Next week , September 11 will be remembered soberly by Canadians and patriotically by Americans. But little thought will be given to how we got into this mess called the War on Terrorism. It could have been different.
Although the terrible events of that day are seared into our minds, the events that followed are increasingly hazy.
It took hours for the unthinkable horror to become thinkable. Once the terrible events dawned on our consciousness that’s when the grieving started; denial, shock, anger, bargaining. A year later and survivors haven’t reached the final stage of grieving of acceptance.
In the days that followed, the rookie President Bush was understandably at a loss what to do. Nothing like this had happened before and Bush was clearly ad-libbing it. The traditional thing to do is to declare war on the enemy.
But there was no country to declare war against. There were no invading soldiers to fight. The enemy remained in the shadows.
Bush’s first inclination was to call for a “crusade,” essentially a holy war. In other words, the Christians would go in and save the holy land from the infidels. Bad idea.
Bush had seemingly forgot how offensive this would be to his Muslim friends in Saudi Arabia who sit on 25 per cent of the world’s oil reserves. When it comes to sanctimonious rhetoric or a secure oil supply, the former oilman Bush chose prudence.
Then Bush came up with “Operation Infinite Justice”. Muslims reminded him that only Allah can provide infinite justice. Then it was “Operation Enduring Freedom,” which suggested a long war.
Finally, it was the War on Terrorism. At first glance it was brilliant. Who, after all, would declare themselves to be on the side of terrorism? The War on Terrorism conveniently divided the world into two camps, those for and those against the U.S. Simple and wonderfully vague.
Like the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism had no clear objective, no clear enemy and it’s only over when Bush says it’s over. It’s a convenient excuse to do essentially what you like.
Afghanistan was chosen as the country to invade and the Taliban became the enemy de jour. Bush prepared Americans for a long “enduring” war. The soldiers of righteousness marched into the dusty shell of country with their shiny new weapons. It was quite anticlimactic.
The Taliban seem to disappear like dust in the wind. No devil incarnate Osama Bin Laden, no evil al-Qaeda. The swift end of the invasion left the military boys with their toys wanting more action — all dressed up and nowhere to go.
Logically, Saudi Arabia should have been the country to invade — that’s where most of the attackers of September 11 came from. But that would never happen (see above).
And they couldn’t invade Germany, even though it was a just as logical a choice. Germany was home to a al-Qaeda cell where the plot on World Trade Center was hatched a year before the attack. “There will be thousands of dead,” Marwan Al-Shehhi told a librarian in Hamburg in the spring 2000. Al-Shehhi is believed to have piloted one of the planes that was flown into the World Trade Center.
War has been kind to Bush’s popularity and it’s been a profitable year for his father, the former president, George Bush senior. “We’ve never in the history of the republic had a former U.S. president working for arms manufacturers,” says Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity in the U.S.
The elder Bush works for Carlyle Group, an arms manufacturer for the War on Terrorism. Doesn’t that seem like a conflict of interest to you? President Bush is now pushing for war in Iraq in which his family will profit. You would think that Bush would be ashamed of beating the drums of war on the solemn anniversary of a sad day.
Bush could have chosen justice over vengeance. What the world needs now is redemption and healing, not more war. The survivors of September 11 thirst for justice, not blood.
The perpetrators of the September 11 should have been brought to an international court and faced the families of those who died that day. Revenge is sweet but only justice brings healing and the last step of grieving — acceptance.