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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later

Thousands of trees will have died and untold bandwidth will have been devoured by the time the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania mark their exact moments in time.

That flood of verbiage will deal with who was to blame: Bush or Clinton?; are we safer?; what have we done right and what have we done wrong?

The Globe takes a good look at where Boston stands five years later -- and it is not a comforting picture in terms of the safety question. True to form, we geared up to fight the last war and have done little to secure ourselves against newer threats on the seas and on the rails.

Some of that verbiage may also focus on the place of America and Americans five years later. That is an even uglier picture.

Long gone are the days of Le Monde's declaration that "We Are All Americans." That was replaced by sneering references to Freedom Fries from a do-nothing Congress and the stoking of hatred toward a variety of people -- many of whom are quite frankly worthy of hatred (Islamic fanatics) or at least some humor-weary contempt (the French).

We have seen America become a nation ruled by a small coterie of men (and a token woman) that placed partisan advantage over everything. In that light, we have become champions of torture; prevaricators (a $50 word for liar); a nation led be people who see only black and white. You are either for us or against us -- whether you are a Muslim or an American who believes in both the Constitution and the shining principles on which this nation was built.

Are we safer now than five years ago? Dick Cheney, Don Rumseld and George Bush say so and we must either believe or be held out for scorn. Cheney's astoundingly arrogant and mean-spirited claim that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for being attacked may simply be the lowest of the myriad divisive messages spouted over the last five years on this side of the Global War on Terror.

The destruction of New Orleans and the failure -- even one year later -- of the agency created to "protect us" stands in stark contrast to the mealy-mouthed jabs offered by the man who holds the second-highest office in the land.

The subornation of torture and the "stuff happens" indifference of the "architect" of America's response to the GWOT is equally appalling. Yet five years later, we are numbed to the fact these men retain their authority after failing so miserably.

But it is George Walker Bush who deserves the largest dose of scorn. The man who proclaimed he was a "uniter, not a divider" has presided over the deepest unraveling of this nation since our Civil War (not the one they refuse to acknowledge in Iraq).

His defenders argue that those of us who chastise Bush are guilty of irrational hatred similar to that demonstrated by Osama bin Laden and his followers. They conveniently forget they exhibited an even deeper animosity to Bill Clinton, one that exists to this day, so deep that they gin up the "facts" of a "docudrama" to try and shift all the blame on him, conveniently forgetting their own culpability in ignoring warnings.

The 5th anniversary sadly offers the harsh reality that we, as a nation, are more damaged today than on 9-11-2001. Then we "only" dealt with the horror of death and destruction and thousands of lives needlessly lost to the irrational action of religious zealots.

Today we deal with that loss -- as well as the loss of comity and civility in our daily lives, a loss attributable to the rational acts of zealots using that horror for their religious, financial and political gain.

Quel dommage.


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