and I have to ask, to what end?
I am thinking today mostly about Afghanistan (though the needless debacle of Iraq that was sold to us as an adjunct to our “war on terror” should not be forgotten). Bush missed opportunities both before and after 9/11/01 to disrupt al Qaeda, to capture its leaders, to bind the world together in an effort to bring to justice the criminals that killed nearly 3,000 on US soil eight years ago—so I would assume that is still a goal. But now I also hear we are “at war” with the Taliban, that we are trying to help “stabilize” Afghanistan, train a security force, buttress a budding democracy, secure the border regions. . . again, I can go on, but I can’t tell you what we are doing. I can tell you what McChrystal says we are doing (sort of), but I can’t tell you what we are really doing.
I can tell you that military commanders are likely to ask for more—perhaps many more—troops. I can tell you that several in Congress are now saying that they will get no more troops. I can even tell you with a sort of gut surety that the end result will be more “trigger pullers” than we have deployed there now. . . and more military contractors, the miserable praetorian guard of the previous administration, will have to fill in where our support personnel have been traded out.
But I can’t tell you why. I can’t pinpoint the objective. I can’t say, we are doing “this,” so we can accomplish “this.” And I have a really bad feeling that our first post-Bush president can’t either.
And that is no way to honor our first post-Bush 9/11.