Addicted to 9/11
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: October 14, 2004
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.
If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is "code red" or "code orange" outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: "Look, I don't want a loan. I just want an interview." Somewhere along the way we've gone over the top and lost our balance.
That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.
The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.
By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues - for which he had no electoral mandate - and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.
By using 9/11 to justify launching a war in Iraq without U.N. support, Mr. Bush also created a huge wedge between America and the rest of the world. I sympathize with the president when he says he would never have gotten a U.N. consensus for a strategy of trying to get at the roots of terrorism by reshaping the Arab-Muslim regimes that foster it - starting with Iraq.
But in politicizing 9/11, Mr. Bush drove a wedge between himself and common sense when it came to implementing his Iraq strategy. After failing to find any W.M.D. in Iraq, he became so dependent on justifying the Iraq war as the response to 9/11 - a campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab-Muslim world - that he refused to see reality in Iraq. The president seemed to be saying to himself, "Something so good and right as getting rid of Saddam can't possibly be going so wrong." Long after it was obvious to anyone who visited Iraq that we never had enough troops there to establish order, Mr. Bush simply ignored reality. When pressed on Iraq, he sought cover behind 9/11 and how it required "tough decisions" - as if the tough decision to go to war in Iraq, in the name of 9/11, should make him immune to criticism over how he conducted the war.
Lastly, politicizing 9/11 put a wedge between us and our history. The Bush team has turned this country into "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." "Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," said the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen. "His whole focus is on an America whose role in the world is to negate the negation of the terrorists. But America has always been about the affirmation of something positive. That is missing today. Beyond Afghanistan, they've been much better at destruction than construction."
I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July.
My email response to the NYTimes:
Addicted to 9/11 or The Matrix?
Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece, “Addicted to 9/11” illustrates quite well the chasm between domestic security viewpoints. The very fact that >99% of Americans can’t tell the significance of the following dates in recent history: Nov 4th, April 18th, October 23rd, March 16th, June 14th, Oct 7th, April 5th, Feb 17th, Dec 21st, Feb 26th, June 25th, August 7th, Oct 12th – only serve to explain how Sept 11th could happen. The public awareness and concern about attacks on our interests home and abroad was minimal at best. No one gave a damn and that’s why the list of dates was growing more and more frequent and horrendous.
Sept 11th was the wake up call for this country. By Friedman’s logic we should also forget Dec 7th as well. Sure lots of you want to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep again. Yes, just go back into the Matrix.
this guy is a dreamer. There are 2 worlds. Pre 9-11 and Post 9-11. We no longer live in pre 9-11 and never will again. to hope so is futile until all terrorism is wiped clean off the face of this earth. To think we can go back to when it was a nuisance and ignore it is pitiful.
Nov 4th 1979 - Iran Hostage Crisis
April 18th 1983 - Beirut US Embassy bombing
Oct 23rd 1983- Beirut Marine barracks bombing
March 16th 1984 - kidnap/murder of William Buckley, Beirut
June 14th 1985 - TWA hijacking, murder of US Navy Sailor, Beirut
Oct 7th 1985 - Achille Lauro hijacking, murder of crippled US passenger
April 5th 1986 - Berlin disco bombing by Libya
Feb 17 1988 - William Higgins kidnap/muder in Lebanon
Dec 21 1988 - Pan Am 103 bombing by Libyans
Feb 26th 1993 - WTC bombing
June 25 1996 - Khobar Towers bombing Dhahran
August 7th 1998 - US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania
Oct 12th 2000 - USS Cole.
The very reason we can't remember these dates is why we continued to be attacked.
I'm sure I was reading correctly, Jacque Derrida is dead. I think Friedman must have shook hands with Jacque one day.
Father of Deconstructionism Dies, If 'Death' Means Anything
(2004-10-10) -- French President Jacques Chirac announced today that Jacques Derrida, the father of the intellectual movement called deconstructionism, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, "if indeed 'death' can be said to mean anything beyond the biases of culture, language, religion and philosophy."
"Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist," said Mr. Chirac, "We can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything--Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?"
Mr. Derrida's many books and teachings spawned legions of American college professors whose stock-in-trade is to "deconstruct" literature and philosophy in order to demonstrate that, for example, the so-called classics of Western literature are so distorted by their authors' cultural prejudices as to render them useful only for literary deconstruction.
"Monsieur Derrida bequeathed a magnificent legacy to the global intellectual community," said Mr. Chirac. "He has provided us all with the intellectual infrastructure to prevent us from seeking after truth. Thanks to him we know it is fruitless to assert anything with conviction, or to say that any ideology is less true than any other. They are all equally trifling. Their value, if any, lies only in the sport they provide for college professors."
In lieu of flowers, friends of Mr. Derrida are urged to devote their lives to convincing at least one young person that there is nothing to which it is worth devoting one's life.
The public would recognize Dec 7th of course, and that was my point. When the public actually decides to make a note of the importance of the event, the meaning/lesson will not be soon forgotten.
Quite the nuisance...