Post 9-11, Americans should think about what’s at stake

The events of 9-11 prove that New York really is the center of the universe. The miserable thugs who were behind the attack knew that. They didn’t choose Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles for their despicable attack. They chose New York because they wanted to inspire as much fear and terror as possible. They hijacked another plane and sent it to Washington, the seat of government, to make a different kind of point. They succeeded in creating the kind of reaction that the Japanese inspired among the American people after Pearl Harbor. They brought Americans and, for a brief time, the rest of the world together. We can argue about what came later: Iraq, waterboarding, torture and a Patriot Act that should make Americans shiver. But there can be no denying that if their intention was to depress and demoralize the American people, they did not succeed. The death and destruction caused by 9-11 was so terrible, so hateful, that they could only do themselves harm. Admiral Yamamoto was said to worry that the attack on Pearl Harbor would awaken the sleeping giant. It did.

When the American people woke up after Pearl Harbor, they did some things that history has recorded as being both unfair and stupid. Assuming that all Japanese people were so fanatical in their obsequiousness to the Emperor, they placed entire families in internment camps. You can easily put yourself in the place of so many America-loving Japanese. Of course, in the case of Japan, we were at war with a nation and in the 9-11 case we were not. We were at war with some organized thugs who had a lot of people in the Muslim world believing in their cause. It turns out that many Americans have little patience for the Muslim community because the folks who are still trying to do us harm are Muslims. The case of what has been called “the Mosque at Ground Zero” demonstrates that.

With some regularity we hear stories about racial profiling of Muslims in America by police and intelligence authorities. While these allegations are met with denial, there can be no doubt that intelligence is being collected in the more radical segments of the Muslim community. This is the way it has always been done. On several occasions, other attacks have been thwarted — sometimes because of our intelligence; sometimes because of just plain dumb luck; sometimes because of incompetence on the part of terrorists or would-be terrorists. One thing is certain — New York has always been the target and will continue to be so. Remember, the Twin Towers were attacked not once, but twice. The first time, when Mario Cuomo was governor, the explosion failed to do the kind of damage we saw on 9-11. The second time we know what happened.

I think most Americans are smart enough to know that this is going to be a difficult balancing act. We know that intelligence agencies can be used for partisan political purposes. Nixon wanted the Jews and the arts people investigated. J. Edgar Hoover went after Martin Luther King in the most despicable ways. The problem is that when you set up intelligence agencies and there is nobody looking over their shoulders, you can lose control. Years later, we are still looking at people’s files with horror.

President Clinton stood next to George Bush the other day and thanked him for keeping America safe. If you were innocent of any crimes and had been “rendered” to Guantanamo, you might not have been as appreciative. If you were the parent of a kid who was killed in the name of Democracy, fighting in a war that, it turns out, was based on false information, you might tend to look at things differently.

There are no easy answers here, just balancing, but every American ought to be thinking about what’s at stake.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/12/11

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2 Comments on “Post 9-11, Americans should think about what’s at stake”

  1. Alan Page Says:

    Alan,
    Thank you for describing these difficult ideas and keeping them alive as we are nickel-ed and dime-ed out of the democracy that the founders worked to form. I think it is time to spend some time and effort to review the basis of sovereignty and what is needed to make sure that it remains in tact. Old men like us (69) actually do have a job to do; it is incumbent on us to say the difficult things and like the elderly in Japan to put our selves in harm’s way to protect the innocent and the young from irreparable harm that has been caused during our watch. I appreciate the risks you take and the force with which you defend the positions you take.

    I have studied the issues from a vantage point of long term business practice (I grow trees for lumber and energy) and recently realized that nothing that I have done of a proactive nature has been bankable. Trees just do not have the cash flow to allow a normal performing loan to be structured around active care of the trees and the land … This has led me to review the basis for our financial system and what I found has sickened me to the core.

    I regard your efforts to be fair and proactive with awe. However, I have had enough of the ‘elephant in the room’. It is time that we clarify that no sovereign nation is ever insolvent unless it chooses to be so. Those who give of their sovereignty to the government must demand that the powers granted by them (the constitution begins with “We the people”) be used appropriately.

    If a sovereign region can not be insolvent, then there is no basis for the statements that you and NPR repeat about our taxes paying for government functions. Yes they pay for something because we have set it up that way but the basis for this system is now collapsing and we need to look at the foundation and see if what has been built is really sitting on the columns that we think it is.

    In truth taxes are a means to control excess liquidity and need to be returned to that function. This will be revolutionary and so will take a few old men and women to really get out there.

    However, we have really missed the boat when it comes to the purpose of government. It really owns everything and therefore is responsible for the appropriate functioning of all parts regardless of what the economic conditions are – INFRASTRUCTURE – in layman’s terms. There is much more to infrastructure than is currently recognized and its funding is being eroded with out adequate review.
    Alan Page

  2. lhdwriter Says:

    Brilliant. I also liked your podcast with the current Simon’s Rock provost, Mary B. Marcy. Who was that commissioner you interviewed today on WAMC with such sensitive insights into human character and the sad state of the prison system? Kimora? Kamora? Komora? I’d like to know more. Thanks.


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